We had more community spirit up North!

RESEARCH commissioned by the BBC claims to reveal how neighbourhoods in every part of the UK have become more socially fragmented, but I think the study is fundamentally flawed. Academics created loneliness indices to identify where people had a feeling

RESEARCH commissioned by the BBC claims to reveal how neighbourhoods in every part of the UK have become more socially fragmented, but I think the study is fundamentally flawed.

Academics created "loneliness indices" to identify where people had a feeling of not belonging. The higher the proportion of people in those categories, the less rooted the community, according to social scientists.

The indices were those who live alone, those who are single, those in private rented accommodation, and those who have lived in an area for less than a year.

I don't see how any of these indices necessarily relate to loneliness or a feeling of not belonging and I particularly refute the assumptions made with the first two categories.


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Being single or living alone does not go hand-in-hand with being lonely, nor does it automatically mean people don't have a sense of belonging. Many people chose such a lifestyle and happily do so.

It's interesting that this study does not celebrate single people or those living alone as being independent, but automatically labels them as lonely.

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For the purposes of the study, communities were split into the 43 BBC radio areas. The area covered by Three Counties Radio, which includes Comet country, has been rated as having the second strongest sense of belonging, behind Stoke.

Merseyside, which is where I hail from, is ranked 11 places lower, in 13th place.

I can only speak from my own experience, but I think there is a much stronger sense of community in Liverpool and on the Wirral than there is where I live now, in Knebworth.

Firstly, when I lived up north I knew my neighbours - those who lived either side of me and those who lived opposite.

I wouldn't go so far as to say we were friends, but we knew each other by name and would stop for a chat if we saw each other in the street.

At Christmas we would all gather in one of our homes for drinks and mince pies, and we were neighbourly.

Living in Knebworth, I only know one of my neighbours by name and rarely see or say two words to the others.

It's a commuter village, handy for people travelling to work in London, and I think that removes a sense of belonging for many, increases loneliness for some, and makes the community socially fragmented.

Secondly, when I lived up north people would nod, smile and say hello when they passed you in the street.

Down south, many avoid eye contact and look at you in astonishment if you issue a greeting.

Despite the results of the BBC survey, my own experience leads me to conclude that those in Merseyside have a stronger sense of community than those in Comet country.

YOU have the chance to help cheer up sick children who will be spending Christmas in Lister Hospital in Stevenage.

Building Blocks, The Comet's charity of the year, is appealing for chocolate selection packs and brand new toys such as board games, cuddly toys, books and puzzles, to give to children cared for at Lister.

There is a BB box in The Comet's reception at Bank House, on Primett Road in Stevenage.

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