LONELINESS isn't something normally associated with young people. With family living in Pakistan – and after giving birth to her daughter, Bibi Ruqiyah felt lonely.

Determined to do something about it, Bibi discovered a programme which has helped her, and many others, to improve their lives and make new friends.

Launched three years ago, the Neighbourhood Approaches to Loneliness programme, run by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, focused on four neighbourhoods, two in York and two in Bradford and worked closely with more than 2,000 residents, some of whom became community researchers, helping to collect information for the report.

Focusing on Bradford Moor and Denholme in Bradford and the Carr Estate in Acomb and New Earswick in York, the researchers talked to people about their feelings on loneliness as well as other issues affecting their community.

For Bibi, getting together with others from her local community at the local school near her home in Bradford Moor, opened new doors for the 30-year-old.

"It brought a lot of people together," says Bibi.

She says as well as introducing her to other women within her home community, it also gave her the confidence to chat to other people.

People don't neighbour as they used to and families no longer live side by side in the same street leading to increased feelings of loneliness and isolation.

As well as attending get togethers organised through the programme, Bibi also got involved in the community markets aimed at bringing Bradford Moor residents together.

Nageena Khan explains the meetings and the markets were so successful it has led to the setting up of the charity group, Get2Gether, (Mil Jul - Urdu for Get together).

Nageena, the group's facilitator, says the benefits the programme brought have been endless. She says although Bradford Moor is a densely populated area people, in particularly young people, can still feel lonely.

"Also, one of the biggest things is the cultural differences," says Nageena.

She says lack of knowledge and understanding of those cultures meant people weren't mixing with each other and, consequently, contributed to the feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Nageena explains through events such as the international food tasting sessions they have broken down barriers with women from different cultures sharing recipes and discussing the dishes they have created.

She says holding the events has also helped to raise awareness of loneliness - a word not particularly acknowledged within the Asian community - and the impact it can have on lives through issues such as health.

Nageena says the markets, the next takes place from 1 until 4pm on August 9 at Lapage Primary School, Bradford Moor, also encourage people to be more neighbourly and look out for others.

Research within the Bradford Moor community has contributed to findings in the report by Qa Research which looked at the programme's impact on individuals and communities as a whole.

The findings reveal this kind of community activism can contribute to the well-being of people who are lonely or at risk of loneliness and that the programme was life changing for those most closely involved, and many gained confidence and skills with some returning to college or finding employment.

The programme also found that the participatory, community development approach empowered local people and that partner organisations were now more aware of loneliness and the subject had become more of a priority.

Tracey Robbins, programme manager, says: "This research reiterates the need for prevention as well as a cure, our neighbours, our communities and our work places are all spaces and opportunities where we all can make a difference to reduce loneliness, and that could be our own or another's.'

"Our neighbourhoods and communities are best placed to help prevent loneliness and if the increasing trend continues that looks to our communities as a resource to bridge the gap between individuals and services/ groups then we need to resource our communities'

"Loneliness is not just about being alone, or an issue just experienced by older people, we must recognise that loneliness can effect anyone at anytime and start to focus on the importance of prevention.

"Local authorities will be measured on their impact on reducing loneliness and isolation and for little funding and resource our communities can focus on the prevention leaving our services to concentrate on the urgent ."