Challenges of tackling loneliness

September 21, 2018

The challenges of tackling loneliness in the UK have been highlighted in a new study by British Red Cross and the Co-op.

The two organisations have been working in partnership since 2015 to tackle loneliness and social isolation.

A shared learning project, held between April and July 2018 and commissioned by the Co-op and British Red Cross, brought together more than 50 initiatives designed to combat loneliness. The findings have revealed key challenges of tackling loneliness, which the partnership says providers, commissioners, funders and Government should consider:

  • Reaching the most isolated people.
  • The stigma surrounding loneliness means people can be reluctant to access services.
  • The gaps in community infrastructure mean that the range of services needed to support people locally don’t always exist.
  • The growing complexity of people’s needs.

The Co-op and British Red Cross have summarised their learnings and recommendations from this programme in their report, Connecting Communities to Tackle Loneliness and Social Isolation.

The report puts forward examples of best practice, practical steps and challenges in delivering a community connector-style service, which aims to help people build links in their local areas and form meaningful support networks through person-centred conversations and one-to-one support.

It sets out practical ways providers, commissioners, funders and government officials could help to overcome common challenges, from linking-up with healthcare professionals and taxi drivers to investing in community infrastructure.

It also urges stakeholders to support their local connector scheme – or the creation of one – to support people who are experiencing loneliness.

Olivia Field, Loneliness Policy Manager at the British Red Cross, said, 'There is no silver bullet solution to loneliness. Yet person-centred, one-to-one support, as provided by community connectors, can make a huge difference to people’s lives and should be expanded.

'Our community connectors have been helping people up and down the country connect with their communities and re-establish meaningful connections. Along with huge successes, however, we’ve come across various challenges – from reaching those most in need to linking people into appropriate support.

'Policy makers should make note of the challenges faced by the various organisations that contributed to this report and learn from their lessons. Addressing these challenges will allow these important services to maximise the life-changing impact they have for the people they help.'

Paul Gerrard, Policy and Campaigns Director at the Co-op, said, 'Since we started our partnership to tackle loneliness and isolation with British Red Cross three years ago we have accumulated extensive knowledge on the issue. Our initial research identified that loneliness was something that could affect people at various stages of life.

'The connector services have provided a practical means of tackling loneliness in communities across the UK. The report we are sharing today shares our partnership’s learnings so that agencies looking to set up similar models to the connector service can do so and benefit from our experiences so they can reach out to people impacted by loneliness and isolation.'

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