Time to tackle loneliness epidemic

July 27, 2017

The British Red Cross and Co-op take action on loneliness and launch nationwide services, with new teams across the UK getting ready to tackle loneliness epidemic.

The British Red Cross has started rolling out brand new services to tackle loneliness and social isolation. It is calling for people across the UK to join its teams providing vital support for up to 12,500 adults of all ages.

In response to its major research published in December, and funded by the Co-op, the Red Cross is introducing 49 new services in 39 locations in all four nations of the UK. These are targeted in communities where it has identified particularly high levels of need, including big cities like London and metropolitan areas like Greater Manchester, right through to smaller, more remote areas like Shetland.

The services will be delivered by a team of more than 50 staff and over 500 volunteers offering direct, personalised support to help lonely and isolated people connect with others in their communities.

A study published in December by the Co-op and Red Cross revealed epidemic levels of loneliness and social isolation in the UK, with over nine million adults of all ages saying they feel always or often lonely. Changes common in many people’s lives – such as becoming a mother, getting divorced or separated, experiencing health and mobility issues, retiring or suffering bereavement – can be key triggers for loneliness. The impacts can be as damaging to health as smoking and obesity, and have been estimated to cost the NHS and other public services up to £12,000 per person over the next 15 years.

In response to the shocking results of this research, Co-op members and colleagues have so far raised a staggering £6m to tackle this issue in partnership with the British Red Cross. The partnership today celebrates its 2nd anniversary.

The national team of Community Connectors will offer practical help and emotional support to people who are lonely and isolated. This will involve helping them to discover local activities and services and enjoy the benefits of feeling more involved in their area.

Further volunteers from all over the UK are needed to support these new services. Requiring a commitment of just a couple of hours a week, volunteer support will be invaluable in helping lonely people feel more confident and able to reconnect with their community.

Mike Adamson, British Red Cross Chief Executive said, 'We are so pleased to announce that our new Community Connector services are now underway. Over the coming months, we’ll provide vital support for thousands of people right across the UK who feel they have nowhere they can turn. We’re calling for people to join us in tackling the damaging effects of loneliness in their communities – giving just a few hours a week can make a big difference.'

Steve Murrells, Co-op Group Chief Executive said, 'We are delighted to see the launch of the Community Connector service – we already know from research we published last year that ordinary events in life have the potential to disrupt our social connections and can lead to individuals becoming lonely even though they may be surrounded by others. It also became clear that a lack of support for community groups can leave those experiencing loneliness with limited options to re-establish social connections. These services are the start of how we can start to tackle the issue of loneliness in a practical way.'

Visit the British Red Cross website for more information about how the organisation is helping to tackle loneliness.


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