Today we launch our joint report with British Red Cross, into tackling loneliness and social isolation across the UK. British Red Cross are our Charity Partner and throughout 2015 and 2016 we’ve been fundraising to support the partnership. But today, we turn our attention to how we can work together to tackle loneliness.
What do we already know about loneliness?
We know loneliness and social isolation affects people’s health, wellbeing and behaviour.
A lack of social connections can be linked to cardiovascular health risks and increased death rates, blood pressure, signs of ageing, symptoms of depression and risk of dementia. It could even be as damaging to health as smoking and as strong a risk as obesity.
Loneliness impacts us all, not just the elderly. There are many reasons someone can become lonely, such as becoming a young new mum, developing mobility and health issues, a recent bereavement, divorce or retirement.
So, we commissioned leading social researchers Kantar Public to help fill some of the gaps in existing knowledge on loneliness, looking into potential trigger points that can affect people of all ages.
How can we tackle loneliness?
Our research has shown that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackling loneliness. Different people need different kinds of support – and these needs can vary, depending on the level of their loneliness.
Our research has identified eight ways we can help people reconnect with their communities:
- Give a sense of purpose
- Be peer-led or co-designed with people in similar circumstances
- Be local and easy to access
- Be free or affordable
- Instil a positive sense of identity
- Provide clear goals and pathways to reconnection
- Provide benefits to others (such as through volunteering)
- Bring people together around shared interests
These principles provide the foundation of our responses to the serious issues we have identified.
How will our partnership with British Red Cross work to tackle loneliness?
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of Co-op colleagues, members and customers, from 2017 and over the next two years the British Red Cross will be providing new services to support up to 12,500 people experiencing loneliness to reconnect back to their communities.
Highly skilled, professional community connectors – specialists in psychosocial support, safeguarding and supporting people experiencing social isolation and loneliness – and their teams of volunteers will provide up to 12 weeks of intensive, person-centred support to help thousands of people reconnect with their communities.
Support at home
These dedicated services will be targeted particularly at people with complex needs following life-changing events, identified as being at particular risk of chronic loneliness. They’ll work with each person to agree goals towards regaining confidence and independence, and provide practical and emotional support to help them to achieve these goals.
How will Co-op work to tackle loneliness?
We appreciate that strong communities provide a way out of loneliness for many. So, the Co-op can and will respond in a number of ways.
Our Membership proposition will support thousands of community groups helping to build strong community connections. We will also be calling on our members to volunteer with the British Red Cross to help deliver the new services to support those experiencing loneliness.
Our Funeralcare business will expand and develop its social groups for the bereaved, which will provide thousands of people across the country with ongoing care and social support at a crucial time in their lives.
Our Insurance business is sponsoring Neighbourhood Watch to set up 30,000 new groups over four years to refresh and expand the network in order to help strengthen and bring communities and neighbours together.
To help our colleagues experiencing loneliness, we are relaunching our Employee Assistance Programme which enables colleagues to confidentially seek less formal support as well as support for more serious issues such as psychological and trauma-related.
For more about our research and out campaign to tackle loneliness with the British Red Cross see coop.co.uk/loneliness