British Red Cross teams across UK get ready to tackle loneliness epidemic

July 27, 2017

British Red Cross & Co-op take action on loneliness and launch nationwide services.

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 £6 million to tackle this issue in partnership with the British Red Cross. The partnership today celebrates its 2nd anniversary.

20 year old Vicky Day is just one of the national team of new Community Connectors who 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.

Vicky was supported by the Red Cross when she was left housebound after a car accident at the age of 19. She is now turning that experience into a positive by taking up a role as one of the youngest staff members to join the new Community Connector service.

Vicky said: “When I saw the role I knew straight away that I had to apply. It was something that I’ve experienced first-hand – the loneliness and social isolation after my accident. They did so much for me in my recovery and they were what kept me going when I was feeling isolated. I want to help people who may have gone through similar experiences to me. The Red Cross did that for me and now I get to do that for other people, via the Red Cross.”british-red-cross

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.”  

 

For more information about how the Red Cross is helping to tackle loneliness visit: redcross.org.uk/tackleloneliness.

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