The British Red Cross is calling for volunteers for a new service designed to tackle loneliness and social isolation. The initiative comes after research published in December last year and funded by the Co-op Group showed that over nine million adults of all ages saying they feel always or often lonely.
To address the issue, the Red Cross is introducing 49 new services in 39 locations in all four nations of the UK. The services are targeted at communities where it has identified high levels of need, from big metropolitan areas such as London and Greater Manchester to remote areas like Shetland.
The Co-op has been working with the Red Cross for over two years. Co-op members and colleagues have so far raised £6m to tackle this issue of loneliness.
The Community Connector Service launched by the Red Cross 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.
The study published in December revealed that changes to 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. Furthermore, the research highlighted that 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.
One of the volunteers who will be offering practical help and emotional support to people who feel lonely and isolated is 20-year old Vicky Day. She has herself been supported by the Red Cross after being involved in a car accident at the age of 19. Having found the help extremely valuable, she is now taking up a role as one of the youngest staff members to join the new Community Connector service.
She 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.”
The programme requires a commitment of a couple of hours a week.
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, added: “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.”