accessibility & help

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

20 July 2017

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.”

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:



Notes to editors

  • In 2015, the Co-op and the British Red Cross launched a new partnership to highlight and tackle loneliness and social isolation across the UK.
  • In October 2015 the Co-op released new research indicating millions of people find it difficult to admit they feel lonely.
  • A literature review conducted by the British Red Cross highlights the health-damaging effects of social isolation and loneliness, and the health-promoting effects of social support. A growing body of longitudinal research also indicates that loneliness predicts increased morbidity and mortality (Hawkley and Cacioppo 2010: 219). Social isolation was found to be as strong a risk factor for morbidity and mortality as smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and high blood pressure (House et al. 1988).
  • This was followed in December 2016 by a major research study from Kantar Public, ‘Trapped in a Bubble’. The research, which took six months, involved interviewing 45 expert witnesses, hearing direct testimony from more than 100 individuals who are experiencing loneliness as well as surveying 2,500 members of the general public. This informed the services funded by the money raised by Co-op colleagues, members and customers.  
  • As of June 2017, the partnership had raised over £6 million. This money is being used by the Red Cross to provide vital care and support for thousands of people experiencing loneliness and social isolation in communities across the UK. Additional uses of the money to complement the new services will be announced later this year.
  • Locations of new British Red Cross services will cover: North Belfast; West Belfast; Douglas, Isle of Man; Dundee, Scotland; Fife, Scotland; Aberdeen City; Inverness, Scotland; Brae, Shetland; York, Yorkshire; Middlesbrough; Oldham, Gtr Manchester; Stockport, Gtr Manchester; Blackpool, Lancashire; Durham City, Co. Durham; Blyth, Northumberland; Elswick, Newcastle; Conwy, Wales; Carmarthenshire, Wales; Newport, Wales; Torfaen, Wales; Corby, Northamptonshire; Great Yarmouth, Norfolk; Boston, Lincolnshire; Hyson Green & Arboretum, Nottingham; Camborne, Cornwall; Plymouth, Devon; Poole, Dorset; Golborne, Kensington & Chelsea, London; Holloway, Islington, London; Stonebridge & Harlesden, Brent, London; New Cross, Lewisham, London; Brixton, Lambeth, London; Barking and Dagenham, London; Rotherham; Reading, Berkshire; Southampton; Luton, Bedfordshire; South Thanet, Kent
  • These locations were identified as the 39 areas of the UK where additional support was most needed. The British Red Cross considered levels of existing support and unmet need and the likelihood of particularly high risk factors, including UK Indexes of Multiple Deprivation, NHS and local authority priorities and Office of National Statistics demographic data.
  • The British Red Cross and Co-op are also playing a leading role as supporting partners in the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, working with 12 partner organisations to start a national conversation on the scale and impacts of loneliness and how people can help. Co-op is proud to be the only business on the commission steering group. This month, the Commission is putting the spotlight onto how loneliness impacts those with disabilities. Read more at
  • In February, Co-op launched its Cost of Loneliness to UK Employers report, showing that loneliness is costing employers a massive £2.5billon a year and that people who are lonely are five times more likely than others to leave their job within a year. The report calculates that employee turnover brought on by loneliness costs businesses £1.62billion a year and reduced productivity amounts to a further £665million annually. Days lost from employees with caring responsibilities for those with health conditions attributed to loneliness costs £220million while lost working days from those experiencing loneliness amounts to £20million.

About The Co-op

The Co-op Group, one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, with interests across food, funerals, insurance, electrical and legal services, has a clear purpose of championing a

better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-op Group operates a total of 3,750 outlets, with more than 70,000 employees and an annual turnover of approximately £10 billion.


About British Red Cross

The British Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organisation that helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. The British Red Cross enables vulnerable people at home and overseas to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their own communities.

And when the crisis is over, the Red Cross helps people recover and move on with their lives. 

The British Red Cross runs over 200 independent living projects across the country. This includes over 160 hospital and community services across the UK reaching more than 80,000 support at home service users and recruiting, training and supporting a mixed team of volunteers and staff to support them.

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