A connected society

Assessing progress in tackling loneliness

Our report on behalf of the Loneliness Action Group

The government launched the Loneliness Strategy for England, ‘A Connected Society: Tackling Loneliness and Social Isolation’, in October 2018 as a first step in tackling loneliness. 

This independent report from the Loneliness Action Group assesses progress made against the Loneliness Strategy so far. We look at the first steps taken by government to tackle loneliness in England and set out recommendations to achieve widespread, tangible change in the long term. 

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For more information please contact our media team on 020 7877 7557 / 07710 391 703 or press@redcross.org.uk.

Two women and a man sit together talking in a British Red Cross loneliness action group project.

The Loneliness Action Group, a network of over 50 organisations, is currently co-chaired by the British Red Cross and Co-op as part of their partnership to tackle loneliness.

The group was formed in 2017 to continue the legacy of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. To find out more about the Loneliness Action Group, please contact: LonelinessAction@redcross.org.uk.

Key findings

  • The Loneliness Strategy was always billed as a first step. There is a clear need to consolidate and build upon achievements, to ensure change is felt on the ground within communities and that the important progress made is not lost.
  • While it remains early days, the overall picture is positive. Many of the pledges made in the Loneliness Strategy have been delivered and the remainder are on track.
  • The loneliness agenda is seen as a strong cross-cutting issue. It has enjoyed strong engagement from ministers and spurred genuine collaborative working between departments.
  • However, with a change in leadership, there are concerns whether loneliness will continue to be prioritised and given the funding and resources it needs.
  • Some particularly good areas of progress include:

    • The roll-out of social prescribing is on track to achieve a universal offer in English Primary Care Networks (PCNs) by 2023; with 1,000 link workers in post by 2020/21, rising to 4,000+ by 2023.
    • National measures on loneliness have been developed and incorporated into some national surveys.
    • £1.4 million of funding has been distributed to help maximise the potential of underutilised community spaces in innovative and creative ways.
  • However, much of the progress made has been to lay the foundations for future action, but this has not yet achieved widespread change.
  • Progress has also been uneven. Some departments have achieved success quickly by incorporating loneliness into their wider business and activities, while others have found it to be less of natural fit.
  • It is clear from stakeholders that there more work is needed to effectively tackle loneliness on the ground, particularly in relation to areas such as transport and housing.
  • Government has laid solid foundations, but now needs to take efforts to the next level. We need to ensure the loneliness agenda remains a firm priority to maintain momentum and deliver the ambition that lead to the creation of the Loneliness Strategy.

Our recommendations

1. Sustain and fund action across government:

  • Renew commitment to tackling loneliness across government departments. 
  • Deliver the pledge to create a Loneliness Test for policy.
  • Publish plans for sustained action and investment alongside the first annual report. 

2. Measure impact: 

  • Government must measure the impact of its activity on loneliness, using recommended measures and the Public Health Outcomes Framework.

3. Move from development to delivery: 

  • Build on the learning from pilots and identification of good practice.
  • Make plans to embed successful interventions in policy.
  • Invest in the replication of effective schemes across the country.

4. Invest in the infrastructure communities need to stay connected: 

  • Invest in the provision of community space, and support and activities to enable connection. 
  • Ensure transport policy and investment is loneliness-proofed.
  • Ensure housing policy supports social connection and participation. 

5. Ensure social prescribing delivers for loneliness: 

  • Ensure healthcare staff and link workers are trained in understanding and addressing loneliness.
  • Assess the impact of schemes using recommended loneliness measures.
  • Fund the services and support that communities need to enable people to reconnect. 

6. Build capacity to address loneliness among children and young people: 

  • Provide a robust support offer to teachers to ensure loneliness is taught effectively in schools. 
  • Invest in finding out what works in addressing loneliness among children and young people. 
  • Roll out effective approaches across the country.