In this blog, our Campaigns Officer Marianne explains how Staffordshire has established a Loneliness Harms Health campaign, and offers advice on campaigning before the 1st of April – when health and wellbeing boards officially adopt their statutory duties.

In early January we had an energetic session at the Beth Johnson Foundation in Stoke-on-Trent to kick-start Loneliness Harms Health in the area.  We had a wide range of organisations represented, from the Staffordshire Fire Service and representatives from the local authority, to a diverse group of voluntary sector organisations.

To begin with, the group identified what was being done well to address loneliness in older age.  Examples of good practice included:

‘Let’s Work Together’ in Lichfield and Newcastle helps home visitors, such as police officers and council workers, to spot dangers in the home that might not traditionally be part of their work area and then sign-post residents onto  extra help. It uses an online system called Patchwork, which works a little like Facebook, to make it as easy as possible for visitors to let other agencies know if someone needs their support. One aim of the initiative is to help home visitors identify if someone might be isolated or lonely.

The ‘Green Door Project’ in Stoke works to encourage residents, particularly older and disabled people, to make more use of the green spaces in the city and improve their health, wellbeing and reduce isolation.  The project provides many free or low-cost activities within green spaces, including guided nature walks and wellbeing activities such as tai chi and relaxation. The project is staffed almost entirely by a team of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers.

The group then identified some of the gaps in provision in the county. A number of the attendees observed that:

  • There is a lack of joined up services, or connectivity between services
  • A growing need to clarify and strengthen referral pathways between services
  • That the withdrawal of statutory services is leading to increased pressure on voluntary sector to reduce loneliness and isolation
  • Lack of knowledge or methods to identify the most isolated
  • A need for county-wide measurement as there is currently a poor knowledge of the level of loneliness and isolation, and unmet need.

Having identified strengths and weaknesses in loneliness provision, the group then worked to identify key stakeholders and realistic tactics that can be used to make the Staffordshire Health and Wellbeing Board recognise the issue of loneliness.  These included:

  • Raise awareness of the issues amongst the general public using the media
  • Consult creatively on the issue with older people
  • Gather the evidence to make the argument: case studies, statistics and financial implications
  • Get elected representatives on side

Such tactics have been carried out successfully in other areas, including Essex and Cornwall, and I would advise anyone considering conducting a Loneliness Harms Health campaign in their own area to use similar methods (for more information, take a look at our action pack) to get the attention of their board.

The boards take on their statutory duties in April, and must have their strategies ready to go.  So now really is the time to join Staffordshire and step up (or even start!) your own campaigning on this issue to make sure that loneliness and isolation in older age are firmly entrenched in your board’s plans for improving health and social care.

If you’re not sure where to start, pulling together interested people for an afternoon and conducting a scoping exercise like the one set out here can be very helpful. If you need any tips, please email me at:

Happy campaigning!