Following the launch of our new report, ‘Promising Approaches Revisited: Effective action on loneliness in later life’, our Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research, Robin Hewings, has written a blog about why we updated our seminal 2015 report, what has changed on loneliness since then, and what we learnt from the 140 attendees of the UK launch seminar on 15 October 2020. 

Five years on

In 2015, we published Promising Approaches to reducing loneliness in later life. Since then, we’ve been amazed by its reception. Commissioners, local authorities, health bodies, third sector and other organisations have used it as a framework for how the whole range of services and policies fit together and connect.

But a lot has happened on loneliness since 2015. There is growing public concern and interest. There are loneliness ministers and strategies in England, Wales and Scotland and new services being developed and evaluated.

Now Covid-19 has put issues of loneliness and social isolation at the centre of all our concerns. A small illustration of that is the more than 200 pieces of press coverage about the report on its launch.

We wanted to make sure the guide took account of these changes. We have reviewed the evidence, sought insight from experts in the field and learnt from organisations throughout the UK.

The new guide learns the lessons of the last five years – as well as the impact of the pandemic and how organisations tackling loneliness have adapted.

Most importantly, it features case studies about all aspects of the framework to illustrate the different parts of the framework and to provide inspiration others working on loneliness.

No one size fits all

Its key message is that to tackle loneliness, different types of support need to be in place.

We need to find people and listen to their needs. They need to have the infrastructure to engage in social life, whether that’s about digital, transport or a built environment that supports social life. Finally, there are direct ways of reducing loneliness whether that is one-to-one or in groups, or psychological support.

The framework avoids comparing apples with oranges. Befriending and social prescribing cannot be directly compared – but do go together. Similarly, buses are not better or worse than social groups – we need both.

Places and spaces

A key change to the framework is the addition of the built environment as part of the ‘gateway infrastructure’ that helps tackle loneliness. People thought it was right to include the built environment, given how much we need shops, cafes and pubs as places to meet as well as welcoming neighbourhoods where we can as one group said, ‘casually bump into people’.

In the discussions at the launch event, different groups emphasised different parts of the framework. But overall, what people valued most was the way that the framework showed how services fitted together. It meant that people could see the role of their organisation and who they should be speaking to. For funders and commissioners, it shows the breadth of what they should be looking at.

We’ve been working on the report for the last year and are hugely grateful to all the organisations who provided case studies to show the framework in action, despite the pressures of Covid-19. For that reason, we were delighted that 87% of the audience said they would be likely to use it in their work.

We hope that means Promising Approaches Revisited will be used to reduce loneliness for many more years to come.