Throughout April and May, Reading Voluntary Action, in partnership with a range of local voluntary organisations and Reading Borough Council, conducted a town-wide questionnaire to gain insight into loneliness and isolation. The questionnaire helped to identify who is affected, what their circumstances are, what barriers they face to overcoming these issues and what would help reduce their isolation and loneliness.
Nearly 500 people filled out the survey in libraries, GPs surgeries, at local charities they are involved with, in town with community researchers, in shopping centres and online. This ensured that results were gathered from a wide cross-section of ages, areas of Reading, backgrounds and personal circumstances.
The survey highlighted some key facts
- 11% of respondents are ‘often or always lonely’
- 47% of respondents are lonely at some point every week.
- Over half of all respondents feel like they would like more social contacts or friends
- The biggest barrier to not accessing social activity what ‘not knowing what was going on’ followed by ‘transport difficulties’ & ‘lack of confidence’ to attend new social groups
- 20% of all respondents have spent time with people socially no more than 2 times in the past fortnight.
Some of the reasons and issues facing some of Reading’s residents were highlighted through the comments they added to the survey. Several people highlighted that a lot of things happen on week day daytimes, but evenings, weekends and holidays can be hard if you are lonely. An 85+ year old male from Caversham who feels lonely most of the time and struggles with transport due to lack of mobility explains that “Weekends are bleak. It would be good if more drop in centres were open at weekends”
Many people care for friends or family who often need round the clock support. Carers highlighted the isolation felt both by those they cared for and themselves, due to being unable to leave the people they cared for.
A large number of people explained that mental ill-health made socialising very difficult, even when surrounded by people as one West Reading resident of working age described.
Finally, nearly 18% of people explained they would like more opportunities to meet their neighbours, yet many are reluctant to reach out either due to confidence or over concern for how people might react.
These results have informed us that it is essential we take action to reduce loneliness in Reading, and make it easier for all residents to be involved in creating that change.
The research has highlighted that addressing loneliness is everyone’s business, whether that be at home, work or in your neighbourhood. Therefore we are inviting all residents to become Champions to End Loneliness. As a champion, you would receive regular emails on how you can help reduce loneliness through opportunities to volunteer and events, support to set up your own neighbourly activities, telling your friends and neighbours what we’re doing and more.
One of the key ways we can reduce loneliness among those who are most isolated is through befriending, so a key element of the campaign will be to recruit 100 new volunteers to local befriending organisations who are striving to ensure that many people who are housebound can see a friendly face on a regular basis and in some cases, make trips out that would otherwise be impossible.
Our first workshop for Champions to End Loneliness will be held on Thursday 13 July, 5:30 – 7:00 pm at Reading Central Library. The event is free, but registration is essential. Please book at EndLonelinessinRDG.eventbrite.co.uk or call 0118 937 2054.
To find out more about becoming a a Champion to End Loneliness please see rva.org.uk/volop/champions-to-end-loneliness/ and come along to the workshop on 13 July.
A full report based on the results of the questionnaire will be published in July.