Kindness Can: conference on loneliness and our local response

Author's position
Article date
22 September 2017
Primary interest
Health

On Wednesday 20 September I went to the Campaign to End Loneliness conference ‘Kindness Can’. The conference is an annual event, which is an opportunity for organisations connected to the Campaign to get together, hear about the latest research and initiatives to address loneliness and share their thoughts and ideas.

The Campaign to End Loneliness launched this short film at the conference that hits home what loneliness and social isolation really is like. 

Could you go a week on your own? This is a reality for over half a million older people in the UK. #EndLoneliness pic.twitter.com/eIZcDNoYFs

The Economic Impact of Loneliness, Prof David McDaid

The day started with the ‘economic case’ for tackling loneliness, which discussed different approaches to measuring the financial impact of loneliness. The main issue is that currently there is no one consistent approach for measuring which means it is very difficult to compare the positive economic impact of tackling loneliness through different interventions. Prof David McDaid (from London School of Economics) has calculated that loneliness costs the state an average of £1711 per person over 10 years. If measuring only those who are most lonely, that figure rises to £7500 over 10 years. In Reading, our research shows this is 10.5% of the population or 16,000 people (based on respondents to a survey of 437 people), which would be £120 million impact to the state over 10 years, in Reading alone (or £12 million per year).

In early 2018 The Campaign to End Loneliness will make a toolkit available to support organisations to measure their economic impact. Once this has been published I’ll share it locally.

Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, Kim Leadbeater (sister of Jo Cox)

Kim spoke eloquently about her sister’s passion and mission to tackle loneliness. Jo set up the cross-party parliamentary committee on loneliness but she saw it as an issue that every person plays a role in. The message of the Jo Cox commission is very much that loneliness is everyone’s business and highlighting that it is a national epidemic that we can all take small steps to make a big difference. ‘Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate… it is something many of us could easily help with.’ A theme throughout the conference was of everyday kindness (not ‘random acts of kindness’, but more of a culture-shift towards a kinder way of being in all that we do).

This ties in very well with the Reading Champions to End Loneliness Campaign that is about enabling everyone in Reading to take action on loneliness through small everyday actions or getting involved with organisations that work to end loneliness through a range of initiatives, depending on the commitment they feel able to make.

Inspiring Public Action on Loneliness

This workshop focused on how we take the issue beyond the charity and ‘well-meaning’ sector. That’s to say, how do we go beyond preaching to the converted. Social Researcher Simon Anderson discussed how following the EAST principle is key to encouraging engagement; ensuring participation is Easy, Attractive, Timely and Social.

  • Easy to participate, by not demanding too much of someone / having a range of ways to engage.
  • Attractive opportunity in which there where the person sees a benefit to themselves to engaging.
  • The opportunity to engage has a social aspect for participants.
  • The campaign is timely in that there is momentum around the messages of the campaign nationally / elsewhere so the local approach reinforces what people are hearing elsewhere.

Reading Champions to End Loneliness is our local approach to addressing this national problem at a time when the the issue is being discussed in the media and through national organisations such as the Campaign to End Loneliness and the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

Reading Champions to End Loneliness has run one workshop in central Reading and is now looking to partner with a range of neighbourhood based organisations in different parts of Reading to make it locally relevant in different communities. The next workshop is in Caversham (26 September) in partnership with members of a few local churches. The next event is a stall in the Oracle on 2 October and we are looking to run similar workshops to get more people on board as Champions to End Loneliness across Reading.

If your organisation would like to partner with us to run a Champions workshop, get in touch and tell us a little about what you do. We also have an online pledge-board where you can make your commitment to helping reduce loneliness in Reading.