This issue affects people of all ages, but with a growing ageing population, it is most common amongst the elderly. It is suggested that around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in over a month, which can lead to negative physical and mental health impacts. Loneliness and isolation also place a considerable burden on already-stretched primary and secondary care services - the Loneliness Strategy notes that three quarters of GPs surveyed are seeing between one and five people a day suffering from loneliness. In October this year, the Prime Minister announced the first cross-Government Strategy to tackle the important issue of loneliness.
As an immediate action, the Government has put measures in place to ensure all GPs will be able to offer help and guidance via Social Prescribing schemes by 2023, rather than defaulting to medicine. Funding will be provided to connect patients to a variety of activities such as cookery classes, walking clubs and art groups, reducing demand on the NHS and improving patients’ quality of life.
Whilst the new Government Strategy was announced just this year, loneliness and isolation has been a growing challenge for some time and here at M·E·L Research we have been helping to provide actionable insights to help our clients tackle this issue, through evaluation and research. Some of our key projects include:
Making Connections Walsall Programme Evaluation, for Walsall MBC (2017 - 2019): we are part-way through an evaluation of the MCW Programme, which adopts a Social Prescribing model to tackle social isolation and loneliness amongst older people. We are using a participatory Social Return on Investment methodology.
Ageing Better in Birmingham Tyburn Local Action Projects Evaluation, for BVSC (Birmingham Voluntary Service Council) (2017 - 2019): we are part-way through an evaluation of four Big Lottery Funded Local Action Projects which are aimed at tackling social isolation and loneliness amongst older residents.
Financial Champions Project Evaluation, for Groundwork West Midlands (2017): we evaluated the Financial Champions Project which worked with older residents across Birmingham who have experienced social isolation. The project provided training and information to help residents get online and manage their finances.
Local Area Coordination Pilot Evaluation, for Leicestershire County Council (2015-2016): a concurrent evaluation of the Local Area Coordination Pilot with our findings subsequently informing the wider roll-out of the Pilot. LAC Coordinators worked to build individual and community capacity and self-reliance, aimed at preventing vulnerable people with complex needs reaching crisis point and requiring more intensive Health and Social Care support.
To complement our evaluative and mixed-methods approaches, we have a strong track record in carrying out quantitative research into broader mental health and wellbeing:
Northamptonshire Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey, for Northamptonshire County Council (2015-16): we carried out the first survey of its kind conducted in Northamptonshire to explore mental wellbeing. We consulted approximately 5,500 residents using face-to-face Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing. Evidence informed our recommendations to the Northamptonshire Health and Wellbeing Board about improving the health and wellbeing of the local population; responding to needs; informing services and targeting areas for improvement.
If you would like to talk to us about a loneliness and isolation related project, please contact Anne Forshaw, firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more about our work in the wider Health & Wellbeing sector, click here.