Agenda item

Olivia Field (Policy and Engagement Manager - Loneliness and Social Isolation, British Red Cross)


Olivia Field (Policy and Engagement Manager – Loneliness and Social Isolation, British Red Cross) and Kat Radlett (Policy & Advocacy Officer, British Red Cross) were in attendance. 

The Chair welcomed the guests to the Committee. Olivia began by explaining the British Red Cross (BRC)’s involvement with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness (JCC). The BRC was one of thirteen partners on the JCC.  The BRC set up a Loneliness Action Group in partnership with the Co-op to follow up on the recommendations from the JCC. The action group included representatives from 50 organisation including businesses, charity, local government, Royal Colleges, NHS and Public Health England.

Olivia reported that through its work, the BRC, saw the impact of loneliness on the people it supported. She noted that the BRC was the largest provider of support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK; it provided detention support, family reunions and an international family tracing service. The BRC also provided support to patients’ leaving hospital to enable them to regain confidence and independence and prevent readmission into hospital. She also highlighted the BRC and Co-op’s  new Community Connector service which was in operation in Thanet. She stated that the Co-op was keen to work with the BRC to tackle loneliness as its staff were noticing people coming into its shops for social interaction.

Olivia proceeded to give a presentation, attached as a supplement, which covered national action to address loneliness and Community Connectors. She explained that the JCC was set up by Jo Cox prior to her murder in 2016 with Seema Kennedy MP as a cross party group. Thirteen organisations, which supported people who Jo Cox had identified at the risk of loneliness, came together through the JCC to start a national conversation about loneliness. The JCC work culminated in a call to action published in December 2017 which included a number of recommendations to government:

§  UK wide strategy for loneliness (accepted by Government and due to be published in October 2018)

§  nominated lead Minister to drive action on loneliness across Government (accepted by Government with the appointment of Tracey Crouch as new ministerial lead for loneliness and the creation of a cross-government team of civil servants and cross-ministerial group)

§  development of the current Family Test to become a Family and Relationships Test (not accepted by Government)

§  development of a national indicator on loneliness and annual reporting (accepted by Government. A report from a technical group made up of the Office for National Statistics, academic and charity partners regarding a national indicator was expected in October. JCC to publish a report annually based on ONS data.)

§  Easy-to-understand messages, similar to five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day, to help individuals connect with others and avoid loneliness (not accepted by Government)

§  Government to create an innovation and spread fund (accepted by Government who announced £20 million of new investment).

With regards to Community Connectors, Olivia explained that the service provided one-to-one person centre support. She noted that the aim of the service was to support someone over a twelve-week period to access a service, support someone to participate in an activity or reconnect them with someone. She noted that people were able to self-refer or be referred into the service by a health or social care professional, job centre and other charities. She reported that the service began with a conversation to co-develop a personal goal such as leaving the house, getting access to a mobility aid or participating in an online course. She noted that the model of Community Connectors was a foundation service which linked people into other support. She stressed the importance of the whole system working together. She reported that a full evaluation of the service was expected within the next few weeks; an initial evaluation of the service using the UCLA loneliness scale had found that service users’ scores increased by three points on the ten-point scale and almost half were no longer considered lonely.

Q – What support is available to service users after the 12 weeks of support from Community Connectors?

Olivia explained that the aim of the service was to avoid service users being alone at the end of the 12 weeks by creating a system of support; after the initial 12-week intervention, service users received phone calls to check up on them followed by a six-month visit. She noted the BRC’s work to support in and out of hospital care and highlighted a recent BRC report which identified practical measures to mitigate risks around hospital readmission -

Q – How many staff and volunteers support the Community Connectors?

Olivia reported that there were 40 Connectors nationally. Each Connector was supported by four volunteers and one support worker.

Q – How many people in Kent would benefit from a short-term mobility aid?

Kat noted that one of the services the BRC provided was short-term mobility aids. She highlighted that there was no statutory duty to provide short-term mobility aids such as wheelchairs which were required for six months or less. She highlighted a recent report which had stated that 4.2 million people in the UK would benefit from a short-term mobility aids - She committed to looking at the Kent data and emailing the Committee.

Q - Do Community Connectors link in with patients discharged from hospital?

Olivia stated that they did in areas where Community Connectors were in operation.

Q - Was the Royal College of GPs one of the original 13 organisations in the JCC?

Olivia confirmed that the original 13 organisations in the JCC were charities.

Q – With regards to the statistic in your presentation which states that socially isolated people were 3.5 times more likely to enter local authority funded residential care, what is the number of people entering residential care?

Olivia explained that she was not able to provide that statistic but committed to raising it an upcoming Loneliness Lab and emailing the Committee.

Q – Are Community Connectors integrated with other organisations?

Olivia stated that the integrated working was key for the service. It was important that Community Connectors were able to link in with community activities and initiatives such as a community garden. She noted that they also worked with businesses who were able to provide space for community groups to meet in the evening.

Q – How do you engage with people who are difficult to engage with?

Olivia highlighted a range of initiatives that Community Connectors used to engage with the disengaged such as door knocking; library sessions; linking in with taxi drivers, postmen and women, utilities and the fire service. She noted a scheme in Gloucestershire in which the Royal Mail identified areas in need of outreach. She highlighted the importance of Community Connectors linking with health and social care with measures ranging from attending team meetings through to colocation in the same office.

Q – Who provides training for Community Connectors and would it be available to share with the Committee?

Olivia stated that the BRC provided inhouse training. She noted that Community Connectors were often from a police or caring background and had useful links within their communities. She committed to sharing the training programme with the Committee. Kat noted that Community Connectors had often experienced loneliness themselves so were able to understand the issue and empathise with the individual.

Q – What is the caseload of each Community Connector and who supports and supervises them?

Olivia explained that there was a variation in caseload. The main determinant of case load was the links each Connector had within the community. She stated that senior managers within the Health & Social Care team at the BRC supported and supervised the Community Connectors.

Q – Do Community Connectors interact with faith groups?

Olivia confirmed that Community Connectors did interact with faith groups. She noted that the Loneliness Action Group contained representatives from a number of faith groups including Muslims, Christians, Jews and Humanists. She recognised the ability of faith groups to reach people.

Q – What more can KCC do more to tackle social isolation and loneliness?

Olivia commended KCC for a having a Committee to look at this issue. She stressed the importance of prevention in building resilience, identifying those most risks and looking at the pathways available. She also noted the importance of raising awareness of social isolation and loneliness.

Q – What is your view on social prescribing?

Olivia explained that she was an advocate of social prescribing. She noted the importance of Community Connectors or support workers in providing person-centred support as loneliness was subjective and was only able to be solved if the professional understood the individual.

Q – Do you work with organisations such as the Samaritans and Alcoholics Anonymous?

Olivia confirmed that BRC did work together with Samaritans and Alcoholics Anonymous. She noted that the BRC had a good relationship with Silverline. Gaetano noted that the Committee would be receiving evidence from most of those organisations.

Q – What is your view on technology being used to tackle social isolation and loneliness?

Olivia acknowledged that for some people, technology can transform their situation by using Skype to connect with people or participate in an online course. However, the use of social media could have a negative impact on younger people especially if it replaced face to face communication.

In response to a comment about a community Facebook page which shared old photos of its local area, Olivia noted that it was a way of connecting people from different generations.

Q – How is loneliness measured?

Olivia explained that a report from a technical group regarding a new national indicator to measure loneliness was expected in October. She noted that at present a wellbeing measure and UCLA loneliness scale was used. She noted training to use the UCLA scale was required due to the use of negative wording.

Q – What aspects of prevention do you focus on?

Olivia stated the primary focus should be to prevent deterioration, the secondary focus would be to target those at risk of loneliness and the tertiary focus would be on those who have lonely a long time and are disconnected.

Q – Can a life-changing event such as going to university cause loneliness?

Olivia stated that the research in this area was least advance. There was a potential impact on both the parent and young person. 

The session concluded by Olivia sharing the learning summary of the Connecting communities to tackle loneliness and social isolation and the In & Out Hospital Report.

Connecting communities to tackle loneliness and social isolation: learning summary -

Connecting communities to tackle loneliness and social isolation: full report -


Supporting documents: