One million people aged 65 and over in the UK report that they are often or always lonely but loneliness and social isolation are difficult to identify, complex to address and hard to resolve. The evidence-base for interventions to address the problems of loneliness and social isolation is emerging but inconclusive at this stage. A new briefing from the Social Care Institute for Excellence – and for local authority commissioners – looks at the evidence, shows examples of emerging good practice with a view to creating a better commissioning environment.
The briefing provides information about seeking to support isolated older people and other members of the community. The briefing looks at:
- Identifying what works in addressing loneliness and social isolation
- The challenges faced by commissioners and those delivering interventions
- What needs to happen next.
- SCIE: Tackling loneliness and social isolation. The role of commissioners
- Blog from Dame Esther Rantzen: ‘Nobody to do nothing with’
- YouTube explainer – 32 seconds
SCIE’s chief executive Tony Hunter says:
We’d perhaps all agree that something needs to be done about isolation. It’s bad for the people affected but it’s also bad for their local communities because those people aren’t playing an active part and contributing community life. But addressing loneliness is challenging: there’s no magic bullet and a range of approaches are needed to suit people with different needs and preferences. This report examines what needs to happen to create a more conducive commissioning environment so that isolation is addressed by responding to individual expectations and aspirations.
Key messages for commissioners include:
- To move away from commissioning block contracts for a ‘whole service’ towards a willingness to ‘micro-commission’ to support existing groups and enable the establishment of new ones
- To identify and map existing assets in the local area, which will help to sustain knowledge and build on expertise
- To make it clearer and easier for smaller organisations to respond to commissioning tenders. Response times and tender requirements should be proportionate to the organisation’s size and capacity.
Commissioners can overcome barriers and support different approaches by encouraging political leadership and support locally, and by co-producing services with local residents.
Case example: Lambeth Council Community Connectors
These posts, jointly funded by the council and the CCG, are managed by Age UK and supported by volunteers. People self-refer or come via their GP or a social worker to access services. Community Connectors link people in their local community with activities and organisations that can help improve their quality of life. This can include connecting people with relevant wellbeing and health services, local community groups and organisations and social groups.