Working together to tackle loneliness

Sarah Mitton headshot 112x112
Sarah Mitton
Age Friendly Communities Manager, Clarion Futures, Clarion Group

The Campaign to End Loneliness states that loneliness is one of the largest public health challenges we face, with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds being more likely to feel lonely due to inequity in resources like “employment, education, access to health services and public transport” as well as not being able “to afford activities or opportunities to socialise” (Campaign to End Loneliness, 2024).

Our annual Clarion survey, ‘The Clarion Index’, backs this as while 86% of residents feel that they belong in their neighbourhood, and more than three quarters (77%) think their neighbourhood is somewhere people from different backgrounds get on well together, we have seen a continued increase in reports of loneliness, and acute feelings of loneliness (16% are always or often lonely) are now significantly higher than the national level (7.1%).

Therefore, this Loneliness Week I wanted to share some of the ways in which Clarion is seeking to tackle this epidemic and inspire other housing providers to think about the role they can play in bettering the experience of our diverse communities.

In 2020 we launched Clarion’s Age Friendly Strategy, an approach to communities focused on ensuring that those living in our homes and neighbourhoods can live positive and healthy lives no matter what age. We know that social isolation and loneliness is not just experienced by one age segment, but can affect people across a life-course, and so one of the key commitments of the strategy is investing in projects and programmes to tackle the issue.

One of the projects that was co-designed with our Clarion55 ambassadors (a national network of residents representing our over 55s community), is The Wellbeing10. The Wellbeing10 encourages our Clarion Response maintenance staff to spend an extra 10 minutes in a resident’s home if they feel that there are signs of social isolation or loneliness to have an ‘informal chat’. These signs were outlined in a toolkit created by Clarion55 with information about what to do if poor wellbeing is spotted, including referring into wider Clarion services. Hundreds of residents have now benefited from the extra time, with Clarion Response staff also sharing that it has improved their own wellbeing in work.

Another offer that was created in partnership with our younger residents is our Intergenerational Social Action programme (ISA), which we were able to match-fund with the #iWill Fund. ISA engages younger and older people in co-designing solutions to the challenges faced by our communities including social isolation and loneliness. With funding offered to hyper-local organisations supporting our neighbourhoods, ISA has led to projects exploring how gardening groups, heritage events and intergenerational cookery sessions can connect generations and tackle the loneliness prevalent in both age groups. Over 600 people have engaged in the programme since September 2023 and we are about to launch the second year of the project.

We know that for many the sense of loneliness is deep-rooted and longer-term support is needed. Therefore, during the pandemic we started investing in two projects offering ongoing support to residents who might be struggling. Lend an Ear is a telephone befriending service which sees Clarion staff volunteering their time to befriend a resident, offering regular phone catch ups. To date we have been able to connect tens of residents with a befriender through the service with very positive feedback from participants. Me in Mind is another programme which seeks to tackle mental health challenges faced by people living in our communities by giving access to a website with tools and resources to support people who are struggling.  

The cost-of-living crisis which many of our residents are currently facing poses new challenges for housing providers, exacerbating the issue by further limiting our resident’s ability to access projects and opportunities that might offer social connection. We need to think innovatively about how we can ensure the issue does not continue to worsen and for me the answer lies with our residents themselves. By working closely with those living in our communities we can better understand the root causes of loneliness and collaborate to develop solutions to the issue. Additionally, we will achieve more by working in partnership not only with other housing associations (who may have great ideas and programmes which could be jointly funded) but with other sectors, such as health and education. We are starting to do this as part of Intergenerational England, an organisation which is seeking to tackle age-related inequity by recognising the importance of intergenerational practice. A truly connected approach is the only way we can finally tackle this crisis.

This blog was published to coincide with Loneliness Awareness Week 2024. 

For further information and resources on Combating loneliness and reducing social isolation, visit:


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