News Opinion

Community services have a key role in reducing loneliness

Neil McCarthy, Assistant Director of Care and Support, Octavia

Community-based services can be extremely successful in alleviating loneliness for the chronically lonely, according to new research from the London based homes, care and support provider, Octavia.

The report published in March, produced in partnership with New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), reveals that very isolated people who are lonely, can experience a measurable reduction in feelings of loneliness through regular contact and conversation with someone they know.

The Better Lives report assessed the impact of Octavia’s outreach, befriending and activities services to older, isolated people living in central and west London. The study found that more than half of people in this group who were in regular contact with a befriender or outreach worker, reported feeling less lonely and more able to enjoy life.

The summary report is available to read here 

Beneficiaries of the service reported being able to look after themselves better through:

  • Being encouraged to support their own physical health and independence.
  • Improved access to essential services.
  • Increased confidence and motivation to do activities.

Evidence from the report indicated that the service was helping many people to practice better self-care through support to attend timely healthcare appointments, reducing dependence and strain on more costly health and social care services further down the line.

Key findings include:

  • 50% increase in taking part in social activities outside of home (pre Covid).
  • 61% reported an improvement to their mental wellbeing.

Addressing the relationship between frailty and loneliness, the research also highlights the importance of good transport links in supporting older people to make healthier choices.

The report is a culmination of an ambitious two-year study by Octavia and charity sector consultancy and think tank, New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), to evaluate and strengthen the evidence base of Octavia’s outreach, befriending and activities service.

Findings will be used to encourage further evaluation of the benefits of outreach, befriending and activities services across the sector through helping to establish an impact measurement framework for these services.

Neil McCarthy, Assistant Director of Care and Support said: “The findings of this report are timely as the viral pandemic continues to fuel another epidemic: loneliness. For many older people living in a single-person household, lockdown has compounded the social isolation that they were already experiencing. The research tells us that loneliness is linked to physical and mental health issues and as a community provider we are uniquely placed to take steps to address the root causes of loneliness and make a real difference to people’s lives.

“As the evidence shows, services such as Octavia’s – those embedded within the community, with the expertise, infrastructure and the means to reach out to people – can create opportunities for marginalised people to support themselves, be more connected with their neighbourhoods, and improve their wellbeing and quality of life.”

Elizabeth Parker, Evaluation and Learning Principal at NPC: “Octavia’s outreach, one-to-one befriending and group activities allows them to tailor their support to meet the needs of the individual. Our evaluation found that this support reduced loneliness and improved mental wellbeing. In difficult times such as these, we hope that by publishing this evaluation others can adopt some of the same good practice to help people who are lonely in their communities.”

The full report is available to read here

The Better Lives service includes outreach support that provides personal contact and practical help to isolated individuals, one-to-one befriending that offers regular and ongoing companionship from trained and dedicated volunteers, and group social activities that connect people with peers and foster life-enhancing friendships.














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