Working with GP surgeries

Last week we hosted a workshop at the East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group Practice Nurses and Health Care Assistants Annual Conference. We engaged attendees in the loneliness tackling work we do at Community Network and specifically about the launch of our GP Practice based telephone peer to peer support pilot in Hertfordshire.

Practice Nurses at the workshop with the chocolate quiz prize


GP surgeries are ideally placed to signpost patients who are lonely and give them an opportunity to join telephone friendship groups.  We are recruiting one or more GP surgeries in rural locations to work with us, helping older people to make friends, help each other and combat loneliness via volunteer facilitated telephone groups.

Attendees completed a short quiz(with a chocolate prize!) on the effects of loneliness on health and well being. Thanks to everyone who attended the workshop.  Feedback has been very positive and we are following up the interest shown.












So, have you heard of Twiddlemuffs? They are hand knitted muffs that have been specifically designed with the addition of buttons, beads, ribbons and zips to provide simple stimulation for active hands. People experiencing health conditions including dementia and arthritis can find them comforting.

And why are we interested in them? Well, two of our telephone group members recently discovered during a phone group conversation that they had hobbies in common – making twiddlemuffs.

We’ve now supported them to share contact details so they can exchange favourite knitting patterns.

This is a wonderful example of what makes our telephone groups so special.

They work because they are led by the members, not by us. Members look forward to their Community Network telephone group calls; we place them in a group with peers from across the country and all of a sudden they can combine to support one another, or in this case, support one another to support others!

Our groups belong to our members, they give them the opportunity to participate as equals in a place where their input is valued and as a result of all this they have improved mental wellbeing.

…and if you are interested in seeing an example ‘Twiddlemuff’ (with thanks to NHS Warrington and Halton NHS Trust) here you are.

…for more info on our telephone groups contact us.



Happy to chat? We are!

Our joint response with The Phone Co-op on launch of Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness launched last month taking forward the work she started before her tragic death.

Bringing together a cross party group of MPs with 13 charities including Royal Voluntary Service, Action for Children, Refugee Action and colleagues at The Co-op, the Commission will be shining a light on different aspects of loneliness and the positive steps we can all take to combat it.

Jo Cox put it perfectly: ‘Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate… it is something many of us could easily help with.’

Loneliness can affect people of all ages, from the bullied school child, to the new mother, to the pensioner who has outlived her friends and immediate family.  Tackling loneliness requires us all to contribute.

As The Campaign to End Loneliness and now The Jo Cox Foundation are gathering momentum across government, charity and business sectors we wanted to pledge our support.

Working together Community Network and The Phone Co-op have been tackling loneliness, working in partnership specifically using telecoms, enabling lonely people to connect in groups by phone.

Robert Edmonds, Chief Executive Officer of Community Network added: “Combating loneliness is at the heart of the service that we are delivering in partnership with The Phone Co-op”.

We combine with The Phone Co-op to host our Talking Communities bringing together groups, over the phone, of up to six people and giving them opportunities to socialise and gain telephone friends.  If you are involved with one of our groups or are a charity or community group already using our teleconferencing for social purposes, please spread the word. If you want to find out more about how to get started get in contact.

We’ve now signed up to the Jo Cox Loneliness, Start a Conversation campaign. Loneliness is something that we can all help to combat, one conversation at a time.  We’ve pledged to be ‘Happy To Chat’.

Whether on the phone or face to face, let’s all join with the Jo Cox Loneliness, Start a Conversation, campaign. You can find out how to pledge your support here.


1 Community Network is a charity and social enterprise using telecoms for social benefit. Based from Archway, North London, it works across the UK to combat social isolation, loneliness and their devastating effects on health. Since 1989 it has been bringing socially isolated people together to build talking communities, telecoms enabled peer support. The groups are hosted by trained volunteers and help people to engage with others, build confidence, increase self-esteem and improve mental health and well-being. Community Network specialise in supporting charities and community groups in setting up and hosting talking communities, getting people together over the telephone.

2 The Phone Co-op is a telecoms and internet service provider based in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire and in Manchester. It is a consumer co-operative, owned by its members, who are its customers. It provides products and services (phone, mobile and broadband as well as business data services) to residential and business customers throughout the UK. It also provides teleconferencing facilities for charities, not for profit organisations and other co-operatives. Driven by its members, it has a strong focus on ethics, both social and environmental. The Phone Co-op has over 30,000 business and residential customers, over 70 employees and more than 11,700 members. It started trading in 1998 and has grown steadily since then and now has a turnover of over £12.5 million.


‘Why I am a Trustee’ – Beth Williams

Community Network is a small national charity that tackles loneliness and social isolation using telecommunications. Nowadays people have more ways of communicating than ever before, so it is easy to forget that many people are lonely, bored or lacking in mental stimulation. Sadly, loneliness and social isolation often go hand in hand with poor physical and mental health.

At the start of 2016 I decided I wanted to become a Trustee of a charity. I wanted to volunteer my time to do something good but I also wanted to increase my own learning about the sector.  I’d had experience as a staff member at a charity of working with Trustee Boards but I wanted to experience it from the other side.

When I found that Community Network was looking for new recruits I was really interested. The charity’s concept is very simple but I found it so compelling. Experiencing loneliness is apparently as dangerous to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, is more harmful than obesity and linked to heart disease and dementia.

The charity sets up ‘Talking Communities’ which are groups of people from anywhere in the country who are brought together once a week to socialise together on the phone. Many of the participants are older people, carers and disabled people with mobility problems. A participant might have a partner who has dementia and so is unable to leave them to go out. They or their spouse may have had a career in the armed forces which meant they never stayed in one place so now that they are retired they don’t have roots in the community they live in.

A phone call a week which is hosted by a trained volunteer is a lifeline for some people who may not see anyone for days at a time. Bringing people together helps combat social isolation and loneliness and their devastating effects on health and well-being. It’s a chance to socialise, share experiences and support each other.  Since ‘meetings’ take place on the phone or online, they are easy to use and access – even for people who have mobility problems or a disability.

As part of my Trustee induction I was able to listen to some of the calls and I found it very moving. The pleasure that the participants take in being part of the group, and the way they expressed what a lifeline it was to them makes me realise what a real difference human connection makes.  Its very easy to take for granted the ability to go out and make friends which is essentially what the charity provide to those who may longer have that.

I’m really inspired by the work of this charity and I’m excited to be working with them to grow our reach. Why not donate, volunteer your time or even just follow them on twitter: @Com_Net

Enabling peer support across the life course.

Do you have a family member or friend who has just got their GCSE or A level exam results? Are they considering further studies? Do you remember exam results day and leaving school?

We’ve understood for a while now that loneliness is experienced across all ages and is not just something faced in later life.loneliness and young people

There’s increasing research into how life transitions can trigger loneliness. Leaving home can be a major life transition. Childhood to adulthood. Additional pressures, perhaps triggering loneliness?

Last month was the fifth birthday party for the Campaign to End Loneliness. It was hosted by Andrew Barnett, Director, UK branch of the Caloustie Gulbenkian Foundation (CBF) who used the opportunity to launch CBF’s report on Loneliness Through The Life Course headlined as “a call to action to look at loneliness in the round, at different transitions and across the lifecycle.

For some, adulthood arrives full of possibilities, but, whilst their peers may be pursuing studies further afield (and making new friends away from home), others can be left feeling lonely. Now we’ve found that student life can be a lonely experience too.

Last year we carried out peer research on younger people and loneliness. What our UCL peer researchers unearthed for us was perhaps contrary to what you might think: 62% of those 18-24 year olds interviewed ‘experienced loneliness some or all of the time’.

We specialise in telecoms enabled peer support – helping organisations to use teleconferencing for social benefit. Our Talking Communities projects enable peer support, in groups, via the telephone. It’s a simple offer. It brings people together over the phone. It works. We can measure how participants’ wellbeing increases as they gain from participating in our groups. It’s different from one to one befriending – the peer support approach we use with Talking Communities means that people help people, in groups, over the phone. It works because what happens in the groups isn’t controlled by us but by the participants themselves.

Perhaps surprisingly, research can show little difference in the proportion younger and older people who feel lonely “some of the time” or “all of the time”.


If you have a family member or friend who has just had their GCSE or A level results let’s hope they enable them to pursue their life goals, free from loneliness whilst gaining robust friendships that sustain, irrespective of their life transitions ahead.

Meantime, if you know of or work at an organisation that wants to help combat loneliness, create togetherness and enable peer support via teleconferencing, please get in touch.  We train staff and volunteers to facilitate peer support via the phone. We are supporting organisations to set up peer support projects and to train their own trainers. We are keen to meet with organisations involving younger people who want to develop Talking Communities.

Do get in touch if you’d like to hear more about our approach and our offer. As the saying goes, it’s good to talk.

Robert Edmonds, CEO