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.

NOTES TO EDITORS

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. www.communitynetworkprojects.org

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. www.thephone.coop

 

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”.

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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

 

 

Celebrating Volunteers’ Week

This week is volunteers’ week. Our volunteers play a really important role in helping us to provide safe, friendly spaces on the phone and online for people to connect to one another.

Thank you to everyone who has volunteered with us this year including our Volunteer Facilitators, Online Community Guides, Volunteer Trainers, our Community Champions and the people who’ve given up their time to raise money for our work.

Beginning this week we’ve got a team of 4 students joining us from University College London (UCL). They’re here as part of a initiative called “UCL Global Citizenship – Voluntary Sector Programme” aimed at the students aspiring to be future leaders in the charity world.

Our team – Atika, Mike, Ayesha and Tom will be helping us find out about young people aged 18-24 and their experiences of loneliness. Watch this space for their findings.

UCL Global Citizenship - Voluntary Sector Programme student team

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summertime blues

Of all the seasons summer is the one we most associate with fun – sunshine, picnics, being outside, feeling warm and happy. Of course the appearance of the sun might encourage us to take off some layers or to get out of the house but it doesn’t necessarily stop us from feeling lonely.

Research led by Professor Christina Victor at Brunel University suggests older people are more likely to feel lonely during the summer months. We don’t know why the summer makes some people feel less connected to others but perhaps it’s about expectations. All the images we see show ideal summer days, with happy people spending time amongst friends and family. This idea of the perfect summer can leave us feeling like we’re missing out but life isn’t like a picture postcard or a Facebook post. Chores, rain, jobs, ill health, paying bills are all part of everyday life. For older people, families may be on holiday or poor mobility might make it harder to get out of the house and join in.

The reasons for loneliness at any time of year are complex but it is good to be reminded that we need build ways to support each other throughout the year.

Woman sitting alone at sunset

 

 

 

Staying connected over Easter

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Many people are looking forward to Easter, a long weekend and a chance to relax with friends and families. For others the idea of four days away from work and contact with colleagues can be daunting. If that sounds familiar we’ve put together a few things you might find helpful.

1. If you’ve not got anything planned ask around friends and family to see if they are free. We assume everyone is busy over Easter but more often than not people opt to stay at home or in the local area. They might be waiting for you to call.

2. If friends and family do turn out to be busy then find something you really fancy doing and treat yourself to a special day. This could be a trip to the cinema, a walk in the park, watching a football match or taking the time to sit down and read the book you’ve been looking forward to. Give yourself something to look forward to.

3. If you log on to social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram remember that people tend to post their pictures of their happy parts of the weekend. They don’t take photos of the boring bits we all have, and lots of people will be having ordinary days at home.

4. If you need to chat to someone over the bank holiday weekend there are people from all over the UK on the Loneliness Forum who are supportive, interesting and interested – pop by and say hello!