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January 23, 2019

Small investments, massive returns

The Scottish Government has signalled serious intent to combat Scotland’s loneliness epidemic in publishing its first ever national strategy. It lays out some high level aspirations and describes in broad terms how it will deliver on these. Meanwhile, and under the radar as ever, local action on this issue has been evolving. Senscot have recently reported on a fantastic example of how miniscule investments, strategically placed using local knowledge, can generate huge social returns. Hopefully the proposed National Implementation Group will draw heavily on the experience that Senscot and others have acquired.


Summary report

The Scottish Government is committed to developing a national strategy to address loneliness. The proposed strategy aims to reduce social isolation – partly by encouraging the development of networks and developing new connections in communities across Scotland.

The strategy also has a strong focus on challenging the social and economic determinants that cause people to become isolated – and eventually lonely. Social Enterprise Network (SEN) members expressed an interest in coming together on this in 2017. Senscot subsequently hosted a SEN meeting to discuss social enterprise and social isolation – followed by a Community Learning Exchange visit to ROAR – Connections for Life. Based in Renfrewshire, ROAR is a social enterprise which provides of preventative, health and wellbeing services for older people through the development of community opportunities to connect people.

Further work with SEN members in this area included a Briefing Paper, Loneliness and Social Isolation: the Role of Social Enterprise, which looks at the contribution social enterprises are making at a community level to reduce the most acute causes and symptoms of social isolation. The Briefing includes case studies of five SEN members – CFINE; Lingo Flamingo; ROAR; The No.1 Befriending Agency; and Badenoch & Strathspey Community Transport Company.

The Pockets and Prospects project follows on from this work. Initially approached by Scottish Communities Alliance (SCA) to delve further into this, we were funded by the Scottish Government via SCA’s community capacity and resilience programme. This enabled us to work with SEN members to explore and develop an approach that would maximise the contribution of social enterprise in this area. Recognising the value in connecting with Glasgow’s Campaign to End Loneliness (Scottish pilot of the UK Campaign) and ensuring we met the fund criteria, we partnered with Glasgow SEN to develop this work.

Senscot and GSEN then worked with SEN members to coordinate a ‘programme of activities’ that would be available for community anchor organisations to purchase and offer to their local community. This developed in to a ‘pick and mix’ programme offering a diverse range of activities and provided an opportunity for social enterprises to develop a collaborative approach to tacking loneliness and social isolation – and to mitigate the impact of welfare refor

How the Pockets & Prospects activities have addressed loneliness & social isolation.

1. Providing an opportunity for people to leave their homes.

2. Bringing people together to participate in a whole range of activities, ranging from small groups to larger social events.

3. Spending time with peers, participating in an enjoyable activity, strengthened connections and created a natural peer support environment.

4. Having others listen to them and enjoy their stories made people feel valued and helped them recognise that they have a lot to contribute to society, rather than ‘sitting on the side-lines looking in’ – as is regularly described.

5. Coming together with other people, participants enjoyed one another’s company. This helped them to recognise that they share a lot of things in common, giving them a sense of belonging.

6. Taking part in activities gave people something new to discuss with family, friends, carers etc as many advised they don’t feel they have anything new or interesting to talk about, which in turn increases feelings of loneliness.

7. Activities give people something to look forward to, often adding structure to their day – providing a sense of purpose for some.

8. Friendships and friendship circles have developed through engaging in activities, with this being especially important for people who live on their own.

9. Encouraging people to engage in more activities and meet new people in the community.

10. Providing opportunities to get more involved and participate in the local community

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