As a national Christian charity focusing on addressing social isolation and loneliness, Linking Lives UK began partnering with the Warm Welcome Campaign from an early stage as we could see that there was likely to be a close link between fuel poverty and levels of loneliness.
This was likely to be as a result of an increase in ‘closeting’ behaviour in which those concerned about rising fuel costs, remained (often alone) in one room to conserve energy. This inevitably led to higher likelihood of marginalisation and isolation from the wider community and, as a result, a greater expectation of loneliness. This would be compounded by darker evenings which can also impact levels of depression and poor mental health.
In general, there have been continuing high levels of loneliness across people of all ages in the UK over recent years. For example, 45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England. This equates to twenty five million people (Campaign to End Loneliness).
Research carried out by the BBC, however, found that it is now the 16-24-year-olds who are the loneliest age group in the UK (BBC Radio 4, All In The Mind. “The Loneliness Experiment”). There continue to be significant impacts to health and wellbeing and loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Triggers to increased loneliness are many and varied but can include relationship breakdown, retirement, homelessness or moving home.
Early feedback following the launch of the Warm Welcome Campaign did, in fact, emphasise the likely impact in addressing loneliness and there were many stories from those attending quoting ‘an improved sense of community’ and ‘being part of a ‘welcoming environment’ as key benefits. These early signs demonstrate that there may well be more of a benefit from the ‘Welcome’ elements of these spaces as there are from the physical ‘Warm’ environments (although this is clearly important!).
As Warm Welcome spaces continue to develop, it will be important to reflect clearly on these outcomes and benefits so as to shape future activities during autumn and winter 2024. This could involve tailored training for volunteers engaged in running spaces to provide them with the tools, understanding and knowledge required (such as our ‘Good Conversations Volunteer course’ mentioned below).
There have been three key ways in which we have been partnering with Warm Welcome and we are pleased that these will be continuing.
Isolation Outreach Project - Our focus and experience in addressing loneliness, enabled us to bring this perspective as part of the campaign. This led to our recognising that there were likely to be people unable to leave their homes to attend a Warm Welcome space due to rural isolation or physical, emotional or mental health reasons. As a result we collaborated with other Warm Welcome partners to explore options to pilot projects which enable Warm Welcome spaces to provide outreach opportunities which involve volunteers visiting those in these circumstances. This work is ongoing.
Good Conversations Volunteer Training – We run regular two hour webinars (or face to face sessions) aimed at those engaged in community based activities such as community cafes, drop-in centres, lunch clubs including Warm Welcome spaces. The training includes guidance on ‘effective listening skills’, ‘boundaries’, ‘safeguarding’ and other key subjects. These are run on a regular basis with discounts available for those who are part of a Warm Welcome project. (https://linkinglives.uk/good-conversations/)
Two’s Company Befriending Schemes – We currently work with 50 churches and other organisations to run befriending schemes across the UK. Our template package enables local groups to set up a scheme in the community in which volunteers visit or telephone those in their community most in need of regular company. We are currently exploring ways in which this model can be used in conjunction with Warm Welcome spaces throughout the year to provide outreach to those unable to attend community buildings.
We have found the opportunity to partner with so many inspiring national, regional and local charities and organisations from a breadth of backgrounds and experience an extremely rich and rewarding experience and we look forward to continuing to engage with the process in the coming months. We always look for ways to engage with other organisations where there is benefit in doing so, and the Warm Welcome Campaign is a testament to this as we have collectively made an impact on the lives of many thousands of people in the past 8 months.
For further information about any aspect of our work, please use the contact details below.