housing & housing services
local government
voluntary sector

4th Annual Tackling Loneliness Forum

housing & housing services

local government

voluntary sector

08:45 - 16:20

Thursday 4 July 2019

Central London

This Forum provides participants with the opportunity to examine the government’s landmark new ‘Connected Society’ strategy designed to tackle loneliness across the UK. Attendees will hear from leading policy figures, including the Minister for Loneliness, who will outline what more needs to be done identify, engage and tackle social isolation and loneliness. In addition, leading practitioners from local government, the voluntary sector and housing associations will share guidance on how these sectors can better work in partnerships to raise awareness and utilise innovative technology to identify and reduce loneliness across the UK.


This Forum is specifically designed for Local Authorities as well as the Housing, Health, Social Care and Voluntary Sectors. Typical job titles will include:

  • Directors of Public Health
  • Directors of Ageing
  • Chief Executives
  • Health and Well-being Divisions
  • Public Health Strategic Leads
  • Community Engagement Managers
  • Service and Commissioning Managers
  • Clinical Directors
  • Project and Business Managers
  • Health and Social Care Commissioners
  • General Practitioners and Social Workers
  • Sheltered Housing Officers
  • Community Partnership and Development Officers

This Forum is also open to the Private Sector to encourage debate and networking.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Mims Davies MP, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
  • Vinal K Karania, Research & Evaluation Manager – Policy & Research Team, Age UK
  • Fiona Murphy – Campaign Manager, Northern Ireland, Campaign to End Loneliness
  • Alexandra Hoskyn, Founder, The Chatty Café Scheme
  • Jodi Wheatley, Sustainability Manager, Costa Coffee
View the agenda and additional speakers

According to The Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2018 report “Loneliness – What characteristics and circumstances are associated with feeling lonely?” 1 in 20 adults in England feel lonely often or always, with a range of factors being associated with this, including more people living alone and online services replacing traditional face-to-face activities such as shopping. Furthermore, three quarters of GPs surveyed have said they are seeing between one and five people a day suffering with loneliness, which is linked to a range of damaging health impacts, like heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. Around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.

To help tackle this growing societal issue, the government released their “A Connected Society: A Strategy for Tackling Loneliness”, in October 2018. The strategy outlines a cross government agenda in partnership with community organisations to tackle loneliness across England. This included £1.8 million worth of funding to increase the number of community spaces available whilst also supporting the transformation of underutilised spaces into projects such as community cafes, art spaces or gardens. This built upon previous funding announcements in June 2018, where the government pledged £20 million to help charities bring communities together and help isolated people, including £11 million to support the use of technology to better link remote areas and help improve transport connections, making face-to-face contact easier. In April 2019, the Minister of Loneliness Mims Davies MP announced that thr Government and The National Lottery Community Fund £1.2 million  of investment to develop new training to improve charities’ knowledge of safeguarding requirements. This included over £50,000 for Age UK Oxfordshire to support bereaved people with loneliness. As well as further funding, the strategy established several pilot schemes in partnership with the Local Government Association to develop local solutions to loneliness, including education programmes to raise awareness.

It is therefore vital that the local councils and the voluntary sector come together to tackle the widespread problem of loneliness. Only by working together to establish community-led intervention projects, which utilise innovative technology and are backed by local authorities, will the problem of social isolation begin to subside. Failure to do so could see a generation, not just of elderly people but also young adults, continue to suffer at the hands of this epidemic and have a wider negative impact on the health and economic cost on our society.

Fiona Murphy – Campaign Manager, Northern Ireland, Campaign to End Loneliness

Fiona is a long-time advocate for robust social change. She has worked with civil and public services and civil society organisations internationally, across the UK and in Ireland, to create and manage the implementation of bespoke change interventions.  Previous roles include NI Youth Forum, Amnesty International, CAJ and the Irish Human Rights Commission.

Mims Davies MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Mims Davies was appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 5 November 2018.

She was previously Assistant Government Whip from January 2018 to November 2018, and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales from July 2018 to November 2018.

Jools Townsend, Chief Executive, Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) (

Jools is chief executive of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships, providing leadership to a team of 13 and across ACoRP’s members and partners. ACoRP works to support and champion community rail: a grassroots movement made up of 1,000+ groups and partnerships across Britain that engage communities in their railways. Community rail is all about ensuring communities get the most from their railways, promoting rail as a key part of sustainable travel, and bringing people together.

Jools joined ACoRP in 2016 after 10 years at Brake, the road safety charity, leading high-profile national campaigns, policy, partnership and community engagement work. Jools previously headed up communications and policy functions at regional charities Better Start Bradford and East Thames Group. Her experience also includes voluntary roles within community groups promoting sustainable living, including as chair of Streatham Common Community Garden.

Jools holds a Master’s Degree in Political Communication (focusing on how NGOs can affect change through communications and community engagement) and Bachelor’s Degree in English Language and Literature.

Jools is passionate about the third sector, promoting sustainable travel, and enjoying the great outdoors.

Alexandra Hoskyn, Founder, The Chatty Café Scheme

Alexandra Hoskyn is the founder of The Chatty Café Scheme which is a national project to reduce loneliness and get people talking. 

They encourage cafes and other venues to designate a Chatter & Natter table which is where customers can sit if they are happy to talk to other customers. 

Alex thought of the idea when her son was a few months old and she observed many people sat alone in cafes. This is a scheme for all ages and is focused on mixing everyone up!

Alex is a part time Social Worker for Adults with Learning Disability and Autism for a Local Authority. 

Jodi Wheatley, Sustainability Manager, Costa Coffee

Jodi Wheatley is the Sustainability Manager for Costa Coffee.

Her role focuses primarily on social sustainability, in particular the ways that Costa Coffee teams can support their local communities. Jodi manages Costa Coffee’s nationwide Community Programme, which enables teams to volunteer their time to good causes locally and to invite community groups to make use of their welcoming space in store.

Jodi has led the trial and roll-out of the Chatty Café Scheme across over 300 Costa Coffee stores, driving store team engagement and customer communications to ensure success. This launch made Costa Coffee the first coffee brand to roll out the scheme nationwide. She continues to work closely with founder Alexandra Hoskyn to sustain and grow the Chatty Café Scheme even further.

Vinal K Karania, Research & Evaluation Manager - Policy & Research Team, Age UK

Vinal K Karania is a public policy economist and social policy researcher, currently working at Age UK. He led Age UK’s work on evaluating their loneliness pilot and more recently their quantitative analysis of loneliness among older people. He has written and spoken about the evidence on what works in tackling and measuring loneliness; and contributed to and informed the government working group on building the evidence and the choice of a population measure for loneliness. Vinal is also an Impact Fellow with Care Connect (University of Sheffield), and prior to Age UK worked as a civil servant for a decade. 


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Professor Peter Bath, Professor of Health Informatics, Head of School, The University of Sheffield (CONFIRMED)


Morning Keynote: Effectively Identifying, Engaging and Tackling the Causes of Loneliness

  • Identifying the key factors that can result in loneliness, including factors such as a lack of transport, bereavement or mental health issues, and recognising that loneliness is not solely an issue of age
  • Examining the role of data in successfully identifying loneliness, including using local Age UK heat maps and the Exeter open data system to provide accurate and up-to-date information on possible cases
  • Sharing the 10 key recommendations for service providers to identify and engage with people at risk of loneliness, including using Community Insight tools and creating a community resource directory, as outlined in The Missing Million report
  • Understanding that there is no “one size fits all” approach to engaging with older people who may be at risk of loneliness and highlighting the challenges faced throughout the engagement process

Fiona Murphy – Campaign Manager, Northern Ireland, Campaign to End Loneliness (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Successfully Establishing a County-Wide Approach to Tackling Loneliness

  • Outlining how Norfolk County Council established their ‘In Good Company’ project, which utilities local resources such a Norfolk Library to provide county wide services to help combat loneliness
  • Highlighting how Norfolk County Council established a whole-scale local approach by partnering with other local agencies including Borough Councils, Voluntary Norfolk and Community Action Norfolk to develop a consistent understanding and approach to tackled loneliness
  • Sharing guidance on how councils and libraries can best raise awareness of loneliness and social isolation and their role in supporting people to make and maintain relationships and strong links within their community
  • Examining the positive impacts of the project, including the Just A Cuppa events, such as improving mental health, reducing isolation and supporting vulnerable people across the local area

Janet Holden, Head of Norfolk Library and Information Services, Norfolk County Council (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Ministerial Keynote Address: Outlining the Government’s Vision for Tackling Loneliness

  • Outlining the guiding principles of the government’s 2018 ‘Connected Society a Strategy for Tackling Loneliness’ 2018, including working in partnership across government departments, focusing on the key loneliness trigger points and establishing a multi-agency response
  • Examining how the strategy looks to build a culture that supports connected communities, including raising awareness, reducing the stigma surrounding loneliness and supporting grassroots ties to strengthen community relationships
  • Analysing the impact community infrastructure can have on empowering social connections and reduce loneliness, including transport connections, digital tools and underutilised community space
  • Highlighting the governments next steps to embed loneliness and relationships throughout the policy-making process, including in the guidance for the Family Test and as part of governmental departments annual Single Departmental Plans

Questions and Answers Session to follow

Mims Davies MP, Minister for Loneliness & Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Successfully Establishing Community Hubs to Tackle Loneliness and Social Isolation

  • Outlining the process of bidding for the Building Connections Fund, including successfully being awarded £99,000 to deliver a range of activities and services across Newham to reduce loneliness via community hubs
  • Sharing guidance on embedding volunteers into a community hub projects to tackle loneliness, including how volunteers can deliver low cost, inclusive, community-building activities and skills development courses
  • Examining the benefits of establishing new multifaceted projects as a toll to introduce an intergenerational element, offering an inclusive and holistic approach to bringing lonely people together

David Mann, Chair of Trustees, Bonny Downs Community Association (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Community Rail: Engaging Communities in Transport to Unlock Opportunities and Tackle Isolation

  • Outlining how the Community Rail Strategy will support community groups in tackling loneliness by reinventing unused and underused railway property into spaces for social activities such as community cafes and workshops
  • Demonstrating the important role the transport sector and community rail projects can play within the government’s strategy to tackle loneliness
  • Examining how ACoRP will partner with DfT to effectively deliver the Community Rail Strategy, including bringing together local authorities and community partnership groups to deliver a combined national and local approach
  • Sharing guidance on how local authorities can establish a community rail programme and successfully raise awareness of the project to attract the people who need it the most
  • Highlighting best practice examples of successful community schemes, such as Brighton’s London Road station gardening project, as well as the impact these had on reducing loneliness and social isolation

Jools Townsend, Chief Executive, Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: Working in Collaboration to Deliver a Coordinated Approach to Tackling and Reducing Loneliness

  • Bursting the loneliness myths
  • Illustrating how data, alongside local knowledge, can help identify and target appropriate areas where people need support with this issue- using the Age UK loneliness heat map as an example
  • Illustrating the importance of strong local collaboration, and how this can be made to work in practice, as a key way to help tackle this issue – using examples from the Age UK network of how this can work in practice
  • Analysing the governments new loneliness strategy and potential impact it could have on effectively tackling loneliness

Vinal K Karania, Research & Evaluation Manager – Policy & Research Team, Age UK (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Working in Partnership With The Private Sector to Tackle Loneliness Across the UK

  • Outlining the journey of establishing the Chatty Café scheme, including how it is designed to break down these perceived barriers, and encourage people to interact in a safe, welcoming environment
  • Examining the process of working in partnership with Costa Coffee to expand the scheme  to include ‘Chatter and Natter’ tables in over 300 stores nationwide
  • Analysing the benefits of working in partnership with the private sector to deliver a community focused project, including sharing best practice advice on how best to achieve this
  • Highlighting the impact the Chatty Café scheme has had so far in tackling loneliness and social isolation across the UK

Alexandra Hoskyn, Founder, The Chatty Café Scheme (CONFIRMED)

Jodi Wheatley, Sustainability Manager, Costa Coffee (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Engaging and Supporting Tenants to Effectively Tackle Loneliness in a Older Persons Housing Setting

  • Detailing how Nottingham City Homes created new roles within its supported housing team aimed at reducing incidents of social isolation and loneliness amongst its older tenants
  • Examining the role of the activity coordinator and how they were embedded within the Independent Living Schemes (ILS) to design and deliver activities to tackle social isolation, including the Fit in the Community project
  • Outlining the role of the NCH Tenant’s Academy, which provides training ranging from ICT courses run by ClickSilver, in building partnerships with local VCS and other community based organisations to tackle loneliness
  • Sharing guidance on how housing associations can create robust, effective interventions to address loneliness whilst helping tenants live independent, fulfilling lives

Antony Dixon, Head of Supported Housing, Nottingham City Homes (NCH) (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Establishing An Online Community to Support Carers to Effectively Tackle Loneliness

  • Outlining the key findings from Carers UK ‘The World Shrinks: Carer Loneliness’ report, such as the fact that over 80% of carers reportedly feel lonely, with over 50% of carers suggesting that a deeper understanding from the wider society of the issue of loneliness would help
  • Establishing an online forum designed to be a meeting place for current and former unpaid family carers, allowing them to share resources and stories of the ups and downs of caring
  • Understanding the important role social interactions can have on reducing social isolation and loneliness, especially for carers who often do not get the opportunity
  • Sharing guidance on how to effectively create an online forum, including how to raise awareness so that those most at risk of loneliness can become engaged

Emma Aldridge, Director of Carer Support, Carers UK (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: How a Premier League Football Club Successfully Supports the Elderly in Their Community

  • Outlining West Ham United’s Any Old Irons community programme, including how it works in partnership with Friends of the Elderly to bring together local people experiencing loneliness and isolation to reminisce, share stories and make new friends
  • Highlighting how the initiative has embedded digital learning and story sharing into their programmes, allowing participants the opportunity to connect with other fans and bond over common experiences
  • Understanding the importance of volunteers in helping to make the programme a success, including how the initiative effectively attracted volunteers to get involved
  • Analysing the impact the programme has had on tackling loneliness and social isolation across the community, as well as unloading pressure from the NHS

Joe Lyons, CEO, Moore Family Foundation, West Ham United Football Club (CONFIRMED)

Maria Abraham, Health Manager, Moore Family Foundation, West Ham United Football Club (CONFIRMED)

Don Adams, Volunteer, Moore Family Foundation, West Ham United Football Club (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Improving and Building Connections in Older Age Communities Through A Multi-Agency Partnership

  • Examining how Manchester City Council became the first city in the UK to join the World Health Organisation network of Age Friendly Cities, including the impact this had on tackling loneliness
  • Outlining the process of embedding the Valuing Older People programme across the council to improve services for older residents in Manchester by providing direct support for people who are at risk of loneliness
  • Highlighting how the council worked in partnership with the Community Association, LINK and the Manchester Costume Gallery to deliver the Good Neighbours Project, which provided a befriending and shopping support service for older people
  • Analysing the overall lessons learnt throughout the project, including the importance of working in partnership and effectively utilising volunteers to deliver support

Paul McGarry, Strategic Lead – Older People and Public Health, Manchester City Council (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Chair's Summary and Close

*Programme subject to change

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