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Tackling loneliness is no mean feat. It’s a complicated and personal issue which can also carry an unfair degree of stigma. So where to start?

It’s been a year since the British Red Cross first announced we would be working in partnership with Co-op to help tackle loneliness and social isolation. By October, we were ready to get our partnership fully underway.

We started by looking at what we knew about loneliness, what we didn’t, and what we needed to. We involved other experts in this process along with people who have experienced loneliness.

Meanwhile Co-op rounded up its staff, members and customers to unleash what would become an incredible stream of fundraising activity.

And it turns out Co-op’s people are prepared to go pretty far to help tackle these issues.

Money-raising highlights

Walking, running, mountain climbing, baking and slime bathing – these are just some of the ways Co-op’s members and staff have raised money so far.

Notable events include the Big Red Weekend which took place at Co-op stores across the UK in May. Then in July more than 100 Co-op staff scaled the side of Snowdon and another 100 took on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.

So far £2 million has been raised towards an initial £3.5 million target. This money will go towards funding new and extended services designed to support those experiencing loneliness and social isolation (the term to describe when you don’t regularly see other people).

Why loneliness?

Loneliness and social isolation are a growing public health issue here in the UK. They are shortening lives and eroding health and wellbeing.

The Red Cross has seen these effects first hand through the practical and emotional support our dedicated volunteers already provide to help people.

“I would say the biggest thing that I can see with most of them is loneliness. An awful lot of them just want somebody to have a little chat with – not about anything in particular.” 

Red Cross staff member, Glasgow*

Loneliness is subjective. It’s a feeling that is very personal and some people may feel lonely even when they are around lots of people.

Social isolation is a bit different. It refers to someone who does not have a lot of contact with other people. They may feel lonely, too.

Either way, these negative feelings are impacting on people of all ages and backgrounds, across the UK. Loneliness can affect anyone.

While addressing these issues may be challenging, the Red Cross and Co-op believe it’s too serious a problem to ignore.

As the partnership continues, Co-op will continue on their fundraising roll and have another big fundraiser on the horizon for August.

We are also getting ready to share our research and plans for how we intend to respond later on in the year. Watch this space to find out how we will use Co-op’s hard-earned cash to provide vital care and support for thousands of isolated and lonely people. Together we will ensure their voices are heard.

*Source: The Crises Facing Our Independent Living Service Users; Research, Evaluation and Impact, British Red Cross, 2016