As coronavirus restrictions tighten once more, the UK’s leading crisis response charity is urging people to reach out to others and offering to help those who feel lonely and cut off to keep in touch with people, digitally.
As part of the scheme, specialist support will be available from a team of 90 new young digital volunteers, aged 16 to 25, who will be available to chat and talk people of all abilities and levels of confidence through the digital landscape.
The British Red Cross has teamed up with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to launch the Tackling Loneliness Digitally programme that will offer a range of support and advice to people in England who feel lonely and isolated, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the limits it has put on people’s ability to meet up with others.
The programme, which will be delivered by the Red Cross’s Generation Digital Volunteers, Connecting Communities and refugee services teams, will see those who need smartphones and data packages helped to access them, while others will be supported as they venture online and learn how best to keep connected with family and friends.
People who want help will be able to call the British Red Cross coronavirus support line for a chat and, where they would like a little extra support or a boost in confidence, digital volunteers will be able to support them through their online journey.
Where people are already online they can access a range of brilliant tools and resources – including online classrooms – designed to help boost confidence and improve wellbeing.
This is all alongside the traditional one-to-one support – most of which has itself been delivered by telephone or online through the coronavirus crisis – provided by Red Cross community connectors who help people in Durham, Stockport and Plymouth (all ages) and Blackpool, Oldham, Southampton, Newcastle, Blyth and Camborne and Redruth (over-55s).
British Red Cross executive director for UK operations Norman McKinley said: “You don’t have to do this alone. No one should be left feeling lonely and without anyone to turn to in this crisis. It’s more important than ever – as new coronavirus restrictions further limit everyday interactions – that we all reach out and try to stay in touch.
“Tackling Loneliness Digitally will help the people who our research shows are most likely to be feeling lonely and cut off from others to reconnect with friends and family. We’ll also be helping people access the tech and data that gets them online and back in touch with those they love.
“People can find out how to access help using our support line and our team of young digital volunteers are working hard to introduce people to the sort of technology that can help keep everyone connected. We have a number of free online tools and resources that anyone can use to reduce loneliness and improve their own wellbeing.”
Tackling Loneliness Digitally is targeted at the people who are shown to be most likely to be feeling lonely while having limited access to digital technology – including older people, those in ill-health, people from BAME communities, young people, those without internet or phones, and refugees.
British Red Cross research conducted in May during the last full lockdown period showed that more than a quarter of adults (28 per cent) worried no one would notice if something happened to them and a third of people feared their loneliness would get worse.
Overall, 41 per cent of adults reported feeling lonelier than before lockdown, with 33 per cent saying they hadn’t had a meaningful conversation in the last week, and 37 per cent saying their neighbours were like strangers to them.
If you are feeling lonely and would like to reach out please call the British Red Cross coronavirus support line on 0800 506 0760 or access our online loneliness resources at www.redcross.org.uk/loneliness-resources