In 2015, Social Finance created Reconnections, which aims to develop better responses to the severe levels of loneliness and isolation which many older people experience, the effects of which can lead to poor health outcomes and increased use of health and social care services. Reconnections was the first Social Impact Bond to tackle loneliness in the UK.
Commissioners and health experts are increasingly recognising the detrimental effects of loneliness upon a person’s physical and mental health. A review of a large number of studies indicates that the effect of loneliness on mortality exceeds the impact of better known risk factors such as obesity, and has a similar influence as cigarette smoking. Additionally, loneliness increases the risk of cognitive decline, dementia and depression. With recent projections estimating the number of people aged over 65 to reach 19 million in the UK by 2050, and older people being more likely to suffer loneliness, this is rightly becoming an issue of growing concern.
Funded by a Social Impact Bond with investment from Nesta, the Care and Wellbeing Fund and Age UK National the Reconnections model has been pioneered across Worcestershire to tackle loneliness in the over 50s. Following detailed work, Worcestershire County Council, South Worcestershire CCG, Redditch & Bromsgrove CCG and Wyre Forest CCG, jointly commissioned the service. The Cabinet Office and Big Lottery Fund also contribute to payments. Support begins with a one to one tailored plan and is followed with bespoke interventions provided by a caseworker or community volunteer. Individuals are encouraged to engage with people, places or activities to combat their feelings of loneliness. The intervention last for between 6-9 months and is measured using the Revised University of California Loneliness Scale (R-UCLA). The R-UCLA survey questions are asked at the beginning of the programme, at 6-9 months and at 18 months.