Tackling social isolation and loneliness: consultation analysis

Analysis of responses to our 'Connected Scotland: tackling social isolation and loneliness and building stronger communities' consultation.

Appendix A: Summary of key groups

Consultation responses identified key groups at risk of social isolation and loneliness. The absence of a specific group or suggestion does not mean that it is not relevant to the issues of social isolation and loneliness, but that it did not feature prominently in those who responded to the consultation. Below is a summary of needs for key groups identified in consultation responses.

Disabled people are viewed as impacted by lack of accessibility of public spaces, housing and transport and lack of suitable activities. More specifically, people with sensory impairment need better infrastructure to ease communication barriers and enable them to connect with their communities. Consultation responses suggested this group would benefit from:

  • Improved accessibility of transportation, housing and public spaces and better training for staff to provide support, which facilitates interaction with non-disabled people and helps reduce stigma
  • More suitable activity options (especially physical activity), as well as activities designed for disabled children
  • Increased public awareness of 'hidden' impairments
  • Services and support that facilitate communication, for example lip reading teachers, funding for sign language interpreters, and sign language instruction for children
  • Better enforcement of legislation like hearing loops so they can more easily participate in community activities and groups
  • Reducing and removing clutter and obstacles on streets in accordance with RNIB Scotland’s Street Charter;
  • Increasing the number of websites that are accessible to those with visual impairment, including adding information about access for people who are visually impaired to venue websites and general directions on Google Maps, and
  • Providing financial support for the costs of accessing technology for blind and partially sighted people.

People with learning disabilities who, although regarded as living independently in the community, often experience loneliness and social isolation, and are at higher risk of hate crime. Suggestions for how to improve support for this group included:

  • Support to access mainstream education, achieve useful qualifications and gain paid employment, without which people with learning disabilities would continue to live lives separated and isolated from the rest of society.
  • Greater recognition of hate crime by the police and support services, and action to be taken when reporting these crimes, would give people with learning difficulties more confidence to leave the house and interact with others.
  • Involvement of people with learning disabilities in the design of services including social care, the benefits system, employment, housing and leisure services, so that services can better meet need.

Older people may have limited opportunities for social interaction, due to physical limitations, isolation due to housing or lack of accessible transport and public spaces. Suggestions from respondents related to this group included:

  • Better, more affordable housing options that embed opportunities for social interaction, for example multi-generational housing
  • More opportunities for older people to connect with their community and better utilising their assets, for example through buddying schemes
  • Opportunities for intergenerational activities, for example children's nurseries visiting older people in care homes
  • Door-to-door transportation to get out of the house and participate in community life
  • Increased accessibility of public spaces, for example wheelchair access and public benches
  • Expanding existing opportunities for social interaction, for example allowing more time with in-home care workers

Young people were seen to be impacted by a lack of affordable housing and job opportunities, and in need of support to mitigate social isolation and loneliness. Responses to the consultation suggested:

  • More affordable housing and job opportunities, particularly in rural communities, to enable young people to stay in their communities and close to their social networks
  • Greater range of youth clubs, for example sports and gaming, and qualified youth workers who can help identify social isolation and loneliness
  • More face-to-face interactions and less use of digital technology and social media
  • Anti-bullying and kindness education and awareness programmes in schools
  • Opportunities for intergenerational interaction, for example teaching older people how to use technology

Young people included the sub group of unaccompanied asylum seeking young people, considered to be particularly vulnerable and susceptible to becoming socially isolated due to language and cultural barriers, new and unfamiliar environments, and experiences of trauma. It was reported that housing and accommodation decisions for these young people could be significant in either mitigating or exacerbating these issues.

People on low incomes were seen to be negatively impacted by the cost of housing, transportation, and broadband, and respondents felt they would benefit from:

  • More affordable housing and subsidised transportation
  • Access to affordable broadband and use of technology
  • Increased benefits to bring families out of poverty
  • Free or subsidised support and social activities to enable social connection

People living in rural communities are impacted by lack of adequate transportation that joins up with other modes of transport, and lack of or limited access to affordable broadband. Responses suggested rural communities would benefit from:

  • Better connected, more frequent transport system, with a need for door-to-door transport for elderly and disabled people
  • More affordable public transport and taxis to be able to get around
  • Better coverage and access to affordable broadband

People with mental health issues were seen to need greater support to encourage social interaction and support wellbeing, suggestions for this group included:

  • More individualised support - those with social anxiety may need more support to access services and activities
  • Better referral to services after a diagnosis, for example for people diagnosed with autism or Asperger's
  • Greater support in place for those at risk of suicide

Responses to the consultation also identified families and parents as in need of further support, such as:

  • Groups for (single) mums that also provide childcare to facilitate participation
  • More community family events and activities
  • Greater support for single parents
  • Better funding of day care services

Consultation responses suggested more could be done to support carers, for example:

  • Greater financial support by increasing carer's allowance
  • More flexible work policies to allow for emergencies or care needs
  • Additional support and opportunities for respite

Respondents felt more could be done to support ethnic minorities, for whom the fear of discrimination was sometimes a barrier to social connection. Suggestions to support this group included:

  • More inclusive activities and groups that embrace everyone
  • Better diversity and inclusion training for public sector workers, for example teachers, social workers, housing officers and police

Suggestions for better support for ethnic minorities included those for BME carers, who were reported to face particular challenges that contributed to social isolation and loneliness. These included a higher proportion of cared for people within BME communities living with their carer, younger BME women more likely to combine childcare responsibilities with informal care for other family members, and BME carers more likely to be caring for a disabled child or a child with a long term health condition.

Respondents felt more could be done to support people who are bereaved, and that this group would benefit from support groups. Responses to the consultation touched on key life stages, like students leaving for university or retirement, where additional support could be targeted. For example, newly-retired people may need encouragement to take part in activities like volunteering. Finally, some respondents felt that older men would benefit from more activities and groups targeted at their interests, like Men's Sheds.

Other groups mentioned included:

  • LGBTQ - they may fear discrimination and become socially isolated due to stigma in some communities; would benefit from shared interest groups; suggestion to allocate core funding to LGBT groups
  • Victims of domestic violence - this can contribute to social isolation and loneliness when they are isolated and feel they can't speak about their situation
  • Homeless - they need to be able to use toilets safely, shower, and wash clothes
  • Substance misuse - support needed for children and young people in homes where there is an issue of substance misuse; substance misuse may be symptom of loneliness; greater understanding needed to reduce stigma of addiction; and a suggestion to include this group in performance framework
  • Home workers - freelancing / working from home may contribute to social isolation and loneliness, there is a need for communal working spaces
  • People for whom English is a second language - need better ESOL provision to overcome language barriers, example of church that offers ESOL classes where all are welcome that helps to build relationships
  • The unemployed, prompting suggestions that volunteering opportunities for the unemployed could be particularly beneficial in not only providing a route into employment but also providing opportunities for social interaction that could help mitigate social isolation and loneliness.

How to access background or source data

The data collected for social research publication:

☐ are available in more detail through Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics

☐ are available via an alternative route <specify or delete this text>

☒ may be made available on request, subject to consideration of legal and ethical factors. Please contact for further information.

☐ cannot be made available by Scottish Government for further analysis as Scottish Government is not the data controller.


Email: Ben Cavanagh

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