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 B: Addenda

Sixty-eight organisations and individuals emailed their responses to the draft strategy and these were not included in the initial analysis informing the published findings.

These responses have been analysed and compared to the published findings to ensure the consultation analysis was comprehensive and all insights featured in the report. We identified similar themes, with the responses echoing the original findings and adding more examples and nuance to the original analysis.

The following section lists the additional insights that came out from the additional analysis and organized around the key sections of the report.

Perceptions of the value of the draft strategy

Suggested changes to the performance framework in the draft strategy
Respondents called for a more detailed analysis of the risk factors leading to social isolation and loneliness, and a fuller review of the types of individuals affected and in what circumstances. Respondents echoed the need for specific indicators, and more of them to be of more use, including crime and safety measures (e.g. antisocial measures) and measures featuring the experiences and needs of specific populations, including children and young people (e.g. care leavers, experiencing homelessness).

Perceptions of the proposed definitions for social isolation and loneliness
An additional suggestion was for the definitions to allow for greater diversity of experience and incorporate the need for people to have exposure to diverse social networks.

Features of support to tackle social isolation and loneliness

Policies and regulation
Trauma was recognized as a cause of social isolation and loneliness in some situations, and therefore a trauma informed response needs to be available.

A new view was economic policy and city focused investment was contributing to depopulation in rural areas, suggesting the need for a more balanced policy.

National and local government
Respondents felt that where appropriate, a social inclusion and loneliness strategy should link to connecting strategies, such as those on child poverty, alcohol, suicide prevention, safety and mental health. When making strategic and commissioning decisions, there should be a duty to tackle the issues of isolation and loneliness.

Sustainable funding
Some of the consequences of processes and practices underpinning voluntary sector funding, and service design were noted. Limited, and ring fenced, voluntary sector funding was seen to create a voluntary sector that must target its provision, and as a result exclude individuals who have a need for the service, but who may not fit into target criteria, on the basis of their age or other identity characteristics. For example, as a consequence of service provision contracts, access to community transport services may be confined to individuals or groups through restrictive eligibility criteria. Services could therefore be focused less rigidly, to work in a more inclusive and collaborative way.

Increasing funding for community policing initiatives was seen as necessary to strengthen the confidence some urban communities have in the safety of their neighborhood.

Education and training
Suggestions for focusing on developing resilience in the early years were raised. Helping children to understand what happiness and wellbeing feels like and what skills will help them to tackle challenges to their wellbeing was seen as a further area of focus for schools.

Support for language training and classes for people with asylum and refugee status was seen as important for helping to break down some of the barriers leading to social isolation and loneliness.

Designing and delivering support
Self-directed support came through strongly from many respondents in the initial analysis. New perspectives emerged from the additional analysis; self-directed support is considered less appropriate for recovering substance misusers and people with a terminal illness or deteriorating health. For these individuals, intensive, tailored and one-to-one support is more appropriate. It was suggested that informal peer support is most suitable for such groups who may face stigma, and who need to feel understood and accepted by others (most likely people in similar circumstances or with similar experiences) before being able to build relationships and become more socially integrated.

On a practical note, it was suggested that a Social Isolation and Loneliness Assessment Tool, for use by sector professionals, or a checklist of behaviors that could indicate social isolation and loneliness, for use by the general public concerned about family and friends, would be helpful tools to identify those in need of support.

Factors contributing to social isolation and loneliness

Some suggested independent living communities, or shared living schemes in which a person who needs support moves in with an approved carer or companion who would provide additional support as well as opportunities for social connection. Housing organisations already providing a range of care and support services were considered well placed to identify and deal with social isolation and loneliness.

Summary of key groups
Other key groups identified as being at risk of social isolation and loneliness included:

Veterans and services personnel face a unique set of circumstances which can trigger social isolation and loneliness, including a mobile lifestyle with long periods away from family and friends, a culture of self-sufficiency and emotional repression, and a loss of identity and social support networks upon exit from the services. Research was cited that found problems with isolation peaked between the ages of 35-54, suggesting that isolation is not limited to older veterans.

The early experiences of children were seen to be key to their emotional development and ability to form positive attachments. It was recommended that early interventions to promote positive early attachment and minimize the harmful consequences of previous Adverse Childhood Experiences on children’s emotional health was key to preventing children from experiencing difficulties in forming healthy relationships in later life.

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.

Additional suggestions for how to improve infrastructure for people with sensory impairment to be able to connect with their communities included:

  • 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.

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.

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.

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.


Email: Ben Cavanagh

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