Social isolation and loneliness: Recovering our Connections 2023 to 2026

A Plan to take forward the delivery of A Connected Scotland – our strategy for tackling social isolation and loneliness and building stronger social connections.

Section 5 – Implementation and Monitoring

This section describes the supporting actions needed to implement this delivery plan, and how progress will be monitored.

In order to implement this delivery plan, we will continue to work with the Social Isolation and Loneliness Advisory Group, engaging key stakeholders to input into the implementation of the strategy, reporting on outcomes and future planning.

We will consider what other governance and oversight arrangements might be used to strengthen cross-portfolio engagement.


As described under Priority Three (p20), we will work with the partners to ensure that funding is used to support those activities which will most appropriately and effectively tackle SIAL and deliver on the priorities of our 'A Connected Scotland' strategy. We will ensure that learning from this work is disseminated appropriately across sectors, and we will support and build capacity within smaller organisations to apply for and/or generate future funding opportunities.

Equality Impact

In carrying out an Equality Impact Assessment, we will ensure our approach is intersectional in taking account of different identities and characteristics, addressing the specific barriers faced by groups protected under equality legislation.


We will update our communications plan for the strategy and action plan, to create the widest possible awareness of it across Scotland and encourage every individual and every community to think about the part they can play in building on 'A Connected Scotland' and recovering our connections post-pandemic.

Monitoring and Reporting

'A Connected Scotland' sets out that a report will be published on progress against the strategy every two years. The milestones for reporting are:

  • Interim report in 2024
  • Final report and look ahead in early 2026.

Reporting will include updates on performance of funded organisations, as well as on the other actions outlined within this plan.

How will we know if we are succeeding?

Monitoring Plan actions and funding outcomes

On one level, success may be defined as progress being made on the actions contained within the plan above, which will be reviewed for each of our biennial progress reports.

Success would also need to include effective distribution of SIAL funding as a key outcome. This will aim to support:

  • community programmes and projects which create opportunities for connection, and activities which will help communities to re-connect as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • programmes and projects which tackle barriers to connection (supporting an infrastructure that fosters connection).
  • activity which builds capacity within communities and community organisations to offer opportunities for connection and become more sustainable.
  • new / test activity which is scalable and contributes to a greater understanding of SIAL and how best to tackle it.

We will work with our partners to design and implement an appropriate monitoring framework for the work we are funding. This will include a variety of indicators aligned with our Social Isolation and Loneliness strategy, which will show how the funded activities are all building towards our collective goals. Progress and outcome reports from funding recipients will allow us to assess how well these activities are achieving these key priorities.

Monitoring strategic outcomes and impact

One obvious way of measuring change over the longer term would be the headline figure for loneliness in the Scottish Household Survey, which would ideally show a reduction in reported loneliness in our target groups. Our ultimate goal is of course to see that social isolation and loneliness are reduced. However, the situation is complex and this presents some challenges to using such a simple measure in isolation.

For example, in the shorter term, the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the cost of living crisis, are likely to have an adverse effect, despite all our efforts to mitigate the harms caused. In addition, loneliness is a self-reported measure, so if our actions under priority 2 are successful - to reduce the surrounding stigma and encourage discussion of loneliness - we might actually expect the number of people admitting to being lonely to increase. Change in the Scottish Household Survey result is therefore not going to be a reliable indicator of this plan's success.

We must therefore consider a range of other indicators. The strategic framework for 'A Connected Scotland' shows three other strategic outcomes:

  • Our understanding of loneliness and what works to alleviate it increases.
  • Harms resulting from loneliness are reduced.
  • The conditions that help to reduce SIAL are increasingly widespread.

The strategic framework also outlines a series of primary national indicators used in the National Performance Framework:

  • Places to interact
  • Loneliness
  • Mental Wellbeing
  • Participation in cultural activity
  • Child Wellbeing and Happiness
  • Confidence of children and young people
  • Children have positive relationships
  • Physical activity

This illustrates that social isolation and loneliness impact on people as part of a complex combination of different circumstances and opportunities, both influencing and being influenced by these. Attributing change to the actions in this Plan specifically will therefore be difficult. It should also be noted that the Scottish Government was one of the first countries to publish a social isolation and loneliness strategy. We and partners are therefore at an early point in our collective journey of better understanding these issues, and how to measure progress systemically.

We will continue to explore with colleagues what mechanisms might be best suited for analysing progress against the strategic outcomes above.

Our Social Isolation and Loneliness Advisory Group comprises a wide range of organisations dealing daily with the lived experience of loneliness. Their advice, and the feedback from their communities, will continue to provide us with vitally important qualitative evidence on whether we are creating impact in the right ways.

As the plan is designed to be flexible and responsive to conditions over the longer term, additional measures and indicators may be added as the plan evolves. We will be guided by outcomes of any research that we decide to commission, and we will work in partnership with the Social Isolation and Loneliness Advisory Group and with analysis colleagues to determine new or revised indicators – or combinations of indicators – as appropriate.



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