From Co-Op To Costa: 4 High Street Companies Tackling Loneliness Head-On

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What do Costa, Co-Op and Royal Mail have in common? They are all helping to tackle loneliness with clever new initiatives that aim to build greater connection within communities.

As part of the Government’s first ever strategy on loneliness, released today, doctors in England will be able to refer lonely patients to community activities and voluntary services by 2023 – otherwise known as social prescribing.

The strategy will also see various UK companies trialling schemes aimed at tackling loneliness – one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, according to Theresa May – with a view to boosting employee wellbeing. Here’s what they’re up to.

What is loneliness?

‘A subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship. It
happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of
social relationships that we have, and those that we want.’

Catch-ups with the local postie

Royal Mail’s postal workers are trialling a new community service to help tackle loneliness, led and funded by the Home Office.

Working with Liverpool City Council, around 100 local people aged 65 and over are set to receive regular wellbeing visits from their postie. The aim is to help individuals access assistance, for example advice on staying healthy or information on an activity or group in their area.

Sue Whalley, CEO of Royal Mail Post and Parcels UK, said: “Our people are the perfect fit for this laudable and worthwhile initiative. Our nationwide ‘feet on the street’ network gives us unparalleled UK reach and local knowledge.”

The trial is now underway and will run for around six months. Similar visits are being made in Whitby, in conjunction with North Yorkshire County Council, and in New Malden in Surrey, working with Kingston London Borough Council.

Russell Boyce / Reuters

Chatty tables in Costa and Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s has announced a new community initiative, Talking Tables, encouraging people (both staff and public) to meet, spark conversation and feel less lonely. The initiative will be trialled in 21 stores across the UK from October to December.

It has been developed in close association with the Chatty Café Scheme – which was founded by mum Alex Hoskyn. Costa Coffee was the first UK retailer to roll out the scheme in 300 stores nationwide earlier this year. The premise is simple: on each of the specially designated tables in Costa there is a discreet sign that lets other people know you’re happy to have some company.

Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s Brand, said: “We hope that by bringing people together at our Talking Tables, we can utilise the potential of our store space to help people be better connected to the communities they live and work in.”


Co-op Bereavement Groups

You might not know it, but Co-op has been tackling loneliness in communities since 2015. One way it has been doing this is through Co-op Bereavement Groups, which are social groups supporting those who have suffered the loss of a loved one and experienced loneliness as a result.

The groups enable people in similar situations to come together and form new friendships and relationships. There have even been five weddings as a result, a completely unexpected (yet totally lovely) outcome.

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