Working with local communities to address loneliness

Reconnections was the first social impact bond to tackle loneliness in the United Kingdom 

In 2015, we collaborated with Age UK on Reconnections, which aims to develop better responses to the severe levels of loneliness and isolation which many older people experience. 

Loneliness can lead to poor health outcomes and increased use of health and social care services. Commissioners and health experts are increasingly recognising the detrimental effects of loneliness upon a person’s physical and mental health. A review of numerous 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.

number of people supported by the service 
potential increased likelihood of premature mortality in people with chronic loneliness 
19 million 
Estimated number of people in the UK aged over 65 by 2050 

How it works

On referral to Reconnections, the older person is supported to discuss their hopes and aspirations, working with a caseworker to develop a personal plan to pursue the things thatmatter to them. The person may then be matched with a volunteer who provides practical and emotional support to take the first steps in this plan, whether joining a dog walking group orcommunity choir or a more unusual activity such as motorcycling. 

From these first steps, people are supported and encouraged to do more and to grow in confidence and independence, with support generally provided for six to nine months. Volunteer matches are overseen by a paid coordinator, who also monitors progress. The team also includes a caseworker, to support people whose situation is too complex for a volunteer, and make referrals to other professional services as needed.

I feel like I’ve been reconnected to life.

Reconnections service user, March 2018 

What we did

Reconnections was commissioned as a social impact bond by Worcestershire County Council and the three local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups. The relative flexibility of a payment-by-results’ contract enabled the Reconnections delivery and management teams to drive significant modifications and improvements to the initial model through a test and learn’ approach. 

Over five years, the service supported over 1,500 lonely older people, with a majority reporting a marked reduction in their feelings of loneliness. Some also quoted a range of other positive outcomes, including increased independence and improvements in health and wellbeing. 

  • Age UK Herefordshire & Worcestershire
  • Onside Advocacy
  • Simply Limitless
  • Worcester Community Trust


The pilot in Worcestershire was re-commissioned and expanded to include all adults. Three of the original providers continue to deliver the renamed PLUS’ service. 

It was important not only to leave a legacy in Worcestershire, but to achieve greater impact by spreading the learning to new areas. Reconnections Ltd and Social Finance (as the Managing Agent), identified that to achieve these scaling ambitions, they would need to find an appropriate organisation to take forward the model. 

This led to the exciting partnership with Independent Age, a leading UK-wide charity that supports older people to live with dignity, choice and purpose. Independent Age initially piloted two sites before adopting the model across all their community teams. 

Further reading

Drawing on the expertise and experience of leading figures in the field, academic literature and other evidence, this report presents an update to the first framework published in 2015 and showcases Reconnections as a case study. 

LSE report focusing on work to assess the potential economic costs of loneliness that may be avoided through effective intervention (see also Part One)

Social Finance reviewed how to achieve impact at scale through its experience in innovative projects, including Reconnections. It specifically focused on the transfer of learnings to Independent Age. 

The team


Related work

Stay up to date

Sign up to our mailing list for regular updates.

We'll keep your data secure and won't share it outside of Social Finance, ever. For more details read our privacy policy.