Loneliness is one of three regional priorities identified in our

Strategic Framework for Arts, Health and Wellbeing in the south west.

The other regional priorities are Mental Health and Social Prescribing.

Our recent work on Loneliness


“Evaluating Arts, Loneliness and Isolation”

Originally broadcast at 3:00pm GMT on Thursday 21st May 2020

This webinar explores ways in which evaluation can support the arts and health sector to meet the challenges of loneliness and isolation.

The webinar is led by Jane Willis, Director of Willis Newson, one of the UK’s leading arts and health consultancies. Jane Willis is joined by Professor Norma Daykin, Tampere University, Finland, who will reflect on her recent involvement with the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, including work on understanding loneliness and the effects of loneliness interventions in arts and culture. Organised in partnership with the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance, represented by Victoria Hume (Director) and facilitated by Alex Coulter, Director of Arts & Health South West.

You can watch the recording on our Youtube Channel.

October 2019 Webinars

Public Health England South West and Arts & Health South West hosted 2 webinars entitled: Creativity at the heart of human flourishing: How can the arts help reduce loneliness?

In Webinar 1, Alex Coulter (Director, Arts & Health South West) Jayne Howard (Director of Arts Well CIC) and Martin R White (Health and Wellbeing Manager, Public Health England South West) outlined the policy context and evidential basis of loneliness and social isolation: its prevalence and relationship with mental health and wellbeing. They also looked at the evidence for arts based interventions and the potential for community assets in mitigating the impact of loneliness.

In Webinar 2, Alex and Martin described the gaps in the evidence base; briefly examined the barriers and opportunities for effective practice and collaboration and reviewed examples of good practice and the role of social prescribing.


To access the text, presentations and other resources from these webinars, CLICK HERE


Campaign to Tackle Loneliness

In 2019, AHSW raised funds via the Big Give Christmas Challenge for the campaign ‘Connecting Through Creativity: Tackling Loneliness’.  We were interested in supporting the sector to evaluate Loneliness initiatives. Jane Willis, Director of Willis Newson, and Professor Norma Daykin presented a webinar on Evaluating Arts, Loneliness and Isolation in May 2020. In the webinar, Norma speaks about her work with the What Works Centre for Wellbeing on understanding loneliness and the effects of loneliness interventions in arts and culture. More recently the What Works Centre for Wellbeing has published Participatory arts, sport, physical activity and loneliness: the role of intangible assets. In August 2020 they published How has Covid-19 affected loneliness?

The Pandemic has brought loneliness into sharp focus and many arts and cultural organisations responded to the situation in creative and imaginative ways, continuing to support people they work with via online sessions and offline via postal and phone projects. Our webinars and events during May and June 2020 provide an insight into some of the extraordinary work that was happening. The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance collated case studies of How creativity and culture are supporting shielding and vulnerable people at home during Covid-19.


The national Loneliness Strategy was published on 15th October 2018. This built on work by the Campaign to End Loneliness, founded in 2011, and the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness which published its report in late 2017. Following the recommendations of the report, the remit of the Minister for Sport and Civil Society was expanded to include responsibility for loneliness. A cross-government task group was set up to develop the national Loneliness Strategy.

The strategy foregrounds loneliness as a public health issue and states that 3 out of 4 GPs surveyed said 1-5 people a day are experiencing loneliness. Frequent and sustained loneliness is linked to heart disease, strokes and dementia. The strategy is closely linked to developments in social prescribing and states that all GPs will be able to refer people experiencing loneliness to community activities and services by 2023.

The strategy announced plans for £1.8m to increase number of community spaces such as community cafes, art spaces or gardens and £20m to help charities and community groups expand their services.

A distinction needs to be made between loneliness as a subjective feeling that a person has about the gap between their desired levels of social contact and their actual level of social contact or intimacy with the people they do know. It refers to the perceived quality of the person’s relationships. Social isolation is an objective measure of the number of contacts that people have. It is about quantity not quality and some people may choose to have fewer contacts. Social isolation may be easier to tackle than feelings of loneliness.

The Role of The Arts and Culture

The strategy states that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will work with Arts Council England to promote the role that arts and culture can play in addressing loneliness through its programmes. The Arts Council will identify and promote examples of best practice in reducing social isolation through using existing arts and cultural assets to create easily accessible spaces. DCMS will work with Arts Council England to utilise the new national loneliness measure across relevant projects and programmes, improving our understanding of how the arts and culture build social connections and protect against loneliness. This will apply to programmes already underway and will have an impact on programmes that will be funded in the future.

It states that Arts Council England, supported by the organisations it funds, will work with public health providers to provide arts and cultural programmes as part of the planned expansion of social prescribing. Arts Council England will work with the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance to support and develop cultural practitioners wishing to engage with health and wellbeing.

Measuring Loneliness

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing did a rapid review of the existing evidence on effective interventions to inform the strategy. The Office for National Statistics worked with a panel of experts to recommend a set of questions to help measure loneliness. The What Works Centre for Wellbeing has published a Brief Guide to Measuring Loneliness for Charities and Social Enterprises.

As well as setting out the national measures for adults and children, they also recommend other measures that can help build a picture of people’s social relationships, how they feel about their communities, and other factors involved in feelings of loneliness.

The guide takes a realistic approach to evaluation to avoid overloading charities and the people they support with too many questions. It acknowledges the strengths of small organisations in collecting evidence about people’s personal journeys, and gives advice on how to have conversations about a sometimes difficult and sensitive topic.

They have created a downloadable questionnaire template to use as part of evaluation. It includes questions about:people’s overall wellbeing;their relationships and sense of loneliness;how they feel about their community;some suggestions about relevant demographic measures. Projects that are trying to alleviate loneliness are usually also aiming to improve the overall wellbeing of people. The What Works Centre for Wellbeing also provides online guide for measuring wellbeing impact.


Read our Case Studies with a loneliness theme.


“Not So Cut Off” Case Study Evidence, Arts Council England 2016

Get involved!

How to Get Involved in the Regional Strategy

What’s in your area?

  • Which Voluntary Community Sector Organisations in your locality are working on loneliness programmes (e.g. Befriending schemes)?
  • Are arts and loneliness activities on offer at your local GP Surgery, Library, Community Centre

What are you, your local museum, arts centre or arts organisation currently offering that is or could be helping to combat loneliness or social isolation?

Share: Contribute to building a picture of regional activity by  contacting Alex Coulter

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