Introduction to the Toolkit

The aim of the toolkit

There is more concern about loneliness than ever before and our toolkit's aim is to help tackle social isolation and loneliness in your area.

A word about the difference between social isolation and loneliness. 

Social isolation is about lack of social contact and can be objectively measured. Loneliness is deeply personal and the causes and impacts are different for each sufferer. 

Both social isolation and loneliness are perhaps more likely these days as local pubs, shops, post offices and bus services have closed, lives are busier and families live further apart than they used to.

Loneliness can have a real impact on a person's health. Research shows lack of social connections can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

The good news is that there are practical initiatives which can help. We have some great examples of projects in our district which help bring people together and forge the social links which are vital for health and well-being.  

This toolkit aims to provide inspiration and guidance for anyone interested in setting up a project to help tackle loneliness.

The information below covers some of the general areas you need to think about. This is followed by case studies of a wide range of successful local projects. We hope they will inspire you and help lead the way to setting up something similar in your own community.

We want the toolkit to be a living document. If you know of other projects which would be good additions, or extra information you would like included, please let us know.  

Most projects need at least some funding to get started. Here are some ideas for places to look:

  • Your parish council - many have small grant schemes
  • Village charity - many villages have charities for the benefit of residents in need - your parish clerk is likely to know about these
  • Community Chest – up to £1000 for community and voluntary groups for set up costs
  • The Innovate & Cultivate Fund - this is for new projects that can show they will reduce pressure on county council services or offer direct savings for the county council
  • Grant Grabber - this is an online search facility providing information about a wide range of funding sources
  • Cambridgeshire Community Foundation - this organisation awards hundreds of grants each year to local projects and organisations
  • Local businesses - many are happy to help their local community, for example, local supermarkets and local estate agents

Your organisation will need a bank account and to be formally set up in order to be eligible for funding. 

CCVS or Care Network can help you decide the kind of organisation best suited to your purpose.

When you've put time and energy into creating a successful local group that achieves what you'd hoped for, it's good to capture your success. 

Evidence can include:

  • Hard data: for example, how many people attend, gender, age, faith and nationality
  • Soft data: asking attendees what they think. Would they come again?

A short survey is probably the easiest way to do this. You can ask participants to complete a paper survey.
Make sure it’s short and you capture as much as possible in a few questions. You don’t want to put people off!

Time Banking Case Study - 2 people gardening Timebanking is a means of exchange used to organise people around a purpose, where time is the principle currency. Timebanks are a great way to promote volunteering and help people get to know and lend a hand to each other.

Mobile Warden Scheme - 2 people having a chat together The Mobile Warden Scheme is a scheme that relies on volunteers to support older people to live independently in their homes and in the community, they know.

Older Persons Worker Case study - Image of an Older person In Histon and Impington, an Older Person’s Worker is employed by local charity HICOM to work 30 hours per week supporting elderly residents.

Haslingfield and Harlton Luncheon is a volunteer led monthly luncheon which prepares and serves over 30 diners in the local church. It provides a meeting place for old friends and for meeting new ones.

Seven Village Parish Nurse is a service that is provided by the Hildersham Parish Church. This nurse serves the needs of residents in Hildersham and six nearby villages.

Repair Cafe Case study - Repairing a bicycle. A Repair cafe is a community event where volunteers with repair skills fix items brought in by the general public. They are sociable events with a relaxed atmosphere and tea, coffee and cakes are served.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Group Case study There is a Mental Health and Wellbeing group called 'The Well-brahams', it is an initiative in Great and Little Wilbraham. A group of people with different experiences and qualifications have come together to organise activities and provide information and help on mental health issues for local residents.

Community Cafe Case Study The Community cafe connects people, raises funds for local good causes and provides opportunities for volunteering.

Cookery Club Case Study The cookery club brings families in Cambourne together to share home made meals on a regular basis. The cookery club is a fun way of meeting new friends and making different foods from around the world.

The Community minibus case study The Community Minibus is a service that provides door-to-door services for elderly residents. This service helps them to get to local shops and doctor surgeries. It is run by volunteers.

The Men's shed case study Men's sheds are places to enjoy making and mending in a sociable environment, it enables members to build friendships and share knowledge and skills.

New Age Kurling case study New age Kurling is an inclusive sport that can be played when standing or sitting by all ages and abilities.

Before going ahead with a new project, you need to be sure there is a genuine need for it and that it complements existing projects and does not compete with them.

Find out what opportunities already exist for social contact in your area. Talk to the organisers. Are there ways you could support existing projects to reach socially isolated people rather than setting up something new?

The following services operate throughout South Cambridgeshire:

Community Transport schemes

These provide transport for people who do not have their own, and cannot access public transport easily.  These include Dial-a-Ride services using wheelchair accessible minibuses and village based community car schemes where people use their own car to transport others for a small fee. A directory of local schemes is available on our Community Transport page

Care Network’s Community Navigators

Thee are trained volunteers who provide information and guidance to individuals as well as signposting to other organisations who can help you. They can help people access services and local activities that they need or would enjoy. 

Contact, or call 01954 212100.

Care Network’s Help at Home

This scheme offers free practical and emotional support in the home. The service is for any adult who has come out of hospital or is experiencing an illness or crisis at home. Anyone, including individuals themselves, concerned families, hospital or community-based professionals and other organisations can make a referral for help.

Contact or call 01223 714433.

You need to take a balanced approach to risk.

Ensure you are not taking undue risks with your own personal safety or that of others, and that you are operating within the law, but don’t let fear of ‘red tape’ put you off. 

CCVS and Care Network can help you work out what you need to do so far as Health and Safety, Safeguarding of Vulnerable People and insurance.

If you are planning to serve food you may need to register with us as a Food Business. 

Registration is not necessary if the food being served is not high risk or if it is served less often than once per month.   

See further details on our setting up a new food business and registration page.

The Campaign to End Loneliness has a wide range of information including fact sheets, practical guides to identifying, talking about, and reducing loneliness, and on how to measure your impact on loneliness. 

Visit The Campaign to End Loneliness website for more information.


Once you have a plan, some expert assistance can be really helpful to turn it into reality. 

We are fortunate to have two excellent local organisations who can provide support and advice.  

Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service (CCVS) is there to help community groups and small charities to deliver their mission. They provide mentoring and training to give groups the knowledge and confidence to prosper and grow. Whether it is finding funds, governance, health and safety, safeguarding, working with volunteers, or any other area of running a group they are able to help ensure that all you do is safe and conforms to best practice.

They can be contacted by emailing

Care Network helps set up, support and sustain community groups for older and vulnerable people across Cambridgeshire.  They support a wide range of groups including community car schemes, lunch clubs, community cafes, craft groups, village help schemes, mobile warden schemes, befriending schemes, singing groups, coffee mornings and day centres.  

They can help with:

  • working out an action plan to get started
  • finding volunteers
  • applying for external funding
  • developing and printing leaflets and posters
  • making sure the group or scheme is safe and legal

They can be contacted on 01954 211919 or by emailing

You may need to use a range of channels to engage and communicate with your target audience to achieve all your objectives. 

Non-digital options to consider are:

  • a personal invitation to your targeted audience
  • village newsletter
  • posters in places like GP practice, pharmacy, faith groups and local shops
  • a launch event
  • leaflet distribution

Digital options could be used:

  • emails
  • blogs
  • vlogs
  • Twitter
  • Facebook (community pages)
  • Webpages

Be clear about what you are trying to achieve, and what’s needed and identify your target audience.

Risk factors for loneliness include:

  • living alone
  • recently bereaved
  • full time carer
  • living with a long-term chronic illness
  • immobile: unable to drive or lacking confidence to walk  
  • living with a sensory impairment, for example, sight or hearing loss
  • not leaving the house regularly
  • being without family living close by


Case Studies

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