Leading civilian UK centre of excellence for military health research

The King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR), King’s College London in collaboration with Neighbourly Lab and the Campaign to End Loneliness are pleased to announce the launch of their evaluation work - Tackling Armed Forces Loneliness: An Evaluation of the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust’s Tackling Loneliness Programme.

This in-depth evaluation looks at the success of the Trust's Tackling Loneliness programme, including identification of best practices. It also explores loneliness and its effect on the Armed Forces community.

Why tackle loneliness?

In 2020, the Trust ran a consultation with the Armed Forces community to discover how important it was for them to focus on reducing social isolation and improving integration and engagement with provision. 90% of respondents said the Trust should focus on social isolation in their future grant making. From this, the Trust developed the Tackling Loneliness programme and awarded 60 projects a share of £4million to tackle loneliness, with focus on specific groups within the Forces community, including LGBTQ+ communities, veterans living in remote areas, female veterans, ethinic groups and veteran carers.

Previous research by KCMHR also identified that during the pandemic, 27% of veterans reported loneliness and some groups were more at risk such of loneliness such as health and social care key workers, those who lived alone, and those who had children or caring responsibilities.

Making a positive difference

The Tackling Loneliness evaluation report explores the outcomes of the Trust's funding – what works, what lessons can be learned, and the many ways funding was used to make a positive difference.

Anna Wright, CEO of the Trust, explains.

“We were keen that people taking part in projects funded by the Tackling Loneliness programme should feel empowered and encouraged to ‘take a leap’ or try something new. We wanted them to feel part of a community – whether a local community or a community of interests – and to be able to use any funded project as a stepping-stone or helping hand to something bigger.”

The evaluation found multiple examples of services reaching out, supporting people and creating engaging activities that are meaningful and interesting.

Robin Hewings of the Campaign to End Loneliness said:

“The work done to tackle loneliness in Armed Forces communities has been impressive. We've seen great examples of services reaching out to under-represented groups, targeting specific problems such as the transition to civilian life and building networks through the strong sense of identity that people have through their connection to the Armed Forces. This is vital work helping people in sometimes very challenging situations.”

Working together

The evaluation found many examples of organisations working together to maximise the success of their projects. It also looked at the valuable relationship with the funded mentor organisations and their role in providing support and opportunities to come together.

Emma Bowkett from Neighbourly Lab said:

“It has been a privilege to be a part of the evaluation team on this brilliant grant, and to be able to get to know and learn from these organisations who are dedicated to tackling loneliness. We have seen firsthand the efforts of these projects, in supporting those who are hardest to reach in the Armed Forces community and in building services that can have a long-lasting impact on tackling the debilitating causes of loneliness to improve people’s lives for the better.”

What next?

With the experiences and evidence gathered from the funded projects, as well as the mentor organisations who supported awardees, the evaluation has created a useful toolkit.

Professor Nicola Fear, Co-Director of the King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London explains.

“KCMHR’s previous research has shown that there are groups in the Armed Forces community that may be more at risk of experiencing loneliness. This project has evaluated how loneliness can be alleviated in this community and we have learnt a great deal from the lived experiences of project grantees and beneficiaries. The evaluation has produced a practical and insightful toolkit that will support organisations to shape their future support services and to continue to tackle loneliness in the Armed Forces community in innovative and effective ways.”

Read the report

Read the Tackling Armed Forces Loneliness Evaluation Report here and check out our Knowledge Network for an Impact Gallery (featuring quotes and interesting snippets from the funded projects) and the Tackling Loneliness Toolkit.

Find out more on the Tackling Loneliness programme here, including a full list of awarded projects and mentors.

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