Tackling isolation and loneliness through transport-led interventions
The costs, causes and impact of isolation and loneliness are many and varied.
Watch this video and visit https://yousmartthing.com/freedom to tell us your opinion on where you think the You. Smart. Thing. Travel Assistant should be integrated, in order to have the greatest impact on rural isolation and loneliness.
Isolation and loneliness are, at best, debilitating. They can cause depression and anxiety and have become a significant burden to the taxpayer. Researchers have put a financial price on an “epidemic of loneliness” at £6,000 per person in health costs and pressure on local services. At their worst isolation and loneliness are killers. The challenges of ageing populations and social isolation amongst the younger generation, especially in rural communities, means that the battle to improve social contacts and generate relationships that combat isolation and loneliness is set to be a long and enduring one.
Fragmented services and the fact that transport operators lack access to people’s specific travel requirements compounds the problem. In rural communities such as Monmouthshire, this lack of ‘connectivity’ makes it difficult for people to leave their homes, even for everyday activities such as shopping, employment or attending a doctor’s appointment.
A London School of Economics study of older people suggests that for every £1 spent in preventing loneliness there are £3 of savings, whilst reducing the burden to the state of 16-24-year olds ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’ (NEETS), of which there are a higher percentage in rural Wales than England, could, according to PWC’s Youth Employment Index 2018, boost UK GDP by around £40 billion.
Research & Need for Interventions
Govtech Catalyst funded research conducted by You. Smart. Thing. confirmed that improving transport connections in and between rural areas, for these specific demographics, has the potential to deliver a higher percentage of positive socio-economic outcomes than investment elsewhere. Examples addressed in the research included:
• reducing demands on state-funded social and secondary care;
• improving access to local support groups;
• increasing the conversion of NEETS to employment.
The research showed that basing the ‘viable route’ for a journey to a surgery, community hub, college, job interview or place of work, on time and cost, significantly increases the distance that people are prepared to travel. People are however unable to make this calculation, especially at the point of need, without the distraction of undertaking complex research themselves. The default search options (typically Google) don’t provide the answers as they lack integration of local services, don’t facilitate effective planning of car + public transport journeys, and don’t communicate demand for specific transport services to operators effectively.