Why the UK Is Sending Postal Workers to Combat Loneliness

Royal Mail postal workers will be delivering a dose of compassion alongside the regular mail.


(Michaelpauche / Shutterstock.com)

As part of the UK’s recently announced a government-wide strategy to tackle loneliness, a pilot program to get postmen and women involved in the fight against social isolation and disconnection is being launched.

Dubbed “Safe and Connected,” the program will have postal workers visit participants of the program twice a week and check on their well-being. They will ask set questions about the participant’s health and happiness, whether they have had difficulty taking part in social activities, whether they’ve had problems with anyone bothering them and whether they would like to speak to someone about anything they need help with or that is worrying them.

The answers will be recorded on the postal workers' handheld mobile devices and any issues will be reported to participating support organizations. A member of their team will then visit the participant to talk about their concerns and discuss what support is required.

This trial will take place in Liverpool, New Maldon, and Whitby and will run until March 2019, with an evaluation coming in June 2019. If the pilot program works, it will be a help for the government in directing its efforts to combat social isolation.

"Loneliness can affect anyone of any age and background - from an older person mourning the loss of a life partner to a young person who simply feels different and isolated from their friends," British Prime Minister Theresa May said when she presented the government's strategy.

"This strategy is only the beginning of delivering a long and far reaching social change in our country - but it is a vital first step in a national mission to end loneliness in our lifetimes," she added.

According to May, many of the technical advances that allow working remotely and online shopping that can be so positive also have a down-side of decreased human contact and that can fuel the risks of loneliness. She said that across the UK there are people who can go days, weeks, and even months without seeing family members or friends and this loss of social contact is damaging to the UK’s humanity and people’s physical and mental health.

There are three goals in the government's strategy:

The first is a commitment to improving the research on what causes loneliness, its impacts, and what can be done to help solve it. Safe and Connected is part of this first goal.

The second goal is to make sure that loneliness is a factor across government policies. "The strategy includes a number of crosscutting policies to benefit all of society, alongside more tailored interventions that can support people when they are at greater risk due to specific trigger points in their life. It also looks at how government can ensure social relationships are considered across its wider policy-making.

The third goal is to create a national conversation about loneliness by raising awareness of its impacts and to lessen the stigma attached to it. The strategy seeks to define how the government will work to inspire these changes. The postal initiative is a first step in meeting these goals.

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