A government-backed app that aims to tackle loneliness has been adopted by Leeds City Council.
The satellite-enabled Care View application tackles social isolation and loneliness in urban areas by enlisting the help of an army of professional volunteers across a city, including police officers, postal workers and charity workers, who register on the app when they see signs people may be experiencing social isolation. The app provides a digital tool to help volunteers find people in need of help.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:
People out in a community can tap the app when they spot signs that a householder may be struggling, like rubbish dumped in the garden or curtains that always remain shut. Through satellite technology, this ‘App Tap’ generates a heat spot on a web-based map of the city, and if there are multiple ‘App Taps’, this creates heat-maps pinpointing streets and homes where people might welcome assistance of some kind.
The heat map – generated by the GNSS data – shows where volunteers can best focus their outreach efforts, with homes then leafleted and visited to create referrals into the NHS social care process. By helping people reach services like counselling or housing support, the app increases the likelihood of finding people in urgent need and helps prevent many people’s issues from becoming more acute. Joining people up with support services at an early stage helps to avert the need for more costly interventions.
Experts are worried about rising numbers of people across the UK experiencing loneliness, particularly among young people and older adults. According to figures published by the Office for National Statistics, around 6% of adults in England are always or often lonely.
Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:
Care View, which runs on almost all types of smartphone, was developed by the Urban Sustainable Development Lab and has been used by Public Health teams, charities and Fire and Rescue Services to discover and support vulnerable people.
The application helps join up healthcare provision – something that every Council is trying to achieve – by supporting collaboration between charities, the Council and emergency services.
Abhay Adhikari, founder of the Urban Sustainable Development Lab, said:
Jon Hindley, Public Health Localities and Primary Care Team at Leeds City Council, said:
The app does not require additional storage space on a smartphone, and its potential for social good has been recognised by Nesta and The Observer, who named it one of the UK’s most radical social innovation projects.
In 2017, the government appointed the first Minister for Loneliness, Tracey Crouch, and in December announced an extra £7.5 million funding package to help tackle loneliness over the winter period.