£1million funding secured for digital technology addressing loneliness and isolation

We are breaking new ground in addressing loneliness and social isolation, through an ambitious joint venture with Accenture. Together, we are proud to have secured £1m from Innovate UK’s Design for Ageing fund to deliver a unique voice-based technology to a million older people living in loneliness across the UK.

The scale of loneliness problem for older people in the UK is already significant and likely to get worse as more and more people are living alone and our population is getting older. And our experience of the pandemic also taught us that loneliness is not only a problem for older people.

Loneliness affects people’s well-being and is linked to a raft of mental and physical health conditions. As a public health issue, loneliness shot up the agenda in 2020 when COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of people into isolation and made social contact difficult without the aid of technology.

The ‘HomeCare’ technology has been in development at Accenture since 2016, with Hafod becoming a partner in 2019, alongside Swansea University.

Jamie Smith, our Director of Innovation, said: “The pandemic was a catalyst to accelerate on this innovation. Loneliness was already a focus area for Hafod, but the problem became very urgent very quickly. We felt we had a duty to understand the new challenges people were facing and exploit technology to supplement the services we provide fact-to-face.”

HomeCare is fully voice-controlled, overcoming some of the barriers to digital technology, which is a challenge for many older people. The technology monitors well-being, establishes daily routines, manages food shopping and helps maintain meaningful connections with people who matter.

Trials carried out in 2020 helped the partners to make a case to Innovate UK for government funding to make HomeCare available on a national scale. The funds will be used to refine the design of the solution before rolling out to up to a million older people.

Our Board Chair, Jonathan Morgan, said: “We are immensely proud of our partnership with Accenture and the potential to make a real difference for the thousands of people dealing with the challenges of loneliness. This project has brought together the best of academia, technology design and practice to create a new kind of partnership for social good.

“I believe housing associations are public services and this is our way of getting upstream of a problem which harms life expectancy and costs the health and care system significant resources.”

The HomeCare project commenced in May 2022 and will run until April 2024.