Sky to help tackle loneliness amongst older people

The issue of elderly loneliness has been a problem for decades.

This Loneliness Awareness Week Sky has announced a new initiative, Time to Care, in partnership with Age UK and other older peoples’ charities, to help tackle loneliness across the country. The newly launched Time to Care is part of Sky’s wide-ranging volunteering programme, Sky Cares, which allows employees to give back to the communities where they live and work.

“For too many older people, the isolation we’ve experienced over this difficult year is permanent. Loneliness is a devastating growing social issue but with the expertise of Age UK we believe Sky can help make real change and connections where they are needed to have a lasting impact. We recognise the role we play in keeping people connected and look forward to supporting the UK Government’s work to tackle loneliness and share our insight with other members of the Tackling Loneliness Network.”

–Chris Stylianou, Chief Operating Officer, UK and Ireland, Sky

Over the past 18 months, Sky has been supporting their flagship partner, Age UK, with loneliness a key area of focus for the partnership. This past year has shown just how valuable and important social interaction is to everybody, especially to some older people. Last winter Age UK reported that 6.1 million people aged 60 and over said that they were feeling lonely while 2.2 million of over 60s who had their well-being impacted by coronavirus said that they haven’t had anyone to talk to about their worries during the pandemic.

Time to Care will harness the passion and power of Sky’s 15,000 customer service group colleagues and aims to achieve one million interactions with older people each year. The customer service group, which is made up of contact centre staff, retail staff, engineers and their respective support teams, will be given dedicated time each week to volunteer and get in touch with older customers.

Since the start of the pandemic, Sky has supported local Age UK partners across England, Age Cymru partners and Age Scotland groups. Leveraging Age UK’s expertise, Sky engineers have spent more than 1,000 hours delivering goods to those most in need through the pandemic. This included delivering meals and gifts on behalf of 15 different local Age UKs. Additionally, Sky volunteers have dedicated more than 4,000 hours since April 2020 to support Age UK, Age Scotland, Age Cymru, the Silver Line Helpline and Sky’s own in-house befriending line.

This in-house befriending line supports Sky’s older customers with weekly friendship calls and is staffed by Sky’s customer service group who are able to reach out to customers who might need someone to talk to. Sky has also signed-up to the government’s Tackling Loneliness Network, convened by DCMS, to share knowledge and best practice on how businesses can help tackle loneliness and to raise awareness of the stigma surrounding the issue along with the more than 80 other members of the network.

“The pandemic has taken its toll on our older population’s health and morale and, for many, has intensified existing feelings of loneliness and anxiety. Age UK’s research has demonstrated just how important connection is to them. It found, for example, that when it comes to getting through the pandemic, 5.8 million older people said they wouldn’t have managed it without their friendsiii and almost 2 million older people said they wouldn’t have coped without the kindness of strangersiv.

“In these difficult and uncertain times older people need friendly connections like never before. This is where Sky comes in: through Time to Care, Sky employees will be doing something tangible to help us to support the millions of older people who may otherwise have no one to turn to. We’re so grateful to Sky for keeping older people in their minds.”

–Steph Harland, Chief Executive, Age UK

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