Visiting isolated and lonely people is of economic benefit to society, according to a study carried out for the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP).
The SVP’s 10,000 volunteers make half a million visits to vulnerable people each year.
The research, by economists Oxera, found that the visits helped improve lonely people’s mental health, helped them navigate “the system” better, and enhanced their skills, their educational opportunities and their employment chances.
This resulted in an improvement to their quality of life and a reduction in costs to the NHS and social services.
Although it is difficult to quantify the impacts precisely, the report said, “we calculated that the SVP’s befriending activities result in an economic welfare improvement of about £11 million per year”.
Every £1 spent by the SVP results in £2.87 in benefits, according to the report.
Helen O’Shea, a trustee of the SVP, said: “We see every day at first hand the benefits of our visits to isolated people, in terms of their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Now we have confirmation from economists that our visits also have substantial financial benefits as well.”