North London Cares and South London Cares are community networks of young professionals and older neighbours hanging out and helping one another in a rapidly changing city – to reduce loneliness and isolation, improve people’s neighbourliness, wellbeing, connection, skills and resilience, and to bring people together across social, generational, digital, cultural and attitudinal divides.

What the CSAIF funded: North London Cares and South London Cares were awarded £131,000, including £25,000 for their impact evaluation. The funding was used to support them to accelerate the development of South London Cares in Southwark and Lambeth, with a possible view to further replication in the future. View the full impact evaluation.

About the evaluation

Level on Standards: Level 1 - they can describe what they do and why it matters, logically, coherently and convincingly.

Evaluator: Renaisi

Aim: Through their evaluation, North London Cares and South London Cares​ aimed to demonstrate how their charities meet their core objectives of reducing isolation and loneliness amongst older people (and young professionals alike); improving the wellbeing, skills, resilience and connection of all participants; and bridging social and generational divides.

Key findings:

  1. The evaluation found that, the biggest increase in wellbeing was in happiness levels.
  2. The evaluation found an increase in participants indicating that they have plenty of others whom they can rely on when they have problems.
  3. There was also a decrease in participants highlighting that they missed having people around.
  4. The evaluation found that, generally, individuals reported a greater sense of community engagement. However, these answers may have been influenced by individual cases, such as people going to the GP every day on account of certain conditions.

Methodology: Renaisi collected data via telephone interviews before the intervention and at six and 12 month intervals after interventions. Supplementary face-to-face interviews were also carried out to augment the picture.

66 participants were spoken to as part of the evaluation: 62 completed the telephone survey, which fell to 35 at the month six post-intervention test, and 25 at the second, month twelve follow-up. The remaining four participants took part in the two face-to-face interviews (two ‘older neighbours’ paired with two volunteers). For the purposes of this validation we focused on the findings and sample size of the six month follow up so as not to penalise North London Cares and South London Cares for the additional month twelve follow-up.

Why is this a Level 1 evaluation?

With support from Renaisi, North London Cares and South London Cares have delivered an evaluation that suggests a positive change over time for the older people that the charities work with, using appropriate tools. The report is clearly written, with good awareness and transparency on the challenges and limitations of the evaluation techniques applied. It also contains a wealth of process data and findings. Because of the small sample size and high attrition rates, the evaluation could not achieve Level 2. The two key areas for focus to reach Level 2 going forward are:

  1. To address the low response rates produced by the evaluation. These limit the report’s ability to firmly state that the intervention has had a positive impact.
  2. To provide more detailed thoughts on the on-going evaluation activities of the organisation. Information such as collection schedules, participant numbers and raw data might help to illustrate the impact of your organisation.

About the evidence journey

Progress: North London Cares and South London Cares have now published two major impact evaluations in two years. The first, funded by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and published in 2014, demonstrated through a detailed snapshot that older and younger neighbours gained much benefit from their interactions through the Cares Family. This second major evaluation, conducted by Renaisi, demonstrates that many people’s happiness improves over time as a result of participating in Cares Family activities. It also details the importance of the processes North London Cares and South London Cares apply to meet their objectives.

Lessons learned: Crucially, this evaluation also demonstrates that traditional techniques of tracking ‘loneliness’ through academic samples may not be appropriate for the Cares model. Some neighbours who have interacted with the charities – especially where only a handful of times – are not ready, willing or able to complete abstract questionnaires about subjective feelings. In future, annual snapshot evaluations, as recommended by Renaisi, should be conducted by staff in the Cares Family of a cross section of neighbours interacting with the charities to paint a picture of older people’s changing circumstances over time.

Next steps: In 2017, South London Cares will conduct its first full evaluation of its work. Drawing on the experience of North London Cares’ 2014 evaluation, and this 2016 evaluation by Renaisi, this process will begin the longer term procedure of embedding snapshot questionnaires asking neighbours about their changing circumstances every year.