Anna Cook, Managing Director of Service at Sky, shares insights into Sky’s commitment to tackling loneliness through their Time to Care programme, focusing on their flagship in-house befriending service.
It all started with our customers.
Loneliness is something that most of us can relate to on some level, and no one is immune. During the pandemic, many of us struggled with separation from loved ones, disrupted routines, and isolation from our wider communities. At Sky, we began to see clear and concerning trends appearing during this time. Many of our older, most vulnerable customers were calling up just to hear a friendly voice and to have a chat with our contact centre staff and accessibility teams. So we listened.
On average we have around 220,000 older Sky customers who may be experiencing long term loneliness or isolation. And Age UK research shows that, for almost half of over 65s, the TV or a pet is their main (or only) source of company.
Therefore loneliness was a relatable and relevant cause for our company, our colleagues and our customers to get behind. And, most importantly, we believe it is an area in which we are well positioned to make a positive difference. So we decided to take action and in February 2021, our Time to Care programme was born.
Tackling loneliness at Sky
The Time to Care mission is simple: to tackle loneliness, by making meaningful connections in the communities where we live and work.
Central to the programme, is our in-house befriending line. We can all appreciate the benefit of great conversation shared, so every week we give our befriending volunteers a dedicated hour to connect with an elderly customer for a friendly chat. We’ve seen massive success in this service so far, having grown from a 40 person pilot in 2020, to the 1000 befriending volunteers we have signed up today.
These extraordinary friendships are so special to both our Sky volunteers and the customers they support. Here is just one moving story from our befriending line, which highlights the real difference we are making.
We also deliver a Time to Care Digital Champion initiative, offering older people in our communities the chance to improve their digital skills and boost their confidence with technology. By opening up digital worlds, we are tackling digital inequity and keeping the service users connected to the things and people they love.
Last month also saw us deliver a series of community ‘Connecting Together’ events, bringing isolated older people into our Sky offices and shops for tea parties and cinema screenings. With over 300 guests and staff in attendance, it was a true celebration of togetherness!
And Sky’s Time to Care programme continues to grow to meet the growing demand from our customers and community partners. We are scaling up on our befriending line, digital programmes and community activities, to bring even more people together in service of tackling loneliness. Making every connection matter.
The Bigger Picture
Our ongoing partnership with Age UK has helped all of us at Sky better understand the devastating scale of the issue. And across our networks, we are also shining a light on the UK’s loneliness epidemic by raising awareness and starting conversations.
Therefore, we are hugely proud to add our voice to the Campaign to End Loneliness, and to be part of a meaningful solution. By joining forces with such incredible activists, charities and organisations, we can all help to break the stigma, tackle loneliness, and effect real change.