The Cares Family helps people find connection and community in a disconnected age.
We opened in 2011 after our founder, Alex, was canvassing for votes as a council candidate in the local elections. As he was doing his rounds, knocking on doors, he met Fred, a neighbour in his 80s who hadn't been out of his house for three months. Alex wheeled Fred in his wheelchair to the voting place, and the next day returned to help Fred get a haircut.
As the pair became friends, it became clear that this was a truly mutual relationship: Fred was reducing his isolation through his interactions with Alex; and Alex was feeling more connected to his community than ever before, hearing about Fred's amazing stories and discovering what they had in common.
In that moment, the idea for The Cares Family was born.
North London Cares was the first branch to come alive. Over three years it developed four programmes to bring older and younger neighbours together to share time, friendship and new experiences – through Social Clubs, a one-to-one Love Your Neighbour friendship programme, Outreach that invited older and younger neighbours to share time and new experiences, and Community Fundraising.
South London Cares followed in 2014, and further developed the model. In 2017 Manchester Cares arrived, followed by Liverpool Cares in 2018, and East London Cares in 2019. The Cares Family is now active in five great, rapidly-changing city locations with heritage and heart at their core.
Across the group, some 18,000 older and younger people have now found confidence, community and connection through new relationships with their neighbours, and with the changing landscapes around them.
When we started our work, it was thought that loneliness was little more than a personal crisis. Then it was perceived to be a public health crisis, because loneliness brings on strokes, heart attacks, dementia and poor mental health and is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. More recently, we’ve shown how loneliness is also a political crisis, as it is a gateway to abuse, addiction, crime, educational inequality, homelessness, polarisation and division.
We’ve learned that human relationships matter and they matter doubly in times of challenge and change. That’s why, in 2020, we are expanding our mission to address that triple personal, public health and political crisis – with more work at the community, systemic and cultural levels to help more people find connection in our disconnected age. That's especially pertinent as the Covid-19 crisis takes root, and isolates people from community and one from another even further.
We’ll do that through our Action | Voice | Power work.
By taking action in neighbourhoods – including through our new 3G Social Clubs project bringing older people together with new parents and their young children, and through our Multiplier to help 50 people to develop their own bridge-building work in their own communities in their own ways – we’ll inspire new local connections and share the learning on what works.
Through that action, we’ll raise up the voices of 50 people across the UK who are sharing time, laughter and new experiences across perceived difference and division, and we’ll campaign to help people across the country to prioritise connection and to challenge stereotypes about different communities.
We’ll also work with centres of power including businesses, national and local government and foundations, to help them to prioritise connection and community in their core models and in their own working ethos.
Visit our Get Involved page to find out how you can be part of the community.