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Call for volunteers to help tackle loneliness in East London in 2020

Written by Rachael Norris, 16th January 2020

New Shared Reading groups will offer older people help in Tower Hamlets

National charity The Reader is offering free training for new volunteers from across East London who want to help reduce loneliness in their community.

According to the Office for National Statistics, loneliness is felt across all demographics, with one in 20 adults in England saying they are often or always lonely – equivalent to more than 430,000 Londoners.

The Reader - Shepherd's Bush reading group.

The Reader is the developer of Shared Reading – free, weekly groups that bring people together to talk, laugh and share great novels, poems and plays. Groups take place in community spaces, such as libraries and cafes, and are led by a volunteer. There’s no pressure to read or talk and anyone is welcome to drop in.

By creating regular time and space for diverse groups of people to explore their inner lives and develop meaningful relationships with others, Shared Reading promotes confidence, improves wellbeing and builds communities.

In The Reader’s latest Feedback Week survey of more than 1,500 Readers across the UK:

  • 94% said they look forward their Shared Reading group and see it as ‘as an important event in my week’.
  • 91% said ‘the reading sessions make me feel better‘.
  • 84% said they’ve made new friends in the group.

Volunteers benefit too. Of more than 400 volunteers asked during Feedback Week:

  • 94% said it has given them a sense of achievement
  • 86% said it had increased their enjoyment of reading
  • 84% said it has improved their wellbeing

“There are millions of elderly people who are chronically lonely in the UK,” explains The Reader’s founder and director Jane Davis.

“Whether you want to lead your own group or join one, Shared Reading can help people to carve out that rare time and space in which we can create human connections, connect with ourselves and engage with meaningful thoughts in a unique, powerful way.

Thanks to grant funding from the Charity of Sir Richard Whittington, The Reader is now looking for people across Tower Hamlets who are willing to train as volunteers and lead reading groups to engage older people in the community but which are open to all.

Dave Terrace, Grants Programme Manager, at the Mercers’ Company for the Charity of Sir Richard Whittington said: “The Reader has a successful model of bringing older people together round common interests, particularly reading.

“The grant from the Charity of Sir Richard Whittington is being utilised to bring that model to Tower Hamlets, a Borough where many older people are chronically lonely, so activities like this are much needed. The project seeks to make the most of the skills and passions of older people in the local area to reduce loneliness, which aligns perfectly with one of the key priorities of our Older People & Housing Programme.”

Volunteers will receive a fully funded, three-day training course and ongoing support from The Reader, taining takes place in February.

To get involved, fill out the online form at or email for more information about local groups.


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