After more than a year of lockdowns, social distancing and self-isolating, levels of loneliness in Britain have increased by almost 50%. Yet loneliness is not just a challenge for people experiencing it – with strong connections between loneliness and mental health, this also means more pressure on public services and adverse effects on businesses’ ability to function.

Civil society has a major role to play in tackling loneliness – from neighbourhoods and communities, to networks and shared spaces, to charities focused on tackling the causes of loneliness. Yet this is not a challenge that one sector alone should solve, and there are important roles for both the government and the private sector to play. With all three sectors are invested in creating a less lonely society, how can they all work effectively together to achieve it?

Drawn from the world of politics, business, academia and from the charity sector, our expert panel consists of

  • Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard, Deputy Mayor, Communities and Social Justice at the Greater London Authority
  • Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute of Public Knowledge at NYU
  • Mike Wilson, Executive Director of Pembroke House Settlement
  • Heather Fraser, Global Life Sciences & Healthcare Leads at IBM Institute for Business Value
  • Helen Barnard, Research & Policy Director at Pro Bono Economics and Deputy Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

In this webinar, our expert panel will explore the challenges and pay offs of addressing loneliness, the distinctive role each sector has to play in addressing it, and how the public and private sectors can work with civil society to both improve individuals’ wellbeing and to address the wider social and economic impacts of loneliness.

This live event from the Law Family Commission on Civil Society in partnership with Ratio will contain plenty of opportunities for the audience to ask their questions of our expert panel.

In this pre-event podcast, Ratio is joined by Dan Perlman from University of North Carolina, Adam Lent from New Local, Maff Potts from Camerados, and Liz Slade from The Unitarians, discussing what we mean by loneliness, how health systems are investing in communities to connect, and the role of small charities, faith groups, and social movements in combatting loneliness.


Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard is London’s Deputy Mayor for Communities and Social Justice. Since taking office, Debbie has made it a priority to ensure London’s diverse communities have a voice in their city. She works to promote social justice and equality for all communities and is a key player in driving London’s social recovery from Covid-19. Debbie chairs the Mayor’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory group, as well as London’s Strategic Migration Panel and is co-chair of the Diversity in the Public Realm Commission. She is also a member of the TUC Anti-Racism Taskforce and the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Systemic Inequalities and Social Cohesion.

Helen Barnard joined PBE in June 2021 as Research and Policy Director. She is also Deputy  Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Prior to becoming Director, Helen set up and developed JRF’s analysis and policy teams. Helen is a leading national expert on poverty, inequality and social policy. Her extensive body of written work and regular media contributions have covered poverty, destitution, labour markets, housing and social security. Helen is a Social Metrics Commissioner and member of the Poverty Strategy Commission. Before joining JRF Helen worked for Opinion Leader Research and BMRB Social Research. 

Eric Klinenberg is Helen Gould Shepard Professor in the Social Sciences at New York University, and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge. His books Going Solo -on the rising number of people who choose to live alone- and Palaces for the People -on how social infrastructure heals divisions in societies- have acted as a catalyst for new thinking about the place and role of civil society.

Heather Fraser is changing how traditional and non-traditional parties across healthcare think about using new technologies to provide optimum patient outcomes. Her research and thought leadership include stimulating collaboration amongst life sciences, providers, payers, regulators and beyond to nutrition, electronics and telecoms. She is working to improve patient outcomes through encouraging the use of emerging technologies, for example AI and virtual assistants to triage patients, and blockchain for securing the supply chain for vaccines. Heather is a registered pharmacist, with a career in healthcare, life sciences, community pharmacy, consulting and technology.

Mike Wilson is Executive Director of Pembroke House Settlement in Walworth South London. The Settlement movement in the late 19th/early 20th century is widely credited as one of the civil society forces that shaped the welfare state.

About us

The Law Family Commission on Civil Society is an ambitious programme of ground-breaking research into how we can unleash the potential of civil society, to harness and enhance the powerful community bonds that exist in our nation.

It will provide tangible ideas for policy-makers, companies, philanthropists and social sector organisations to tackle the systemic challenges that are stopping civil society delivering on its potential.

Ratio is a decade long inquiry into the way relationships influence health and development.

Booking for this event has now closed.