Project information

Shared Reading with Lonely Older People

To support socially isolated older people through our Shared Reading groups, and training and empowering them to support each other.
We will also pilot new community-led ways of working. >60% of beneficiaries will be older people, and >60% will be women.

18 months

Charity information: The Reader

The Reader logo
  • Need


    The number of vulnerable people we can support across the UK is limited by the fact that most of our groups are delivered by our staff members. This is expensive, and places limits on how far we can expand our work, and reflects that most of our work has been commissioned by the public sector in various forms. Now public sector budgets are under pressure, and we need to think of new ways for us to reach further and work with more people who can benefit from our help, more efficiently.


    The Reader will pilot a new way of working, training & supporting volunteers to deliver shared reading in their own communities, allowing us to reach many more people, sustainably. We will test our new way of working in selected communities acros the UK, learning lessons and developing the methods that will see thousands of volunteers delivering life changing shared reading in their communities nationwide.

    We would like to thank The Pilgrim Trust for pledging £10k to help make this happen.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Develop a Membership Team who will pilot our volunteer-led model.


    » We will shape our team to ensure we can deliver this pilot effectively, and in such a way that the work can be scaled as we learn

    Success will be demonstrated by the Membership Team leading the project and supporting volunteers to deliver the work.

    Aim 2

    To pilot our volunteer led model with older people, to learn lessons for national implementation.


    » Recruit and train a cohort of 20 volunteer reader leaders to deliver shared reading with older people in their communities.
    » Build relationships with partner organisations to facilitate & support the delivery of our groups, ensuring we can reach the most socially isolated.

    We will end the pilot year with lessons learned, experience gained, and will analyse what went well & what didn't and bring this learning together into a report.

  • Impact


    The legacy of the project will be a report and learning which will facilitate the spreading of shared reading with a sustainable new model across the UK. We will know we have succeeded when 3 years after the end of the project we have a national structure of Shared Reading delivered by Members & Volunteers within their own communities, trained supported by regional Volunteer Coordinators/Local Organisers, reporting to Membership Managers.


    The biggest risk will be in the need for outstanding individuals in the Membership Team. If we design the team poorly, the project will suffer and we will not have the opportunity to learn as best we might from the pilot year. To mitigate this, we will run our usual thorough, high-quality recruitment process if we recruit externally. Partnerships will also represent a risk, and we will ensure local partnerships are strong.


    We will deliver a final report at the culmination of the pilot year. This report will show the learning we have taken from the project, what went well and what could have been done better, as well as recommendations going forward.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £50,000

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £28,000 Staff costs Costs of the Membership Team
      £22,000 Volunteer costs Training & supporting up to 20 volunteers & working with local partners
  • Background


    Our project will take place in selected communities across the UK, meaning we can pilot the work in different areas, with different challenges. All the areas we work in, which may include Liverpool City Region, London and Bristol, face their own challenges, ranging from an ageing population, to entrenched poverty and structural unemployment. In all the communities we work in, Older People can be lonely, and continue to experience negative outcomes because of this.


    Our groups benefit people from all walks of life, with powerful impacts for people who are socially isolated, lonely, carers, mentally ill, living with addiction, bereavement, chronic pain or long term illness. This pilot will target older people, who disproportionately experience these challenges, at least 60% will be 55+. At least 60% will also be women. We will offer volunteering, training & groups, to meet the needs of people in different situations, from early intervention to recovery.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    The Reader is the only organisation in the UK delivering shared reading - we pioneered the model and are the global experts, having exported the model to partner organisations in other countries. We currently read with more than 12,000 people across the UK, in settings from prisons and high secure hospitals, to schools and care homes, libraries and community centres. We have a strong research base to prove our impact and we are commissioned by the NHS, Ministry of Justice and others.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Jane Davis

    Jane is the Founder and CEO of The Reader, and she has provided the vision and leadership for us to transition to a volunteer led model.

    Chris Catterall

    As Director of Enterprise, Chris has guided The Reader through its rapid growth since 2008 and will continue to do so as we develop our new model.

    Ben Davis

    Head of Membership - Ben is the senior project lead for the transition to a volunteer-led model, and will manage the organisation wide change process


will help run a session in a care home, introducing older people to Shared Reading

“It really brightens my day, because I sit here and do my puzzles, I don't see anybody some days, so when Julie comes on a Tuesday morning, it sort of brightens my week." "It gives me something to think about, something extra to think about, and I really, truly enjoy it."

Betty, 95 year old Shared Reading beneficiary.