Thrive LDN supported an Acts of Kindness Bench pilot scheme – known as AOK Benches for short – across London to help combat loneliness and isolation.
The pilot scheme, launched on National Random Acts of Kindness Day 2020, was open to all Londoners who want to create a safe place where people can meet and share a chat in their area. Community bench schemes, such as the Happy to Chat Benches, have been successful in other parts of the UK as well as globally, in doing this and becoming health assets for local communities.
The AOK Bench scheme was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. We are looking at ways of reintroducing a bench scheme in the near future. For further information, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why a community bench pilot?
The idea of a community bench scheme in London to help give communities a space to have a conversation was initially developed during the Thrive LDN Champions Network Leadership Development Programme. However, the concept is not new and the Campaign to End Loneliness have been trialling chat benches in libraries in south London.
In a survey of Londoners, 8 per cent of respondents said they often or always feel lonely, and over a quarter are socially isolated. It is an issue that cuts across generations too, with young people in London responding that they are more likely to be lonely or feel socially isolated.
DS Ashley Jones MBE has been leading a community bench scheme in Avon and Somerset to great effect. He told Thrive LDN: “Some people may go days or even weeks without the simplest of human contact, so the Chat Bench seeks to break down that social barrier and allow us to all say ‘hello’.”