Fight to tackle loneliness in society goes on

Lonely woman cropped

The Loneliness Action Group is urging all political parties to continue to work together to put in place lasting measures to help tackle the issue

19th September 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Campaigners are calling on politicians to remain united in the fight against loneliness and social isolation.

The Loneliness Action Group is urging all political parties to continue to work together to put in place lasting measures to help tackle the issue in the long term.

It makes the calls in a new report, A connected society? Assessing progress in tackling loneliness, which examines the government’s work during the seven months following the publication of its loneliness strategy in October 2018.

Almost one in five people in the UK report feeling often or always lonely, with many struggling with their physical and mental health as a result.

The battle to tackle loneliness and isolation was a passion of the late Jo Cox MP and has attracted considerable cross-party support. The Jo Cox Foundation is one of 50 members of the Loneliness Action Group, a network led by the British Red Cross and Co-op. The group believes real strides have been made to address the issue in the last year but it’s now time for all government departments to ramp up their efforts.

The Red Cross and Co-op will be attending the upcoming Labour and Conservative party conferences to urge politicians to work together to do even more.

The Loneliness Action Group is asking for an increase in funding to tackle loneliness and help people to feel less isolated and more connected to their communities.

It also wants to see decisions made on converting pilot projects into lasting programmes, and a drive to deal with some of the underlying issues that exacerbate loneliness and isolation, including problems of inequality around poor or insecure housing and a lack of public transport, services and facilities in the community.

Action to tackle loneliness has included advancing the practice of social prescribing. This sees people supported to attend groups and activities in their community, and there has been a commitment to employ 1,000 NHS link workers by the end of 2021, rising to more than 4,000 by 2023.

British Red Cross executive director for communications and advocacy, Zöe Abrams, said: “Politicians of all parties have rightly acknowledged that loneliness and social isolation leads to real problems and it’s time to look at the bigger picture.

“It isn’t right that people should suffer more for the lack of a decent bus service or because they use a wheelchair and are unable to get in and out of their home, those sorts of barriers need to be addressed.

“The groundwork has been done but, if we are to see a lasting impact and realise the ambitious vision Jo Cox inspired all of us to pursue, we must continue to invest and put in place measures and services that will help people connect better to each other and their communities.”

Emily Georghiou, from the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Any of us can experience loneliness at any time in our lives but staying connected to others is particularly important in later life. Some people face issues which make it harder to make and maintain connections as life changes, and a growing number of us are at risk of missing out.

“Investment in the infrastructure of our communities is essential to creating the conditions to support social connections to thrive as we age. This means the shared spaces and places where we meet, like libraries and parks, the opportunities to participate and contribute, and the means to get around – with accessible transport and technology.”