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New Report Calls for Urgent Action to Tackle Critical Issue of Loneliness

todayOctober 20, 2020 32

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New Report Calls for Urgent Action to Tackle Critical Issue of Loneliness, as UK-wide Survey Highlights the Devastating Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic

A national charity, the Campaign to End Loneliness, has today (October 15) published a new report calling for urgent action by governments across the UK, health bodies, funders and service providers to better address the critical issue of loneliness.

The call comes as the results of a UK-wide survey (also revealed today), highlight the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic is having by amplifying the experience of loneliness, particularly for those who were already feeling chronically lonely.

As the ongoing restrictions reduce access to vital services*, the survey results echo what many of those contributing to the Campaign to End Loneliness’s Promising Approaches Revisited report have witnessed first-hand, particularly for those already experiencing chronic loneliness prior to lockdown. 

The research, published today (October 15) by Survation on behalf of the Campaign to End Loneliness found:

  • 85% of those surveyed are concerned about older people with a long-term health condition or disability feeling lonely.
  • 83% are worried about a bereaved older person being lonely.
  • 79% are concerned about older people in care homes feeling lonely.
  • 77% of people are concerned about people aged 65 or older being lonely.
  • Well over half (59%) fear they won’t be able to see family and friends at Christmas or other religious festivals.
  • 54% fear they won’t be able to see older family members for fear of putting them at risk, increasing the risk of loneliness over Christmas and other religious festivals for these people.
  • Almost a third (27%) are worried about being alone during the festive period.
  • Three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed by Survation agree with the Campaign’s call for increased government funding into services addressing loneliness and isolation, along with increased funding for bereavement support services.
  • The actions people felt were most needed to address loneliness in their areas are free broadband and making communities more accessible for older and disabled people.
  • Around a third (31%) of those surveyed had formed an extended household.
  • 69% of all those surveyed did not form an extended household. They provided a range of reasons that they didn’t do so, for example 20% didn’t know who they would form an extended household with, 13% didn’t have family or close friends (or were not in contact with them) and 5% were worried people would say no if asked.

The Campaign to End Loneliness’s Promising Approaches Revisited report highlights the impact of chronic loneliness on older people. That includes its effects on mental and physical health that include: increasing the likelihood of mortality by 26%; putting individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia; causing depression and anxiety; reducing people’s confidence; and, stopping them from making meaningful connections (see notes to editors for more information).

The report provides a framework for how to tackle loneliness as well as examples of services doing that in practice. It is designed to help those commissioning and funding services to better understand what they can do in their area.

Speaking on the launch of today’s report, Kate Shurety, Executive Director at The Campaign to End Loneliness said: “We hope our new report Promising Approaches Revisited will help the UK and devolved governments, local authorities, health bodies, funders and service providers quickly identify and support the most effective solutions to address of loneliness.

“If the issue is not adequately addressed in every UK community, we are concerned that there could be a timebomb being set that will impact more broadly on mental and physical health services. Pre-Covid-19, it is estimated that there was 1.2 million older people already experiencing chronic loneliness. With ongoing restrictions affecting people’s ability to meet up with friends and family, our poll suggests millions more are struggling with feelings of loneliness.

“There is not a one size fits all approach to reducing chronic loneliness, but our report illustrates how, when used together, effective services and interventions from health services, government and charities – including those adapted to Covid times – can help make a real difference to many people’s lives in every community.

“It is encouraging to see initiatives like DeviceDotNow and Connecting Scotland planning to digitally support 60,000 people, but more must be done to help older people better connect with their family, friends and social groups.”

Jeremy Bacon, Older People Lead at The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), said “This report is a timely contribution to policy debates on how we should respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. It highlights the vital importance of recognising and responding to the psychological impact of Covid-19 alongside its physical risk, and for public, private and third sector organisations to collaborate to provide community initiatives that reach those most hidden and isolated, offering autonomy and choice in responding to the psychological impact of loneliness.”

“Counsellors and psychotherapists working with older clients report concern that the narrative of the pandemic lumps older people into an homogenous at-risk group whose shielding and risk status results in isolation being equated with safety and well-being.

“Our understanding of loneliness and how we address it, must take account of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across the four nations and in every community. Restrictions on physical contact, the closure of community venues and services providing support and companionship, and the fears of those most vulnerable to the virus, inevitably increase the risks of social, emotional and existential loneliness.”

What can be done

The Campaign to End Loneliness is calling on the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments to urgently build on the loneliness strategies that exist to ensure they  target the key groups most vulnerable to chronic loneliness   It is vital that there is continued investment in action to reduce loneliness and that these are linked up across all government departments. The charity is also calling on the Northern Ireland Government to develop its own strategy so that loneliness receives the attention and resources it needs. The Campaign is also asking governments to give urgent attention to ensuring community infrastructure and space, housing, transport, digital access and social care all work to maximise the opportunities for social connection across all age groups and all communities.

Kate Shurety, Executive Director at the Campaign to End Loneliness explained: “We are particularly concerned about the effect Covid-19 is having on the extreme sense of isolation felt by many groups, including people in the shielding category, those feeling vulnerable, people who live alone with no social connections, care homes residents, or carers struggling due to minimal support or respite.

“We would ask governments when making any future Covid-19 restrictions to give due consideration, where possible, to allow people to form a safe extended household if they live alone or are carers, and have safe face-to-face visits within care homes.”

Workshops

Through the Promising Approaches Revisited Framework and a series of workshops across the UK in October and November, the Campaign to End Loneliness will support governments, service providers and funders to address this critical issue by:

  • taking further action to address loneliness in their communities.
  • helping those most at risk to build and maintain vital connections.
  • Learning ways in which they can successfully adapt services around Covid-19 restrictions.

The report is available at www.campaigntoendloneliness.org  (from Thursday 15 October)

People Helping People was launched in November 2017 and sets out a city-wide approach to working with people and communities to address three key shared priorities – loneliness and isolation, health and wellbeing; and realising young people’s potential.

The strategy was developed by a partnership involving City of York Council, the city’s universities, Community Voluntary Sector (CVS), and other organisations from across the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors. It’s aim is to shift the tendency of statutory services to respond to local problems by commissioning services, and instead to partner with people in the community to develop solutions.

Based on best practice from the international Cities of Service impact volunteering model, the strategy seeks to mobilise citizens as volunteers to tackle local challenges to make a measurable difference to people’s lives. It is rooted in an asset-based approach which supports citizens to identify and share their skills, passions and gifts through community action.

The approach has enabled the development of several linked prevention and asset-based programmes and ensured that these can be delivered sustainably during a period of tight public finances.

For example, the GoodGym scheme was introduced to the city with an initial grant of £25,000, but is now self-sustaining. Through GoodGym, runners sign up to get fit by doing physical tasks like manual labour for community organisations, preceded by a group run. Committed runners then have the chance to do regular weekly runs on their way to social visits with lonely and isolated older people who act as the coaches – motivating them to run.

The programme has delivered 400 ‘mission runs’ and 800 coach visits; 93% of older people feel more connected after being visited by a runner, and are no longer lonely or isolated, and 92% of runners agree that GoodGym increases their motivation to exercise.

Building on the learning from GoodGym, and from a new movement of volunteers, including many students and young professionals, a new charity developed called Move the Masses which focuses on addressing loneliness, and improving health and wellbeing. Their ‘Move Mates’ programme sees volunteer walking buddies paired up with people who do not have the confidence to get out of their own home, and often face chronic loneliness and isolation. The scheme has now recruited 80 volunteers and delivered 400 walks.

’The real benefit has been the listening, talking and sharing experiences with my walking buddy which has improved my wellbeing and isolation’. – Move Mates participant

The People Helping People programme is underpinned by the city’s Local Area Coordination work – coordinators are embedded in communities throughout the city and work with individuals to think about what a good life would look like for them, and how they can unlock their strengths to achieve such a life. They play a crucial role in linking individuals to opportunities to participate in the People Helping People programme. As a result, 2,300 vulnerable people have been connected with community activities, and are now contributing as valued citizens through Local Area Coordination.

Gavin (35)

A few years ago I was finding things very difficult. I was very inactive, overweight and not washing. There were times where I couldn’t get out of bed. Ultimately I was admitted to hospital with severe depression. Following my release, I started making a slow recovery but medication was not working for me.

I came into contact with Jennie, the Local Area Coordinator for my area at a ‘community café’  which helped me to connect with others in my local area.  With time, exercise and positive social interactions I slowly and surely became mentally and physically strong. I feel fortunate to have my life back and to have turned things around. Because I know how important it’s been to exercise, feel good and be healthy again, I want to inspire other people.

In September 2018 I enrolled as a Community Health Champion, a volunteering programme linked to York’s People Helping People initiative. Following Champion training, I met our GoodGym Run Leader and Move the Masses Founder and have led on new opportunities to support people who are going through difficult times to help improve their health and to connect with others. I look at my turnaround as a minor miracle. Being part of a programme like Community Health Champions allows me to grow as a person whilst having a positive impact on other peoples’ lives and I am constantly seeking out other opportunities to get involved! Becoming active in my community has allowed me to grow as a person with the added benefit of having a positive impact on other peoples’ lives. This project works because it is led by the people, for the people and delivered where we live.

Contact:

Joe Micheli

Head of Commissioning (Early Intervention, Prevention & Community Development)

Health, Housing and Adult Social Care Directorate, City of York Council

tel: 01904 552570 | mobile: 07534644859 | email: joe.micheli@york.gov.uk

Written by: YO1 Radio Web Team

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