A call to arms over loneliness

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the yorkshire Post derives enormous pride – and quiet satisfaction – from the progress has been made since this newspaper teamed up with the Campaign to End Loneliness six months ago to highlight the mental anguish endured by those who live, for whatever reason, in isolation, and the wider cost to the NHS.

As well as raising awareness about an important issue which needs to be treated with respect rather than glibness, it is also making a lasting difference. Four councils across Yorkshire have now promised to recognise the need for action in their social care strategies while pressure is growing on other authorities to do likewise.

They must to do so. The numbers are significant – one third of people aged over 65 in third region admit to feeling lonely – and a head-in-the-sand approach will only exacerbate these difficulties and ultimately lead to health and care services being placed under greater strain. This must not happen. Policy-makers have an obligation to represent all sections of society, not just the outspoken, and they also have a duty to champion preventative policies which encourage people living on their own to engage with others rather than drinking or smoking to excess, and then requiring treatment for depression.

This is illustrated by Leeds Council working with GPs and Age UK to encourage the lonely to participate in arts activities – or attend exercise classes. The point is a profound one – if people inter-act with others, they’re likely to enjoy a far more healthier retirement once they have overcome any initial shyness. To its credit, Leeds Council is now leading the way nationally in this field as it bids for £6m of lottery funding to extend the scope of its work. If it can be so enlightened, there’s no excuse for other town halls to drag their feet.

A chilling disregard of the law

THERE are some crimes that can be partially explained, though not justified, by a unique set of circumstances or perhaps a profound sense of desperation on the part of the perpetrator.

The attack which left a defenceless stroke victim with a fractured skull, however, defies any such rationale.

Ryan Slattery and Christopher Hartley set upon their 59-year-old victim with crowbars as he lay bed-ridden, having already identified him and his elderly mother as soft targets.

Despite knowing that he would be unable to mount any sort of defence, they subjected him to a merciless beating at his home in Leeds in order to steal money and the morphine that he used for pain relief.

Slattery, 18, has now been jailed for nearly seven years, while the sentencing of 26-year-old Hartley was adjourned after the judge decided to reassess him in light of the sheer “wickedness” of his actions. Many might think the authorities could do worse than simply throw away the key.

While police say the pair were motivated “purely by greed”, it is hard not to think that this was a crime with evil at its very heart. In a separate incident, Hartley broke a pensioner’s jaw because he refused to hand over cigarettes and money.

Such readiness to prey on the weak and vulnerable indicates a callous disregard for others that chills the blood. While it is to be hoped their time in prison and the efforts of those tasked with their rehabilitation can effect some change in character, the reality is that some individuals are beyond redemption – and this pair are prime candidates.

Scots rekindle Friendly Games

WELL DONE Scotland. As the Commonwealth Games draw to a close in Glasgow, it would be remiss – despite Usain Bolt’s reported misgivings – not to acknowledge the hospitality of the hosts.

Understandably, some were fearful that the Games would be used by Alex Salmond for propaganda purposes ahead of next month’s referendum on Scottish independence. Quite the opposite. The sporting endeavour has been a powerful reminder that Britain is at its best when it is united – and this has been vividly illustrated by the acclaim afforded to England’s medal winners. They could not have hoped for a warmer reception.

From a wider point of view, the Glasgow gathering has been another reaffirmation that these are also the ‘Friendly Games’, as exemplified by the sportsmanship shown by City of Leeds diver Jack Laugher who was the first to applaud the brilliance of his Malaysian rival Ooi Tze Liang during the three metre springboard final. Why can’t all sport be like this?

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