ONE YEAR on from the launch of The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, it can claim a double victory, after three of the region’s local authorities pledged action, and the Prime Minister added his voice to the growing swell of support.
David Cameron said society needed to “step up and do more” to deal with the growing issue.
Last February we revealed that 91,300 of the region’s older people admitted to being lonely all or some of the time, and joined forces with the Campaign to End Loneliness to urge all local authorities to write tackling loneliness into their Health and Wellbeing strategies.
Then, nine councils in the region failed to make significant mention of loneliness in these crucial documents, which identify and prioritise health issues.
Since our campaign began, Bradford became the first of these to write loneliness into its strategy, and three more pledged to in future.
Now, three further authorities, Calderdale, Doncaster and Wakefield, have responded to the call for action and pledged to make tackling loneliness a priority. Just two councils in the region remain without a firm commitment, East Riding and North East Lincolnshire, but both are actively working to reduce the blight of loneliness and social isolation.
Laura Alcock-Ferguson, director, of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “The devastating impact loneliness can have on our mental and physical health makes it an issue we simply cannot ignore, so we are pleased to see that so many more health and wellbeing boards in Yorkshire have recognised the serious health consequences of loneliness and have pledged to take action.
“These boards are in a unique position to take the lead on preventing and alleviating loneliness in their communities. We now need to ensure that they stand by their commitments and that they translate into tangible actions.”
This week Mr Cameron became the latest high profile figure to support the campaign, which last year beat 29 other newspapers to win the Newspaper Society’s Making a Difference award.
He said: “I congratulate you for the campaign. When you have a growing number of elderly people and a growing number of frail elderly people as we do in our country, this is going to become more and more of an issue.
“Obviously helping to deal with loneliness, making sure people have access to services, help with vital things like shopping, it’s something the Government can help with but it’s also something society needs to step up and do more of.”
One of the key elements of the campaign is to encourage our readers to volunteer for support services and community projects that help alleviate the problem.
Mr Cameron said campaigns like Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic remind people that “as citizens we’ve all got duties that go beyond paying our taxes and obeying the law”.