‘Significant progress’ in £6m bid to tackle loneliness in Leeds

Coun Lisa Mulherin speaking at the council's 'Unloneliness' conference in July, where the Yorkshire Post spoke about its loneliness campaign.'Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Coun Lisa Mulherin speaking at the council's 'Unloneliness' conference in July, where the Yorkshire Post spoke about its loneliness campaign.'Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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A £6m project that aims to bring thousands of elderly people out of the shadow of loneliness and ensure no-one in Yorkshire’s biggest city “has to sit on the sidelines” is gaining pace.

Leeds Older People’s Forum’s (LOPF) Out of the Shadows: Time to Shine project won the funding in September last year from the Big Lottery Fund’s Ageing Better programme, which handed out £78m nationally for schemes tackling social isolation in older people - including a further £6m to a similar project in Sheffield.

It is being supported by Leeds Council and members of its executive board will be told of the impact of the project at its meeting on Wednesday.

Time to Shine has already made “significant progress” since it officially began in April, and 15 delivery partners have been commissioned to provide a number of “innovative” activities across the city to address social isolation, a report for the meeting said.

They include Action for Gipton Elderly (AGE) one of the city’s 37 Neighbourhood Networks, who will work to engage older people living in tower blocks in the Wykebeck Valley area. Other groups involved will include Touchstone Sikh Elders, who will work with elderly Sikh and Punjabi residents, and Yorkshire MESMAC who with Age UK, will develop services for elderly LGBT people. £1m has already been committed.

Coun Lisa Mulherin, Leeds Council’s executive member for health, wellbeing and adults, said the project will have “a genuine, tangible impact” on the lives of older people in Leeds.

“Loneliness and social isolation are not an inevitable consequence of getting older, but far too many older people in our city are slipping through the cracks,” she said. “By investing in organisations that work directly within local communities, together we can create a network of support that can help thousands of elderly residents escape loneliness’s devastating grip.

“No one organisation can prevent that from happening alone, and it is only by working together in this way that we can ensure the opportunities are there for older people to play an active role and make Leeds a place where no elderly resident has to sit on the sidelines.”

Current estimates are that out of 246,000 older people living in Leeds, around 37,000 can be described as lonely or socially isolated. The report highlighted work the project has already done to raise the profile of social isolation in the city - including working with the Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, which launched in February 2014 to raise awareness of the issue as a health priority.

In July, The YP joined LOPF and the Council at a conference aimed at sharing the best ideas to tackle isolation.

Bill Rollinson, chairman of LOPF, said: “A wide range of organisations are being funded to deliver creative and exciting schemes to tackle this major problem of loneliness. We are very fortunate in Leeds in having a vibrant voluntary and community sector that is supporting this work.”