THERE ARE no excuses for keeping loneliness in the shadows, delegates at the first Yorkshire Loneliness summit were told yesterday.
As part of The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness campaign, the Campaign to End Loneliness brought its first regional summit to the Park Plaza hotel in Leeds.
Almost 100 experts in the fields of social care, the voluntary sector, the NHS and local authorities shared best practice in an effort to tackle the issue that effects more than 91,300 older people living in the region.
Lorraine Jackson, acting deputy director for prevention, housing and dementia at the Department of Health (DoH) told the summit that the detrimental health effects of loneliness were evidently clear – and should be acted on.
She said: “Loneliness is a complex issue and something that we are convinced has a very detrimental health effect. We must take this seriously and do what we can to tackle the issue.
“Loneliness has been a problem that was mainly hidden away, but we don’t have an excuse any more.”
The summit marked the next step in The Yorkshire Post’s campaign for a call for action on loneliness.
Kate Jopling, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “This is a really important way-point in the campaign to bring the issue of loneliness out of the shadows.
“We had a huge amount of expertise in the room, all talking about what we need to do next to make sure loneliness is brought to an end.
“We have got lots of good things that are going on, but no one has got it perfect yet. There’s still more to do. I want everyone to be inspired and actually commit, to taking action after today.”
Ms Jopling told the summit that a strategic approach, from the top of Government to local authorities, must be applied to tackle the issue.
She added: “Ten per cent of people over 65 are often or always lonely. As the population ages, that’s more and more people across our urban and rural areas that are lonely. There is a growing imperative for action.”
Speaking afterwards, Mrs Jackson said the Department of Health would actively encourage people to engage with their local health and wellbeing boards on the issue – a key element of The Yorkshire Post’s campaign.
Also at the event was Dr Sylvia Bernard of the University of York, who was part of a loneliness task force which surveyed 150 organisations across North Yorkshire and pinpointed funding and finding volunteers as problems. The Yorkshire Post is also calling on more people to actively volunteer as part of its campaign.
Opening the summit, Nicola Furbisher, managing editor at The Yorkshire Post, said: “This is something that we can’t ignore. This is a hidden epidemic, and it’s not just about organisations and stake holders, it’s about neighbours and communities doing what they can to support lonely people across Yorkshire.”
The campaign has secured yet another heavy weight supporter, Esther Rantzen, founder of older people helpline The Silver Line, who was at the University of Leeds yesterday speaking about her experiences of loneliness.