YP Comment: Time to reach out to lonely with priceless hand of friendship

English students at Leeds University with some of the letters they have received affter setting up a penpal scheme  to support the lonely.
English students at Leeds University with some of the letters they have received affter setting up a penpal scheme to support the lonely.
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MORE than 260 years after its inception, The Yorkshire Post remains proud of its campaigning tradition and ability to make it a difference – it is why this newspaper continues to challenge the Government over its ineffective response to the Yorkshire floods. Yet, while the success of some initiatives can be measured in bricks and mortar or changes to the law, others are less clearcut. One such example is the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign which was launched two years ago.

The original objective was a simple one – to team up with the Campaign to End Loneliness to raise awareness about loneliness and persuade policy-makers, including local authorities and NHS trusts, that it is in their interests to provide support to those people who, for whatever reason, have found themselves living on their own and become depressed because of a lack of social contact with others.

However, after overcoming some initial scepticism, the shift in attitudes has been so profound that the Prime Minister hosted a pre-Christmas lunch at 10 Downing Street because he recognises that this agenda is critical to improving the wellbeing of all sections of society. It was a timely intervention – Jo Cox, the Batley and Spen MP, will now head a cross-party commission of politicians, charities and policy-makers to ensure that the plight of the lonely is not marginalised by outdated attitudes in the corridors of power – this is just as important as the country’s understanding of those who have the misfortune, for example, to suffer from a form of dementia.

But it does not end here. If 2016 readers of this newspaper can each devote as little as an hour a week to the network of befriending groups working to reduce social isolation under the auspices of the Royal Voluntary Service, this hand of friendship can make an incalculable difference to those people who have no one to pass the time of day with or share a cup of team. Once again, The Yorkshire Post is committed to playing its part in the next stage of a campaign to ensure that loneliness is never again hidden from view.