New campaign urges people to look out for their neighbours in a bid to tackle loneliness

A MAJOR new campaign that urges people to look after their neighbours and take part in “random acts of kindness” in a bit to tackle loneliness will get underway in West Yorkshire and Harrogate next month.

Chief executive lead for the partnership, Rob Webster. Picture: Scott Merrylees

The Looking out for our Neighbours campaign already has the backing of more than 100 organisations, from major charities and organisations such as Age UK and the Royal College of GPs, to local councils, health trusts, community groups and sporting organisations like Harrogate Football Club and the Leeds Rhino Foundation.

The idea behind the campaign, created by the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership with the help of more than 100 residents in the area, is simple - that by looking out for one another, we can create more connected communities, reducing loneliness and isolation.

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Chief executive lead for the partnership, Rob Webster, said: “We are not saying that social care or the NHS are too stretched to look after people, but that when we do look out for each other, magic happens, and we create happier and healthier communities.

“The smallest things can make the biggest difference - taking your neighbours’ bin out, or knocking on the window and saying hello. The danger we have at the moment is that when we medicalise everything, we stop thinking about the things that bring joy to people’s lives.”

Part of the campaign will see 30,000 hand-delivered, area-personalised ‘neighbour packs’ delivered to households across West Yorkshire and Harrogate that will include a range of different resources to inspire and encourage residents to champion togetherness in their area and look out for a neighbour in need. A new website where anyone in the region can sign up to the movement, get a personalised helpful neighbour pack and download campaign resources, will be launched in mid-March.

Tackling loneliness has been a priority for the Partnership since it became an Integrated Care System in 2016, and last year, it dedicated £1m - an eighth of the funding it received - to a new fund for third sector organisations working on the issue.

The new push came after research in December highlighted that living alone can make older people 50 per cent more likely to find themselves in A&E than those living with family. Pensioners living alone are also 25 per cent more likely to develop a mental health condition.

Among the supporters of the campaign is Chris Pointon, the widower of the Wakefield medic Dr Kate Granger. Together, they founded the #hellomynameis to encourage more compassionate care in medical settings.

He said: "A simple introduction can go a long way in starting a human connection and striking a conversation. We live in a very diverse society and it is everyone's responsibility to look out for other people and be kind and considerate."

Other supporters include the Jo Cox Foundation. Ambassador Kim Leadbeater said working together to prevent loneliness and its associated health risks, can “reduce the demand on health and care services and have a positive impact on the wellbeing of everyone".

Mr Webster said the support the campaign had received came back to a “basic human response about empathy and kindness in the community”.

He added: “This important campaign is a helpful reminder that it’s often the smallest acts of kindness that make the biggest difference to a person’s life.”

Funding for the campaign has come from the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Urgent and Emergency Care Programme Board, which wanted to do something that “directly targeted and supplemented the work already being done” by the Partnership, Rob Webster said.

Research for the project has included focus groups in communities across the area, plus extensive testing on the campaign materials. Academics at the University of Leeds will evaluate the project’s success.