£6m Lotto grant set to help ‘turn tide’ against blight of isolation

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A GROUND-BREAKING project to keep thousands of older people in Yorkshire’s biggest city out of the grip of loneliness has secured a £6m lottery grant.

Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF) will receive £1m a year for the next six years to establish new services across the city that will keep “turn the tide” of social isolation and aim to prevent the damage loneliness can cause.

The Yorkshire Post’s campaign Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic, has been “instrumental” in helping bringing the issue to the fore, and helping secure the funding, the city’s lead in adult social care said.

Estimates suggests there are 37,000 lonely or socially isolated older people in Leeds, with the number growing each year. The funding, from the Big Lottery Fund’s Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better programme, which saw 100 local authorities bid for a share of the money, will be used to establish a wide range of services aimed at tackling loneliness, which can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

LOPF said it hopes to reach at least 15,000 older people to “help move them out of the shadows cast by loneliness.”

It will work with Leeds Council, voluntary organisations and business partners to build on work that is already being done to focus on the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach people, and will put older people at the heart of managing and designing the work.

Bill Rollinson, chairman of Leeds Older People’s Forum said: “This is great news for Leeds. We will offer older people in Leeds currently living in the shadows of loneliness a time to shine. This is why we have called our project ‘Out of the Shadows: Time to Shine’.”

The Yorkshire Post launched its Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign in February after revealing the devastating effects that social isolation takes on 91,300 older people in our region.

Mick Ward, Leeds City Council’s head of commissioning for adult social care, said the campaign has been “instrumental” in helping the authority bring the issue of social isolation in Leeds to the fore and “making more people aware that they need to sit up and take notice of what is a growing problem”.

He added: “The feedback on the Leeds bid particularly noted the breadth and strength of the partnerships in Leeds and the fact that it is recognised as a priority in the city really helped us put a strong bid together.

“Now, thanks to the outstanding commitment of everyone involved, we have been able to secure this vital funding that will help us strike a crucial blow in the fight to end loneliness.”

The bid was put together by LOPF and the council after consultation with 863 older people, carers and community organisations across the city.

The new community services will include more opportunities for older people to socialise on evenings, weekends and bank holidays, help with travel and cultural activities, including a project where volunteers will offer ‘dinner dates’ and mentors will support older people in gaining confidence to get out of the house. Social prescribing initiatives will also work with older people referred through integrated health and social care.

Coun Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care, said securing this funding was a “massive leap forward” as it works to stop older people in Leeds becoming socially isolated and would help “turn the tide against the blight of loneliness.”