‘Failing’ social care system adding to loneliness

More than 800 people aged over 65 went missing in Yorkshire last year, it has emerged. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA wire
More than 800 people aged over 65 went missing in Yorkshire last year, it has emerged. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA wire
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HUNDREDS of thousands of elderly people are facing a “double whammy” of a lack of social care and “chronic” loneliness, Age UK has warned.

The charity said the Government must restore the “crumbling” social care system and fund more local support for lonely elderly people, as it handed in a petition urging the Government to take action.

The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to highlight the health impact of loneliness, which can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, since 2014. Last month we announced the founding of a national cross-party commission by Labour’s Batley MP Jo Cox which will look at how the Government, local authorities, health organisations and others can tackle the loneliness epidemic.

Age UK said more than a million older people who needed care do not receive it from any source - be it family, neighbours, or their local council. It estimated that 300,000 of these people were also struggling to cope with loneliness much of the time.

Those who received some sort of care or support were much less likely to be lonely, the charity said.

“It’s bad enough to be struggling because of a care need and going without any support, but now it turns out that an appreciable number of older people in this position are facing a double whammy because they are chronically lonely too,” Charity director Caroline Abrahams said.

“The overriding purpose of social care is to meet a person’s social care needs but, of course, for an older person who can’t get out and about, a friendly chat - however brief - with a visiting care worker is extraordinarily precious if it’s the only conversation you’ll have all day.

“Our social care system is in decline and failing to keep pace with our growing older population, leading to more older people with care needs going without formal help.

“Now, we can see from our analysis that this is adding to the problem of acute loneliness among older people too.”

Marcus Rand, director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, partners in the Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, said: “If you could catch loneliness we’d be doing something about it.

“But loneliness is a silent killer affecting one million people aged over 65. It’s health effects are proven and devastating – equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It’s cutting lives short.

“We urgently need a national and local plan of action to reach and support the million people living with the pain of loneliness day in day out.”