Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic was launched in The Yorkshire Post in February 2014 with two main aims: for loneliness to be universally recognised as a health priority and to encourage our readers to volunteer for support services.
Back then, nine of the region’s health and wellbeing boards failed to give significant mention of loneliness and social isolation in their overarching strategies, a crucial document that sets out priorities for health and social care for the coming years. Since then, seven of these have responded to the call for action.
On the first anniversary of the campaign, then-Prime Minister David Cameron, became its biggest supporter yet, congratulating The Yorkshire Post on the campaign and called on all in society to “step up and do more”.
Other supporters include charities like Contact the Elderly, Independent Age and Friends of the Elderly, Silver Line founder Esther Rantzen and high-profile figures in all the major political parties.
Throughout the last three and a half years, The Yorkshire Post’s campaign has repeatedly been at the forefront of raising awareness.
In April 2014, the campaign was asked by our partners in the campaign, the national charity the Campaign to End Loneliness, to chair and host a summit on loneliness, bringing together experts working on the ground to share best practice. We have been asked to speak at numerous events, including a Leeds Council conference on loneliness, and at the Yorkshire and Humber Forum on Ageing.
In February 2015, about 70 lonely people in North Yorkshire attended the first Friendship Lunch, an initiative inspired by, and partnered with, The Yorkshire Post campaign, which has since been expanded across six more venues. We also launched an online audio archive of real people telling their experiences of loneliness.
In December 2015, we were invited by Downing Street to co-host a Christmas party for people we have featured in the campaign. In February 2016, on the second anniversary of the campaign, we announced that The Yorkshire Post would be working with Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox on a new cross-party commission to bring together experts in the field and investigate the scale of the loneliness crisis. Mrs Cox also tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament congratulating the YP on its campaign.
After Mrs Cox was tragically killed in her constituency just a few months after announcing her commission in The Yorkshire Post, Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves was one of a team who took forward the commission, and now, in 2017, we want our readers to adopt one of the highly impactful legacies of Mrs Cox’s work – Start a Conversation.