The Duchess of Cornwall has praised The Yorkshire Post for five years of campaigning to highlight the devastating effects of “crushing loneliness”, and recognised the work of volunteers across the region who work to “change lives for the better”.
The royal seal of approval for the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign comes as The Yorkshire Post can exclusively reveal that council spending on initiatives to tackle loneliness has risen 55 per cent since the newspaper launched its influential award-winning campaign in February 2014.
During the last five years, campaigning on the issue has gone from being the select battle cry of the few to an intrinsic part of the national conversation and the top of the political agenda, campaigners said today, but fears have been raised that momentum could be lost amid the “distraction” of Brexit.
Camilla, patron of older people’s charity The Silver Line, said: “Everyone knows what it’s like to be lonely occasionally, but for more and more people, crushing loneliness is what happens every moment of every day.
“I have seen for myself, through my links with some of the charities that help older people, how easy it is for the elderly to become isolated: through bereavement, disability - or simply because they live too far from their families. But the problem of loneliness is far wider than that. It can affect everyone, of any age, in any walk of life: new mothers, single parents, or young people moving away from their families and friends to find work. We just see the tip of the iceberg.
“We can all play our part with a friendly word, a timely telephone call or visit to a neighbour. But in this busy world, hidden loneliness can go unnoticed which is why I want to congratulate the Yorkshire Post on its fifth year of campaigning for loneliness to be recognised.
“I know that, as a result, the good people of Yorkshire have risen to the challenge, and volunteered hundreds of hours of their time to give a helping hand to help change the lives of others for the better. Where Yorkshire leads, I hope the rest of the country will follow.”
The Duchess’s support comes alongside wide-ranging praise for the campaign, which has been previously backed by prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May, who in the last year had committed millions of pounds of Government money to tackling loneliness and appointed the world’s first loneliness minister.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, who today raised fears the political support for the issue could be overshadowed by Brexit, said The Yorkshire Post had been “absolutely instrumental” in getting the loneliness agenda to where it is today.
She said: “The Yorkshire Post was ahead of its time in campaigning on the issue, and were absolutely part of getting it on the national agenda at a time when people were not concentrating on loneliness. What the YP has done has shone a spotlight on how it can affect all of us, in all of our lives.”
Loneliness Minister Mims Davies thanked The Yorkshire Post for “all the work” it has done on the issue.
She said: “You’re leading lights on it. The fact that you’re still interested, and pushing forward, is fantastic.”
Executive director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, Laura Alcock-Ferguson praised the newspaper’s long-term commitment to the issue, saying is had shown “leadership, drive, and personal commitment to tackling loneliness”.