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 congratulated The Yorkshire Post on the campaign and called on all in society to “step up and do more”. Last year, on the fourth anniversary of the campaign, his successor Theresa May also lent her support, saying the vital and inspirational campaign had “enhanced people’s understanding of loneliness” and its truly devastating consequences.
Other supporters have included 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, including the murdered MP Jo Cox, who, 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. We also renewed our commitment to helping schemes which support lonely people across Yorkshire by encouraging our readers to donate a combined 2,016 hours to the Royal Voluntary Service.
Sine Mrs Cox’s death, we have championed the work of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, and the Jo Cox Foundation.
Throughout the last five years, The Yorkshire Post’s campaign has repeatedly been at the forefront of raising awareness about loneliness.
We have joined 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, and spoken at numerous events, including a Leeds Council conference on loneliness, and at the Yorkshire and Humber Forum on Ageing.
February 2015 saw the first Friendship Lunch held at North Yorkshire pub The Durham Ox, an initiative inspired by, and partnered with, The Yorkshire Post’s campaign, which has since been expanded across six more venues and inspired a similar initiative across South Yorkshire. We also launched an online audio archive, of real people telling their real 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. Guests, selected by the newspaper for their outstanding work in their communities to combat loneliness, and those who have suffered, met the Prime Minister, enjoyed a Christmas dinner and danced with the Strictly Come Dancing finalists.
Much of our reporting has rightly focused on the 92,500 older people in Yorkshire who describe themselves as lonely, but we have also reported on the young people suffering loneliness, from university students to young carers, and ‘hidden’ loneliness experienced by the new mother.
Last year, we ran the world’s first interview with newly appointed Loneliness Minister Tracey Crouch, and continually scrutinised the landmark pledges made by Theresa May to tackle what she described as “one of the greatest public health challenges of our time”.