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 over-arching strategies, a crucial document that sets out priorities for health and social care for the coming years. In August 2014, we revealed that four of these had pledged action, and in February last year, on the first anniversary of the campaign, we revealed a further milestone - three more Yorkshire authorities responded to the call for action.
We were also able to reveal our most high profile supporter yet, Prime Minister David Cameron, who called on all in society to “step up and do more” for this growing problem, joining others supporters such as the charities like Contact the Elderly, Independent Age and Friends of the Elderly, Silver Line founder Esther Rantzen, and high profile political figures.
Throughout the last two years, The Yorkshire Post’s campaign has repeatedly been at the forefront of raising awareness about loneliness.
On April 8 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 last year, around 70 lonely people in North Yorkshire attended the first Friendship Lunch, an initiative inspired by, and partnered with, The Yorkshire Post’s campaign, which has since been expanded across six more venues and attracts hundreds of people each month. We also launched an online audio archive, of real people telling their real experiences of loneliness.
In December, we were invited by Downing Street to co-host a Christmas party for people we have featured in the campaign. Guests, selected by us for their outstanding work in their communities, and those who have suffered loneliness, met the Prime Minister, enjoyed a Christmas dinner and danced with the Strictly Come Dancing finalists.