Under-fire council reveals plans to tackle loneliness

The Yorkshire Post launched the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign in February 2014
The Yorkshire Post launched the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign in February 2014
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A YORKSHIRE council that has previously come under fire for failing to significantly mention tackling loneliness in a crucial health strategy has outlined plans to prioritise the issue.

East Riding Council was one of nine local authorities in Yorkshire that was criticised by The Yorkshire Post and charity the Campaign to End Loneliness when we launched the award-winning Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign in February 2014.

Research by the charity showed it failed to significantly mention loneliness and social isolation in its Health and Wellbeing Strategy, a crucial document the outlines a long term focus for the authority's Health and Wellbeing Board,

At a meeting on Thursday, the council's Health and Wellbeing Board will consider a report that recommends placing a new priority on tackling loneliness, which can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Members of the board will be asked to back plans for a Loneliness and Isolation summit in 2018, and to support work currently being undertaken within the East Riding to reduce loneliness and isolation as part of the Better Care Fund. The summit would identify and share good practice and learning, identify gaps in provision and work towards developing system-based approaches to address the issue.

They will be asked to agree that "primary and social care leaders across the System actively encourage takeup of the new service when it becomes available" and that the council's partners should also take steps to promote and "actively participate" in addressing loneliness and isolation.

The report says: "An approach to address loneliness and isolation needs to recognise the role different types of services play in responding to the complex and individual experience of loneliness and isolation.

"One size will not fit all, so to be effective in tackling loneliness communities need: (i) foundation services that reach lonely individuals, understand and respond to the specific circumstances and support individuals to take up the services that would help them make meaningful connections (ii) gateway services which include transport and technology. These services can be the glue that keeps people active and engaged, and makes it possible for communities to come together (iii) direct interventions including services that help people to reconnect with and/or maintain existing connections or develop new connections."

The report estimated approximately 5,400 East Riding residents over the age of 65 are often or always lonely.

It also outlines a social prescribing service, commissioned to run for two years from next May, which will assess residents' health, wellbeing, and lifelstyle needs and identify appropriate interventions.

Coun Jonathan Owen, chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “The work to improve the lives of those who are lonely and isolated is a key priority to ensure the health and wellbeing of East Riding residents and connecting individuals with appropriate services and community assets is of great importance to us.

“The Board is an important tool in driving forward change in relation to the health and social care needs of East Riding residents and is the perfect platform from which to continue the good work that is already being done locally to address these key priorities.”

The Board will meet at County Hall in Beverley on Thursday.