Charities inundated by requests to help lonely

Loneliness comes at a cost for cancer patients.Loneliness comes at a cost for cancer patients.
Loneliness comes at a cost for cancer patients.
Services dedicated to tackling the hidden epidemic of loneliness across the region are faced with enormous demand, leaving vast numbers of older people on waiting lists for regular face-to-face support in their homes.

The Yorkshire Post’s campaign to highlight the human cost of loneliness in the region finds that there is a clear and urgent need for fresh volunteers to come forward to play a vital support role in the wellbeing of older people in communities across Yorkshire.

More than 90,000 over 65s in the region say they feel lonely either all of the time or often.

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Paul Taylor, an area manager for Yorkshire at the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS), says that figure might not even reveal the true scale of the problem, with some cases of loneliness likely to go unnoticed as some people suffer in silence.

“We know the scale of loneliness is massive and getting bigger because clearly the number of older people is growing all of time and a lot of them we don’t know about because they have not been found by statutory services or through the voluntary sector,” he said.

“When we think about people who are likely to be feeling lonely we don’t necessarily think about couples because they are together but what about when one is a dementia sufferer and the other is caring for them? That leaves the carer with no one to relieve them from that isolation and that’s going to be a growing problem.

“Part of the solution is about trying to put people in touch with other people and getting communities to look after each other. It’s about trying to bring communities along with us - it’s not that complicated.”

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The Yorkshire Post’s campaign in partnership with national body, the Campaign to End Loneliness, is calling on all local authorities in the area to write loneliness and social isolation into the strategies of their health and wellbeing boards. Nine local authorities fail to significantly mention the topic in their strategies.

Nichola McDonald-Bell, 49, is a volunteer for the RVS’s Good Neighbours befriending service in Sheffield even though she is registered disabled after being inspired to get involved by her mother’s service to the charity, and she does not think enough support is being afforded to older people.

“I don’t think there is enough help for older people who suffer from loneliness and need support. A lot of the work should come from councils and hospitals. I think they need to be more aware of the voluntary service and what we have to offer so that we can work with them to tackle this problem.”