THE impact of The Yorkshire Post’s award-winning loneliness campaign can be measured by the difference that it is continuing to make five and a half years after its launch.
This follows the Local Government Association, and the National Association of Local Councils, joining forces to provide a guide on the issue – and how to best look out for all those prone to social isolation. They’re not just the elderly, they can be people of all ages and some estimate the overall number to be nine million people.
And while this appears, at face value, to be anodyne, its significance should not be under-estimated – loneliness, and its impact on the mental health and wellbeing of sufferers, wasn’t even on the policy agenda, or recognised by many GPs, when this newspaper first shone a light on this hidden epidemic in 2014.
The very fact that town hall leaders now recognise this condition is another milestone in a campaign which has been backed by successive prime ministers, public figures and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Yet, as this policy agenda progresses, it should be remembered that loneliness – and its effects – isn’t just restricted to those who live on their own for whatever reason or have little or no contact with neighbours or acquaintances.
It is increasingly clear that the condition also afflicts carers who find themselves increasingly isolated from the outside world as they try to look after loved ones while also contending with a social care system which is, frankly, not fit for purpose despite the work of cancer charities and others. Moving forward, it is another aspect of loneliness policy in need of care, attention – and compassion.