FIRST, may I congratulate The Yorkshire Post for the deserved attention the campaign ‘Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic’ is getting. For too long this growing problem has been a taboo subject – afraid to be talked about, written about, let alone be campaigned about.
If you permit me, may I offer a slightly different perspective, seen from a somewhat different viewpoint which I hope you’ll consider. Loneliness in later life can be caused by a number of things, poor health, lack of mobility, few friends, husband or wife passed on, unable to join distanced family, etc. The list is long and sad.
I think I’d be right in saying that if we were able to prevent some of those conditions occurring in the first place, then we can prevent some loneliness from occurring too. One of the saddest has to be pensioners’ reluctance (for whatever reason) to join their distanced family for the few years they have left.
If that ‘reluctance’ can be removed, and the older person can reunite with their family, would you say that is a help?
Government must play their part in making (and adapting) policies that don’t contribute to this growing and terrible epidemic of loneliness. David Cameron, to his credit, has decreed that all policies must be “family friendly”.
But one Government policy in particular has been proved to split families asunder, by actively discouraging older parents from joining their loved ones – sons, daughters, and grandchildren – abroad.
This family unfriendly policy is one that is not well known in Britain, as it is never debated, and has only lately been more greatly publicised by the reluctant Department for Work and Pensions, as a result of external pressure. The policy is renewed automatically every year without debate, without vote, concealed in that particular year’s Pension Bill.
In the 2014 Pension Bill, part of the Bill can ‘freeze’ the state pension of any British citizen when they move abroad to a listed country, that part is Clause 20. It is a clause that denies any annual increases for any UK OAP who lives in a government-listed country for as long as they live. The pensioner’s income effectively shrinks every year, and so discourages any parent who has a UK state pension, from joining their family in that country for their retirement.
As far as that family is concerned, the parent is now their own.
If that’s not a cause for loneliness, I don’t know what is.