Our award-winning campaign highlights issue we cannot ignore

The heartbreaking scale of loneliness in the region and the health burden it creates was first revealed by The Yorkshire Post in February.

We launched the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign with two main aims, for loneliness to be universally recognised as a health priority in our communities 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 overarching strategies, a crucial document that sets out priorities for health and social care for the coming years.

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The campaign has received high-profile support, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, charities like Contact the Elderly and Silver Line founder Esther Rantzen.

On April 8, the campaign took a huge step forward with a summit held in Leeds, organised by the Campaign to End Loneliness and chaired by The Yorkshire Post.

Almost 100 people attended and it brought together experts working on the ground to share best practice.

During the last five months we’ve seen investment in tackling loneliness in Calderdale, where £1m was set aside for voluntary and community groups working on loneliness, and in North Yorkshire where a similar amount was also set aside. There too, separate funding was given to a community connect service working in the most remote areas of the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.

In May our campaign beat competition from 29 newspapers to win the Newspaper Society’s Making a Difference award, which highlighted the difference local newspapers can make in their communities, and was voted for by the public.

Perhaps most importantly, over the last six months The Yorkshire Post has also told the stories of real people suffering from loneliness, from the disabled pensioner stuck in her own home with only the TV for company, to elderly man whose life has been transformed by weekly visits from a befriending service.

Nicola Furbisher, managing editor at The Yorkshire Post said “This is an issue we cannot ignore. It is a hidden epidemic – and we all have a role to play in banishing it from our communities.

“It’s not just about organisations and stakeholders, it’s about neighbours, families, businesses, doing what they can to support lonely people across Yorkshire.

“Over the last six months we have been able to report on many positive developments being made to tackle loneliness, but there is still a long way to go, which is why we will be continuing with our campaign over the coming months.”