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Government announces new strategy to tackling loneliness

Livability welcomes a new strategy on loneliness – launched by the government today.

Loneliness is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, Theresa May has said as the first cross-Government strategy to tackle it is launched.

The Prime Minister has confirmed all GPs in England will be able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023.

Three quarters of GPs surveyed have said they are seeing between one and five people a day suffering with loneliness, which is linked to a range of damaging health impacts, like heart disease, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. Around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.

The practice known as ‘social prescribing’ will allow GPs to direct patients to community workers offering tailored support to help people improve their health and wellbeing, instead of defaulting to medicine.

As part of the long-term plan for the NHS, funding will be provided to connect patients to a variety of activities, such as cookery classes, walking clubs and art groups, reducing demand on the NHS and improving patients’ quality of life.

Up to a fifth of all UK adults feel lonely most or all of the time and with evidence showing loneliness can be as bad for health as obesity or smoking, the Prime Minister has also announced the first ever ‘Employer Pledge’ to tackle loneliness in the workplace.

Writing in her foreword for the Loneliness Strategy, the Prime Minister Theresa May has said:

“Loneliness is a reality for too many people in our society today… it can affect anyone of any age and background… Across our communities there are people who can go for days, weeks or even a month without seeing a friend or family member.”

“This strategy is only the beginning of delivering a long and far reaching social change in our country – but it is a vital first step in a national mission to end loneliness in our lifetimes.”

The Prime Minister has set out a series of further commitments to help all age groups build connections:

  • Adding loneliness to ministerial portfolios at the Ministry for Housing, Community and Local Government, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Transport. This is in addition to the Department for Health and Social Care and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
  • Incorporating loneliness into ongoing policy decisions with a view to a loneliness ‘policy test’ being included in departments’ plans.
  • Embedding loneliness into relationships education classes so children in primary and secondary schools can learn about loneliness and the value of social relationships. Loneliness will feature in the Department for Education’s resources for teaching from September 2020.
  • Pilot projects to support flexible and inclusive volunteering for people such as those with long-term health conditions, which will rolled out in up to five pilot areas in England.

Minister for Loneliness, Tracey Crouch has said:

“Nobody should feel alone or be left with no one to turn to. Loneliness is a serious issue that affects people of all ages and backgrounds and it is right that we tackle it head on.”

“Our Strategy sets out a powerful vision for addressing this generational challenge. By bringing together health services, businesses, local authorities, charities and community groups we will raise awareness of loneliness and help people build connections to lead happier and healthier lives.”

Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage said:

“Loneliness can be detrimental to our health and it’s unacceptable that so many people still suffer in silence from this social injustice.”

“That’s why it’s so important we are taking concerted action to tackle the problem, building on previous investment in social prescribing schemes to see healthcare professionals play a vital role in signposting people to local community services. Together we can help build connections, address isolation and support both mental and physical health.”

Helen England, CEO at Livability said:

“In our society – it’s unacceptable that people’s health should suffer due to a lack of connections and good support. Too many disabled people are facing barriers to their inclusion and participation – and are therefore risk of isolation and loneliness.”

“That’s why at Livability, we’re working hard to put good connections in place for the people that use our services. We welcome any work and provision of supporting people get connected and hope the government’s new strategy will help establish the vital need for us all to work together on this issue.”

Read the report and new strategy here.

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