A Connected Society

08 November 2018

Government announces new strategy on loneliness

Launching the first ever cross-Government strategy on loneliness, Prime Minister Theresa May described the condition as "one of the greatest public health challenges of our time".

The new strategy will see social prescribing used to allow GPs to direct patients to community workers offering 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, including cookery classes, walking clubs and art groups, supporting people to make connections.

Three quarters of GPs surveyed said they are seeing between one and five people a day affected by 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 Prime Minister also confirmed £1.8m to increase the number of community spaces available. The funding will be used to transform underutilised areas, such as creating new community cafes, art spaces or gardens.

This new funding builds on a £20m partnership which was announced earlier this year. The Building Connections Fund sees fellow funders, including People’s Health Trust, come together to support local community groups and charities to strengthen connections.

A big part of the strategy will see the Government work in partnership with businesses, the health sector, local government, the voluntary sector and wider civil society, recognising that Government can act as an important catalyst but that we must all take action to reduce loneliness effectively.

Theresa May described the strategy as the beginning of a long and far-reaching social change in England, saying “it is a vital first step in a national mission to end loneliness in our lifetimes.”

As one part of the strategy, the Prime Minister wants postal workers to check on lonely people during their delivery rounds.

They will be encouraged to chat to isolated residents and even suggest to them that they join local community groups. The scheme, which will be tried out first in Liverpool and Whitby, could then be rolled out nationwide.

The strategy is partly based on its consultation, in which charities including People’s Health Trust and other organisations shared their experiences.

Other commitments from the strategy include embedding loneliness into education with relationship classes for children in primary and secondary schools to learn about the value of social relationships. Up to five areas will pilot projects to support flexible and inclusive volunteering for people such as those with long-term health conditions.

The Prime Minister also announced that loneliness will be added 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.

People’s Health Trust, The Health Lottery, Leeds Beckett University, NEF, Scope, Royal Voluntary Service, Scope, TCV and Youth Sport Trust are all thanked for their contributions in helping shape the strategy.

 

To read the full strategy, click here.

To read more news from the Trust, click here.

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