In the past few months there has been a crescendo of noise about loneliness. First came Jeremy Hunt’s speech to the National Children and Adult Services conference. Then Age UK published a survey which found that 450,000 older people faced Christmas alone this year. And finally last week we launched new research showing that three quarters of GPs believed up to 1 in 10 of the patients they saw in a day were really attending surgery because they were lonely. All of these have brought welcome focus to the importance of tackling loneliness and isolation.
Today there has been even more attention to the issue, with the long awaited launch of Esther Rantzen’s new project – The Silver Line – a free phone helpline available 24 hours a day, which has been established as a response to the issue of loneliness and isolation in later life.
The helpline aims to offer general support and advice, but will place a particular emphasis on being sensitive to those older people who call to reach out for human company. It will be linked to a scheme called The Silver Line Friends – to which a host of volunteers will be recruited to offer telephone befriending.
We, at the Campaign to End Loneliness, have been in touch with Esther Rantzen and The Silver Line team as they have developed their proposal from its earliest concept stages. We have been struck by their commitment to work alongside the existing sector and build links wherever possible.
The offer of a friendly voice at the end of a phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, must be a welcome addition to the network of local services available to lonely individuals.
Of course, none of us yet know the precise impact the advent of The Silver Line will have on demand for those existing services and support systems. We, at the Campaign, would be fascinated to hear your thoughts and reflections on this issue as time goes on.
In the meantime we celebrate the renewed focus and drive that now surrounds this vital issue and are grateful for your on-going support as we seek to convert this interest into action at a national, regional and local level.