Depending on your appetite for 80s powerballad stars (Bonnie Tyler), you might think the UK has real Eurovision hopes this weekend. Or, you may have recently voted UKIP. When tackling isolation and loneliness is the issue, the UK is among the leading lights of Europe in tackling loneliness through partnership, campaigning and creating change in the corridors of power.
A growing movement
Each of these countries has a Campaign to End Loneliness, or something like it.
The same tune from different countries? The way these campaigns have been created have some similarities: overall they are all coalitions, partnerships, or some other way of working across organisations. This is fitting, as loneliness is a complex issue that requires an overarching, national, strategic approach.
They are all involving or influencing government. However, there are some differences, some are focusing more on public behaviour change, and others are working to influence policy and frontline practice directly. Here are some details about what is happening in each country (which one would you give Euronolongerlonely “points” to…?):
The Netherlands broke into song with Coalition Erbij over four years ago (meaning “connect” and pronounced “Errr, bay” – as we learned last November in Lisbon when we co-presented a workshop with colleagues from the Coalition). 14 partners run an annual week promoted to the general public to create connections, which promotes the services of the 14 partners across the country. There is a lot of media interest each year and an increasing amount of political interest.
The UK launched the Campaign to End Loneliness in 2011, with a focus on influencing commissioners and organisations who themselves work with older people. Focusing on the health links between loneliness and those in older age, we’ve been getting messages like lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day into the mainstream media. We are currently targeting health and wellbeing boards to inspire them to tackle loneliness so that front line services and activities are maintained. In the next three years, we will be starting more intensive work with front line organisations. We aim to work with more organisations, to get more people engaged and connected in their communities.
Monalisa (MObilisation NAtionale contre L’ISolement des Agés’ was launched in December 2012 as a coalition of organisations (mainly charities and public bodies) working together to combat loneliness and social isolation in older age in France. It has two main objectives: to promote action against loneliness and social isolation in older age via a national communications campaign; and to set up teams of volunteers (Monalisa teams) across the country.
Ireland is creating an Irish Campaign to End Loneliness to highlight the problem of loneliness in older age, potentially seeking to influence front line health workers such as nurses and doctors so they can identify and refer older people onto local activities and services.
Have you heard other countries singing their “nomoreloneliness” tune? There may be more campaigning work happening elsewhere in Europe or further afield, which we would like to know about. Do let everyone know in the comments box below.
What is the UK’s Campaign to End Loneliness doing to fly the flag internationally? Each of the above countries is focusing their campaigns on older age (they are all developed, and ageing societies). They are all talking to the UK’s Campaign to End Loneliness to share learning and practice. And there is a growing momentum towards working together across national boundaries to tackle loneliness. The UK’s Campaign to End Loneliness has always worked internationally in our evidence base: our research hub has representatives from the USA, the Netherlands and Ireland as well as the UK. Over the next three years, we will be seeking to work internationally across our learning for front line organisations as well seeking potential campaigning and lobbying opportunities.
Read more about our visit to a European Conference on Ageing in November 2012.