The end of October was an exciting week for the Campaign as we officially launched our Loneliness Harms Health campaign nationwide, with events in our two flagship campaign areas.
Keeping Connected in Cornwall was a very enjoyable event where over 100 people were entertained by the SOUP ukulele band, got involved in arts workshops and helped make a short film about loneliness and isolation in Cornwall (watch this space).
Cllr Armand Toms, Cabinet Member for Adult Care and Support, joined us for the first hour and gave a short piece to camera where he reiterated the importance of ensuring that the Cornwall Health and Wellbeing Board prioritised addressing loneliness and isolation.
We have since seen a copy of the draft Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy and now know that tackling loneliness and isolation is one of the 12 guiding principles driving it. It’s great to see that campaigning and raising awareness really can be effective.
The Essex Loneliness Harms Health Public Meeting was a more low key but with four speakers, including Cllr John Aldridge Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, we attracted over 40 people to the event in Chelmsford (displaying a strong dedication the cause, considering it was a cold, dark Halloween night!
Cllr Aldridge spoke of a personal experience of isolation, as well his awareness of those at risk of chronic loneliness, and the physical and mental deterioration that can follow. He also recognised the cost to the NHS of dealing with worsening mental and physical health caused by loneliness.
As a councillor he explained why he believed the council should assess the extent of loneliness in Essex, and to work in partnership to address the difficulties they are facing. John assured the group that loneliness will be built into the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy and Joint Strategic Needs Assessment in Essex, which will enable it to be addressed in a raft of different ways.
Andrew Gardner of Age UK Essex stressed that loneliness is a very individual experience and regards the lived experience as being crucial to help us understand the issue. Therefore, Andrew shared a range of examples, including personal experiences Age UK’s beneficiaries: this gave us an insight into the emotions of those who have faced, and in some cases overcome, loneliness.
We also heard from Jo Metson and Peter Darlington. They are two of twelve Village Agents operating in Mid-Essex. Village Agents are a signposting organisation who’s aim is to become trusted well known friendly faces at the heart of local rural communities. Their work covers all aspects of daily life such as money worries, carer support, social groups and transport.
A particular objective of the Agents is to prevent acute or crisis care by ensuring early intervention and improving quality of life. Jo and Peter gave a number of examples from their work and it was interesting to observe that in the majority of these cases, loneliness was not the primary reason for contacting the agent but was undoubtedly a major contributing factor in their need.
Over to you…
Some exciting things are happening in Essex and Cornwall. The boards here have clearly recognised the health impacts of loneliness and, through their strategies, have demonstrated clear intent to address the issue.
But if you live in Cornwall and Essex, we ask you to continue the dialogue about how best to tackle loneliness, and how to identify those most at risk. We need to make sure that the community continues engages with local authorities, and that they continue to listen.
My involvement with Loneliness Harms Health will now move onto two new flagship areas: Staffordshire and Sefton. I will be travelling up to both parts of the country in December and look forward to getting to know these areas and facing new challenges.
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