We’re beginning to make headway with our Loneliness Harms Health campaigns. We were delighted to learn last month the Cornwall Health and Wellbeing Board was overwhelmed by the number of letters and consultation responses received highlighting the issue of loneliness and have assured us that loneliness and isolation in older age will now definitely be included in their Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

Clear evidence (if we needed it) of the value of co-ordinated and concerted campaigning!  We have yet to see how it will be included, and the prominence it will receive, but we are very hopeful nonetheless this will lead to tangible action and change in the county.

We do know, however, that the board will pay attention to our recently launched loneliness toolkit for health and wellbeing boards. This is a great endorsement of our campaign strategy, which combines grassroots community action whilst proffering research and policy solutions.

Future work in Cornwall

Next steps in Cornwall are to release a county-wide survey in September which will help us, and the Cornish Health and Wellbeing Board, get a better idea of the levels of loneliness and isolation in older age in Cornwall.

This survey will hopefully spur the board into undertaking more rigorous and scientifically valid research when they next update their Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.

We are also working with Arts for Health Cornwall to deliver an exciting event at the end of October.  This will take the form of a sociable ‘fresher’s fair’ for older people with information on local services and activities, music and refreshments.

An artist in residence will hold workshops for older people which should be an enjoyable and creative session but will also help us gain personal testimonies on loneliness which, again, should be useful for the health and wellbeing board’s research.

Future work in Essex

We also now have a large network of supporters in Essex and 30 people attended our first campaign meeting in Chelmsford.  Attendees ranged from older people themselves to voluntary organisations and council officers.

The Essex Health and Wellbeing Board is currently consulting on its health and wellbeing strategy so, echoing our Cornwall campaign strategy, everyone will respond and try to raise awareness of the negative impact of loneliness on our health.

I have been travelling relentlessly throughout the county – from Tendring to Braintree, Colchester to Chelmsford –  and have met with several older people’s forums who are keen to get involved and support the campaign.  We have, moreover, strong support from a number of councillors and council officers and are quietly confident that our issue is rising up the Council’s agenda.

I’m particularly excited to be working with Whynot! who are a group of older social researchers trained by Anglia Ruskin University who will be helping us gather evidence to present to the Essex Board.

Future work nationwide

Finally, we are busily making preparations for the nationwide launch of our Loneliness Harms Health campaign, which until now has only been operating in Cornwall and Essex.

The aim of spreading these campaigns across England is to inspire activists to act against loneliness by lobbying their local health and wellbeing board.  We’ll have a webpage dedicated to the campaigns and will publish lots of resources to help people take on the campaign in their local area.

This will include a guide to campaigning, alongside template press releases and presentations, as well as top tips on getting health and care decision makers to listen to what you have to say.  The campaign will be launched in October so watch this space!

Marianne Symons is the Campaigns Officer for the Campaign to End Loneliness. For more information about getting involved with our campaigns in Essex or Cornwall, you can contact us on info@campaigntoendloneliness.org.uk or 020 7012 1409.