Today, the first pilot for The Silver Line launches in Manchester, and I am there to see this telephone helpline for older people born with the catchphrase “no question too big, no problem too small, no need to be alone”. Esther Rantzen, founder of The Silver Line charity says “we don’t want to replicate the rich variety of projects and organisations that already exist in the community. But we know that they don’t always reach the people who need them or would enjoy their activities so our job will be to sign-post and link our Silver Line callers to the appropriate organisations”.

The Silver Line offers a clear answer to the question “how can those who are lonely be helped, right now?” This is an exciting addition to the movement to tackle loneliness and isolation in older age. It is also one that supports the proliferation of activities, projects and organisations that are all crucial in offering solace, a way out and solutions to those who are lonely.

The Silver Line will complement the work we do at the Campaign to End Loneliness in two very important ways:

1) The Campaign team sometimes receives phone calls for advice from people asking us what activities are on in their local area. Because we are a policy-based campaigning organisation, with only three members of staff, we do our best to help, but this is not  the central focus of our work. So I am particularly looking forward to The Silver Line launching nationwide because it will mean that there is one number for older people to call; a single place where people can go for advice and support.  It will mean that we at the Campaign to End Loneliness can focus on what we’re good at influencing and changing policy; whilst older people across the country will have their questions answered by those who are professionally trained to do so.  In the meantime, we will continue to direct queries to our five main partner organisations, all of whom work directly with older people.

2) The Campaign believes changes are needed at three levels to tackle loneliness; but we alone, as a team of three, as a partnership of five organisations, and even with a supporter base of over 250, cannot do this alone. We need new initiatives that change with the times. We need older people themselves to join the movement.

In addition to the launch of The Silver Line pilot, in the last few weeks a number of milestones for the movement have been reached. How important these milestones turn out to be in the longer journey will start to be seen, possibly as soon as summer 2013, when The Silver Line also launches nationally. By summer 2013:

  • All health and wellbeing boards (HWBs) will have taken on their statutory responsibilities and loneliness ideally will be measured and strategically prioritised by many of them.  Commissioning managers will be leading, not through commissioning alone, but through partnerships, understanding the community and better knowledge via the data they have gathered through the Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework or their own Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.                                                                                                     

Milestone 1: 15 HWBs leading the way on addressing loneliness met together last Friday morning – 23 November – to share best practice and innovative ideas during the Campaign’s second webinar for health and wellbeing boards on tackling loneliness.

Milestone 2: on 22 November, the Secretary of State for Health made public his department’s intention to measure isolation and loneliness, not just for those receiving care, but for the whole population by 2015.

  • How to tackle loneliness in neighbourhoods will be understood from a community viewpoint – the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s neighbourhood approaches to loneliness project will be reaching its conclusions by summer 2013 and should able to reveal the answers that research generally hasn’t investigated: what people actually want in order to help them with their loneliness.

Milestone 3: JRF shared its first-year data at their 5 November 2012 event, with living alone and being older coming out as some of the main reasons people feel lonely.

  • Those who want to chat, find a local group or just not be alone, no matter where they are in the country, will be able to call The Silver Line, after it launches nationally next summer.                                                                                                                   

Milestone 4: The Silver Line pilot launches in Manchester, 26 November 2012.

We need to address loneliness at at least three different levels: policy, neighbourhood, and at a personal level and The Silver Line offers a way of offering help to people at risk of loneliness as well as joining up organisations.

More information about The Silver Line can be found on their website