England & Wales Communities and society, Health and social care

Viewpoint: How local authorities can help combat loneliness


Image: North Yorks County Council

Cllr Shelagh Marshall is the Older People’s champion for North Yorks County Council. She chairs The Age Action Alliance,  Isolation and Loneliness Working Group. We hear from Shelagh about the important role local authorities can play in combating loneliness.

Has your council got loneliness as a priority in its Health and Well Being Strategy?  Have councillors in your area been encouraging the older population to lobby your Authority to make it a priority.  I hope there are very few councillors who are not aware of the national Campaign to End Loneliness.

Described in Graham Tomlin’s book,  ‘Looking through the Cross’  he says “One of the most painful and devastating sicknesses of our time is loneliness, and a way of life that builds community and can enable friendship is infinitely to be preferred to one that breeds isolation,…..”

The detrimental effects on one’s health is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and twice as bad an effect as obesity.  Tackling this modern day scourge and developing services to reduce the effects could save the Health and Social Care services a considerable sum of money and improve the Well Being of many older people.

Local Authorities and councillors are extremely well placed to take this campaign head on.  Public Health Strategies and Community Plans have been published by local authorities and The Preventative Strategies are being developed at this time of writing.  Councillors should lobby their portfolio holders to include ending loneliness  as a priority and request the appropriate Scrutiny Committee to set up a task group to investigate and monitor the plans of the Council to identify those in the community at risk and the availability of services to promote social inclusion.

One task which councillors could do is to produce a database of the 50s Forums in their Ward or Division and then write to the Chair of the Health and Well Being Board and ask it to encourage GPs to write menu prescriptions and social prescriptions  with the aim of tackling the effects of loneliness.

I hope that these ideas show just some of the ways local authorities can play a key role in helping support those struggling with loneliness in their community.

To find out more about The Campaign to End Loneliness, please see here.

To find out more about the Age Action Alliance, please see their website here.