Tackling loneliness in Reading

Today the Red Cross issued a report praising Reading’s Health and Wellbeing board’s approach to tackling loneliness and social isolation.   I’m proud that we’re prioritising this and of the work that we’re doing in Reading as a town to make our town a friendly place.

There are all sorts of reasons people might be lonely – and just as many ways in which they might be helped to come out of loneliness.

Having friends and a good social network is incredibly important for people’s health both physical and mental.  People with strong relationships aren’t just happier – they live  longer too.

It is a real shame that we can’t do even more, so while I’m pleased that we’ve been recognised for the work that is going on it’s really frustrating that the government is cutting exactly the funding that helps to support this.  This is not just short sighted from the point of view of the importance for all of us to live good lives.  It’s it’s country productive from their narrow cost cutting agenda: we know that public health and social care save the NHS money.

This is borne out by the Red Cross:  Olivia Field, the policy and advocacy manager at the Red Cross who wrote to Reading’s the Health and Wellbeing Board for our efforts in taking progressive steps to shift towards a preventative system is also concerned about the national picture.  She was quoted as saying:  “Unfortunately, we have found that such best practice is not consistently mirrored with other local areas. All too often initiatives to prevent loneliness and social isolation are overlooked. And when they do exist, are often focussed on older people. Yet, while loneliness no doubt affects older people, in reality it can affect people at any age.

“While it is clear that steps are being made at a local level to shift towards prevention, progress is for the most part slow and varied. As previous Red Cross studies have shown, there is no consistent understanding of exactly what ‘prevention’ is and how to put it into action. Local authorities also report the practical difficulties of shifting resources to preventative interventions, such as services that tackle loneliness and isolation, especially in the current economic climate. Disappointingly, more than two years since the Care Act’s prevention duty came into force, its vision for prevention is yet to be fully realised.”

Prioritising this sort of work really does make a difference to people.  What we need is a government that knows that, and takes steps to help local communities groups, councils, the health service and volunteers to work together rather than making it increasingly difficult.

If you want to read this report in full you can find it here