The Campaign to End Loneliness has a new report, ‘Promising Approaches Revisited‘, in which it calls for urgent action by governments across the UK, health bodies, funders and service providers to better address the critical issue of loneliness.
The call comes as the results of a UK-wide survey (also revealed today), highlight the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic is having by amplifying the experience of loneliness, particularly for those who were already feeling chronically lonely.
As the ongoing restrictions reduce access to vital services*, the survey results echo what many of those contributing to the Campaign to End Loneliness’s ‘Promising Approaches Revisited’ report have witnessed first-hand, particularly for those already experiencing chronic loneliness prior to lockdown.
The research, published today (October 15) by Survation on behalf of the Campaign to End Loneliness found:
- 85% of those surveyed are concerned about older people with a long-term health condition or disability feeling lonely.
- 83% are worried about a bereaved older person being lonely.
- 79% are concerned about older people in care homes feeling lonely.
- 77% of people are concerned about people aged 65 or older being lonely.
- Well over half (59%) fear they won’t be able to see family and friends at Christmas or other religious festivals.
- 54% fear they won’t be able to see older family members for fear of putting them at risk, increasing the risk of loneliness over Christmas and other religious festivals for these people.
- Almost a third (27%) are worried about being alone during the festive period.
- Three-quarters (74%) of those surveyed by Survation agree with the Campaign’s call for increased government funding into services addressing loneliness and isolation, along with increased funding for bereavement support services.
- The actions people felt were most needed to address loneliness in their areas are free broadband and making communities more accessible for older and disabled people.
- Around a third (31%) of those surveyed had formed an extended household.
- 69% of all those surveyed did not form an extended household. They provided a range of reasons that they didn’t do so, for example 20% didn’t know who they would form an extended household with, 13% didn’t have family or close friends (or were not in contact with them) and 5% were worried people would say no if asked.
Kate Shurety, Executive Director at The Campaign to End Loneliness, said:
“We hope our new report will help the UK and devolved governments, local authorities, health bodies, funders and service providers quickly identify and support the most effective solutions to address of loneliness.
“If the issue is not adequately addressed in every UK community, we are concerned that there could be a timebomb being set that will impact more broadly on mental and physical health services. Pre-Covid-19, it is estimated that there was 1.2 million older people already experiencing chronic loneliness. With ongoing restrictions affecting people’s ability to meet up with friends and family, our poll suggests millions more are struggling with feelings of loneliness.
“There is not a one size fits all approach to reducing chronic loneliness, but our report illustrates how, when used together, effective services and interventions from health services, government and charities – including those adapted to Covid times – can help make a real difference to many people’s lives in every community.
“It is encouraging to see initiatives like DeviceDotNow and Connecting Scotland planning to digitally support 60,000 people, but more must be done to help older people better connect with their family, friends and social groups.”
Jeremy Bacon, Older People Lead at The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), said:
“This report is a timely contribution to policy debates on how we should respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. It highlights the vital importance of recognising and responding to the psychological impact of Covid-19 alongside its physical risk, and for public, private and third sector organisations to collaborate to provide community initiatives that reach those most hidden and isolated, offering autonomy and choice in responding to the psychological impact of loneliness.”
“Counsellors and psychotherapists working with older clients report concern that the narrative of the pandemic lumps older people into an homogenous at-risk group whose shielding and risk status results in isolation being equated with safety and well-being.
“Our understanding of loneliness and how we address it, must take account of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across the four nations and in every community. Restrictions on physical contact, the closure of community venues and services providing support and companionship, and the fears of those most vulnerable to the virus, inevitably increase the risks of social, emotional and existential loneliness.”