Summer 2019

HAFLS Share

Stamping on the Stigma During Loneliness Awareness Week

LAW

Loneliness and social isolation are on the rise with nine million lonely people in the UK, and almost half (49%) of UK adults saying that their busy lives stop them from connecting with other people. (The Campaign to End Loneliness: ‘bemoreus.org.uk’)

June saw HAFLS joining in the conversation about loneliness during Loneliness Awareness Week (17 June to 21 June) and helping reduce the stigma around feeling lonely. With posts on social media, HAFLS urged people to talk about why loneliness exists and what is being done in Hertfordshire to tackle it. Everyone can experience loneliness at some point in life and HAFLS wants to remove the stigma around the 'loneliness' label.

Statistics show:

  • Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
  • Loneliness is worse for you than obesity. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
  • Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression. (Valtorta et al, 2016) (James et al, 2011) (Cacioppo et al, 2006)
  • Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 29% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015)

There are many initiatives that are being run in Hertfordshire to help reduce loneliness, including Hertfordshire Libraries Chatter Table events and social prescribing’s Community Navigators. East Herts District Council has also just launched a Chatter Table at Hertford’s Café Nero and Watford & Three Rivers Trust is unveiling the Neighbours Together project on 18 June to foster a spirit of neighbourliness in the local area.

The Hertfordshire Health and Wellbeing Board has also identified tackling loneliness as a priority for Hertfordshire. This follows publication of the Government’s strategy; ‘A connected society: a strategy for tackling loneliness - laying the foundations for change’, published in October 2018.

A steering group chaired by Chantal Lommel, Head of Hertfordshire Adult Family Learning Service ( HAFLS) is now developing a Hertfordshire-wide action plan to tackle loneliness for sign off by the Health and Wellbeing Board later this year.

The steering group has members from key organisations including Hertfordshire County Council, the NHS and voluntary organisations, along with Dr Marie-Anne Essam from Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group, a champion of social prescribing. While the steering group understands that the issue of loneliness will not be solved, it hopes to go some way to help avoid it becoming corrosive and damaging to peoples' lives.

The steering group held a Tackling Loneliness Conversation Café event in May to get everyone talking about how best to combat loneliness and social isolation in Hertfordshire. Voluntary groups, public sector organisations and local stakeholder groups were invited along to the event so that we could gather their views about loneliness in Hertfordshire. Delegates talked about ways to improve links between the good initiatives already taking place in Hertfordshire to help tackle loneliness.

More than 85 people took part in workshops at the event which was organised with The Campaign to End Loneliness at Stevenage Football Club.

Andy Nazer from the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: "It starts with a conversation and here we [had] a community conversation taking place with a large group of people, but actually it can come right down to one to one and the people that we come into contact with in our daily lives. We each have the opportunity to actually step forward and have a conversation with people, but quite often we step back. But, sometimes those conversations can make a big difference to someone's life and so I implore people to step forward [and have that conversation]."

Iain MacBeath, Direct of Adult Care Services added: “I think that the way we are going to tackle that is really a bottom up groundswell of social movement, be better neighbours ourselves, get involved in local groups and reach out to people who don’t want to be on their own and get them involved.”

For more information, email: connectinglives@hertfordshire.gov.uk or visit the website for the Campaign to End Loneliness.

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