Fresh approach tackles isolation and loneliness

 

Early intervention and multi-agency cooperation across the borough are crucial to help prevent residents feeling isolated and lonely, says a new report backed by Councillor Tony Newman, leader of Croydon Council.

The report is based on the findings of the 10th annual Croydon Congress, with a series of recommendations to tackle these problems. A new film showcasing the congress will be published alongside the report.

Despite the borough’s ongoing social and economic revival, the Opportunity and Fairness Commission, set up in 2014, recognised the pernicious issues, for a significant number of residents, of feeling alone and isolated from family, friends and the wider community.

This summer’s Croydon Congress further highlighted the extent of the problem locally. Delegates from Croydon’s community, business, health, faith, voluntary and charity sectors, the police and probation services, were reminded that isolation and loneliness can affect anyone at any time in their lives. They also heard real-life stories of how it cuts across all ages and social groups.

As a result, there are now calls for these issues to be treated as a key priority for health professionals and communities because of the impact on a person’s health and well-being, which can then adversely impact public services and the local economy with more people seeking help.

Local charity Mind in Croydon estimates the average cost-saving to statutory services is £3,971 per year for each person attending their community support and activity hub. Another study revealed that chronic loneliness among older people can cost commissioners £12,000 per person over 15 years of age (1).

The recommendations in the Croydon Congress report, which will be presented to cabinet members on 19 September, include:

  •  embedding an early-intervention approach to social isolation by ensuring that the issue is at the forefront of front line services, as well as finding solutions through employment, training, digital inclusion, health services and education;
  • developing a coordinated strategic approach, starting with further investigation undertaken by the council’s director of public health to inform a local strategy;
  • making concerted efforts to raise the profile of social isolation and its associated health risks, and reducing the stigma that prevents some people seeking help;
  • improving access to information about existing support and activities offered by the council, voluntary sector and community organisations, such as street parties, big lunches, gardening projects and multi-generational activities; and
  • working with outreach and befriending services – such as faith groups, neighbourhood associations, mentoring and community champions – to support individuals.

Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council

“This powerful congress alone highlights just how important it was that, early in our administration, we commissioned our Opportunity and Fairness Commission. It was a fantastic congress event, once again demonstrating the importance of an inclusive approach, with our residents, communities and partners working together to make local improvements.

“We were all hit by the stark reality of how social isolation and feeling lonely doesn’t discriminate and can have an impact on anyone of us at any time in our lives, regardless of background. This is a pertinent issue for Croydon.

“As council leader, it’s my role to listen and to ensure that we now take forward the recommendations from this important report so that we can change residents’ lives for the better.”

The councils’ statutory Health and Wellbeing Board is to be tasked with taking forward the congress recommendations and include this work in the future development of the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

ALI Hamida - Newspage imageCouncillor Hamida Ali, chair of the Croydon Congress, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, and vice-chair of the Opportunity and Fairness Commission

“The commission was clear in that we needed strategic leadership in Croydon to tackle the debilitating impact of social isolation and loneliness, which affects so many of our residents.

“I believe that we’ve now made an important first step toward achieving this, through the Croydon Congress. I’m really encouraged by the pledges and the commitment from delegates to support actions that reduce and prevent social isolation, and to treat this as a key priority for the council, public sector, health bodies and across our wider communities.”

The 11th Croydon Congress is planned for 23 November with a keynote speech from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The theme for discussion will be ‘Croydon 2020 Economic Summit’. Community leaders and representatives of more than 200 of the borough’s key businesses are expected to attend.

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