LEEDS has ranked worst in the country for social isolation within adults receiving social care - with more than two thirds of people saying they don’t have as much contact with others as they would like.
A new survey from the Health and Social Care Information Centre provides the first national measure of social isolation in those receiving adult social care - and found that in Yorkshire, 43 per cent felt they had enough contact with others.
But Leeds was highlighted by Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb as the worst in the country, with 70.3 per cent, saying that they did not have as much social contact as they would like.
But Leeds City Council has hit back, saying the report also showed that almost 90 per cent said care services helped them to have social contact - compared with 61 per cent regionally.
The city has been nationally recognised for the work of its 37 Neighbourhood Networks tackling loneliness, but campaigners say the survey’s result are “a real worry.”
Jack Neill-Hall, campaigns manager at the Campaign to End Loneliness said: “These are the most vulnerable people in our society. It is a worry that Leeds has come out so low, when we know that the local authority is putting efforts into tackling loneliness more broadly.
“This is why it is so important that loneliness factors in Health and Wellbeing Strategies so that the issue does not get sidelined or thought of as an added extra.”
Loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and contributes to heart disease and dementia.
Tracey Robbins, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s programme manager for Neighbourhood Approaches to Loneliness, said people in receipt of care were often isolated in their homes and struggle to engage with the communities around them. In Leeds, she said, insular communities, a transient population and pockets of deprivation, “all contribute towards a feeling of isolation.”
“Community groups, individuals, and neighbours need to reach out to people in their area who are in need,” she said.
Coun Adam Ogilvie, the council’s executive member for adult social care, said that while it was “concerning” to see Leeds below the average, much of the work going on to tackle social isolation was not included in the survey.
He added: “The results of this survey are further evidence of what a significant issue loneliness and social isolation have become and how much work still needs to be done.
“Tackling this problem is not something we as a council can accomplish alone and it is vital that we all work together to ensure that we do not see our most vulnerable people fall prey to loneliness.”