Voice of Leeds Summits: Working to prevent loneliness

Mick Ward speaks at YEP's first Voice of Leeds Summit of 2015 where 12 attendees deabted loneliness in the city. Picture: Tony Johnson
Mick Ward speaks at YEP's first Voice of Leeds Summit of 2015 where 12 attendees deabted loneliness in the city. Picture: Tony Johnson
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One of the main issues to come out of the YEP summit was the need for preventative work to tackle social isolation.

The summit - organised in partnership with the Leeds Community Foundation - discussed how loneliness can lurk on the horizon and people need to prepare and develop lives within the community.

Bill Rollinson, of Leeds Older People’s Forum, said: “It can happen to us all - no-one is exempt. I’ve seen it happen to friends, who suddenly realise the people they’ve had lots of contact with have died, moved or gone away for whatever reason. People need to think of that in the last part of their lives and build on their interests - try to join things and go out; make links with people.”

He said building connections between generations could be essential in tackling this and the panel discussed schools and university students partnering with older people. Leeds Community Foundation chief executive Sally-Anne Greenfield, who chaired the summit, said: “There are 90,000 students and 30,000 older people - if everyone buddied up, we’d be able to tackle social isolation overnight.”

Mick Ward, of Leeds City Council, raised the potential trigger of bereavement. He said: “The reality is all of us will die. We need to support people to plan for that. It’s about being engaged, not living your life through your partner. We need to have that conversation. Culturally we’re not good at talking about death but it’s essential.”

A snapshot of the summit outcomes discussed by panel members:

Val Hewison, of Carers Leeds: Val said working in partnership was crucial and looked to businesses to support carers in Leeds. She said: “If big businesses in Leeds can look after family carers who are working for them - not just a token [gesture], but to support people in the workplace - these people will stay and work, and families will stay together.

“But if people have to leave work because they can’t juggle the two, it will make them more lonely and isolated.”

Bill Rollinson, of Leeds Older People’s Forum: “A key message is that tackling this problem isn’t any one particular person or organisation’s problem. We all need to be aware of it. There has been a lot of awareness-raising of this issue over the past year but we do need to increase that. So all kinds of organisations working with older people, younger people, people with learning disabilities, the LGBT community etc need to be aware of what the situation is and what can be done to help with that.”

Coun Adam Ogilvie, executive member for adult social care: Coun Ogilvie said councillors were all keen to have social isolation and loneliness as a top priority. He said: “In my patch, we’re going to produce a directory of all the activities and services that are available, particularly for older people, that we can then share with GP practices in the area, for example, and say to them ‘will you start referring people to a library or singing group or social activity rather than just prescribing medication?’.”

Voice of Leeds Summit 2015: Tackling the ‘killer’ issue of loneliness? Click here for more on the YEP’s first summit