Kent County Council (KCC) is supporting Loneliness Awareness Week (15 – 19 June), a national awareness raising campaign hosted by The Marmalade Trust and is calling on residents to help ease loneliness and isolation in Kent communities.
Problems relating to social isolation and loneliness have never been more relevant than during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The need to self-isolate has resulted in otherwise socially connected people experiencing loneliness and isolation for the first time, and it has created increased awareness of those for whom social isolation may be an enduring aspect of their lives.
It has been estimated that 30,000 people in Kent aged 65+ suffer from acute loneliness and the condition can increase the risk of premature death by 30%.
According to Age UK, half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all.
Loneliness is a deeply personal experience – unique to every individual; a problem with different causes and different consequences for everyone.
It’s a common misconception that loneliness is limited to older people. In fact, it’s now the 16-24-year olds who are the loneliest age group in the UK.
Providing support for others can also be a lonely experience with 8 out of 10 carers saying they have felt lonely or isolated as a result of looking after a loved one.
Communities that are aware and connected will make it easier for people to build and maintain relationships with others through use of technology, transport services, volunteering and developing community assets such as clubs and meeting places; increasing the number and quality of social interactions that people have.
For example, the use of technology has enabled people affected by dementia to share what their fears and priorities are whilst in isolation and to hear from others what support is available in communities to help.
Engaging virtually has meant that people who previously struggled to attend face to face meetings due to time constraints are able to get involved, benefit from the help available and connect to their community.
The Council launched the Kent Together helpline as a joint response to the pandemic by KCC, district councils and voluntary and community sector organisations across the county.
#KentTogether has referred 5,921 requests for support and assistance to the Community Hubs from 4,216 contacts made via the dedicated telephone line and website.
These requests included food and supplies, prescriptions, preparing meals for freezer, recipes, putting out bins, phoning, skyping or facetiming to see a friendly face, walking dogs and taking in parcels.
This has been a highly successful collaboration with District and Borough Councils, Medway Council, the Voluntary and Community Sector and Parish Councils through the 13 Community Hubs delivering essential support to residents on the ground.
KCC Community Wardens have been at the forefront of these efforts, focused on identifying and supporting older vulnerable residents via phone contact or socially distanced, front door visits, and working closely with volunteer led, community-based initiatives to ensure that vulnerable people get the support that they need in relation to food, prescriptions, financial support, medical and health issues.
Clair Bell, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “Loneliness is a highly personal experience that can have a significant impact on someone’s physical and mental health. The current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted loneliness as an experience that anyone can have and raised awareness of this issue across the country.
“Many people who would not have considered themselves lonely have felt so as a result of implementing social distancing measures, becoming disconnected from friends, family and their communities.
“There has been a groundswell of volunteers offering to support isolated and lonely people in their neighbourhoods and communities during this time. Sadly, even as lockdown rules ease and we return to a new ‘normal’ many people in our communities will continue to be lonely and isolated.
“This is why in Kent we are proud to support national Loneliness Awareness Week and continue to raise awareness of this issue.”
For information on The Marmalade Trust and Loneliness Awareness Week visit: https://marmaladetrust.org/law/