Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services
Today, I am publishing the Connected Communities Loneliness and Social Isolation consultation report. This report summarises the 234 responses we received to our discussion document published in October last year. I am delighted that the consultation generated such a large response and clearly highlighted the importance of these issues to organisations and individuals. The responses to the 23 questions posed, came from statutory and Third sector organisations, community groups, representative bodies, businesses and many individuals. Views expressed were wide ranging and included examples of successful interventions and personal experiences.
Some of the key messages from the consultation responses are:
- The importance of reducing stigma in relation to loneliness and social isolation and promoting positive attitudes towards social connections.
- Helping people to understand the trigger points and identify signs of loneliness and social isolation.
- The key role of schools in building emotional and psychological resilience in children and young people and in developing an early understanding of loneliness and social isolation, in themselves and empathy towards others.
- The need to focus on building individual and community resilience by developing and supporting local solutions and encouraging everyone to play their part, including local businesses.
- Creating opportunities for people to connect through better access to information about available services and support; sharing and scaling up good practice in services and support; promoting and enabling volunteering; promoting and enabling physical activity and sport; and supporting people to be able to participate in communities through schemes such as social prescribing and community connectors
- The importance of a community infrastructure that supports social connections such as access to community spaces, a good transport network, access to digital technology, good quality accessible housing and good neighbourhood design.
- The key role that workforces can play in recognising the signs of loneliness and social isolation and referring people to services or support, particularly the health and social care workforce, but also education, housing, transport and businesses.
- Longer term and sustainable funding for the Third sector is required.
- Ministerial responsibility for loneliness and social isolation should not rest solely within the health and social care portfolio and should be included within other portfolios such as housing, transport, local government, economy and business.
The report closes with a statement about the next steps we propose to take. It re-affirms our commitment to the approach set out in the consultation document which is one that seeks to reduce the risk of, or prevent, loneliness and social isolation, or that intervenes early, before they become entrenched. This includes encouraging people to understand the trigger points of loneliness and social isolation and to build emotional and psychological resilience to equip them to cope and respond. However, we also need to ensure that support is available for those who are, or who become lonely and socially isolated.
The work to develop the consultation document and the significant response we received, has shown clearly that much is already being done to tackle loneliness and social isolation. But it has also shown that there is much for us to consider to inform our final document. We want to ensure that we take the time to take full account of the responses, the evidence base and the feedback from our engagement events, in order to develop a comprehensive, cross-government response to what is a multi- faceted issue and one which will meet stakeholders’ expectations. We aim to publish a final strategy later this year.
The consultation summary report is available here: https://gov.wales/connected-communities-tackling-loneliness-and-social-isolation