The sister of MP Jo Cox is backing an anti-loneliness campaign to help 30,000 people avoid health and wellbeing problems that can come from feeling and living alone.
The campaign, backed by the Foundation set up following the murder of the former MP for Batley and Spen in 2016, is one of a range of schemes being introduced as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to support personalised care through the potential of people, families and communities.
It will ask people to look out for the newly bereaved and others whose loneliness may trigger health problems.
West Yorkshire and Harrogate’s ‘Looking out for our Neighbours’ campaign will see 300 local groups take part to give out 30,000 packs with a focus on simple acts of kindness including advice on how to interact with lonely neighbours such as meeting for a cuppa, offering a lift or even just saying ‘hello’.
A Health Foundation report recently highlighted how living alone can make older people 50% more likely to find themselves in A&E than those living with family. Pensioners living alone are also 25% more likely to develop a mental health condition. Age UK’s recent report “All the lonely people: Loneliness amongst older people” shows that the number of lonely older people is rising quickly.
James Sanderson, director of personalised care at NHS England, said: “Loneliness affects too many people and leads to poor health and often dying too soon. Every health and care system must focus on reducing this problem and the ‘Looking out for our Neighbours’ campaign gives people practical ways to do so. Whether it’s checking on an elderly neighbour or being friendly to a single parent, we all have a responsibility to help the most vulnerable in society connect into their communities.”
Jo’s sister Kim Leadbeater, Ambassador for The Jo Cox Foundation, said: “I feel passionately about creating well-connected communities where everyone is happy and healthy and has a sense of identity and belonging, and it is heart-warming to see the work that Jo started on this important issue being continued in such a positive way in the county where we grew up. Much of my focus since Jo was killed has been on how we can build compassionate communities and bring people together.
“The national Great Get Together campaign which we run across the weekend of Jo’s birthday in June is the centre piece of this, and it would be wonderful to think that some of the connections which will be made through the ‘Looking out for our Neighbours’ initiative can be continued and we see lots of Great Get Togethers happening in June as a result! I believe if we all work together to prevent loneliness and its associated health risks, we can reduce the demand on health and care services and have a positive impact on the wellbeing of everyone, which is why I am delighted to support this campaign.”
The campaign comes on top of the existing West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership allocation of £1m to support voluntary and community organisations to help tackle loneliness and to further support the role of community partners in the region.
Organisations who have pledged their support range from dementia cafes to children’s hospices, hospitals, councils, sports clubs, arts and wellbeing groups to domestic abuse support.
Dr Hilda Hayo, CEO and Chief Admiral Nurse at Dementia UK, said: “All too often families living with dementia shut themselves off from social gatherings and activities, becoming increasingly isolated which can have a very negative impact on their health and well-being. We are supporting this campaign because it is so important to look out for each other, to offer a helping hand, especially to the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
The campaign was co-created with over 100 residents, piloted in three different communities including high rise flats, a village and a rural community, and will mainly target people aged 50-65, families with children, carers plus the area’s 113,000 NHS staff.
West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership is one of the country’s 14 most advanced integrated care systems where the NHS, councils and the voluntary sector join up to tackle local health and care issues.
Rob Webster, CEO Lead for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, said: “People of all ages can feel alone for a variety of reasons, and this important campaign is a reminder that it’s often the smallest acts of kindness that make the biggest difference to a person’s life. As neighbours, we could all look out for each other a bit more and local organisations can also help bring people together in shared endeavours.”
The campaign, supporting not just the elderly but anyone who may be living in isolation – for example anyone becoming less mobile, looking unwell, those without many visitors and homes with the curtains drawn or piled up post – launches on March 15 across West Yorkshire and Harrogate and any organisation in the region can sign up, get a helpful neighbour pack, download campaign resources and report their acts of kindness.
Karl Jordan is participant turned facilitator for Andy’s Man Club in Wakefield.
Karl started attending Andy’s Man Club in July 2018, after he saw a poster displayed at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (Fieldhead Hospital) where he was receiving treatment and support for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It took Karl four attempts to actually walk into the Club – something which he shares is common with most new attendees – and has since praised the Club for “saving his life”.
Andy’s Man Club is a sanctuary for men to talk openly about anything that they may be struggling with. Since the Club started in 2017 its growth has been exceptional throughout the UK, and it currently helps on average 376 men per week.
Karl shares his support for the Club and how it helps men to offload about the weight of modern-day life from those who may be struggling with depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, anxiety, suicide and even loneliness.
At Andy’s Man Club they understand that loneliness can be a precursor to other health and wellbeing issues; predominately mental health challenges. Karl shares how even the simplest of actions can prevent or help to reduce the risk of suicide, self-harm or mental health deterioration. For example, asking for your neighbour’s mobile number and texting them to check up on them can make a big difference.
That’s why Andy’s Man Club is proud to support the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnerships’ “Looking out for our neighbours campaign”.
Andy’s Man Club is run exclusively by unpaid volunteers each day from central Halifax in West Yorkshire and is available to men aged 18 and over in the UK. For more information on Andy’s Man Club, including location of Clubs, please visit: andysmanclub.co.uk