Extra cash to tackle loneliness, but AMs say it’s a drop in the ocean due to council cuts

(Title Image: National Assembly of Wales)

The Welsh Government has announced a £1.4million package to support community projects which will help address increasingly loneliness and social isolation.

The issue was subject to a committee inquiry a few years ago and social isolation has been linked with physical as well as (obvious) mental health issues. It’s also not confined to older generations, with 16-24-year-olds said to feel more lonely than older generations.

Announcing the funding in the Senedd yesterday afternoon, Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan (Lab, Cardiff North), said the new strategy and funding has for key priorities: increasing social opportunities, improving community infrastructure, building community support and reducing stigma.

A new advisory group has also been set up:

“We want to strengthen our cross-Government approach and take action to ensure that we embed consideration of these issues across policymaking. To help us achieve this, we will establish a cross-Government advisory group, to also include external partners, to oversee implementation of the strategy, tackle emerging issues and consider what more can be done. We will also publish a report every two years on progress against delivering our commitments.”
– Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan

In the spirit of cross-government working, Shadow Social Care Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy) linked social isolation to immobility due to poor public transport and also asked what schools could do to address loneliness amongst students.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn), repeating what the Health Committee found, likened the health impacts of loneliness to those of smoking. He called for better planning of communities to improve social opportunities.

They weren’t the only AMs to blame cuts for increasing loneliness. Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales) said cuts to community services for young people in rural areas was a major concern, though she pointed to sports – particularly the growth of women’s sport – as a positive development.

Citing the examples of “Men’s Sheds” (and, more recently, women’s Hen’s Sheds) as successful community schemes to address loneliness, Caroline Jones AM (BXP, South Wales West) cautioned against the strategy’s focus on addressing digital exclusion as it may make problems worse amongst the elderly who would prefer in-person contact.

The Deputy Minister said digital technologies – including messaging services – could play a role by helping older people stay in contact with family members who may have moved to other parts of the world.

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