The Scottish Government has vowed to take action to tackle the growing problem of loneliness in Scottish society
Tackling loneliness in Scotland is to become a key aim of the Scottish Government following the launch of a new strategy.
Minister for Older People and Equalities Christina McKelvie said the loneliness and social isolation strategy would be backed by £1 million over the next two years to support and expand innovative projects and approaches to bring people together.
Improvements to health and social care, more accessible transport and investment in digital connectivity will all help to create a Scotland where individuals and communities are more connected, said McKelvie.
The strategy includes working with health and social care integration authorities to address social isolation. It also includes plans to pilot an innovative housing solution for older people to test intergenerational and co-living arrangements.
Raising awareness of the value of befriending and engaging with older age groups to understand how digital technology can add value to their lives, are also included in the plan.
The new strategy broadly includes all of the key recommendations made by the newly formed third sector consortium, the Action Group on Loneliness and Isolation in Scotland (AGIL).
Speaking on behalf of the AGIL group, Anne Callaghan of the Campaign to End Loneliness said: "The announcement of £1m funding spread over two years to test new and innovative approaches is a welcome step but more will be needed. The scale of the challenge is huge and it’s encouraging that the Scottish Government is looking at how other budgets can be used to tackle loneliness and isolation in Scotland.
“We are ready to work with the government to help make Scotland a more connected, less lonely, and healthier country and welcome their recognition of our group’s potential role.”
The AGIL group includes Age Scotland, Befriending Networks, British Red Cross, Campaign to End Loneliness and Contact the Elderly, amongst others.
McKelvie said: "People often feel afraid to admit they are lonely or isolated yet these feelings can affect anyone at any age, or stage, or walk of life. It is known that social isolation and loneliness can have a significant impact on a person's physical and mental wellbeing which is why we are tackling this issue with a preventative approach allowing loneliness and social isolation to be treated as a public health issue.
"This is just the beginning of work we are doing to tackle loneliness but we can't do it alone. It is the responsibility of all of us as individuals and communities, and within the public sector, local authorities and businesses to reach out with kindness and build a country where all of us feel welcome within our communities and valued as an important part of society."
The startegy was also welcomed by other voluntary organisations such as Voluntary Health Scotland and Sue Ryder.
Elinor Jayne, Sue Ryder policy and public affairs manager in Scotland, said: “The new strategy published is an important step forward in the campaign to end loneliness and social isolation, and at Sue Ryder we’ve pleased to have made a contribution. As the strategy points out, a bereavement can be a trigger for loneliness and this is something we at Sue Ryder have long recognised.
“Our most recent piece of research into bereavement support in Scotland highlighted just how many people who have suffered the death of loved one would like bereavement support in addition to that from friends and family and for people who do not have those strong social networks, the need was even greater. Not only that, the most socially isolated people were less likely to know how to access any kind of support. So today’s strategy should act as a catalyst for ensuring Scotland puts a network of support and connections around socially isolated people so they don’t struggle unnecessarily when they experience the death of a loved one."