Matt Hartley, leader of Greenwich Conservatives and councillor for Coldharbour & New Eltham: Tackling the issue of loneliness in our communities

Matt Hartley, Conservative

This Sunday I’ll be running the Royal Parks Half Marathon to raise funds for Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice, which is one of a number of local organisations working hard to tackle an issue that is more and more on the agenda – the problem of loneliness in our communities.

Its new Compassionate Neighbours project is helping people to take action in their local area to help reduce the number of people feeling lonely. I would commend the scheme to anyone looking to give something back.

It’s exactly this kind of project I had in mind when I proposed a new Greenwich Against Loneliness campaign earlier this year – and I’m delighted that this policy is now being developed after winning cross party support at the Town Hall.

The council’s Cabinet will be considering detailed plans for the scheme next month.

This is important because loneliness is a huge public health issue – and it’s one that we come across week in, week out as local councillors.

I started to think about the good a Greenwich Against Loneliness campaign could do after speaking to on of my residents in Mottingham in the run up to the recent local elections.

She told me that after her husband passed away she could go for days – or even weeks – without seeing or speaking to a single other person. It was a conversation not to be forgotten.

Looking into the figures, more than 2,800 older people in Greenwich are estimated to feel lonely “all or most of the time”.

Just 42 per cent of adult social care users and just 26 per cent of carers in Greenwich have as much social contact as they would like.

The figure for carers next door in Bromley is 55 per cent – still too low, but it shows we can do better.

We need to do better for people experiencing loneliness of all ages – because it can affect anyone, of any age, and in any circumstance.

There is lots of good work going on – not just the hospice but also Age UK, Goodgym, Greenwich Carers Group and others – and through the Forever Young Festival which just held its second successful year.

This work needs to be built on, better joined up and crucially, supported by mobilising residents to take action, too. Greenwich Against Loneliness will aim to do just that.

In the meantime, any and all donations for the Hospice will be gratefully received at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/matt-hartley

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