Question 1: Do you agree with our definitions of loneliness and social isolation? If not, what would you propose instead?
Yes. No further comments.
Question 2: How can we help people to understand the trigger points for loneliness and social isolation and to build emotional and psychological resilience to enable them to take steps to avoid or reduce these feelings?
Question 3: How can the Welsh Government foster the right environment and create the right conditions to build resilient communities?
Question 4: How can children and young people be better equipped with the skills to establish and maintain meaningful social connections?
Question 5: How do we ensure that schools can better support children and young people who may be lonely and socially isolated?
N/A for BGS
Question 6: What more can the housing sector do to reduce loneliness and social isolation? How can the Welsh Government support this?
Continued investment in services which support independent living within people’s homes, and simplifies access to aids and adaptations services has the potential to significantly improve health outcomes for older people.
Question 7: What more can the Welsh Government do to support the improvement of transport services across Wales?
Recognition of the critical role of accessible affordable transport in helping to prevent loneliness and social isolation and investment in it is welcome. Difficulty in accessing transport, whether because of limited public transport or fuel poverty, is likely to impact disproportionately on older people, and can present challenges in accessing primary and acute health care.
Question 8: How can we try to ensure that people have access to digital technology and the ability to use it safely?
Question 9: What experience do you have of the impact of social services on addressing loneliness and isolation?
Access to social care services is essential to enabling older people who need social care to remain as independent as possible for a long as possible. For older people with multiple long term conditions carers can sometimes be their sole form of human contact. Our members see on a daily basis the health issues that arise when there are difficulties in accessing social care and other services that social services play a key role in providing, such as aids and adaptations.
Question 10: What more can the social care sector do to tackle loneliness and isolation?
Question 11: What more can we do to encourage people who are at risk of becoming lonely and isolated to get involved in local groups that promote physical activity?
Question 12: In what other ways can health services play their part in reducing loneliness and social isolation?
Question 13: What more can the Welsh Government do to encourage people to volunteer?
BGS supports the approach set out in the consultation: tackling loneliness before it becomes chronic is key and avoiding the detrimental effects to health and wellbeing that arise from chronic loneliness, and increasing the support available to those who are already chronically lonely.
Question 14: How can the Third sector play a stronger role in helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation? What can the Welsh Government and other public bodies do to support this?
Question 15: How can employers and businesses play their part in reducing loneliness and social isolation?
Question 16: What more can the Welsh Government do to support those who experience poverty alongside loneliness and social isolation?
It is important to recognise that people who experience poverty alongside loneliness and social isolation are at greater risk of experiencing the onset of frailty at a younger age. Ensuring a strategy for loneliness is aligned with and supports strategies across health, housing and education is essential.
Question 18: Do you agree with our proposed approach? If not, what would you otherwise suggest?
BGS supports the approach set out in the consultation: tackling loneliness before it becomes chronic is key and avoiding the detrimental effects to health and wellbeing that arise from chronic loneliness, and increasing the support available to those who are already chronically lonely. Targeting interventions at key groups and recognising the key triggers is key.
There is strong evidence which shows that use of CGA enhances an older person’s overall resilience and that when used following an emergency admission to hospital the patient’s likelihood of being able to live in their own home six months later increases by 25%.
Question 19: Are you aware of examples of successful interventions within Wales, or beyond, that you think we should be looking at?
1. Health interventions
Access to the right health interventions at the right time is key. The King’s Fund report, ‘Making our health and care systems fit for an ageing population’ provides strong evidence of what we know works well. This includes both major and minor interventions, for example, “adequate treatment for ‘minor’ needs that limit independence such as foot health, chronic pain, visual and hearing impairment, incontinence, malnutrition and oral health … have significant benefits on older people’s well-being and independence”. Without such interventions the risks of loneliness and social isolation are higher. Providing the support required to promote health and wellbeing in older people, particularly those with complex and multiple health conditions is essential to maintaining independence and the ability to continue to participate in society. Two key ways of doing this are through the provision of:
- Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA), which is an interdisciplinary process focused on diagnosing an older person’s medical, psychological and functional capability. It includes as a core element an assessment of the social support networks available to the person, and their level of participation in activities which are significant to them. There is strong evidence which shows that use of CGA enhances an older person’s overall resilience and that when used following an emergency admission to hospital the patient’s likelihood of being able to live in their own home six months later increases by 25%.
- A regular holistic medical review by GPs which includes routine frailty identification for patients who are 65 and over is a key way of building a strong evidence-base to inform service design and enable interventions to be adapted to better meet individual need.
2. Voluntary sector interventions
We are aware of a range of effective projects and initiatives that voluntary sector organisations are delivering in Wales. We would like to highlight the work of three charities that BGS members know from their own experience are working well and making an effective contribution to tackling loneliness among older people:
Alzheimer’s Society work in establish the role of Dementia Friends, and taking a lead in helping to create dementia friendly societies
British Red Cross’s work in supporting loneliness or socially isolated older people at times of need. We are pleased to see that the consultation has highlighted the Connecting Communities partnership work by British Red Cross and Co-op. We would also like to highlight the support provided by Red Cross volunteers in accompanying an older person when they are admitted to hospital, or accompanying them and helping them to settle back at home when they are discharged. These are invaluable services that make a significant different to people and their likelihood of being re-admitted to hospital
The work of Royal Voluntary Services volunteers who help older people to get out of their homes is vital. Many of the older people our members work with are unable to leave their own home without support to do so. We are also aware that RVS are currently developing a new initiative for volunteers on hospital wards to become befrienders to patients who either have no visitors, or would like a visit in the daytime if their friends and family are unable to visit them. In terms of addressing loneliness among people who have been admitted to an acute hospital ward this has the potential to make a significant difference to their emotional health and wellbeing.
Question 20: Are there other ways in which we can measure loneliness and social isolation?
It would be useful to consider the role of GPs in identifying and measuring loneliness and social isolation. Using data collected through annual health checks and frailty reviews would provide an opportunity to measure progress both locally and nationally.
Question 21: We would like to know your views on the effects that our proposed approach to tackling loneliness and social isolation would have on the Welsh language, specifically on opportunities for people to use Welsh and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than English.What effects do you think there would be? How could positive effects be increased, or negative effects be mitigated?
Loneliness interventions in Wales must meet the needs of Welsh language speakers. It is important to recognise that for people with dementia this is a clinical need rather than a preference.
Question 22: Please also explain how you believe the proposed approach could be formulated or changed so as to have positive effects or increased positive effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language, and no adverse effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language.
Question 23: We have asked a number of specific questions. If you have any related issues which we have not specifically addressed, please use this space to report them: