£1m project launched to tackle loneliness and social isolation

A plan to tackle loneliness and social isolation in Scotland has been launched, with £1 million funding for projects to bring people together.

The two-year strategy is funded by the Scottish Government, who want loneliness to be treated as a public-health issue.

The scheme will attempt to tackle stigma around loneliness while investing in more-accessible transport to try and connect people in isolated communities.

Another element of the plan will see “intergenerational and other co-living arrangements” tested, in an effort to meet housing needs and reduce loneliness.

Older people will also be given opportunities to learn about digital technology as a way to keep in touch and build relationships.

Minister for Older People and Equalities, Christina McKelvie cited a recent survey suggesting one in 10 Scots say they often feel lonely and said that rapid technological changes “can lead to people withdrawing and losing touch with friends and family”.

The strategy was launched at Bridgend Farmhouse, a community-owned charity in Edinburgh which provides space for learning, eating and exercising.

Ms 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 new strategy is based on recommendations made to the Scottish Government by a newly-formed group of charities, including Age Scotland, the British Red and the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, who have now welcomed the launched of this plan.

Anne Callaghan from the Campaign to End Loneliness said: “The new coalition of charities, the Action Group on Isolation and Loneliness (AGIL) welcomes the publication of the Scottish Government’s strategy to tackle loneliness and isolation.

“We are pleased that all of the key recommendations we made to help strengthen the strategy have been adopted, particularly the new cross-ministerial group to help drive the strategy and the formation of an implementation group drawn from civil society to progress it.

“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.”

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