Loneliness can have a huge impact on a person’s health, which is why Ealing Council has pledged to work with the NHS and other local organisations to tackle isolation. We visited a centre in Southall making a real difference.
A new Loneliness and Isolation Charter was unveiled at a special seminar held at Ealing Town Hall in the spring. It sets out what the council and the other agencies will do to combat the problem in the borough.
A shocking statistic delivered to the seminar audience was that loneliness can have the same impact on a person’s life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
The charter sets out a number of pledges, including: Carrying out research to find out the true extent of loneliness in the borough; making sure new care co-ordinators at GP surgeries are able to identify and help people in these situations; and improving community transport so people do not become isolated because they find it hard to travel to social activities.
Councillor Hitesh Tailor, the council’s cabinet member for health and adults’ services, said: “In a city of eight million people, London can be surprisingly lonely place for many. Research shows people who are lonely are more likely to visit their GP or, for elderly people, to need residential care at an earlier point in their lives. This campaign is intended to recognise the extent and cost of loneliness and identify ways to overcome the barriers for people to use the support and social networks available. This is about all of us, across all the ages.”
Among guests at the seminar were representatives from Age UK, the NHS, the Campaign to End Loneliness, Neighbourly Care, Ealing Community Transport and social housing groups.
The council also contributes funding to a number of organisations providing social activities, support and advice for residents.
‘I cannot explain just how much it means’
Around Ealing paid a visit to one of these, Neighbourly Care, which offers activities for older people at its main centre in Southall, which is where we
went. But it also now offers some activities in 14 other locations across West Ealing, Acton, Northolt, Greenford and Perivale. Activities include keep fit, computing classes and day trips.
The charity’s Southall centre, in Featherstone Road, used to be a pub. Chief executive Andy Buddle led fundraising efforts to transform the building into what it is today. He said: “My big thing is inclusion and bringing people out of isolation. Everyone comes together from so many backgrounds and it is lovely. We treat everyone exactly the same and you see the enormous change that comes about in them. They give so much back as well as getting so much from it.”
Mohinder Palkayr Dhaliwal, 60, has been attending the Featherstone Road centre since 2002 after a spell of isolation following the deaths of her mother and two brothers within a short space of time, which led to Mohinder suffering panic attacks. The centre made so much difference to her that she began volunteering there six months later – and she has done so ever since.
“It’s like my home,” she said. “I like coming here. It’s a safe place and I can relax. They have always helped me. There are so many things going on, too: Exercise, a computer group, an art group, a sewing group, bingo, advice. I see other people here who remind me of my mother and so I do it for her memory, too. I cannot explain just how much it means.”
Simarjit started going to the centre in 2010 after suffering depression. She said: “I was just sitting at home doing nothing and it does you no good. I live alone and my doctor said I must go out and see others. I saw a leaflet for volunteers for Neighbourly Care so I came in and volunteered. I feel so much better since coming here. I come three days a week to help people, chat, and make them tea. They like me and I like them. I meet all sorts of people and it is a relaxing place to be. The staff are very kind and Andy is like a father to me. My mind has become very peaceful.”
For information on community groups, activities and support available locally visit www.careplace.org.uk