This report summarises the work that has been done by the council and partners to date to address social isolation and loneliness in the borough and invites the Board and wider stakeholders to consider how best to take this work forward.
Councillor Ben Coleman welcomed members of the public seated in the audience, most of whom represented a range of local community groups. Introducing the report, Councillor Coleman explained that its purpose was to to facilitate a discussion and collaborative approach in developing a strategy; addressing social isolation and loneliness within the Borough.
Gaynor Driscoll briefly highlighted several key elements which included the need to define social isolation and loneliness (SIL). It was explained that SIL could affect young and old, new mothers, the recently bereaved and early retirees, and was also influenced by any combination of personal factors. What was required was the proactive involvement of the local community in helping to alleviate SIL.
Referring to anticipated Census data for 2021, social disadvantage and poverty indices in the North of the Borough expected to be high. This, together with a more transient population, was associated with the disruption of social ties or community networks, and hence a greater risk of a loss of informal social control. Developing strong bonds and community cohesion was a primary element in addressing SIL. With a high percentage of residents aged +50 living alone in the Borough, it was important to understand the need for a multi-generational approach. To illustrate, simple, low cost solutions included adapting the urban streetscape to ensure that there was adequate seating, where needed.
Bryan Naylor, from Age UK, seated in the audience, observed that SIL was a both a local and national problem with no easy or quick solution. He was keen to see strategic outcomes.
Dr Kellie Payne, Research and Policy Manager, Campaign to End Loneliness briefly provided details about the work of the organisation. Highlighting the work of Jo Cox, MP to develop a National Commission on Loneliness, the difficulties faced by young mothers and the, combined risk factors affecting older people, there was agreement that SIL required a national and community based solution.
A member of the public observed that it would be helpful to have a breakdown of the data by ethnic groups, whose experience of SIL would be markedly different. Councillor Bevan Powell, RBKC, and a trustee of Nubian Life, expressed concern regarding the impact of SIL on older, black and minority ethnic groups (BAME), and, health inequalities experienced by them. It was agreed that a BAME data breakdown would be helpful to understand both need and identify barriers.
Christine Smyth, from Home-Start, explained Home-Start was a small pilot project supporting socially isolated pregnant and new mothers living in the Borough. Ms Smyth commented that working closely with the NWL Mental Health Trust, would help prevent the escalation of mental health issues. They had identified a huge need amongst in BAME groups experiencing social isolation, with little or no family support networks. LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Questioning/Queer) communities, socially stigmatised or rejected by their families, lacked support, and experienced SIL.
Fawad Bhatti provided brief background details, setting out the remit of the Commission. A key aim had been to bring together different Council services, and to work with the voluntary and community sector, local businesses, and the CCG. The Business Intelligent Unit (LBHF) had provided evidence based data, which had allowed the Commission to compile a framework of reference. The Campaign to End Loneliness had facilitated workshops, utilising the framework and an officer group was set up to formulate a draft strategy, together with a draft work programme.
It was recognised that the impact of social isolation resulted in the loss of a person’s contribution to the wider community, the loss of both skills, experience and knowledge. Bryan Naylor commented that elderly men found it particularly difficult to engage with ‘professionals’, and anecdotally, find simple solutions such as lunching alone in a pub. The work of groups such as Community Champions provided invaluable support but there was a need to build stronger links with the CCG. Vanessa Andreae acknowledged the evidence linking SIL with mental health issues but observed that many of those attending surgeries sought an opportunity to engage in conversation. Ian Lowry commented that social prescribing enabled GPs and clinicians to make direct referrals and avoid a medical intervention. There was also a need for accountability, as the funds potentially available from GPs for such referrals came from the public purse. It was difficult to evidence cost and link this to positive health outcomes.
Following a question from Councillor Vaughan, Dr Payne explained that they had been working with the LSE to evidence the cost of care, which could be £12K per person, over a period of five years. It was accepted that collecting data was problematic, particularly given the difficulties of evaluating projects; and that it was hard to attribute the impact of SIL without conducting longitudinal studies. Finding a longer term, joined up approach was a funding and a systems issue and the impact of austerity, together with increasingly siloed working, overlooked the potential benefits across all services and the return in social investment which was much broader in terms of outcomes. To illustrate, Steve Miley explained that they were joining up services to ease transitions, establishing a new team, Preparing for Adulthood.
Dr David Wingfield, GP Networks Federation observed that a lack of power and short-term planning further hampered development. There were strategies in place but it was difficult to evidence outcomes. Councillor Coleman suggested a joint project between the Council and the CCG was required to look at the potential business case for a SIL campaign. Councillor Holder observed that in terms of improving SIL outcomes, it was essential that BAME and LGBTQ groups were identified within the Borough.
Resourcing was not limited to financial cost. The impact of restoring a person’s sense of self-worth was invaluable; and smaller, group working better to alleviate SIL. Some age groups found that there was limited support available to them.
Vanessa Andreae felt this had been a useful discussion and confirmed CCG support for the HWB's work on SIL. In terms of next steps, a task force to asset map and identify facilities like Bishop Creighton House was suggested to identify different the different voluntary resources available. In response to whether there were other local authorities that had achieved positive outcomes, in addressing SIL, it was acknowledged that this was yet to be evidenced; and it was acknowledged that a further challenge existed around commissioning ASC contracts.
In the closing discussion, the following points were summarised:
There were several events and facilities that were available to residents, but it was acknowledged that it was not always possible to make use of them at a time that was convenient to the individual. Councillor Coleman asked that officers explore the opening times of the Janet Adegoke Swimming Pool, to investigate if opening times could be more amenable. The North End Road Christmas market would be taking place shortly, together with another on King Street in December; and a community event hosted by White City Enterprise on 23 December. In addition, a tea dance for older people was held three times a year, hosted at Hammersmith Town Hall and finally, the Council will be hosting a free Christmas meal on Christmas Day, for elderly and vulnerable people.
1. That further discussions take place to agree a joint approach (aims, strategy, work programme and measurement) to reducing isolation and loneliness in Hammersmith and Fulham;
2. That the progressed made to date by HWB members (Appendices 1 and be noted;
3. That the Board note how the current range of social isolation and loneliness projects could be better coordinated and connected (Appendix and what other services may be needed; and
4. That the Board note, alongside services, the role that individual staff members across a wide range of activity can play (including but not just front-line staff) in reducing loneliness and isolation.