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The challenge of loneliness revealed in Shropshire

By Thom Kennedy | Health | Published:

Loneliness is a problem for half of the people who receive social care in Shropshire, according to official figures.

In an NHS survey of people using social care, 51 per cent said they had not had as much contact as they wanted with people they like in 2017-18 – although that figure stood higher at 54 per cent when the data was first available seven years ago.

Charities fighting against loneliness and for elderly people's rights called on the Government to increase the funding for social care workers and community services.

In Shropshire, there were 390 social care users surveyed last year, of which 198 felt lonely, according to Public Health England estimates.

In Telford and Wrekin, 201 of 375 social care users surveyed felt lonely.

Many receiving social care are elderly people, while there are also some younger adults with disabilities.

The survey questioned those over 18 receiving long-term support funded or managed by social services.

The percentage who wanted more contact in Shropshire was below the average for England, where the proportion was 54 per cent.

Laura Alcock-Ferguson, executive director of the charity Campaign to End Loneliness, said that loneliness troubles will rise in the coming years and urged coordinated action to tackle them.

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She said: "Loneliness can have a devastating impact on physical and mental health, comparable to obesity, smoking and depression.

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"We want to see the Government invest in social care to empower those on the frontline to build connections with social care users and have the time to tackle loneliness. An extra few minutes per person to have a chat could make a big difference.

"It pays off to tackle loneliness too. Our research shows that for every £1 invested in loneliness you can save £3 in health costs – which will have a positive impact on social care too."

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Nationally, more elderly people in the survey were affected by loneliness – 57 per cent of those over 75 compared with 41 per cent of the young adults between 25 and 34 years.

On average, 55 per cent of women wanted more company, compared with 52 per cent of men.

It follows a similar survey this week from Age UK which found that millions of pensioners feel they have no-one to turn to for help and support.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: "Paid carers are under huge time pressure and often don’t have time for the niceties. This is very sad for older people who use care, many of whom are living alone and find it hard to get out and meet people.

"When underfunding makes care an increasingly transactional affair, rather than relationship based, everyone loses out and loneliness among older people is sure to rise."

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