“Social Isolation and Loneliness can affect anyone – at all ages and stages of life. As our society changes, there is increasing recognition of social isolation and loneliness as a major public health issues that can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.” Christina McKelvie, Minister for Older People and Equalities
In December 2018 the Scottish Government launched A Connected Scotland – The Strategy for Tackling Social Isolation and Loneliness and Building Social Connections.
Priority 1 Empower communities and build shared ownership
Priority 2 Promote positive attitudes and tackle stigma
Priority 3 Create opportunities for people to connect
Priority 4 Support an infrastructure that fosters connections
First question – did you know about the strategy?
Second question – how will we tackle this and do you know the contribution you can make?
Third question – how can we reduce isolation and loneliness? How do we reach the people most in need before it becomes chronic?
The answer is together!
You all already help in many ways to tackle this issue, from the acts of kindness and friendly chats to the structured services you deliver; – these all make a difference to someone’s life.
In my own role at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland I am known for loving a project plan – what do we want to achieve, what is the timeline, who is responsible and how will we evidence our success – it’s all about accountability.
This is not an issue that can be tackled in isolation – no pun intended. We can only make a difference if we work together and share our knowledge and expertise. There needs to be strategic direction and ownership of actions.
To help deliver these priorities an Implementation Group has been set up by the Minister to drive forward progress in embedding a cross-sectoral approach through the development and implementation of a shared delivery plan and performance framework for the A Connected Scotland national strategy for social isolation and loneliness. The remit of the Group includes:
- Embedding a cross-sectoral approach through the development and implementation of a shared and prioritised delivery plan identifying key actions and milestones for the strategy
- Developing a shared performance framework to measure success
- Providing a forum to consider key issues arising from the implementation of the strategy and provide reports and updates to the Ministerial Steering Group
- Proving views to the Scottish Government on the best use of the £1 million funding to help build capacity and pilot innovative approaches to tackling social isolation and loneliness
The group has representation from COSLA, Voluntary Health Scotland and Befriending Networks. The Campaign to End Loneliness, Transport Scotland, Age Scotland. Youthlink, Spot Scotland and Generations Working Together – all of these organisations are tackling isolation and loneliness as a priority.
The group has met twice this year and considered how best to reach and take account of a range of views and voices in shaping plans for implementation including those of recently launched initiatives, like the Action Group on Loneliness & Isolation (AGIL)
AGIL brings together a group of organisations who can support the Government with their expertise and insight into local issues and solutions – being a critical friend to the wider implementation group. Maureen O’Neill is your voice on this group so be sure to share your thoughts with her.
An ask – put isolation and loneliness on your groups’ agendas, recognise what you are doing and identify what you could do more of.
By working together we can raise the profile, breakdown barriers, increase understanding and encourage more people to get involved. As individuals and organisations we commit to be the change to reduce isolation and loneliness in Scotland.
Paul J Okroj
Assistant Director of People Driven Development
Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland