North Yorkshire communities step up to tackle challenge of loneliness - here's how you can help

People across North Yorkshire have pulled together during the Covid-19 pandemic as part of a massive effort of community spirit and commitment to ensure no-one is falling through the cracks and left feeling isolated and alone.

Monday, 15th June 2020, 9:46 am
Marjorie Welsh

Dozens of befriending services have adapted from face-to-face visits to a phone call to make sure everyone feels part of the community, even if they are isolated and shielding.

This week, the country will mark Loneliness Awareness Week, June 15-19, a campaign to combat loneliness by the Marmalade Trust which works with partners including The Great Get Together and the Jo Cox Foundation

Nine million people in the UK – about a fifth of the population – claim they are often or always lonely.

Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when the population has been in lockdown, the effects of loneliness can be even more profound.

So far, North Yorkshire has risen to the challenge – with 86 per cent of those asked claiming they’d checked in on a neighbour during the pandemic.

North Yorkshire County Council has been working with and supporting 23 community organisations the length and breadth of the county since March to create a volunteering network in every locality.

Along with collection and delivery of shopping and medicines, books and magazines and materials to support hobbies, this has also included regular social contact via telephone, FaceTime, Skype or other methods that avoid physical contact with people who are self-isolating.

Marjorie Walsh, of Thornton-le-Dale, was keen to continue her involvement with the Ryedale Voluntary Carers group while staying at home in Thornton le Dale to protect herself from coronavirus.

Marjorie said: “Normally I visit a lady in Pickering who doesn’t get out a lot. We tend to go for a ride round then we choose somewhere to stop to have tea and cake on our way home.

“At the moment I phone her regularly and we have a good chat, but it is obviously not the same. She does miss the contact but understands the need for the isolation, and as I do.

“We look forward to it going back to normal whenever that may be. Another lady and I have a good old chat a couple of times a week, she’s on her own and because of underlying health issues she needs to isolate herself.

“When It all started the main concern initially for people was making sure they could get food and essentials, then once that settled down and time went on, I think a lot of people on their own started to feel quite lonely.”

Marie-Ann Jackson, head of the County Council’s Stronger Communities programme praised "the incredible resilience" of our communities.

"Earlier this year we launched a campaign called Salt of the Earth to celebrate kindness in North Yorkshire," she said.

“Many of the stories we’ve featured show how small acts of kindness can make a big difference in helping to combat loneliness and we have seen an abundance of kindness during COVID-19.

“Getting involved with your community really helps to nurture your connections with others and it doesn’t need to be onerous. It might be as simple as asking someone if they need help with their shopping, walking a dog for someone who can’t get out or offering a socially distant cup of tea.

“You could reach out to a local voluntary group or just post a note through a neighbours door to see if they need anything. When we asked 500 people, 86% said they had helped a neighbour during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Loneliness can be linked to early death and an increased risk of strokes, heart disease, depression and cognitive decline.

That’s why services like telephone befriending or small acts of kindness like safely checking in on elderly or isolated neighbours can mean the world and especially during the pandemic when many have missed their normal social contacts of friends and family because they have had to self-isolate or have been shielded.

For information about getting involved in your community including our Salt of the Earth campaign and for a link to North Yorkshire Connect, a directory of community groups and voluntary organisations offering help and support, go to www.northyorks.gov.uk/community-and-living

Those in need of help who don’t have anyone else to call on, or anyone concerned about the welfare of someone else should contact North Yorkshire County Council’s customer service centre on 01609 780780. The centre is open seven days a week 8am to 5.30pm.