Joyce Watson AM has praised campaigns to save adult day centres in Pembrokeshire and Powys, and welcomed a new project to tackle loneliness in Carmarthenshire.
The Labour AM led a backbench Senedd debate on loneliness last week, following the publication of new research that reveals that almost a fifth of adults in the UK are ‘always or often lonely’.
The report, Trapped in a Bubble, released last month by the Co-Op and the British Red Cross, is part of a UK-wide commission on loneliness, established by the late Jo Cox MP.
In just over a year as a Member of Parliament, Jo Cox helped gather evidence on loneliness and social isolation. Academics and charities - including the Campaign to End Loneliness, Age UK, Action for Children, the Co-Op and British Red Cross, the Royal Voluntary Service and Sense - have contributed to the commission. A national campaign will launch later this month.
Speaking ahead of her debate - ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: Loneliness in Welsh Communities, and How to Tackle It’ - Joyce Watson AM said: “Almost one in five people always or often feel lonely - it affects every community, every family.
“What’s clear from the research is that loneliness doesn’t have one simple cause. Becoming a new mum, children leaving home, retirement, long-term health issues or mobility limitations, bereavement, divorce or separation - these kind of big changes can trigger loneliness. And without the right support, loneliness can take root, becoming a chronic issue that leads to poor health and pressure on public services.”
According to the report nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of people who said they were always or often lonely fall within one of six categories: young mums; people with health issues; recently bereaved; people with mobility limitations; people recently divorced or separated or retired; people living without children at home.
The Mid and West Wales AM continued: “We tend to associate loneliness with growing older. Things like affordable transport and community hubs and social events for older people are vital. That is why people continue to campaign passionately to save day centres in Pembrokeshire, Powys and elsewhere.
“But what’s clear from the research is that loneliness touches all parts of society - women and men, urban and rural, old and young. Childline has helped more than four million young people, with more coming forward in recent years to confide how sad and alone they feel.
“By better understanding loneliness, we can do more to prevent and respond to it, through schemes like the new Red Cross service in Carmarthenshire, for example.”
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of Co-Op colleagues, members and customers, from this year, for two years, the Red Cross will provide direct, personalised support to more than 12,000 people experiencing loneliness or social isolation.
With nearly a third (30 - 32 per cent) of Carmarthenshire residents living alone, the Red Cross has identified the west Wales county as one of 39 priority locations in the UK, one of four in Wales.
Community connector staff and volunteers will deliver specialist support - up to 12 weeks of intensive, person-centred care, identifying activities, interest groups and local services to help local people socialise and gain confidence.
In 2016, Powys Council proposed closing a number of centres for older people to save money. Following a public consultation, however, the cabinet last month announced that all day centres will remain open until a full review has been undertaken.
In Pembrokeshire, The Avenue, a centre for adults with learning difficulties in Tenby, was saved from closure last year following a public campaign.