Tackling the silent epidemic of loneliness | Letters

Mike Adamson would like to see more services that prevent, reduce and delay loneliness, and Susan Daniels says it is not just a problem for older people

We welcome the focus given by Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard on the toll that loneliness is placing on our healthcare system (Loneliness as harmful as diabetes, says top GP, 12 October).

Every day our staff and volunteers see the devastating impact that social isolation is having on people’s lives, and the additional strain placed on our public services when these impacts are left untreated.

Responding to emergencies is at the heart of what the British Red Cross does and the epidemic of loneliness we are currently experiencing is no different. Our partnership with the Co-op has seen the implementation of new community services that strengthen social connections but our services, and other excellent initiatives being delivered across the country, cannot solve these issues on their own.

We are calling for all local health and social decision makers to ensure that services that prevent, reduce and delay loneliness and social isolation are available in their areas. We need to heed the GP warning on loneliness and take action now.
Mike Adamson
Chief executive, British Red Cross

• As Rachel Reeves so eloquently emphasises – we need to tackle the silent epidemic of loneliness in our society, at the same time as recognising that it is not just a problem for older people (Loneliness is harming our society. Your kindness is the best cure, theguardian.com, 13 October).

Recent research from the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness highlights how 53% of disabled people report feeling lonely, rising to nearly 80% among disabled young people. These statistics should shock us all.

Disabilities affect people in profoundly different ways. I have vivid memories of feeling left out as a deaf child; missing the punchline of jokes was the bane of my life. You never want to be the odd one out, the one who doesn’t fit in, the one who has to ask for special treatment.

While I would never describe myself as a lonely person, looking back over my life, I can see so many points where I have been excluded and isolated because of my deafness. But there are so many simple changes you can make to include deaf people – get our attention with a wave, face us when speaking, speak one at a time, don’t be afraid to use gestures, and never, ever, give up and say: “I’ll tell you later.”

For the deaf children I work with across the country, and for all those with disabilities, Rachel Reeves’s words need to be taken on board by people in all walks of life, and at all layers of society.
Susan Daniels
Chief executive, National Deaf Children’s Society

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

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