Loneliness: Care Homes

This briefing examines recent Government policy to tackle loneliness in care homes in the UK.

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In its Strategy to Combat Loneliness, the Government defines loneliness as: “a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship. It happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want”. The Campaign to End Loneliness and the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness have also adopted the same definition.

According to Age UK, the percentage of older people experiencing loneliness has remained “relatively constant” since at least 2006/07. Despite this, Age UK argues that the size of the older population is growing and based on current projections, the number of people aged 50 and over and living in England who will “often feel lonely” will reach 2 million people by 2025/26, unless loneliness is tackled.

In December 2017, the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness published a report into loneliness. The commission made several recommendations, such as calling on the Government to lead a UK-wide strategy for loneliness across all ages. In January 2018, the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced the Government was accepting a series of recommendations, including undertaking work on a loneliness strategy for England. In addition, the Government committed separate funding to tackle loneliness.

In October 2018, the Government published its loneliness strategy. This detailed several measures aimed at tackling loneliness, including introducing a measure for loneliness to assess the success of government policy in reducing its prevalence. In January 2020, the Government published a progress report. It stated that it had committed to using the measurement and that it would be included in surveys such as the Health Survey for England. The strategy does not set out specific government actions for tackling loneliness in care homes.

Despite recent measures to tackle loneliness, the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in the UK has led the Government to advise citizens to take steps to socially isolate themselves. On 16 March 2020, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that people should avoid “non-essential contact” with others, particularly those aged 70 or over and for people with underlying health conditions.

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