Loneliness, according to official sources, is a problem for half the people in Wirral.

In a NHS survey among socially cared people, 48% said they did not have as much contact with them in 2017/18 as they wanted, but seven years ago it was still 53%. This is the earliest period of available data.

Charities struggling against loneliness and the rights of older people have called on the government to increase funding for social workers and community services.

In Wirral, 365 social care users were interviewed last year, 177 of whom felt lonely, according to Public Health England.

Many who are socially cared for are the elderly, while there are also younger adults with disabilities.

The poll surveyed those over 18 years of age receiving long-term support funded or managed by social services.

The percentage that wanted more contact in Wirral was below the UK average, where it was 54%.

Across the country, more elderly people in the survey were affected by loneliness – 57% of over 75 year olds compared to 41% of young adults between 25 and 34 years old.

On average, 55% of women wanted more companies, compared with 52% of men.

Laura Alcock-Ferguson, executive director of the charity Campaign to End Loneliness, said the loneliness problems will increase in the coming years, and urged for coordinated action to combat them.

She said: "Loneliness can have devastating effects on physical and mental health, comparable to obesity, smoking and depression.

"We want the government to invest in social care to empower people at the front line to connect with social care users and have time to get to grips with loneliness, a few minutes per person for one Conversation could make a big difference.

"It pays off to work against loneliness as well, and our research shows that for every pound of solitude, you can save £ 1 in healthcare costs, which also has a positive impact on social care."

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK Charity Leader, said, "Paid caregivers are under tremendous time pressure and often have no time for subtleties, which is very sad for older people in need of care, many of whom live alone and find it hard to get out and people to meet.

"In addition, many older people who are in care say there is no continuity in the paid carers who help them, and this also reduces the chance of establishing a proper relationship, which is a rather psychological destruction of job satisfaction for paid carers and make it less likely that they want to stay.

"If underfunding makes care an increasingly transactional affair and not based on relationships, everyone loses and the loneliness of older people will certainly increase."

The government has identified loneliness as one of Britain's greatest challenges.

Doctors in England will refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and volunteering by 2023.

Three-quarters of the GPs surveyed by the government said that one to five people suffer from loneliness every day, which is associated with a number of harmful health effects, including heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer's disease.

Official estimates suggest that around 200,000 older people have not been talking to friends or relatives for over a month.

Last year, the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission (named in memory of the assassinated Labor MP) said that 9 million people in the UK are suffering from loneliness. Loneliness is as bad for an average person's health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.


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