What measures are the Welsh Government taking to identify and support those most vulnerable to loneliness and isolation during the winter months and during the next phases of the COVID-19 response?
We are acutely aware of the impact loneliness and isolation can have on people’s mental health and wellbeing, and we are doing everything we can to provide support through these difficult times.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have taken a number of actions to try and support people to stay connected with family and friends and to access the support that they might need, including additional funding for the third sector and local government, and for mental health and emotional support services. We have also made changes to our regulations to allow people to form an “extended household” if they live alone.
In addition, we have provided funding of £400,000 to Age Cymru for a national telephone befriending service for older people and funding of £800,000 for digital devices for care homes and hospices, enabling residents to keep in touch with family and friends.
To help us better understand the impact of the pandemic on loneliness and isolation, and those most at risk, we established an advisory group made up of key organisations from the statutory and third sectors and grass-roots organisations. Key issues raised by the group include: digital exclusion; overcoming barriers to re-engaging; types of ongoing support required; sustaining community based support and ensuring information is accessible to all.
We will continue to work with stakeholders to target the most at-risk groups and to target activities that will have the greatest impact on those most at risk. As restrictions are eased there may be changes to feelings in loneliness and these may vary between specific groups. We will continue the collection of data to enable changes in loneliness to be tracked over time as different measures are eased and to inform our response.