Council hits back over poor rating

Stuart Cowley, Wigan Council director of Adult Social Care and Health
Stuart Cowley, Wigan Council director of Adult Social Care and Health

WIGAN Council chiefs are insisting the borough is taking the tackling of loneliness and isolation seriously after being given a poor official rating.

The borough’s health and wellbeing board was awarded the bottom ranking of unplaced in research carried out by charity the Campaign to End Loneliness.

However, the council says the ranking is because loneliness is not specifically mentioned in the board’s strategy, but it is a very high priority which is being tackled as part of its wider aims to boost public health and wellbeing in Wigan.

Isolation is becoming an increasing concern for health professionals, with statistics suggesting as many as 122,000 people in the North West describe themselves as feeling lonely all or most of the time.

Stuart Cowley, Wigan Council director for adult social care and health, said: “Research shows that loneliness can have negative health implications, which is why we are working hard to address the issue by ensuring that our residents have the opportunity to connect with others and play a greater role in their local communities.

“While loneliness is not specifically mentioned within our Joint Health and Wellbeing Board strategy, hence the ‘unplaced’ ranking, it lies within our wider confident people, confident place strategy.”

Mr Cowley (pictured) says the council has launched a number of new schemes to tackle loneliness, including projects in the Heart of Scholes programme which encourages people to volunteer at community facilities such as Sunshine House.

The Council is also working with Embrace on its Never Watch Alone scheme, which provides a buddy service for disabled rugby and football fans, letting them to attend live matches at the DW Stadium.

This has proved so successful that a new buddying scheme called It’s Better Together has been started, supported by the Community Investment Fund. The town hall hopes to eventually roll out the project across the entire borough.

The Campaign to End Loneliness, which is being championed by councils alongside national charities including Independent Age and Sense, wants to put the issue even higher up the political agenda, organising a conference in Manchester next month to discuss further ways of re-connecting isolated people to their communities.

Research suggests severe loneliness can be as damaging to life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The latest rankings by the campaign saw just three authorities receive a gold with a further seven managing a silver.