AQW 245/17-22

Mr Paul Frew
Democratic Unionist Party
North Antrim

Tabled Date: 14/01/2020
Answered On Date: 29/01/2020
Priority Written: No

To ask the Minister of Health to outline (i) what measures are in place; and (ii) what work has been implemented to tackle loneliness.

My officials have met with the Institute of Public Health Ireland who have conducted research on this issue in Northern Ireland. This highlights that loneliness is a complex issue, and requires a multi-faceted and cross government approach to address the causes including socio-economic factors, such as inequality. My Department is scoping our existing policies/strategies to help identify how loneliness is being tackled within existing work; to identify gaps and further work needed to progress this important issue.
Within the Reform of Adult Social Care, work in progress includes proposals to develop a neighbourhood based, preventative and citizen-focused community support model that promotes positive social wellbeing and connects people to supportive social networks and communities. A public consultation is anticipated early in 2020. The Protect Life strategy acknowledges that loneliness is a contributor to poor mental health and work is progressing on the key theme of Physically Active and Connecting (staying in touch with family, friends and the community).  As well as projects such as Men’s Shed focusing on reducing isolation of men especially in rural areas which has proved an effective way of engaging people who experience loneliness.
The Department is also working cross departmentally and in partnership with DAERA as part of its Rural Society Project Board established in 2019. One aspect of this work is a focus on the need to ‘reduce loneliness and social exclusion in rural areas and to minimise the impacts of rural isolation and promote the health and wellbeing of rural dwellers.