Help to end loneliness epidemic

Cllr John Holdich
Cllr John Holdich

Have you ever experienced loneliness? I’m not talking about occasionally on an afternoon, but weeks, or even months and years of craving human contact, writes Peterborough City Council leader cllr John Holdich.

There’s been much in the media recently about a national ‘loneliness epidemic,’ but one article in the Daily Telegraph in particular caught my attention last month, in which the new Loneliness Minister, MP Mims Davies says communities have a moral duty to look after the lonely and vulnerable.

As a council, there’s things we can do to help this. Indeed, I helped to set up one of the first friendship clubs in Peterborough 16 years ago in my ward of Glinton and allocated £10,000 to replicate this across the city.

There are now 11 friendship clubs in Peterborough which meet every week to offer company, home-cooked meals, information and advice on everything from setting up a Facebook account to Skyping friends and family.

But there’s also a lot that you as an individual can do too - and for those of you who haven’t set a New Year’s resolution yet, this is a good one!

Studies by the Mental Health Foundation show that volunteering and doing good for others can actually be beneficial to our own wellbeing.

There are over 197,000 people living in Peterborough. If just 0.1% of us decided to volunteer a couple of hours a week to help the lonely and vulnerable in our city, that would be nearly 200 extra volunteers across Peterborough.

The Age UK friendship clubs are looking for volunteers right now. Contact them on 01733 352212 or email friendshipclubs@ageukcap.org.uk.

If you haven’t got time to make a commitment as a volunteer, then just take five minutes to knock on the door of an elderly neighbour, family member or friend. Check they are okay and ask if there is anything they need. Human contact means so much to those who are lonely at this time of year.

Last week I received an email from a volunteer at Foodcycle to thank the council for its role in taking steps to help homeless households over the past year.

Foodcycle collect unwanted food from supermarkets and use it to cook a three course meal for up to 80 guests, including rough sleepers and homeless families, on a Monday at the Baptist Church in Park Road.

He says many of the guests he has spoken are being helped by the council, either directly or through its involvement in the Safer Off the Streets partnership and he can see tangible evidence that our approach is working.

Also last week, I was honoured to accompany the Rt Hon Lord Brian Mawhinney as he filmed a video about his time and achievements as a Peterborough MP.

The video is one of many being filmed over the coming months that will bring our history to life. It is due to be published next month on the city’s interactive timeline, managed by Vivacity, at www.ourjourneypeterborough.org

Thank to you to all those who took the time to feed back on the City Masterplan produced by city-based LDA Design free of charge.

Over 15,000 of you saw the post on Twitter and Facebook and nearly 2,000 clicked on the URL to look at the plans.

Finally, well done to Bisoye Babalola and Eva Clarke for making it into the New Year’s Honours List after being awarded a British Empire Medal.

Bisoye was awarded the medal for her services to creative industries and Eva for visiting schools in the city to speak about the Holocaust, to ensure the next generation do not forget.

Well done to both for being recognised for such an important award.