Agenda and draft minutes

Select Committee - Loneliness and Social Isolation - Wednesday, 26th September, 2018 2.00 pm

Venue: Wantsum Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Gaetano Romagnuolo  03000 416624

Note No. Item

14:00 - 14:45


Andy Staniford (Senior Policy Advisor, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) pdf icon PDF 45 KB

Additional documents:


The Chair welcomed the guest to the committee and a short introduction was given by Members.


Mr Staniford presented a series of slides which explored the opportunities and priorities involved in implementing a national strategy to tackle loneliness and welcomed questions from the Committee.


Tackling loneliness: exploring opportunities and priorities for the national strategy:


Q – Please introduced yourself and offer an outline of the DCMS Tackling Loneliness Team and its main objectives?


Mr A Staniford, Senior Policy Advisor, Tackling Loneliness Team, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) joined the team in April 2018. He said that he had previously worked in local government, spending the majority of his career at the Brighton and Hove City Council as the Housing Strategy Manager. During that time, he was responsible for the Housing Strategy and worked on a number of cross-cutting themes with health and social care such as, the Health and Wellbeing Strategy, Rough Sleeping, Travellers and Supporting People. Mr Staniford said he was a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing and a Board Member for the South East Region, and Chair of the CIHSE International Housing Group. To deliver a strategy that cuts across government, the Tackling Loneliness Team it is comprised of staff on secondment from 9 government departments. The DCMS team worked in conjunction with Tracey Crouch (Minister for Sport and Civil Society) who was appointed as the lead for cross-government work on loneliness and played an active role in supporting the delivery of the governments plan. Mr Staniford said that it was important to understand that tackling loneliness mattered to everyone, whether it be the individual, the employer, communities, educators, professionals. Loneliness was something that everyone could relate to, yet it is often something we find difficult to talk about when we are lonely.


Q – When is the secondment period for your staff coming to an end?


Mr Staniford said that Phase 1 with the initial 12-month secondment was primarily established to develop the strategy and ensuring that the lessons learned were built into future policies. Work was being done to identify ways to deliver phase 2 of the strategy and the work that would need to be incorporated post April 2019


Q – Is there a reason why someone who is lonely would prefer to complete a national survey online rather than complete a survey in person?


DCMS has been testing the draft loneliness measure both online and face-to-face to help understand how people react and respond to the questions. For adults, DCMS tested the questions online through the Community Life Survey which is used to track statistics on issues that were important to encouraging social action and empowering communities. This included volunteering, community engagement, wellbeing and loneliness. The reason why the surveys were carried out online for adults was because the set of questions used had been tested in a number of global surveys and research and were proven but DCMS wanted to see how they worked together. Less was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

15:00 - 15:45


Public Health England - Nicky Saynor (Health & Wellbeing Programme Manager) & Terry Blair-Stevens (Public Health Consultant in Health & Wellbeing) pdf icon PDF 49 KB

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1.            The Chairman welcomed Nicky Saynor, Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager and Terry Blair-Stevens, Public Health Consultant in Health and Wellbeing, both from Public Health England (PHE).  Both guests were invited to introduce themselves and gave a background to their work. 


2.            Terry explained the differences between the role of PHE and Government Ministers (the Select Committee had previously heard from Andy Staniford, Senior Policy Advisor, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport).  He explained that the Government was responsible for setting policy and PHE provided evidence to inform the Government’s strategy and policy making.  PHE accessed evidence available through existing public sources and international databases.  There was a need to be clear about the questions being asked and the measures being looked at.    The officers were trained to critically appraise the evidence.


3.            Terry gave Members a presentation which is available online here and via this link:


4.            Terry explained that there was a difference between loneliness and isolation and the relationship between the two was complex and varied between individuals.  Referring to impact on health and wellbeing there were links between loneliness and social isolation and dementia.  Terry described a study which had looked at nuns, living long and healthy lives with high cognitive abilities.  The nuns donated their brains to science and the scientists found that their brains had the same level of aging brain disease as those who were not nuns, therefore it was thought that the social connections of nuns living together was keeping their brains active. 


5.            Terry referred, briefly, to the “Men’s Sheds” programme in Kent specifically designed to prevent suicide and loneliness in men.


6.            Terry explained that research suggested that those aged 16-24 were significantly more likely to feel lonely often/always than the other age groups, it was considered that the key to reducing this was to build personal resilience.  A Member asked if there was any correlation with the use of social media in that age group?  Terry stated that there was evidence around how it affected their self esteem and how well liked they were.  Nicky commented on the pressure and pervasiveness of social media.  There had been limited research on social relationships and the ways in which people interact online as opposed to on social media.  A Member asked if research had been done on different cohorts of young people, such as those in boarding school which was another environment which was 24/7 as it was considered social media was?


7.            In response to a query about whether studies had been undertaken on children under the age of 16 years Terry explained that there were studies available, however these were affected by the way in which questions were asked.  The term ‘loneliness’ could be stigmatising for all age groups.  It was recommended that alternative language was used that enabled people to feel more open and confident about discussing their experience of loneliness. 


8.            Evidence suggested that there was a significant correlation between low socioeconomic status and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

16:00 - 16:45


Kent Fire and Rescue Service - Ian Thomson (Assistant Director for Community Safety) and Richard Stanford-Beale (Research & Development Manager - Community Safety) pdf icon PDF 46 KB

Additional documents:


1.            The Chairman welcomed Ian Thomson, Assistant Director for Community Safety and Richard Stanford-Beale, Research & Development Manager – Community Safety, both from Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS).  Both guests were invited to introduce themselves and gave a background to their work. 


2.            Ian explained that KFRS was involved in loneliness and social isolation because of the correlation between health issues and fire fatalities and injuries. The root causes of loneliness and isolation were often the issues which put people at greater risk from fire. Social Isolation also meant people might not access services such as Safe & Well visits.


3.            KFRS also aimed to make every contact count by encouraging healthy choices and making appropriate referrals into other services - for example by referring people to stop smoking services. There was a correlation between health issues, fire fatalities and injuries, and injuries were higher in single occupancy homes.


4.            Older people are at greater risk from fire and KFRS targeted people over 70 years. NHS provide anonymised data to identify addresses of people over 65 years old.  Richard explained that although age was a risk factor it was a fairly ‘blunt instrument’ and KFRS was continuing to develop methodologies to ensure it prioritised the highest risk individuals.


5.            Ian and Richard gave the Select Committee a presentation which is available online here or via this link:


6.            The presentation set out a number of issues which might impact on people’s health, social circumstances were a significant factor. 


7.            Referring to the impacts of loneliness on health, there was a clear link between a high use of medication and falls risk. Medication could also put people at risk from fire, for example, by impeding their decision making or reaction times if they have a fire.  Loneliness had been identified as having a significant cost to the emergency services.


8.            Ian explained to Members that KFRS was also co-responding with the Ambulance Service.  Officers were able to respond to certain category calls including cardiac arrest and many staff had also received mental health first aid training.


9.            For KFRS prevention was key, over 50% of people who died in a fire had probably done so before the first phone call was made to the emergency services.  There was a strong recognition that all the workforce could have an impact in terms of people’s health.  KFRS were an additional public health workforce to work with other public services to help meet the challenge set out in the NHS’s Five Year Forward View.


10.           Referring to making every contact count, KFRS would take every opportunity to talk to someone and have a short conversation about health issues.  There were good examples of where KFRS was working with Public Health, work was being done to support the delivery of local plans and KFRS would like to be more involved.  In relation to making a referral KFRS would usually ask for consent except where there is an immediate risk or a safeguarding issue.


11.         Richard  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.