Agenda item

Diane Aslett (Development Officer, Age UKs in Kent Consortium)

Presentation to follow.


(1)          Mr Pugh welcomed Diane Aslett (Development Officer, Age UKs in Kent Consortium) and asked her to introduce herself as well as asking the Members to introduce themselves.


(2)          Mrs Aslett said she worked for a group of charities known as either Age UK or Age Concern in Kent.  The charities provided a range of services for older people in centres, in the community or in people’s homes in all part of Kent.  All services helped to reduce loneliness and social isolation.  All the charities were linked to Age UK which is a national charity that campaigns on a range of issues relating to older people.   As the Development Officer he role was to share best practice, apply for funding, start and terminate projects. 


(3)          Mrs Aslett presented a series of slides (published in the agenda pack for the meeting) setting out Age UK/Concern’s perspective on social isolation and loneliness among older people in Kent.


(4)          Following her presentation, she responded to Members’ questions and comments as follows.


(5)          A view was expressed that: a couple could be married for 40 years but one partner might be lonely but might also be afraid to say so in front of the other; Neighbourhood Watch could be used as a ‘loneliness’ watch rather than setting up a new organisation; and evidence suggested that those who helped others enhanced their own well-being and therefore it was important to get lonely people to help other lonely people.


(6)          In response Mrs Aslett said many of the Befriending Service volunteers were themselves lonely.  Some who had benefitted from the service went on to become volunteers and the challenging issues was to get the chronically lonely into a position where they could engage with others or even volunteer.


(7)          A Member welcomed the acknowledgment that identifying the chronically lonely and the socially isolated was difficult and that these issues could not be solved quickly with social prescribing.  He asked about the impact of mental health issues that made it difficult for people to admit to being lonely.


(8)          Mrs Aslett said that a mental health referral could be initiated by a family member.  She also said that the Personal Independence Programme included risk stratification indicators (such as frequent emergency admissions to hospital, increase or decrease in the number of visits to GPs because of loneliness rather than a long-term condition etc).  When an individual was identified as being at risk of loneliness a letter would be sent advising that Age UK would call. If the individual was interested a Personal Independence Co-ordinator would work with the individual and support them to access social activity and support.


(9)          It was acknowledged that not all GPs were involved in social prescribing and that communities, particularly in villages and rural areas, had a role in keeping a watch for older people who might be lonely. The differences between communities was also recognised.


(10)     A member paid tribute to the work being done by Age UK and to the variety of services and activities he had observed on a recent visit to Age UK on Shaftsbury Road.


(11)     Comments were also made about the importance of social media and online shopping to those living in rural villages without shops and the need for libraries as not everyone could afford broadband or a phone.  The absence of rural transport made it even more difficult for the elderly and lonely to get ‘passed their own front door’.


(12)     Mrs Aslett said that referrals to day centres came from GP or from multi-disciplinary teams. A Member suggested that the charge of £15 per day to attend a day centre might inhibit some from attending.


(13)     Comments were also made about those who were most lonely being the most difficult to reach particularly if they refused to participate in social activities.


(14)     Mrs Aslett agreed to provide data that demonstrated that loneliness had a negative impact on lifespan.  In response to a question about the impact on users when a service ended, Mrs Aslett said that Age UK day centres did not usually end, and the Personal Independence Programme was designed to last 12 weeks.


(15)     Mr Pugh thanked Mrs Aslett for her presentation and for answering Members’ questions.

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