Rotherham Council’s health and wellbeing board have published a concerning report linking loneliness and isolation to the cost of living crisis.

The report states that people “may have to choose between loneliness and friendship” due to rapidly increasing living costs.

Councillor David Roche, Cabinet member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, told the Echo the cost of living crisis is isolating people from all walks of life, including people who would not have been isolated before.

The report also mentions, since the pandemic, some people may still be afraid to go out into social situations.

Cllr Roche told the Echo: “Loneliness was a priority in Rotherham prior to the pandemic. The pandemic perhaps brought the issue to the forefront of people’s thinking and there were lots of examples of individuals, streets, neighbourhoods coming together to support each other.”

At the beginning of the pandemic Rotherham Council introduced the Rotherham Loneliness Action Plan. The plan aimed to tackle loneliness and isolation through and after the pandemic, but is perhaps more important now than ever.

“Rotherham can be rightly proud of its partnership work which has helped to pull together what a number of different organisations are doing, The Community Hub was evidence of people’s willingness to help others practically and emotionally. The pandemic has perhaps highlighted specific groups we need to do further work with.

“The pandemic provided a time for more people to volunteer and see the benefits to their health and wellbeing of volunteering. We need to capitalise on this as people’s lives get busier and ensure we don’t lose this.” Cllr Roche continues.

Worrying research from the Campaign to End Loneliness found 3.3 m people living in Britain were, or felt, ‘chronically lonely’ between December 2021 and February 2022.

The same research highlighted that around 1m younger people, aged 16-29, were also chronically lonely.

Cllr Roche shared his concerns surrounding public funding cuts, in relation to the UK’s loneliness epidemic: “Councils have suffered serious cutbacks in their funding form local government over the past few years. We are fortunate that our HWBB decided to make loneliness one of our priorities and dedicate staff time and resources to it.

“However, there are so many demands and priorities on public health and adult social services that it can be a struggle. We do get some funding from the regional ICS to support mental health small groups which in turn is linked to loneliness. I do know that some local Councillors use their ward funding to provide activities and resources for the lonely ICPs have only recently set up, I am hoping to work with them to discuss funding.

“Quite simply  if funding is not there then we cannot provide and protect the service, the less funding we have, the less support and help we can give.”