This week Michelle Ballantyne, MSP for South Scotland, praised the efforts of Volunteer Centre Borders and NHS Borders for the Volunteering for Wellbeing Initiative.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament debate on social isolation, the former Borders councillor commended the project for its efforts to combat loneliness and social isolation in the Borders.
The Volunteering for Wellbeing initiative began in 2017 as a joint enterprise between Volunteer Centre Borders and Borders NHS with the aim of tackling loneliness. The project matches voluntary positions to those who have described themselves as being lonely. Once in work, the volunteers then have regular meetings to assess how their voluntary work has eased their loneliness.
For a growing number of people loneliness is a regular or permanent situation that can have significantly negative effects on their health and wellbeing. According to Age UK;
- Across the UK 3.6 million older people in the UK live alone, of whom over 2 million are aged 75+.
- 1.9 million older people often feel ignored or invisible.
- Loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
- It can also lead to increased risk of dementia, depression and anxiety.
However, loneliness also affects young people. 40 percent of 16-24 years olds consider themselves lonely.
This suggests that loneliness is an increasing public health problem, which needs significant, targeted action across all age groups.
The South Scotland politician praised the initiative as “exactly the sort of thing that is needed to combat loneliness” as it tailors its support to each individual case and seeks to help both the volunteer and the locality.
Loneliness is a health problem which can have significant effects on those who feel alone, regardless of age.
Projects like the Volunteering for Wellbeing initiative play a really important role in combatting social isolation and helping those who feel lonely.
We have to make sure that help is available to those who need it. Part of that involves meaning that organisations like this have the resources to help people but we also need to ensure that people have appropriate transport links and this can be an important factor that increases isolation.