COLUMN: ‘At last, the government is showing its caring side’ says Westwell of Ely

COLUMN: Rosemary Westwell asks ‘are we really in the Christmas spirit this year?’

COLUMN: Rosemary Westwell asks ‘are we really in the Christmas spirit this year?’ - Credit: Archant

At last, the government is showing its caring side.

It has appointed Tracey Crouch as minister of loneliness. She will continue the work Jo Cox started, trying to alleviate the loneliness of some nine million sufferers.

This is wonderful news, but unfortunately the ‘work’ will only be devising a ‘strategy’ for dealing with the problem.

So many times the powers that be spend precious time working out strategies, but never actually get down to the job that needs doing. East Cambs District council demonstrates the nature of the problem. A search for ‘loneliness’ on their website, reveals it pontificating about what the victims should do. Telling someone who is feeling isolated to ‘reach out for support yourself’ is no help.

You sometimes wonder if they have ever felt lonely themselves. Many people are physically disabled but mentally alert and ready for social interaction. Others are stuck at home looking after a child or an elderly relative.

There should be a radical change of thinking. While on holiday in Spain I went to a local café a few doors away from my flat and found a group of elderly ladies meeting there every morning for company. The café owner looked after them, helped them in and out of the café, entertained them with jokes and plied them with cheap tasty food every now and then. The ladies happily paid for the food so business was good.

Where are our village cafés spread throughout our villages? The ones in town hardly fit the bill by charging far too much and making you stand in a queue for ages while they try to get your refreshments as swiftly as possible. There is no chat there; they have no time for that.

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Using an ipad or similar to talk to people on video would help a lot of lonely people catch up with their family and most families would be pleased to have a short chat with their relatives, no matter where they live or how busy they are.

Old people often say they cannot work out how to use this newfangled equipment. Why aren’t internet providers offering special, really cheap deals or even free internet for the lonely? Why aren’t unemployed people given an ipad and vouches for taking another ipad to give to a lonely person, to set it up for them and to visit them regularly to make sure it is working properly? If the government is so insistent that everyone should be checked in case they are dangerous people, then the government should do these checks, should pay for them and do them swiftly.

If you want to help lonely people, helping them practically is the only way.