Why is it an issue?
A combination of an ageing population, higher levels of rural deprivation compared to the national average, and greater distance from health and social care services and amenities contribute to higher levels of social isolation in Devon, and a focus on social support and improving access to services can help to address this. These issues may be compounded for people, particularly older people, with physical and/or sensory disability.
What is the position in Devon?
28.8% of the Devon population live in rural areas compared with 9.5% nationally. A higher proportion of the Devon population live alone (16.6% compared with 14.4% nationally). The Devon ‘Community Life Choices’ consultation found that for some people limited by disability, frailty or ill health accessing social activities becomes difficult if not impossible resulting in loneliness, isolation, feeling of low self worth and poor mental and physical health. A wider range of choices are wanted by service users with a move from traditional service provision, with flexibility in day services to enhance community participation and to support people to be independent.
“The rural nature of Devon and poor public transport makes isolation a particular problem for people who are unable to drive.”
What is the evidence of effective interventions?
Social capital can be created by enabling and empowering communities through community led planning, volunteering, supporting social enterprise and the voluntary and community sector and through the civic behaviour of business. It is important that social isolation is addressed for all ages. The guidance on improving the well-being of young promotes taking action to connect young people with their communities; supporting volunteering and a sense of belonging; mixing safely with peers and enjoying spending time with older people. The Localism Act sets out a series of measures with the potential to achieve a substantial and lasting shift in power towards local people. Including: new freedoms and flexibilities for local government; new rights and powers for communities and individuals; reform to make the planning system more democratic and more effective, and reform to ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally.