Beating Loneliness in London
Perhaps I’ve been to too many hustings but I’d like a fiver for every time I’ve heard a mayoral wannabe offer, as their vision for London, the “world’s most competitive city”. Does anyone who isn’t a politician share that aspiration? Indeed what exactly does it mean? Competitive at what? Ball room dancing? Drinking games?
For sure London needs a galvanising vision. After 8 years of drift our next mayor needs a moon shot idea – a goal that touches us all and brings us together in a common cause but it must be one that we understand and one that resonates with our day to day lives
It makes us feel safe, strong and more capable. We don’t want to be unnoticed. Stories of people dying alone, unseen for days, offend our common humanity and they scare us. We want to be wanted and needed, seen and heard. These are the simple reciprocities, the give and take, of a place where people belong.
Yet currently one in four Londoners are lonely often or all of the time. Social isolation in this most busy, crowded capital is a 21st century plague. Here in 2016 the “world’s most friendly city” would surely be a smarter mayoral vision than the “world’s most competitive”.
Of course tackling social isolation isn’t more important than managing public expenditure, reducing unemployment, cutting crime or improving health but nor is it just a “nice to have”. Consider the facts…
- Isolated older people are almost twice as likely to need care for dementia and 3.5 times more likely to require council funded accommodation than those with local connections
- 4 times more people find work through friends and neighbours than through the Job Centre
- Stronger neighbourhoods consistently experience the least crime and anti-social behaviour
- Loneliness is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and twice as deadly as obesity
In short the strength of a community determines the level of its demand on public services. It shapes economic performance, influences crime rates and impacts directly on health, mental and physical. Attention to the individual, to the local, is not an alternative to a hardnosed, big city vision; it is the making of it.
Social connection would be designed into every public service, communal place and new development, not, as now, designed out.
Our new leader would use the internationally recognised Social Progress Index to monitor and measure the health of our communities with every bit as much care and attention as officials now monitor and evaluate economic indices.
And they would exploit the super powers of the mayoralty – the voice, the visibility and the capacity to convene – to unite our major stakeholders and our multiple communities in pursuit of one shared goal : To beat Loneliness in London.
You can get in touch with David at David.Robinson@change-london.org.uk.