Jeremy Hunt highlights plight of 'chronically lonely'

 

Jeremy Hunt: "I am struck by the reverence and respect for older people in Asian culture"

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It is a source of "national shame" that as many as 800,000 people in England are "chronically lonely", Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

In a speech, Mr Hunt highlighted the "problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society".

"Some five million people say television is their main form of company," he said.

Labour accused of him trying to blame families for government failures.

In a speech at the National Children and Adults Services (NCAS) conference, Mr Hunt said: "Each and every lonely person has someone who could visit them and offer companionship.

"A forgotten million who live amongst us - ignored to our national shame."

'Reverence and respect'

He added: "According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, there are 800,000 people in England who are chronically lonely."

He also told delegates that the 112,000 cases of alleged abuse in care homes referred by English councils in 2012-13, the majority involving over-65s, indicated that "something is badly wrong".

But the regulation of care in both the private and public sector was improving, he argued.

Start Quote

We find fairly horrifying the number of elderly people who feel the TV is their best friend”

End Quote

The Conservative MP said the new chief inspector of social care, Andrea Sutcliffe, would start to give ratings to care homes from April 2014 with a view to organising inspections of all 25,000 care homes by 2016.

Mr Hunt said he was "particularly worried" about the 400,000 people in care homes, some of whom get regular visits but others who were just "parked there".

He said that 46% of people aged 80 or over reported feeling lonely "some of the time or often".

He warned that loneliness was as "bad for you" as "smoking 15 cigarettes a day", was "worse than obesity" because of the risk of blood clots, heart disease and dementia, and warned that lonely people "drink more" and were more prone to early admission in residential or nursing care.

Mr Hunt also said he believed the UK should learn from Asian cultures where there was "reverence and respect for older people" and "residential care is a last rather than a first option".

"The social contract is stronger because as children see how their own grandparents are looked after, they develop higher expectations of how they too will be treated when they get old," he explained.

"If we are to tackle the challenge of an ageing society, we must learn from this - and restore and reinvigorate the social contract between generations.

"And uncomfortable though it is to say it, it will only start with changes in the way we personally treat our own parents and grandparents."

England should aim to become "the best place in the world to grow old in", he concluded.

'Unaware'

But Labour said the "real national shame" was "Jeremy Hunt's attempt to shift the blame for dealing with the very real problems of loneliness amongst elderly people on to families alone".

The Health Effects

Living alone can be linked to habits that are bad for health.

Eating poorly and having less motivation to be physically active can be a consequence of being physically isolated.

Being alone can also affect mental health, causing people to feel low and depressed.

However, feeling lonely can in itself be bad for your physical health.

Studies have shown people who are socially isolated can cause damage to the immune system leading to a condition called chronic inflammation.

And other research suggested women who developed breast cancer were more likely to die of the disease if they saw few friends and family.

Shadow health and social care minister Liz Kendall said: "He seems completely unaware that there are over six million unpaid family carers in Britain today, one in five of whom provide more than 50 hours care a week for their loved ones.

"These unsung heroes save the taxpayer billions of pounds yet often get precious little support in return.

"Families, friends and neighbours need a decent care system to back up their efforts to look after elderly people, but the reality is our care system is in crisis and has been pushed to the brink of collapse.

"Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron need to take responsibly for their government's actions rather than trying to turn the clock back and say it's down to families alone."

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said on Twitter that Jeremy Hunt was "right to highlight isolation of older people".

He added: "But he can't get away from fact that Govt cuts to care have made it much worse."

But speaking on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Anthea Tinker, professor of social gerontology at King's College in London, said it was a "myth" that eastern Asian families placed greater reverence on families and older people than in the West.

Graphic showing number of people living alone in the UK

"The reality is that with one-child-families, children have often moved to a city or emigrated," she said.

"So it's just not practical for families to depend on their children. One of the largest nursing homes in the world is about to open in China, for 5,000 people, which is amazing."

Prof Tinker added: "We've got to look at the reality rather than the myth."

Mr Hunt's speech came as a BBC poll found that almost half of all adults said they experienced feelings of loneliness.

The survey of more than 2,500 adults in England was commissioned for BBC Radio 2 and BBC Local Radio's Faith In The World Week.

It also showed that people who practised a religion felt lonelier than those who did not.

London was identified the loneliest place with a figure of 52% compared with 45% in the south west of England.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 131.

    123. Polly8122

    That's a good point. Many chronically lonely people don't realise there are so many social opportunities available to them . Either that or they don't make the effort to find out.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 130.

    Totally agree, empiredown 111. Instead of sitting around moping why don't they get out there? In my village you could be involved in over a dozen social/community/voluntary groups without going more than 200 yards! U3A, WI, book clubs, all manners of local societies. And if you can't leave the house you could get online and be a silver surfer. You can lead a horse to water...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 129.

    It's not just old people that get lonely, thanks to globalization and having jobs sent abroad many people have to move long distances to find work. I've had to move a long way to get a job, I've left all my friends and family behind, also I'm asexual; I don't ever want to have a relationship. If only there were local jobs I wouldn't be so lonely as I would have my family close by.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 128.

    it's a good idea that the relatives should look after the elderly but;
    everyone in the family has to work to make ends meet.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 127.

    800,000 chronically lonely, 800,000 illegal and at least 50,000,000 totally fed up with the likes of Jeremy and his self interested false concern !

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 126.

    Hunt does plenty of highlighting of many problems in healthcare but I have never really seen him offer any solutions for them.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 125.

    No matter how lonely you are if over 60 steer clear of the NHS you will be on a starvation diet within days.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 124.

    I'm sure cutting the length of healthcare visits to 15 minutes will help..

    Oh, I have the answer! Privatize visiting the elderly.. what's that? No profit in it?

    Perhaps, then, we could all chip in somehow to help out those in need.. you know, some sort of system where the very wealthy would give a larger amount.. what's that? can't do that, it would be socialism..

    I suppose we're stuffed then.

  • rate this
    +24

    Comment number 123.

    We don't really to learn from other cultures, we need to resurrect a few of our own traditions. In the past loneliness was minimised by local communities using their high streets, local pubs, churches, sports teams (crown green bowls) etc. I think the govt could encourage these more than it does.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 122.

    118.
    Billythefirst
    Just now

    Why doesn't Hunt offer up the 100k he cheated from the Exchequer earlier this year to helping this cause....it could be a step on his road to redemption, him being a fully fledged christian and all.

    ---------

    He`s just there to state the obvious not help with solutions. Perish the thought he ever did something constructive.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 121.

    I will say this one of the main problem in UK. Social bonds, Family Relationships all vanished. People started thinking even marriage as old fashion, but wedding the is the basic glue of the well formed society. IF WEDDING FAILS, FAMILY WILL FAIL,THEN THE SOCIETY & NATION WILL FAIL.Human is a social animal, he need social relationship so a water required for fish. SAVE THIS NATION BEFORE IT DIES.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 120.

    The people deserve the Government they get.

    Why don't you REMEMBER next time.

  • Comment number 119.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 118.

    Why doesn't Hunt offer up the 100k he cheated from the Exchequer earlier this year to helping this cause....it could be a step on his road to redemption, him being a fully fledged christian and all.

    #76
    Stooge or pay per post?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 117.

    First of all it's obviously not just the old that are lonely and marginalised
    If you think you've got few friends or relatives now wait and see what happens if you have a long-term mental illness,they become an endangered species for the majority.
    Chuck in major cuts to council budgets & totally arbitrary limits applied with the bar set so high you need to learn the Fosbury Flop.
    Dependable = ££

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 116.

    Cameron says the Big Society and Thatcher said there was no such thing as society Plus our so called busy lifestyles in my view is a cover for the selfish society. My mum died 2 years ago and I popped in every other day and took her shopping she said sorry to be a burden on you I replied well if you raised me from 0-20 me thinks I can take the time to go shopping

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 115.

    Maybe he could start by focusing on town centres becoming more friendly for those even above the age of 40. Too many are now cesspits occupied by the drunken cohorts.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 114.

    Reading this, I think I'm "clinically fed up". I might drive to Dundee in my bare feet. With a Toblerone. And I don't mean a small one. I'm talking.....a medium one.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 113.

    I would have thought that you'd be happy for elderly folks to die lonely just the same as you're happy to let disabled people die at the hands of ATOS. After all its saves avaricious pig-troughers like you a bit eh Hunt? Maybe you could use the money saved to feather the nests of your wealthy backers in more tax cuts? Just the same old nasty Tory party playing the same old cynical games.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 112.

    I know some words that rhymes with Hunt, one in particular comes to mind.

    Familys forced apart due to moving to work places.

    Familys forced apart due to bedroom tax

    Familys unable to take in other family members because of inadequate housing.

    A benefits system that punishes familys for staying together.

    Negligent economic/social policy that creates society we live in

 

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    "The broadcasters' proposals have come after extensive work over the last six months to ensure the public have the opportunity to watch televised election debates once more. The group have worked in an independent, impartial manner, treating invited parties on an equitable basis. They have listened to the views expressed by all parties and adapted the proposals to take into account electoral support.

    "The broadcasters will continue to work closely with all parties invited to take part in the televised debates to bring them to their millions of viewers across the UK. The heads of news of all four broadcasters would welcome the opportunity to meet Mr Cameron, or his representatives, to discuss the debates."

     
  50.  
    @joeyjonessky Joey Jones. Sky News deputy political editor

    tweets: Quite a confrontation between broadcasters and PM just before election. Right or wrong, @David_Cameron isolated. May get quite nasty.

     
  51.  
    16:08: More from broadcasters

    The broadcasters say the debates will go ahead on the following dates:

    • 2 April: ITV produce seven-way debate with the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, UKIP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru
    • 16 April: BBC produce seven-way debate with the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, UKIP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru
    • 30 April: Sky News and Channel 4 produce head-to-head debate between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition
     
  52.  
    @nick_clegg Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat leader

    tweets: Come on @David_Cameron you haven't got your own way so accept it and take part. #tvdebates

     
  53.  
    16:06: Analysis Alex Forsyth Political correspondent, BBC News

    This is a big decision for the broadcasters to take, because it runs the risk of allowing Ed Miliband the chance to get his message across unchallenged if David Cameron is "empty chaired".

     
  54.  
    16:02: TV debates to go ahead

    The broadcasters - which include BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 - have released a joint statement regarding the TV election debates. They have said that the debates will go ahead as planned, in the same format as originally proposed, and they have asked the prime minster to reconsider his position. The broadcasters intend to forge ahead with plans for three debates to take place on 2 April ITV 16 April BBC and 30 April (Sky News and Channel 4).

     
  55.  
    15:58: Look back

    Team change here and a good time to take a quick look back at some of the main stories of the day:

    • Some Scottish Labour MPs are urging Ed Miliband to rule out a coalition with the SNP after the general election
    • Free TV licences and bus passes for pensioners would stay under a Labour government, Ed Miliband has said, but winter fuel allowances would be taken from better-off pensioners
    • At the Green party conference, leader Natalie Bennett said the poorest in society had been "blamed for the mistakes of the wealthy" and called for a "peaceful political revolution" to end the "failed experiment of austerity"
    • Plaid Cymru demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland in any Westminster coalition talks after the general election in May
    • Researchers at Oxford University estimate the number of migrants settling in England increased by 565,000 in the past three years, with two-thirds coming from other EU countries
    • UKIP leader Nigel Farage says he will "do his best" to avoid personal attacks on his opponents during the general election campaign
    • Drivers in England will get 10 minutes' grace before being fined if they stay too long in council-owned car parking spaces, the government has said
     
  56.  
    15:47: Greens 'idealistic'
    Comres/ITV poll

    The Comres/ITV poll mentioned below also asked respondents the words or phrases they associated with the Greens, UKIP and the Lib Dems.

    The Greens were most likely to be thought of as "idealistic" (41%), UKIP most likely to be seen as "dangerous" (46%) and the Lib Dems most likely to be seen as "middle class" (38%).

     
  57.  
    15:40: Mental health care

    The government is publishing a consultation paper on plans to give people with mental health conditions in England greater control of their care. Ministers promised changes after revelations about abuse at Winterbourne View hospital in Bristol. Care minister Norman Lamb says the changes would put people in charge of their care and promote community support as an alternative to hospital, admitting many families feel "their concerns are ignored".

     
  58.  
    15:33: Plaid Cymru conference
    Leanne Wood

    Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has told her party's spring conference in Caernarfon that she wants income tax powers to be devolved without any referendum. She told party activists: "The Westminster parties have entrenched Wales' funding disadvantage. They should be able to commit to the same funding per head for Wales as Scotland. An additional £1.2 billion for our public services and greater resources to strengthen our country's economic prospects and end Wales' fiscal dependency for once and for all." She also added that her party would create a drugs fund to boost access to new medicines.

     
  59.  
    15:26: Cameron 'cowardice' over debates
    David Cameron MP

    Labourlist has some robust criticism in response to David Cameron's refusal to participate in a head-to-head debate with Ed Miliband: "If he really thought he had a plan, he'd be willing to defend it on whatever TV format he could.

    "His cowardice shows the modern-day Tory party has no heart or soul. It, fundamentally, doesn't know what it stands for."

     
  60.  
    15:19: Ukraine

    The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has warned Russia of tighter sanctions over Ukraine. Speaking during a visit to Poland, Mr Hammond said the European Union was ready to take further measures and the conditions of the Minsk ceasefire agreement must be upheld.

     
  61.  
    15:11: DUP will not seek 'narrow party advantage'
    Peter Robinson

    The DUP has released a statement saying it will not align itself with the main parties to seek narrow advantage in any coalition negotiations - but will focus on delivering for Northern Ireland.

    DUP leader and Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson MLA said: "Our MPs will not be part of any government coalition. We will not be seeking any Cabinet seats or any narrow party political advantage. The DUP will use its influence to further the best interests of Northern Ireland and of the Union. Unlike other parties we are not ideologically tied to any one of the major parties at Westminster but can do business with either the Conservatives or Labour."

     
  62.  
    @MSmithsonPB Mike Smithson
    ComRes/ITV poll

    tweets: ComRes/ITV poll on public reaction to GRN party policies

     
  63.  
    @MichaelPDeacon Michael Deacon, Telegraph sketchwriter

    tweets: ‏THE WAITING IS ALMOST AT AN END. Green Party press officer says Fully Costed Manifesto will be published "towards the end of March"

     
  64.  
    @johnestevens John Stevens, Daily Mail reporter

    tweets: "Visual minuting" of Natalie's speech #greensurge #gpconf

    Green confernce
     
  65.  
    @TotalPolitics Total Politics

    tweets: Weekly polling review: Conservatives pulling ahead?

     
  66.  
    14:48: 'Vote for the party that cares'
    Green conference

    "I say to you very simply, vote for the party that cares", Ms Bennett tells her conference as she brings her speech to an end. "Vote for the common good. Vote for the politics of the future. Vote Green."

     
  67.  
    14:47: 'Change Britain'

    There are people who want to see business as usual, Natalie Bennett says. To counteract them, we need people use their votes, she adds. If we all vote Green, "we can change Britain".

     
  68.  
    ‏@rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Free social care paid for by wealth tax, higher taxes on those earning over 100k, tax avoidance, Robin Hood tax under Green plan

     
  69.  
    14:45: Young 'have it tough'

    Younger generations "have it tough", Ms Bennett says. That's not the fault of their elders, she adds. "We need to look out for each other."

     
  70.  
    ‏@SophyRidgeSky Sophy Ridge, Political correspondent, Sky News

    tweets: Financial transactions tax - "Robin Hood tax" - and more tax on those earning over £150k going down well in hall #GreenSurge

     
  71.  

    A financial transaction tax would be introduced by the Greens and those earning over £100,000 "should pay more, says Ms Bennett.

     
  72.  
    14:43: Care plan 'means jobs'

    Free social care for those over 65 would mean 200,000 new jobs and training places, Ms Bennett says. It will be a core pledge in their manifesto.

     
  73.  
    @rosschawkins 14:43: Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Natalie Bennett wants free social care for over 65s

     
  74.  
    14:42: 'New taxes are needed'

    The Greens will restore equal care for all - that principle should apply to social care too, Green leader Natalie Bennett says. "Those who have the most should contribute most - new taxes are needed."

     
  75.  
    14:41: Remove market from NHS

    That's why I'm delighted to work to introduce an NHS reinstatement bill that removes the market from the NHS, Natalie Bennett says.

     
  76.  
    14:41: Bennett - NHS

    In the NHS, the infiltration of the profit must be reversed, Ms Bennett says. The market "costs us big time", she adds.

     
  77.  
    @LabourList LabourList

    ‏tweets: 12 target seats Labour are worried they might not win because of the Greens labli.st/1KxwLym

     
  78.  
    14:39: Greens: Power and wealth

    The current model of economics and society serves those with power and wealth, says Green leader Natalie Bennett. We must be citizens first and foremost - paying to common funds to look after the old, weak, poor and sick. This is what the politics of the future will look like, she adds.

     
  79.  
    14:38: No Tory deal

    "Just imagine a strong group of Green MPs", Natalie Bennett says. That group would never support a Tory government, she continues. They would have a huge say and could help develop that new politics she has been talking about, she says.

     
  80.  
    14:37: Climate change

    Speaking about climate change, Natalie Bennett says "we have to be up to the task". She says change has to come - the market is short-sighted and short-term. It is blind and senseless and works for the 1%.

     
  81.  
    @jameschappers James Chapman, Daily Mail political editor

    tweets: .@natalieben: "Noone should be worrying about a fracking drill burrowing into the heart of their community". Eh? #gpconf

     
  82.  
    14:36: Food banks

    Almost half jobs since 2010 are for self-employed people, but many of them are living in poverty, Natalie Bennett says. Individual charity isn't a substitute for collective justice, she says of food banks.

     
  83.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins - BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: Ed M last week "a society that works for all and not just a few"; Bennett today "society that works for the many not just the few"

     
  84.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins - BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: Bennett words almost identical to Miliband's — society that works for the many not just the few

     
  85.  
    14:35: 'Demand for change is louder'

    Up and down the country campaigns demanding new politics are growing, Natalie Bennett says: "The demand for change is louder and clearer, at last, the people are fighting back."

     
  86.  
    14:34: 'Green surge'

    The Green surge is more than a hashtag or numbers, Natalie Bennett says. It's the result of members' "commitment" and "hard work". The Greens are a "central player" in British politics, she says.

     
  87.  
    14:33: 'Nobody should live in fear'
    Bennett

    Nobody should live in fear of not being able to put food on the table or going into debt to pay for education, Natalie Bennett says. The politics of the future is not the politics of transaction, she says. That is the "old" and "failed" politics.

     
  88.  
    14:29: 'Politics of the future'

    The "politics of the future delivers for everyone" in our one planet, Natalie Bennett adds. "That's the politics of the Green Party."

     
  89.  
    14:28: 'Agents of change'

    "Britain could be a very different country on 8 May", Natalie Bennett tells delegates at the party's conference. The Greens can be the "agents of change" looking to the "politics of the future", she says.

     
  90.  
    14:27: Political revolution

    Natalie Bennett says voters will have the chance at the election to start "a possibility of a peaceful political revolution". People will be able to stop the poor being punished for the mistakes of the wealthy, she says. "We can deliver a Britain which delivers to all people - a Britain which cares", she adds.

     
  91.  
    @SophyRidgeSky Sophy Ridge, Political correspondent, Sky News

    tweets: Punchy speech from Caroline Lucas - now Natalie Bennett needs to make sure she's not upstaged by the warm up act

     
  92.  
    14:26: Natalie Bennett speech
    Natalie Bennett

    Natalie Bennett on her feet at Green conference now. She thanks Caroline Lucas for being "the stand-out MP" in the current Parliament. She's confident she will be in the next Parliament and beyond, too. It's been a momentous year for the party, putting it at the forefront of British politics and making it the third largest in England and Wales.

     
  93.  
    14:25: Politics without austerity

    Caroline Lucas says the party will defend politics without austerity, nuclear power or demonisation of those who need the welfare state or those who come from abroad.

     
  94.  
    @politicshome PoliticsHome

    tweets: .@CarolineLucas says "opposition to austerity" links @theSNP & @TheGreenParty, calling for a "progressive alliance" between the two #gpconf

     
  95.  
    14:24: NHS pledge

    It's the Greens who set the agenda on a number of issues, Caroline Lucas says. She says the party will champion the NHS reinstatement bill - to reverse "marketisation" of the health service.

     
  96.  
    ‏@rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Caroline Lucas supposed to be introducing Natalie Bennett in show of support. Risk she might simply upstage her

     
  97.  
    14:23: 'More MPs'

    "Just imagine what we can do if we elect more MPs", Caroline Lucas says, adding that leader Natalie Bennett is putting the Greens on course to do that.

     
  98.  
    14:22: Progressive alliance

    With the rise of the SNP and Plaid, we have the chance to form a "progressive alliance", Caroline Lucas, the Greens' MP tells the party's conference. They've worked before on their opposition to austerity and after the election, they could do more is her message. If Labour are a minority government, the Greens could stop them pandering to big business, she says, adding: "Support them when they do the right thing, block them when they're wrong".

     
  99.  
    @politicshome PoliticsHome

    tweets: .@CarolineLucas tells Green party activists at the #gpconf that leader @natalieben is doing a "fantastic job"

     
  100.  
    14:18: Caroline Lucas

    On the general election, Caroline Lucas MP says the Greens are challenging from "a position of strength". This election is different, she says because they have something to defend - her seat in Brighton and Pavilion. That victory has given the party a voice in Parliament, to show "you can be a force for good in politics without selling out your principles".

     

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