STAMPING OUT THE BURDEN OF LONELINESS
Tips to empower individuals and communities to eradicate the social ills of being isolated and feeling lonely are at the heart of the first annual report from Croydon’s director of public health.
Rachel Flowers, who took up her post at Croydon council at the beginning of the year, has provided a steer to progress pledges made at the 2016 Croydon Congress and act on recommendations in the Opportunity and Fairness Commission report, to prevent residents feeling excluded from family, friends and social networks.
These experiences are often detrimental to a person’s emotional, mental and sometimes physical health.
In Croydon, there are an estimated 9,860 older people who are lonely and 5,423 older people who experience intense loneliness. This is alongside more than 17,000 people aged 18 to 64 who are socially isolated.
Rachel Flowers’ report, which will be presented to cabinet members today (14 November) focuses on how individuals and communities can play their part to support each other.
Special attention is paid to periods during a person’s life where they are most at risk of a solitary existence – such as pregnancy, being a mother with very young children, young people who experience adversity, adults of working age, those recently retired, and much older people.
There are also examples of best practice in the borough already making a difference to vulnerable groups, such as Bump Dance Fitness, an initiative founded by New Addington residents to support local mums in making new friends.
Another group, Lingua House, set up by the Afghan community, runs English language classes for young people to help them participate more in the wider community.
The director of public health advocates this approach of simple, effective tips for communities and the council, health service providers and the voluntary sector to tackle loneliness and social isolation. They include:
Tips for carers:
• Take care of yourself. It’s not just the person you are caring for who is at risk of social isolation; you are, too.
• Seek support from people who understand your circumstances and can help you feel less alone, such as a carers’ support group.
Tips for new mums:
• Meet up with other women in a similar situation to avoid feeling disconnected from other friends who may not be going through the same experience.
• Take some time out for yourself – go for a walk, have coffee with a friend, or join an exercise class.
Tips for children and young people:
• Work toward small goals which can help you to feel positive about yourself, and enjoy what you do – you don’t have to be perfect at it.
• Try to not compare yourself to others. Information shared on social media is often carefully selected to put others in their best light possible.
Tips for parents:
• Support children to stay healthy with nutritious meals and exercise as these will improve their learning at school and increase self-confidence.
Tips for working adults:
• Nurture support networks, such as online social sites and through volunteering to keep connected with your community.
• Have phone conversations with family and friends, or link up via social media or video conferencing – this can be the next best thing to physically being with them.
Tips for older adults:
• Have your hearing regularly checked, and treated if needed, to enable you to communicate better and avoid feeling embarrassed when out and about.
• Be open to learning how to use technology to maintain connections with loved ones.
Commenting on her report, Rachel Flowers said: “There’s so much we can do as individuals and as a community to address loneliness and social isolation.
“It’s not always grand gestures that are required; a smile, a meal shared or asking for, or offering, help can make a real difference.
“My report for Croydon provides a few ideas of some simple things we all can do for ourselves, friends and community to reduce social isolation and loneliness and help reduce the health harm it can bring – there are many other things that I’m sure people can think of and I’d encourage them to go and do their bit across Croydon.”
1. Croydon’s director of public health’s report is available to download from the Croydon council website at www.croydon.gov.uk/healthsocial/phealth/publichealth
2. JustBe Croydon is the new online health programme supporting residents to be happy and healthy www.justbecroydon.org/
3. Production of the director of public health’s annual report is a statutory requirement under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, Section 31 (5)), as is the requirement for the council to publish it (Health and Social Care Act 2012, Section 31 (6)).
4. Croydon has made a commitment to address social isolation; it is currently an objective within the Health and Wellbeing Board strategy and the council will continue to form strategic partnerships with health, social care and voluntary sector organisations to ensure that actions and activities positively impact lives to reduce the burden of social isolation and loneliness across Croydon and in all people who live and work here. (Source: Croydon council press release)
LAMBETH SPIES ARE WATCHING YOU (They see every little thing you dump)
From Lambeth council’s environment team:
We’re running a trial to decrease fly tipping, by using portable cameras to catch offenders.
We’re determined to reduce the levels of dumped rubbished in the borough. Not only is fly tipping unsafe and look unsightly, it costs large amounts of money every year to clear away.
The cameras will act as a deterrent and potentially be used to prosecute offenders.
Where will the cameras be located?
The cameras will be located at areas where fly tipping has been recorded. As they are on movable structures, they may be moved to any appropriate location in the borough during the trial.
The first three locations were:
Vauxhall Grove, Prince’s ward
Shakespeare Road, Coldharbour ward
Corner of Elms Road and Clapham Common South Side, Clapham Common ward.
How long will the trial be running?
The trial began during the last week of October and is running for approximately eight weeks.
Please see our fly tipping deterrent trial page for more details and frequently asked questions. (Source: Lambeth council’s Love Lambeth website)
HOUSING FRAUDSTER SENTENCED
A fraudster has been handed a two-year suspended jail sentence after sub-letting a council house while living with her family elsewhere and owning another property worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The woman pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud relating to sub-letting her council owned flat at Elmore House on the Loughborough estate and making a false claim for a single persons discount, after an investigation by Lambeth council officers.
Now the council will seek to claim back all the money she made through the fraud, via the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Council investigators found that the woman was living in a house in Harrow, with her partner and child, and not as a single person in Elmore House as she had claimed.
When faced with the overwhelming evidence, she admitted that she had not lived at the council flat for eight years and had been subletting it periodically during that time.
In court, Lambeth council representatives explained that this fraud had resulted in personal gain for the woman, while vulnerable and needy families had been housed in temporary accommodation at great cost to the council.
Lambeth council’s cabinet member for housing Cllr Matthew Bennett said: “This deception is morally reprehensible, not only costing the council tens of thousands of pounds and pocketing illegitimate money for herself, but also making the already terrible housing crisis in our city, even worse.
“The work of our officers in uncovering this fraud shows that these fraudsters will not get away with this type of behaviour – we will find them and prosecute them.
“We have more than 22,000 people on our housing waiting list in this borough and we are determined to do everything we can to help those in need of a safe, secure home.”
Investigators found that the woman ran the subletting in an organised way, keeping detailed records for her numerous sub-tenants, and using websites including Gumtree and SpareRoom.co.uk to advertise the property.
At Inner London Crown Court on November 2, His Honour Judge Wood QC, told the woman that the case was serious as it went on over many years, and made the point that upon investigation she lied and persuaded another (her current sub-tenant) to lie for her too rather than give the property back straight away.
The judge also commented that it was right for the public to know that behaviour like hers would normally result in one going straight to prison, however having listened to submissions and giving credit for her early guilty plea, the Judge was “just persuaded” to suspend the sentence.
She was given a two-year custodial sentence, suspended for 20 months.
The court found that the woman had profited from sub-letting the Council property, and also noted that as well as living in the family home in Harrow, she appeared to own a different house in Bromley.
A timetable was set to implement a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) investigation – whereby the council will seek to recover the loss to the public purse, as well as taking back any profit made by Chalk from this long running crime. The POCA timetable will now stretch into the new year.(Source: Lambeth council’s Love Lambeth website)