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View from The Voice: Why we must tackle loneliness

LONELINESS: African and Caribbean people over the age of 65

ONE OF the points made last week as Prime Minster Theresa May appointed a minister to tackle loneliness within the society was that “young or old, loneliness does not discriminate”.

This is something which many BAME people can relate to as our stories on young carers and isolated elders reveal in this issue. Estimated figures show that there are about 700,000 young carers in the UK who go the extra mile to provide practical and emotional support for elderly or ill family members but are let down by agencies, schools and local authority health services that are supposed to help them.

These young people end up struggling with feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety as they balance the demands of schoolwork and caring for others. As noted in our news report, under the Care Act and the Children and Families Act, teachers and other professionals working with children have a statutory duty to identify young carers and refer them to local authority to be assessed for support, but this is not being done as young BAME carers often fall under the radar.

This surely has to change and we hope the new minister for loneliness will take note. Meanwhile, the issue of loneliness and isolation faced by African and Caribbean people over the age of 65 is being ignored by the government and social care agencies.

For many older BAME people, life in later age can be a lonely experience. The community organisations which flourished in the 1960s, 70s and 80s that were able to provide meeting places, culturally competent services and ensure that the black community could benefit from their experiences and history have vanished over recent times. As these organisations fold, they have not been replaced by similar ones.

Loneliness affects all groups and we need to face up to it. With Government now accepting that it is a social issue which needs attention, let us all look forward to a new focus on tackling it and that Britain’s BAME communities are included in the conversation.

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