Claire O’Shea, Campaign Manager for Wales, said:

“17% or people in Wales are always or often lonely. Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The Welsh Government’s draft strategy is the first step towards tackling this urgent issue in Wales.

“Wales faces significant challenges; rurality, a fast-ageing population that is older than the rest of the UK, and many high streets closing down. This means that we cannot simply adapt the Westminster strategy. The solutions must reflect the specific needs of our communities.

“Loneliness is a complex problem and there is no one-size fits all solution. Welsh Government must remain innovative and responsive to the needs of a changing population and must deliver on its commitment to a cross-governmental response. There are many causes for loneliness and socio-economic factors exacerbate them. An approach that tackles loneliness from all directions is vital: transport, education, business, health, and individuals have a role to play. The Campaign to End Loneliness’ Be More Us movement calls on all people in all communities to play their part and take time to connect with others.

“Many services that keep people connected to their communities are currently funded through the European Union. Our exit from the European Union cannot be to the detriment of these services and they must be protected. The Welsh Government must be ambitious in its approach to creating viable local economies that keep communities thriving and connected.

“As a small country with big ambitions, we want to create the conditions that mean people can live, work and retire without fear of facing loneliness. Education and public awareness about the importance of social connections to wellbeing is vital and means we can start tackling loneliness before it becomes chronic. The Campaign to End Loneliness looks forward to continuing our work with the Welsh Government to deliver this vision.”