Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal delivered an inspiring speech at a national conference on rural isolation and loneliness being held in London on 17th October 2018. The Princess, who attended in her capacity as Patron of English Rural Housing Association, told delegates that providing affordable homes was at the heart of addressing this important issue. The event was sponsored by English Rural and jointly organised by the Plunkett Foundation and National Housing Federation also heard from Tracey Crouch MP, the government’s first minister for loneliness via a pre-recorded video (available online). Tracey praised the work of those involved and rallied delegates to support the governments first Loneliness Strategy.
The conference followed on from the successful #TheLittleThings campaign launched by the Plunkett Foundation in 2017. The campaign partly sponsored by English Rural, sought to raise awareness amongst individuals and community businesses in rural areas about the role that small interactions can play in helping people overcome loneliness and isolation. Loneliness was also a core theme during Rural Housing Week 2018, where the National Housing Federation and English Rural promoted the role that housing associations can play as organisations who work to support thriving rural communities and keep local support networks together by offering affordable homes.
The Campaign to End Loneliness will be speaking at the event alongside Age UK, the National Farmers Union, and Rural Youth Project. Delegates including The Princess Royal will hear about successful community business and housing association examples, which have directly improved lives and wellbeing. Often described as the Silent Epidemic, research has shown that loneliness increases risk of death by 29% and has the equivalent health detriment of smoking 15 cigarettes per day. The scale of the problem is often more severe in rural areas, where high property values force local family and support networks apart. This situation made worse by fewer transport options and limited access to services.
Commenting on the event, Martin Collett, Operations and Communications Director at English Rural Housing Association, said:-
“English Rural are delighted to have sponsored an event focused on this important issue. We see first-hand at English Rural the destructive impact that loneliness has, particularly on low income and vulnerable households. We are looking forward to welcoming the governments Loneliness Strategy which will shine a light on this modern epidemic. The challenge for delegates at this event is to make sure that the needs of rural communities are supported and understood as this strategy is delivered”.
James Alcock, Executive Director, the Plunkett Foundation, said:-
“This event highlights the importance of rural interest groups working together to form strong and supportive partnerships. The Plunkett Foundation is pleased to promote the benefits that community businesses can secure in tackling rural loneliness. Whether it’s offering venues for social interaction or meeting some other important local service need, community businesses have an important role to play.”
“Our work at Plunkett and that of the members we support is based on the principles of co-operation and community action. These principles are the bedrock of rural community culture and provide a strong foundation on which to build a strategy aimed at tackling the increasing effects of isolation and loneliness”.
Monica Burns, External Affairs Manager at the National Housing Federation says:-
“We were delighted to welcome The Princess Royal to the event which we hope will contribute towards solving such an important issue.”
“It is not acceptable that so many people in rural areas feel emotionally isolated, as their families and young people are forced to move away, priced out of areas they’ve known all their lives.”
“Housing associations provide support to the most vulnerable and also intervene to help pubs, schools and post offices open in rural areas. They are at the front-line of tackling isolation and loneliness in rural areas and ready to be part of even more local solutions.”