What we're saying to goverment
Recent NZ government policy documents including the Healthy Ageing Strategy 2017, Treasury Living Standards Framework, and the Better Later Life Strategy identify the importance of reducing loneliness, and increasing social connection and participation. The New Zealand Coalition to End Loneliness welcomes the increased government focus on this key area of wellbeing.
There was, however, no funding directly allocated to this priority in The Wellbeing Budget (2019).
Governments of other countries including the UK and Australia are leading the way on tackling loneliness through consultation, planning, and allocation of resource. The coalition urges the New Zealand government to take action on loneliness as follows:
1. Adopt a focused, cross-departmental and cross-sector approach
- Develop a strategy and action plan to embed social connection as a policy consideration across government departments and to coordinate and track action on loneliness.
- Work with local government to eliminate structural barriers to building social connections.
- Lead cross-sector consultation on how to tackle loneliness.
2. Invest in tackling loneliness and social isolation
- Allocate additional funding to support community and voluntary sector interventions with proven effectiveness in reducing loneliness, and to pilot and / or evaluate innovations and promising approaches.
- Allocate additional funding to support volunteering.
- Fund research to build the knowledge base on what works to tackle loneliness.
3. Increase understanding of loneliness, and make it easier for people to talk about it and access support
- Build health force capacity to understand and assess for loneliness.
- Develop effective referral pathways between formal services and the community and voluntary sector.
- Deliver or support a campaign to destigmatize loneliness and make it easier for people to talk about it and ask for help.
A 2021 World Health Organisation advocacy brief calls on all governments to give social isolation and loneliness the political priority and resources that they deserve.
Still Alone Together report: How loneliness changed in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2020 and what it means for public policy: Helen Clark Foundation, April 2021.
A Connected Society: Assessing Progress in Tackling Loneliness: British Red Cross, September 2019
Advancing Social Connection as a Public Health Priority in the United States: Holt-Lunstad, J. et al, Am Psychol. 2017 Setp: 72(6): 517-530