COTA Queensland has been invited to participate in the panel discussion for the Australian Loneliness Dialogue 17 May 2022. This online event is hosted by Friends for Good and sponsored by the Queensland Mental Health Commission and will include a range of national and international speakers. They will be presenting and discussing the impacts of loneliness across the lifespan and for diverse cohorts including impacts on marginalised communities, strategies and approaches, and the international and national evidence around prevention and mitigation of loneliness.
Find out more about COTA Queensland’s work around social isolation and loneliness. COTA Queensland is proud to participate in this event and we look forward to sharing insights from this conference through this Social isolation and Loneliness Hub and on our social media platforms.
COTA Queensland’s submission for the Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into Social Isolation and Loneliness outlined several recommendations for the prevention and mitigation of social isolation and loneliness, some of which have been incorporated into the Queensland Parliamentary Report into Social Isolation and Loneliness which was released 6 December 2021.
COTA Queensland strongly supports the sound recommendations presented in the Parliamentary report. However, we also note several areas where further actions could be taken, including:
The report focused importantly on interventions that assist people who are already experiencing social isolation and loneliness. However, we need to address the underlying economic and social factors and the structural changes required to help prevent social isolation and loneliness e.g., inequities in essential services such as housing and transport may influence potential interventions or impact on peoples’ ability to participate in available supports or initiatives.
The required infrastructure is not always in place to support well-intentioned opportunities for digital inclusion, particularly in regional, rural and remote communities when digital infrastructure may not exist or be working how it should. We need to look at alternatives when people are not able to be online and see how community members find workarounds and how we can learn from their workarounds. This needs to be supported by the latest evidence including annual reports such as the one released by the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) (2021).
Social prescription is emphasised as the main approach in the report. While social prescription model is backed by the latest evidence, and a trend in the international arena, we acknowledge that the very nature of social isolation and loneliness is not a one-size fits all approach. We therefore recommend approaches that respect that social isolation and loneliness are a) two separate phenomena that are b) experienced in unique ways according to the individual and their life circumstances.
We need to build on the evidence through stories and examples of how factors change according to the region and the life circumstances of the individual (e.g., impact of remoteness, climate change, local resources; community acceptance/motivation for initiatives; and socioeconomic factors unique to specific regions).
Neighbourhood and Community Centres are key spaces for community members, but we must not be confined to only these spaces. We need to be inclusive of other spaces and providers such as the Sixty and Better program based at local community groups/organisations, or for Sixty and Better to become part of Community Centre funding. We must harness, highlight, and promote such initiatives as gauges for (existing) strong supports which work.
We note that social prescription is similar or the same as community referral. We need to formalise an (often) informal process and work out how to establish incentives for health workers who identify those experiencing social isolation and/or loneliness to refer them to community organisations with link workers. We also need to work out how to fund an adequate number of link workers and services to address social isolation and/or loneliness issues.
In the report, there is no mention made of the prior work undertaken including the history of the Sixty and Better Program which has existed for almost 30 years assisting older Queenslanders impacted by social isolation and loneliness. Therefore, there should be sufficient ground to already implement recommendations within a e.g., 12 to 24-month period, rather than a 10-year strategy.
We continue to explore how social isolation and loneliness are impacting older Queenslanders through our Community Engagement Hub. We encourage community members, service providers, and those interested to share their thoughts and insights. These insights will help to inform our ongoing work.
Queensland Parliament published findings from the Inquiry into social isolation and loneliness. The Community Support and Services Committee provided the report to the Legislative Assembly 6 December 2021.
COTA Queensland’s submission was sent to Queensland Parliament 18 August. A copy of our submission is available here.
The Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into Social Isolation and Loneliness received a total of 179 submissions. The Community Support and Services Committee met 30 August 2021 for a public briefing. A transcript of the proceedings is available here.
A summary of COTA Queensland's recommendations regarding social isolation and loneliness is below.
In light of the current global and Australian evidence, and the issues identified around social isolation and loneliness for Queenslanders, we strongly recommend the inclusion of an age-friendly framework which is also informed by the World Health Organisation's (WHO’s) Decade of Healthy Ageing strategy regarding social isolation and loneliness.
To the Inquiry, we presented five key recommendations (along with examples of opportunities for action):
1. To address the community and societal factors that contribute to social isolation and loneliness the Queensland Government strengthens its approach to achieving age-friendly communities.
2. In consultation with Queensland communities and stakeholders develop and implement a range of interventions that would most effectively assist those impacted by social isolation and loneliness.
3. Peak bodies such as COTA Queensland to collaborate with independent organisations and committees to better elevate the knowledge around effective interventions. The overall responsibility for the development and delivery of enhanced existing interventions or new interventions to be assigned to appropriate organisations.
4. Ensure the provision of program funding that reflects the scope and importance of the intervention work.
5. Establish a Taskforce comprised of representatives of the three levels of government, the community and health sectors to coordinate a whole of community response to social isolation and loneliness.
Detailed recommendations and opportunities are provided in the complete submission.
Thank you for your survey responses and ideas wall contributions to the date.
A friendly reminder that the Social Isolation and Loneliness Community Hub will remain open for 2021, and we encourage people to share this link with their friends, colleagues and peers as we are keen to continue to expand our understanding of social isolation and loneliness in all-age communities in Queensland.