The response to the issue of loneliness and isolation is delivered across a number of Government Departments and organisations.
The Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development includes a range of measures which contribute significantly to addressing isolation and social inclusion in rural areas. Specific examples of measures in the Plan which are being delivered and will assist those who feel isolated or vulnerable in rural areas include:
- Significant investment in the Seniors Alert Scheme, which facilitates valuable community-based support for vulnerable older people living alone. Over €6.9 million was invested in the Seniors Alert Scheme in 2018. The Scheme had a total of 44,763 participants at the end of 2018.
- Investment of €46 million in Garda fleet to ensure that Gardaí are mobile, visible and responsive to prevent and tackle crime. Of that allocation, €10 million will be available for purchases for the fleet in 2019.
- Continued operation of the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), the main social inclusion programme of Government supporting local community groups and disadvantaged communities and individuals. The new SICAP 2018–2022 programme was launched in April 2018 and is providing opportunities for people to engage in a range of employment supports including the development of personal skills, lifelong learning, labour market training and one-to-one employment supports.
- Support for 450 Men’s Sheds across rural Ireland which provide a safe space where men can gather and participate in their communities, develop social networks and potentially gain new skills and access information.
- Maintaining the network of senior helplines in operation throughout the country, which offer a listening service for older people to help address issues such as loneliness and isolation in rural areas.
- Continued support for community crime prevention through schemes such as Neighbourhood Watch and Text Alert.
- Funding allocation of over €14 million for Local Link rural transport services in 2019, providing a vital service for rural communities. In 2018 Local Links services had 74,486 users, a significant rise from the 2017 total of 20,168 users.
The issue of isolation, whether in urban or rural areas, is one which should concern us all and I am committed to continuing my Department’s response to this issue through programmes such as Seniors Alert and progressing measures contained in the Action Plan for Rural Development.