Social isolation could become bigger problem due to Covid-19, warns senior Doncaster councillor

A senior councillor has said that loneliness and social isolation could have serious problems in the distant future in Doncaster due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 5:14 pm

Coun Nigel Ball, cabinet member for public health, said the council had only begun to ‘scratch the surface’ on the problem and the restrictions made it harder to tackle.

Fellow councillors in an overview and scrutiny meeting heard a big problem was those, mainly the elderly population, who don’t have access to the internet to keep connected.

One direct consequence of the pandemic meant front-facing customer service roles within the council were halted and everything went online or over the phone.

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Councillors in an overview and scrutiny meeting heard a big problem was those, mainly the elderly population, who don’t have access to the internet to keep connected.

Coun Ball praised the work of Doncaster Culture & Leisure Trust who run The Dome in quickly turning around a community hub as a central point to deliver food and medicines during the first wave.

“From public health’s perspective, what we’ve tried to do is be responsive to the needs of residents but they’ve also had to cope with what you can do under the guideline and what you can’t,” Coun Ball said.

“We are scratching the surface with this and we’re potentially going to have some serious problems in the future – it’s very difficult to do with the constraints in place.

“A lot of those affected by social isolation will be the elderly and in the main are not IT literate meaning they don’t have access to a lot of our DMBC services.

“That’s a challenge and it will continue to be so and we’re keen to keep looking at this problem.

Coun Ball used an example of a fictitious ‘Mrs Brown’ who lives alone in Denaby and doesn’t have access to the internet and would go to the bingo two, three times a week as well as a social club.

“That’s no longer available for her and that is a growing concern,” Coun Ball added.

“Some of our community organisers and volunteers across Doncaster are elderly themselves and don’t feel comfortable or secure to go back and set these groups up in whatever tier we are in.

“This is something that is a challenge and something we’ll have to look at more closely as a local authority. There are definitely concerns.”

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