Social isolation and loneliness can affect anyone – at all ages and stages of life. As our society changes, there is increasing recognition of social isolation and loneliness as major public health issues that can have a significant impact on a person's physical and mental wellbeing.
That's why I am delighted to present the Scottish Government's first strategy to tackle social isolation and loneliness, and build stronger social connections.
Earlier this year, we were proud to be leading the way internationally by publishing a draft strategy for consultation. Since then, the Scottish Government has hosted community-based events the length and breadth of Scotland, to hear about what matters to you. A number of organisations facilitated their own events, for which I am grateful. We received well over 400 responses to the consultation – a sign of your appetite for and interest in seeing real and meaningful change.
Let me be clear from the outset that the Scottish Government has an important role in tackling these issues, and we want to do more to create the right conditions for change and support communities to flourish. So we're using the Strategy to bring together the different parts of Government that can make a real difference in this area.
But the biggest impact can only be delivered if we enable communities themselves to play their part. This is a key aspect of our approach to community empowerment and public service reform, which recognises that people and communities know what is best for them. We've listened carefully to what you have to say, and have committed to a way forward and a series of early actions that I hope will help us build a more connected Scotland.
We know that getting support into local communities can make a difference. Our previous social isolation and loneliness funding demonstrated that grassroots initiatives, run by organisations firmly rooted within communities, can have a hugely positive impact on people who are socially isolated, or experience regular feelings of loneliness.
That's why this Strategy includes a commitment to look across our investment into communities and consider how it can be aligned with the ambitions of this Strategy. I'm also committing an additional £1 million of investment over the next two years to build our collective capacity to implement the Strategy, and to try out innovative approaches that could make a real difference. The Strategy contains a number of early commitments, but I am keen to go further. So we will lead work to strengthen a cross-governmental approach to this issue, and work in collaboration with key partners through an implementation group to ensure that we have clear plans in place for delivering on our ambitions.
But this is about more than money or projects. The reality is that we all have a responsibility to ensure that our communities are more connected and cohesive, and that principles like kindness have greater traction in society. Whether it is saying hello to your neighbour, taking the time to get to know a regular customer at work, reaching out to someone you haven't seen in a while, or just a small act of kindness that can make a stranger's day – all of this can go a long way to helping everyone feel part of their community.
I hope that you will take the time to read this strategy, that it resonates with you and that it inspires you to play your part in helping tackle social isolation and loneliness. These are important issues and together I believe that we can build a more connected Scotland where all of us feel welcome, connected within our communities, and valued as an important part of society.
Minister for Older People and Equalities
Email: Trevor Owen