Neighbourhood Watch groups in England could provide companionship for pensioners that live alone.
Social care minister Norman Lamb said:
“Many older people are living “very lonely lives”, without family support.
…The “principle of neighbourliness” could be extended to address the “extraordinary challenge” presented by an ageing society.”
There are 173,000 Neighbourhood Watch groups in England and Wales, this system kicked off in the 1980s to encourage local residents to report suspicious behaviour in their area and to help prevent burglaries.”
Mr Lamb said:
“The pressures on the care system were only going to increase, with the number of people living beyond 80 set to double by 2030 and many unable to rely on regular family help.”
He also said:
“Loneliness and isolation damaged people’s physical and mental health and made people dependent on the state a lot earlier than they needed to be…”
Mr Lamb further commented that:
He was not looking to undermine the “essential” work of care professionals but to provide an extra dimension to help people’s quality of life.
“Care is not enough on its own. We have to ask the fundamental question what gives you a good life.
That’s about companionship, friendship, neighbourliness. As our extended families have dispersed across the country and sometimes well beyond, inadvertently we have ended up with very many people living very lonely lives…”
Community groups would be required to apply for “care status” from their local authorities if they wanted to provide statutory services.
But ministers have said they should not be “prescriptive” about who provides basic assistance and existing relationships should be built upon, raising the prospect of neighbours helping with tasks such as feeding.
Ministers want more community solutions in care provision and in the recent Spending Review, the government gave a £2bn slice of the social care budget to councils to encourage closer working with the NHS.
According to Jim Madden, chairman of the Neighbourhood Watch and Home Watch Network:
“It is important for groups of members to be aware of the vulnerable people in their communities.”
However, the director of Age UK, Michelle Mitchell said:
“The presence of a “friendly face”, however welcome, could not make up for a lack of resources in the care budget.”
Good neighbours can make a real difference but are no substitute for a well-supported care system which helps people with a range of care needs, including everyday tasks such as washing and dressing,
Neighbours can go so far, but we must face up to the reality of our ageing population and the government must commit to funding the professional care and support they need.”
The BBC has more details on Neighbourhood Watch groups.