Challenge. Too many people are socially isolated on a day-to-day basis with or without COVID. In particular the elderly, the ill and disadvantaged. For many, something as simple as a trip to the high street for a few words will be their only social contact of the day. It is important that we recognise this as we head back to “normal” and not lose the desire to leave no one behind.
Even now, not everyone is comfortable with or can use/afford technology. Budget cuts seem to have severely restricted access to smaller, local walking distance facilities (like libraries, post offices, even pubs!). And withdrawing these kinds of face-to-face opportunities to have a chat and maybe obtain some help from real people to deal with everyday things (as everything goes online by default) disproportionately affects the most isolated and the most vulnerable. The quiet ones who don’t/won’t complain or seek mainstream help.
I suggest that local hubs should be recognised as the invisible support network they are and treated as an effective, resource-efficient and essential community resource. Where a community reaches out to keep such a local service can we not spare some thought for the human impact of the loss? A cost/ benefit analysis? I feel an honest assessment of the social cost of this kind of involuntary lurch into isolation by neglect is in order.
If money needs to be diverted from Local Authority budgets to bridge the gap why not look at “March madness” for the shortfall. I am told to that each financial year authorities have to use-or-lose underspent budget quickly – hence the glut of (rapidly priced?) roadworks etc. as money is spent around the artificial accounting constraint. Can we not divert some of this to a longer-term ring-fenced fund?