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New scheme launched in Belfast to tackle loneliness

By Sophie Inge

A new service to help people who feel isolated is set to launch in Belfast as a new study warns that Northern Ireland is in the midst of a loneliness epidemic.

One in five adults in the country (20%) are always or often lonely according to the study from the Co-op and British Red Cross.

Key triggers identified by the study include becoming a new mother at a young age, facing empty nest syndrome or retirement, experiencing long-term health mobility problems, dealing with bereavement and going through a family breakdown such as divorce or separation.

In response to the problem, the British Red Cross will next year launch its community connectors scheme and build on existing support at home services in 39 locations across the UK, including north and east Belfast.

The service - funded by Co-op - will provide support for around 1,100 people in Northern Ireland over a two-year period.

Specialists will provide up to 12 weeks of care - identifying activities, groups and services to help people gain confidence.

Sharon Sinclair, country director of the Red Cross in Northern Ireland, said: "This is a crisis we cannot ignore, but if we come together it's also a problem we can try to solve. Our research shows that life transitions are key triggers for loneliness.

"We need to focus on these moments and work together to help those suffering from loneliness and social isolation, by responding quickly and helping people to recover once they've hit crisis point."

For more information or to sign up visit: redcross.org.uk/tackleloneliness

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