The recent national Loneliness Awareness Week was the third such annual event designed to raise awareness of the impact that loneliness and social isolation has on people’s health.
And it’s an issue that is, rightly, climbing up the political agenda across the UK. As you’d expect, CAMRA are clear that keeping our local pubs open, alive and thriving is a vital part of the agenda to combat loneliness.
2016’s ‘Friends on Tap’ report by Oxford University’s Professor Robin Dunbar found that pubs play a key role in facilitating friendships – and that those who have a local pub are happier, more trusting and better connected to their community.
And whilst Wales had the highest percentage of people who have a regular local pub of any part of the UK – at 31% – we are still seeing far too many pub closures across the country. Between July and December 2018, 23 Welsh pubs closed their doors.
And with the likes of community centres, post offices and other spaces in both rural and urban communities closing, the pub is often the only place left for people to get together.
Encouragingly, the Welsh Government have committed to publishing a cross-government strategy to tackle loneliness. We must now make sure that this includes action to protect pubs from closure.
Labour Assembly Member Jack Sargeant, who chairs the Welsh Assembly Cross-Party Group on Beer and Pubs, has recently raised the issue in the Senedd, asking the Welsh Government to take steps to recognise and promote the role of local pubs in tackling loneliness and isolation.
Responding, Deputy Health Minister Julie Morgan said the Government recognised the importance of spaces within communities such as pubs in “maintaining and fostering social connections” and that ministers were considering how they could “recognise and promote these community assets” as part of the loneliness strategy they are developing.
It is great to see the Welsh Government recognise the importance of pubs as community assets.
Over the coming months in Wales – as well as in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – CAMRA will be working with politicians, campaigners and charities to ensure that pubs remain open, alive and thriving so they can continue to play a vital role in tackling loneliness and social isolation.
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