Daily Archives: 23rd October 2018

Tackling loneliness and isolation in Northern England

Devising visible strategies to address hidden problems

A seminar organised by the Institute for Local Governance at MEA House, Newcastle,Friday 7th December 2018, 9.30 – 13.00

In October 2018, the Government launched A Connected Society: a strategy for tackling loneliness. It is a wide-ranging document which recognises that loneliness can affect people in all stages of the life course and is often compounded by social isolation.

The seminar aims to explore the underlying meanings and causes of loneliness and isolation so that informed debate can ensue on what can be done about it for different constituencies of people. We can’t cover everything, so in this seminar we will look at either end of the life-course, focusing on the experience of young people and older people – to see what experiences they may have in common and those which differ.

Tackling loneliness, as the seminar will show, is not an easy thing to do. Often feelings of loneliness and isolation are associated with social stigma – this can potentially undermine well-meaning attempts to tackle the problem through, for example, generalised approaches to social prescribing. This was recognised in the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness report ‘Combating loneliness one conversation at a time.’ Simplistic strategies which look for easy answers will not work.

So the seminar looks at a variety of approaches which have been taken in North East England to consider their merits, but also learn from the difficulties they encountered in reaching and supporting people with diverse experiences and needs.

The seminar will be chaired by Cullagh Warnock, Trust Manager, Millfield House Foundation, and speakers will include:

  • Professor Thomas Scharf, Professor of Social Gerontology, Institute of Heath and Society, Newcastle University: on understanding the similarities and differences between loneliness and isolation.
  • Lesley Carberry-Campbell, Head of Regions, England and the Channel Islands, Silverline: on the provision of out-of-hours and weekend support for lonely or isolated older people.
  • Dr Stephen Crossley, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing, Northumbria University: on a multi-agency intervention to tackle loneliness and isolation in Gateshead. 
  • Helen Mills, Chief Executive Officer, Age UK Northumberland: on the priorities to be tackled when addressing loneliness and isolation amongst older people.
  • Steve Watson, Development Advisor, Youth Focus North East: on raising awareness of isolation and loneliness amongst young people.

The seminar is free to attend, but places are limited and they tend to book up quickly, so please register your attendance via: Janet Atkinson, Institute for Local Governance, Durham University janet.atkinson@durham.ac.uk.

The Institute for Local Governance is a North East Research and Knowledge Exchange Partnership established in 2009 comprising the North East region’s Universities, Local Authorities, Police and Fire and Rescue Services.

Seminar presentations can be downloaded as pdf documents below:

Steve Watson – Loneliness and Isolation 7th December 2018

Tom Scharf – Loneliness and Isolation

Silverlline – Loneliness and Isolation Seminar

Helen Mills – Loneliness and Isolation



Whose town centre is it anyway?

Perspectives on the purpose of town centres in North East England:

A seminar organised by the Institute for Local Governance at Teesside University, Darlington, Friday 23rd November 2018, 9.30 – 13.00


Town centres provide options for working, socialising, shopping and pampering ourselves. But they are more than just hubs for such activity, they also represent a focal point for civic pride and sometimes protest – they tell us something about our local culture, our sense of place and about who we are.

Recently, however, alarm bells have been ringing about the decline of town centres. Some of these challenges are not new.  For years, critics have argued that there has been an over-production of retail space. Certainly, North East towns have experienced increased competition from out-of-town shopping centres – especially from supermarkets, DIY, furniture and electrical goods outlets.

But the growing popularity of online shopping is now threatening other high street staples. The closure of banks and other high street institutions such as Marks and Spencer has been accompanied by an inward rush of discount stores and charity shops. Empty shops look like scars on the urban landscape – offending the integrity and prominence of towns.

This seminar aims to challenge doom-laden accounts of town centre decline and will look at recent positive thinking on how to reshape urban space, reuse buildings and renew social pathways into the town as a socially inclusive cultural, working and, once again, residential arena. In so doing it will try to balance debates which prioritise economic wellbeing with those associated with social and cultural growth.

The seminar will be chaired by Councillor Chris McEwan, Deputy Leader, Darlington Borough Council, and speakers will include:

  • Rachel Anderson, North East England Chamber of Commerce: on the diverse challenges facing five town centres in North East England.
  • Professor Colin Haylock, University College London and Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation: on planning and urban design with more varied uses to enrich the role and reshape the experience of town centres.
  • Richard McGuckin, Director of Growth and Development, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council: on town centre cultures and the journey of transformation.
  • Chris Watson, Head of Land and Communities, Groundwork NE & Cumbria: on the engagement of the community with town centre regeneration strategies.

The Institute for Local Governance is a North East Research and Knowledge Exchange Partnership established in 2009 comprising the North East region’s Universities, Local Authorities, Police and Fire and Rescue Services.

Unfortunately, Chris Watson was unable to speak at the seminar.  Issues surrounding community engagement were discussed by Tony Chapman, but this did not discuss the work of Groundwork North East.  All other seminar presentations can be downloaded here.

Colin Haylock – Whose town centre is it anyway

Tony Chapman – Whose town is it anyway

Rachel Anderson – Whose town centre is it anyway

Richard McGuckin – Whose town is it anyway