Befriending groups, better access to services and a focus on early intervention are vital to ending social isolation and loneliness in Croydon, according to a new report.

Croydon Congress, a group of 200 delegates, representing Croydon’s businesses, health, faith, voluntary and charity sectors as well as police and probationary services, has called on mental health care providers to work together and consult outreach and faith groups when deciding public health policy.

About 16,457 people aged 16-64 in Croydon are socially isolated and about 5,346 older people experience intense loneliness, with chronic loneliness among older people costing £12,000 per person over 15 years, according to the report.

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It comes after Croydon’s Opportunity and Fairness Commission found in January that “too many local residents live isolated and empty lives, which takes a huge toll on their mental and physical health but it also increases costs on local services.”

Richard Pacitti, chief executive of Mind in Croydon, said there needs to be more focus on preventative mental health services in the borough.

According to research by Mind in Croydon better engagement with preventative services would save £3,971 per person per year who would normally use secondary services like GPs.

Mr Pacitti said: “The reason why more money is spent on secondary services there aren’t the preventative services, so it is a vicious circle.

“Anything that can be done to free up more money for preventative services [is needed].”

“The more things we can do, whether it is friendship groups or just making it easier for people get out of the house and be with other people is going to be beneficial.”

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Cllr Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice and chair of Congress, said: “The commission was clear in that we needed strategic leadership in Croydon to tackle the debilitating impact of social isolation and loneliness, which affects so many of our residents.”

The recommendations from the June 21 Congress meeting were approved by Croydon’s cabinet on Monday.