CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Is your neighbour vulnerable? Police ask for help identifying isolated people in Camden

Concerns of social isolation raised after coma patient lay unidentified for a month

07 February, 2018 — By William McLennan

POLICE have begun drawing up a list of vulnerable people and are knocking on doors in a bid to combat social isolation.

Officers have asked members of the public to alert them to elderly or vulnerable neighbours who lack the support of friends or family.

It follows the case of “Patient X”, who lay in a coma unidentified for a month before being recognised by New Journal readers as a middle-aged man who lived alone in Queen’s Crescent.

It led to questions about how somebody could lay in hospital for four weeks and not be reported missing.


“Patient X” lay unidentified for a month

After his image was printed on the front of this paper, he was identified by neighbours who described him as a reclusive man who had shunned social contact. Police are still seeking his family.

Under the new initiative, neighbourhood police officers will make house visits to anyone reported as vulnerable, giving them an opportunity to “ensure that the resident [is] safe and warm in their house and make referrals to local support services as necessary.”

PC Mick Murray, who is leading the operation, said that he was inspired to act after reading a report into social isolation among the elderly.

He said: “The role we as a police service are playing, is just to try and identify these vulnerable people and refer them on, if they want to be of course, to the local authority and file a report for our own purposes which can, if deemed appropriate, be forwarded to social services.”

Researchers say that social isolation is not only a problem for the elderly, with the effects more likely to be felt by the vulnerable and disabled.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which was set up in honour of the MP who was murdered in 2016, has launched the “Start a Conversation Campaign”, encouraging people to tackle isolation by chatting with a neighbour or checking in on an old friend.

PC Murray said: “Some have questioned whether this is appropriate use of valuable police time, I would argue that as front-line service with dedicated resources in every ward in London, we do have the time to at least knock on a door and say hello to that resident and if nothing else, have a chat and make our own observations and recommendations.”

In a letter to the New Journal last month, Mary Burd, chair of Age UK Camden, said: “Isolation is reckoned to be as big a killer as heart disease or smoking. In urban areas, all too often we hear ‘I don’t know my neighbour’. There is, however, some good community spirit in our great borough.”

Gary Jones, chief executive of Age UK Camden, said: “This is a great idea and we commend PC Murray on thinking about how to help isolated older people. Ageing Better in Camden (ABC) has just launched an outreach service to identify people who might be isolated and thanks to the New Journal, ABC is going to be in contact with PC Murray to see how the outreach service can work with him and his team.”

To report concerns about a neighbour, email: murray.michael@met.police.uk.

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