Enfield Council could put attempts to reduce loneliness and social isolation at the heart of its decision-making in a bid to tackle what has been dubbed a ‘hidden epidemic’.

The local authority has proposed tackling the growing social problem by assessing how each of its decisions could affect loneliness in the borough – in a similar way to its current practice of including equalities impacts assessments in council reports.

A plan to include information on the ‘social impact’ of decisions is one of a series of recommendations set out in a report on loneliness presented to the council’s cabinet on Tuesday (March 12).

The report also suggests using buildings such as libraries and arts centres to provide “a focus for activities in each ward” in a similar way to village halls up and down the country.

It adds that finding community uses for empty shops and allowing restaurants to provide more outdoor tables could help to encourage more people to go out and socialise in the evenings.

Working with schools to educate youngsters about relationships and the dangers of social media, and encouraging more extra-curricular activities such as volunteering, are further proposals outlined in the report.

Investing start-up funds in community projects such as Good Gym, Big Lunch, community litter clearances and Soup could also help tackle loneliness.

The report follows a year of work by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee (OSC), which asked councillors, experts and members of community groups for ideas on reducing loneliness.

It states that the impact of loneliness and social isolation is a “growing public health issue” that can harm both physical and mental health.

The problem can also cost up to £6,000 per person in health costs and pressure on local services.

Committee chairman Cllr Derek Levy states in the report: “Dealing with social isolation cannot be manged by any single department in isolation.

“To coin a phrase, we are all in this together; and working together, we – probably far more effectively on the ground than any Government Minister for Loneliness can do beyond flag-flying and promoting the awareness agenda – can really make a difference to so many lives.”