She said: “In the old days there would be a local bobby on the beat who would drop by and check everything was OK, but that’s all gone now. These people need looking after. We have to help them.” Camilla, wife of Prince Charles, spoke about the importance of local police in an interview with Saga magazine at the recent launch of the Saga ship, Spirit of Discovery.
Saga is a long term supporter of The Silver Line, a 24-hour telephone service for lonely older people founded by Dame Esther Rantzen.
The Duchess, who is the charity’s patron, said: “There are far too many elderly people in Britain who don’t speak to anyone all day.
“Silver Line is a marvellous charity which has taken two and a half million calls since it started. Just to know they can pick up the phone and hear a friendly voice can make such a difference to their lives.
“We desperately need to look after the lonely. They are so easily forgotten.”
The 71-year-old royal continued: “Saga works predominantly with the over-50s, an age group that to me looks increasingly youthful these days.
“I recently came across a wonderful quotation by TS Eliot. ‘The years between 50 and 70 are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down’.”
Che Donald, National Vice-Chairman of the Police Federation, blamed cuts to police numbers for the fact that officers no longer had time to sit down for a cup of tea with an elderly person.
He said: “Since 2010 we have lost more than 21,000 police officers with 80 per cent of those being taken from the frontline.
“Neighbourhood officers represent the backbone of policing in this country. As we lose them, we not only lose the vital investigative and intelligence-gathering roles they perform in our communities but we lose the ability to establish closer relationships with the public.
“It is frustrating for my colleagues that they can no longer sit down to talk with an elderly member of the public over a cup of tea or check in on them to see if they are OK.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to reverse the cuts by funding 20,000 more police officers.
Mr Donald said: “I welcome his pledge to recruit 20,000 more officers. It is a promising step in the right direction and I hope neighbourhood policing can be restored.”