NEWS: Minister appointed to help to combat loneliness
The problem of loneliness in the UK has been at the forefront of government plans this week, with a minister appointed to take the lead on the issue. Loneliness has become an issue of epidemic proportions, and it is something that affects all generations. It is particularly rife among the older population, especially those who live alone in later life, often after the loss of a partner.
The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness was set up after the death of Jo Cox, to explore new initiatives and ideas to help combat loneliness in the community. The cross-party commission looks at the changes that can be made on a national and community level to bring people together to help themselves, as well as changes to the welfare system to offer more support.
In January 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that a series of recommendations put forward by the commission would be accepted and implemented. The first of which is to appoint a dedicated minister to address the issues associated with loneliness. This is the Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch, who will lead the cross-Government group tackling the problem. In a statement following her appointment, Crouch said: "This is an issue that Jo cared passionately about and we will honour her memory by tackling it, helping the millions of people across the UK who suffer from loneliness."
Other measures include work on a cross-Government strategy on loneliness in England to be published later in the year. This will look at how the central government, local government, public services, the community sector, volunteers and businesses can pull together to help loneliness within individual communities. They will also look at a dedicated fund to help charitable trusts and foundations to find solutions to loneliness and help with community-based projects.
The announcements have been met with approval from key players in the sector. Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: 'While naturally ‘the proof of the pudding will be in the eating’, the Government’s decision to develop a cross-cutting strategy on loneliness is one we strongly welcome. Loneliness blights far too many lives in this country and older people are especially at risk.”
According to statistics cited by the Prime Minister, more than nine million people always or often feel lonely, and 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in over a month. May said: “I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones – people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”