Kim Leadbeater told The Yorkshire Post she was determined to ensure pledges to tackle loneliness, made by Theresa May following the publication of a report by the year-long Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, were followed through as she met with Loneliness Minister Tracey Crouch in Leeds today.
She praised the minister for making an “inspiring start” to her role by meeting those affected by loneliness, but said the work is only just beginning as the Government and other agencies take on from where the Commission, which has been wound down since it launched its ground-breaking report in December, left off.
Ms Leadbeater told the Yorkshire Post: “The loneliness commission was set up as a 12-month project to raise awareness of these issues, start a dialogue about loneliness, and ask for the services that are needed to help - those objectives have been met. The Government have basically given everything we asked of them in December, now that work can be continued through the loneliness minister and the All Party Parliamentary Group that has been set up.
“The Commission wasn’t the end - it was the start. Now it’s important to push the Government for change, and work with charities on a local level to ensure that change takes place on the ground.”
Ms Crouch’s loneliness remit is part of role as Minister for Sport and Civil Society. The two women spoke at the home of Leeds Rhinos rugby club in Headingley, where the minister heard about the work done by the Leeds Rhinos Foundation in communities across Leeds to reduce loneliness, including hosting weekly social groups for over 55s at Headingley Stadium.
“Tracey recognises the role that sports and activities can have in reducing loneliness, and that is something that the Leeds Rhinos Foundation has been fantastic at,” Ms Leadbeater said. “This visit is just the start of her work in Yorkshire, meeting groups out there in the real world who are dealing with the issue of loneliness on a daily basis.”
The Jo Cox Foundation, of which Ms Leadbeater is now an ambassador, is planning to work with the club in the future. The foundation was initially set up as a fund to receive donations in the MPs name after her death, and is now working on a variety of causes, including loneliness.
“We are focussing on the issues that Jo cared about - continuing the work that has already been done on loneliness, and also on women in public life and protecting civilians in conflict,” she said.
“One thing that Jo was passionate about was looking into areas that had potential for conflict or issues, and getting in their first, rather than fire fighting after conflict begins, like in Syria now, for example.