£20m loneliness fund 'exceeded expectations' says minister

Jo Cox
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THE LONELINESS minister has admitted she felt “very emotional” when the scale of a £20m fund to tackle isolation was revealed - and that the cash had exceeded her expectations.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Monday evening that the Government and charities had pledged the sum for a new fund that will build on the legacy of murdered Batley MP Jo Cox by helping those suffering in the grips of loneliness to “establish and maintain connections”.

Tracey Crouch, who was appointed in January, had previously told the Yorkshire Post of the “phenomenal” scale of the challenge she faced in tackling loneliness, said the size of the fund had exceeded expectations.

Ms Crouch said: “I had the ambition that I wanted it to be ten million pounds, and by the time we got to the end it was twenty million pounds. When I saw the final figure I felt very emotional on behalf of the family and friends of Jo because without this money we would not be able to take forward the legacy of tackling loneliness.”

The money has been announced in the week Mrs Cox, who was killed in her constituency in June 2016, would have celebrated her 44th birthday. Thousands of events will be held in her memory this weekend for the second ‘Great Get Together’.

Mrs May said: “As Jo herself used to say, loneliness doesn’t discriminate. But just as loneliness can affect any of us, so any of us can help to overcome it. Countless people will do so this weekend at the second Great Get Together, bringing people together and building stronger communities.

“It’s a great initiative and a fitting legacy for a much-loved and much-missed MP.”

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, who co-chaired the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, whose report last year led to the Government’s action on loneliness, said: “In so many ways the work of Jo lives on through others and it lives on through the announcement today of £20 million to support projects all across our country to ensure more people are supported but also that we help prevent it by bringing communities together and ensuring that nobody has nobody in their lives.”

The fund has been welcomed by charities and campaigners working in the region to tackle loneliness.

Laura Alcock-Ferguson, executive director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, partners in the Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, said the investment demonstrated the Government’s “clear commitment” to ending social isolation.

She added: “Charities and community groups are often at the heart of local communities, reaching people who are otherwise out of reach. We welcome the government’s clear recognition of their value. The UK is leading the way in the movement to connect communities and we are proud to be part of this.”

Chief executive of Contact the Elderly, Meryl Davies, said she hoped the fund would be a “significant step towards creating a more integrated and more connected society, where no one has to suffer social isolation in silence”.

British Red Cross executive director of communications and advocacy, Zoe Abrams, said: “At the British Red Cross we see every day the serious consequences that long term social isolation and loneliness can have on a person’s health and wellbeing and have been playing a convening role to bring together others to help take forwards action in this area.

“Our Community Connector scheme offers lonely people one-to-one support to connect them with social activities where they can make meaningful relationships and is just one example of an effective intervention to ease loneliness. The additional funding announced today should be used strategically to fill in gaps in service provision and ensure more people get the help they need quickly and easily.”