LONELINESS is in danger of being overlooked amid the “distraction” of Brexit, a campaigning Yorkshire MP has said.
Rachel Reeves, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Loneliness, praised the Government for the work it has done tackling the issue since the launch of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness manifesto in December 2017, but said the all-consuming issue of Brexit must not get in the way of other parliamentary business.
She said: “The threat is that with everything that is going on in Parliament at the moment, a lot of people are distracted, and health issues, and loneliness as part of that, are in danger of being overlooked.
“I hope that the Government will continue to give it the attention it deserves. We have to get Brexit right for the country but we also need to be tackling the issues that affect us in our everyday lives.
Following the murder of Batley MP Ms Cox in June 2016, Ms Reeves took up her friends’ work, becoming chair of the commission on loneliness founded in her name. This work led to wide-ranging commitments by Theresa May to tackle the issue, including appointing the world’s first Minister for Loneliness in January last year. But 10 months into the job, Tracey Cox resigned from her ministerial role amid delays to legislation on fixed odds betting terminals, a decision Ms Reeves said she “respected”.
Ms Reeves said: “Since we published the manifesto a lot has happened. We are now on our second Loneliness Minister.
“Tracey was absolutely fantastic, she came and addressed the commission, and she was really beginning to bring it all together. We hope that Mims Davies will continue this work and put passion into the role.
“The Prime Minister recognised the challenges faced in society today, with an increasing number of people - nine million - who are always or often lonely, and it affecting people of all ages and backgrounds.
“We’re in a very divisive time in politics at the moment. There are so many issue that divide us in politics, the main one being Brexit, but Jo Cox said it best when she said: ‘Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate’ and I hope that by working together we can continue to tackle it.”
The APPG includes MPs from across the political divide, and meets regularly, supported by the British Red Cross. Its work has already seen it examine the Minister for Social Care, and Ms Davies.
“Part of the role of the APPG is to keep the minister’s foot in the fire and constantly nag them to go further”, she said.
Ms Reeves continues to hold the Government to account in other ways, for example, by opposing any further cuts to local authority finances, which she said, would mean “cuts to libraries and Sure Start centres, which is turn makes things worse at a local level”.
“As long as there is a need for it, we will keep on going,” she added.