Loneliness is Beveridge’s sixth ‘giant evil’ says Yorkshire MP

Rachel Reeves speaking at the Policy Exchange on December 11. Picture: Christopher White
Rachel Reeves speaking at the Policy Exchange on December 11. Picture: Christopher White
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MODERN life has fuelled the loneliness epidemic and if the social reformer Sir William Beveridge were alive today, he would call it his sixth “giant evil”, a campaigning Yorkshire MP has said.

As revealed by The Yorkshire Post today, Labour MP for Leeds West Rachel Reeves has made a major speech on how loneliness has become “structured into society” and called fresh thinking on health and social care and elements of the welfare system to tackle the crisis.

Ms Reeves, co-chairwoman of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, went on to tell London’s Policy Exchange think tank that modern life has fuelled the problem, with more people living alone or working from home or a van “with just a stylus and tablet for company”.

She said public sector workers have been turned into “cogs in a machine” who spend their time “servicing the system with meetings, testing, assessing, referring, auditing and filling in questionnaires, forms and reports”.

“They want to make a difference but nothing changes,” Ms Reeves said.

She has speaking ahead of the launch of the Commission’s manifesto, which will take place in MP Jo Cox’s hometown and former constituency of Batley on Friday. Mrs Cox had been working on forming the Commission when she was killed last June.

During her speech, Ms Reeves remarked that Sir William Beveridge would add the “need for attachment and connection” alongside the need for bread and health, made famous in his 1942 report which highlighted the five “giant evils” of want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, which has been campaigning to highlight the issue of loneliness since February 2014, Ms Reeves said: “I wanted to show what it was about modern Britain that has created this epidemic.

“It is 75 years since the Beveridge report, and if he was writing it today, I honestly believe he would say loneliness is the sixth ‘great evil’. I feel there is a need for human interactions and solidarity that are missing from people’s lives today. The modern welfare state was meant to alleviate the evils that Beveridge spoke about, we need to work together to help people to help themselves.”

Festive feel to loneliness lunch

A MONTHLY Friendship Lunch inspired by The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness campaign was given a festive treat with a performance by local school children.

Pupils from Crayke School sang for 70 guests at the Durham Ox on Monday, and nun-turned author Sister Agatha from the Bar Convent in York also gave a talk.

Landlady Sasha Ibbotson said: “Everybody absolutely loved it.”