'˜Let's blow the lid off of the loneliness crisis once and for all'

A NATIONAL cross-party commission featuring politicians, leading charities and policy makers is to be launched to 'blow the lid' on the crisis of loneliness.

Royal Voluntary Service befriender Bob Burns, of Chapel Allerton Good Neighbours, with Ted Franklin, who he visits.

As the Yorkshire Post marks two years since the launch of its award-winning Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, we can reveal that the new commission, set up by Batley’s Labour MP Jo Cox, will seek to galvanize action and “end the scourge that is loneliness”.

We began campaigning in February 2014, after revealing how almost a third of the region’s over-65s who live alone - 91,300 - admit to feeling lonely all or most of the time.

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Since then, the issue has risen in the national agenda, with Prime Minister David Cameron among those backing our call for action. Now, the Yorkshire Post will join Mrs Cox and leading decision makers on the commission, which aims to give even greater prominence to the lonely or isolated.

Yesterday, Mrs Cox tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament, congratulating the Yorkshire Post on its campaign, and called on the Government to require all health trusts and local authorities to include tackling loneliness in their health and wellbeing strategies - a key factor of the YP’s own campaign, after we revealed the nine Yorkshire authorities were failing to give significant mention of the issue in this crucial policy document back in 2014. Under pressure from the campaign, seven of these have now pledged action.

Mrs Cox said: “The scale of this crisis shocks me to the core. Every time I meet someone who is lonely, or a volunteer or charity working with people who are isolated, the scale of the challenge really blows me away. It’s also clear that loneliness is not just an issue for older people, but for so many in our communities.

“This issue goes beyond politics. It is something that politicians of all parties can unite around.

“We all care about the communities we represent, and we are all moved when we hear these stories. We need to find a way to pull together on this.”

The commission will bring together experts in the field, as well as a representative of the Yorkshire Post’s campaign, to investigate “the scale of the crisis” and the range of responses we, as a country, need to make to it.

Nicola Furbisher, managing editor of the Yorkshire Post, said: “We have shown over the last two years that loneliness is an issue that is not going to go away soon - and not without action from all sectors of authority and society.

“What it needs is for people of all political bias and experts in the field to look at loneliness and social isolation together to determine the solutions to this crisis - and this commission will do exactly that.

“We look forward to working with Jo on the commission and achieving real results for those in our communities who are suffering alone.”

Mrs Cox added: “The leadership that the Yorkshire Post has given to this great moral challenge of our time - that so many people are lonely - is phenomenal.

“It’s been so great to see so many of the Yorkshire Post’s readers, and the team at the newspaper, give such prominence to the issue.”