PM appoints Minister for Loneliness following Jo Cox report

PRIME MINISTER Theresa May will set out how the Government will tackle the 'sad reality' of loneliness in modern life - and has started by appointing a minister to create the UK's first ever strategy on the issue.

Jo Cox's sister Kim Leadbeater, centre, with MPs Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy, launch the long-awaited final report of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission at a special event in Batley in December. Picture Tony Johnson.

The commitment to act is a direct result of work by a cross-party commission set up by murdered Batley MP Jo Cox, who in a report in December urged the Government to ”step forward and lead a renewed push to tackle loneliness”.

The Yorkshire Post’s exclusively announced Mrs Cox’s intention to form the commission on the second anniversary of its award-winning Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign in February 2016. She was killed just months later, but her work was taken on by her colleagues, Labour MP for Leeds West Rachel Reeves, and Conservative MP for South Ribble, Seema Kennedy.

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Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will announce that she is accepting the Commission’s recommendations, and will develop a cross-Government strategy on loneliness in England, to be published later this year, which will include local authorities, public services, and voluntary sector and businesses to identify opportunities to tackle loneliness and “build more integrated and resilient communities”.

Speaking ahead of a Downing Street reception today that will celebrate Mrs Cox’s legacy, Mrs May said: “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones – people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.

“Jo Cox recognised the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to doing all she could to help those affected.

“So I am pleased that Government can build on her legacy with a ministerial lead for loneliness who will work with the Commission, businesses and charities to shine a light on the issue and pull together all strands of Government to create the first ever strategy.

“We should all do everything we can to see that, in Jo’s memory, we bring an end to the acceptance of loneliness for good.”

A dedicated fund will be set up to fund initiatives providing solutions to loneliness and “scale-up and spread” existing work offering practical and emotional support to help lonely people reconnect with their communities.

The Office for National Statistics will help to devise a method of measuring loneliness and the Government will develop an evidence base around the impact of initiatives already taking place.

Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Tracey Crouch, has been named as the new ministerial lead for loneliness.

She said: “I am sure that with the support of volunteers, campaigners, businesses and my fellow MPs from all sides of the House, we can make significant progress in defeating loneliness.

“This is an issue that Jo cared passionately about and we will honour her memory by tackling it, helping the millions of people across the UK who suffer from loneliness.”

MPs Ms Reeves and Ms Kennedy, co-chairs of the JO Cox Commission on Loneliness, said: “Throughout 2017 we have heard from new parents, children, disabled people, carers, refugees and older people about their experience of loneliness.

“We very much welcome that Government has accepted the Commission’s recommendations including the appointment of a new ministerial lead who will have the responsibility for creating a national strategy to tackle loneliness. We look forward to working with Minister Tracey Crouch, businesses, community groups and the public to create a world less lonely.”

As part of their work with the Commission, The Co-op and the British Red Cross showed more than nine million people always or often feel lonely, while Age UK found 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month. Scope said up to 85 per cent of young disabled adults feel lonely.