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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

PM appoints minister to tackle misery of loneliness endured by nine million

Written by Sam Lister

A minister for loneliness has been appointed to help tackle the misery endured by around nine million Britons.

Theresa May has backed a series of recommendations made by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which highlighted how widespread the problem is.

Ms Cox, who was brutally murdered by a far-right terrorist, campaigned across the political divide before her death to find ways to combat loneliness.

As well as announcing Tracey Crouch (pictured) will become the minister responsible for the issue, the Prime Minister said a cross-government strategy to find ways to stop people feeling lonely will be published later this year.

On Wednesday, Mrs May will host a Downing Street reception to celebrate Ms Cox's legacy.

Ahead of the event, she 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."

The Office for National Statistics will help to devise a method of measuring loneliness and a fund will be set up to allow Government and charities to find innovative ways to deal with the problem across all ages, backgrounds and communities.

Ms Crouch 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."

A study by 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 and Scope said up to 85% of young disabled adults feel lonely.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, chaired by Labour's Rachel Reeves and Conservative Seema Kennedy, worked with 13 charities over the last year to help find solutions to the problem. Ms Reeves and Ms Kennedy said: "We are really pleased to see that the Government is taking the issue of loneliness very seriously with its prompt response to our report. Jo Cox said that 'young or old, loneliness doesn't discriminate'.

"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."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.