May-led govt appoints minister of loneliness

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed a minister to tackle issues connected to loneliness, a government statement said.

Tracey Crouch, the minister for Sport and Civil Society, will be heading a group formed on an urgent recommendation of a report into the subject by the Jo Cox Commission.

“The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness” has spent the last year considering what the government and other available official and non-official bodies can do to help. Crouch said she was proud to take on the “generational challenge” to tackle an issue affecting about nine million Brits.

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

Prime Minister May said that loneliness was the “sad reality of modern life” for far too many people.

“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,” she said, adding that Jo Cox had recognized the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to “doing all she could to help those affected”.

May also said the new ministerial role would continue the late Ms Cox’s legacy, with the post-holder working with the commission, businesses and charities to create a government strategy.

A government statement said it would develop a wider strategy on the issue, gather more evidence and statistics, and provide funding for community groups to start activities to connect people.

According to the Jo Cox Commission’s report, more than nine million people “always or often feel lonely”.

The report said, “around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month” and “up to 85 percent of young disabled adults — 18-34 year olds — feel lonely.”

Cox, MP for the Batley and Spen constituency, was fatally shot and stabbed by a far-right extremist, Thomas Mair, in June 2016 just days before the Brexit referendum.