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Prime Minister Theresa May has appointed the country's first minister for loneliness, in memory of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in 2016.
Tracey Crouch, the new ministerial lead for loneliness, will lead a cross-government group which will take responsibility for driving action on loneliness, which affects more than nine million people.
The role was one of the recommendations of the Jo Cox Commission, which called for a national strategy in response to an 'urgent crisis'.
Ms Crouch, who is also minister for sport and civil society, said: “I am privileged to be taking forward the remarkable work done by Jo Cox, the Foundation and the Commission. 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.”
Research shows more than nine million people always, or often, feel lonely, and around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.
Loneliness can be triggered by a life event, such as a bereavement or becoming a parent, with certain groups, such as young people and carers, particularly at risk.
A number of government initiatives are already in place to help reduce loneliness, including improved mental health support, and the pocket parks programme which transforms unused spaces into new green areas, giving lonely people the chance to join volunteering groups and interact with neighbours.
'For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life'
The Prime Minister hosted a reception at Downing Street to celebrate Jo Cox’s legacy, and the important work of her family, Foundation and the Commission in highlighting how many people are experiencing loneliness.
In a statement Theresa 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.”
The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, chaired by Conservative MP Seema Kennedy and Labour MP Rachel Reeves, has spent the last year considering what the government and others can do to help. They have been working with 13 charities including Age UK and Action for Children to develop ideas for change.
Ms Reeves and Ms Kennedy commented: “We are really pleased to see that the government is taking the issue of loneliness very seriously with its prompt response to our report.
“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.”