On 29th June I met with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and made a pledge to tackle loneliness in Barnsley East.
Jo set up the Commission, along with 13 organisations including Alzheimer’s Society, before she was murdered just over a year ago. The Commission is continuing her legacy by raising awareness about loneliness and working to try and reduce the stigma of being lonely.
A British Red Cross survey found one in five people said they always or often felt lonely. It’s... something I often see in Barnsley East and I was proud to attend a Great Get Together picnic bringing people together. But being lonely isn’t just a feeling, it’s considered to be as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Many people link loneliness with older people, but that’s by no means the full picture. As Jo herself said, “Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate” and it’s often linked with changes in our lives, moving to a new place, having a baby, retirement or redundancy, disability or ill health, becoming a carer or the end of a relationship.
The Commission partners are holding spotlights through the year. In February, the Co-op launched research that found loneliness cost businesses £2.5 billion a year. During the age spotlight, Gransnet revealed that over half of their users who were lonely had never talked about it. Last month, the Royal Voluntary Society surprised many of us by finding that men reported 38 as the age they had the fewest friends. Spotlights on disability, carers, refugees and children and parents are to follow.
The Commission is working with Government, businesses and voluntary groups and will make recommendations on how to reduce loneliness. However we can all play our part. Loneliness is a problem in every street and within every family. That means all of us can do something to make someone feel less lonely today. We can start a conversation with a neighbour who we know is on their own, pick up the phone to a relative or friend you haven’t spoken to for a while, say hello to someone in the supermarket queue.
I’ve signed a pledge to support the Commission in its aim to tackle loneliness - both in Barnsley East and in my role in Parliament. You can pledge to start a conversation too through the Jo Cox website https://www.jocoxloneliness.org/pledge