Minister for Loneliness appointed in United Kingdom

LONDON UNITED KINGDOM. Theresa May has appointed one of her ministers to lead on issues connected to loneliness, implementing one of the main recommendations of a report into the subject by the Jo Cox Commission. Tracey Crouch MP, will head a government-wide group with responsibility for policies connected to loneliness, Downing Street said.

Tracey Crouch MP said she was proud to take on the “generational challenge” to tackle an issue affecting about nine million UK people, young and old. She said she would work across political parties and with communities.

The Commission on Loneliness was first set up by Ms Cox, who was killed before the EU referendum by a man who shouted “Britain first” during the attack.

A 2017 report said loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

In a statement Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Jo Cox recognised the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to doing all she could to help those affected.”

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

Ms Crouch told BBC Breakfast a multi-million pound fund would help her pull together existing work being carried out on loneliness to create a framework for the future.

Asked whether part of the problem lay with local authority cuts leading to library and day centre closures, she said these were all challenges and would be looked at, and stressed there was no single solution.

In December 2017 NHS England’s chief nursing officer, Prof Jane Cummings, said cold weather and loneliness could be lethal in the winter months. She said “simple acts of companionship” could make all the difference.

An estimated half of people aged 75 and over live alone – about two million people across England – with many saying they can go days, even weeks, with no social interaction at all.

Ms Crouch said: “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.”

The Jo Cox Commission, which is chaired by the Labour MP Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy, a Conservative, has been working for the past year with more than a dozen charities on ideas to approach the problem.

In a joint statement, Reeves and Kennedy said they welcomed the government response, and would work with Crouch and various groups to tackle the issue.

They said: “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.”

An elderly woman sits alone in a bedroom

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