Laura Alcock-Ferguson, Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, celebrates the launch of the Jo Cox Commission
Last week I heard a mother ask her little girl, who was watching a group of children playing nearby in the park “do you want to go and speak to them?” The 3-year-old girl seemed to need permission to introduce herself. And so, she happily skipped up to the group after her mother had said “go on then, go and say hello.”
The launch of the Jo Cox Commission today gives us permission to connect with others, and highlights the hard truth that chronic loneliness can affect anybody, young or old. In the six years since the Campaign to End Loneliness launched, we’ve seen many new bold initiatives, hundreds of new projects, and thousands more people acting to tackle loneliness – but I believe that none of them have been like the Jo Cox Commission.
Look at what the legacy of this amazing woman has brought together today – if each of us delivers the wishes of this remarkable MP – and works to make loneliness everyone’s business, then this stigmatised, pernicious feeling could be halted in its tracks for so many people.
We need to make loneliness everyone’s business because many of us feel we live in a divided society. While there is rhetoric of hate and fear and talk of building walls, we need more walls like the one built in Nottingham – – a wall of photos of people who are making a difference by helping others who are isolated and alone.
We need to make loneliness everyone’s business because we have a chance to create a tipping point – from the far-reaching services of Independent Age and Royal Voluntary Service, to major new partnerships like the British Red Cross working with the Co-operative; Sense’s projects targeting disabled people to small innovative projects like Cocktails in Care Homes and Good Gym.
We need to make loneliness everyone’s business because for the last five decades, despite many amazing projects and activities, the percentage of chronically lonely people over 50 has not reduced. With our frenetic, time-poor lives, even more people may be finding it harder than ever to connect.
We need to make loneliness everyone’s business because it is a major public health issue – it seriously affects over a million people in the UK aged over 65 who suffer from chronic loneliness which is as bad for their health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness impacts on our struggling health and social care system; those living with loneliness are far more likely to visit their local doctor or A&E.
We need to make loneliness everyone’s business because we won’t end loneliness just through the work of researchers, commissioners, policymakers or even outreach services. Loneliness will only be ended by us all, MPs, government ministers, neighbours, shop keepers, families, citizens, or mums teaching their little children how to overcome the barriers to making friends and saying hello.
Read more about the Jo Cox Commission here: www.jocoxloneliness.org
This article has had 4 comments
email sent to Bournemouth M.P Conner Burns via his Westminster email.
I wrote a poem.
email sent to MP Conner Burns via his House of Commons email, I wrote a poem.
Loneliness is all around us. Recently, I spoke to a widow who said she wasn’t lonely. As the conversation went on she said “it’s worse at 5 and 6 o’clock, in the evening, that’s when I cry”. After her husband’s death (4 years ago), she continued for quite some time to buy him subscription theatre tickets. We really need to create non commercial and commercial communal spaces for people to be together. I am in Australia, and my father in law lives by himslef in Temora, which is a very friendly town. You can sit down to eat in the local club and eat with people who just happen to be there. That’s the sort of feeling we need to create. Easy inclusive, social, convivial opportunities.
The National Federation of Womens Institutes is preparing for its AGM and deciding on its resolutions one of which is to consider ways of alleviating loneliness. “This meeting calls upon every WI…..to work alongside health and social care providers to raise awareness of the causes and impacts of loneliness, thus ensuring better identification of lonely people in order to be able to offer them the appropriate assistance and support”
Not the most well worded resolution but it has started a lot of discussion and so raised our awareness of the ‘hidden population’.
The WI is well recognised as an effective change agent in society; we are currently knitting textured cuffs to allow people with dementia to ‘fiddle’ without damaging valuable clothing. Members take the opportunity to chat and begin a friendship when we deliver them. Although the focus of this initiative is dementia we are able to address the problem of loneliness.
We have worked with local hospitals, carers, doctors’ surgeries and friends to identify people who might welcome one so I feel we are meeting many of your aims.
Christine Robinson, Longton (Lancashire) WI
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