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