Jo Cox recognised that loneliness can affect anyone, from the elderly to new mums, or refugees to the recently bereaved. The scale of the issue is huge, with a landmark report commissioned by the British Red Cross and The Co-op in 2016 finding that over 9 million people are affected by loneliness in the UK.
At The Jo Cox Foundation, we remain committed to continuing Jo’s work on the many issues she cared deeply about, and helping to build stronger communities up and down the country, where everyone has a sense of belonging.
This week, we welcomed the government’s first Annual Report on tackling loneliness. The report outlines the progress made since the publication of the cross-government Loneliness Strategy in October 2018, which was a direct result of recommendations made by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.
It is unsurprising, in the current climate, that people may face an increased risk of loneliness. It is vital as we enter into this new decade that we work together to overcome polarities and create a society where everyone is included. The appointment of the world’s first Minister responsible for tackling loneliness in 2018 was a huge step towards achieving this vision. The government’s commitment to this issue has resonated globally, with other nations now learning from the UK’s pioneering work on the issue.
It is vital that this government continues to show leadership on the issue, with a focus on consolidating achievements and learnings to date and maintaining a cross-cutting approach. The government’s additional £2 million fund to tackle loneliness in October 2019 was a strong signal of its positive intent, and we hope that resourcing for this issue will continue to be prioritised moving forward. We also support the Loneliness Action Group’s policy recommendations aimed at achieving sustainable change, and believe these recommendations should be incorporated into future work to tackle loneliness and social isolation, to fulfil Jo’s vision of a nation where no-one is forgotten.
Our work to tackle loneliness in 2020:
On 5th March, The Jo Cox Foundation is delighted to be co-hosting ‘Getting Together to tackle Loneliness in Kirklees’; a conference held in collaboration with The Befriending Partnership. This day-long event will bring together key stakeholders and inspire collective action to tackle loneliness and social isolation in Kirklees. Key speakers on the day will include Baroness Diana Barran, Minister for Civil Society and DCMS; Tracey Crouch MP, the world’s first Minister for Loneliness; and Rachel Reeves MP, co-chair of The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.
In the summer we will be holding the 4th annual Great Get Together which will bring thousands of people together with others in their communities, helping to build bridges and create new connections across the whole of the UK. Last year, over 720,000 people came together to celebrate Jo Cox’s ‘more in common’ message at over 11,000 events, with 71% of people surveyed reporting that they felt less lonely after taking part.
Beyond June, Great Get Together organisers are helping to build closer, more compassionate communities in every corner of the country year-round. One such organiser is Laura Henderson, who runs a ‘Chatty Cafe’ to help tackle loneliness in her home of Llantwit Major, Wales. Laura’s story was told last December on ITV news, where she shared her motivation behind the initiative: “There are people who are carers, who live with disabilities, young people and people who are much older living on their for own, for whom something like this hopefully breaks their week up, helps brings them back into interaction with other people and makes life a little bit easier.”
To be part of this year’s Great Get Together, visit our website here. You can also take a look at our Loneliness Directory or the government’s Let’s Talk Loneliness campaign for advice and support if you are feeling lonely or would like to volunteer your time to help others.
We all need to take action to tackle loneliness and social isolation as we move forward into the next decade. When government, civil society and the general public unite, we can deliver real change – and continue Jo’s commitment to ensuring that no one, no matter who or where they are, is at risk of loneliness.
Eleanor Harrison – Partnerships and External Affairs Manager