Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, has been appointed ministerial lead for loneliness as part of a government-wide initiative to tackle social isolation.
Today, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, will host a reception at Downing Street to celebrate the legacy of Jo Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen who was murdered in 2016. During the reception, May will announce that she is accepting a series of recommendations from the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, including the appointment of a ministerial lead on the issue.
The cross-party commission was created to continue Cox’s work on loneliness and has spent the past year considering what the government and others can do to address the issue. Thirteen charities, including Age UK and Action for Children, have helped to develop ideas.
In addition to appointing Crouch as ministerial lead, May will announce the steps the government plans to take to tackle loneliness.
These include: developing a cross-government strategy on loneliness in England to be published later this year; developing the evidence base around the impact of different initiatives for tackling loneliness; establishing appropriate indicators of loneliness across all ages with the Office for National Statistics; and the creation of a dedicated fund in conjunction with charitable trusts and foundations.
Crouch has been a sports minister since 2015 but was appointed Minister for Sport and Civil Society last June after Rob Wilson, the former Minister for Civil Society, lost his Reading East seat at the general election. However, the addition of the civil society brief to Crouch’s ministerial portfolio raised concerns that she would not be able to devote enough time to the charity sector.
Crouch said in a statement today: "I am sure that with the support of volunteers, campaigners, businesses and my fellow MPs from all sides of the house we can make significant progress in defeating loneliness.
"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."
Mark Robinson, chief officer of Age UK Barnet, said in a statement: "Loneliness can kill. It’s proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, but it can be overcome and needn’t be a factor in older people’s lives.
"Age UK provides a wide variety of services, and we welcome the work that the government is doing to support lonely people in communities throughout the country."
Research by Age UK shows that 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.