‘Young or old, loneliness does not discriminate’
Jo Cox was elected to Parliament as MP for Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire in 2015. She quickly set to work campaigning to raise the profile of the hidden crisis of loneliness. Jo believed we all have our part to play in tackling loneliness from individuals and communities through to businesses, charities and Government.
Jo set up a a cross-party Loneliness Commission with her colleague Seema Kennedy MP. Jo’s vision was that the Commission would run for one year and work with charities, businesses and the Government to turbo-charge the public understanding and policy response to the loneliness crisis.
This work was taken forward by Seema Kennedy MP and Rachel Reeves MP after Jo’s murder in 2016 and the Commission’s work culminated in the publication of the report ‘Combating loneliness one conversation at a time’a at the end of 2017. You can also read Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP’s personal reflections from the Commission here.
Under Seema and Rachel’s leadership in 2017, The Jo Cox Loneliness Commission saw 13 organisations come together to highlight the scale of loneliness throughout the lifecycle and across all areas of society. The Commission met and listened to people who had experienced loneliness including older people, younger people, employers and their employees, children and new parents, people with disabilities, refugees and carers.
In January 2018, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, responded overwhelmingly positively to the Commission’s recommendations by appointing Tracey Crouch MP as the new Minister for Loneliness, committing to creating a loneliness fund and by commissioning a England wide strategy for loneliness.
The Co-Chairs of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP after attending the Prime Minister's reception at No.10 Downing Street to celebrate the work of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.
On 15th October 2018 the Prime Minister Theresa May launched the first cross-Government strategy to tackle loneliness which set out a series of commitments to help all age groups build connections.
Highlights of the strategy include plans to build 'social prescribing' into the NHS by 2023, the first ever ‘Employer Pledge’ to tackle loneliness in the workplace, a new Royal Mail scheme which will see postal workers check up on lonely people as part of their usual delivery rounds and £1.8m funding to increase the number of community spaces in England.
The full strategy 'A connected society' is available to read here.
Statement from the Jo Cox Foundation
Together with our partners who have continued the work on loneliness started by Jo, we welcome the government’s first ever loneliness strategy – echoing Jo’s strong belief that loneliness is one of the most pressing public health challenges facing the country. As she herself said: “Young or old – loneliness does not discriminate.”
It is a tribute to Jo’s work and that of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, together with our brilliant colleagues in the Loneliness Action Group, that we can celebrate the implementation of many of the recommendations put forward in the Jo Cox Commission’s report published in late 2017. This is the positive vision that Jo imagined: a coalition of local authorities, businesses, and charities, all coming together to help build a more connected, compassionate society for all.
Jo’s sister Kim Leadbeater said: "The work on loneliness has been a hugely important part of Jo's legacy and it is heartwarming to see how much progress has been made on the subject since her murder. It is excellent to see that loneliness is now firmly on the Government's agenda, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in getting us to this point. For every life that is made less lonely as a result of the work Jo started and that we have all continued, we will take great comfort."
Kim and the Foundation believe that the important thing now is to turn dialogue and strategy into action. We are really pleased to see a focus on GPs’ surgeries pointing people in the direction of activities and support to alleviate loneliness. We also welcome the announcement of funding to go towards more community spaces that will improve people’s quality of life. The Employer Pledge will help raise awareness around loneliness in the workplace, too, and we firmly believe that this is the beginning of a major national conversation that will help to tackle the stigma of loneliness, and to understand how important social connections are to making our communities stronger and more compassionate.
The work on Jo's loneliness legacy continues at pace with Jo’s friend and colleague Rachel Reeves MP playing a key role inside and outside of Parliament, alongside a growing coalition of organisations headed up by the British Red Cross and the Co-Operative:
- The British Red Cross and Co-op partnership action group is continuing the work of the commission by bringing organisations together, supporting the All Party Parliamentary Group on Loneliness Chaired by Rachel Reeves MP and taking forward the Commission’s calls to action.
- The Campaign to End Loneliness is leading a public campaign on loneliness and continues to work with charities, local authorities and businesses amongst others.
- The Jo Cox Foundation was established to support Jo's friends, family and colleagues to continue her work and to highlight the issues she cared about so deeply - from the plight of innocent civilians in Syria to the despair caused by loneliness in the UK.
What can you do?
- Be Happy to Chat - each of us can tackle loneliness by being starting a conversation whether with a neighbour or in the supermarket queue. As Jo said we can all help by “Looking in on a neighbour, visiting an elderly relative or making that call or visit we've been promising to a friend we haven't seen in a long time.”
- Volunteer - there’s good evidence that volunteering helps both the person who volunteers as well as the people or cause they support. Most of the large organisations working to tackle loneliness offer volunteering opportunities including the Royal Voluntary Service, Age UK and Carers UK.
- Organisea Great Get Together event. The Great Get Together is nationwide community event taking place on 22nd-24th June 2018 to celebrate, in Jo’s words, that we have more in common than that which divides us. The website has lots more information on how to organise an event as well as downloadable resources.
- If you or someone you know is experiencing loneliness, take a look at the advice from The Campaign to End Loneliness.
"Jo always looked forwards, not back: she would have said that what matters most now are the actions, big and small, that people take in response to the commission's work. That's a responsibility for all of us."
Seema Kennedy MP and Rachel Reeves MP, Co-Chairs of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.