THE APPOINTMENT of a Minister for Loneliness is testament to the “tenacity and determination” of the late Yorkshire MP Jo Cox, the politician who now represents her constituency said.
Speaking before she attended a Downing Street reception this afternoon celebrating Mrs Cox’s work and that of the cross-party commission set up in her name, Labour’s Batley MP Tracey Brabin said she hoped the Government, and its newly-appointed loneliness lead Tracey Crouch MP would “help put a stop to the suffering of some nine million people throughout the UK.”
As revealed in the Yorkshire Post today, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that the Government has accepted the recommendations made by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which among other measures, called for a dedicated minister within the Government to create its first ever strategy to tackle loneliness and social isolation, which can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Ms Brabin said the work of the Commission, and that of the murdered MP would “bring about real change”.
“If it were not for the work of Jo, it is unlikely that this would have happened and it is testament to her tenacity and determination that loneliness is now being treated a matter of national importance,” she added.
Mrs May’s announcement, which included a fund to provide help for lonely people, has been widely applauded by charities working in the sector, including the Campaign to End Loneliness, a launch partner of the Yorkshire Post’s campaign, Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic, in 2014.
Executive director Laura Alcock-Ferguson said: “Loneliness is an epidemic, and the Government has made it clear that it must be taken seriously. The new ministerial leadership on the issue will have a positive impact; we hope it will bring important opportunities to improve Government policy in areas such as transport, health, social care, as well as the role of businesses, employers and pensions. All of these issues have a major impact upon loneliness in later life.”
Director of Age UK, Caroline Abrahams said: “While naturally ‘the proof of the pudding will be in the eating’, the Government’s decision to develop a cross-cutting strategy on loneliness is one we strongly welcome. Loneliness blights far too many lives in this country and older people are especially at risk.”
The British Red Cross chief executive, Mike Adamson, said the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to the tackling loneliness was “particularly encouraging”.
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, co-chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness said yesterday’s celebration in honour of Mrs Cox, which was attended by her husband Brendan Cox, children, parents Jean and Gordon Leadbeater and sister Kim, as well as Ms Crouch, was a demonstration of the commitment the Prime Minister had to the issue.
She said the Commission’s work would continue as an All-Party Parliamentary Group, that would hold the minister to account.
“It’s a big step forward now we have a minister, we have someone whose foot we can hold to the fire,” she added.
Thousands of events aimed at bringing people together will once again take place this summer, to coincide with what would have been Mrs Cox’s 44th birthday.
The second annual Great Get Together will take place on the weekend of June 22, her parents and husband have announced.
Last year more than 120,000 events were held in all parts of the UK on the first anniversary of the murder of Mrs Cox MP.
Mrs Cox’s parents, Jean and Gordon Leadbeater, said: “It was wonderful to see millions of people of all ages and backgrounds come out last year for the Great Get Together. It was a sad and difficult time for us, of course, but we felt proud that so many were inspired by what Jo said in her maiden speech about how we have more in common than that which divides us.
“Time and again we have been asked if there will be another Great Get Together this year and we’re pleased that there will and that it will be over the weekend of Jo’s birthday. This feels like a very positive occasion both to remember Jo and her work and also to enjoy once again everything that the Great Get Together stands for.”
Mr Cox added: “The response to the first Great Get Together was beyond all our expectations. I think that’s because it tapped into a profound public desire for togetherness. It gave people a chance to celebrate the best of our country and communities rather than always fixating on the areas where we disagree with each other.
“There’s clearly an enthusiasm for more opportunities to do just that by holding the second Great Get Together on Jo’s birthday weekend we can remember her joy and her happiness as well as her beliefs and values.”