The UK has created a “minister for loneliness” position to tackle modern public health problems associated with social isolation.
The government of Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday it appointed Tracey Crouch after research showed as many as one in ten people felt lonely “always or often” and that hundreds of thousands of elderly people hadn’t spoken to a friend or relative in the past month.
Crouch, whose official title is Minister for Sport and Civil Society, will devise a national strategy to tackle isolation across all ages, and find ways of measuring alienation in official statistics.
Announcing Crouch’s appointment as “new ministerial lead for loneliness,” Ms May said: “I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones, people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”
“We know that there is a real impact of social isolation and loneliness on people, on their physical and mental well-being but also on other aspects in society and we want to tackle this challenge,” Crouch said.
The creation of the post was the main recommendation in a 2017 report commissioned in memory of Jo Cox, a lawmaker and mother of two who was murdered in the street in 2016 by a neo-Nazi terrorist just before the British voted on Brexit last year. Cox was a fervent supporter of the UK staying in the EU.
“Jo Cox recognized the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to doing all she could to help those affected,” May said.
Cox’s widower, Brendan Cox, tweeted early Wednesday: “One of the awful things about losing Jo is knowing how much difference she would have made in the world. When the kids wake up this morning I’m going to tell them how — even though she’s not here — she’s still making the world a better place.”
However, there was some criticism of the appointment on social media, with users pointing out a link between loneliness and government cuts to community services such as public libraries, day care centres and community halls.
Vivian Asamoah with agency