Over 9 million people in the UK are experiencing loneliness. To tackle this, campaigners have launched the Jo Cox National Commission on Loneliness, with the aim of starting a national conversation about the scale and impact of loneliness in the country.
Supported by the Co-operative Group, the commission is calling on people to start a conversation – whether it be talking to a neighbour, visiting an old friend, or taking more time for the people you meet.
“At the beginning of 2016 we were contacted by the late Jo Cox MP who wanted to reach out to us about loneliness and the work that she was planning,” says Nick Crofts, president of the Group’s National Members’ Council.
“Jo had heard about our campaign with the British Red Cross to tackle loneliness. She explained with her usual passion and conviction about the national commission she was planning to set up and asked if we would consider being the first business to become involved.
“We agreed without hesitation. Many months of hard worked followed with Jo along with other charities and partners.”
What is loneliness?
Loneliness is described by the Campaign to End Loneliness as “a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship, which happens when we have a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that we have, and those that we want”.
A study by the Co-op Group and the British Red Cross found over 9 million people in the UK across all adult ages are either always or often lonely. And research by Sense has shown that up to 50% of disabled people will be lonely on any given day. Research by the Forum found 58% of refugees and migrants in London described loneliness and isolation as their biggest challenge.
Loneliness is also affects young people, older people, parents, carers and others – while research commissioned by Eden Project initiative The Big Lunch found that disconnected communities could be costing the UK economy £32 bn a year.
Jo’s vision, said Mr Crofts, was to use the commission to highlight the issue of loneliness in society and raise awareness that loneliness can affect anyone.
“The first steps were underway in planning and developing the commission before Jo was tragically murdered on the streets of her constituency of Batley and Spen last June.”
Co-operative and community support
The Co-op Group launched its partnership with the Red Cross in September 2015, and has since raised over £4m for the charity. The money raised is being used to set up new British Red Cross services in 39 UK locations.
“The British Red Cross is currently looking for volunteers to support these services and since December, almost 100 Co-op members have signed up to volunteer,” added Mr Crofts.
Following Jo’s example of working across party lines, the commission is co-chaired by MPs Seema Kennedy (Con) and Rachel Reeves (Lab), and will be working with 13 partners “to shine a light on different aspects of loneliness and the positive steps we can all take to combat it.”
Kim Leadbeater, Jo’s sister, said at the launch: “We want to continue [Jo’s] legacy by ridding society of loneliness one conversation at a time.”