14 December 2021
Press release: MPs and peers call on Prime Minister to commit to tackling loneliness as part of a connected recovery
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MPs and peers call on Prime Minister to commit to tackling loneliness as part of a connected recovery. Polls show a quarter of adults say the Covid-19 pandemic has left them feeling lonelier than ever.
As a quarter of people say they’re more worried about loneliness now than before the pandemic, former loneliness minister Tracey Crouch and Labour MP Kim Leadbeater team up to lead renewed parliamentary group.
Parliamentarians across parties will call on the UK Government to put connecting communities at the heart of Covid recovery, including in the levelling-up agenda – as a new British Red Cross poll shows a quarter (27%) of UK adults say the pandemic has left them feeling more isolated than they ever have before.
One third of respondents (31%) said that feelings of loneliness are still affecting them even though Covid-19 restrictions have eased in comparison to earlier in the year.
As many people continue to struggle with loneliness two years into the Covid-19 crisis. MPs and Civil Society Organisations want Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reaffirm his commitment to tackling loneliness – and to work with ministers, local government, and charities to improve and invest in community and social infrastructure needed to connect people.
This includes public transport and shared public spaces, such as parks and – as a new British Red Cross poll shows a quarter (27%) of UK adults say the pandemic has left them feeling more isolated than they ever have before.
Calling for a cross-Government agenda to ‘loneliness-proof’ communities, parliamentarians have relaunched the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tackling Loneliness and Connected Communities, to keep these issues high on the political agenda.
Former Government Loneliness Minister and Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, and Labour MP Kim Leadbeater will be co-chairs, and the group will be supported by a new partnership of the British Red Cross, the Campaign to End Loneliness, and the Astra Foundation.
Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford, became the UK’s – and the world’s – first ever Loneliness Minister in 2017 and has continued to champion efforts to better connect people since.
Kim Leadbeater, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, has long worked to tackle loneliness and bring people together, and continues to build on the work of her late sister, Jo Cox, who was a pioneer in putting loneliness and social isolation on the political agenda.
These parliamentarians are looking to build on the great work already done across the political spectrum, civil society, and people and communities themselves, to help raise awareness of loneliness – and tackle its root causes – at a time when a new Opinium poll for the British Red Cross shows:
- A quarter (27%) of UK adults say that the pandemic has left them feeling more isolated than they ever have before.
- Around one third (31%) say that feelings of loneliness are still affecting them even though Covid-19 restrictions have eased, and a quarter (25%) are more worried about their feelings of loneliness now than they were before the pandemic.
- More than two in five (43%) say they are worried that with Covid-19 cases increasing in the UK, they will need to reduce their interactions with others again.
- A quarter (23%) of those who often or always feel lonely are not confident that they can cope with changes to their lives that have been caused by the pandemic.
- Two fifths (38%) of UK adults think that the pandemic has had a lasting impact on their relationships and social connections, while three in ten (30%) admit that they have found it difficult to reconnect with friends and family since lockdown restrictions lifted.
More positively, the latest research does show that 26% of people across the UK feel more connected to their local community now than they did before the pandemic, with a third (33%) saying that the pandemic has brought out the best in their community.
The renewed Parliamentary Group will work to build on this sentiment, and the efforts that have already been made, to help people become better connected where they live. A Connected Recovery – the Groups report from earlier this year, sets out a number of recommendations to tackle loneliness and a blueprint for action.
Tracey Crouch MP said: “When I was appointed Loneliness Minister in 2017, I got to understand the scale of the challenge and, through my work with local government, health professionals, charities, and community groups, we were able to identify the best ways of helping people who are lonely to reconnect with their local community.
“Since then, we’ve made real strides in tackling stigma, encouraging people to talk about their feelings, and in bringing in practical measures like social prescribing which sees people take part in activities or groups to improve their health.
“Now we need to go further and address some of the underlying factors that prevent people from connecting with others, especially in terms of investment in key infrastructure and assets in local communities.”
Kim Leadbeater MP said: “As we look to recover from this pandemic, we have to recognise the impact Covid-19 has had on some of the most vulnerable people in society, especially those who have been isolated for long periods of time.
“I know from my efforts to tackle loneliness and bring people and communities closer together, that loneliness was a real problem before Covid-19 and, for some, it will be an even greater challenge now.
“It’s crucial we improve things where we live and that means good transport links, clean and safe public areas, recreational spaces like parks and gardens – things we take for granted but are the glue that binds our communities together.”
British Red Cross Director of Policy and Advocacy Naomi Phillips said: “Our latest research shows just how much more work needs to be done if we are to achieve a connected recovery from Covid-19, one that builds people’s confidence, brings our communities together, and puts a strong focus on those most impacted by the pandemic.
“We’re delighted to be supporting MPs from across Parties as they renew efforts to encourage leadership and action on tackling loneliness, from the most senior levels of Government through to local communities up and down the country.
“Together, we need to build on the good work that has been done by government and communities themselves during the pandemic because loneliness is not a new or short-term problem and will continue to hold people back beyond this crisis.”
Robin Hewings, Programme Director at the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “We are pleased the Campaign to End Loneliness is partnering with British Red Cross to provide secretariat to the APPG on Tackling Loneliness & Connected Communities. Research has shown the pandemic has left many more people feeling more isolated than ever. It helps us open up the conversation some more that loneliness is going to be a serious issue beyond Covid-19. And that so much more needs to be done to address the issue at scale and build upon the great work that has been done so far to bring communities together in helping them all to build back better.”
If you are experiencing loneliness, please know that you are not alone. If you would like some help, the British Red Cross support line operates from 10am to 6pm seven days a week on 0808 196 3651.
You can also visit www.redcross.org.uk/loneliness-resources to access our toolkit of resources for adults and young people, including online group sessions and digital classrooms, as well as thought-provoking podcasts where others share their experiences of tackling loneliness.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
A note on methodology
Opinium interviewed 2,001 UK adults online from 23rd to 26th November 2021. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of UK adults by age, gender, region and social grade. Opinium is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
A Connected Recovery: The report
A Connected Recovery is the APPG’s inquiry report published in March 2021 and the first ever independent inquiry into loneliness.
The inquiry explored problems and identified solutions within four crucial policy areas, including:
- translating national policy into local action through local authorities
- community infrastructure (including housing, transport and public spaces)
- how to adequately fund the voluntary and community sector upon which social prescribing depends
- designing and implementing ways to test the implications of government policies on loneliness.
The APPG called on the UK Prime Minister to commit to a “Connected Recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic, recognising the need for long-term work to rebuild social connections following periods of isolation and the importance of connection to resilience to future shocks.
To achieve this, the APPG sets out a roadmap, calling on the government to adopt 15 recommendations, designed to:
- Tackle loneliness through national leadership, including re-establishing the cross-government approach to tackling loneliness, long-term funding and improving the evidence base.
- Translate national policy into local action, including incentivising local authorities and their partners to develop local action plans to tackle loneliness.
- Invest in the community and social infrastructure needed to connect, particularly in areas with higher levels of deprivation. This should include a long-term investment in the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector to realise the full potential of social prescribing – a flagship of the Government’s original loneliness strategy.
Loneliness proof all new transport and housing developments, and close the digital divide by increasing digital skills and confidence
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tackling Loneliness and Connected Communities
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tackling Loneliness and Connected Communities was first established in 2018 to bring focus to the issues of loneliness in communities and support and challenge government action to address it. It built on the cross-party and cross-sector leadership of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness chaired by Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy.
The APPG has now relaunched under a new title and is co-chaired by former Conservative party loneliness minister Tracey Crouch and Labour MP Kim Leadbeater and supported by the British Red Cross and Campaign to End Loneliness.