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UK government appoints minister for loneliness

Monday 22nd January 2018
MP Tracey Crouch has been appointed as the UK governments first ever minister for loneliness. Image: ChesiireCat via iStock
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Prime minister Theresa May has announced that Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford, has been appointed as the UK government's first ever minister for loneliness.

Extensive research has shown that loneliness and isolation can have a significant adverse effect on people's mental health, which the government wants to combat by ensuring there is more support available to those in need of it.

The idea for a minister for loneliness was first mooted by the late MP Jo Cox, who established the Commission on Loneliness before her death in 2016.

Ms Crouch explained to BBC Breakfast last week that several millions of pounds worth of funding would be made available by the government to tackle the increasing issue of loneliness to help safeguard the mental health of more vulnerable members of society.

Statistics show that around half of people aged 75 and over in the UK live on their own, with many going for weeks without seeing another person.

To tackle this issue, Ms Crouch wants to see more "simple acts of companionship" from people to make sure no one is left feeling lonely.

For example, people are being encouraged to check on their elderly neighbours, give them lifts where they can so they can get out and about, volunteer with befriending organisations, and take meals around to them so they feel a little less alone.

Older people aren't the only group at risk of isolation, however. If people expect a younger person to be lonely, they are being encouraged to attend social activities with them or make the effort to check in on them regularly face-to-face.

The news of Ms Crouch's appointment has been welcomed by mental health charity Mind.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the charity, commented: "Loneliness itself isn't a mental health problem, but the two are often strongly connected. Having a mental health problem increases your chance of feeling lonely, and feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health.

"By introducing this role, the government appears to be accepting the links between loneliness and other issues and that government departments need to work together to tackle it."

Written by Angela Newbury

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