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Volume 648: debated on Thursday 1 November 2018

The Government recently published their first ever strategy for tackling loneliness in England. Commitments include a national loneliness campaign, investment in community spaces and local data pilots, and embedding loneliness in our internet safety White Paper and digital inclusion fund. Those commitments are in addition to the £20.5 million of new grant funding for projects to prevent loneliness that was announced by the Government in June.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the research published by the University of Oxford’s Robin Dunbar, which found that people who have a local pub that they visit regularly tend to be more socially engaged and to have better mental health? Will he join me in welcoming the measures announced by the Chancellor to support pubs and brewing, which will help to tackle loneliness and isolation?

My hon. Friend’s enthusiasm for local pubs is legendary and he has managed to express it again here. He is right that pubs and other community institutions have a huge part to play in dealing with loneliness in our society across a range of many other measures that we need to take.

What significance does the Secretary of State place on the role of the voluntary sector in helping to tackle loneliness in our country? If, like me, he thinks that it is an important role, will he say what discussions he has had with the Department of Health and Social Care and with local government to make sure that commissioners of services now understand that the voluntary sector should be taken seriously?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. He may know that part of the responsibilities of Ministers in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will now include attention to issues of loneliness and he will see that, when we announce those who are the recipients of the £20.5 million that I mentioned a moment or so ago, there are a range of different organisations across the country, all of which play a vital part in this and to which we should all be grateful.