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Tackling Loneliness

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 4 July 2019

As we have heard this morning, the UK is a world leader in tackling loneliness, and the first Government loneliness strategy was launched last October. It has been globally recognised, and includes the £11.5 million building connections fund, announced over Christmas, which is a partnership between the Government, the National Lottery and the Co-op Foundation. The first progress report is due later this year. Last month, we launched the Let’s Talk Loneliness campaign, which is all about reducing stigma. The hashtag alone has had 5.5 million impressions globally.

I am proud of the work that the Government are doing on loneliness, but according to Age UK more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone. Loneliness is thought to be as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In Chichester, we have some fantastic projects such as the Rotary Club’s Building A Generation, in which every two weeks older people go into Chichester College and meet, and share experiences with, college students. What more support is available to encourage such innovative, community-based solutions for tackling loneliness and to help to spread them more quickly across the country?

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work done by all the great charities in her community to tackle loneliness at all ages. Support is available for community-based projects, including two pots of Government funding. There is £1 million for the Tech To Connect challenge—I know my hon. Friend is interested in tech—to address social isolation, and the fund will be managed by Nesta. We also have the Space To Connect fund, which will be part-managed by the Co-op and will have £1.6 million to open up community spaces. Everything happening in Chichester is helping people come together, and I welcome that.

These Chichester people seem very decent folk indeed. I think it is partly the effect of the Member.

Earlier this year, the Minister was good enough to come to a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on suicide and self-harm prevention and speak to us about the loneliness strategy. What steps will she take in response to the Samaritans’ paper on loneliness in young people, which is a particular concern?

I particularly remember that meeting and I welcomed the opportunity to join her. We currently have 60 different policies across nine Departments, but I would like to point out that loneliness and isolation can affect people at any age and at any time—including young carers and care leavers. We need to support everybody of every age and every gender. I hope that the new policies that we are working on and will announce later this year will have a youth focus.