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Tackling Loneliness

Volume 676: debated on Thursday 4 June 2020

I am delighted to be back. Loneliness is a very real issue, and I know that some people are finding things particularly tough during this pandemic, when we have asked people to self-isolate and socially distance to fight this disease. That is why I launched a new plan to tackle loneliness linked to this crisis. That includes £5 million for loneliness charities, a public campaign to raise awareness and new guidance for those who feel lonely or want help.

Age UK Teesside is giving amazing support to those elderly people isolating alone through its telephone befriending service. What are the Government doing to support charities and voluntary organisations on the frontline in the fight against loneliness? Will the Secretary of State join me in encouraging people to flick through their phonebooks and drop a call to their Auntie Ethel, their Uncle Norman or anyone else who might be isolating alone at this time?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Yes, I would of course urge people to do that. This is a really important time for people to catch up with one another. Actually, that was one of the great things that I and many people were able to do during the VE-day celebrations—to get in touch with relatives who had experienced VE-day.

Many people enjoy coming together at fairs and showgrounds, but I spoke to the Showmen’s Guild yesterday and it says that it has not been included in the taskforce for leisure. Will the Minister tell me why the Showmen’s Guild was not involved? Can it be involved in the future, to secure the recovery?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I am very keen, as we have done throughout this crisis so far, to engage constructively with the devolved nations. I am very happy to look into that point and come back to him on it.