Following on Loneliness Awareness Week, Tracey Crouch MP (Chatham and Aylesford, Con) this week called on the Government to refresh the Loneliness Strategy she launched in 2018:
“We started the global conversation on loneliness, thanks to a cross-party commitment to honour Jo’s [Jo Cox, MP] legacy. Yes, we find ourselves in challenging times, but that is when those who feel acutely lonely need our strength and determination most. We have passed the pandemic; there are no further excuses. We have the chance now to grip the issue, revamp and refresh the loneliness strategy, and I hope the Minister will do just that.”
In response to Ms Crouch’s calls in the House of Commons, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Stuart Andrew (Pudsey, Con) said rural areas will be factored into future plans:
“We have made good progress, but I am keen that we do not lose momentum. We need to go even further. That is why we published the fourth annual report of the cross-Government tackling loneliness strategy with 60 additional actions for the next two years. They include providing targeted support for care leavers, unpaid carers and veterans; improving and building on the success in social prescribing across the country; supporting community infrastructure and community action to tackle loneliness in rural areas; publishing the new suicide prevention strategy, and opening school facilities out of school hours to make the benefits of physical activity more accessible and inclusive. A key focus of those commitments is sharing learning and best practice, and we will continue to do that right across Government.”
The debate follows the publication of the Government’s own inquiry into Rural Mental Health in May this year. The report found that information about the issue is “complicated and incomplete due to gaps in health data, the suppression of demand by over-centralised services, and the under-reporting of rural deprivation which is inextricably linked to poor mental well-being.” It also set out clear and tight deadlines for the Government to address key issues.
RSN Chief Executive, Kerry Booth, said she is pleased to see the commitment to addressing rural loneliness:
“We have always said that data from rural areas is incomplete or not granular enough to truly understand a community’s needs. This means we don’t ever fully address a problem and the funding that is given to an area simply isn’t enough. Both the DEFRA report from May, the Government’s Unleashing Rural Opportunity report published this month and this debate are starting to recognise this and I look forward to further discussions with Ministers from all political parties to drive this forward as a matter of urgency.”
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