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Today’s an important moment in our Co-op’s work to tackle loneliness and social isolation.
As the only business recognised for working on loneliness, early last year we were invited by the MP Jo Cox to join the Commission she wanted to establish to give the issue a national platform. Jo had experienced loneliness herself at university and had seen its impacts in her Yorkshire constituency.
Following Jo’s terrible murder in June of 2016, the Commission was renamed in her honour with Jo’s friend and colleague Rachel Reeves MP Co-Chairing its work alongside Seema Kennedy MP.
Call to action
Today’s ‘Call to Action’ report from the Commission recommends the creation of a dedicated government Minister responsible for tackling loneliness; a UK loneliness strategy for all ages; and a national indicator that tracks loneliness across all ages.
You can read the full report and recommendations.
A new national voice
The Commission has done fantastic work and we want to make sure the national agenda it’s created continues. So today we’re also announcing that we’re setting up a new national Loneliness Action Group – which will be chaired jointly by the Co-op and the British Red Cross.
The Loneliness Action Group will include key charities and NGOs who have a national commitment to tackling loneliness and it will mean there’s an on-going legacy for the work of the Jo Cox Commission. The group, meeting quarterly through 2018, will bring together national organisations tackling loneliness to share and showcase information, learning and best practice.
If you’re a national business or charity interested in joining us, you can get in touch by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, we’re also supporting a new All Party Parliamentary Group on Loneliness, bringing together politicians from all parties.
Our Co-op progress
In 2015 our members chose loneliness as the issue that would return us to our campaigning heritage. Since then we’ve raised over £6m to tackle a problem that can damage the lives of people of all ages and across all communities. We also know it has an economic impact on the nation too.
With the money our colleagues and Co-op members have raised we’ve recruited, with our partner the British Red Cross, 39 Community Connectors who are working in local communities to help people to rebuild the networks they need to thrive and feel valued. We aim to reach thousands of people with this work.
In addition, a great many of the local causes we’re supporting through our Co-op membership rewards are addressing loneliness and isolation through societies and social events, like the pensioner clubs I’ve visited in Liverpool.
We’re already seeing the difference our new Community Connector service is making. For example, for Susan who lost her husband aged 37 shortly followed by her father. Years later her job folded and her health worsened leaving her with mobility problems;
I can go for a week without seeing or speaking to anyone. We’re human beings; we’re social creatures and need contact. I’ve found it very difficult coping by myself. You can go down a black hole so quickly, loneliness saps all of your energy.
Susan has been receiving support from Sara, through our Community Connector programme. Sara is working with Susan to build her confidence and help her connect of things of interest to her in her local community.
Sara is trying to help me sort myself out – get back on track and get more mobile. I walked around the supermarket the other day. I know people might think ‘big deal’ but I got myself a drink and watched the world go by. A simple thing like that, something people do all the time without thinking about, for me it was wonderful; a real achievement! I finally feel I am starting to get back into the land of the living.
I’m very proud of what our Co-op is doing to tackle loneliness and social isolation both at a very local and practical level and by shaping national policy on the issue.
I look forward to sharing more with you about this vital work during 2018.
President, National Members’ Council