11:46AM, Monday 13 February 2017
In her first year as an MP, Jo Cox saw loneliness as a problem that affected lots of different people. She wanted to act and devised a commission on loneliness with Conservative MP Seema Kennedy. It was typical of Jo, and further proof of the loss we suffered last year when she was murdered.
After she died Labour MP Rachel Reeves stepped in and has worked with Seema to ensure the commission she planned became a reality.
It will look at what Government and business can do to combat loneliness, but it wants to do more than simply highlight the problem. It wants to provide a practical solution. Using the slogan 'Start a Conversation' and hashtag #HappyToChat, it aims to inspire people to look for their own response to the problem – can they talk to a neighbour? Can they look up an old friend?
A staggering nine million of us are always or often lonely, including nearly one in four parents. One in two disabled people and shockingly, eight out of 10 carers. It’s a huge problem, especially given the links between feelings of loneliness and poor health. One study shows it can be as damaging to our health as smoking.
I took up the challenge. My father died 30 years ago and an old friend of his lives alone. I knew from her last Christmas card she’s not getting on with people who live in the flat upstairs. Her son who lives a long way away rarely visits. She’s on her own, doesn’t see another human all day. She feels forgotten. So just one little visit from me cheered her up a lot and I enjoyed it too.
Jo was determined to make a difference. We must all take inspiration from her. Please, start a conversation with someone you know who is lonely.