18 OCT 2018

Loneliness

I am sadly confident that the vast majority of people living in Maidstone and the Weald have experienced, at one time or another, the despair of loneliness. It is a deepening problem.

Age UK are forecasting almost a 50% increase in loneliness amongst people over 50 in the coming decade. There is also an identifiable link between loneliness and serious illnesses, including stroke and Alzheimer's. This cruel and pervasive condition can manifest itself at any time and is undoubtedly one of the most serious public health challenges of our time.

The Government are therefore rightly building on the work of the late Jo Cox MP, who was a formidable champion of this cause before her tragic murder, by formulating a plan to stop the sadness. Under a new strategy announced by the PM this week, GPs will be able to refer those suffering from loneliness to community activities, there will be a new employer 'pledge' to tackle loneliness in the work-place, and an extra £1.8 million will be made available for social community projects. The work is being led by my neighbour in Chatham and Aylesford, Tracey Crouch MP; a kind and caring Minister well placed for the role and who has my full support.

But perhaps the most powerful antidote to loneliness is through the individual acts of kindness conducted by compassionate neighbours, friends and volunteers living and working near to those affected; volunteers like the West Kent Befriending Service, who do extraordinary work to reduce loneliness through inspirational ideas like 'It Matters to Natter'. The campaign encourages us all to make conversation with folk in our communities – maybe someone who's just sitting next to us on the bus.

British society is built upon a mutual duty of care for our neighbours. As winter sets-in let us rekindle the warmth of simple, unfettered friendship toward the most vulnerable, and all play our part in tackling social isolation.

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