Last week I met with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. Jo set up the Commission, along with 13 organisations before she was murdered just over a year ago. The Commission is continuing her legacy by raising awareness about loneliness and working to try and reduce the stigma of being lonely.
A British Red Cross survey found one in five people said they always or often felt lonely. It’s something I often see in see in Glasgow North and I was proud to be part of the Great Get Together bringing people together in celebration of Jo Cox's belief that we have more in common.
There were many great events across Glasgow North, not least the “cup of tea with a refugee” event organised by Refuweegee and the Scottish refugee council in the Barrowland Park. Warming Chai tea was supplied by Tchai-Ovna, and many ‘Great Big Walk’ participants from the Eden Project Communities also dropped by for a cup of Chai. West End Festival celebrations in Mansfield Park included performances from the Barbershop harmony group 'The B naturals' and the sambha drumming band Barulho Beat. The Woodlands Wommunity Garden also put on a fantastic spread of lovely community grown food as part of The Big Lunch.
But being lonely isn’t just a feeling, it’s considered to be as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Many people link loneliness with older people, but that’s by no means the full picture. As Jo herself said, “Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate” and it’s often linked with changes in our lives, moving to a new place, having a baby, retirement or redundancy, disability or ill health, becoming a carer or the end of a relationship.
The Commission partners are holding spotlights through the year. In February, the Co-op launched research that found loneliness cost businesses £2.5 billion a year. During the age spotlight, Gransnet revealed that over half of their users who were lonely had never talked about it. Last month, the Royal Voluntary Society surprised many of us by finding that men reported 38 as the age they had the fewest friends. Spotlights on disability, carers, refugees and children and parents are to follow.
The Commission is working with Government, businesses and voluntary groups and will make recommendations on how to reduce loneliness. However we can all play our part. Loneliness is a problem in every street and within every family. That means all of us can do something to make someone feel less lonely today. We can start a conversation with a neighbour who we know is on their own, pick up the phone to a relative or friend you haven’t spoken to for a while, say hello to someone in the supermarket queue.
I’ve signed a pledge to support the Commission in its aim to tackle loneliness - both in Glasgow North and in my role in Parliament. You can pledge to start a conversation too through the Jo Cox website https://www.jocoxloneliness.org/pledge