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A commission to combat loneliness has been launched in memory of the British MP Jo Cox.
The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness has been set up to ask people in 2017 to take action to tackle loneliness in the UK.
MPs, policy makers and organisations have come together to find ways to overcome loneliness felt by others, in the cross-party commission co-chaired by Conservative MP Seema Kennedy MP and Labour MP Rachel Reeves MP.
The commission will work with campaigners including: Age UK, Carers UK, Royal Voluntary Service, The Silver Line, Independent Age, The Campaign to End Loneliness, Eden Project Communities, Action for Children, Refugee Action, The British Red Cross and Alzheimer’s Society – to combat loneliness.
The commission’s website is encouraging people to get involved in volunteering and community activities across the UK and features links to voluntary work on the commission’s partner sites.
Jo Cox, the former Labour MP for Batley and Spen, started work on an independent commission in January 2016, to look at how to reduce loneliness and devised a plan to bring together loneliness campaigns, but she was unable to continue her work because she was killed outside her constituency office on 16 June 2016.
The mother of two died after being shot and stabbed in Birstall, West Yorkshire, shortly before she was due to hold a constituency surgery. Last November, 52-year-old local man Thomas Mair was found guilty of murder and other offences connected to her killing and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Commission’s website states: “Jo Cox’s life was marked by her compassion and by her passion. She worked tirelessly for a fairer, kinder and more tolerant world. And she believed passionately that even the greatest challenges could be overcome.”
MP suffered loneliness at Cambridge
Jo Cox's sister, Kim Leadbeater has said Jo Cox suffered from loneliness when she went to university and was split up from her sister.
She told BBC Radio 4: “Jo and I were extremely close as children. When Jo went away to university it was a very difficult time for both of us.”
Ms Leadbeater wants to 'eradicate’ the stigma of loneliness and will continue her sister's work on the issue.
The commission’s website is a call to action inviting all to do something different in their lives by pledging to start a conversation with a lonely person ‘to be part of the solution’. On the day of its launch, 104 pledges had been made.
On the day of commision's launch, 'Happy to chat' anti-loneliness badges inspired by Jo Cox were handed out on tube and train stations in London, as part of the initiative and its #happytochat message inspired by Jo Cox. The badges were given to commuters at Victoria, Waterloo, King’s Cross and Westminster stations.
To explain the motivation behind the commission, its website features Jo Cox’s words: “Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate...it is something many of us could easily help with.
“Looking in on a neighbour, visiting an elderly relative or making that call or visit we’ve been promising to a friend we haven’t seen in a long time.”
A study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross reveals over nine million people in the UK across all adult ages – more than the population of London – are either always or often lonely.
Sophie Andrews, chief executive of the helpline for older people The Silver Line said: “In just over three years since we launched we have received over 1.2m calls – around 10,000 per week.
“In particular, we see spikes in the number of calls to the helpline during the night and weekends - accounting for around two thirds of callers - when these feelings can be intensified.
"Although loneliness cuts across all ages and backgrounds, older people in particular are more vulnerable since they are in the main less able to change their situation. This might be due to lack of transport, having a disability or lack of confidence which can quickly make their own front door become a barrier rather than a pathway to the outside world."
Ruth Brown from home care group Home Instead Senior Care, which gives care companionship services to 8,000 older people each year, attended the commission’s launch in Westminister.
Highlighting the difference companionship can make to older people’s lives “to stave off loneliness amongst the elderly across the UK”, Ruth Brown said: “Home Instead Senior Care is proud to pay tribute to Jo Cox by contributing to the commission.
“What we do truly complements its work and supports the campaign.”
To get involved and spread the word about the initiative tweet #happytochat and @JoCoxLoneliness and pledge your support for The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness