Downing Street has appointed a Minister for Loneliness in order to follow the work of the murdered MP Jo Cox.
Tracey Crouch, 42, will continue the work of Ms Cox who set up a Commission on Loneliness, which found up to 9 million people in the UK often or always feel lonely.
The Commission said that loneliness, which affects both the young as well as the elderly, is as damaging to peoples’ health as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.
‘Jo Cox recognised the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to doing all she could to help those affected,’ said Prime Minister Theresa May.
The PM said that the newly established role would ensure Ms Cox’s legacy would continue, with Ms Crouch working alongside the Commission, business and charities to help shape a government strategy to tackle loneliness.
Writing on Twitter, Crouch said: ‘Both proud & humbled to be appointed #loneliness minister in order to continue Jo Cox's great work & deliver recommendations of the @JoCoxFoundation working in partnership across gov, business & so many brilliant orgs/charities to combat social isolation & loneliness.’
Speaking to the BBC, Ms Crouch said that a multi-million pound fund had been made available in order to address the ‘generational challenge’ that is loneliness, by creating a framework for the future.
Approximately half of people over the age of 75 live alone, which equates to two million people in England alone. Many have previously said that they can go days, and even weeks, without any social contact.
‘This is an issue that Jo cared passionately about and we will honour her memory by tackling it, helping the millions of people across the UK who suffer from loneliness,’ said Crouch.
When quizzed by the BBC on whether local authority cuts were having a detrimental impact on social meeting places – such as day centres, youth clubs and libraries – Crouch argued that there was no single solution, but admitted these were all challenges she would have to address.