As lockdown lifts, we need a collective response against loneliness

Kim Leadbeater, Ambassador for The Jo Cox Foundation & Jo’s Sister, explains why now more than ever, we must come together to tackle loneliness. The Silver Line is proud to be part of the Connection Coalition, a network of more than 250 charities and organisations.  

I can speak from my own very real personal experience when I say that I know how good people can be at coming together in times of tragedy and crisis.

In recent times we have seen this once again – Britain has come together in the most challenging of circumstances as we live under the shadow of coronavirus. And as time goes on, it is important for us to maintain that united sense of purpose and togetherness.

As we’ve been keeping our physical distance, we’ve shown it is still possible to support, care and connect with others. Millions of us have found the excuse to knock on our neighbours’ doors, chat on street corners, over garden fences and support one another across hallways. Millions of notes have been written, cakes baked, smiles given and received, food and medicine collected and delivered.

For many people connecting with neighbours and looking out for the vulnerable in society is something they have always done, but for many others it has been a new and very fulfilling experience.

Until now most of us have been subject to much the same restrictions on our freedoms, but as this changes and we move to the next phase of this crisis we must double down in our efforts to stay connected.

The Jo Cox Foundation, set up after the murder of my sister Jo in 2016, has pulled together a wide network of over 250 charities and organisations, large and small, to form the Connection Coalition, to make sure we do, and I am delighted that The Silver Line is part of this collective movement.

We are working together with a common aim – to build on the extraordinary examples of collective kindness and reciprocal support shown across our communities in the past few months so they can become a permanent feature of a better-connected country.

The social and emotional consequences of the crisis – including loneliness, mental health, bereavement and grief – don’t discriminate.

They can affect any of us wherever we are on the spectrum of age, wealth, education or physical ability. And they have become more acute. But as they have done so, there has been a growing public awareness of the profound damage they too can cause to the nation’s health and well-being. One in four of us has experienced loneliness in the past six weeks. Those suffering from unwanted social isolation before the crisis have been hardest hit, often compounded by mental health problems, disability or poverty. Now many others have a better understanding of what they have been going through for so long.

Lockdown fatigue is a perfectly natural feeling right now. When the time comes to put it behind us, let us try to look back not only with sadness at the appalling loss in terms of lives and livelihoods, but also with pride at how we as a society responded. And look forward to a future that builds on that equity and togetherness.

We are approaching perhaps the most crucial test of our collective response.

Rather than hoping we’re among the lucky ones to be given greater freedoms ahead of the rest, we must hold onto the community spirit and collective endeavour of recent months – and find ways to deepen our efforts. We should all commit to support our neighbours each week – to continue the phone calls, the Zooms and the notes through letter boxes.

The people of this country have already shown the way. Those with the power to decide on the next steps need to be where the people are and adopt a connection strategy alongside the exit strategy.

The individual responses that we’ve seen in recent weeks have been an inspiration to us all.

Now – together – we can strengthen and deepen the bonds within our communities and commit to carry the togetherness effort of recent weeks forward so that some good at least can come out of the sacrifices we have all been forced to make.