On Wednesday 17 January 2018, Chief Executive of The Silver Line Sophie Andrews attended a reception at Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minster Theresa May, which celebrated Jo Cox’s legacy, and the important work of her family, Foundation and the Commission in highlighting the prevalence of loneliness across the country.
The Prime Minister also announced the government’s acceptance of a series of recommendations from the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, and laid out the government’s plans to tackle loneliness and combat isolation. This includes the appointment of a ministerial lead on loneliness which will see Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch lead a cross-government group with responsibility for driving action on loneliness across all parts of government.
Speaking at the event, Theresa May said: “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life. I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones – people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.
“Jo Cox recognised the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to doing all she could to help those affected. So I am pleased that government can build on her legacy with a ministerial lead for loneliness who will work with the Commission, businesses and charities to shine a light on the issue and pull together all strands of government to create the first ever strategy.
“We should all do everything we can to see that, in Jo’s memory, we bring an end to the acceptance of loneliness for good.”
The Prime Minister added that a cross-Government strategy on tackling loneliness in England will be published later this year, and that work has begun on establishing a fund to encourage innovative and community-based solutions and scaling up of existing work offering practical and emotional support to help lonely individuals reconnect with their communities.
Commenting on the PM’s speech, Sophie Andrews said: “We welcome the government’s support in helping to tackle loneliness and combat isolation.
“While we recognise that it is an issue which cuts across all demographics, the experience of loneliness changes with age. Older people are in the main more vulnerable: the proud, stiff upper lip ‘silver generation’ are more reticent to talk about their feelings and experiences in the first place, but also generally less able to change their situation – be that due to a lack of transport or frail health – so that their own front door becomes a barrier rather than a pathway to the outside world.
“In just over four years since we launched, The Silver Line helpline has taken more than 1.7 million calls from older people, the majority of who speak to no one but us – sometimes for days and weeks at a time. And demand for our service keeps rising: December 2017 was our busiest month ever with over 47,000 calls to the helpline – a rise of 10% year on year.
“But we know we have only reached the tip of the iceberg in terms of reaching those that need us – indeed over 80% of our more than 10,000 weekly callers are phoning us for the first time. In addition our army of Silver Line Friend volunteers make over 4000 weekly outbound calls to lonely and isolated older people.
“We also recognise that collective, multi-stakeholder action is needed to help address this most pernicious and debilitating of problems, to which there are no easy solutions. It needs the efforts of all of us in collaboration to provide our older people with the quality of life they deserve and have the right to demand.”