Cooking Away Loneliness
The loneliness epidemic has already begun, but is the UK sufficiently prepared to deal with it?
With the first ever Minister for Loneliness in the world, being appointed in the UK in February, are we starting to make strides in the right direction?
It was announced recently that GPs will now be able, and encouraged to, participate in social prescribing. A social prescription may include dancing, gardening, or knitting classes - social activities, and the NHS will be able to link patients up with social groups undertaking activities such as cookery. Theresa May announced the new strategy by highlighting that an estimated 200,000 elderly people haven’t had a conversation with friends or family in the past month. In light of this, the government announced £1.8 million in funding for community projects. To support the new strategy, the government is also introducing a trail scheme taking place in Liverpool, Whitby and New Malden, where, in partnership with the Royal Mail, postal staff will check in on the most vulnerable and isolated on their rounds.
Whilst all of these initiatives are a positive change, should we be asking big businesses to do more for their employees? In response to Tracey Crouch’s (Minister for Loneliness) new strategy a group of companies, such as Sainsbury’s and the Civil Service, have promised to do more to support their staff. But the question remains, will others follow suit, and do small businesses have the tools necessary to implement the appropriate support measures?
The sobering element of the new approach to tackling loneliness, is the legacy of Labour MP Jo Cox, who placed social justice high on her agenda. May specifically addressed her legacy by highlighting her work ‘Jo Cox was absolutely right to highlight the critical importance of this growing social injustice’ going on to say that it is ‘one of the greatest public health challenges of our time’.
Age UK estimates that there are around 1.2 million persistently lonely older people in the UK, and this figure doesn’t include younger individuals, who, reports suggests, are increasingly feeling the effects of loneliness. This problem is one that evidently needs addressing, but will relatively small scale measures, such as going to a social class, really help address the bigger issue?
As our society continues to change and develop, and younger generations move away from older relatives, are we treating the symptoms and not the problem? And if so, how do we build community relations in a time of increasing distance?