New initiative set to tackle blight of loneliness in St Albans

A new initiative will be tackling loneliness in St Albans.

A new initiative will be tackling loneliness in St Albans. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Loneliness is a step closer to being reduced in St Albans, thanks to a new initiative.

The district council backed Green councillor Simon Grover’s proposed motion at a recent full council meeting, where members unanimously voted in favour of supporting Jo Cox’s Loneliness Commission.

The commission, launched in January, brings together MPs, policy makers and more than a dozen leading organisations to expose the growing crisis of loneliness and seek to overcome it.

It is thought that one in seven people experience loneliness, and tackling it is said to be particularly important at a time of overstretched health and social care resources.

Cllr Grover said: “I am delighted that St Albans council has got 100 percent behind the work of the Loneliness Commission. Loneliness is a modern epidemic that affects the lives of millions of people in this country, of all ages and backgrounds.

“By its nature, it’s not a problem we hear much about, considering how widespread and debilitating it is. There’s a huge social cost, in terms of individual unhappiness and a loss of social cohesion. But there’s also a financial cost, as loneliness is connected to a huge number of health issues, including mental illness and depression.”

A committee will now look at how best to help fill gaps in services, assessing how to approach the wide issue of loneliness and see what can be done.

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The council already supports several local community groups and public health projects, which directly or indirectly work to reduce loneliness, and some of these receive grants.

Through the latest move, the council resolves to recognize its responsibility towards helping improve loneliness. This involves supporting the commission and meeting its partner organisations in the district, which include Action for Children, Age UK, The British Red Cross, Carers UK, Refugee Action and Royal Voluntary Service.

Cllr Grover added: “There is some good work already going on in St Albans that is helping to address loneliness, from lunch clubs to anti-bullying campaigns. But up until now there has not been a specific focus on bringing together the work of the local groups.

“This new work could help all sorts of people across our district, will bring more people together and make our city and district a better place to live. It’s great that it has been named in Jo Cox’s memory, as she began the idea of it and was well known as a compassionate person.”

The initiative is also being backed by Home-Start Herts, which works alongside local families to offer support and guidance.

Chief executive Lara Norris said: “I am so delighted to see loneliness becoming the focus of this commission. The effects on the mental health of parents and their children cannot be underestimated.

“There are many reasons why families become isolated. Having children can mean that parents change their lifestyle. People can move home, change job roles and take on different responsibilities within the household. Not to mention what children can do to your social life. A number of parents we support have additional health and practical challenges that make isolation even more likely.

“Parents who are experiencing isolation can contact Home-Start for support, we are ready to speak with you. If you have experience of this and would like to help other parents we are always looking for new volunteers and your experience could really help another family.”