Fighting loneliness as part of the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission

Disability-05

Loneliness can be really difficult to experience, and it’s something many parents and children have to face. It can be caused by many different things, often out of our control - maybe being new to an area or the loss of a spouse. We’re all familiar with that feeling of being lonely in a crowd.

 

Jo Cox, identified loneliness as a serious problem in her constituency. She saw it damaging the health, wealth and happiness of people of all ages, and set out to investigate what could be done. After her death, the project she started was carried on by her colleagues and renamed The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. Action for Children is proud to be leading the Commission’s work on children and families.

 

Children experience loneliness in just as many ways as adults. Some are starved of love and affection, others have no one they can trust or turn to. Looked-after children and those who have experienced abuse or neglect are vulnerable, as are both disabled children and young carers.

 

Children can also experience their parents’ isolation. Whether it is caused by physical isolation, a lack of resources or just the overwhelming demands of parenthood, one in four parents told us they always or often felt cut off from friends and other sources of support.

 

Persistent loneliness can leave children open to exploitation. It can damage self-esteem, erode social networks and affect their ability to form healthy new relationships. In turn, this can affect their education, job prospects and even their own parenting style in later life.

Parent survey

You can join in today by making a simple pledge, whether it be talking to a neighbour, visiting an old friend, or just making time for the people you meet. By signing up on the Jo Cox Commission website, you can find out more and you’ll be encouraging others to do the same. 

 

There is no magical cure for loneliness, but there is some good news. It’s not easy, but making a start is simple. It begins with one word - hello.

 

See below how we are standing with the commission to help both preventing loneliness and helping those suffering from it. 

New parents

Many of the challenges new parents face, like the isolation that comes of not knowing any other mums and dads, are particular issues for people who become parents at a younger age. Some of our children’s centres run parenting groups specifically for young parents, such as our Chill and Chat group in Worcestershire for young and expectant parents under the age of 20. Our Swansea Young Families service also offers younger mothers and fathers support tailored to their specific needs.

Looked-after children

Children and young people in care often face loss, instability and separation, which can undermine their ability to build positive relationships with friends and the adults in their lives. This increases their risk of becoming socially isolated and vulnerable. A number of our children’s homes have implemented a new model, which focuses on promoting strong relationships between staff and children. This approach encourages involving young people in decisions about their care, and focusing on their potential. Stronger relationships can build resilience and improve self-protection, resulting in better outcomes in later life.

Fathers

We run groups that encourage fathers to support each other and share parenting experiences. Fathers who may be isolated or have limited contact with their children, for a range of reasons including work commitments and separation from the family unit, can enjoy quality time with their children in a supported environment and play a more active role in their lives. Fathers plan activities with our staff such as arts and crafts, sports activities and trips such as swimming and to visits to the seaside that encourage positive engagement in their child’s development.

Disabled Young People

A lot of disabled young people experience isolation and loneliness. They don’t always get to experience the same social situations as others of their age, like being invited to birthday parties or days out because access can be limited. They may have a close circle of family and paid carers, and very few actual friends. We provide short-breaks that focus on young people making friends and being involved in social situations, be it at a residential service learning life skills, or on an activity such as canoeing or in an adventure playground – just having FUN!! We also provide opportunities for the parents and siblings of disabled children to come together, share experiences and build friendships, for example through our parents Café in Birmingham.

Junior Mentoring

In Liverpool, we offer people the chance to become volunteer mentors. They come from all walks of life, ages and backgrounds. Some simply have time on their hands and want to give something back, some are new to the area and want to meet new people, make new friends, learn new skills. There are lots of reasons why people get involved but all tell us that volunteering has integrated them into the community and reduced their own feelings of isolation. 

 

spending problem-free time doing new and fun activities with my new ‘buddy’ once a week for a full year was amazing!’ Female mentor aged 48

 

The young people being mentored learn new skills that help build their confidence, and they take their positive experiences into school on Monday morning. This gives them stories to share, helping them make new friends and contribute to class discussions. We know that friendships are important to children, and through mentoring they learn skills that will help them throughout their childhood and into adult life.

Young carers

Young people who care for a family member often feel isolated. Their caring responsibilities can make it harder to make and spend time with friends. With our support, they can enjoy and spend time with other young carers, who understand and share their situation. For example, we run fun activities and trips during school holidays and at weekends to provide an opportunity to meet other young carers.

Join the conversation.

Find out how you can become a campaigner, stay up to date with our latest tweets and join in the discussion on our blog.