Theresa May has appointed a ‘minister for loneliness’ as ‘part of the legacy of the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox’. Tracey Crouch, already Minister for Sport and Civil Society, will lead the Government’s work in tackling a problem believed to affect 9million in Britain. Mrs May said she wished to ‘shine a light’ on loneliness’, which for ‘far too many people . . . is the sad reality of modern life’.
This certainly seems to be the case, as the National Association of Funeral Directors warns that the breakdown of family ties has led to a growing number of paupers’ funerals, held when a person dies with no known relatives. Figures from Royal London Insurance show an increase of 12 per cent over five years at a cost to councils of £4million in 2015-2016.
One would hope that Ms Crouch’s role in taking care of ‘civil society’ will contribute to her understanding of the problem of loneliness, a problem which is part of the human condition but which becomes more acute with age and infirmity. Hopefully, too, she will acknowledge the role governments could play in helping couples to stay together, rather than incentivising break-up through the tax and benefits system, and driving as many mothers into paid work as possible, thereby increasing family tensions. This is not to mention the official policy of successive governments in prematurely sexualising children and teaching them to regard having children as some sort of (rectifiable) mistake, instead of teaching them about the value of chastity before marriage, commitment and family life.
Let us hope that this will not be yet another tokenistic appointment, meant to show that the Government ‘cares’ while telling the public that the problem is their fault. Ordinary people do have a responsibility to their elders, but they need the government’s help rather than policies that treat the nation as a motley collection of individuals, not joined-up families. Let us hope also that the Minister for Loneliness will manage to reduce loneliness rather than increase it, or in future we will be looking at nine million paupers’ funerals.