Loneliness minister to visit Yorkshire hubs where volunteers fill the gaps left by austerity cuts

Tracey Crouch, who was appointed minister for loneliness in January. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
Tracey Crouch, who was appointed minister for loneliness in January. Picture: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
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LONELINESS Minister Tracey Crouch will be in West Yorkshire tomorrow, to see first hand how volunteers and community groups have been left to fill the gaps left in services for vulnerable people by funding cuts.

Ms Crouch was appointed in January after Theresa May announced the Government was accepting the recommendations of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness’s year-long investigation, which included calling for a dedicated minister to drive action.

Read more: The Big Interview: Loneliness Minister Tracey Crouch on the ‘phenomenal’ challenge ahead
She will be in Liversedge with Labour’s Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin, who was elected to the seat after the murder of Mrs Cox, who was in the process of founding the commission before her death in June 2016.

Ms Brabin will take the minister on a tour of local initiatives that are helping to combat loneliness, including Kirklees Young Carers, an organisation which helps young people caring for family members.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “Tracey is keen to speak to young people who have experienced loneliness. In the 18 months since I have been an MP, I have definitely seen a rise in people feeling able to talk about loneliness, and also in instances of people experiencing loneliness. I think that it is definitely related to cuts that have been made locally.

“If you cut youth services, and those for other vulnerable groups, you are going to see a rise in loneliness, as people will have nowhere to turn to.”

Ms Brabin will also take the minister to Windybank Community Centre, which used to be a Sure Start centre, but is now ran by volunteers, and Howden Clough, where Ms Brabin grew up, and the Chatterbox centre, ran by “tour de force” volunteer Judith Hudson, and has a food bank, parents’ groups and job seekers’ support.

Ms Brabin said she was keen to show Ms Crouch the “amazing” work that is going on communities across Yorkshire without any Government support.

“The minister has a very difficult job because loneliness is a sprawling remit covering all ages and all backgrounds,” she said. “And she is doing it in the face of unprecedented cuts across the country.”

Ms Crouch, who is also a Sports Minister, will also be in Middleton in Leeds to visit Leeds Urban Bike Park, which offers sporting opportunities for young people, and the Sporting Memories Network at Leeds Beckett University, which uses reminiscence to help with loneliness and dementia.

The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to highlight the issue of loneliness, which can be a devastating to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, since 2014.

Next week, loneliness and isolation will be on the agenda at a meeting by York Central Labour MP Rachael Maskell. Ms Maskell, who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ageing and Older People is holding a meeting at Friargate Quaker Meeting House at 10.30am to discuss any issues affecting older people, including transport and social care.

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