Jo Cox Loneliness Commission and Sense launch disability spotlight month with parliamentary reception

13 July 2017

MP Rachel Reeves speaking with microphone behind lectern

As part of its work with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, Sense hosted a joint parliamentary reception on 12 July to launch the coalition’s latest campaign to raise awareness of the disproportionally high levels of loneliness amongst disabled people. 

The event, which was hosted in the Jubilee Room in Parliament and featured speeches from Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness chairs, Rachel Reeves MP and Seema Kennedy MP, brought together over 30 disability campaigners representing 20 disability charities with MPs and Peers to start a conversation on the impact and effects of loneliness for those with disabilities and share their experiences and thoughts on what policy makers can do to help support them.

The event followed the release of new research by Sense, which found that disabled people are still being marginalised by negative public attitudes, with one in four (26%) Brits admitting that they avoid conversations with disabled people and only half (52%) believing they have much in common with those who have disabilities. Young adults, under the age of 24, were revealed to be twice as likely to shy away from conversations and were also found to be the least likely to meet disabled people.

This week also saw the launch of a new report from Sense  - Someone cares if I’m not there: Addressing loneliness in disabled people – which highlights the impact of loneliness across a range of different conditions, and sets out a series of cross-sector recommendations to help tackle social isolation amongst disabled people. 

Key recommendations from the report, which was written in conjunction with over 20 disability charities, include:

  • Tackling social attitudes - Voluntary sector organisations and the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) should deliver public awareness campaigns to promote increased understanding and acceptance of disabled people.
  • Professional training - Professionals should be aware of the risk and impact loneliness, and provide specific support to help disabled people develop and maintain social networks.
  • Improving access to services - Good quality social care support in the home and community can support people to remain independent and fully engaged in their communities.
  • Investment in intervention services - Local authorities must recognise the importance of preventative intervention services, such as buddying schemes and day centres.
  • Accessible transport - The Department for Transport should ensure that transport is accessible to all, and local authorities should ensure that there is a sufficiency of accessible transport, especially in small towns and rural areas.
  • Financial support - Department for Work and Pensions needs to ensure that rates of financial support provided by the welfare benefits system are set at a rate that allows people to remain independent, retain social connections and participate fully in society.
  • Access to employment - Better support and access to employment opportunities can be a key way to prevent loneliness for disabled people. Disabled people should be able to access personalised and tailored employment support, which is optional and appropriate. 

Co-chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, Rachel Reeves MP, said:

“Many of the barriers to building social connections for disabled people are practical ones, such as the need for accessible transport and buildings, financial support and appropriate social care; but public attitudes also play a part in the risk of loneliness for people with disability.

“Increasing awareness of different conditions and battling misconceptions about disability are both important steps to help reduce loneliness amongst disabled people.”

Speaking at the parliamentary event, fellow co-chair of the commission, Seema Kennedy MP, said:

“Jo came to me in the spring of 2016 saying that she wanted to establish the national commission on loneliness, to show that loneliness does not only affect older people.  It really is very moving to see how in the last year the conversation about loneliness has moved on.

To see so many colleagues from across the House joining us is a testament to the work of all our partner organisations and the love everyone has for Jo and wanting to bring forward her legacy.”

Kate Fitch, Head of Policy at Sense, said:

“Loneliness amongst disabled people is a significant issue facing this country, and we are delighted to be working closely with the Jo Cox Commission to highlight it.  We want to ensure that parliamentarians are not only aware of the disproportionally high levels of isolation for those with disabilities, but are committed to finding solutions.

Sense and our partner organisations are now looking to the Government grasp this unique opportunity and improve the lives of disabled people across the UK.”  

To view Sense’s loneliness report or for more information on the disability spotlight month’s activities, please visit www.sense.org.uk/loneliness