I was delighted to hear the news that Tracey Crouch has been appointed as Minister for Loneliness.
We know that loneliness kills – it’s potentially more harmful than smoking or obesity.
I meet hundreds of people each year who would describe themselves as lonely. As one woman told me on a visit to a local community partner in Sheffield: “I was so depressed sitting at home with no-one except daytime TV. I just had to get out of the house.”
It’s great to know that the lonely people I’m meeting are now getting the essential social interaction that they need – through the Online Centres Network.
Volunteers and workers in our communities deal with lonely people every day. Good Things Foundation works with community venues across the UK – the Online Centres Network – and people come to get support to use the internet either for the first time or to get to grips with the basics, and so many of them say it is also important that it’s a chance to get out of the house and meet other people.
Bob Dunkerley, one of our 2 Millionth Learners from last year’s award ceremony, said: “Going along to Starting Point (his local Online Centre), for me, it’s a bit of a community that provides a necessary service for people who are on their own, especially older people. I need something in my life to give me an incentive to do things. The laptop training and companionship at Starting Point can do that.“
It isn’t just our digital skills learners that overcome loneliness by going along to centres. We’re a social change charity as much as we are a digital inclusion one, and projects like English My Way are vital in helping to tackle the loneliness issue. A video we released last year really demonstrates the camaraderie amongst one group of women at Online Centre Neighbours in Poplar:
Models that both empower people in a digital world and which provide face-to-face, community-based support are a powerful way to overcome loneliness.
Centres within the Online Centres Network provide an informal approach to help people overcome the issues they’re facing. That’s what an informal approach is all about, it’s focused on the person – what they need to do, and in the way and the pace that suits them.
Congratulations to you Tracey on taking up this vital role. It’s great to see the government making a commitment to such a pressing issue and I welcome the cross-sector and co-ordinated approach that will be taken.
I hope the community sector will play a significant role in cross-Government work around loneliness.
Tracey, you’re very welcome to come and visit an Online Centre and see this important work for yourself. Meeting the people who are taking such transformative journeys into the digital society and into happiness.