Some MPs believe that many lonely people will find it hard to reconnect with others in the days and weeks following the easing of lockdown rules. This could result in what they have described as 'a loneliness emergency' caused by people having been unable to socialise for significant portions of the past year.
Officials believe there is an urgent need to tackle the problem after a recent poll showed an alarming number of people felt cut off from their communities and other people. Some have suggested that more amenities like benches and public toilets are needed to encourage people to mix and help combat loneliness.
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One-third of Brits feel less connected
According to the poll carried out recently by the British Red Cross, one-third of Brits now feel far less connected to their communities and social circles. Since last March, a series of lockdowns and restrictions have kept people away from friends, families, and communities, with many suffering from loneliness that they believe will continue after the lockdown.
The poll showed that 35% of people felt as though they could not connect with their communities any longer after the past year. Furthermore, close to 40% believed their loneliness would be an ongoing problem even after restrictions ease. In addition to this, 32% expressed concern that reconnecting with others would be a struggle and that they would find it hard to mix with others in the same way as they did pre-pandemic.
Following the release of the data, the cross-party all-party parliamentary group on loneliness is calling for consideration of a range of measures to help the country reconnect more easily. These include planning new housing developments, charity funding, volunteer programmes to help lonely people, and improving the current digital divide.
Recovering from the crisis
The lives of millions of people across the country have been changed because of the pandemic. One senior British Red Cross official, Zoe Abrams, said that dealing with loneliness needed to become a priority to help people to recover from the crisis.
She said, “We know from our 150 years of responding to emergencies that people who are more connected socially are better able to cope with, and recover from, crises. A lack of a good bus service, free public toilets, parks and gardens, baby-changing facilities or accessibility adaptations can put up barriers that prevent people from connecting with others in person.”
However, a spokesperson for the government claimed that Britain was already leading the way in dealing with loneliness issues. He said investment of more than £31 million was already in place to support lonely people and that mental health support had seen a £44 million investment during the pandemic.