In a survey undertaken by the Co-Op, 32% of parents of young children, reported feeling always or often lonely. An area of concern is the loneliness felt by new parents and the challenges they face, like the isolation that comes from not knowing any other mums and dads, which is even more of an issue for people who become parents at a younger age.
Children experience loneliness in just as many ways as adults. Some are starved of love and affection; others have no one they can trust or turn to. Looked-after children and those who have experienced abuse or neglect are vulnerable, as are both disabled children and young carers. Children can also experience their parents’ isolation; whether it is caused by physical isolation, lack of resources or just the overwhelming demands of parenthood. According to Action for Children, one in four parents told them they always or often felt cut off from friends and other sources of support. Persistent loneliness can leave children exposed to exploitation. It can damage self-esteem, erode social networks and affect their ability to form healthy new relationships. In turn, this can affect their education, job prospects and even their own parenting style in later life. The number of parents who say they feel lonely has increased.
Inviting your MP or Councillor
Action for Children would like faith groups and community organisations to invite their MP or Councillor to attend a ‘Chat and Play’ session at their church or community centre. This is a great way of showcasing your service and giving your ‘Chat and Play’ session some profile. This will require a bit of planning, involving perhaps, sending out some notice. It might be worth noting that if it is an MP that you are keen to contact, they are most likely to be in their constituency on a Friday.
Action for Children has a template email and letter you may want to use in inviting your MP or councillor(s) to the event. Please feel free to personalise and customise these as much as you feel necessary, or to send something of your own. If you would like some support identifying your MP or councillor(s) and their contact details, or if your invitation is accepted, please get in touch and let Action for Children know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Jo Cox Commission and November’s Children & Families Month
During her time as an MP, Jo Cox was dedicated to combating loneliness in the UK. She saw it damaging the health, wealth and happiness of people of all ages, and set out to investigate what could be done. Following her tragic murder, the Jo Cox Commission was set up to take forward Jo’s work. The Commission is led by Rachel Reeves MP (Labour) and Seema Kennedy MP (Conservatives).
The Commission and its partners, including Action for Children, have started a national conversation about the scale and impact of loneliness in the UK. The aim is to raise awareness and education around loneliness, as well as to start a conversation about what can be done about it.
Each month focuses on loneliness felt by a particular group of people, from loneliness felt by men to loneliness felt by disabled people. In November, Action for Children will be shining the light on the loneliness felt by children, young people and parents.
According to Rossanna Trudgian, Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs, “What we are doing in November is to raise awareness; we are producing a number of reports and resources to promote awareness and share practical tools to tackle loneliness. We are also hosting ‘Chat and Play’ sessions for people to say hello and build connections in their local community both in our own services, e.g., children’s centres, and in partnership with other organisations.”
Karis Kolawole, Head of Faith Partnerships, said, “We are proud to be leading the Jo Cox Commission’s work on children and families. Through our work in communities, we see how many people are vulnerable to loneliness and isolation. The church and other faith groups are well placed to help tackle loneliness in their local communities, and that is why we are counting on them for their support.”
How to run the sessions:
Here are some ideas for you to consider;
• Host an information stall or display sharing information on loneliness, our services, and the parenting tools.
• Assign staff and volunteers to approach all parents to start a conversation about loneliness, maybe offering a cuppa in exchange for the parent’s attention.
• Support a staff member, volunteer or engaged parent to proactively introduce parents to each other throughout the usual Stay and Play session.
• Host a session whereby parents are encouraged to introduce themselves to each other, volunteers and staff. A forum discussion on Mumsnet showed that some parents are either too nervous or intimidated to introduce themselves to other parents, especially if they are in a group. They talked about this being a time where they feel particularly lonely.
• Invite a speaker to run a short talk on the research and the parenting tips, potentially seeking parent’s views and experiences. Action for Children would happily offer speakers.
If you have any questions get in touch with Rossanna Trudgian, Action for Children Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs, on 07720 339898or via email, Rossanna.Trudgian@actionforchildren.org.uk