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MONEY ALONE CANNOT CURE COSMIC LONELINESS By Josh Nicholson, Senior Researcher, Centre for Social Justice

Money alone cannot cure cosmic loneliness

Whoever wins the general election will inherit one of the worst financial situations of any incoming Government. Living standards have barely risen since the 2008 financial crash. Households are worse off than at the start of the last Parliament. Starmer or Sunak will be faced with a black hole of £20bn in the public finances post-election.

Britain needs fixing, but with so little cash available, both parties need to start thinking outside the box.

Take the impact of loneliness for example. It’s Loneliness Awareness Week and the rising tide of social isolation is costing businesses an estimated £2.5bn a year. The cost of the individual consequences of loneliness reaches £9,500 per person. As people’s relationships decline, their support networks fall apart, leaving our public services to pick up the pieces.

Britain is a lonely nation.  A new report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), “Lonely Nation”, has found that these costs will increase. Our analysis has revealed some 60 per cent of adults feel lonely and find it harder than ever to make new friends. Over half of people say society is too individualistic. Young people are the worst affected with more than one-in-five 18- to 24-year-olds saying they feel a fundamental separateness from other people and the wider world.

One charity leader told us that “it’s more than just a social isolation, I call it cosmic loneliness, there are people who don’t know where they are. They don’t belong to any sort of community or belong to anyone or that anyone cares for them. It’s an all-encompassing loneliness and isolation.” 

So, what should the next government do given its armoury is so limited?  It should harness the power of Britain’s small and medium sized charities and put a premium on supporting families.

British families have become more fragile and insecure than others in Western Europe. I believe it is no coincidence that loneliness has spiralled at the same time.  Strengthening family relationships is the first step to building less lonely communities. The government should show its commitment through a new Office for Family, alongside a revitalised loneliness strategy that puts stronger families at its heart. This should include reinvesting in relationship support programmes, strengthening statutory paternity leave, rolling out family hubs, removing the couple penalty that exists within the welfare state, and helping those on low incomes bridge the financial barrier to marriage.

A less lonely society cannot be built by just relying on state action. It is made at the local level, by the goodwill and service of grassroots charities, voluntary associations and social enterprises. Our report found many small charities across the UK doing their bit to repair the social fabric, help strengthen families and tackle loneliness. By implementing a new settlement for the third sector, the Government would do much more to tackle loneliness than it ever could do on its own, whilst saving billions of pounds for the taxpayer.

Both major parties are offering national renewal at minimal cost. By encouraging stronger families and community groups to get on and deal with the scourge of loneliness, for once there is a chance of them of delivering on that promise.

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