Swindon MP's anti-loneliness campaign progress

By Barrie Hudson - 14 July 2021

Community

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland has issued an update on his joint campaign with Swindon Seniors Forum to tackle loneliness.

  • Mr Buckland joined forces with Swindon Seniors Forum for the campaign

    Mr Buckland joined forces with Swindon Seniors Forum for the campaign

He wrote to raise the issue with Baroness Diana Barran, the Minister whose brief includes addressing the problem, and has received a reply assuring him that measures are being taken.

Mr Buckland said: "Throughout the covid pandemic, the ability to connect online has been a lifeline for many people, supporting them to maintain important connections with friends, family and colleagues. 

"However, many people, including those with learning disabilities, face barriers to digital connectivity as a result of the lack of access to mobile technology and the internet, as well as a lack of skills and confidence.

"I wrote to Loneliness Minister, Baroness Baron on behalf of the National Learning Disability Charity, Hft to highlight this issue and ask what is being done to bridge the digital divide."

The Minister replied, in part: "This year, Loneliness Awareness Week was an important moment to remember that, even as restrictions ease, many people will continue to feel lonely. Now more than ever, it is vital that individuals and organisations from across society continue to take action to tackle loneliness.

"During lockdown, the ability to connect online was a lifeline for many people, supporting them to maintain essential connections with friends, family and colleagues. However, I know that many people, including those with learning disabilities, face barriers to digital connectivity as a result of the lack of access to mobile technology and the internet, as well as a lack of skills and confidence.

"This is an issue government is dedicated to addressing through numerous initiatives. We are seeing the positive impact that access to the internet can have through our £2.5 million digital lifeline fund. This is providing tablets, data and free digital support to over 5,500 people with learning disabilities - enabling them to connect with friends, family, services and support groups, as well as to pursue hobbies and interests."

The minister added: "In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we provided funding to national organisations to help them to adapt and scale up their work to tackle loneliness. This included providing funding to Sense, Mind, the Carers’ Trust and the British Red Cross to support their work with people with disabilities and their carers, and those who are digitally excluded.

"The government’s tackling loneliness strategy recognises that anyone can feel lonely, at any time. We also know that some groups, including those with a learning disability, are at a higher risk of feeling chronically lonely. We will continue to work with the Cabinet Office Disability Unit, the Department for Health and Social Care, and organisations working to support people with all kinds of disabilities to inform our work in this space."

More information about the campaign can be found at https://www.robertbuckland.co.uk/campaigns/campaign-end-loneliness-swindon

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