Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid-19: UK and Japan connect to tackle loneliness

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on June 17, 2021

(Reuters file)

Diana Barran and Tetsushi Sakamoto agree to overcome the challenge in 3 ways.

Britain and Japan on Thursday announced joint plans to overcome the stigma of loneliness accentuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, highlighting the need to put in place policies that help to ‘connect’ people and communities.

Britain appointed the world’s first minister for loneliness in 2018 and Japan recently appointed its first minister for loneliness and isolation, Tetsushi Sakamoto.

The two ministers -- Sakamoto and Diana Barran -- agreed during an online meeting to work on tackling the international challenge of loneliness in three ways.

Officials said the measures include regular meetings on the issue between the UK and Japan, sharing knowledge on loneliness measures and policy, and raising awareness in the United Kingdom (UK) and Japan, and within the global community.

The ministers said in a joint statement: “Today, we face severe challenges posed by the global prevalence of Covid-19, and this has deepened our common understanding that ‘connecting’ people is key to tackling loneliness”.

UK minister for loneliness funds new plans to tackle isolation

It added: “The UK and Japan jointly lead the global community on this agenda by sharing our knowledge and experience through close dialogue. We recognise that loneliness could happen to anyone and are determined that the stigma of loneliness must be overcome. Connecting family, friends, neighbours and supporters within our communities is a vital step to overcome loneliness, and our policies must support this”.

Barran, who is the third minister for loneliness since the portfolio was created in January 2018, allocated £4 million (Dh20.50 million) in May to fund a series of projects to bring people together, including songwriting workshops in Devon, dance classes in Bedfordshire, and online chat services in Durham.

Officials said that since the beginning of the pandemic, over £34 million of the £750 million charity funding package has gone directly towards reducing loneliness, and a further £50 million to organisations supporting people with their mental health.

They added that the world’s first government loneliness strategy published in October 2018 contained 60 commitments from nine departments.

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