Thank you for contacting me about loneliness and its impact on disabled people.
I am very concerned about the prevalence of loneliness in our society, including the effect that it has on disabled people. The problem worsened during the pandemic, partly as a result of repeated lockdowns and social isolation. The unmeasured mental health impact of the lockdowns was one of the reasons I was opposed to many of the most draconian restrictions during the pandemic.
The Government did recognise the problem that existed prior to the pandemic, and introduced its first ever loneliness strategy in 2018. Since 2018, the Government and their partners have invested almost £50 million in tackling loneliness, including in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I also very much welcome the publication of the Health and Disability Green Paper and the opening of the consultation into shaping future support for disabled people.
The Green Paper considers how to improve the DWP’s current services so they are better and easier to use, explore how extra support can help people navigate the system as well as what can be done to better support disabled people into employment. The Government consultation on the proposals ran from July to October 2021. I understand that a White Paper is expected later this year. It is vital that our welfare system supports those who need it and I would emphasise that a record £64 billion will be spent this year on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions.
Additionally, I welcome that the Government has invested more than £34 million in organisations supporting those experiencing loneliness since the beginning of the pandemic in England alone and helped people who experience loneliness through a £750 million charity funding package. The 'Let's Talk Loneliness' campaign has been refreshed and a new Tackling Loneliness Network has been brought together, made up of private, public and charity sector organisations.
I continue to campaign for full parity of esteem between physical and mental health issues, and I can assure you that I will hold the Government to account to deliver better mental health outcomes across the board.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.