To launch the campaign, Action for Children surveyed 2,000 parents about loneliness and isolation.
The findings revealed that more than half of respondents have suffered from loneliness - a fifth in the past week.
More than two-thirds (68 per cent) felt they had become ‘cut off’ from friends and family since having children, and a similar number (61 per cent) said they were worried their child is lonely some or all the time.
To help parents and children suffering from loneliness, Action for Children has teamed up with the Jo Cox Commission, to launch the #startswithhello campaign. Its aim is to encourage communities to connect, build relationships and provide support for parents and children suffering from loneliness and isolation.
Throughout November, Action for Children and the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness will be holding a number of events and organising activities, including a Jo Cox Chat and Play session for parents in the charity’s children’s centres and nurseries to give them the opportunity to meet other families within their communities and start a conversation.
Haley Minns, from Hunstanton in Norfolk, suffered from loneliness and anxiety after the birth of her first child. She was referred to an Action for Children support worker who encouraged her to speak to her GP and attend baby massage classes with her son.
She said, ‘My husband and I had a lovely life, both working full-time, just looking forward to welcoming our baby
‘But everything I was looking forward to turned out to be a totally different experience to what I expected. I’d thought I would be at my happiest, but actually it was so hard. I couldn’t get out the house because I was so anxious. All my friends had babies at the same time, but to me, it felt like they were all doing better than me and I just shut myself off.
‘It was fear and a lack of control. And social media didn’t help at all - everyone there seemed to have these lovely babies who were settled and they could go out. I would literally sit by my son while he was napping and didn't move. He was 14-weeks-old and I hadn’t even been able to leave his side to have a shower without someone else being at home. Even when he was asleep I felt I couldn't leave him so would just sit there. I hated the time I was having with my baby; it was such a lonely time for me.’
Chief executive of Action for Children, Sir Tony Hawkhead, said, ‘From a toddler who seldom meets people because of their mother’s anxiety, to a young man in his twenties afraid to leave his room in a homeless hostel, we know from our services across the UK the devastating impact loneliness can have on the lives of children, young people and families.
‘Now is the time to raise the volume on this issue and ensure much-needed research, funding and support is put in place. Whilst part of the solution lies with funders and policy makers, there is a role for every one of us in addressing this epidemic in our communities.’
Co-chairs of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, MPs Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy, said, ‘Our friend Jo Cox said, "Young or old, loneliness doesn't discriminate", and this survey highlights that fact. The worrying thing is the impact this parental loneliness then has on families and young people in particular.
‘Feeling lonely for long periods can be linked to poor mental and physical health – equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Jo recognised the need to start a national conversation about loneliness and it’s essential that charities like Action for Children continue that conversation and highlight the issues.’
- For more about Action for Children's work with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness click here