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Loneliness strategy: Doctors to prescribe gardening and art in reforms led by Tracey Crouch

By Chris Hunter

Doctors may prescribe things like gardening and art to help tackle loneliness as part of a new strategy launched by ministers today.

Tracey Crouch, the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, became the first ever minister for loneliness last year and said the eyes of the world are watching the Government's efforts to address the issue.

Earlier this year Ms Crouch announced a £20m fund to help community groups fight the problem and this morning she said additional money would be made available.

Launching the Government's new strategy to tackle the issue, she explained the project aims to "create a framework of better connected communities."

She said: "This is such a complex issue because there are so many difficult aspects to loneliness.

"We're seeing a global fragmentation of people, it's not just here in the UK - and actually there's a significant amount of interest across the world in what we're doing to tackle loneliness.

"I'm the first minister in the world for loneliness and I think people are watching to see what we do."

GPs will be able to prescribe gardening and art classes as ways to tackle loneliness
GPs will be able to prescribe gardening and art classes as ways to tackle loneliness

Some of the ways to tackle loneliness being explored include prescribing social activities for isolated people.

The Ministry of Housing is looking into how the design of communities could counteract the issue, while the Department for Transport is looking to improve connections in rural communities.

Ms Crouch added: "Ultimately, hopefully we will be reducing loneliness over a period of time.

"We are setting up a measurement to look at loneliness.

"The Office for National Statistics are looking at how we can develop a consistent and sustainable measurement for loneliness.

Loneliness minister Tracey Crouch
Loneliness minister Tracey Crouch

"This is not going to happen overnight. I won't be the minster that in time celebrates the fact we've reduced loneliness because this is going to take a significant amount of time to tackle."

She said the area of "social prescription" was still being developed.

She said: "I very much do believe there are community organisations that will support people into those activities because not only have I visited many of them but I have seen emails from thousands of them who are already helping us to do this."

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