Take grand­par­ents on hol­i­day, says min­is­ter

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front Page - By Christo­pher Hope

BRI­TISH fam­i­lies should fol­low the ex­am­ple of their coun­ter­parts in south­ern Europe by tak­ing their grand­par­ents on hol­i­day and in­clud­ing them more in their daily lives, the new “lone­li­ness min­is­ter” says to­day.

Mims Davies, the min­is­ter for sport, civil so­ci­ety and lone­li­ness, said com­mu­ni­ties had a “moral duty” to stop the el­derly feel­ing aban­doned, and urged em­ploy­ers to give staff more time off to care for their par­ents.

In her first in­ter­view since suc­ceed­ing Tracey Crouch last month, Ms Davies said Bri­tons could learn from the way south­ern Euro­peans in- clude grand­par­ents in their lives. She said: “Very of­ten you will be out on hol­i­day – a few of you in a small Bri­tish fam­ily – and you will find this huge, won­der­ful plethora of peo­ple on the beach and you will think, ‘God, doesn’t that look fun?’

“We are just a lit­tle bit blink­ered. We have de­cided that we should box our­selves in a bit. I think when we are a lit­tle bit more bold about how we do things, we find so much more joy in it.”

Ms Davies, a di­vorced mother of two, added: “I was there for the lat­ter parts of my par­ents’ lives – I will never re­gret that. You won’t get that time again. We are in

a weird place when we are will­ing to drag our chil­dren around into our lives and en­joy our lives with them to­gether – but be­ing that sort of ex­tended fam­ily is seen as be­ing a bit more dif­fi­cult.”

Ms Davies, a for­mer coun­cil­lor and carer, said com­mu­ni­ties have a “moral” duty at Christ­mas and new year to look af­ter the lonely and vul­ner­a­ble.

“We have moral du­ties as a com­mu­nity. We should be think­ing about the whole of the com­mu­nity and older peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar when hav­ing a great time.”

Ms Davies, 43, said the com­mem­o­ra­tions to mark the cen­te­nary of the Ar­mistice last month showed how com­mu­ni­ties could value “peo­ple who had gone be­fore them”.

She said that lone­li­ness can be felt by all ages, from grand­par­ents who may have lost a part­ner to teenagers leav­ing home for the first time.

One idea that Ms Davies is work­ing on is a re­quire­ment for em­ploy­ers to give staff time off to care for lonely rel­a­tives in the same way that re­servists are al­lowed time away to serve with the Armed Forces.

The min­is­ter, who en­tered Par­lia­ment in 2015, said she wants staff to be able to “have an hon­est con­ver­sa­tion with your em­ployer about what is your work-life bal­ance”.

Ms Davies – who first en­tered lo­cal pol­i­tics af­ter she cam­paigned for bet­ter lo­cal play fa­cil­i­ties – rec­om­mended that peo­ple who are at risk of be­ing lonely should take up vol­un­teer­ing.

“You never meet an un­happy vol­un­teer,” she said.

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