Take grandparents on holiday, says minister
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.