A report published last year by the Jo Cox Commission, revealed that loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
So with the government appointing its first loneliness minister, what role can pubs play?
After spending an afternoon helping out at Friday Friends the seniors lunch club that happens every week, 52 weeks of the year, at the Bevy, Brighton’s only community owned pub, I know that pubs can play a massive part.
But if i’m honest, it was pretty heart-breaking. I jumped on the Bevy bus to help drop people off home. Over 40 people come along each week from Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, some of them transported in our wheelchair accessible minibus. I wheeled one guy into his flat in sheltered housing and asked how he managed. He told me his mate across the way used to help him but he had just died. As I made sure people’s doors were shut I wondered just how many would not see another soul till the following Friday and tipped my hat to the people who volunteer to make the club run.
Pubs can play a pivotal role in supporting their local community and running a seniors lunch club isn’t just good for the community but also good for business, as these people make friends and become regulars. Having a pub on your doorstep, having someone who knows your name when you walk in, makes a massive difference to the quality of peoples lives.
What makes the Friday Friends even more impressive it that they are now working with St.Johns college for adults with learning disabilities who cook lunch for everyone while gaining hands-on work experience that will help them with paid work in the future. (65% of adults with learning disabilities who want to work can’t find jobs).
So the government has a ready made answer when it comes to tackling loneliness. Unfortunately with so many pubs closing every week it needs to strengthen planning laws to protect them and other community spaces from property vultures while exempting those that help their communities with tax breaks. That’s why it angers me when pubs on estates are shut because they are worth more financially as housing when run properly they can be the beating heart of the community.
The Bevy has proved that, and with a loneliness epidemic we need places like the Bevy more than ever.