Parliamentarians, representatives from leading Catholic charities and faith-based agencies gathered for Caritas Social Action Network’s seventh annual parliamentary reception, held in the Houses of Parliament in late October.
This year’s theme was loneliness and social isolation, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. Charities in the Network increase social connections through volunteering and professional support in a wide range of services. Baroness Sheila Hollins hosted the reception, highlighting the particular loneliness faced by people with disabilities. The Chief Executive of CSAN, Phil McCarthy, emphasised the achievements of members over the last year.
In his address, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that, “In a society as affluent as ours we need a more secure safety net to bring people through the crisis periods associated with the structured delays built into the [Universal Credit] system. I applaud all those who create and sustain food banks, but surely they should not be a feature of our care for one another in our society today.” He noted that the most vulnerable in society will often have experienced the loneliness of being abandoned.
The reception was also addressed by Seema Kennedy MP, Co-Chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. Ms Kennedy spoke about the beginning of her life in public service, working with disabled people at Stonyhurst College. She praised the work of the Caritas network and spoke of her work with Jo Cox, recalling, “Jo knew that it wasn’t just the State that could solve loneliness, it was something the Government could act on, but also civil society – groups like yours”. She emphasized the universality of loneliness, urging all members of civil society to act: “All of us can phone a family member, or reach out to a neighbor, or just talk to somebody on the bus”.