The Loneliness Taskforce was established by Dr. Keith Swanick in collaboration with the CEO of ALONE, Seán Moynihan, to coordinate a response to the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation in Ireland. Through its work, the Loneliness Taskforce is seeking to increase awareness about the issue and to produce a set of recommendations for Government, state agencies and all policy makers. Over 300 submissions have been received by the Taskforce sent from the general public, Oireachtas and Northern Ireland Assembly Members, MEPs, NGOs, Local Authorities, Public Participation Networks, and Volunteer Networks across the country, both North and South. The establishment of the Taskforce has created a much-needed national conversation on the loneliness and social isolation faced by people in Ireland.
Let me share with you something amazing that happened. In mid to late January of this year I got a phone call from a gentleman saying he was from the People of the Year Awards, he continued to explain that I had been nominated for an award and was now shortlisted. Much of what he said didn't register and he had to repeat himself a couple of times at my request, I couldn't believe it, is this really happening? I wasn't even aware of being nominated. The phone call came from Martin Grant of Rehab and People of the Year Awards, who explained I was shortlisted in the category 'Everyday Hero' for my work setting up the bereavement support website Widow.ie. He continued to explain that the nomination was by a member of our forum who, at that time, wished to remain anonymous and that I would have to be willing to go on the radio. It was a lot of information to process.
There are some 259 million widows around the world, and nearly half are living in poverty. Widows are often stigmatized by their families and communities. Many suffer discrimination based on age and gender. Some have lived lives marked by physical and sexual abuse. Older widows often have few economic assets, after a lifetime of hard but unpaid work. Even in developed countries, the value of women’s pensions can be some 40 per cent lower than men’s. Younger widows face other challenges, as heads of households with childcare responsibilities and very limited economic opportunities.
The new Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has reminded families that the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance will be made available again this year, and urged families who are not automatically entitled to make an application before the August deadline. “The support provided through the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance helps parents with the cost of the new school year. The Department of Social Protection has allocated €38.8 million for the payments this year. I want to remind families who do not automatically receive the allowance that they can still make an application before the August deadline,” Minister Varadkar said.