Theresa May has appointed one of her ministers to lead on issues connected to loneliness, implementing one of the main recommendations of a report into the subject by the Jo Cox Commission.

Tracey Crouch, the minister for sport and civil society, will head a government-wide group with responsibility for policies connected to loneliness, Downing Street said.

In parallel, the government said it would develop a wider strategy on the issue, gather more evidence and statistics, and provide funding for community groups to start activities which connect people.

The move follows a cross-party report by the commission set up in honor of Cox, the Labor MP murdered by a right wing extremist in 2016, who had campaigned about loneliness.

May is expected to formally announce the appointment on Wednesday, and to say that she has accepted many of the recommendations from the commission. She will also host a Downing Street reception in honor of Cox’s work.

Citing research saying that 9 million people often or always feel lonely, the prime minister said: “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones – people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

May paid tribute to Cox’s work, saying she hoped the initiative would aim “to see that, in Jo’s memory, we bring an end to the acceptance of loneliness for good”.

The Jo Cox Commission, which is chaired by the Labor MP Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy, a Conservative, has been working for the past year with more than a dozen charities on ideas to approach the problem.

In a joint statement, Reeves and Kennedy said they welcomed the government response, and would work with Crouch and various groups to tackle the issue.

They said: “Jo Cox said that ‘young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate’. Throughout 2017 we have heard from new parents, children, disabled people, carers, refugees and older people about their experience of loneliness.”

Crouch said she felt privileged to be taking forward the work begun by Cox: “I am sure that with the support of volunteers, campaigners, businesses and my fellow MPs from all sides of the house, we can make significant progress in defeating loneliness.”

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