May was prompted to create Crouch’s role as part of the legacy of Jo Cox, a lawmaker from the center-left Labour Party who was killed in 2016 by a right-wing extremist during the heat of Britain’s E.U. referendum campaign. Cox became a spirited advocate for helping the lonely as she, like more than half of British parents, felt isolated after the birth of her first child. She set-up a commission—renamed the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness after her death— to tackle loneliness after witnessing its effects among her constituents in the north of England.
Risk factors for loneliness include “family breakdown, a divorce” or “perhaps the safety net wasn’t there to stop that descent,” Crouch tells TIME. Like other developed countries, the U.K. has largely focused on the elderly when addressing issues of loneliness, but the Jo Cox Commission highlighted how much social isolation cuts across all levels of society. Data shows that in Britain and the U.S., poor, unemployed, disabled and migrant populations tend to suffer most from loneliness and isolation—and typically struggle to access adequate support.