According to news sources, in a speech he will make later today at the National Children and Adults Services (NCAS) conference Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will highlight the “problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society” and comment how ‘it is a source of “national shame” that as many as 800,000 people in England are “chronically lonely”.
These shocking statistics will come as no surprise to Community Christmas who on 25 June (6 months before Christmas) launched an initiative which aims to do all it can to ensure that ‘no elderly person in the UK should be on their own on Christmas Day unless they want to be’. Christmas Day is a particular challenge in our culture since many of the normal support mechanisms for those who are alone are closed or reduced – the local coffee shop is closed, the monthly lunch club isn’t open and the buses aren’t running. In addition with the prevalence of family breakdown and increased geographical spread it is not always possible for families to take care of their loved ones on a particular day.
Caroline Billington, Founder of Community Christmas said: “Everyone I speak to about this campaign agrees that it seems inconceivable that so many elderly and often vulnerable people are spending Christmas alone. Yet there are lonely people in every street in every town and village across the UK.
“It isn’t always that people don’t have loved ones. In fact we have had queries from people which represent quite the reverse. We had a call from a family in Thatcham recently who were going away and were keen to know their great aunt would be looked after. Sometimes there just is little choice around this period.”
Despite the name, Community Christmas is about more than just Christmas Day. That is just the beginning. Caroline explains: “Christmas is the initial focus because as part of our extensive research we identified that many of the organisations who work tirelessly with elderly people throughout the year often take a well-deserved break at Christmas. Christmas provides an opportunity to reach out to the elderly who need support. This contact in turn provides an opportunity to identify their other health and well-being needs so that they can be put in touch with other organisations who can provide support and companionship during the rest of the year. Christmas is just the start of our legacy.” Community Christmas is a national partner of Neighbourhood Watch because of the impact that its activities can have on community cohesion.
The Community Christmas website is a valuable resource where people can go to find out about Christmas events. For example it will help anyone concerned about an elderly person needing company on Christmas Day find out about events in their area. The events publicised will be a combination of Community Christmas events and those run by other organisations. Similarly Community Christmas will provide support for those wishing to run their own event or donate some of their time or money to ensuring those events are possible.
Community Christmas works in partnership with other organisations, including national charities, in order to maximise its reach.
Caroline continued: “By putting the people who make it happen together with those who desperately need this resource we can make a real change.”
If you would, as an individual or a business, be interested in joining an initiative which has the potential to really make a difference then contact 0844 854 9251 or visit www.communitychristmas.org.uk