Look after your neighbours and combat Christmas loneliness

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic means we are all facing an unfamiliar Christmas this year.

Somerset County Council is encouraging everyone to continue the community spirit that has been seen across the county during the pandemic, by looking out for their neighbours during the holidays.

The restrictions in place to try and prevent the spread of Covid-19 will mean that the elderly and those living alone are more likely to feel isolated, and so this year it is more important than ever to embrace the Christmas spirit by checking in with your neighbours and letting them know help is available.

Councillor Clare Paul, the Council’s member responsible for health and wellbeing, said: “At this time of the year it is important to remember the people around us. To reach out in our community and do what we can for those who find Christmas a difficult or lonely time.

“The smallest gesture of help can make a huge difference to someone’s feeling of wellbeing.”

There are many things you can do to lift a neighbour’s spirits; it may be something as simple as dropping a Christmas card through their door. Why not put your telephone number in it and invite them to stay in touch?

Perhaps you could call on them, remembering to socially distance, and ask if they need shopping or help collecting prescriptions?

Just a chat on the doorstep and the knowledge that someone is thinking of them may be enough to brighten up their day.

Don’t forget that there is a huge network of support in place to help people in Somerset this Christmas too.

The Somerset Coronavirus helpline, 0300 790 6275, will be available for the duration of Christmas, seven days a week from 8am to 6pm. The contact centre staff can give advice on financial support, personal care, food and prescription deliveries, housing, social care and medical transport.

To ensure no-one in Somerset goes hungry, there is an array of food support available. Somerset’s local authorities have worked with partners to increase the county’s emergency food stocks. This has included organising for school caterers to cook up thousands of frozen meals and linking with CCS Village Agents so that the meals can be distributed to those who need them, as well as providing grants to Somerset’s foodbanks to enable them to meet any increase in demand over Christmas.

Thanks to the Government’s Winter Covid Grant Scheme, Somerset County Council has been able to provide schools with £30 for every child who receives free school meals for the Christmas holidays. As well as this, a fund has been established so that schools can bid for money to set up or expand breakfast and after-school clubs or community food projects.

There is also available for families on low income with children under 4 by visiting www.healthystart.nhs.uk, meanwhile families with children 16-18 not in education, employment or training can also access help over Christmas by emailing somersetworks@somerset.gov.uk  

For anyone feeling lonely or distressed, Mindline offers a confidential listening service. They are available 24 hours a day on 01823 276892.