The Christmas Together campaign is aiming to ensure Scots feel supported this festive season
A nationwide campaign has launched to tackle loneliness and isolation in Scotland this Christmas.
The Christmas Together campaign, an initiative of the Together Coalition, seeks to ensure this festive period brings people together.
It is supported by Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, alongside high-profile figures including Michael Sheen, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and political leaders.
After such a difficult year for so many people, it aims to rekindle the community spirit that helped us all get through the darkest days of this year and to make new connections to bring people together and reduce loneliness.
While many of us won’t be together physically, people are being encouraged to do whatever they can to connect with each other.
It comes as new polling shows that around one in five people across the UK are concerned they won’t see anyone over Christmas, and twice the number of people as normal expect to be alone this year.
Loneliness in Scotland has increased as a result of the pandemic, according to studies. While the 2018 Scottish Household Survey found that 21 per cent said they had felt lonely ‘in the last week’, this rose to 40 per cent in the 2020 wellbeing survey.
Scots are being asked to do two things:
• Reach out to someone who’d like to hear from you and make sure no one feels alone.
Make an effort this Christmas to reach out to someone who might like to hear from you. It could be a neighbour who lives alone or is shielding, a family member you haven’t been in touch with for a while or even someone you have fallen out with. Call them up, invite them to join a Christmas game online, meet them for a walk in the park. It might just make their Christmas. Tell your stories at #ChristmasTogether.
• Sign up to make a ‘kindness call’ as a volunteer.
Volunteers can sign up at www.chss.org.uk/together. Those in need of support can ask for help online via www.chss.org.uk/together or can request a kindness call by calling freephone 0808 8010 899, with lines open 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
Christmas Together is led by the Together Coalition, a group of organisations helping to build kinder, closer and more connected communities in the aftermath of Covid-19.
In Scotland, the campaign has partnered with Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s Kindness Call programme to pair volunteers with people who are feeling isolated, alone and in need of someone to talk to. The programme is delivered in partnership with the Befriending Network.
Across the UK the Christmas Together campaign is taking place as part of the Great Winter Get Together from the Jo Cox Foundation.
The campaign has also been supported by the Scottish Government.
Actor and campaigner Michael Sheen said: “Loneliness and social isolation are nothing new, but lockdowns and restrictions have made the crisis even more acute.
“None of us has enjoyed being cut off from company. Imagine how it would feel if your whole life was like that.
“That’s why it’s brilliant that Christmas Together is happening just when it’s needed most.
“This is going to be a Christmas like no other at the end of a year like no other. But we all have the power to make it better by rekindling the spirit of community that helped us through the worst of it.”
Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive of Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland, said: “Christmas is all about kindness. But there are thousands of Scots who will be alone or isolated over the festive period. All they want for Christmas and the year ahead is someone to talk to.
“Having someone to talk to over the phone can make a huge difference to their lives. By becoming a Kindness Caller, you will be spreading kindness this Christmas and beyond to help make sure that no one feels alone.”
Kim Leadbeater, ambassador for The Jo Cox Foundation, said: “It has been inspirational to see how communities have pulled together during such challenging times and this campaign provides the perfect platform for this to continue.
“So I encourage everyone in Scotland to reach out to someone this Christmas so that no-one feels lonely and we create as much festive cheer as possible."
Equalities minister Christina McKelvie said: “This Christmas will be unlike any other. We need to look out for each other and make sure that no one feels alone. The virus may have changed how we live, but it will never change who we are as a kind, friendly, compassionate country. So many people have come together to help each other during the pandemic and we need to keep doing that to fight isolation and loneliness this Christmas and beyond.
“I fully support the Christmas Together campaign and would encourage people to get involved and give someone the gift of kindness.”