There are many reasons why Christmas can be a trying and emotional time for some. Perhaps it will be a first Christmas without a loved family member or maybe as a result of getting older a person’s social circle has shrunk or maybe even disappeared.
If you are concerned about someone who may be lonely over Christmas, take a look at the Council’s People First website www.rbkc.gov.uk/peoplefirstxmas
It has information on keeping in touch and staying well over Christmas, as well as lists of local organisations that offer opportunities for residents to get out and about and meet people. There are suggestions for getting help with transport for those who find it difficult to get around. And it also suggests ways in which someone can stay in touch with others even if they struggle to leave their house.
The webpage can also point people in the direction of specialist organisations that can offer emotional support. Some, like the Samaritans, are nationally well known and there are others, such as Third Age Counselling which specialises in tackling isolation through counselling.
I know that right across the borough, churches and community groups will be doing their bit to reach out to the lonely. This is certainly what’s happening at the St Cuthbert’s Centre in Earl’s Court. All year round it aims to reduce social isolation in the area for older people, those who live alone, those who are at risk or find themselves homeless.
Based in Philbeach Hall on Philbeach Gardens, the centre has an open door, drop-in policy for everyone in the area, offering practical help in an informal, safe setting. It provides inexpensive breakfasts and lunches, laundry, showers, clothes, access to computers and advice and information. Drop-ins are from Monday to Friday from 10.30am to 3.30pm.
The centre really goes the extra mile on Christmas Day providing a free dinner for homeless people and those alone on the day. If you or anyone you know would be interested in attending the doors open at 12.30pm and lunch is served at 1pm.
I should also say that the Council’s City Living, Local Life initiative has once again helped fund a number of projects in the run up to Christmas designed to provide support for isolated people. A Christmas lunch club at St George’s Church on Campden Hill, Christmas dinners in sheltered housing schemes and a festive event for families where a parent or carer is experiencing mental health problems at the Venture Centre in North Kensington.
I think if we all make the effort to try and help someone less fortunate, whether it’s by volunteering or donating to those who work with people who need support we will probably enjoy our Christmas pudding a little bit more.
Finally I would like to take this opportunity to wish all our residents, whatever their circumstances, a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.