04 December 2020

British Red Cross and Northern Ireland Voluntary organisations working with BBC NI to launch Christmas loneliness appeal

BBC Northern Ireland's Christmas Appeal on Loneliness in partnership with British Red Cross and others

The Action Group on Loneliness Policy – which is chaired by the Red Cross and is a coalition of charities and professional bodies – has been working with BBC Northern Ireland to develop a special Broadcast Appeal ‘Staying Connected at Christmas – overcoming loneliness, together’.

 Loneliness is something that many people will have experienced at some point in their lives. It can be difficult to talk about – and sometimes hard to overcome.

The Appeal aims to raise awareness of the effects of loneliness and provide information, support and advice on how everybody can do something - big or small - to help someone in need.

In a Christmas like no other in recent memory, BBC Northern Ireland is encouraging everyone to find different ways of saying hello and staying in touch with neighbours, friends or their wider family circle.

And whilst Covid-19 restrictions mean that we have to keep our distance, it remains more important than ever to stay connected – whether by phone, email, letter, social media or the BBC itself!

The appeal, which will run from Monday 7 December – Friday 11 December, is a joint initiative with a group of local charities from the Action Group on Loneliness Policy, including: Volunteer Now, Age NI, Parenting NI, Marie Curie, Barnardo’s NI, British Red Cross, Campaign To End Loneliness, Carers NI, Mencap NI and the Royal College of General Practitioners NI.

Mary Friel, Chair of the Action Group on Loneliness Policy, and NI Policy & Public Affairs Officer for the British Red Cross said: “We’re delighted to be involved in this important Christmas Appeal. It has never been more pressing that we stay connected and overcome loneliness. Before the pandemic, one in three of us already reported feeling lonely across all ages, with one in twenty feeling always or chronically lonely. Lockdown, uncertainty and change during and after Covid-19 risks making even more of us feel lonely and disconnected.

“Overcoming loneliness needs each and every one of us to come together and play our part– as individuals, in our communities, community and voluntary sector, businesses, schools, employers, health and social care, government. The Red Cross is proud to be working with so many other organisations and communities to continue to call for a cross-departmental loneliness strategy for Northern Ireland and we welcome the appeal on staying connected and looking out for each other this winter”

Fronting the campaign this year is BBC News NI’s Tara Mills. She says: “I think this year has brought loneliness and isolation into very sharp focus. The good thing is that many of us have got to know our neighbours better, but it has also shown that loneliness affects people of all ages.

“In our programmes I talk to people every day who are helping their family and friends, their neighbours and colleagues. We can provide company on the radio in particular, but as a community we have to do more and keep up the new social contacts we all built in the lockdown. Is there anyone you could call or write a letter to? Sometimes the simplest things have the greatest impact.

“One of the most touching stories I heard was a young woman who befriended her 94-year-old neighbour during lockdown. They’ve now become great friends and have both gained enormously from the new relationship."

Mark Adair, Head of Corporate and Community Affairs, BBC NI says: “Loneliness is an important issue and it’s something that many people have struggled with in this most difficult of years. Our Appeal is a joint initiative with local charities that have been doing innovative work in this area and we hope that it will facilitate a big conversation about loneliness and how it can be overcome. There are no easy solutions, but help is available and all of us can do something to stay connected with neighbours, friends, family.

“Just finding time to say ‘Hello’ could make a huge difference this Christmas. And whilst Covid-19 may require us to keep our distance, it doesn’t mean that we can’t reach out to others in a ‘virtual embrace’.”

There’ll be stories, features and reports about loneliness across the BBC’s airwaves.

Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to stay connected this Christmas.

For more information about the Appeal’s charity partners and how to get involved visit: bbc.co.uk/niappeals.

Get involved with #stayingconnected

Notes to editor – information on Action Group on Loneliness Policy

  • The Action Group on Loneliness Policy was established in August 2019, and is a working group of policy leads, from charities and professional bodies who’ve come together with the aim of securing a cross-departmental Northern Ireland Loneliness Strategy.
  •  It brings together loneliness policy expertise from: Age NI, Barnardo's NI, British Red Cross, Campaign to End Loneliness, Carers NI, Royal College of GPs NI, Parenting NI, Marie Curie, MENCAP and Volunteer Now.
  • We have published policy briefings to support local policy makers on tackling loneliness, and in 2020, helped establish the Stormont All Party Group on Loneliness, providing Secretariat support.
  • NISRA reported Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, Loneliness in Northern Ireland 2018/19, Factors associated with feeling Lonely in Northern Ireland 2018/19 (2020). In 2018/19 35.2% of respondents reported feeling lonely ‘occasionally’ ’some of the time; or ‘often/always’ and therefore were described as ‘more often lonely’. In 2018/19, 5.3% of respondents reported feeling lonely ‘often/always’"

BBC NI to launch Christmas loneliness appeal