Every year the run up to Christmas can be a really busy time for people, planning for the day and celebrating with friends and family.
For me, Christmas is a very special time where I get to spend time at home with my family. However for some people, it can be a lonely time, with some not seeing anyone at all during the festive period.
In October, the Government outlined its first Loneliness Strategy in which it described loneliness as one of the greatest public health challenges of our times.
It is thought around a fifth of adults feel lonely most or all of the time and this can become detrimental to their health. In a survey of GPs, three quarters said they were seeing up to five people a day suffering with loneliness. As part of the new strategy, GPs can now refer patients to community activities and voluntary services. For this, £1.8m has been pledged to invest in opening-up community spaces to create cafes or gardens, so there will be more places where people can meet. This is in addition to the £20m announced by the Government in June to help charities and community groups expand their programmes which bring people together.
Here in Dartford, we can all play a small part in tackling loneliness by checking on friends, relatives and neighbours, especially over the Christmas and New Year period.
We should also think about the people who have to work at this time of year, in whatever line of work, whether they are a doctor, nurse, carer, emergency service worker or a key worker in the retail and service industries.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and an enjoyable 2019.