The Politically Speaking column with Paula Sherriff MP

CHRISTMAS CHEER: Enjoying my time at the recent Safe Anchor Trust event.
CHRISTMAS CHEER: Enjoying my time at the recent Safe Anchor Trust event.

As the year starts drawing to a close, we know from the inescapable Christmas music and supermarket adverts that the festive season is definitely in full swing!

Most of us will look forward to spending more time with family, but it can also be a difficult time of year for many.

Snow and ice can add to the isolation – for some it can mean literally not being able to leave the house, and not seeing a familiar face for days.

So I’d like to give thanks to those who are working hard to tackle loneliness in our area.

Sadly, we’ve seen social care support for the elderly or those who struggle with their mental health has been cut to the bare minimum – the effect of this is amplified at this time of year when we’re bombarded with images of busy, happy people, enjoying a perfect Christmas.

Last week, as the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission released a report that says loneliness can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, I joined the launch of three Royal Voluntary Service projects being set up to tackle loneliness and isolation in our area.

The projects which are funded in part by the Jo Cox Foundation that was set up in her memory, will match up volunteers with lonely people in Kirklees and activities will include lunch clubs and workshops aimed at reducing social isolation in our communities.

This work is hugely important and it’s great to see this and many more groups and volunteers across our area supporting those who are most vulnerable.

In Mirfield, the Christmas Appeal is again distributing gifts donated by kind-hearted residents and handmade cards to elderly and lonely people living in the area.

No one should be alone at Christmas, and, thankfully across Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton, groups of fantastic volunteers are hosting events on Christmas Day for older people and those in need. You can find details and links to many of these on my Facebook page – @Paula4Dewsbury.

Please pass this information on to anyone who will benefit.

Everyone can help spread a little festive cheer. A few minutes to say ‘hello’ can strengthen communities and help fight social isolation.

Thank you to everyone who selflessly gives their precious time to make this a better time of year for others.

You really are our community heroes.

The generosity of local people is certainly inspiring and, to echo the message of the Jo Cox commission; loneliness is a challenge that can only be met by concerted action by everyone – Governments, employers, businesses, families, communities and individuals all have a role to play.

Working together we can make a difference.