Minister prescribes New Year’s resolution to combat loneliness

January, not Christmas, can be the loneliest time of the year, warns Norman Lamb, the care minister, as he urges people to make a New Year’s resolution to help an older person


Norman Lamb is urging people to make a special New Year’s resolution to combat loneliness

Britons are being urged to make a special New Year’s resolution to help an elderly person as part of a Government drive to combat a national “epidemic” of loneliness.

Norman Lamb, the care minister, took the unusual step of recommending a specific resolution to the public, warning that January, rather than Ch

ristmas, is often the loneliest time of the year for many people.

It comes after Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, spoke out about a “forgotten million” older people left without any regular social contact – something he described as Britain’s “national shame”.

The Daily Telegraph has been supporting the NHS “Winter friends” campaign, in which people sign a pledge to help isolated elderly people in practical ways.


Mr Lamb has joined with the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) for an initiative to persuade people to make a specific New Year’s resolution to help an isolated elderly person through practical steps such as gardening or household chores or simply stopping for tea and a chat.

“As the Christmas festivities draw to a close, many older people will be facing a lonely January, spending days without seeing or speaking to anyone,” he said.

“Some may have even spent Christmas day alone.

“Every one of us can take action to combat loneliness.

He added: “If you are lonely and on your own Christmas itself can be very difficult but for many people who see family and friend over Christmas and then they can be left stranded again afterwards and it can be extraordinarily difficult.

“Often the weather can be miserable so it can be harder to get out and to get to see people and so the aftermath of the Christmas festivities, together with short days and often bad weather, can be a very depressing time.

“But we need to remember that if you are elderly and living alone and no-one is caring for you, perhaps other than statutory services then any time of year is difficult.

“Perhaps the problems are particularly exacerbated at this time of the year.”

The call comes despite evidence that an army of new volunteers, expected this time last year as a result of the euphoria over the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, largely failed to materialise.

A year ago, research by the RVS suggested that more than six million were planning to take up volunteering in 2013 because they had been inspired by the Olympic volunteers. Polling suggests that the proportion of Britons who do some form of voluntary work has risen only slightly, from 16 per cent to 18 per cent.

David McCullough, Chief Executive of the RVS, said: “It is perhaps easy to see why things we try to ‘give up’ fall off the priority list, despite good intentions.

“Aiming to try something new, such as volunteering, is something to look forward to and I guarantee it will not only help others but make the people who volunteer happier too.

“Even a small amount of time, just an hour a week to spare, can make a huge difference and be really interesting and rewarding too.

“We would encourage people to make a new year’s resolution list that’s worthwhile this year and focus on what they really want to say they’ve achieved by this time next year.”