• Deborah Ellis

There is no getting away from it, Christmas this year will be different.

As we get closer to 25th December rumblings are coming from various government ministers and generally on Twitter, commenting about the potential benefit or possible disastrous effects of a lockdown amnesty for a few days. As if to stir up heated feelings more, the Christmas image of happy harmonious family gatherings and a perfect day is the messages coming from retailers via our TV screens. Though if you look closely these too are looking subtly different from other years. Phone and video calls, so vital during our lockdown weeks and months are taking place at a lunch where we can guess the rule of six has been maxed out.

Some very creative thinking, turning a bad situation into one that somehow feels different and special rather than second best has made sure that our other British religious and cultural festivals took place earlier in the autumn. Changes needed to be made in the world of fundraising and volunteering too to manage through the pandemic. Crisis at Christmas, the large charity for homelessness recently let their volunteers know that this year, due to social distancing they too will be doing things differently. Their army of volunteers who help make it all happen will not be asked to volunteer and this will come as a blow for some because volunteering gives meaning to the festive period perhaps filling a void that becomes sharper and more apparent at Christmas.

Sadly, something that won’t change for some people are feelings of loneliness and isolation. Support from family members, friends or neighbours isn’t always available or enough and this is where those charities I’ve listed below come in. The ones listed operate nationally and their website will signpost on to local branches.

Christmas is a really difficult time for anyone who has suffered a recent bereavement and needs some help and support to get through some of the more painful days. Cruse Bereavement Care is an established organisation with trained volunteers offering support groups, one to one support and a national help line. Child Bereavement UK offers bereavement support for children or anyone who has experienced loss in childhood.

Foundation for Credit counselling is a very large organisation that offers free debt advise, money management and signposting onto other support agencies. Community Advise Network has branches throughout the UK offering advise on debt, benefits, housing and other general advise. Food banks have very sadly become a necessary need by more and more families as a result of serious financial hardship. The Trussell Trust is the support umbrella of a nationwide network of food banks and will put people in touch with their nearest facility.

Relate. Being in a struggling relationship, struggling not being in a relationship; this organisation used to be known as offering marriage guidance but these days recognise that all kinds of relationships can benefit from help at times. They offer confidential phone and video sessions during the pandemic. Mind is a very long established mental health charity offering low cost short term counselling to adults, children, young people and groups.

Carers UK and Young Carers offer a breathing space and an opportunity to meet and chat with others who are also the primary carer of a loved one. Regular group meet ups, outings, advocacy and kindly advise and support. At the other end of the age spectrum provides a helpline, telephone befriending and signposting for advocacy for older people.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous holds meetings in most towns. As an organisation it regards itself as a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.


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