You can read my lastest monthly column for the Witney Gazette, here:
West Oxfordshire was again dusted with snow this weekend, and the pure white scene was picturesque - for as long as it lasted! Whilst for most of us snow offers a moment of picture-postcard beauty, the threat of snow and cold weather represents, for many people, real danger: falls, illness or isolation.
Unfortunately, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life for many, particularly for elderly people. Recent research has shown that more than 9 million people often feel lonely, and that around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in a month.
Nationally, I am pleased to report that the Government has responded to this challenge and is determined to make a difference, giving the Minister for Civil Society the special responsibility for loneliness, on a cross-party basis. These moves have been welcomed by Age UK and the Mental Health Foundation, and I look forward to seeing progress and seeing what more can be done.
But here in West Oxfordshire, we can help too. I am greatly impressed by our local communities who are already working together to help tackle loneliness. We must thank our wonderful Churches and charities who do so much to help. As I have toured West Oxfordshire over the last year I have been deeply moved by the strong community spirit that thrives from the smallest hamlets in our rural parishes to our market towns.
In particular, I recently enjoyed meeting many who regularly attend the Chatterbox events in Witney, organised by Age UK, and I look forward to seeing this expand over West Oxfordshire and become more popular. I have recently met with U3A, which has over 500 members in Witney and encourages our senior citizens to continue learning. Or take Guideposts, who I volunteered with in the summer, who run many programmes in West Oxfordshire to bring together those in our communities who need help with those who want to offer it. At the same time, our public sector, from local Councils to our World-beating NHS, are making the difference as only they know how. All these groups are making a real difference to this pressing social problem, right now.
But we should also consider what we might be able to do to help. Perhaps you could run an activity evening, or fundraise for research? Perhaps by clearing the snow from a path to an elderly neighbour's door, or checking to see whether that neighbour is well? There might be something that you can offer that might make their lives a little more comfortable. That might simply be some time for a chat: the gift of your time and company is in many cases worth far more than any amount of money. Let's all get together to help – these small gestures can mean so much.
If you would like to get in touch with me in the New Year on any issue, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone my office at 01993 225020 or write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. I also send a fortnightly email newsletter, keeping thousands of you up to date with my work in Westminster and West Oxfordshire; if you are interested, I would love for you to sign up through my website, www.robertcourts.co.uk.
I look forward to hearing from you, but in the meantime, may I wish everyone in the wonderful constituency of West Oxfordshire a very happy, prosperous and healthy New Year.
Published on 24.01.18 in the Witney Gazette.