The archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is supporting a campaign to combat loneliness during the Christmas season.
The monthlong effort is being assembled by the Together Coalition and is called #ChristmasTogether, which calls on the public to reach out to someone and sign up as a Volunteer Responder for the National Health Service.
The initiative is coming as new research indicates that one in five people are concerned they will see no one at Christmas. According to a new Royal Voluntary Service survey of 2,400 adults, 22% said they feared seeing no one during the holiday, and one in six respondents reported "dreading" Christmas.
"This Christmas might feel very different than normal for many of us. What has not changed is what we are celebrating: The birth of Jesus Christ, who came to be with us, and who promised never to leave us," Welby said.
“And so this Christmas, let’s take hold of this, and reach out to any who might be lonely or isolated," he said.
“That is one of the messages of Christmas, and it is wonderful that the Together Coalition is promoting it, and encouraging all of us to join in.”
The Royal Voluntary Service is hailing the participation they've had already.
“We are very proud of the support our wonderful volunteers have provided to those in need throughout the pandemic so far," said Catherine Johnstone, RVS chief executive.
“However, we are already seeing a rise in requests for help as we approach the festive period and vulnerable people are inevitably feeling isolated."
She added: “This Christmas is likely to be tough going for the most vulnerable in our communities and many will be spending it on their own. The help of volunteers is needed more than ever before.”
The RVS believes the upcoming weeks will be especially tough for vulnerable people amid increased isolation spurred by the ongoing lockdowns in response to the COVID-19.
While the U.K.'s national lockdown expired Wednesday, a new set of regulations are now in effect under a three-tier system, with some areas being under more restrictions than others.
The Jo Cox Loneliness Commission was set up by a cross-party loneliness commission soon after Cox was elected to office. Cox, who was a Labour member of the British Parliament, was murdered in 2016 by a man suffering from mental health problems.
In 2018, then-Prime Minister Theresa May appointed Tracey Crouch to be the first-ever Minster of Loneliness.