Focus: Campaign of the week - 'Christmas is no time to be alone'

Indira Das-Gupta, indira.das-gupta@haynet.com

WRVS launched a campaign on Monday to encourage people to make sure that any older people they know are not lonely this Christmas.

Be A Star This Christmas is the charity's first integrated campaign, and follows a period of restructuring at the beginning of this year. Paul Twocock, head of media and public affairs at WRVS, said: "We will be doing much more campaigning and fundraising, rather than just focusing on being a service provider."

The charity will have posters on billboards at 500 sites across the country until 18 December. Although the campaign is mainly about raising awareness of the plight of the more than a million older people who are alone at Christmas, there will also be a fundraising element that will involve direct marketing.

The campaign cost about £65,000 and WRVS hopes to recoup nearly £50,000.

Some of this will be through the sale of limited-edition star-shaped badges, which will be available at its biggest hospital shops.

"The main message is to give any older neighbours or friends a call, and maybe even invite them over for Christmas dinner," said Twocock. "But we are asking those who haven't got time to do so to make a donation instead."

The charity is also calling on its 70,000 volunteers to organise local activities and take part in its postcard and email campaign asking their MPs to support increased volunteering. This is being backed by an Early Day Motion seeking recognition of the situation that many older people find themselves in over the festive period. It has already received 80 signatures.

The Welsh Assembly has issued a similar 'statement of opinion' that all 60 Assembly Members have pledged to sign. This has been led by Jeff Cuthbert AM, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ageing and Older People.

WRVS is also running a pilot scheme in eight schools, which involves providing pupils with star templates to decorate and write their own messages on. These will be distributed to older people at their local WRVS centre.

Twocock said: "This is a test campaign for us. We are trying new techniques to see which work best."

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