Christmas loneliness increases calls to police control room

A+S police HQ call centre Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police
Image caption Last Christmas Avon and Somerset Police received more than 28,000 calls between 21 December 2018 and 2 January 2019

High levels of calls to police control room teams over Christmas are from "lonely people who have no-one else to turn to", say Avon and Somerset Police.

The force said of the 28,442 calls taken by staff over last year's two-week Christmas period, "almost half required no police attendance".

To tackle the loneliness problem, a new campaign is asking the public to "keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours".

Head of command and control Becky Tipper said it "could be a lifeline".

She said the social media campaign to try to reduce Christmas loneliness "urged" people to "make a spare card count".

Ms Tipper said: "This year we are suggesting that instead of putting spare Christmas cards back in the box, people use them to reach out to those in their community who might benefit from a friendly greeting."

Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police
Image caption In less than a week the social media campaign has reached more than 95,000 people

She said: "Isolation and loneliness across all generations causes demand for the emergency services. With repeat callers to 999 and 101, this can tie up our call handler teams for considerable lengths of time."

But she said the force's call handling team "will always take time to help and support people who call us and will do all we can to ensure their safety".

She added calls, from members of the public, not requiring police deployment also included general inquiries or contacting officers with intelligence information.

Image copyright Avon and Somerset Police
Image caption Becky Tipper said a "simple act of kindness" such as posting a Christmas card could "make a real difference"

The campaign features a recording of a real call from an 85-year-old woman who was "frightened and alone".

Call handler Tom Allen, who took the 30-minute call, was able to reassure her while other colleagues found "family support for her, immediately after the call".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionRecording of a 999 call from an 85-year-old woman who was "frightened and alone".

Mr Allen said "calls of this nature are upsetting at any time of the year, but especially at Christmas".

He said: "Some people simply have nobody else to turn to or speak to, so they naturally turn to the emergency services.

Daniel Pattison, from the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: "For many older people, Christmas can be a difficult time, especially if you don't have friends or loved ones around to celebrate with."

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