After a year that’s left many crying-out to spend time with family, it’s about to get worse for thousands of people forced to spend the festive period alone according to London based helpline charity Switchboard.

Over the weekend many parts of the country were placed in the toughest Tier 4 category and the five-day Christmas bubble was scrapped.

Now with just a one day ‘bubble’ in the UK for meeting with family and friends and nothing for tier 4 over the Christmas period many face the stark reality of being alone after it just got harder.

Research by Direct Line has shown that as a result of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, 38 per cent of 16-35-year olds, who identify as LGBTQ+, say they’re more nervous about going home this year than in previous ones.

Switchboard, a charity which operates a confidential helpline for LGBTQ+ communities across the UK, has this Christmas partnered with insurance company Direct Line, to ensure helplines stay open during their busiest time of the year.

With calls to Switchboard going up nearly 17 per cent YoY and up to 15 per cent MoM in December and costing on average £6 a call, the problem-solving insurer has pledged to fund the lines over the festive period to look after those in need of someone to talk to.

Switchboard Co-Chair Natasha Walker said: “Tens of thousands of people are now in lockdown once more, in situations that are difficult or complicated due to negative attitudes towards sexuality and/or gender identity. Christmas and the winter holidays can already be a lonely and isolating time for many.

“In addition the pandemic has kept families, friends and communities apart for many months and at this time of year people are anxious to be home with their loved ones. It’s vital that our helplines stay open for those who need someone to talk to during the winter holiday and working with Direct Line has ensured we’re able to keep them open as call numbers rise”

With calls on the rise and LGBTQ+ people more likely to feel lonely and isolated due to their sexuality, the two brands partnered with renown LGBTQ+ artist, Pegasus, to create the Lonely Human, a physical manifestation of loneliness at Christmas, adorned with the switchboard phone number highlighted for those in need.

The roaming, 3D art installation was seen at multiple empty locations across London, the city in which people are most likely to identify as LGBTQ+1, to highlight the scale of loneliness over the holiday period.

Pegasus said of the Installation: “Loneliness has been a worry for everyone during the pandemic and helplines like switchboard make those in need feel like someone is there to listen. Visualising and understanding the problem of loneliness is hard. The Lonely Human was created to bring home the feeling that even in the country’s most populous city, it’s easy to feel alone.”

Direct Line has been empowering communities over the past year by supporting and sharing stories of those that make a difference to people’s lives; not just in lockdown but every day. While most of us are looking forward to Christmas, unfortunately many aren’t.

Simon Henrick, at Direct Line said: “2020 has been difficult enough as it is and has made many of us realise that, especially at this time of year, we shouldn’t take our time with family for granted. We’ve found throughout our campaign to solve everyday problems and champion heroes within our communities, that loneliness was a major point of worry for a lot of us. Unfortunately for some, December will make that worst. So many members of the LGBTQ+ community face a Christmas alone because family issues stand in the way. By keeping the phones open, at least they now have someone to talk to.”

The campaign to keep Switchboard’s phonelines open will run throughout December and aims to provide vital support to those who need it this Christmas. For more information please visit: https://switchboard.lgbt/

Research

The research was commissioned by Direct Line and conducted by Censuswide with 502 respondents in the LGBTQ+ community aged 16-35 between 02.12.20 – 08.12.20. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles

  • Almost half (48%) who are more nervous than previous years about going home for Christmas are uncomfortable discussing LGBTQ+ issues with family 
  • 1 in 7 (14%) of those surveyed who aren’t going home for Christmas are uncomfortable discussing LGBTQ+ issues with family 
  • 42% of those surveyed who are more nervous than previous years about going home for Christmas, say that their family responds negatively to discussing LGBTQ+ issues at home 
  • Almost a fifth (19%) of those surveyed who aren’t going home for Christmas, say that their family responds negatively to discussing LGBTQ+ issues at home 
  • 1 in 6 (16%) of those surveyed who aren’t going home for Christmas say none of their family know about their sexuality

Switchboard data

For the year to-date, Switchboard has seen an increase of calls by 16.7%.

December was a higher volume month last year, at 15% above the average call volume for 2019. Based on the first week of December 2020, Switchboard calls have increased by a further 10%.

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