Hundreds in Norfolk reach out for help over Christmas

Hundreds of people in Norfolk reached out for help from social workers and the Samaritans as they endured a blue Christmas, new figures have revealed.

While the majority of us enjoyed time with our families, for some people the festive period proved too much to handle and they sought support from people who offered help.

Norfolk County Council's emergency duty team was kept busy providing care and support to vulnerable people – fielding more than 350 calls.

The team deals with social services' emergencies across the county outside normal office hours, including through the night, at weekends and during Bank Holidays such as Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

From the end of the working day on Thursday, December 23 and throughout the festive break, including the two bank holidays, the team received 356 calls.

They dealt with issues ranging from requests for formal mental health assessments, safeguarding children and adults referrals and many community care calls including requests for emergency respite care.

David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services at County Hall, praised the team for their efforts at preventing Christmas from overwhelming some families.

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He said: 'It's part of the service we offer. When there are not many other people to turn to, that emergency team is there and available.

'The service they offer is brilliant and a good example of that was when we had such bad weather.

'They still managed to get out and about and went beyond the call of duty to make sure vulnerable people got the help they needed. They are very committed people and without them the people who called would have been a bit of a pickle.'

Another organisation which helped people close to the end of their tether were The Samaritans, who offer a 24-hour confidential support service.

The charity had people ringing up, texting, emailing and dropping into their offices in St Stephen's Square in Norwich. A spokesman said: 'We tend to be quiet on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but we got busier in the days which followed and we expect it will pick up even more in the next few days.

'It's mainly because of problems with relationships. People manage to get through Christmas itself but then the cracks start to show and they need to talk to somebody about it.

'People have also been getting in touch because the bills have started to come in and they have got financial difficulties. We are one of the few agencies which are always open and at this time of year we have had quite a number of calls in the early hours of the morning.

'These are people who want someone to talk to and it helps them to get their problems out there.'

The Samartians can be contacted by calling 01603 611311 or 08457 909090, or you can email jo@samaritans.org. The adult and children's social services contact number is 0344 800 8014, which is available out of hours for emergencies only.

For more ways to contact Norfolk County Council, visit the website at www.norfolk.gov.uk and click on 'contact us'.