Sixth formers are bringing Christmas joy to Saffron Walden pensioners for a second year running.

More than 80 County High School sixth formers have paired up community members and will phone their "buddy" once each week to combat isolation this winter.

Pupils will prepare hampers for their buddies ahead of December 25, and have said the scheme is just as important to them as it is for older community members.

Bronwyn Dixon-Smith, a year 13 student, said: "Although the buddy scheme started off as a way to provide connection for isolated people in the lockdown, it’s become something that is just as important to me as it is for my buddy.

"My buddy Amy and I catch up on what we’ve done that week and discuss anything from our favourite TV shows to her experiences growing up.

"Although the scheme was first introduced for the Christmas period last year, my buddy and I got on so well that we have continued our regular chats, and it’s something that I really look forward to!"

Phillipa Johnson, head student and project leader, said: "I have really enjoyed being a part of the Christmas Buddy Scheme over the last two years.

"I have a great relationship with my buddy Rosemary, with whom I have spoken weekly.

"What started out as Covid-19 support for the senior citizens has blossomed into a rewarding and valued friendship."

Around three million people in England are thought to have experienced loneliness "often" or "always" in 2020 and 2021, according to government statistics.

Age UK says building a community with safe, friendly and trustworthy people on hand is one way to help tackle loneliness.

Chloe Oliver, assistant director of SWCHS Sixth Form, said: "We've had excellent feedback from the local community and care homes about the scheme.

"One resident even said that it has made her Christmas!

"We are incredibly proud of all of the students supporting with the scheme."

The schools said buddies and buddies' families can contact them on 01799 513030 or by email:

An online fundraiser will help cover the costs of preparing the hampers: