A new ‘Chat Bench’ initiative has been launched on the town’s seafront by Burnham-On-Sea Police in a bid to tackle isolation among vulnerable people.

PCSO Tracey Grobbeler has unveiled the new bench near the Bay View Cafe on the South Esplanade, as pictured here, and another two are in place in Taunton’s Vivary Park.

Simply stopping to say ‘hello’ to someone sat at the ‘Chat Bench’ can make a huge difference to vulnerable people, say Police.

Tracey told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “The Chat Bench is a very simple concept, where a sign is placed on a bench, typically in a park or a town centre, in a location used by a good cross-section of the community.”

“The sign is then used to encourage those using the bench to have a chat with each other – it’s as simple as that!”

She added: “The sign simply helps to break down the invisible, social barriers that exists between strangers who find themselves sharing a common place. We can all play a part in keeping our communities safe.”

“Simply stopping to say ‘hello’ to someone at the Chat Bench could make a huge difference to the vulnerable people in our communities and help to make life a little better for them.”

The initiative coincides with United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this weekend in which Police are inviting local communities to recognise the value that older people bring to local communities.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens added: “The Chat Bench is fantastic new initiative that I hope encourages those of all ages to start many more conversations in the future.”

“If you think an elderly friend, neighbour or relative is vulnerable or at risk of loneliness, I encourage you to stop by and say ‘hello’, it really could make a huge difference to that person.”

Police say abuse can happen to anyone – it exists in many forms, such as financial abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.

Those at greater risk are people whose care and support needs affect their ability to protect themselves including the elderly, people living with learning disabilities, mental ill-health or severe illness.

Not everyone has someone in their lives to notice the signs of abuse and offer help, so Police say everyone can make a difference just by saying ‘hello’.

Safeguarding information is available at Somerset Safeguarding Adults Board.