Coronavirus: voluntary sector rises to the challenge to help those in need

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Scotland's communities respond to help those most in need 

17th March 2020 by Robert Armour 3 Comments

Networks of volunteers are springing up to bolster Scots communities in an unprecedented effort by civil society to tackle isolation stemming from the coronavirus.

In a bold illustration of the value of the country’s voluntary sector, grassroots groups are being established across the country, supported by social media, to help the vulnerable and the elderly as well as to help maintain decorum as the country heads towards lockdown.

From health and wellbeing initiatives to community groups providing advice and information on workers’ rights, community efforts are ramping up as increasingly strict measures are enforced in a bid to suppress the virus.

A group in Paisley, Renfrewshire, aided by local welfare advice organisations, is appealing to workers to come forward who have been denied their right to safe working practices during the outbreak. Ken Stuart, a former Rolls Royce shop steward said while most workplaces were being responsible many were not.

“Health is the number one priority and those who are being exposed to unnecessary risk in these unprecedented times should be exposed. We’ve set up a page on Facebook for workers to anonymously contact us with their concerns.”

A network of volunteer medics is giving advice online in Highland to help assuage any fears people have of being infected by the coronavirus which has so far claimed the lives of dozens of people and infected thousands more.  

In Fife a Facebook page has seen dozens of people volunteer to deliver shopping to socially isolated older people while in Glasgow a carers group has been set up on Twitter to ensure those caring for loved ones have got extra support should they need it.

The Newmains Community Trust (NCT) centre in North Lanarkshire is asking for donations of non-perishable items to create care packages which can be delivered to vulnerable people in the local community.

We see around us communities acting together - Anna Fowlie

Manager Jane Wood said: “With us being a community centre, we’ve got quite a lot of vulnerable people who are in and out of the centre regularly and we know that as time goes on, more and more of them will be staying at home more.

“So we’ve decided to ask for donations from the local community so that we can put together care packages. People can then get in touch if they need one, or if they know of someone who needs one, and we will either deliver it or arrange for collection at the centre.

“If we have any donations left over, then we’re in touch with a local foodbank and will pass items on to them. We just really want to help out anyone in need in our local community.”

Even a dog walking business in Renfrewshire has offered to walk dogs for elderly people who are unable to get out.

Michael McGinty, who runs Dargavel Dog Walking in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, said: “I know how difficult it can be for some people with dogs to get out and it is only going to get worse. Dogs still need to be walked and socialise and this is one way I can help. I hope more small business owners think about how they can help. Even if they are just helping one elderly person then it is worth it. These are unusual circumstances but I know people in our village will pull together."

A cycling social enterprise in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, has generously given its services for free to NHS and social care staff. They can get free bike hire to help them avoid public transport.

Socialtrack will give a free bike to those showing their NHS ID badges. Dan Scott, Socialtrack director, said: “We wanted to do something to help. If people get in touch via email, we’ll deliver a bike to them so that it minimises the risk of infection. All the bikes will be cleaned on delivery.”

Glasgow University students have even created a virtual kindness campaign where they will pick up shopping, post mail, urgent supplies or even give people a friendly phone call.

The uni's Students' Representative Council (SRC) volunteer team has developed a postcard which students can print off and post to people around them in the city.

Anna Fowlie, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), praised the positive way community groups were responding to the crisis.

She said: “The situation we find ourselves in is unprecedented and ever-changing,” she said. “It’s hard to find positives.  But what we can see around us is people and communities acting together to support each other and find solutions.

“The voluntary sector was born out of individual and community commitment to make things better – to overcome challenges in innovative ways. We can feel that spirit now and feel proud of it.

"At SCVO we are doing everything we can to support the sector to work together and the contacts I’ve had from people across the country wanting to do whatever they can in a consistent and thoughtful way have been so impressive.

“The voluntary sector can’t do this alone – we need support from governments, funders and the public to act collectively for the people of Scotland.”

19th March 2020 by Malcolm Janus

While it is great seeing grassroots groups setting up, what are they doing to safeguard the people they are supporting? Or are they simply taking people in to volunteer on faith? When organisations have to jump through hoops to include volunteers, these groups should at the very least be disclosing volunteers. Disclosure Scotland is still open for business.

22nd March 2020 by Michael Millar

I would like to volunteer my services I’m self employed and want be working for the foreseeable I have my own car and can do delivery’s for anyone who requires my services Michael millar

27th March 2020 by Mrs Anne Porter

I believe I am classed as a highly vulnerable person as I have cancer issues, a cerebellum hernia and heart problems which have been terminal now for over 4 years. Initially given just 3 weeks to live back in January 2016 I have refused to give in and continued to battle on. My 25 year old son lives at my address with me and is the only one of 8 children to keep contact, the others deserted me when they thought I could no longer be beneficial to them or their children. My parents have both passed over and my only sister and two brothers have done the same as my kids. My neighbours never offer any help. I must sound like a bad person to be treated like this, but honestly I am not. I am 59 years old and I have never been in trouble in my entire life, not even a caution. I don't know why I'm treated like this as I have helped them all many times over the years, even my neighbours. Anyway, the reason am in touch is that despite my 25 year son living with me he is not a great deal of help. He mainly stays in his bedroom playing xbox games with friends online.I see him occasionally for 5 or 10 minutes but have found myself going hungry for 24 hours because he doesn't make me anything to eat. Also I get very lonely having no one to talk to. I used to get a taxi into town or treat myself to a wee meal but with coronavirus we have to stay indoors for 12 weeks. I can't get to the supermarket, downtown to w h smith for gas or to the pound shop where I got a lot of my medication and vitamins. I live at 1, Newton Terrace in Paisley, flat 0/2, my postcode is PA1 2TF. I don't have a mobile phone and this is my son's computer. I have been waiting for the letter that is supposed to come but so far it hasn't. My G.P's name and address if you wish to contact him about my condition is Dr Calvo at Lonend Medical Centre. Thank you for listening.