Praise for volunteers’ wintry work

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Ministers today praised Scotland’s volunteers who have gone the extra mile to support vulnerable people, children and communities through the extreme wintry weather.

Finance Secretary John Swinney commended the efforts of volunteers and community groups for their work to ensure Scotland’s most vulnerable people are being taken care of.

Children’s Minister Adam Ingram has recognised the vital work of children’s panel members who have been covering hearings in other areas to prevent delays to crucial care and welfare decisions for vulnerable children.

All kinds of volunteers and voluntary organisations across the country have braved the weather to reach isolated people, provide hot food and shelter to the homeless and check up on the frail and elderly.

Networks of volunteers have battled through extreme conditions to make sure that those unable to leave their homes are warm and well. Children’s panel members have been stepping in to cover hearings across local authority areas to ensure that time-critical children’s hearings could continue as planned.

Mr Swinney said:

“We have heard countless examples of volunteers and voluntary groups across Scotland going far beyond the call of duty to support others – particularly the most vulnerable in our communities – through the extreme wintry conditions we have been experiencing.

“From checking on those who are housebound, through getting out to the shops and clearing snow, to providing shelter for the homeless or transporting people to health services, these efforts are at the very heart of true community spirit, and I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to each volunteer for their determination and resilience in recent days, which has made a real difference.”

Mr Ingram added:

“We have made emergency arrangements to enable children’s panel members to work across local authority boundaries to ensure that time-critical children’s hearings can continue as planned

“Given that members are volunteers – who give up their own time to help vulnerable children and young people facing a range of problems – this type of extra support deserves the praise and recognition of us all.

“I want to pay tribute to this extra help at this difficult time, while also commending the ongoing day-to-day work done by panel members to ensure children get the support and help they need to get their lives back on track.”

In Dumfries, children’s panel members stepped in to cover a Fife case, and a panel member in Glasgow sent out 600 texts and emails to encourage extra volunteers to cover additional hearings.

In Stirling, staff at Dial-a-Journey have driven people who cannot get out of their own homes to visit elderly relatives in care homes. They have also used wheelchair accessible buses to take patients to hospital appointments and other essential engagements.

In Inverness, Morning Call, which makes a daily call to vulnerable people who live alone, has experienced a surge in inquiries from relatives, social workers and health visitors who want to make sure that isolated people are contacted every day during the extreme weather. The service, funded by donations, currently calls more than 70 people across the Highlands to check on their wellbeing and alert doctors if they don’t get an answer.

In West Lothian, young homeless people working at an organic farm run by the Edinburgh Cyrenians dug their way through heavy snow to feed the chickens and one volunteer walked eight miles to help to distribute Christmas hampers to the homeless as part of the charity’s Good Food project.

Elsewhere in West Lothian, volunteers at The Food Train, a grocery shopping, befriending and household support service, have been battling through snow to deliver food to older people in their homes.

In Edinburgh, HcL Dial-a-ride, Dial-a-Bus and Ambulance have been operating a response service to transport patients between hospitals, hospices and their homes; the Bethany Christian Trust has been providing hot drinks and food and warm clothing from its care van, and the Trust’s shelter is providing overnight accommodation to more than 50 homeless people.

The Bethany Christian Trust is also active in Fife, where volunteers have been checking on vulnerable people who are unable to leave their homes.

John Downie, Director of Public Affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said:

“The third sector has been doing an excellent job delivering services and support to vulnerable people and communities across Scotland throughout the recent extreme weather conditions.

“Despite the challenges imposed by the weather,large, medium and small voluntary sector organisations, as well as individual volunteers across the country, have shown amazing determination to give their valuable time and resources to support others in need.

“This underlines the importance and vital resilience of the third sector in supporting the delivery of Scotland’s public services.”