There has been a great local response to the COVID-19 pandemic in East Dunbartonshire. As the Third Sector Interface providing support and guidance to third sector organisations and community groups, East Dunbartonshire Voluntary Action (EDVA) has seen a massive upsurge in community activity and volunteering since the start of the lockdown.

A series of local volunteer groups, based in the different areas that comprise East Dunbartonshire, emerged in the early days of the Lockdown to provide shopping and prescription deliveries for vulnerable and self-isolating people, particularly but not exclusively older people.

There was an established advice and signposting telephone helpline – the OPAL Line – in East Dunbartonshire run by a partnership of three local agencies. EDVA worked with the helpline partners to route calls seeking assistance with shopping and prescription to the local groups.

Over the past twelve weeks this Shopping and Prescription Assistance Service has delivered over 900 shopping and prescription deliveries and has provided an invaluable addition to both the national shielding service and the local authority run Humanitarian Service in ensuring that all vulnerable and at-risk individuals in the area have received essential deliveries of shopping and prescription medicines.

As well as responding to referrals from the OPAL Line, the local groups are also assisting vulnerable people in their neighbourhoods, and EDVA has been supporting them through providing funding for volunteer expenses, advance payments for shopping, printing leaflets and other items.

In addition to the local volunteers, a total of 835 people have registered to volunteer in East Dunbartonshire through the national Ready Scotland Volunteer scheme. This has been a huge response, among the largest in Scotland, and EDVA has been actively contacting all those who registered. Thus far, EDVA has received just over 500 responses and we are now actively striving to match them with volunteering opportunities, such as working with the community groups and providing volunteer drivers.

EDVA staff have also been pro-active in assisting community groups, smaller third sector organisations and social enterprises on a range of issues such as business continuity, emergency funding, employability advice and signposting to where help can be obtained. Over a quarter-of-a-million pounds has been brought into East Dunbartonshire in emergency funding which will play a vital role in maintaining third sector and community groups through the current emergency and in coping with the post-COVID landscape.

Again, in partnership with other local agencies, EDVA has played a crucial role in sourcing and delivering PPE, particularly hand sanitisers, to local groups requiring this and there have been generous and much valued contributions from local suppliers.

Throughout the Lockdown period both community and statutory social care services such as Carer’s Link, Ceartas Advocacy, East Dunbartonshire Association Mental Health, Citizens Advice Bureau and EDVA’s own Befriending Service and East Dunbartonshire Council have been providing regular telephone contact to people who are socially isolated and checking on their wellbeing. To take one example, since the start of the Lockdown the Befriending Service staff and volunteers have been making just over 400 calls weekly to people.

Also, through the Lockdown, most third sector organisations and community groups have continued to provide a service, albeit in some cases mainly by telephone. Group based services such as the GRACE aftercare and recovery service are, where possible continuing group activities virtually with regular weekly meetings of volunteers.

All told, there has been a tremendous community response from groups and individuals to the COVID 19 emergency in East Dunbartonshire which EDVA is proud to support and assist. This includes our colleagues in both the Health and Social Care Partnership and East Dunbartonshire Council providing support to people who are shielding and self-isolating because of long-term conditions and operating the Humanitarian Assistance Centre delivering food parcels to vulnerable people.

The wonderful work which has been carried out locally during the pandemic will continue. EDVA will work with groups in the community in making plans for recovery as the Lockdown restrictions ease.

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(Update provided by East Dunbartonshire VA)