Borders community groups share £300k handout to aid others during lockdown

A near-£300,000 handout to community groups in the Borders is helping voluntary groups providing lifeline services during the coronavirus pandemic to cope.

Wednesday, 13th May 2020, 1:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th May 2020, 2:06 pm
Lawrie Hayworth of Peebles Community Trust.

The Scottish Government’s supporting communities fund has given four community organisations £296,505 between them to ensure the future of resilience initiatives which, in particular, help families on lower incomes or older people, under their watch.

Newcaslteton and District Community Trust received the largest handout, with £171,750 granted to volunteers there, to help villagers, some of whom are still getting back to their feet following devastating flooding there in January.

“The lockdown, combined with the flood and the enforced road closure program isolating our community as a result of the damage caused to our roads, all combined to give the community a double and triple whammy,” trust chairman Steve Hartley said. “There was great and immediate need to help those who need it.

“The money is for equipment such as resilience satellite phones, to support the 108 households which were flooded, of which many are still displaced in houses without their home comforts during the lockdown.

“Funds are needed to help them pay increased household costs: double heating, increased council tax and extra connectivity charges. Insurances have been extremely slow to pay, hiding behind Covid-19, and households are now bearing the burden of the delays impacted on their situation due to Covid-19.”

The money will also fund a new welfare support officer post and provide a lifeline for those in financial difficulty thanks to the creation of a hardship fund which has so far made 60 donations towards costs of energy, food and connectivity.

Mr Hartley added: “We needed help, we asked for it and the Scottish Government listened and has given us the resource to meet the immediate needs of our community.”

Peebles Community Trust has received £70,000 and will use that money to help other groups under its umbrella to support residents during the lockdown.

Chairman Lawrie Hayworth said: “We were asked by the government to act as an anchor organisation as part of a third sector approach to understand what support is needing delivered.

“We’ve been working with the Covid-19 support group, food foundation, food bank and united churches in Peebles to help them deliver their services.

“As an additional service the Tontine Hotel is making meals for us at cost price and we are delivering them at no cost through volunteers to families that are under financial pressure.

“We’ve also doubled up to produce an extra edition of Peebles Life this month to offer a coronavirus special which was delivered to every household in the community and we’ve seen a significant increase in contact between the support group and people in need who now know what help is available.

“We are supporting volunteers who are doing shopping, picking up prescriptions, running the 0800 support number line and getting the message out there that help is available.

“Capacity at the food bank is expending and united churches are working with their elderly members of the community.

“The WRVS is also supporting people locally, so we’ve been able to supply puzzles, crayons and jigsaws for them.

“It sounds daft, but it’s important for individuals to know that they are being thought of and are being given something to help pass the hours.

“This money has been a welcome piece of support from the Scottish Government and runs in parallel with the substantive funding made available to local authorities to provide support in the form of free school meals and the community grant scheme.”

Going forward, the 300-odd volunteers serving Peebles during the lockdown will also be able to take card payments for shopping from the doorstep thanks to I Zettle handsets being purchased with this grant funding.

The Newlands Centre in Romanno Bridge is using its £46,000 grant to provide digital welfare support, including remakery classes online, and has distributed IT equipment to allow those without it to participate.

Joe Ferdinand, Newlands Community Development Trust development officer, said: “Digital connectivity during Covid-19 is allowing families to stay together, and allowing others to access much-needed welfare and wellbeing information.

“Immediately prior to the crisis the centre ran 40-50 classes per week but was beginning to look at how a further reach in an area with poor transport links could be assisted using online support.

“This has been further enhanced as a partnership with Sophie Unwin from the Remade Network looking at an E-cademy, training young people to refurbish and distribute ex-local authority and other digital equipment to the more socially isolated in the community.”

Burnfoot Community Futures has also received £8,756.

These grants to Borders groups are parts of a £10m handout being shared between 250 groups this month.

The Scottish Government’s communities secretary Aileen Campbell said: “We know that community groups working in the heart of our communities and neighbourhoods have a wealth of experience in responding to challenges.

“We have seen this through many examples of the incredible response to Covid-19 in the past weeks that have made such a huge difference to so many people.

“This inspiring work that is already under way in our neighbourhoods is proving essential to our nation’s resilience.

“This funding will be a valuable lifeline for the range of innovative support available for people in our communities, and we are working fast to get that support to where it is needed most.”

The Supporting Communities Fund was announced on March 18 as part of a £350m package to help those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.