CAS coronavirus advice and information

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is continuing to update and increase the advice and information available about the coronavirus pandemic on its website on a regular basis.

Its content covers a wide range of issues, including how COVID-19 could affect your work, travel or social security, and provides all the relevant information and signposting to other organisations on each question.

CAS has also launched a new national helpline to help boost its response to the COVID-19 crisis. Scotland’s Citizens Advice Helpline is free to call on 0800 028 1456 and open from 9am till 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Find out more about the advice and information available on the CAS website at

Coronavirus advice service for Scotland launched

A new national service providing free advice on coronavirus for every individual in Scotland has been launched.

The service offers practical advice and information on issues including employment, housing and personal finance, as well as cancellations and consumer rights.

The multi-channel service includes a free national phone number, live web chat, email and social media, as well as an online ‘knowledge centre’.

It is run by the charity Advice Direct Scotland, which operates Scotland’s advice services, and

The service has been created using cloud technology so that all advisers are working from home and able to use the organisation’s software to answer calls from the public and provide up-to-date information.

The service will be updated regularly, and will be in place for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

It can be contacted on 0808 800 9060 between 9am and 5pm on Mondays to Friday, and via live webchat or email at

Office closed and surgeries cancelled due to COVID-19

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and following advice from Government and the NHS, my constituency office will be closed to the public from 5pm on Tuesday 17th March until further notice.

I am also cancelling all face to face constituency advice surgeries until further notice.

My team will be continuing to work from home and constituents can still contact the office for help with casework and other parliamentary enquiries.

Constituents can contact the office by calling 01620 822711 and leaving a message or emailing

We will be monitoring email as usual and checking voicemail messages regularly.

Regular updates on COVID-19 are being provided through the official NHS and Scottish Government sources.

Here are some resources on the web which will provide you with the most up-to-date information.

In addition there is a Scottish Government helpline for people to call who do not have symptoms, but are looking for general advice. The Freephone number is:  0800 028 2816.

GDPR Privacy Policy

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governing the way organisations manage personal data comes into force on Friday 25th May.

If you’re in touch with my office, you can read about how we’ll use and manage your data in my privacy policy notice here.

Read more about the GDPR on the ICO’s website here.

For further information about the way we manage data, please contact my office on 01620 822711 or

Iain raises third sector funding fears with First Minister

Fears that half of Scotland’s charities will run out of cash within six months, as fundraising is halted by lockdown and donations dry up, have been raised in the Scottish Parliament by Iain Gray MSP.

The warning comes as a new report highlights many third sector organisations face a “perfect storm” of reduced income and surging demand over the coming months, with some frontline services likely to be stopped as a result.

Research by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) warns charities face a 30% drop in income this year and half fear they will run out of cash altogether. The report warns many will go bust at the same time as demand for charity services among Scots rises.

Mr Gray raised the issue at today’s First Minister’s Questions and asked Nicola Sturgeon what action the Scottish Government will take to support the third sector.

Speaking afterwards, Iain Gray MSP said:

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Scotland’s third sector has never been more needed with increased demand across many sectors and services. But, at the same time, it has never faced a greater funding crisis, with hundreds of charities fearing for their future.

“The disastrous drop in income caused by the outbreak is affecting a huge part of the sector, including many of the vital charities and community organisations working so hard to support communities and individuals across East Lothian.

“I asked the First Minister today in Parliament what action the Scottish Government will take to support this vital sector, and organisations that are struggling, and will continue speaking up for the sector in the weeks and months ahead.”

You can watch the question and the First Minister’s reply here.

Survey asks young carers and young adult carers how Coronavirus has affected them

A recent Carers UK survey found that 70% of carers are providing more care due to Coronavirus, with 35% of carers providing more care as a result of the closure or reduction of local services.

Carers Trust has launched a survey to find out how young carers aged from 12 up to 25 have been affected by Coronavirus, and what support they need.

The findings of the survey will help influence decision makers to give young carers and young adult carers the support they need.

Can you help young carers and young adult carers by adding your voice and filling out the survey? And please spread the word with your friends who are also young carers to make sure as many people as possible take the survey.

The survey is live now and will run up to 23 June.

Local people urged to add their voice to ‘Make Caring Visible’ message this Carers Week

This Carers Week (8 to 14 June) Iain Gray MSP is asking local people to help recognise the vital contribution made by unpaid carers in East Lothian and show that they want to ‘Make Caring Visible’ by adding their voice online during the week.

Carers Week is the annual campaign to highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. It also helps people who don’t think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support.

The ‘Make Caring Visible’ theme for this year’s week is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 outbreak when so many carers have been shielding to protect vulnerable family members. It takes less than a minute to visit the Carers Week website and add your voice to the online voices wall in support of the week.

Ahead of this year’s week, Mr Gray has also welcomed the news that Carers of East Lothian has received an award from the University of Edinburgh’s Community Grant Scheme to help fund a project to deliver music therapy workshops for unpaid carers.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“This Carers Week our community is recognising the vital contribution of unpaid carers across East Lothian and all that they do to care and support loved ones. The last few months have put even greater pressure on unpaid carers many of whom have experienced additional financial and caring responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The theme for this year’s week is make caring visible, which I fully understand and support, and I hope local people will add their voices online. However, visibility must be matched by tangible ongoing help and assistance. That is why I’ve already spoken out about the need for decision-makers at all levels to do more to ensure that carers are properly supported with their caring duties not just during Carers Week but throughout the year, every year.”

On behalf of the Carers Week charities, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“This year it is more important than ever to raise the profile of caring and recognise the enormous contribution made by unpaid carers, who throughout the COVID-19 outbreak have played an essential role supporting friends and family who are older, disabled or seriously ill. I am delighted that so many individuals and organisations are getting involved with virtual activities, helping carers to connect to others and access advice and information.   

“Looking after someone can be a hugely rewarding experience, but it sometimes comes with difficulties, including getting the right support. This Carers Week all parts of the community – family and friends, employers, businesses, schools, health and care services – should do their bit to make caring visible and recognise carers’ vital contribution to society.”

Carers Week is the largest annual carers awareness campaign in the UK, in Scotland led by Carers Scotland. In 2020, Carers Week has the support of four other national charities: Age Scotland, Carers Trust Scotland, Scottish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Oxfam Scotland.

To add your voice to the campaign and find out more about local activities visit

Edinburgh University micro-grants scheme

The University of Edinburgh’s micro-grant scheme for small scale community activities and local action has been refocused to assist with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community organisations and charities based in East Lothian can apply for up to £500 through the scheme for projects or activities that are responding to COVID-19 in the local area. The funding is available all year round, and all applications will be reviewed by a panel.

Commenting on the scheme, Iain Gray MSP said:

“I welcome the refocusing of this micro-grants scheme to assist with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many local charities and community groups undertaking excellent work to assist communities during the outbreak and this scheme offers another avenue for helping fund small scale community activities and local action.”

If you would like to apply for a larger grant, the University of Edinburgh also has a Community Grants Scheme, which is open twice a year for awards of up to £5,000.

Find out more about the micro-grants scheme and how to apply at

Iain helps mark Dementia Awareness Week

Today marks the start of this year’s Dementia Awareness Week, which runs until 7th June.

Alzheimer Scotland raises awareness of its work and encourages people to support them during the week, so that they can continue to make sure nobody faces dementia alone.

This week is understandably different to other years, and we must recognise the impact that coronavirus has had on many people with dementia and their carers.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“The number of Scots suffering Dementia, and the huge expected increase in the number of people with the condition in the next few years, is one of the biggest issues facing families and communities.  Pretty well every family has experience of this disease, I know that several branches of my own family are affected, and we are no different from anyone else.

“That makes Dementia Awareness Week and the opportunity it presents to raise both awareness and funds all the more important and I’m pleased to join efforts to help increase understanding of the condition.”

Alzheimer Scotland’s Chief Executive, Henry Simmons, has recorded a video to talk about Dementia Awareness Week during the coronavirus pandemic, which can be viewed here.

Visit Alzheimer Scotland’s website for more information about the week and how you can support it

Memory map competition launched

Cockenzie and Tranent CARS and Salt of the Earth have launched a new competition open to everyone in the Fa’side, Preston, Seton, Gosford areas.

The organisers want to see how young people (up to age 18) are seeing and exploring their surroundings during lockdown. To enter, children from Tranent, Prestonpans and the surrounding villages, just need to make a memory map of their local town/area/street. They can use anything to create their map – computers, paints, textiles, collage – be as inventive as you like!

Welcoming the competition, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Lockdown has been a strange time for all of us but most especially children. Many will have been exploring places nearby they have never seen before or seeing places they are familiar with in a new light.

“This competition is a great opportunity for them to capture these memories and help other children and adults cherish the things that they find interesting and exciting in our local communities.”

The deadline to enter is 1st July 2020 and there is a fantastic range of prizes on offer, and winning entries will be displayed across the area. Email your map to, or mail to the Port Seton Centre, South Seton Park, Port Seton EH32 0BQ (FAO Daniel)

Find further details about the competition at or

Huge effort to ‘keep county fed’ during pandemic recognised at Holyrood

The collective effort made by local groups to keep East Lothian fed during the COVID-19 pandemic has been recognised in a motion lodged at the Scottish Parliament.

Submitted by local MSP Iain Gray, the motion thanks East Lothian Council, local farmers, supermarkets and other businesses, charities, community and resilience groups, as well as hundreds of local volunteers, for their involvement in helping to keep food on people’s tables during the crisis.

Speaking about the motion, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Ensuring that supplies of food and drink have continued to reach local shops and supermarkets, as well as those who have been unable to leave their homes during lockdown, was always going to be one of the biggest logistical issues to overcome during this crisis. All of the businesses, workers, community groups and volunteers involved in this effort have shown great commitment, compassion and innovation to ensure that people have been able to get the food they need.

“Of course it has been tough for many, with significant additional pressures for staff working in the food retail sector, and businesses and charities facing various new problems resulting from the pandemic. But all of the sectors and groups involved have worked together to overcome these problems and, crucially, ensure that vulnerable residents have been able to access support with obtaining food and other essentials when required.

“Everyone involved in this huge county-wide effort should be very proud of what they have achieved in these extraordinary circumstances and I’m pleased to be able to thank them all for helping keep food on people’s tables during this emergency.”

The full motion reads as follows:

Title: The Groups Keeping East Lothian Fed During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Motion Text:

That the Parliament commends everyone who has helped ensure that people in East Lothian, especially the most vulnerable and those who are shielding, have continued to be fed during the COVID-19 pandemic; believes that this has involved a wide range of public bodies, businesses, third sector groups and volunteers, including East Lothian Council and its area partnerships, farmers and agricultural sector workers, food producers, processers and distributors, supermarkets, convenience stores and other food retailers and takeaway outlets, and numerous charities and community groups including East Lothian Foodbank, Dunbar Basics Bank, Our Community Kitchen in Haddington, Fundamental Foods, which is run by the Pennypit Community Development Trust, East Lothian Roots and Fruits, Fresh Chicken Dinner Boxes, Heavy Sound in Tranent, Fareshare Hub at Port Seton Centre, Community Carrot in Dunbar, Home-Start East Lothian, Dirleton Good Neighbours Community Larder, and the county’s day centres, community councils, churches, rotary clubs and local resilience groups, and thanks all of the staff and volunteers who have been engaged in this huge effort to help keep food on people’s tables during the emergency.

Iain thanks local volunteers as annual week begins

Volunteers’ Week Scotland 2020 is taking place from 1-7 June. This year it is all about recognising and thanking volunteers for their outstanding efforts supporting their communities.
During the annual week, hundreds of events and celebrations take place across the country, saying thank you to volunteers and recognising their invaluable and diverse contribution to the UK.
This year has seen thousands of volunteers going above and beyond as they joined the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and supported local people and communities through the crisis.
Giving his backing to the week and thanking local volunteers for their contribution, Iain Gray MSP said:
“Volunteers’ Week is always an important and welcome opportunity to thank the army of unpaid volunteers who work so hard throughout our communities. Whether it is caring for loved ones, fundraising for a charity, coaching a sports team or helping run a local project, volunteers are the backbone of our communities.
“East Lothian’s thousands of volunteers work tirelessly all year round. But the last few weeks have served to further emphasise their crucial importance with the sudden and unprecedented demand for support from charities, communities and resilience groups as the county responded to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
“The crisis has underlined just how vital the work of volunteers is to the fabric of our society and, at the beginning of this important week, I send all of East Lothian’s volunteers my heartfelt thanks for everything they do to help keep communities safe, healthy and supported.”

Please join in with the week and share your thank you message to local volunteers at

Supporting Child Safety Week

Child Safety Week (1 to 7 June 2020) is an annual community education campaign week run by national charity the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT).

This year the week is changing in response to COVID-19, in order to help meet the changing needs of families and the frontline staff who support them during the pandemic. CAPT has adapted the Child Safety Week Parents’ Pack, so it helps parents take on child safety successfully.

The charity has also developed new content that practitioners can use right now in their digital communications, however they’re reaching out to families. This includes its top tips for child safety during lockdown and beyond, plus advice on preventing burns and poisoning.

CAPT is also reworking the Child Safety Week Action Pack as a year-round resource, so practitioners can use it in face-to-face work with families as lockdown eases.

Ahead of the start of the week, which he will be helping to promote, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Most children continue to be at home most of the time, which can be an incredibly challenging situation for parents. As well as coping with home schooling and other issues raised by lockdown, they also have to ensure that their children stay safe and avoid accidents.

“This means that Child Safety Week will be timely for many parents. It offers an opportunity to consider top tips for child safety during lockdown and beyond and put in place measures to help avoid accidents or other mishaps at home.

“The Child Accident Prevention Trust’s website and social media contain a wealth of useful advice and information and are well worth a visit during the week.”

Find out more about Child Safety Week at

Leaflet highlights support for those facing financial issues

A new leaflet bringing together information on a wide range of welfare support and income advice has been developed to support residents in East Lothian struggling with financial impacts of Covid-19.

Across East Lothian, services that provide financial advice and food have seen a rise in demand for their services as the economic impacts of Covid-19 are felt. This includes households who have seen their income fall due to furlough or reduced hours, being unable to work due to lockdown or care responsibilities, or who have lost their job.

Continuing to pay Council Tax and council rent remains important, meaning the council can continue with its work and vital services.

East Lothian Council’s Revenues and Welfare Support team created the leaflet to draw together a wide range of information including on Universal Credit, new style benefits for self-employed people, statutory sick pay and crisis grants. It also includes details for people in private lets or who own their own home. Contact details for organisations such as Citizens Advice and the DWP are included.

Commenting on the new resource, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The support and advice provided by staff at East Lothian Council during this pandemic has been outstanding. This includes its Welfare Rights team who have continued to help local people throughout the crisis.

“Many households are already facing significant financial hardship as a result of the economic impact of lockdown and this is only set to continue in the weeks and months ahead. Given the scale of the difficulties people are experiencing, this kind of one-stop resource will be vital to help ensure those in need can access the help they require as quickly as possible.”

Depute Council Leader Cllr Norman Hampshire said:

“We know that Covid-19 is having an impact on household finances as well as their health. For some residents – such as self-employed people – this is an entirely new situation.

“Continuing to pay your council rent or Council Tax is important and people should do so. The welfare system has changed in response to Covid-19 with some new supports available. We would encourage anyone concerned about their finances to get in touch with one of our teams or the many organisations that are available to help you for free and confidential support.”

The leaflet will be distributed through organisations such as East Lothian Foodbank and through local Connected Communities teams. It is available to download online on the Council’s website.