‘Best of the Fest’ online festival for young carers

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed revised plans for an online version of this year’s Scottish Young Carers Festival, following the cancellation of the usual festival due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This would have been the festival’s 13th year, providing young carers with a much needed break from their caring responsibilities and celebrating their contribution to their families and society. Young carers provide unpaid care for a family member or a friend, who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems.

Instead of the usual festival, an online extravaganza is being planned its place, with Carers Trust Scotland bringing festival-style fun to young people through its first ever virtual festival, Best of the Fest. From Wednesday 5 August to Friday 7 August, there will be the opportunity for young carers to take part in dozens of activities and events including; mindfulness, yoga, magic shows, paint a-longs and live music.

The festival marketplace will also continue online, with organisations such as Young Scot and the Scottish Youth Parliament hosting live workshops for young carers and youth workers to find out more about the opportunities available.

Iain Gray MSP said: 

“Young carers make a huge contribution to society but their caring responsibilities can have a profound impact on other aspects of their lives, including study and socialising. This can often create additional pressures and have a negative effect on mental health and wellbeing.

“While it is disappointing the festival cannot take place this year, I hope the Best of the Fest virtual events will enable young carers in East Lothian to participate safely and find out more about the services and support available to them.”

Paul Traynor, policy and external affairs manager of Carers Trust Scotland, said: 

“We are delighted to be working with Scottish Government to deliver these new kind of festival activities for young carers across Scotland for 2020. The pandemic has been difficult for a lot of young carers and many have reported taking on additional caring responsibilities, feeling isolated, and feeling disconnected to their friends and wider communities.

“Although some young carers may be disappointed that the annual Scottish Young Carers Festival event has been cancelled, the small-grant scheme provides new opportunities for local young carer services to plan and deliver activities to ensure young carers still have an opportunity to get a break from caring and have fun. We also hope that our Best of the Fest virtual events will provide that festival feeling that gives young carers the opportunity to be children and young people first.”

This year’s alternative Scottish Young Carers Festival takes place during a challenging time for many young carers. A new Carers Trust Scotland survey shows the pandemic’s dramatic impact on the wider wellbeing of young carers in Scotland. The results point to a steep decline in the mental health and wellbeing of young people across Scotland who provide unpaid care for family members or friends.

Find out more about Best of the Fest and register to participate at https://carers.org/scottish-young-carers-festival/best-of-the-fest-

My Life and Me website launched for single parents

One Parent Families Scotland has unveiled a new website dedicated to sharing advice and tips for single parents, all in one place.

The charity says that single parents often tell it that they would like to know how to make time for themselves, look after themselves better and feel less tired and lonely, all hard when you are raising a child on your own.

Designed with single parents, My Life and Me features advice and tips on health, wellbeing and more all in one easy to access place. Take a look now at https://mylifeandme.opfs.org.uk/

You can find out more about the work of One Parent Families Scotland and the wider support it offers to single parents at https://opfs.org.uk/

Charity offers new COVID-19 mediation service

A new conflict resolution service for individuals or organisations experiencing difficulties resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions has been welcomed by Iain Gray MSP.

The service has been launched by charity Scottish Mediation, with support from the Wellbeing Fund. The nature of the conflict can be wide ranging – it can be a personal relationship that is under duress as a result of self-isolation or a dispute with an employer about returning to work during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Welcoming the service, Iain Gray MSP said:

“The last few months have caused great stress and anxiety for many people, across many different aspects of our lives. This has inevitably resulted in conflict, both within personal and family relationships, and in work environments. 

“This new COVID-19 mediation service provides the opportunity to try and resolve problems through dialogue facilitated by independent professional mediators, and I’m sure many local people will find it useful.”

Anyone is eligible for the service if:

  • They live in Scotland
  • The conflict is connected to social distancing or self-isolation
  • The conflict is not part of a pre-existing dispute e.g. divorce proceedings or formal contact arrangements
  • All of the people in the conflict agree to participate in mediation.

Provided by a group of professional volunteer mediators, the service is free to individuals and organisations with up to five employees. Organisations with more than five employees will be charged at £300 for up to one day’s mediation.

The service can be accessed by visiting Scottish Mediation’s website at bit.ly/covid19mediation.

Update from Lothian Buses

As lockdown continues to ease and more people return to using buses, Lothian Buses have been in touch with an update on their services and communication with passengers:

As at time of writing we are moving through Phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s route map to recovery.

Lothian are committed to delivering for all of our customers and are taking every step reasonably practical to keep our colleagues and customers safe during exceptionally challenging operational times. Lothian’s commercial team continually analyse the network and our operational control team monitor customer numbers daily and this allows us, where feasible to tactically deploy additional resources.  We previously revised  Service 106 which due to low bridges at Dunbar and East Linton is operated by single deck vehicles.

As part of our phased strategic response we have a customer communication campaign which reflects current Scottish Government advice and sets out steps for safe travel.  We ask that all of our customers work with us and adhere to Scottish Government advice as we move through the Phases set out in their route map.

Campaign messaging is available on all of our platforms – including digital screens,  on bus guidance signage and customer audio announcements in addition to being broadcast across all Lothian’s social media channels.

Key messages encourage customers:

  • To plan travel and allow extra time for journeys
  • To follow the guidelines and observe all signage when travelling with us
  • To wash or sanitise hands thoroughly before and after travel
  • To practise physical distancing where possible
  • To leave windows open (where applicable) to increase air flow
  • In line with current Scottish Government advice,  consider wearing  a face covering when travelling*
  • To get on and off the bus one at a time
  • To avoid using cash where possible and to use contactless or m-tickets to pay for travel
  • To be respectful of our drivers
  • To be considerate and patient with all fellow customers

A dedicated web presence which gives more detailed information and signposts Scottish Government guidelines forms a nimble cornerstone for all customer messaging  – you can access the current information here:  www.lothianbuses.co.uk/HelpUsToHelpYou.

Guidance and tools for restarting businesses

Scottish Enterprise is offering a range of online guidance and practical tools to help businesses restart safely as lockdown continues to ease.

The government agency has produced a comprehensive range of materials for helping businesses come out of lockdown, including a downloadable business toolkit and action list.

Businesses can find the full range of pandemic related guidance, tools and other materials from Scottish Enterprise on its website.

New fund offers support to pubs and bars

Global drinks company Diageo has today announced a new international programme to support pubs and bars to welcome customers back and recover following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Raising the Bar” will be a two-year programme available from July 2020. Through the programme, Diageo will provide $100 million to support the recovery of major hospitality centres, with £4 million allocated to support pubs and bars across Scotland.

Diageo says it has designed the “Raising the Bar” programme following a global survey of bar owners to identify what they need to reopen after lockdown. The fund’s top priorities include hygiene measures, digital support and practical equipment to transform how their outlets will work.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Diageo is already an important local employer and supporter of tourism through its Glenkinchie Distillery. Now it is offering this welcome support to local pubs and bars to help get back on their feet after the pandemic and lockdown.”

The “Raising the Bar” programme will provide targeted support to help pay for the physical equipment needed for outlets to re-open. In the UK, Diageo will provide initial funding for: ‘hygiene kits’ with high-quality permanent sanitiser dispense units, medical grade hand sanitiser and a range of personal protection equipment (such as masks and gloves); help to pubs and bars to establish partnerships with online reservations and cashless systems; mobile bars and outdoor equipment.

From today (24 June 2020), bar owners can register their interest in the “Raising the Bar” programme via  www.mydiageo.com. Owners will receive regular updates on best practice training and resources and be able to participate in global surveys to share insights, as they build back their businesses.

NHS Lothian launches re-designed dental centres

NHS Lothian has re-designed six of its dental centres, including one in East Lothian, to provide vital care to patients with more complex cases.

Dental practices will re-open their doors for the first time today (Monday), since lockdown began, however there are a number of treatments which your general dentist will not be able to carry out (described as aerosol generating procedures). These will continue to be provided, where necessary to relieve pain and discomfort, by the Health Board’s Urgent Dental Care Centres which have the required precautions and procedures in place to carry out these procedures safely.

The network, which started as two centres, was introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and has now been increased to six to provide more care and treatment to more patients.

Angus Walls, Director of Dentistry, NHS Lothian, said the centres in Edinburgh, Midlothian, East Lothian and West Lothian, were equipped to provide the enhanced infection control procedures necessary for aerosol-generated procedures. He said:

“Everyone has been in lockdown in their homes for a long period of time now and little issues which may have started as a small niggle and didn’t cause concern can become a significant problem after seven or eight weeks.

“Your own dentist should now be able to resolve many of these problems for you, but we will still need to refer you to one of the Urgent Dental Care Centres when more complex treatment is required to manage your pain or discomfort.”

Patients requiring care should contact their own dentist, who will arrange an appointment and refer on to one of the centres, if required.

If patients don’t have a dentist, they should go to the Unscheduled Dental Care Service at the Chalmers Dental Centre in Edinburgh, which is a “walk in” service.

Out of Hours care is coordinated through NHS24 by calling 111.

Free service available for older people experiencing loneliness

This year’s Loneliness Awareness Week started on Monday and runs until Sunday 21st June, and as part of the week’s activities Age Scotland is highlighting a new service for older people who are experiencing loneliness.

The charity has launched a new free friendship call service that any older people who are feeling lonely can call for a friendly chat. You can call them for free on 0800 12 44 222.

Commenting on the new service, Iain Gray MSP said:

“We can all feel lonely at times. But for many people right now during lockdown, often shielding on their own, they are more lonely than ever. This Loneliness Awareness Week, please make an extra effort to reach out to people you know, especially those who live alone, and have a chat. It could mean the world to them.

“If you are older and feeling lonely, why not pick up the phone and call Age Scotland for a blether and a friendly chat. Call them for free on 0800 12 44 222. I know that they would love to speak with you.”

Visit www.age.scot/friendship for more information about the service and Age Scotland’s other work tackling loneliness.

Skills Development Scotland employment and redundancy advice

Skills Development Scotland has a comprehensive range of FAQs relating to employment and redundancy to help you if you have entered into a period of consultation with your employer, have lost your job or have questions about your employment.

Click here to view the FAQs and find other information on the range of career information, advice and guidance provided by SDS, including its online jobs hub and learning portal.

You can also call the agency’s helpline on 0800 917 8000 for advice.

RNIB funding boost welcomed

Iain Gray MSP has welcomed the news that sight loss charity RNIB has been awarded £38,220 from the National Lottery Community Fund to extend support to blind and partially sighted people during the coronavirus lockdown.

The charity already has a grant from the fund to provide welfare benefits advice and support to clients across Scotland, and the additional funding announced today will cover costs associated with its community response to Covid-19.

Iain Gray MSP said:

“Like many other charities, RNIB has continued to provide invaluable advice and support to its clients throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The charity has seen an increase in calls for assistance during the crisis, so I’m glad that it has received this funding boost from the National Lottery to support its vital work.”

Gillian Hallard, welfare benefits team leader at RNIB, said:

“As a result of the funding we have already received through the National Lottery, RNIB has been able to provide welfare benefits advice to 1,400 blind and partially sighted people.

“This has been influential in shaping the advice and support we can provide and has enabled us to strengthen our offer and meet the needs of people across Scotland.”

“We want ensure we are there for our customers to offer advice, provide support, or just listen to whatever challenges they are facing. The funding from the National Lottery supports us to continue this vital work.”

The RNIB Scotland helpline number is 0303 123999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk/scotland for more information.