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East Sutherland COVID-19 response

Scottish Government Supporting Communities Fund

Communities adapt emergency response plans for the pandemic

Communities across East Sutherland had plans in place for an emergency. Organisations and volunteers have always stood ready to help each other, set to respond to winter weather perhaps, or power cuts. Few would have anticipated that their plans would prove so important in response to a pandemic in the shape of COVID-19.

The unexpected nature of the crisis didn't stop the communities of Brora, Helmsdale, Dornoch and Golspie rallying hundreds of volunteers. As lockdown started each area had a 'street buddy' style system to ensure that every home had a volunteer contact.

A wide range of measures were introduced quickly: delivery of prescriptions and food supplies for those isolating or shielding; and a variety of ideas to help people stay connected through the many weeks of lockdown.

The Supporting Communities Fund from the Scottish Government, which is distributed in the region by HIE, is providing almost £100,000 to support the community responses to the pandemic in the area. 

The East Sutherland organisations co-ordinating these funds are Helmsdale and District Community Council, Dornoch Firth Group, Brora and District Action Group (BaDaG) and Go Golspie.

The response from local people has been amazing. We've seen so many young people come forward to help. The communities have been so organised and resourceful - everything from food parcels to online pilates.
Ellen Lindsay, Treasurer, Brora and District Action Group

Masks Brora

Around Brora

Around 60 active volunteers are supporting the emergency response around Brora, including for Doll, Dalchalm, Clyne and Balnacoil. The Brora Village Hub is co-ordinating local food deliveries and emergency supplies.

Support is in place for anyone who needs help with food, or vital services including fuel and phones. For those on facebook - Brora Community Antivirus has latest information.

Helplines - 07715 416025 and 07591 719457

With stocks of masks low, creative locals with professional sewing skills got to work. They were commissioned to make around 1,400 masks for local residents and these are being being distributed to help save lives.


Helmsdale action

Groups are working together as part of the Helmsdale Resilience Group to deliver emergency supplies, and also to tackle the ongoing impacts on people's physical and mental health.

The community centre and Helmsdale Community Transport has been vital for the collection and delivery of shopping, prescriptions and dropping-off for food share parcels. Street buddies have ensured everyone has a contact. 

Funding Support

With successful funding bids to the Scottish Government Supporting Communities Fund (SCF), the Gordonbush Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund, and with some private donations, the community has secured £12,500. 

This is providing protective equipment for volunteers, and fuel costs for emergency runs by the community bus. It's also supporting community initiatives including:

  • Small treat bags to lift the spirits for those who may be more isolated and vulnerable.The first went out to 200 people in April and included a local book supplied by Timespan. A second is in planning with a light-hearted local quiz or activities for those with young children.   

  • The hire of an additional van for Connecting Communities to expand its Dinner to Door service.  

  • Money will be available from the fund to support people experiencing financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19 to help them with essentials like food, fuel etc. 
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Helmsdale kitchen garden

The team is expanding its online presence to keep the community in touch with how things are growing under lockdown. This has included a blog and quizzes. There are plans to add video updates and develop an online community kitchen shop.

Blog page

Thanks to the Fund we are now able to offer our freshly cooked meals to many more households at this challenging time.  Over the past 8 weeks we have seen on average a 200% increase on the numbers of dishes we are delivering compared to February.
Mary-Anne Ross, Connecting Communities

Gogolspie Keegan Campbell

Go Golspie

Fifteen year old Keegan Campbell is just one of the many volunteers who are helping support residents in the Golspie, Dunrobin and Backies areas. 

Go Golspie combined efforts with the Trawler Restaurant, to introduce a special Friday lunch time treat of fish suppers to over 30 elderly residents in the village, delivered by Keegan and the community bus.  

A wide range of groups are working together to co-ordinate the local response, including Go Golspie, the community council, TYKES, Sutherland Care Forum and the local CAB. The Supporting Communities Fund will allow them to expand the help they can provide longer term to those most in need. 

Community Web Graphic3

Dornoch's support

The Dornoch Firth Group is working with a wide range of organisations covering around 2,300 people living across the Dornoch, Embo and Skibo areas. The community has seen a huge response from volunteers who have delivered a wide range of emergency support, including 150 food bags per week to the vulnerable or isolating.

They have also distributed ready meals which have been sent out on Tuesdays and Thursdays thanks to the support of local businesses.

The Golf Club helped the local care home mark VE Day commemorations by providing video technology to allow residents to contact friends and family. They also made good use of 'Alexa' to take a walk down memory lane - asking her to play some of the old war time tunes.

The funding will allow the community to provide support for those shielding and facing hardship over the coming weeks.


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