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Voluntary Action Badenoch and Strathspey COVID-19 response

Scottish Government Supporting Communities Fund

850 volunteers come together

Community-based charity Voluntary Action Badenoch and Strathspey (VABS), which has helped to bring together around 850 volunteers in the west of the Cairngorms National Park, has been awarded just over £120,000 from the Supporting Communities Fund to respond to the impacts of COVID-19.

The Scottish Government fund, being administered in the area by HIE, will be drawn down over the next six months to support the work of local groups supporting over 13,000 residents in 12 local towns and villages.

The charity supports 320 member organisations which are all part of the fabric of local community life. Everyone is working together, with help coming from community development organisations, businesses and social enterprises, village halls, community transport, schools and parent councils, churches, business associations, and community councils, as well as many other youth, elderly, health, sports, leisure, education and hobby groups.

This fund has come at exactly the right time. It allows us to supplement all the work started by the fantastic volunteers. It’s so important that at every stage people can stay connected, as we deal with the immediate basic needs of keeping people safe.
Karen Derrick, chief executive, Voluntary Action Badenoch and Strathspey

Help where it's needed

In March, VABS responded to a groundswell within the community to provide help to those affected by the pandemic. They brought volunteers from across the area together online in a bid to co-ordinate activity.

This co-ordination is proving invaluable, as volunteers work together to promote and organise a wide range of lifeline services. Ten community operated helplines have been set up to reach each of the Strath communities - Aviemore, Boat of Garten, Carrbridge, Cromdale & Advie, Dalwhinnie, Dulnain Bridge, Grantown on Spey, Kincraig, Kingussie, Laggan, Nethy Bridge and Newtonmore.

Community volunteers from all walks of life are co-ordinating calls, food and prescription deliveries, they’ve set up community food tables in local hubs, and are working alongside public sector partners on foodbank referrals.

How the fund can help

As well as the foodbank operating in the area through welfare services, the community has developed community food tables in Grantown, Aviemore and Kingussie. These are providing a wide range of basic necessities, and have been supported by local supermarkets, shopkeepers, and by public donation. With the support of the Fund there are plans to extend these to as many of the local areas as possible, to ensure that those who need them can access them easily.

Stay Active Packs are being developed for various groups to encourage people to stay mentally and physically well through indoor and outdoor activity. The packs have been put together by VABS in partnership with local education, health and activity practioners in the strath.

In addition, there are several third sector groups operating locally to support people with mental health issues; and it is anticipated that this activity will be ramped up and expanded over the coming weeks and months.

Karen Derrick, CE of VABS, said: "We have a large proportion of people working in hospitality and tourism, and with the start of the season wiped out, there are a lot of people who are anxious about the future. There’s been a tremendous response from the community and these funds will help us sustain the practical efforts we’re making to address the challenges we face.”

Supporting volunteers

VABS has an online toolkit for local groups and volunteers to help them co-ordinate and deliver help to the community. In this video one of the One Kingussie volunteers talks you through shopping for an isolating member of the community.

Click here or play on image

Get in touch with VABS

With funding from the Supporting Communities Fund, which has been allocated by Scottish Government and distributed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, VABS will deliver small grants to community organisations in Badenoch and Strathspey at the point of need.

Guidance and a fund request form will be emailed out to all their member organisations and will also be available on their website shortly.

VABS COVID-19 online advice