A national free helpline in Scotland is being launched as part of a community project involving around 500 convenience stores to help with shopping deliveries and to tackle loneliness.
Following a plea from Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar, a number of organisations across Scotland have come together to build a unique community-led response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The service will act as a free hub for local groups across Scotland, and will be used to make connections between people and organisations.
The Viral Kindness Scotland project includes:
- Glasgow-based contact centre Go-Centric, which has set up a 24-hour freephone national helpline, website and digital channels, providing its own call-handlers for the project.
- 500 convenience stores across Scotland – 300 from the Day-Today retail chain and 200 from the USave group – which are securing essential goods for those in need and connecting people locally. Many of the stores are run by Scots Asians.
- 250,000 Viral Kindness Scotland postcards will be distributed to stores by the Sarwar Foundation for consumers and shopkeepers to identify vulnerable people in their local communities, which can be returned to the charity by freepost.
- A plea for an army of volunteers to deliver shopping packages to vulnerable residents or offer a friendly chat to help prevent loneliness.
Vulnerable individuals in Scotland can contact the free helpline on 0800 054 2282 if they need help with food deliveries or simply want someone to talk to because they feel lonely and isolated.
Individuals and businesses can also contact the helpline to pass on the details of a vulnerable person, or to volunteer to help.
People can contact the service via the website www.ViralKindness.Scot and using the #ViralKindnessScot hashtag on social media, with a live chat service also due to be introduced.
Shoppers and store owners will also be able to fill out and return the freepost postcards with details of local people they know who might need help.
Information collected by Go-Centric and the Sarwar Foundation about those who need help will then either be passed to local convenience stores, who aim to secure essential supplies for them, or passed to volunteers who can assist with delivering shopping or providing a friendly chat.
Anyone who would like to assist can contact the helpline to register as a volunteer, and businesses which want to help can also get in touch.
Shopping orders will require to be paid for to ensure small businessowners can continue trading, but it is hoped that charity fundraising efforts will help to pay for the goods for some of the most vulnerable people.
The service is not in place of any government-led initiatives, and is designed to be a community-led hub, reflecting the organic growth of local programmes – and it will adapt as necessary.
Call-centre handlers will be able to signpost people to relevant authorities such as local councils, but will not provide medical advice.
Anas Sarwar, MSP for Glasgow and President of the Sarwar Foundation, said:
“The coronavirus outbreak has produced a community spirit across Scotland to help those most in need. Thank you to everyone working on the frontline and all those who are volunteering.
“By pulling together and by mobilising our communities, we can all look out for our families, our friends and our neighbours. Initiatives are springing up organically in communities across the country, which is heart-warming at this worrying time.
“This unique community-led project is designed to help co-ordinate the community response, involving a number of organisations which have come together to provide their services for free, bringing together volunteers, small convenience stores, and a national call centre.
“I hope it will go some way to assisting with the national response to this crisis, ensuring that we spread kindness to those most in need.”
David Harper, chairman of Go-Centric, said:
“On the back of the Sarwar Foundation’s plea to help our communities, my team and I have taken massive action to create a national helpline to support those most in need – connecting them with local convenience stores and volunteers to assist.
“Our service will be available 24/7 on the telephone and online and we are working on a number of other options such as live chat.
“Our people want to help and we are ready to make this happen, and look forward to being the central point for volunteers to register and to help those most vulnerable.”
Mohammed Rajak, owner of the Buywell DayToday store in Bridgeton, Glasgow, said:
“Shopkeepers are at the heart of local communities and we are determined to help identify vulnerable people and secure essential supplies for them.
“We will be handing out postcards to customers, and we are appealing for volunteers to help deliver shopping packages to those self-isolating.
“At times like this, we all want to play our part by spreading kindness in our communities.”
Viral Kindness Scotland
Free helpline: 0800 054 2282