• Category: Midlothian Third Sector Interface

    Recognising and supporting unpaid carers in your workplace

    There are an estimated 1.1 million carers in Scotland and an estimated 1 in 8 people in the workforce are unpaid carers. Many carers juggle employment alongside their role as an unpaid carer.

    Who is an unpaid carer?

    A carer provides unpaid care to a family member, partner, relative or friend of any age who needs help to manage a long-term condition, disability, physical or mental health condition or addiction. Many carers don’t see themselves as a carer, instead they consider it part of their duties as a partner, parent, son, daughter or friend. Regardless of who a person cares for, or the reason they provide this care, it is important that carers are identified and supported.

    Balancing work and care can be a challenge at the best of times, but ever changing situations and the transition back to the workplace may also present additional stress. Anyone can become a carer at any time in their lives and some of your team may have new or increased caring responsibilities.

    Ensure your team members know that you’re happy to chat and address concerns they might have. One simple way to make your team feel they can talk about caring is by mentioning it in a team meeting. It’s always a good idea to ensure staff know about your organisation’s internal policies, such as carer’s leave, time off for dependents and flexible working that may support them in their caring role. Changes in legislation also mean that carers will be able to request up to one week of unpaid carer’s leave.

    Identifying carers

    Managers might be worried about initiating conversations about caring but likewise, team members might also feel reluctant or nervous to discuss their personal circumstances, especially if they are unsure of the support that is available.

    As a manager, try asking your team members some of these questions:

    • It sounds like life is quite busy/challenging just now. How are you feeling? What’s keeping you going?
    • Would it be ok if I asked you a bit more about….It sounds like you may have a caring role?
    • What would help you? What can I do to support you?

    Ensuring staff feel supported and valued at work will have a direct positive impact on morale, productivity and health and wellbeing. It can also help staff to stay in employment which will benefit your organisation and the individual.

    Simple adjustments at work such as flexible hours, a carer’s leave policy, and an internal carers’ network can go a long way to ensuring carers are supported in the workplace. Employers can also signpost carers to VOCAL (Voice of Carers Across Lothian).

    VOCAL can help

    VOCAL is a charity that provides support for carers including access to information, counselling, legal and benefits surgeries, and free learning and leisure events.

    VOCAL can support employers with a range of tailored training courses including ‘Identifying and Supporting Carers in the Workplace’.

    Visit www.vocal.org.uk or email midlothian@vocal.org.uk for more information.

    MVA AGM & Review of Midlothian TSI’s work in 2020/2021

    Join us for the joint Midlothian Voluntary Action Annual General Meeting and Review of Midlothian TSI’s activities in 2020/2021

    We’ll be showcasing the achievements in 2020-2021 of both MVA and the wider Midlothian Third Sector.

    The meeting will be held online on 8 February 2022 from 7PM.

    If you’d like to come along, please register here.

    Preparing for winter

    Winter can be a hard time for older people – from trying to stay warm to dealing with dicey pavements. With Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership we’ve published a newsletter to help older people make the best of it.

    Our Winter Newsletter provides tips on wellbeing, heating bills, staying social and is full of useful links to local organisations.

    Forward Mid, who represent the interests of disabled people in Midlothian have also released their December newsletter with details on how to stay safe over the festive period. Free copies can be picked from the MVA office, in Midlothian libraries and online.

    Let’s all stay connected and help each other through this challenging winter.

    Midlothian’s Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund is NOW OPEN

    A new fund to support mental health and wellbeing is being launched in Midlothian today with £241,000 to be distributed to local third sector organisations and community groups. Social enterprises will also be able to benefit from the Fund, which aims to promote initiatives that will benefit adults aged 16+.

    The money will help to address the impact of social isolation and loneliness caused by the pandemic, as well as health inequalities that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The funding has been provided by the Scottish Government as part of a wider £15 million programme for Covid-19 recovery and renewal.

    In Midlothian, the Fund will be overseen by representatives from the TSI, Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership, Midlothian Council, Health in Mind, Penumbra, CAPS Collective Advocacy and people with lived experience. There will be £241,000 across three separate grant streams consisting of micro-grants up to the value of £2000, small grants up to £10,000 and a limited number of larger grants in the region of £30,000 each. Money will also be available for capital spend on land or building projects, to compliment the small and larger grant streams.

    Lesley Kelly, Chief Officer of Midlothian TSI, which includes Midlothian Voluntary Action and Volunteer Midlothian, said of the Fund, ‘We are really excited to have been given this money to distribute locally, whilst working together with our partners over the next few months. We know that there is a huge amount already going on in Midlothian’s communities to support mental wellbeing. The Fund will help local groups and organisations to build capacity, enabling more people to make social connections and access opportunities that promote mental wellbeing.’

    It is hoped that a similar amount of money will also be available in the next financial year (2022-23) and that creative proposals will be received for a wide range of activities with a focus on wellbeing in the community. Priority areas include recovery from addiction, social isolation and loneliness, suicide prevention, dementia community supports, access to physical activity, support for carers and anything else to promote mental wellbeing for adults aged 16+ at a grassroots, local level.

    To find out more, go to the Funding page on MVA’s website, where you can read the Partnership Plan and Fund Guidance. Application forms can be downloaded from there. Please also share this article and spread the word about the Fund with others in Midlothian.

    Image: metin.gul

    Welcome to our new graduate intern

    I’m Jill Bunyan, 24, from Glasgow. I recently started my new role at Midlothian Voluntary Action as a Social Justice and Financial Inclusion Graduate Intern. I’m thrilled to start my graduate career in the third sector, and excited to support MVA’s work over the coming months. Here’s a bit about me: 

    Before MVA 

    • Due to a change in career plans, I took a year out between school and university, during which I worked two jobs and volunteered in my free time  
    • I went to the University of Strathclyde and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Scots Law. I also spent a semester at the University of Copenhagen as part of the Erasmus Programme 
    • I quickly realised that going down the path of training as a solicitor wasn’t for me. Instead, I chose to pursue my passion for environmental law and undertook a Master’s Degree at the University of Edinburgh in Global Environment and Climate Change Law. I graduated in 2020  
    • During my time at university, I worked in several part-time jobs in hospitality and as a student ambassador. I was also the treasurer for Erasmus Student Network Strathclyde in my 4th year, and treasurer for the Postgraduate Law Society during my Master’s  
    • Prior to joining MVA, I worked in the family business as an Administrative Assistant while applying for graduate roles.  

    What volunteering I have done 

    • I am on the Steering Group for Young Friends of the Earth Scotland (YFoES). Through YFoES, I was part of a youth organisation collaboration to organise Scotland’s Youth Environment Hustings in the lead up to the Scottish elections. Currently, I am working with others to deliver our campaign objectives for COP26
    • I am on the committee for Get Glasgow Moving. It is a grassroots network and we are campaigning for a fully integrated, accessible and affordable public transport system in Glasgow. Most recently, I did the voice-over for our new campaign video  
    • I have been a volunteer for the Children’s Hearing System for six years  
    • I worked as a sustainability research volunteer for People and Planet. My role was to help gather data to contribute to the production of the 2021 People and Planet University League Table, which ranks UK universities on their environmental and ethical performance 
    • During high school, I volunteered at my local RSPB Nature Reserve and my local wildlife rescue centre as part of fulfilling the requirements of the Duke of Edinburgh Award.  

    Why did I want to work for MVA and in the third sector? 

    • By working for MVA I will be able to network and engage with different partners and organisations. This will allow me to learn from a wide group of individuals with expertise on tackling social justice issues who share the same values and help me effectively contribute to MVA’s projects.  
    • The third sector is well positioned to influence and create change that will improve people’s lives and I wanted to be part of that.  

    What advice would I give to those wanting to volunteer? 

    Volunteering is a great opportunity to get involved in a cause that you are passionate about, or the opportunity to try something completely new.  Don’t be embarrassed if the first one (or few) you try don’t work out or aren’t the right fit for you. There are so many worthy organisations out there that are looking for volunteers. Volunteering demonstrates your commitment to a cause and enables you to develop skills and knowledge that you can apply in your professional career. It’s also a chance to meet new people and make friends. 

    Advice for those job hunting and how to stand out in your applications  

    • Talk about your interests/hobbies and what you are passionate about! This shows a bit of your personality and helps you stand out 
    • Research the company/organisation. Make sure you understand their ethos and values and incorporate this into your application. This demonstrates interest in the company, and not just the position 
    • As exhausting as applying for jobs can be, don’t give up, and keep working on personal development.  The right opportunity is around the corner. 

    My future plans 

    This role will provide me with a good introduction on how best to support and coordinate projects to tackle social justice issues, providing me with skills and experience that I can take forward. I’m passionate about tackling climate and marine environment issues, and collaborating with others to protect our natural world. I would love to work for an international NGO, working in policy and research, to work towards achieving climate and social justice.  

    Welcoming a new face thanks to the Kickstart Scheme

    We’re delighted to be part of the Kickstart initiative, created as part of the government’s coronavirus response to provide paid employment and career support to Universal Credit claimants aged 16-24. Fraser Waugh started with us this week thanks to Kickstart – we have also discovered that Fraser is a former Volunteer Midlothian volunteer! Over to Fraser to introduce himself:

    Hi, I’m Fraser Waugh, 23, from Penicuik. I have just begun my new role at Midlothian Voluntary Action. After many months of job searching, including sending away 55 applications, CVs, covering letters and nearly 18 months out of full-time employment; I am very pleased to be now working in a sector I am passionate about. I am eager to promote the amazing projects that are happening in and around Midlothian. So, a bit about me:

    My earlier years before MVA

    • After I left school, I went to Forth Valley College in Stirling to complete an HND in Media and Communications
    • Then worked at Ikea Edinburgh for over 2 years
    • Recently I finished my studies at Queen Margaret University in 2020, gaining a BA (Hons) in PR, Marketing and Events right at the start of the pandemic!
    • Now that I have a Kickstart role, I’ll receive on-the-job training and gain some valuable transferable experiences that will allow me to continue in a communications role.

    What volunteering have I done?

    I’ve volunteered in Midlothian – mostly when I was at high school, but throughout my life too:

    Volunteer Awards at Newbattle Abbey College
    Volunteer Awards at Newbattle Abbey College
    • Assisted in the start-up of the Beadazzling jewellery store in Dalkeith as part of Volunteer Midlothian’s Ready for Retail Project. I also created original jewellery designs such as earrings, bracelets and necklaces, helped run workshops and craft fair stalls, and was a retail assistant. This project was also recognised for all the hard work we did at the Volunteer Awards at Newbattle Abbey College. I was also part of another Volunteer Midlothian befriending project, a ‘Sew Crafty’ craft group designed to match up young people with older members of the local community. We knitted, made cards, a bit of jewellery making and any other craft skills that the lovely ladies knew!
    • From doing the Sew Crafty craft group and Beadazzling I gained an ‘Ascent’ Saltire award.
    • I starred in a film project in collaboration with Screen Education Edinburgh on behalf of MYPAS Thinking Differently. We were taught all aspects of filmmaking and created a film on the theme of alcohol abuse. This was filmed on location in Dalkeith and screened at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. You can watch it here.
    • I have also been in Scouting since I was six – now I’m a Cub Scout Leader in Penicuik and an Explorer Leader in Bonnyrigg.
    • On the theme of scouting, I won the senior category in the south of Scotland’s regional district Rotary Club’s National Young Writer’s Competition. The finalists were invited to a presentation at Waterstone’s in Glasgow. Bill Daly, the Scottish crime writer, and Alistair Marquis (District Governor) gave us certificates in recognition for our writing.
    National Young Writer Competition Presentation
    National Young Writer Competition

    Why did I want to work for MVA and the third sector?

    • At MVA there will be a lot of scope for me to get involved in different projects and initiatives – promoting these causes and making a difference appeals to me.
    • The third sector, volunteering and charities especially make a massive contribution to society and it is an industry where there is a lot of transformative work happening.

    What advice would I give to people who want to volunteer? And those who are job searching and looking to ‘stand out’ in applications?

    • GET IN TOUCH with your local volunteering provider! Particularly due to the Covid-19 pandemic a lot of charities/other non-for-profit organisations need as much help as possible.
    • Volunteering is great for your mental health and career prospects – this was the case for me! Your job prospects increase a lot as you are helping your local community and learning a lot of different skills in another context outside of work. The opportunities are endless and help you stand out!

    My future plans?

    What I hope to get out of my time at MVA is to gain valuable charity experience that will allow me to continue in a communications role in the third sector. With the experience and training I hope to receive from this role, I’d love to eventually become a brand strategist in a PR or marketing agency creating and implementing strategies for a range of different clients and brands.

    Make a change in your community

    The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in Midlothian communities. We’ve seen people banding together to look after neighbours and the environment. Now is time to think about the next steps and keep that energy going. Do you want to make change in your community?

    Midlothian Council’s Communities and Lifelong Learning Service and Midlothian Voluntary Action have created a free four-week introductory course to community changemaking which starts on 1 June 2021. The course will be led by Daniel Baigrie (Midlothian Council) and Rebecca McKinney (MVA), both with many years’ experience in community development and changemaking.

    Find out more about the course.

    Winter driving skills for staff and volunteers

    Cars and lorries on a snowy motorway.

    Lothian 4×4 Drivers are offering winter driving skills training for staff and volunteers, aimed at helping them to be safer and more confident driving in winter conditions. In the past, participants in the sessions have given them a unanimous thumbs up, being educational and entertaining too – and certainly contributing to the safety and confidence of local drivers during the winter months.

    This opportunity is a great one to include in your winter planning and preparation. It will be an online session, for obvious reasons. If you are interested in this for your staff and/or volunteers but wouldn’t have 10 people available to participate, get in touch and we’ll try to group more than one organisation together. 

    Community and Third Sector Recovery Programme opens

    The Community and Third Sector Recovery Programme is a £25m Scottish Government funded programme aiming to support charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations that are supporting people and communities through the shift from lockdown to recovery. As well as providing ongoing crisis support, the fund will enable changes that will help organisations to adapt and thrive in a very different social and economic climate. The programme has two main strands: 

    This stream aims to support organisational change. It offers tailored support and funding to develop a plan so that third sector organisations can operate sustainably post-pandemic. 

    This stream supports the delivery of services in communities that were suspended or reduced because of COVID-19, or the creation of services that tackle new challenges presented by the pandemic. 

    You can apply now

    Both strands are now open. The two funds are based around an integrated system so, if required, a request can be made to both programmes using a single application form.