• Category: Midlothian Voluntary Action

    Scottish Government proposes charges for volunteers’ PVGs. 

    What’s Happening? 

    Disclosure Scotland has opened a proposal to introduce fees for volunteering. They plan to remove the current fee waiver and apply a  fee of £28 for volunteers to join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme membership (this is a 60% reduction on the proposed standard fee of £70). If implemented, this will have a huge impact on volunteers and volunteer involving organisations. 

    Disclosure Scotland are also making changes to the Disclosure (Scotland) Act 2020. As part of this, the PVG membership scheme will become a legal requirement for those in ‘Regulated Roles’, this could mean that even more people will need to be signed up to the PVG scheme, thus more people will be affected by the fee proposal. 

    Our Stance 

    • We believe volunteering should be free for everyone. Volunteers give their time and effort to help others and asking them to pay to do so is insulting.  
    • At a time when we are in a volunteer crisis and volunteer numbers are steadily falling, this only puts up more barriers to volunteering. Many organisations rely on volunteers to do important work, and adding fees will make it harder for them to recruit volunteers. 
    • The implementation of this fee goes against core values and meaning of volunteering. The Volunteer Charter from Volunteer Scotland mentions, “No one should be prevented from volunteering due to their income.”. 

    What You Can Do 

    Now is your chance to speak up. We are conducting our own survey to examine the impact  implementing fees for PVGs could have on volunteers and volunteer involving organisations: 

    ALSO, we strongly encourage you to submit your views to the VSDS online consultation. They will use this feedback to decide whether to go forward with these fee structures. Your responses are crucial. 

    Submit your views now before the consultation closes on Tuesday 28 May. 

    You do not need to answer every question, however we urge you to answer the ‘discount for volunteers’ section. The two questions are as follows: 

    Question 6 – Do you agree with the proposal to move to a fee discount structure for volunteers in QVOs? 

    [Yes / no / don’t know] 

    Question 7 – What information do you think we need to consider when proposing moving to a fee discount for volunteers in QVOs? 

    [Free text] 

    We think Question 6 is ambiguous and could be interpreted in different ways. We recommend you do not to answer this question, and instead write your full response under Question 7

    Spread the Word 

    Share this information with your colleagues, friends, and anyone else who might be interested. Together, we can make sure volunteering stays accessible for everyone. 

    To learn more about changes to the Disclosure (Scotland) Act 2020, visit www.disclosure.gov.scot/changes

    National Lottery Funding – Briefing Blog

    MVA recently held a National Lottery Funding Briefing to provide third sector organisations with an update on some changes the National Lottery are making to their funding streams.

    Community Led, Improving Lives, and Cost of Living Support Scotland will close on the 21st August 2024. Applications will still be accepted until that date and assessed as usual. For further details you can contact your NL Funding Officer.

    New streams of funding will come online at the end of the year, but no date has been confirmed yet. They will likely fall around these four priority areas.

    Supporting communities to:

    • Come together
    • Be environmentally sustainable
    • Help children and young people access resources and experiences that help them thrive
    • Enable people to live healthier lives

    National Lottery Awards for All, Young Start and Scottish Land Fund will remain open to applications with no closing dates.

    Please do contact MVA if you would like support in applying to any of these funds before they close. The Development Team would be more than happy to review applications or provide advice about other potential sources of funding. See more about the support we can provide here.

    Contact us at info@mvacvs.org.uk or call our office, Monday – Thursday, on 0131 663 9471.

    Slides from this briefing can be viewed here:


    ALISS (A Local Information System for Scotland) Training Recording & Recap

    We recently held training alongside Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland & Midlothian Council to help organisations in Midlothian learn more about ALISS (A Local Information System for Scotland) and how they can utilise it efficiently.

    These training sessions were popular, but don’t worry if you missed out! You can watch the recorded training session here:

    ALISS Training session presented by Cameron MacFarlane, ALISS Programme Engagement and Insights Manager at the Alliance.

    We’ve also written up a brief overview, if you need a refresher:

    What is ALISS?

    ALISS is a digital tool operated by Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (The Alliance) that allows groups and organisations to find or share information on local resources, services, groups, and support.

    Why should you use ALISS?

    ALISS allows you to share services, activities, and resources that help;

    • Enable social connection
    • Assist people to self-manage their long-term conditions
    • Support outdoor or physical activity
    • Access digital technology

    Outside websites and directories pull information from ALISS, these include:

    The information they use is automatically updated when it’s edited on ALISS.

    How do you use ALISS?

    There are different ways to use ALISS:

    • To search for information
    • To upload information
    • For community mapping
    • For signposting
    • For creating your own directory/ embedding on your website

    When searching for information, it’s helpful to utilise the search filters.

    How do I add to ALISS?

    There are three main ways to get information on ALISS:

    • Basic Account – Good for one-off events/ postings, information approved by ALISS
    • ALISS Editor – Good for posting in bulk, doesn’t need to be manually approved by ALISS
    • Claimed Organisation – Claim your own organisations information, take responsibility to ensure it is accurate and up to date. Edits don’t need approval from ALISS

    ALISS for Alexa

    ALISS can now be used on the Amazon Alexa app and voice devices. By using voice commands, like “Alexa, search My Scottish Community for walking groups.”, those with low digital literacy or who may have a physical condition or disability, can stay connected to their communities and access the support they need when they need it most.

    For more information, and how to set it up check out these articles:

    Connecting communities through voice activated technology – Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (alliance-scotland.org.uk)

    Amazon.co.uk: My Scottish Community: search ALISS for support : Alexa Skills

    Don’t want to miss any more MVA training sessions?

    Keep an eye on our website, or our Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages.

    A Fresh Start for The Midlothian Climate Action Network – Meet The Team!

    The Midlothian Climate Action Hub is delighted to confirm that our staff recruitment is now complete and the community-led Hub Steering Group has been formally elected!

    Meet The Team

    Ian Malcolm, Hub Manager

    Previous to his new role as the Hub Manager, Ian was the Coordinator for the Midlothian Climate Action Network and played a key role in the successful funding application to the Scottish Government that enabled the formation of the staffed Hub. 

    Naomi Knights, Community Engagement Officer

    With an environmental background, Naomi has experience in environmental education and supporting the development of the community garden network across Scotland. Naomi has been working as a Volunteer Coordinator with Volunteer Midlothian – running a befriending project for the past several years and is familiar with communities and organisations throughout Midlothian.

    Bruno Santos, Community Engagement Officer

    Bruno joins the Hub team from Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, where he coordinated the Climate Fringe online platform, as well as a Scotland-wide community-led climate festival. He is currently the Logistics officer for the Edinburgh Climate Festival and has been active in various projects around migrant rights, food justice and climate action in the past.

    The Hub Steering Group

    On the same day final interviews for the Hub’s team were taking place in Dalkeith last December, the members of the Hub’s Steering Group were being formally elected in Penicuick.

    Community group members enjoy a meal after the conclusion of staff interviews and election of the Hub Steering Group
    Community group members enjoy a meal after the conclusion of staff interviews and election of the Hub Steering Group

    The Midlothian Climate Action Hub’s newly elected steering group members include:

    • Julian Holbrook, Chairperson from Damhead Climate Action
    • Julia Pennycuick from Midlothian Wildflowers 
    • Douglas Strachan from One Dalkeith Community Development Trust
    • Chris Sydes from Penicuik Community Development Trust
    • Sharon Hill from Mayfield & Easthouses Development Trust
    • Jenny Maddalena from Rosewell & District Community Council 
    • Xica Dabin-Debono from The Glencorse Association 
    Our chair, Julian Holbrook, signing the Terms of Reference for MCAN

    What’s next for the Midlothian Climate Action Hub?

    The Hub’s early priorities for this year will be focused on understanding local needs and reaching out to local groups.

    This includes a mapping exercise to fully understand the needs, challenges and ambitions of Midlothian’s community groups and organisations, and how they can best be supported and empowered. To support this activity and introduce the Hub to the local communities, four outreach events will be taking place across Midlothian in February and March.

    We will release information on these very soon, so make sure to keep an eye out and follow the Hub’s brand new social media!

    To get in contact with Midlothian Climate Action Network, email them at hub@midlothianclimateaction.org, or visit their website here.

    Article authored by Bruno Santos.

    Applications open for CMHWB Micro Grant

    Are you a community group looking for funding?

    Year 3 of Midlothian Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund for Adults launched in the end of September 2023 distributing over £246 thousand to third organisations and community groups. It has already seen many successful applications for larger projects. There is a small fund of £7800 to support micro grant applications, to be distributed by the end of March 2024. The Fund aims to support people’s good mental health and wellbeing and to provide opportunities to connect with others in local community.

    Local groups are invited to apply for funding from £200 up to £2500.

    Known as “the Sunflower Fund” the funding has a strong emphasis on collaboration, partnerships, capacity building and the development of creative projects that can work at a grassroots level, together with local people. All these to ensure outcomes are inclusive and have maximum impact on a local level. In Midlothian the fund had been overseen by a team of staff and volunteers from the TSI, Midlothian Council, Health in Mind, and Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership. The Lived Experience Working Group from Health in Mind will be assessing the funding applications. 

    Fund enquiries should be directed to Magda Clark magda@volunteermidlothian.org.uk by 26 February 2024.

    Read more about the Midlothian Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund here.

    Midlothian Third Sector Interface

    Success for a Midlothian Climate Action Hub

    Members of the Midlothian Climate Action Network are thrilled and making plans to celebrate after the Scottish Government confirmed that their application for grant funding for a staffed Climate Action Hub in the county had been successful. The Hub will support a collaborative effort focused on community-led climate action and adaptation within the region.

    Funding Success

    Funding of nearly £75,000 has been secured for the remainder of 2023-24 while more significant grant support for 2024-25 is agreed in principle only at this stage pending final agreement on the Scottish Government budgets for that year. However, the Scottish Government’s advice has been to recruit staff for both this year and next with that caveat. The application was made by a partnership involving Network members and Midlothian Voluntary Action, the local Third Sector Interface based in Dalkeith. The Network seek to obtain incorporated charitable status for the Hub during 2024-25. In the meantime, it is very happy with the partnership with MVA.

    Ian Malcolm, who has been acting as coordinator of the Midlothian Climate Action Network since June, said:

    “This is very welcome and exciting news for Midlothian and its communities. The Hub is a community-led initiative to encourage local community groups to achieve their climate action ambitions, through training and sharing and learning from each other through events and collaborative projects.

    Climate action takes many forms; in environmental protection, community gardening and food growing, encouraging and protecting green spaces and increasing biodiversity. It encourages walking and cycling, helps reduce food and fuel bills in times of need, encourages community wellbeing and provides positive and inclusive opportunities for the local population. It’s all good.”

    Lesley Kelly, Chief Officer of Midlothian TSI was equally delighted:

    “The application to the Scottish Government had to come from an incorporated body such as our own and we were only too pleased to offer our support. So much of what is planned chimes with our goals to create positive opportunities and outcomes for the people of Midlothian, particularly those on low incomes and suffering most from the cost of living and energy crises. The more we can do to help communities support each other through these difficult times, the better.”

    Councillor Dianne Alexander, Midlothian Council said:

    “Midlothian Council fully endorses the community-focused funding received for a Midlothian climate change action hub. The hub will be immensely important to bring our communities and people together to work with us as we move forward on our journey towards net zero.”

    The Hub will employ three members of staff in the first instance: the Hub Manager, and two part-time Community Engagement Officers working directly with and encouraging local community groups. The staff will be based in the MVA office in Dalkeith. The employing body will be MVA while the strategic direction for the Hub will be provided by a Hub Steering Group to be elected from the Network’s community groups.

    Early actions by the Hub will include opening the first round of a communities’ seed funding grant programme and delivery of four roadshow events across the county region. These and other workstreams will increase awareness and understanding of climate change, provide sharing and learning opportunities and showcase and promote positive community efforts.

    The application to the Scottish Government was supported by our local MP and MSPs, Midlothian Council and the Midlothian Community Planning Partnership. The partnership is grateful to SCCAN (Scottish Community Climate Action Network) and to the Scottish Government for their support.

    Apply to join the cause!

    The jobs are currently being advertised on Goodmoves:

    This is an exciting time to be involved in community-led climate action and for the successful applicants to make their mark at local and regional levels and to influence policy and decision-making at national level.

    For further information about the jobs please contact Lesley Kelly at lesley.kelly@mvacvs.org.uk, or call 0131 663 9471.

    The Midlothian Hub is one of a number of regional hubs being supported by the Scottish Government across the country. In addition to their work in Midlothian, the Hub Manager will play an active part in the Scotland-wide Hub network, attending monthly meetings, quarterly Stakeholder Working Group meetings and enabling opportunities for learning across the regions.

    Challenge Poverty Week: Uniting Against Poverty In Midlothian

    We are more than halfway through Challenge Poverty Week and we want to highlight what’s been happening in Midlothian to unite against poverty and what we are doing at MVA and across Midlothian in the longer term to tackle poverty in the community.

    In the face of the Cost-of-Living Crisis and with councils facing budget challenges, it seems appropriate that we introduce Challenge Poverty Week (CPW) and what it stands for.

    What is Challenge Poverty Week?

    Challenge Poverty Week was launched in 2013 by the Poverty Alliance. It serves as a platform to raise awareness about the persistence of poverty in Scotland and its impact on people’s daily lives. Every October, Scottish organizations come together to stand against injustice and poverty. This year’s themes revolve around communities, volunteers, housing, adequate incomes, transport, and food.

    The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Its Impact

    The Cost-of-living crisis is affecting people across Scotland and is having an impact on the everyday lives of people. 70% of people in a recent Poverty Alliance Survey said that poverty in Scotland is very real today. In Midlothian specifically, households earning £40,000 or less are said to be feeling a more significant impact from the increased living costs. The number of crises grant applications and acceptances has almost doubled since 2013/14 with a rapid increase in 2021/22.

    Challenge Poverty Week in Midlothian

    There have been a number of events in Midlothian for 2023 Challenge Poverty Week. At MVA Lesley Kelly, our Chief Officer, spoke at a breakfast briefing on Monday talking about communities and volunteers, offering insight into fairer funding, policy asks and the impact the Cost-of-living crisis is having on organizations across Midlothian. Read more about the policy briefing here. We also offered extra volunteer drop-in sessions for people to find out more about volunteering opportunities. This is all part of the confidence experience to help people into employment. Organizations we work alongside with such as Dalkeith Citizens Advice Bureau  and Mayfield and Easthouses Development Trust have also run events.

    Our Long Term Goals

    Under our longer term goals to eradicate and tackle poverty, we want to let you know that under the 2023-2027 Single Midlothian Plan MVA & Volunteer Midlothian alongside other organizations are working towards ensuring no child or household is living in poverty by 2027. Also, that individuals and communities in Midlothian can have improved skills and health for work and general happiness in their everyday life.

    Alongside this, we are making a commitment towards net zero carbon emissions by 2030 which goes hand in hand with poverty eradication according to a report published by the Climate Environment Programme in 2015.


    Community Climate Action Project

    Midlothian Council has set a target of reaching Net Zero by 2030. We are living in a Climate Emergency and it’s imperative that we all take a role, big or small, in tackling the climate crisis. Climate action activities are already taking place across Midlothian. However, there are many people being left out of the climate conversation.

    To support community-led climate action, MVA managed a Community Climate Action Project from March 2022 to February 2023. The project was funded through a £10,000 grant from the National Lottery’s Together For Our Planet programme. All projects funded by this programme had to be focused on developing a community-led climate action project.

    The two criteria chosen from the programme list that this project set out  to achieve were:

    • Supporting the development of longer-term climate action within communities
    • Celebrating the importance of community-led climate action and encouraging more people to get involved

    Through engagement with the Federation of Community Councils, two communities were selected for the research – Damhead, a rural community, and Penicuik, an urban community. Discussions also took place with the relevant Community Councils, and they were in support of this project being carried out in their communities. The research was to be carried out by consultants, and a procurement process took place in summer 2022. A volunteer representative from each community supported interviewing applicants. The decision on who to appoint was made by the community representatives, with help from MVA.

    SKS Scotland were chosen to complete the research. The research began in September 2022 and was completed in February 2023.

    The outcome of this research was to form a report for each community that included:

    • A community climate action plan
    • Assessment of what a 20-minute neighbourhood means for each community
    • Summaries of discussions from community engagement sessions
    • Future funding opportunities

    The aim for this project was to include individuals from all sections of the two communities and to offer them a space to discuss what the climate crisis means to them on a local level and how they can tackle it together. This was facilitated through a stakeholder survey, drop-in sessions in the communities, and online workshops, that took place over the course of four months.

    This research helped inform the action plans and allowed the communities to prioritise activities under five main themes:

    • Energy use
    • Active and sustainable travel
    • Re-use, recycling and upcycling
    • Local food and food waste
    • Biodiversity and improving local spaces.

    The project was completed in February 2023, and two reports were delivered to the communities for them to take forward.

    Thank you to the communities for their engagement and enthusiasm throughout the project, and to SKS Scotland for delivering the reports.

    Midlothian Third Sector faces devastating cuts

    Midlothian council are facing a projected budget gap for 2023/24 is £14.481 million rising to a projected £26.575 million by 2027/28. The current proposal of budget cuts includes; the removal of staffing at libraries and secondary school libraries, end of funding grants to community transport and dial-a-ride service by Handicabs Lothian and Lothian Community Transport, and a 100% cut to large and small grants funding for the third sector. The loss of third sector services will have a devastating impact on communities and particularly on the vulnerable, elderly and youngest residents. This also occurs at a time of the cost-of-living crisis where many people are facing poverty with increasing food and energy bills.

    The Midlothian TSI and its third sector partners are launching a campaign to #CareDontCut to prevent cuts and start an open dialogue with Midlothian councillors and the decision making process. The councillors will meet on the 31st January at 11am (watch here) to discuss the proposed cuts and then there will be community engagement until the 21st February where they will make their final decision. If you are interested in lobbying your local MP and MSP then please find a link to the open letter signed by us and third sector partners which you can also sign and send out.

    Get in touch with natalie.thomson@mvacvs.org.uk to get involved or more information.

    Dear Councillors,

    We are writing to you as representatives of the third sector in Midlothian who are deeply concerned by the impact of the proposed cuts which will affect our most vulnerable, youngest, and oldest residents of Midlothian, and cause significant job losses to the third sector and a reduction of services.

    We recognise the difficult task you have in making cuts that no-one wants to see happen, and we are aware that many of Midlothian’s current difficulties arise from a lack of recognition of our status as the fastest growing local authority. However, we feel that it is important that councillors are aware of the impact of the saving proposals.

    Many of the proposals in the paper will have a negative impact on the funding of third sector organisations. Our organisations were not well-funded to begin with, and have been badly impacted by the combined effect of Covid, Brexit, inflation and the recent rise in utility prices. Further cuts to their budgets could lead to the closure of key, long-established organisations.

    Much of the work funded through the Grants Programme is preventative, and its removal will lead to increased costs for the Council and other community planning partners, for example, through a rise in isolation leading to increased calls on GPs and other health services, children being less able to cope at school, or an increase in anti-social behaviour.

    There are a number of proposed actions in the paper that suggest that the community could get more involved, yet at the same time the budget that could have supported this has been cut. Most volunteers only volunteer for a few hours a week, meaning that every full-time post that is lost would need ten to twelve volunteers to replace it. There are costs attached to coordinating this number of volunteers.

    Many older and disabled people are unable to get to third sector activities without the support of our community transport providers. If these cuts are made, the lives of our most vulnerable citizens will be hugely restricted.

    In light of the comments above, we call on council members to undertake the following actions:

    · Reconsider the 100% cuts proposed to the Third Sector Grants programme. We are in the process of compiling how many people this cut would affect; with 40% of the response received so far organisations are reporting that over 7000 vulnerable clients would be impacted.

    · Recognise that children and young people’s organisations will be particularly badly affected by the accumulation of cuts to both the Grants programme and commissioning budgets.

    · Institute transitional arrangements for commissioned services so that they do not stop abruptly on the 1st April. This would allow third sector employers to undertake the redundancy process as set out by law, and in line with the Scottish Government’s Fair Work criteria. It would also allow time for discussions about how clients continue to receive support.

    · Once the paper has been approved, undertake meaningful engagement that goes beyond just a survey, to ensure that the needs of people who struggle to complete surveys is also met, for example people with learning difficulties, people with mental health issues and people with literacy issues.

    We include two key quotes from our most recent third sector forum which highlight the difficulties they face:

    “If community places and libraries are closed or not staffed adequately as safe places then vulnerable people and disabled people become more isolated, isolated means more physical illness, physical illness means more hospital appointments or mental illness leading to increased rates of suicide.” Graham Thomson, Co-chair, Forward Mid

    “With a cumulative cuts to our service and the potential of losing our service level agreement, we are facing the potential of at least 40% cuts, which would mean the loss of 2 family learning centers with 18 staff and potentially therapeutic services which has a direct impact of children and families. This could mean redundancies of between 18 – 60 staff as early as Mar ’23.” Cheryl Brown, CEO, Midlothian Sure Start

    Yours sincerely,

    Lesley Kelly, Chief Executive, Midlothian Voluntary Action and Volunteer Midlothian

    Alasdair Mathers, Penicuik Alliance, Penicuik Youth Band and Penicuik Silver Band

    Brian Christie, Pathhead & District Community Association

    Dave Evans, Chief Executive, MYPAS

    Emma Diffley, Chair, Tynewater Parent Council

    Eric Johnstone, Graham Thomson and Marlene Gill, Forward Mid

    Ian Purves and Janice Burns, Midlothian Foodbank

    Jan-Bert van den Berg, Director, Artlink

    Jill Bunyan, Development Worker, MFIN

    Jim Hiddlestone, Chair, Roslin Village Group

    Julie Podet, Manager, Dalkeith Citizens Advice Bureau

    Linda Cuthbert, Service Manager, Play Therapy Base

    Lucy Holyrood, Senior Recovery Services Manager, Cyrenians

    Dr Neil Heydon-Dumbleton, Pathhead Men’s Café & Community Councillor

    Pat Bowie, Chairperson, Newtongrange Development Trust

    Paula Swanston, Manager, Home Link Family Support

    Play Midlothian

    Robert Scott, Manager, Rosewell Development Trust

    Scott MacFarlane, Chief Executive Officer, Penicuik YMCA

    Sharon Hill, Manager, Mayfield and Easthouses Development Trust

    Yvonne Hay, Committee Member, Beeslack Allstars

    Anam Cara – Empowering and Supporting Women

    Anam Cara is a charity run by women, for women, in East and Midlothian. They offer a programme of workshops aimed at empowering and supporting women to improve their wellbeing by learning how to develop better self-care and coping mechanisms. Anam Cara is motivated by its three core values of compassion, courage and connection, which run through all of the projects and activities that the organisation provides.

    Anam Cara helps women who are at risk of slipping through the net of other services that can help them, therefore missing out on the support they need. This can include women in unpaid caring roles, those with substance use issues or other health and wellbeing issues that they need additional support to deal with. Their approach is forward thinking and non-judgemental, with a focus on prevention, harm reduction and early intervention to support the mental health needs of women, particularly those from more vulnerable or deprived communities. As such, Anam Cara was well placed to receive a grant in Year 1 of the Midlothian Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund.

    The organisation successfully obtained £8,456 from the Fund to put towards salary and equipment costs for peer support activities with women, including monthly meet-ups and extended one-to-one support that had initially taken root during the first lockdown. In Autumn 2022, we checked in with Marion and Karyn from Anam Cara to see how their projects were developing.

    What goes on at Anam Cara?

    Every woman who comes to Anam Cara is invited to take a 4-week wellbeing course consisting of live workshops plus access to around 70 online short videos covering a wide range of topics. The videos were a more recent addition aimed at reducing barriers to participation due to information retention difficulties and poor attention span among some participants. They have proved very useful for practicing wellbeing skills in short bursts and have allowed participants much greater flexibility in their uptake of Anam Cara’s services.

    “The online wellbeing videos are like a medicine cabinet of information. They give you the chance to develop and revisit these skills and keep on top of your mental health.”

    Karyn, lead volunteer with Anam Cara and Midlothian Volunteer of the Year 2022.

    Women are also encouraged to repeat the course 1-2 years after initially completing it, because Anam Cara know how useful it is to receive support over a longer period, as life evolves and different challenges come to the fore. They understand that someone may come back to Anam Cara and learn something new, not only due to personal circumstances but because the course itself is constantly being reviewed and improved.

    The Sanctuary

    The community orientated focus of the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund links particularly well to Anam Cara’s core value of connection. The grant enabled Anam Cara to develop their Sanctuary drop-in service, where women needing a sense of connection and togetherness with other women have a safe and welcoming space to meet. The Sanctuary offers refresher workshops for women who have already completed Anam Cara’s main programme of workshops, allowing them another chance to practice the mindfulness and wellbeing techniques they learned initially. This is especially important as the programme relies on continued engagement in order to be most effective.

    Within the Sanctuary, there are a variety of activities on offer including aromatherapy, holistic healing work, dance classes and more. Each of these activities is centred around improving and preserving good mental health and aims to give women the social connection they need to develop a sense of belonging. Feedback from participants has shown that attending workshops helps women to feel less isolated and alone, whilst also encouraging them to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining when looking after their mental health. Women coming to workshops show positive differences in their outlook even from week one.

    Maria, the founder of Anam Cara, believes that this is a result of the organisation’s services being comparatively unique, in that they allow women to gather and support each other in ways that derive from a place of personal experience. There is a very low drop-out rate at Anam Cara, suggesting that its services are not only empowering and inspiring, but effective. Women are learning to reflect on their mental processes, how their minds work, and why they behave the ways they do. They are learning to respond to unhealthy behaviours with better choices, enabling them to move forward and make significant changes in their lives.

    “Anam Cara was my only open door. It has strengthened my wellbeing, opened mental pathways, and helped me to develop a safety net to support and protect me. Women here are learning to embrace life and learn tools for their future. It is so important for women to have an option like this that doesn’t just involve hospitals or medication but focusses on togetherness and wellbeing as well.”

    Karyn

    Future Plans

    Moving forward, Anam Cara would like to develop a service focussing specifically on women in later life. Maria had noticed that women in the 45+ age group were going through major life changes, often stepping into unpaid caring roles for elderly parents, whilst dealing with the stress of family life, menopause and sometimes finding themselves using alcohol or other substances to cope – sometimes also working into their 60s or even 70’s. Addressing this unique set of challenges alongside older women is a key future goal for Anam Cara.

    Anam Cara are also looking to expand their bank of volunteers to accommodate the increasing need for befriending calls, and to potentially offer the Sanctuary up to women to run themselves as an independent project for users of the service. It all sounds really priomising and we can’t wait to see how Anam Cara develops this work in future. It’s fantastic to see that alongside the other grants they receive, the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund has enabled continued development of this valuable local organisation for women in Midlothian.

    MAEDT Really Makes It

    MAEDT is a community development trust dedicated to creating opportunities and improving outcomes for the local community of Mayfield and Easthouses. A key value of the Trust is to work towards alleviating poverty. With that goal in mind, MAEDT runs a wide range of different projects that share one key thing in common: the creation of long-term solutions for local people.

    MAEDT has been running since 2007 and new projects are continuously being introduced, including the Community Food Pantry which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. As well as the pantry, MAEDT runs and hosts projects including a school uniform bank, debt and energy clinics, drop-in sessions with the local Citizens Advice Bureau, employability support, a men’s mental health group, a kinship carers group and a ‘wheelbeing’ hub for bicycle repairs and socialising. Central to these groups and projects is MAEDT’s pavilion, community garden and café, where a hub of different activities take place on a daily basis, come rain or shine.

    MAEDT’s Pantry and Pavilion

    Over the last 2 years, MAEDT saw how the pandemic increased unemployment and food bank referrals in the Mayfield and Easthouses area. Wanting to focus on reducing food poverty and improving people’s access to healthy food, MAEDT introduced a community food pantry. ‘The Pantry’ is a shop where food items are marked as either 1 or 2 credits each, and shoppers can buy 10 credits for £3.50. In addition to the credits, members are offered free fresh fruit and vegetables, sanitary products and bakery items.

    To shop at the Pantry, individuals must become members. This free requirement helps to create a sense of equality among staff and users, so that people can be open about what they need and when they need it. The get-to-know-you membership model has helped people to feel comfortable in sharing personal stories about their mental health, challenges within their home life and stressors they are experiencing. It has become a hub where trust between local people can grow.

    The Pantry helps to remove the stigma associated with accessing free and discounted food, providing resources that are much needed in a dignified and empowering way. Rather than feeling shame about not being able to afford food or cook from scratch with it, members are encouraged to broaden their cooking knowledge, introduce new flavours and be imaginative with healthy ingredients. Additionally, buying more affordable food from The Pantry means that members can put money towards other essentials such as energy bills, making this a service that helps in more ways than one.

    The outside space at MAEDT’s ‘Pavilion’ hub underpins a lot of their work. Gardening activities act as vehicles for volunteering, community payback and rehabilitation. Using the garden in these ways is a non-stigmatising option for people belonging to vulnerable groups and can help them to better manage their own wellbeing. Moreover, the garden offers a safe space for people to improve their mental health by making connections with others, their community, and with nature. Local women Sharon Hill, who is also the manager at MAEDT, explained to us that individuals volunteering together at the Pavilion learn to bring out skills in one another, for example using maths to plot out a garden project, or conversation skills to engage with other volunteers who may find socialising difficult.

    All of our volunteers offer something unique; a skill, knowledge or vulnerability that can help bring out something in another person.

    Sharon Hill, MAEDT Manager.

    How was the Fund used?

    Part of the grant that MAEDT received from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund was used to pay for MAEDT’s Enterprise Development Worker, so that the Pavillion could open more often. The funding also paid for a structure in the garden called a Polycrub, as well as a pergola, making the expansion of gardening projects for volunteers possible.

    What next?

    MAEDT is always looking to the future and thinking about what the community in Mayfield and Easthouses will need next. Aside from the impending cost of living crisis and responding to what looks set to be a difficult winter, ideas for upcoming projects include a sensory park, an electronic rickshaw, and collaboration with partner organisations to embed the pantry model in other areas. For other places in Midlothian to set up their own pantry initiative, a large, centralised project would need to be organised to ensure that food is being dispersed equally. Sharon’s idea would be to use MEADT’s Pavilion as the central location for donations, and to use it as a network hub for distribution.

    Reaching this point has taken several years of hard work from MAEDT volunteers and those who work for the organisation in a paid capacity, but it certainly seems as though all the hard work has been worth it. We applaud the team for their worthwhile efforts, and we look forward to supporting the Trust with its ongoing development in the years ahead.

    Bonnyrigg Rose Community Football Club: Championing Football and Mental Health

    Bonnyrigg Rose Community FC (CFC) is a football club that is gaining recognition for its work championing mental health and wellbeing in Midlothian. As such, it was one of four local charities to receive a larger grant from the Midlothian Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund in 2022. A total of £36,884 was awarded via Midlothian Third Sector Interface to enable the ongoing development of services for local people, including peer support groups, mental health training courses and refurbishments to the club’s community hub building.

    The way the BRCFC’s staff and trustees see it, football and mental health are deeply inter-connected. It wasn’t always this way however, because prior to 2019 the club’s main concern had been to ensure that its ageing astro-pitch was replaced. Community programmes were seen as being important, but up until that point they had been viewed as more of a side project to football related activities.

    A pivotal moment came when the club held a special one-off community event in the summer of 2019, with the input of Midlothian Council’s Communities and Lifelong Learning team. At the event local people were asked about what their town needed and what they wanted from the club, by completing a survey tool known as the ‘Place Standard’. The responses gathered highlighted that Bonnyrigg lacked groups and activities for older people, as well as needing more targeted opportunities for young people. It also became clear that the club had the potential to play a role in championing grassroots mental health initiatives. This meant moving beyond a focus on sport alone, embedding themes such as wellbeing and connectedness more deeply throughout the club’s community programmes.

    Trish Sime (Development Manager) and Jim Wilson (General Manager).

    Since 2019 the club has worked with organisations such as Health in Mind to expand the delivery of initiatives including ‘Midlothian Men Matter’. BRCFC’s premises also provides space for several groups which help to reduce loneliness and isolation among local people. Given the high rates of suicide among young men in Scotland and the club’s ability to reach this target group through football and sport, an key date in the calendar for Bonnyrigg Rose is Suicide Prevention Week, which takes place every year in September. To raise awareness of this issue, the club has hosted free Mental Health First Aid training for anyone in Midlothian with an interest in attending. Group based coaching work with younger men who are struggling to cope has also been a feature of the club’s provision over the past 18 months, alongside school-based wellbeing programmes, yoga, free counselling and peer support activities.

    We caught up with Trish Sime (Development Manager) and Jim Wilson (General Manager), a few months after they received the club’s grant from the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund, to find out what has been achieved so far. Trish and Jim explained that the Fund has given them more freedom to continue linking football and mental health together by giving them additional resources – including core staffing hours – to focus in on progressing their plans for more community-based provision. Knowing that physical space is a particularly important resource and in short supply, the club got to work quickly in using their capital grant to replace old windows in the community hub building, making it a warmer and more welcoming facility. By investing in physical spaces where people can connect with each other more, the club is paving the way for further investments in community mental health and wellbeing.

    Having charted the huge efforts made by BRCFC to support mental health and wellbeing in Midlothian, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) found that the impact of community participation in the club was worth an amazing £3.95 million. This commendable achievement is underpinned by UEFA’s commitment to support the club and its activities in the longer term, helping to build an even stronger foundation for the involvement of the community in helping to decide on future priorities (not just those that related to football)

    Speaking about the connection between sport, community and mental health, Trish Sime told us:

    “Sport brings people together. Through teamwork and a positive attitude, relationships are fostered, and trust is created. People rely on their teammates, friends, and peers to help them through challenges – both on the field and off. Using the power of football and sport in general to talk openly about mental health and to break the stigma is positive, and it’s the right thing to do.”

    Trish Sime

    We couldn’t say it better than that, and we’re keen to see what comes next for the club because the future for BRCFC looks bright. You can follow BRCFC on Twitter or check out the main BRFC club website for more info about what they are up to.

    Midlothian Third Sector Interface Communications Internship

    £9.50 per hour in line with the national living wage.
    21 hours / 3 days per week. Hours can be worked flexibly provided two days are spent in the Dalkeith office each week.

    This post will allow the successful applicant to develop their professional skills in communications.

    It would particularly suit a graduate who is considering a career in communications, marketing and/or the third sector. As part of the role, training and guidance will be given about the third sector in Scotland and how Midlothian Third Sector Interface (TSI) works. The post holder will also be encouraged to attend courses from Midlothian Voluntary Action’s annual training programme, plus other opportunities from local and national providers such as Business Gateway, Just Enterprise and SCVO.

    The internship will be a chance to learn and understand more about the local third sector in Scotland, including how charities are run and governed, volunteering and social enterprise. There will be the chance to work on events, provision of training, social media, website development, Google analytics, design/infographics and copywriting.

    Candidates can only view the vacancy once they have been accepted into the GCAS Talent pool. Job Reference GCAS492.

    Closing date 5pm on 29 November 2022.

    Resist potential cuts to third sector budgets

    We are once again concerned that there will be cuts to third sector budgets by statutory funders.

    We wish to strongly resist this, and we are keen to make sure that decision-makers are aware of the impact of cuts. Therefore, we have created this short survey which aims to identify how much additional funding statutory grants/SLAs allow us to lever in, the volunteer input it facilitates, and the number of jobs at risk. Please take a moment to contribute to this very important research.