• Siobhan Nelson

    Nominated by: Midlothian Council Communities, Lifelong Learning and Employability (Adults and Families)

    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

    Social Enterprise in the Spotlight: Penicuik Carbon Challenge

    With the UN Climate Change conference (Cop26) happening in Glasgow from Sunday 31 October to the 12th of November, Fraser Waugh caught up with Rene O’Reilly at the Penicuik Carbon Challenge (PCC) to talk about all things eco-friendly, sustainable, and how this project aims to educate residents on how to lead more eco-conscious and less wasteful lives.  

    How did PCC get started?

    The Storehouse Penicuik sells goods that are good for people, the community and for the planet, always ethically sourced and local as possible. Everything we sell uses small-scale suppliers and short supply chains to ensure sustainability and traceability. Through this, and our customers shopping with us, we aim to be a pivot point in enabling people to live a more sustainable life.

    What are some of the responsibilities you have at the PCC?

    I deal with the zero waste lifestyles portion of Penicuik Carbon Challenge i.e. bicycles re-makery, the tool library, eco art classes, fixing and repairing normal everyday household objects, use surplus food to supply to Food Facts Friends and am involved in a variety of other community projects as well

    Crochet crafts at PCC!

    How does someone go about volunteering at the PCC? What roles could they get involved in?

    They can come to us directly at our premises in Penicuik town centre where they can share their ideas and what they are most interested in, so that they can share their skills and expertise with others who come in asking about getting help with that specific service that PCC offer.

    It’s all own the volunteer’s own terms- if they want to do something we don’t currently offer we can facilitate this. And we are very open to suggestions- we have a space for this on sticky notes at the front our place on John street.

    Tell us how you seek to be a hub for the community?

    We see our location in the town centre as a marketing tool because it is essential for people to know more about what we do at PCC. By engaging with the community in this way at our premises we talk to a wide range of people that we wouldn’t usually, therefore widening our audience and opportunities for promotion.

    What can people get involved in?

    This is our autumn programme of activities which will be updated with new events taking place in the future, here’s what you could expect:

    PCC’s Autumn Programme of Events- more to follow in the future!

    When people come into PCC they often ask if we would take…?

    And the answer usually is yes! We do even if we haven’t taken anything in like that before! We take everything and anything, we’ll find a way to reuse/recycle it to be as useful as possible- to give it a second life. It is all about learning to repurpose seemingly useless items.  These could be donations of bikes, tools, electronic goods that we have a specialist that PAT tests for us, materials for art classes etc.

    *****

    As Rene has mentioned the PCC’s mission is to enable people to live more sustainable lifestyles within Penicuik and the surrounding areas. This is in parallel to two of Cop26’s goals- adapt to protect communities and natural habitat and working together to deliver climate change targets. Penicuik Carbon Challenge achieve this by adjusting people’s habits, working together and getting them active in the natural environment- all reducing their carbon footprint and taking steps closer to net zero targets.

    Social Enterprise in the Spotlight: Mayfield and Easthouses Development Trust

    The green shoots of community-led regeneration are bearing fruit in Mayfield. Mayfield and Easthouses Development Trust (MAEDT for short), is showing how local communities can address social issues such as poverty and loneliness while also helping to combat climate change. MAEDT used the lockdown period to incubate two social enterprise projects that are already bringing benefits to local residents. First, they have transformed the old pavilion and bowling green in Mayfield Park into a beautiful café, meeting space and community garden. With the help of a new staff team including Phil (pictured below) and local volunteers, the garden is now bearing its first crops of fruit and vegetables. These are available to customers for a small donation.

    The Pavilion café is open for lunches as well as teas and coffees. It also has meeting rooms and an outdoor shelter that can be hired for all sorts of community events. People interested in volunteering are encouraged to drop into the garden and have a chat with Phil. The project will also be part of Midlothian’s first Green Prescribing programme, through which local GPs and other NHS health practitioners can informally ‘prescribe’ some clients to get active in their community in order to support recovery and improved health. 

    MAEDT has also opened Midlothian’s first community Food Pantry. The Pantry, which aims to help members make their money go further and support local households out of food poverty, is open to people who live in Mayfield and Easthouses. Since opening, it has already gained more than 200 members who can shop once a week.  Each shop costs £3.50 and members can purchase food, toiletries and other household essentials, typically worth up to £15.00. Warris (pictured below) and his team of volunteers are keeping the pantry well stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables from the

    garden, donated from the local Tesco at Hardengreen and through a partnership with Mark Murphy Total Produce Group   As well as non-perishable goods second-hand school uniforms and winter coats for children are also available. The Pantry is located at MAEDT’s office in Bogwood Court and is open Tuesdays and Thursdays 10-2 and Wednesdays 1-6.

    To launch these projects, MAEDT has secured grants from Midlothian Council, National Lottery Community Fund, the Supporting Communities Fund and the DTAS Pockets and Prospects Fund, as well as smaller amounts from Foundation Scotland, the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Greenspace Scotland, and the Mushroom Trust. There have also been donations from the Co-op, Scotmid and the Jafaria Foundation in Easthouses. Income through trading activities will help sustain the projects as they grow. 

    Sharon Hill, Trust Manager, is looking forward to what the future will bring for MAEDT and the community: 

    We have plans to move and develop as our customers feedback to us.  We can already see how the Pantry can grow and change with time and member involvement, and the possibilities for growth in the garden and pavilion are almost endless.  It’s an exciting time for us and we are grateful for the support of our volunteers, members, customers, funders and partners.” 

    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.  

    Who contributes the most to volunteering in Scotland?

    We’ll be exploring ‘Who contributes the most to volunteering in Scotland?’ in a free seminar on 7 September 2021. 

    Matthew and Debbie, from Volunteer Scotland, will share findings from their research published in January 2021. Using data from the Scottish Household Survey related to volunteering frequency and intensity, their analysis challenges our understanding of volunteer engagement across different demographic groups including age, gender, deprivation, income, education and health.

    This seminar will be of interest to anyone working in volunteering policy and practice – particularly those looking to promote the development of grassroots volunteering activity in Scottish communities.

    Never Mind the Football – the Midlothian Volunteer Awards are Coming Home!

    It’s been a month since the 2021 Midlothian Volunteer Awards ceremony took place online, and we are pleased to say that we have now managed to get the trophies and certificates into the hands of all our wonderful award winners and nominees. Here are a few pics of the trophies being handed over. It was a pleasure to work with everyone involved in the awards and to meet the winners in person. We look forward to doing it all again in years to come.

    Well done and thanks again everyone – winners AND nominees!

    Members of Art Club’s ‘Amazing Brains Committee’ receiving their Covid-19 Community Award.

    Ellie and Holly from the Midlothian Breastfeeding Alliance accepting the MBA’s award for voluntary work related to Health and Wellbeing.

    Gina from the Penicuik Ambassadors, who won the ‘Volunteer Team of the Year’ award. Gina was able to come to the Glencorse Centre with her daughter to collect the award at the same time as the MBA.

    Ricky Lloyd from Dalkeith Rugby Club accepting his award for Active Volunteering. Chris Boyle also jointly won this award for his hard work alongside Ricky.

    We wonder who got to take the award home!

    A member of the team from Food Facts Friends receiving the organisation’s certificate of nomination for the Covid-19 Community Award. Heather Mortimore from Food Facts Friends won the ‘Outstanding New Volunteer Award’.

    We delivered the certificate and trophy on the same day that some of the other trophies were handed over in the Penicuik area. Unfortunately, Heather wasn’t there at the time of drop off, but we hope she liked it when she got it!

    Samantha Gough, winner of the Saltire Summit Award for her dedicated volunteering with the children and families charity, Bright Sparks.

    We think Bramble the teddy looks very happy snuggling up with Samantha.

    Joseph Burke, Midlothian’s ‘Volunteer of the Year’ 2021. Joseph won this award in recognition of the outstanding volunteer work he has done over the past 18 months on behalf of local mental health charity Health in Mind.