• 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. 

    Retirement of George Wilson, manager of MVA

    We are sad (but happy for George!) to share the news that George Wilson, Manager of MVA, retired at the end of September.  George has worked in Midlothian since 1994. He initially managed Woodburn Action Group, which then merged with MVA in 1998.  He has been with us ever since. 

    His calm and supportive manner has been appreciated by everyone in the sector, and we can’t put into words how much everyone at Midlothian TSI will miss him.  His leaving collection raised over £400, and we were able to buy him a very nice bottle of Islay Malt. We hope you enjoy it George – but definitely don’t drink it all at once!

    Core Skills in Volunteer Management goes digital

    Core Skills in Volunteer Management is normally a four-day long course run for volunteer managers and coordinators by Volunteer Edinburgh. CSVM provides a comprehensive introduction to volunteer management in all its varied forms.

    We can say from experience that the course content is both informative and challenging. Facilitators are also highly skilled and critically aware of best practice and other topical issues in the field of volunteering. We recommend that anyone involved in volunteer management considers doing some if not all of CSVM, which has recently gone digital – for obvious reasons. At present there are two 7 hour courses available, each running over a period of two weeks. Courses include virtual contact with other volunteer managers and the trainer, as well as coursework and the use of online forums. 

    There is a small fee for each course, but it would be money will spent and would help to ensure that organisations are fully up to speed with the implications of working with volunteers in the current context.

    For more information contact javier.tejera@volunteeredinburgh.org.uk or go to  Volunteer Edinburgh’s training and event webpage.

    Successful recipients of Midlothian mental health grant announced

    Volunteer Midlothian and Health in Mind recently launched the ‘Midlothian Mental Health in the Community Small Grants Fund’, using money from the Scottish Government’s Supporting Communities Fund, to enable local organisations to pilot new activities that serve the community. The six month project will provide mental health and wellbeing support for those that have been affected by Covid-19 and lockdown. The funded projects will offer internet and telephone-based listening, counselling and peer support. Any face-to-face services will only commence in due course, in line with the Scottish Government’s social distancing guidelines and lockdown routemap. 

    We are delighted to announce that the seven projects being funded are: Alzheimer Scotland, Anam Cara, Cyrenians, Dalkeith and District Citizens Advice Bureau, Midlothian Sure Start, Rosewell Development Trust and Vocal Midlothian. The projects will support a range of different needs across Midlothian, including those of carers, families, people who are socially isolated, people living with dementia and vulnerable women. All project volunteers will have access to specialist mental health training designed and delivered by Health in Mind specifically for this project.

    You can follow on social media for regular updates on the progress of each project on Twitter: 

    New Midlothian mental health fund now open for applications!

    The Midlothian ‘Mental Health in the Community’ Small Grants Fund has now opened. The fund aims to build the capacity of local organisations to support individuals whose mental health has been adversely impacted by the pandemic and lockdown. This is an opportunity for charities and social enterprises working with volunteers to apply for small grants of up to £10,000 each, to expand and develop their mental health and wellbeing support services.

    The fund aims to build your organisation’s capacity to provide volunteer-led mental health support in the community. Volunteer Midlothian have partnered up with Health in Mind, who will deliver bespoke online training to the volunteers providing this support.

    To apply for a grant, you must: 

    • Be providing a service to Midlothian residents;
    • Have been in operation for at least one year; 
    • Be able to demonstrate a track record of mental health service provision.

    Funded projects will need to adhere to current social distancing guidelines, so delivery may initially be via telephone or online platforms. We are looking to support a span of activities for people of all age groups, including children, young people, working age adults and older people. 

    A few key dates for those interested in applying: 

    • Launch of Grant: 2nd July 
    • Online surgeries for those interested in applying:  6th and 8th July
    • Grant Deadline: 12pm Thurs 16th July

    Please email completed application forms to natalie.thomson@mvacvs.org.uk You can also get in touch with Natalie if you have any questions or would like to discuss in more detail.

    Saltire Awards update for 2020

    The Saltire Awards scheme is one of our favourite ways to celebrate and reward the contribution and achievements of young volunteers in Scotland aged between 12 and 25. Young people can gain nationally recognised certificates, signed by Scottish Government Ministers, for the volunteering that they do. Joining the scheme also helps young people gain new skills and experience that will look great on a CV, whilst making friends and new connections. 

    Over the past few months the scheme has undergone some changes and a new website has been launched. Young people will now be asked to sign up and independently log the volunteering hours they’ve completed. As part of this new system they will be able to see a record of the number of hours they’ve completed on different projects, and the certificates they’ve gained. This will enable them to be more in control of how their volunteering hours are logged and certified. 

    Even though we’re in the midst of coronavirus, we know that some young people may still be volunteering. Also, a more diverse range of opportunities will likely emerge in the coming months, now that people and organisations have had some time to think through how volunteering can continue during the pandemic, albeit in a slightly different form (more often than not via digital or online roles). 

    For more information, or to sign up, visit the Saltire website.

    Celebrating Volunteer’s Week 2020 in Midlothian

    It’s Volunteer’s Week 2020 �� and this year we’re focusing on gratitude and recognition. As always, the team at Volunteer Midlothian are keen to get involved and say thanks to Midlothian’s volunteers: past, present, and future. Normally we do this by holding our annual awards ceremony, but sadly that was not to be in 2020.

    Instead, we will be celebrating this year on social media. To join in check out the Volunteer’s Week website: Submit your stories, messages, drawings, photographs, poems, songs, or anything creative that says THANK YOU! You can also read some real life stories of volunteering in Midlothian being posted this week on Midlothian Council’s website. 

    As ever, we are so proud to recognise the efforts of Midlothian’s volunteers (and indeed ALL volunteers from across Scotland) and we are asking you to join us in thanking them on Twitter! #VolunteersWeekScot 

    We’ve got all our fingers and toes crossed that our awards ceremony will be bigger and better next time round, with some new categories to acknowledge the amazing volunteering that has been going on in Midlothian in response to coronavirus. 

    COVID-19 Volunteering Update – April 2020

    Since we last updated this website the world has changed in ways that would have been hard to comprehend just a few months ago. Over the past six weeks the landscape of the third sector has shifted significantly in order to respond to the coronavirus crisis in a very immediate way. But people and organisations are now having to prepare for what looks to be a long haul over the next 12-18 months or more.

    The realisation is dawning that we are going to have to learn how to function as a society and create a ‘new normal’, whilst suppressing transmission of COVID-19 and reducing demand on our essential services as much as possible. In this longer-than-usual news story we are sharing some important updates about what we’ve been doing to support local volunteer-involving-organisations and assist with the resilience response across Midlothian. 

    Local resilience response

    Every local authority area has a nominated resilience worker and/or group to coordinate the local response to the coronavirus crisis. Resilience meetings typically include representation from the local authority, the health and social care partnership, the third sector interface (Volunteer Midlothian and Midlothian Voluntary Action) and third or community sector organisations. The main role of resilience groups is to ensure that the local response is well coordinated, effective and that vulnerable groups get the support they need to stay safe and well. Volunteer input is a really important part of this work. In Midlothian, the frontline response in communities is being driven forward by anchor organisations including community councils and development trusts, with support from Midlothian Council. Various other local groups have also sprung up in an effort to ensure that everyone can get shopping, prescriptions and other essential deliveries, plus dog walking where necessary. A key challenge for community groups has been to find a way of formalising the various different volunteer roles they are overseeing, so that both volunteers and service users are safe and well supported. To help with this process we initially developed a set of volunteering guidelines to support local community organisations in the first few weeks of the crisis. We then released a more comprehensive pack consisting of volunteering risk assessment templates, role descriptions and volunteering agreements. 

    Ready Scotland


    We have been amazed at the groundswell of support from local people wanting help out in their communities. The Scotland Cares campaign was launched at the beginning of April, with would-be volunteers encouraged to register for three different types of roles, either through the Red Cross, the NHS or in their own local community. Two weeks after the launch we were sent the details of over 500 people in a spreadsheet, who we subsequently surveyed in order to find out more about what they might be able to offer as volunteers. It has been fantastic to see people offering their time in such numbers to help out in whatever way they can. We are currently working through the responses to try and match groups of volunteers with suitable opportunities. We are also keeping in touch with those who registered to provide relevant updates and training opportunities while people wait to be contacted by local organisations. You may be interested to know that NHS Lothian had over 600 people apply for roles over the course of a few days in mid-March. From this initial response 300 people went on to volunteer, mainly as ward helpers. NHS Lothian has recently recruited a second cohort of volunteers who hope to give their time in hospital and other community settings for the duration of the epidemic. Phenomenal! Well done to all those involved – we are SO GRATEFUL to everyone who has offered to volunteer thus far. 

    Development of volunteer roles 

    Normally at Volunteer Midlothian we provide direct face-to-face support to around 20 people a month to help them get started in volunteering roles. This figure doesn’t include contact with people via our website, special projects, or at events, meetings and recruitment fairs. We usually have around 160 opportunities on offer for people to choose from. Of course, not every opportunity is suitable for every volunteer, but we are normally able to find a role that suits the person and vice versa. Imagine, then, having over 500 people wanting to volunteer in the space of three weeks! As a result of this unprecedented increase in numbers, organisations in Midlothian have been having to think and act quickly in order to create new roles in response to the needs being identified in local communities. It takes time to develop volunteering activities properly and safely, but six weeks on we are seeing new roles beginning to emerge. In addition to resilience work in local communities, other activities are now coming to the fore, particularly those involving telephone or online support that could broadly be described as ‘befriending’. Other more diverse roles will likely emerge, for example provision of group based support via Zoom, online counselling, or more widespread virtual play sessions for children and families during periods of strict lockdown. We may also at some point see the emergence of in-person volunteering activities at a safe distance outdoors, for example distanced gardening. Potential volunteers will be able to search for COVID-19 related roles via our website search function once they become more widely available. Do get in touch if you’ve got ideas for how to involve volunteers, or if there are roles that you’d like to advertise in the coming weeks and months. 

    Midlothian TSI activities

    As part of the Third Sector Interface (TSI) we play an important part in supporting the development of best practice related to volunteering across the third sector in Midlothian. In recent weeks we have been helping our partner organisations in various ways, two of which we want to share with you now in case you want to sign up or get involved. First and foremost are our regular TSI bulletins containing sector-specific info and advice, official guidance about COVID-19, links to useful new resources and notification of funding opportunities. If you want to be included on the bulletin mailing list please email Lesley. We have also been holding weekly ‘Coronavirus Connect’ online drop-in sessions that are open to any member of staff from the third sector in Midlothian. Sessions consist of information sharing, discussion about best practice and peer support between colleagues. Feedback has been really positive so far, with improved awareness of local resilience activity among participants and increased connectedness across organisations. Invitations to the drop-in session are sent out each week. If you’d like to get involved, email Miriam for further information. 

    That’s all for now, so thanks for reading. We’ve shared a lot more information than we usually would in this news story but we wanted to give you a really thorough update because such a lot has happened over the last few weeks. Stay safe and well folks!

    Statement from Police Scotland and Midlothian Council about sharing on social media

    Our partners at Police Scotland and Midlothian Council have asked us to endorse this statement about sharing of personal data on social media and other digital or online platforms. Please folks – be careful about what you post on social media, particularly if it relates to vulnerable people who need services and support. Would you want your name, phone number, address and the fact that you’re vulnerable or live alone shared publicly for all to see? We’re pretty sure the answer to that question is no, so please do follow this important advice and ask others to do the same. 

    ATTENTION: Are you part of a social media group on Facebook?

    Do you know everyone on your social media group?

    There have been instances of people sharing personal details and circumstances on social media and we would take this opportunity to remind you to be cautious about what information you are sharing about yourself and making public through social media.

    Your personal information could be used for the purposes of criminality including fraud and theft.

    PLEASE NOTE: If you are sharing information on behalf of other people, remember to be equally careful with their details, particularly as you may be identifying them as a vulnerable person.

    Details which you should be careful about sharing are:

    • Name
    • Address
    • Phone Number
    • That you are in possession of money

    People who you should ask for assistance in the first instance should be:

    • Family
    • Friends
    • Neighbours

    If this is not possible Midlothian Council are working with a number of organisations including
    support volunteer groups which can assist in providing you access to food, medicine and support.
    Support provided by:

    • Midlothian Contact Centre – 0131 270 7500
    • Red Cross Shopping Assistance – 0131 654 0340
    • Midlothian Council Communities and Lifelong Learning service – CLL@midlothian.gov.uk

    The Communities and Lifelong Learning service will coordinate a response either from them or the local community resilience group in relation to prescription collection and delivery, food, money and pets. This email box is actively checked and requests allocated Mon to Friday 8.00am – 6.00pm

    Volunteer Midlothian – (If you or someone you know wants to help volunteer with essential
    services we would direct you to Volunteer Midlothian) via email to info@volunteermidlothian.org.uk

    Updated about the Coronavirus response in Midlothian: How to get involved

    There has been a phenomenal response from people in Midlothian to the coronavirus crisis (we don’t have exact figures but probably in excess of 500 new volunteers in Midlothian at this point in time), and we are seeing some excellent local volunteering projects springing up to tackle the unique challenges that this situation presents. Volunteer Midlothian is here to support these developments and will provide advice and guidance wherever possible so that people have the knowledge, skills and resources needed to implement projects safely and effectively

    At present there are enough volunteers to meet the demand for extra support in Midlothian, although it’s likely that this will change as more people contract COVID-19. Please be aware that there has been a groundswell of volunteers in the last few weeks and that as a result of this highly unprecedented situation, it is taking time to set up the infrastructure for volunteering in communities. If you can remain on stand-by to volunteer at a later date, it is likely that you will be contacted by us or another local agency.

    • If you are an ex-health and social care worker or health professional, there is the option of rejoining the workforce. Information about this and about volunteering more generally as part of the coronavirus response can now be found on the Ready Scotland website. If you go to this website and fill in your details, you will be redirected to the NHS or Red Cross, or your information will be passed back to us, the Third Sector Interface.
    • Our role will be to help pass on the details of potential volunteers to local community initiatives in Midlothian. We are currently looking at how best to do this in partnership with Midlothian Council, Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership and local neighbourhood groups including community councils and development trusts. 

    We are aware that many people are already volunteering informally in their local communities already and this is fantastic. There is more than one route into volunteering. One of the best things that people can do at the moment, though, is to check on their immediate neighbours – particularly those that are vulnerable – to ensure that they have all the essentials they need in order to self-isolate.  Minimising your own social contact outside of the home environment and implementing social isolation is part of the national effort that we are all making to flatten the curve and reduce the impact of coronavirus on our essential services, including but not only the NHS. We will continue to update our website with relevant links and documents as and when we have them ready, so please continue to watch this space. In the meantime please tag all of your amazing activities as part of Midlothian Council’s campaign for the coronavirus community response on Twitter – #KindnessMidlothian

    Thank you – please stay safe and well folks! 

    Our volunteering guidelines are now live

    Are you involved in organising coronavirus volunteers in your local area? Do you work for a local Third Sector organisation as a volunteer co-ordinator? Together with our local resilience partners, Volunteer Midlothian has developed a set of COVID-19 response guidelines that should be of help in the coming weeks and months. Despite the fact that we are in the midst of a public health emergency and there is a desire to act fast, it’s still really important to ensure that volunteering is carried out safely and effectively for the sake of everyone involved. 

    Please also share widely with other organisations and people you work with. If you’ve any questions of you think we’ve missed something, email us at info@volunteermidlothian.org.uk 

    Coronavirus emergency response in Midlothian

    There has been a huge response from local communities in Midlothian wanting to help with the coronavirus response. To ensure that volunteers and the community are adequately supported, and so that efforts are properly coordinated, Midlothian Council are currently gathering details of everyone who is organising support in their local area. We are helping with this process and are liaising with other key organisations including the Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership, as well as our Third Sector partners, to put together a set of good practice guidelines for volunteering activities related to COVID-19. The guidelines will include some important questions to consider when developing volunteer activities in the community, and will be circulated widely once finalised. 

    If you are a coordinator in your area please email CLL@midlothian.gov.uk as soon as possible to let Midlothian Council know what you are doing. Please also ensure that you provide a main contact name and telephone number so that advice and information can be effectively shared and so we can ensure support is properly targeted. 

    In the meantime, Volunteer Midlothian will be taking the details of anyone who contacts us wanting to volunteer and will be helping to connect people up in due course, once we have a clearer picture of where volunteers are most needed. MVA, Volunteer Midlothian and SEAM (Midlothian Third Sector Interface) have arranged for most staff to work from home in line with the latest government guidance for social distancing. We will, however, continue to cover emergency planning meetings and feed back to the sector through emails, website updates and social media. 

    We will pick up our emails and messages regularly so please keep in touch. No decision has been made as yet to postpone or cancel events related to Volunteers Week 2020, including the volunteer awards ceremony. This is being kept under review and we will let you know if plans change. Please take care and get in touch if there is anything you think we can help with, or if you have any specific questions related to volunteering in the coming weeks and months. 

    Nominations now open for Midlothian Volunteers’ Week Awards 2020

    We are super-excited to be hosting the annual volunteer awards ceremony again this year in Midlothian. The event forms part of Volunteers’ Week from 1-7th June 2020, an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution that millions of volunteers make across the UK each year. Preparations are already well underway – most importantly to gather nominations. There are ten award categories in total, all of which are independently judged, including:

    Outstanding New Volunteer, Befriender/Mentor of the Year, Active Volunteering, Service to the Community, Health and Wellbeing, Long Service to Volunteering and Volunteer Manager of the Year. We also award up to twelve outstanding young volunteers with the Saltire Summit Award.  

    HOW TO NOMINATE: This is a fabulous opportunity to reward Midlothian’s most active and dedicated volunteers for the part they play in supporting people, communities and the local economy. Nominations can be made via any organisation that is a registered charity or constituted voluntary group, or by staff/volunteers who want to nominate a volunteer manager.

    You can nominate on Survey Monkey by going to this link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/N7MPZVH

    Alternatively, email Miriam to be sent out a nomination pack that can be printed, or call the Volunteer Midlothian office on 0131 660 1216 if you have any other queries. Get your thinking caps on as to who deserves some recognition this year – we can’t wait to hear from you!

    Come to our 2020 Volunteer Recruitment Fair on 26th Feb in Dalkeith

    We are excited to be hosting a Volunteer Recruitment Fair on Wednesday 26th February 2020, from 1-6 p.m. at St John’s and King’s Park Church in Dalkeith.

    The event will give local folk the opportunity to find out more about volunteering and the types of volunteer roles that are available at the moment in Midlothian. Did you know we have over 140 roles listed here on our website currently? You can learn more about what local organisations are looking for, and what they can offer you in return if you do decide to get involved and volunteer your time. We have been advertising widely to local organisations and there will be plenty of friendly faces there to chat to about roles in the care sector, retail, gardening, youth work, childcare, befriending and more.

    There will also be free tea and cake, so come in and say hi! If you work for a local organisation, we still have a couple of spaces left for stall holders. See you there!