This is a joint message from Highland Council Elected Members for B&S, Liz Cowie (THC Ward Manager) and the VABS Team.

We are getting in touch to reassure you that we are all working very hard to keep everyone safe in the community and within the next 24 hours will provide a framework of concrete and networked support for the current and future volunteer effort taking place in all of the 12 communities in the strath.

You will have received the Highland Council request for information on local community group activity that was sent out to you yesterday afternoon. Thank you to those who have already provided information, which we will use to support the co-ordination of group effort and communication.

We appreciate that some of the B&S communities have or are already putting plans in place and we would like to work with you to ensure best practice for the safeguarding and support systems for volunteers, which needs to be as robust as possible and follow UK and Scottish Government guidelines.

We are working (at pace – which seems to be the current phrase) to develop and put in place a comprehensive framework which can be rolled out in each of the communities, to ensure that there is support for the vulnerable and those in need, while protecting those many people who have selflessly stepped forward to volunteer on behalf of their community.

For those communities who wish to take it up, this will involve:

  • Setting up of a dedicated phone line which requires a support system behind it of volunteers to answer calls. This will be provided free for the next 3 months at least, to each community via the Ward 20 Discretionary Budget. VABS will manage this with each community.
  • Templates for A5 leaflets to go out to all households with appropriate information about the community service and other official health advice and support services. Printing can be supplied or costs reimbursed.
  • Templates for volunteer management of those involved in the telephone operation, and or helping to deliver a community ‘service’ eg organising shopping, picking up medication, dog walking for those who are unable through illness/self-isolation, befriending calls, passing on updated Foodbank information etc
  • Details of properties that lie within each CC boundary area
  • Scripts for telephone volunteers who will need to deal with a variety of calls, so the message is consistent across the service.

All of the above documents are being worked on currently and will be with you by tomorrow. The individual community telephone lines can be set up fairly promptly, so details can go into your leaflets.

Please liaise with VABS in the first instance for more information and advice on how to set up this framework if you wish to roll it out in your community.