Coronavirus: 21,000 Scots sign up to volunteer

VolunteerImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A volunteer in Chicago following a drive for PPE

More than 21,000 healthy Scots have signed up to become volunteers to support vulnerable people in their area during the coronavirus pandemic.

People are being asked to go to the Ready Scotland website if they wish to provide practical or emotional help.

The drive is the focus of the Scottish government's new Scotland Cares campaign.

The first minister said the help provided by volunteers would be "invaluable".

People who wish to become volunteers have three options:

  • Returning NHS workers will be directed to existing voluntary arrangements in NHS Scotland
  • People wishing to offer their support to our public services, including the NHS and local authorities, will be directed to a site co-ordinated by the British Red Cross
  • Those looking for opportunities with other charities or community groups in their area will be directed to Volunteer Scotland for information.

Since the website launched on Monday. more than 8,000 volunteers have signed up through the Red Cross while a further 11,000 indicated they wanted to work with existing charities and groups.

The Scottish government said there were also about 2,000 people who had suggested they had the skills and qualifications to work in the NHS.

Image source, Angela Hamilton
Image caption,
Angela Hamilton, from Cumbernauld, is one of 21,000 volunteers who have signed up

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "I want to thank each and every person who has registered an interest.

"The offer of support at this critical time is invaluable.

"The response we have had to this call for applications is indicative I think of a wider point - many people across Scotland are responding to this difficult period by showing a sense of community and solidarity".

Angela Hamilton, from Cumbernauld, is one of the thousands who have signed up.

She told BBC Scotland: "I signed up because I want to help those who are vulnerable and those who are in greater need at the moment within our community."

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Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville said that people should only volunteer if they were healthy and had been following public health messages - which "trump everything".

She told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland: "The first responsibility is for people to stay at home and follow the public health messages.

"If you can volunteer, going through the Ready Scotland website will ensure that you can do that safely."

Demand for help

A similar volunteer scheme is already up and running in England with thousands of helpers signed up to deliver food and medicines, drive patients to appointments and phone the isolated.

This campaign is run from an app, which the Scottish appeal does not yet have.

Media caption,
PM: Number of NHS volunteers in 24 hours equal to "population of Coventry"

Ms Somerville said it was important to get the Ready Scotland website launched as quickly as possible to address the demand for volunteers.

She said the Scottish government did not want to "reinvent the wheel" and that the campaign was aimed at directing volunteers to existing charities.

She highlighted that it was "not just a short-term sprint" and that volunteers would be built up over weeks and used over different time periods.

"In many ways the Scotland Cares campaign is a summation of what's good about how Scotland has reacted to this very unprecedented situation," she added.

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