Scottish MSP creates ‘Viral Kindness’ helpline

Vulnerable and lonely people can call for free to obtain support with isolation or practical help

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A national free helpline in Scotland is being launched by a network of organisations including 500 convenience shops to help people get shopping deliveries and to tackle loneliness caused by periods of isolation due to COVID-19.

The ‘Viral Kindness Scotland’ project will help vulnerable people get food delivered to their home, and will have a 24/7 phoneline available to those who need someone to talk to.

Coordinated by Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar and Glasgow-based call centre Go-Centric, along with shops from the Day-Today chain and USave group, the collective has put out a plea for “an army” of volunteers to help provide the service.

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The project will also involve postcards being distributed in shops for consumers and shopkeepers to identify vulnerable people who may need the service.

The postcards can be returned to the Sarwar Foundation, the charity that was founded by Mohammad Sarwar, the UK’s first Muslim MP and Anas Sarwar’s father.

Viral Kindness Scotland is meant to work as a community hub and does not come in place of any government-led initiatives.

The majority of shops taking part in the launch of the project are based in and around Glasgow, with some in other areas of the central belt.

Shops in other parts of Scotland are encouraged to take part.

Anas Sarwar, who is also president of the Sarwar Foundation, said: “The coronavirus outbreak has produced a community spirit across Scotland to help those most in need. Thank you to everyone working on the frontline and all those who are volunteering.

“By pulling together and by mobilising our communities, we can all look out for our families, our friends and our neighbours. Initiatives are springing up organically in communities across the country, which is heart-warming at this worrying time.

“This unique community-led project is designed to help co-ordinate the community response, involving a number of organisations which have come together to provide their services for free, bringing together volunteers, small convenience stores, and a national call centre.

“I hope it will go some way to assisting with the national response to this crisis, ensuring that we spread kindness to those most in need.”

David Harper, chairman of Go-Centric, said: “On the back of the Sarwar Foundation’s plea to help our communities, my team and I have taken massive action to create a national helpline to support those most in need – connecting them with local convenience stores and volunteers to assist.

“Our service will be available 24/7 on the telephone and online and we are working on a number of other options such as live chat.

“Our people want to help and we are ready to make this happen, and look forward to being the central point for volunteers to register and to help those most vulnerable.”

Mohammed Rajak, owner of the Buywell DayToday store in Bridgeton, Glasgow, said: “Shopkeepers are at the heart of local communities and we are determined to help identify vulnerable people and secure essential supplies for them.

“We will be handing out postcards to customers, and we are appealing for volunteers to help deliver shopping packages to those self-isolating.

“At times like this, we all want to play our part by spreading kindness in our communities.”

Anyone wishing to access the helpline can call 0800 054 2282 for free

Sam Trendall

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