South Lanarkshire housing teams volunteer to help most in need

South Lanarkshire Council volunteers in their hundreds have been working for weeks to provide vital services across the region to those classed as vulnerable or at risk.

South Lanarkshire housing teams volunteer to help most in need

Gary Nelson and Neil Falconer

Operating from hubs in local secondary schools, a seven-day rota is in place to ensure foods, medicines, and often PPE, are delivered.

Among them are Gary Nelson and Neil Falconer, both of Housing and Technical Resources. For each, the ‘normal’ day job of designing new primary schools and nurseries has been curtailed under coronavirus restrictions with work on sites effectively shut down.

As a result, Gary, a chartered quantity surveyor, and Neil, architectural team leader, found themselves able to take on new temporary responsibilities. Working from Calderglen High School in East Kilbride, Gary and Neil are among a small but dedicated team ensuring meals are delivered every day to the elderly.

Gary, who is helping with the co-ordination of the process, said he has been hugely impressed by the way in which the service has been put in place so quickly and efficiently. He added: “Being on this side of things has really made me appreciate the hard work and immense effort that has gone into the organisation of this service in such a short time scale by Audrey, the Operations Manager, and her team. They deserve enormous credit for this achievement.

“In fact, under such extraordinary circumstances, the council, as a whole, has done an excellent job in preparing us for tasks and responsibilities few of us have before experienced. From hygiene to health and safety, the importance of observing social distancing, and the appropriate use of PPE, it has been a learning curve like no other.”

Every day the team arrives at Calderglen High for an 11am start, appropriate PPE and car keys for delivery vehicles are distributed, and there’s a team talk about the day’s schedule. Catering staff who prepare the meals hand over the food in therma boxes for each route before the drivers set off.

Neil Falconer, whose route covers his home patch of Strathaven and Stonehouse, says he has been more than willing to offer his time and commitment to those in greatest need.

He explained: “The majority of those we deliver meals to are elderly and in some cases, living alone. It”s impossible to underestimate what a difference the delivery and the visit can make. For many we might be the only person they see that day, or the only conversation they have. Even when we”re social distancing, this is still possible, which is a nice added bonus. This is an experience that I feel privileged to be have been able to take on, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat.”

Both Gary and Neil have worked with the council since reorganisation and admit the public-facing experience is one that is new to them. But, together with colleagues from a variety of council services and South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture, they are taking on this new brief in a spirt of co-operation and community.

Each agrees that the experience of stepping up in a time of worldwide crisis is something neither ever expected to encounter, but one they have learnt significantly from.

Neil said: “While still working away at the day job, there are gaps in what we can do, and I am happy to fill that time doing what I can to help with the collective effort. It has been a unique experience, and a part of my council career that will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time to come.”

Colleague Gary concluded: “I think it’s fair to say that I have had my faith in community spirit restored by the numbers of colleagues who have volunteered in a time when they are needed the most. I feel genuinely honoured and proud to have been a part of this.”

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.
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