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Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust is to co-ordinate a delivery service for residents in the Point and Sandwick area who are self-isolating or otherwise unable to shop as normal due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

Two delivery drivers/organisers are to be recruited by the charity and they will be collecting orders from local shops and distributing them, using the Point and Sandwick Trust community minibus.

Funding for the posts has come from the Scottish Government’s Supporting Communities Fund via Highlands and Islands Enterprise, with Point and Sandwick Trust among a number of island organisations to have received money from the fund.

The service will function by residents ordering whatever shopping they need directly from local shops – multiple shops if they wish – and paying over the phone. The shopping will then be picked up by the drivers and delivered to homes.

The drivers will be trained in the safe handling of deliveries and also be supplied with cool boxes to ensure good food hygiene. Adverts for the short-term posts are to go out shortly. Further details on the service, including the list of suppliers, will follow later but the service is to be in place for at least three months.

There are nearly 2,000 households in the Point and Sandwick area and high rates of pensioner poverty, fuel poverty and people who are vulnerable for other reasons.

Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said the charity had been approached by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to make a bid for this funding.

He said: “We are prepared to ramp up critical delivery intervention and co-ordination over a four to five month period if required and in particular over the next critical three months.

“There is plenty anecdotal evidence that the main supermarkets are at maximum capacity, with people struggling to secure delivery slots. And it’s not just about those who are self-isolating. The lack of public transport during the lockdown is also causing a lot of difficulty.

“Many households also rely on bottled gas for cooking and are experiencing difficulty accessing fish, meat, fruit and vegetable as well as other household goods. While there are many random acts of kindness, there is the danger that others will fall between the gaps or be reluctant to ask for help. This new service will address that and help us to look after each other a little bit more.”

He added: “We have worked closely with the two community councils since the very beginning of Point and Sandwick Trust. They gave us their unswerving support and encouragement and I am very pleased that the close cooperation continues with the development of this new service. We will shortly recruit two full time delivery drivers/ organisers, and together with the community councils we will be recruiting, training and supporting 10 volunteers as community wardens.

“The service is free, and we will be issuing further details in the next week or so. The recruitment process will begin this week and our popular Facebook page will carry links to the job description and application form.”

Angus McCormack, honorary president of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “I am delighted that Point and Sandwick Trust is able to run this service for the people in our area from Steinish to Point. It is most welcome and meets a local need. It supports the idea that Point and Sandwick Trust is much more than a wind farm charity; it is a significant force for good in its community.

“It demonstrates just how effective community renewables can be in transforming their communities for the better.”

Rose Bugler, HIE development manager for Innse Gall, said: “The Trust, local groups and volunteers have been working really hard to provide lifeline services to all those who are vulnerable across the 2,000 households in the Point and Sandwick area. HIE is distributing the Supporting Communities Fund in our area on behalf of the Scottish Government. It’ll help anchor groups to co-ordinate and deliver their responses over the coming weeks and months.”

Alex John Murray, chair of Point Community Council, said they were pleased Point and Sandwick Trust had sourced the funding package “for the benefit of the community” and encouraged the community to make use of the service when it launches.  “As a result of the restrictions on the use of public transport due to the Covid-19 epidemic, people, especially the elderly and those with health issues, will be experiencing difficulties in accessing shopping in a normal way,” he said.

“People in the community are encouraged to use these facilities which Point and Sandwick Trust and Point Community Council have been able to source on their behalf."

Sandy Morrison, vice chair of Sandwick Community Council, said: “It is good to see this being implemented and Point and Sandwick Trust offering the minibus to facilitate this service. We have a widespread community, some of whom may be isolating with symptoms, self isolating or simply unable to travel due to the present lack of a bus service. This may offer some relief to the houses in the Point and Sandwick area.“It might show an opportunity for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to utilise some of their vehicles which are presently parked up for a similar service if required on the wider island.”

The co-ordinated delivery service is the latest intervention by Point and Sandwick Trust in the coronavirus crisis. It follows the set up of the emergency community pandemic fund, in which Point and Sandwick Trust pledged to donate all spare funds for the rest of the year to fighting the crisis. A donation of £40,000 was made to NHS Western Isles from that fund, to support frontline staff and mitigate suffering, and a total of £15,000 – £5,000 each – has been made to the Point, Sandwick and Stornoway Community Councils to act as a ‘hardship fund’ to support residents in their area.