When COVID-19 first hit last year and we were forced into lockdown, there was almost a feeling of hope: we’d get through this together, it wouldn’t last forever and brighter days were on the horizon. 

But as the weeks turned into months, though we had a brief respite in the summer, the full impact of lockdown has hit everyone hard in the depths of winter.

 Those on the front line who are dealing with the harsh reality of lockdown are our network of Veterans Community Support Coordinators (VCSC), who work closely with veterans and vulnerable clients across the country.

 Emily Clark, VCSC for Scotland North, tells us that the current lockdown has been particularly difficult.

 “A lot of it has to do with the fact that we’re in the middle of winter, it’s so cold and dark,” she says. “We can’t ask someone who’s 95 years old to stand on their doorstep in minus temperatures. And a lot of people can’t chat on the phone because they might have hearing issues.

 “I’ve noticed clients and volunteers have really been much more down in the dumps this time around. That possibly has something to do with the fact we knew we were coming out of it and had this wee window of respite, and then it came crashing down again. This time has been so much more isolating and we just don’t know how long it’s going to go on.”

 Emily and her team have had to be more creative in supporting people as they work within government guidance. They closely scrutinised the Scottish Government's advice on permissible contact, which states the First Minister considers mental welfare to be a high priority.

 “There are exceptions for face-to-face contact to continue if it’s to support vulnerable people and the mental welfare of people who are very isolated and will suffer due to continued and prolonged isolation,” says Emily.

 “So we have taken an approach whereby the default position is to fall back to remote support as much as possible, but in cases where someone is particularly vulnerable or really experiencing hardship through isolation, we are continuing to offer face-to-face support under very controlled circumstances. And that has really made a difference to people.”

 Emily and teams across the country still need volunteers and are keen to speak to anyone who can help.

 “We are still recruiting and training. Our local support was always critically important but now it’s equally important to the wider community,” she says.

 “It’s not just about connecting people with local veteran breakfast clubs and their Armed Forces community, it’s about offering people a lifeline and the hope that we will all come out of this.”

 No matter how tough some moments have been over the past year, Emily believes it is the spirit and stoicism of veterans and clients that has helped to keep her going.

 “My partner has been stuck in a different country for months and I was on my own for Christmas and my birthday. I spent Christmas morning delivering hampers to some of our isolated veterans and that was a real treat for me,” she says.

 To volunteer, contact Tommy Douglas on [email protected] or call 0131 550 1560