Response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland:
As of June 2020, Four Pillars, based across Grampian (Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City & Moray), have been running a number of services for both LGBT+ folk and the wider community they serve.
In partnership with Pink Saltire, they’ve provided emergency relief to people through the likes of care packages, providing food vouchers and wellbeing support materials. They’ve also set up a befriending service called Forever Friends, where volunteers will phone up and speak to people regularly. This offers support as small as a general chat or for bigger issues such as help with forms, phone top-ups or gas and electric needs. This service has seen a mixture of contacts, many of which identify as straight with relations to LGBT folk or are allies. Four Pillars are mindful this service should be open to the wider community regardless, so continue to support anyone who asks for the support.
The groups that Four Pillars have previously run in a physical sense, such as T-Folk, Out N About and Pink Granite, have now moved their usual meeting times to an online space. Whilst this has seen some engagement, it’s not as strong as the turnout to physical events. It tends to be the same people that engage, but still with less numbers. They’ve had a couple of new engagements as a result of moving it online as well.
It’s recognised that due to the main communication being through social media and local press, a lot of the engagement has been from those living within Aberdeen. The exception to this, even pre-COVID is T-Folk members being based more rurally and accessing the city-based group due to a lack of groups where they are based but would still need support.
It’s important to note that Aberdeen City went into a partial lockdown on the 5th August, with pubs and restaurants forced to close. As of 23rd August, these have been able to reopen and lockdown eased again. Although this hasn’t majorly impacted Four Pillars’ services users, there was a period where developing their new offices and venue that applications and building work was delayed as a result. More widely it was seen that there had been more job losses over the city, as well as a perceived misunderstanding of what the lockdown meant – shops remained opened but very few people came into the city centre.
Four Pillars are almost in a position to reintroduce physical meets but being very cautious due to the constant change in rules and guidelines. For example, the use of face shields versus face masks indoors. Ideally, they’d like for everyone to see each other again to bring back a sense of normality, but they are still deciding the best approach to keep people safe.
In discussion of the potential for a second wave, it’s felt there a high chance it will come – with clusters already springing across Scotland and localised lockdown in England. However, Four Pillars doesn’t expect there to be a full second lockdown nationally, but rather take a prepared approach where safety policies are kept in place, whilst services and groups are able to resume adapting to the new way of life.