A SPIRIT of volunteering runs deep in Clacks – from school pupils learning the ropes to those who have dedicated their lives to helping others, it remains a community that looks out for one another.

Thousands of hours of goodwill have been donated to worthy causes in the area over the years, and it is that willingness to come to the aid of hose in need which will keep Clacks going strong through the current crisis.

As many organisations in the Wee County struggle to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Advertiser has heard from two groups working hard to maintain their essential services.

Clackmannanshire Women's Aid and Ochils Mountain Rescue both provide urgent assistance to locals at short notice – and both groups have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.

The two groups are still functioning, and key figures from each spoke about the challenges they have faced, and the ways they are adapting.

Margaret McDougall, support worker with Clackmannanshire Women's Aid, said the organisation's main challenge in recent days has simply been trying to keep the service running.

She said: "We took the decision not to have any face to face contact, which is very difficult for people."

Many of the organisation's service users are – like everyone else – struggling to deal with the massive changes currently taking place across the country.

Margaret pointed to the "general increase in anxiety about health and safety", and said: "[it's difficult enough] without throwing domestic abuse into the mix."

The extra difficulty some women in the Wee County now face is the prospect of being trapped at home with abusive partners.

Margaret added: "Perpetrators are likely to adapt their behaviour to the current circumstances, and not necessarily in a good way."

And with face-to-face contact now suspended, Clackmannanshire Women's Aid has turned to other methods to ensure those who need their help can receive it.

Margaret said: "What we have been doing is keeping in touch with our service users as much as possible – which is proving difficult.

"Whereas they might have had a partner who might have been out the home, they are more likely to be stuck together.

"That reduces opportunities for us to be in touch."

However, the group has been making efforts to keep in contact with those who need their services, through methods such as phone calls, online, and by text and email.

Outlining the general situation for many of the organisation's service users, Margaret said: "People who are living with domestic abusers are currently managing the situation very well, they know the perpetrator really well and know their moods.

"I think it's going to get hard, especially if the country does go into lockdown.

"I'd just remind people we are here, and although our public office isn't open, we are available."

For Ochils Mountain Rescue, coronavirus also poses serious challenges.

Not least of which is how to provide emergency assistance to people, while keeping the team safe at the same time.

According to Dr Neil Hamlet, the group's assistant training officer, a big part of the problem is getting the message out to people to avoid taking unnecessary risks in the first place.

He pointed to the fact that Scottish Mountain Rescue teams had been called out a total of 16 times last weekend (March 21-22), and said: "We don't want people to be taking unnecessary trips up the hills.

"We're still available, but don't go out if you don't need to be."

And when the local mountain rescue group is called into action, Neil said current challenges include: "[Maintaining] the welfare of the team in relation to Covid-19 itself, and the welfare of the team in terms of emotional wellbeing, because we think some of the callouts are going to be quite difficult."

Thankfully, the local mountain rescue group includes several members who are highly experienced in the medical field, such as Dr Hamlet himself.

Because of that, the team has access to the best information and advice in terms of minimising risks faced in dealing with those in need of assistance.

But no matter how well prepared the group is, Dr Hamlet's advice on behalf of Ochils Mountain Rescue will remain the same: "Use common sense; don't go out if you don't need to."

For more information about Clackmannanshire Womens Aid, visit clackswomensaid.org.uk; and for more information about Ochils Mountain Rescue, visit omrt.org.uk