LOCKDOWN has been difficult for many of us. The measures have asked a lot and we have had to make many sacrifices over the past few weeks.

I know that I have found it difficult not being able to see family and friends.

We’ve always had a thriving third sector here in the Wee County but the response to the pandemic from community organisations really has been outstanding.

Whether it has been checking in on vulnerable neighbours or dropping off supplies, making face masks or keeping someone company over the phone, they have been part of a crucial nationwide effort to keep folk safe.

Last week was Volunteers’ Week and I know that many people expressed their appreciation for their friends, family and neighbours who have gone the extra mile to support them.

The challenges we have faced have all been made a little easier by those volunteers who have given up their time to help others and it is a testament to the strength of the local community that so many have volunteered in a time of national crisis.

Here in Clackmannanshire, CTSi did a fantastic job of celebrating Volunteers Week and it was great to see a snapshot of some of the activity that has been going on.

I’ve also enjoyed seeing some of the key worker portraits by local artist Karen Strang and think it’s a really great way to highlight the important role they play.

This week is Carers Week, a week to raise awareness of the work of unpaid and young carers in Scotland. The theme this year is Make Care Visible and aims to show carers that we see, hear and understand them.

Caring is challenging at the best of times and many carers will be facing more difficulties as a result of the pandemic.

Throughout the week, hundreds of virtual events will be held to reach out to thousands of carers and young carers, making sure they have access to support and services they need.

Recognising their resilience and the challenges they face is an important way of showing our support.

It is unfortunate that the contribution of unpaid caring to society often goes under-recognised and under-valued.

The Scottish Government has made efforts to recognising that value with the Carer’s Allowance Supplement and I am particularly pleased that it has announced that those eligible for the supplement will also automatically receive a further £230 coronavirus payment.

The coronavirus pandemic will be a particularly difficult time for carers, with concerns over their own health and the health of those they care for.

The additional payment is a small way of acknowledging the increased pressures many carers and young carers face and offer some further financial support.

As with Volunteers’ Week, I know that folk will be keen to show their support during Carers Week. I encourage all constituents to get involved, to recognise carers and to let them know that we appreciate all that they do.

One of the consequences of this pandemic is that it has perhaps made us all more aware of the local efforts of volunteers and carers.

Volunteers’ and Carers Week have been especially important for us to express our gratitude for those who do so much in a time of crisis.

It is my hope that we resolve to continue to express this appreciation throughout the year for those who give so much to the local community.