Nine groups are to share £1 million funding to help tackle problems of loneliness and isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.
The cash, from the Scottish Government, is part of £10 million that has been promised by ministers to support a new five-year plan that is being developed to help tackle such issues.
Groups including Glasgow Disability Alliance, YouthLink and Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) are among those to benefit, with CHSS receiving cash to help with its Kindness Caller programme.
Age Scotland, the Befriending Network, the British Red Cross, Home-Start, Intercultural Youth Scotland and the charity MECOPP, which works with black and ethnic minority carers, will also be awarded some of the cash.
Announcing the funding minister for equalities and older people Christina McKelvie acknowledged that “loneliness and social isolation have increased for some during the pandemic”.
She said that this had “disproportionately affected young people, carers and those with disabilities”.
The minister added: “Whether by providing access to counselling, learning opportunities or just a friendly voice to talk to over the phone, this new funding will help ensure people can stay connected and get the support they need.
“Social isolation and loneliness can affect anyone and can have a harmful effect on people’s health and wellbeing.
“That is why we are developing a new five-year plan and we will invest £10 million across this Parliament.”
Tressa Burke, Glasgow Disability Alliance chief executive, said the money would help to “mitigate brutal inequalities supercharged by the pandemic on disabled people”.
She added: “Our member survey and engagement revealed that 82% worry about social isolation and loneliness, 60% face digital exclusion, 80% don’t know where to turn to for help and 90% are worried about physical and mental health.
“The funding enables us to provide vital lifelines, programmes and support including digital coaching, wellbeing support and access to online activities which build confidence, connections and ensure the ongoing contributions of disabled people.”
Tim Frew, YouthLink Scotland chief executive, said: “We are not all in the same boat in the storm. The evidence is that this pandemic has been particularly tough on the wellbeing of young people in some of our most marginalised and disenfranchised communities.
“This disproportionate impact must be addressed, to ensure every young person has the opportunity to thrive.”
He added: “The youth work sector welcomes this fund from the Scottish Government, which will help to identify young people who have been coping with multiple challenges, such as young carers, and develop projects and programmes to meet their needs.”
Marie Hayes, Scotland director for independent living and crisis response at the British Red Cross, said: “During the pandemic, just under half of us reported feeling lonely. As we recover and restrictions lift, there is a risk loneliness and isolation won’t go away for many but instead become more entrenched.
“The British Red Cross warmly welcomes this new support from the Scottish Government.
“We can now build on our expertise to help people most in need to reconnect – people on low incomes or who live alone, people with disabilities and those suffering from poor mental health.
“Our services will help people navigate befriending services, access online support and activities and provide practical help to overcome barriers to wellbeing.”