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Lifeline Moray Emergency Relief Fund to close Covid-19 applications after making payouts totalling £240,000


By Lorna Thompson

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A LIFELINE fund established by the lord lieutenants of Moray and Banffshire last spring to help people cope with financial strains over the pandemic is to close down Covid-19 applications.

The Moray Emergency Relief Fund (MERF) will stop accepting coronavirus-related applications on September 30.

However, the fund will be kept in place to deal with any future emergencies in Moray.

More than 620 applications have been processed over the past 18 months, with many people applying on multiple occasions.

It has paid out 1300 grants – totalling £240,000. In the main payments were to help people with fuel and food costs, rent payments, basic household goods, transport, and technology for remote learning.

Applications have dwindled over recent weeks, however, prompting the trustees to make the decision to stop accepting coronavirus-related applications.

The proposal to set up the charity was led by the Lord Lieutenant of Moray Major General Seymour Monro, and Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire Andrew Simpson.

They launched the fund on April 10 last year.

An appeal attracted generous donations from individuals, businesses, clubs and the RAF.

The trustees had hoped to raise £100,000 – but well exceeded their expectations raising £280,000 through donations over the last 18 months.

Applicants, with the support of their referee, submitted a simple online application form which assessors from both lieutenanices discussed. Successful grants were usually approved within 36 hours.

(From left) Lord Lieutenant of Moray Major General Seymour Monro, Lieutenant Colonel Grenville Johnston, former Lord Lieutenant of Moray, and Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire Andrew Simpson.
(From left) Lord Lieutenant of Moray Major General Seymour Monro, Lieutenant Colonel Grenville Johnston, former Lord Lieutenant of Moray, and Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire Andrew Simpson.

Chairman of the MERF, Lieutenant Colonel Grenville Johnston, former Lord Lieutenant of Moray and one of the assessors, expressed his gratitude to donors.

He said: "We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of so many people, businesses and organisations in Moray.

"People have really understood what an emergency this has been for many struggling families and businesses. We are immensely grateful to all our donors."

Mr Simpson added: "We have received great assistance from Moray Council and NHS staff, and from many charities and community groups across Moray to help us make the right judgements for people. They have just been tremendous."

Maj Gen Monro said the fund had offered Moray residents help and hope.

He added: "Although the trustees have agreed to close the MERF in relation to the coronavirus emergency, it will be there for future emergencies.

"We have also become very aware of the deprivation and child poverty which exists in Moray, and we will try to do what we can to help reduce poverty in our lieutenancies."

Moray Council convener Councillor Shona Morrison said: "At a time of anxiety and uncertainty for so many across Moray, the MERF provided a lifeline to those most in need of assistance.

"With the generous contributions of business and individuals, the fund boosted Moray's resilience in the face of complete unknowns due to the pandemic. I'm privileged to be a trustee and grateful to the lord lieutenants and all others involved in establishing, maintaining and administering this fund."

Moray SNP MSP Richard Lochhead said: "The MERF has been a vital resource for many people locally who have found themselves in financial crisis over the last year or so.

"I commend everyone involved for their efforts in supporting our community through the pandemic."

Moray Conservative MP Douglas Ross said: "When the lord lieutenants of Moray and Banffshire suggested the fund, I never expected it to raise so much money or help as many people as it did.

"I know many of the claims were harrowing for the assessors to deal with and Grenville Johnson and his team of volunteers deserve our thanks for their tremendous efforts."


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