DEDICATED volunteers at a lifeline service in Greenock are offering a supportive ear for people in need during the coronavirus outbreak.

The team at Samaritans in Cathcart Street take calls from people who are struggling – and the pandemic has made this resource even more vital.

The charity say that one in three people who call the service now mention COVID-19 as a concern.

There has also been a marked increase in the number of calls relating to mental health, family and relationship worries, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and job and money issues.

The Inverclyde service continues with two volunteers in the base at any one time, abiding by social distancing rules.

Alex Southee, director of the Inverclyde branch, is at pains to point out that people can still call for support.

She said: "We're keeping going.

"We have our shifts covered and we're doing our bit to support people at this terrible time.

"The Samaritans service is there for everybody - for anyone who is worried, upset, depressed or unable to cope.

"The focus is on being there for a caller who just needs a safe place to talk in confidence.

"We all work together, support the people who call us, and support each other."

As the Samaritans offers a centralised service, the 28-strong Inverclyde Samaritans team supports people all over the UK.

A group of new volunteers were in mid-training when lockdown took hold and will continue learning when restrictions are lifted.

Samaritans volunteers signpost people to services and the service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across 201 branches –19 of which are in Scotland.

In a single year, volunteers in Scotland spend over 60,000 hours providing emotional support, which is the equivalent of 2,500 days of listening.

Inverclyde Samaritans is supported by Inverclyde Council but has to raise its own funds to pay for utilities.

Alex and the team are looking forward to getting fundraising back on track when the pandemic is over.

She has urged anyone who needs help to take the vital step and pick up the phone.

Alex added: "There is always a need for the Samaritans and there will always be a voice at the end of the line for you."

To reach the Samaritans call 116123 or 0330 094 5717.