“Lifeline” funding of almost £1 million is going to groups working to tackle social isolation and loneliness.

Equalities and older people minister Christina McKelvie said both the coronavirus pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has “increased isolation” for some.

Eighteen projects and organisations will receive a share of £971,019, and Ms McKelvie said the cash will help “keep people connected during this challenging time”.

The money will help to provide warm spaces, hot meals, group activities and fuel payments to those most at risk of isolation, including older Scots, young parents, carers and the disabled.

The charity Age Scotland will use its share of the cash on its Keeping The Doors Open programme, which helps community groups struggling to keep going.

Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) will also benefit from funding, which will help it recruit Urdu and Punjabi-speaking volunteers for its Kindness Calls scheme, where volunteers make weekly calls to those struggling with loneliness.

Ms McKelvie said: “Social isolation and loneliness can affect anyone, especially at this time of year when people can struggle to get outside and socialise.

“The pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have increased isolation for some people, including young people, carers and disabled people.

“The funding will be a lifeline for a range of organisations who are helping to keep people connected during this challenging time.”

Jane-Claire Judson, chief executive of CHSS, said: “This funding from the Scottish Government will greatly enhance the ability of our support services to reach non-English speaking and minority ethnic populations in Scotland to reduce isolation and loneliness.

“Ultimately, it will allow us to engage with and support more people across Scotland who are living with chest, heart and stroke conditions, better enabling them to live their lives to the full.”

Age Scotland chief executive Mark O’Donnell said: “Older people’s groups have an incredibly important role in communities across Scotland, supporting health and wellbeing, physical activity, tackling loneliness and food insecurity.

“Our research has identified that around 200,000 over-65s rely on groups like this but the impact of Covid-19 and spiralling inflation has meant that these lifelines have been facing incredible pressures to keeping their doors open.

“We’re incredibly grateful that the Scottish Government took notice of our research and our ask of greater financial support for older people’s groups.

“The funding will help many such groups and clubs meet the rising cost of energy bills, food, transport and venues to meet, ensuring that their members can stay connected and are able to be as well as they can be.”