Community Health

Island co-ops stay strong

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In this post digital age it’s difficult to lose any data thanks to the powerful algorithms that sit behind today’s search engines. But paper records are harder to track down and the history of social enterprise in Scotland becomes much more anecdotal the further back in time you travel. Some skilled work by the archivists at GCU is gradually piecing together the story of who did what, when, and where in order to lay the foundations for today’s social enterprises. Community cooperatives on Scotland’s islands were the early pioneers. In some ways, nothing much has changed.

Scotland’s islands have the highest proportion of co-operatives of any part of the UK thanks to a long tradition of self-reliance, a survey has found.

The study by Co-operatives UK, the sector’s development body, said its survey of co-ops by local authority area found the Western Isles and Orkney topped the table with 8.16 and 5.91 co-ops respectively per 10,000 people. Shetland came in third, with 5.63. Eden in Cumbria came in joint fourth, with 4.55, followed by nearby Allerdale with 3.6.

The Scottish sector’s businesses are generally small, often community shops which provide the only stores in scarcely populated island communities. There are also credit unions, community energy companies and fishing co-ops.

The findings have been published as part of Co-operatives UK’s annual economic survey. It put its total turnover UK-wide at £37.7bn for 2018-19, a little over 1% higher than last year’s figure of £37.6bn and 2.75% higher than the £36.3bn in 2016-17.

The study confirmed that the John Lewis Partnership, the employee-owned group which includes Waitrose food stores, was the UK’s largest co-op with a turnover of £10.3bn; the Co-op itself narrowly behind on £10.2bn. Arla, the Denmark-based diary co-op, came third with a turnover of £2.6bn.

Excluding turnover, the data shows a slight decline in the sector’s size overall. The UK had 7,215 co-ops employing more than 233,000 people in the last financial year, compared with 7,226 employing nearly 235,000 a year earlier.

The report highlighted the Papay Community Co-operative, which runs the only shop and hostel on Papa Westray. The Orkney island has a resident population of about 85 people but is popular with island-hoppers on holiday. The business is close to Papa Westray’s airport, famous as a departure point for the world’s shortest scheduled service, a two-minute, 1.7-mile (2.8km) flight to nearby Westray.

Tim Dodman, the co-op’s secretary, said the business had an annual turnover of about £250,000 and employed four people, with some part-time help during busy periods. It also runs the school bus and local tours.

It was founded in 1980 after the only shop closed and no one could be found to run a new one single-handed. “The co-op ethos is very important,” Dodman said. “This is a small island and pretty remote. It’s much better to work cooperatively than have one individual in control of a lifeline service.”

By Sev Carrell, The Guardian

 

The growth of the pop-up park

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A team of researchers in Australia are urging urban planners to embrace temporary green spaces

Had you been taking a stroll around downtown San Francisco in late September 2005 you might have noticed something unusual – an ordinary parking space turned into a tiny park featuring a tree, a patch of grass and a bench. This miniature patch of greenery was the brainchild of three urban designers and led to an unexpected global movement known as PARK(ing) Day. Held on the third Friday of September every year, PARK(ing) Day has seen thousands of otherwise grey spaces temporarily transformed, from a spot on London’s South Bank to a sidewalk in Alaska.

The PARK(ing) Day movement captured imaginations, but it’s not the only one of its kind. Pop-up parks (PUPs) are a growing phenomenon, one that a group of urban researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is taking seriously. They argue that PUPs (which they define simply as ‘temporary green spaces’) have the capacity to benefit both biodiversity and the people who live in cities. The group cites several studies that have demonstrated the importance of nature for human wellbeing, including a paper in the Annual of Public Health which concluded that: ‘Taken together, the research reviewed does indicate that contact with nature can promote health. The evidence for some benefits, such as short-term restorative effects, is already quite strong.’

A’Beckett Urban Square PUP on the City Campus of RMIT University in Melbourne, AustraliaA’Beckett Urban Square PUP on the City Campus of RMIT University in Melbourne [Image: J Gollings]

‘There’s a lot of underutilised space in cities, and it’s going to be increasingly key to bring nature back into cities and have it close to offices,’ says Luis Mata, lead author of the study. ‘Some PUPs might only last for a couple of hours, whereas others last for years and may even become a path to something permanent. Depending on their deign and their spatial and temporal scales some will provide more benefits for people, some for biodiversity and some for both.’

The study points to a number of PUPs already in motion. In particular, San Francisco’s ‘Pavement to Parks’ program – an initiative that seeks to transform underutilised street spaces into public plazas known as ‘parklets’. It also refers to the UK’s Design Council and its ‘Knee High Design Challenge’ funding scheme which saw a PUP project trialled in Lambeth and Southwark. The transformed spaces were designed to encourage play and were filled with games for young children.

the “Grasslands” PUP at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne“Grasslands” PUP at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne [Image: M Stanton]

To address the lack of research into such spaces, the researchers want to see future sites become ‘socioecological laboratories’ in which urban planners conduct experiments to inform future design. Leading the way, Mata and his colleagues carried out their own analysis on a PUP in their home-town of Melbourne. They found that the six-week project called ‘Grasslands’, installed at the State Library of Victoria, saw insect pollinator abundance increase by around 160 per cent while the PUP was present.

The human impact of these spaces is harder to evaluate precisely. Nevertheless, the researchers contend that in dense urban environments with plenty of small, underutilised spaces, PUPs can help people spend time in nature, as well as foster community and in particular, creativity. ‘Creative thinking is sometimes lacking in academia,’ says Mata. ‘This new movement of people with artistic minds thinking of putting nature into cities is really excellent and is something that PUPs are uniquely placed to take advantage of.’

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Growing up in Scotland: life at age 12

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This report presents some initial findings about the lives of 12-year-old children living in Scotland. It uses data collected from Birth Cohort 1 (BC1) of the Growing Up in Scotland study (GUS). GUS is an important longitudinal research project aimed at tracking the lives of Scottish children from birth, through their childhood, into adolescence and beyond. The study is funded by the Scottish Government and carried out by ScotCen Social Research.

BC1 is comprised of a nationally representative sample of 5217 children living in Scotland when they were 10 months old and who were born between June 2004 and May 2005. This report draws on data collected from 3419 families in 2017/18 when the children were aged 12 and most were in the second term of their first year at secondary school. Both data from interviews with parents and children themselves is used.

The report covers, in brief, several varied aspects of children’s lives including:

  • Experience of school and educational aspirations
  • Relationships with parents and peers
  • Social media and use of the internet
  • Involvement in risky behaviour
  • Healthy weight and perceptions of body weight
  • Life satisfaction

For each of these areas, the experiences of boys and girls are compared. Some comparisons are also made between children living in the most and least deprived areas in Scotland and also between children whose parents have different educational qualifications. Relationships between some of the types of experiences themselves are also explored. Only differences which were statistically significant at the 95% level are commented on in the text.

More information about the study is available on the Growing up in Scotland website.

Do you know what a LEZ is?

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With the launch of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, we look at what is happening north of the border to improve air quality. Scotland’s local authorities are at the frontline of encouraging people out of their cars to walk, cycle or use public transport. One tool local government can use in the fight to reduce vehicle emissions – Low Emission Zones (LEZs). Glasgow’s LEZ for buses launched at the end of 2018. By 2022, it is expected that LEZs will be in full operation in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh. LEZs use financial penalty to encourage people and transport providers to switch to newer, less directly polluting vehicles. The challenge facing local authorities, however, remains how we encourage more people to leave the car at home for everyday journeys, particularly our towns and cities. LEZs are a tool tested across Europe to improve local air quality, but their efficacy in increasing active travel and improving air quality to a standard that improves health is unclear.

Background

The human and environmental cost of outdoor air pollution is stark, with annual deaths estimated to be between 28,000  and 40,000 in the UK. Illness and lost productivity linked to traffic emissions costs the UK economy an estimated £20 billion each year. In Scotland, 2,500 deaths and a shortened average lifespan of 3-4 months are consequences of the air we breathe. Those consequences disproportionately affect children, older people and people with respiratory and cardiovascular illness. Poor air quality has a greater effect on people living on lower incomes. They are more likely to live in high traffic areas, own fewer cars yet experience the worst effects of traffic and air pollution.

What are low emission zones?

Sweden introduced the first LEZ in 1996 and there are now over 200 LEZs operating in 15 countries. LEZs set a minimum emission standard for vehicles entering a defined area. Only diesel vehicles manufactured from 2015 and petrol cars manufactured from 2006 are likely to meet the standards in the UK. The standards are based on Euro emission engine classifications. The use of Euro standards is unlikely to be affected by Brexit as manufacturers will still make vehicles to the same standards.

The DVLA are developing a database for the public to check their vehicle. In the interim, Transport for London have launched a checker. Charges or fines are imposed on non-compliant vehicles entering a LEZ. The types of vehicles affected vary around Europe, but the focus is usually on heavier vehicles, diesel lorries and buses. Methods of enforcement range from ANPR cameras to coloured vehicle stickers monitored by local police. In Hamburg, two streets are heavily restricted with only diesel cars and lorries meeting the Euro 6 standard able to enter. Few existing European LEZs, however, affect private cars. London’s new Ultra Low Emission Zone is an exception rather than the current rule. In Scotland, the government has committed to LEZs affecting both petrol and diesel cars.

LEZs are not implemented in isolation, they are part of wider air quality action plans that seek to reduce emissions from many sources, including industry and homes. Of note is that although many LEZs in Europe were introduced with little public consultation but public compliance and support is generally high. Read the rest of this entry »

Green Infrastructure

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Home to over half of the planet’s population, urban areas are responsible for a significant proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions.

What is green infrastructure and why is it important?

Green infrastructure is defined as a “planned network of natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features designed and managed to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services”. This term incorporates a huge variety of different ecosystems from parks, playing fields and woodlands to community gardens, green roofs and street planters. These spaces facilitate physical activity, relaxation and can be a refuge from the noisy city. Green spaces help to foster biodiversity and provide safe routes for people walking and cycling through the city thus contributing positively to population health. In fact, estimates show that physical inactivity, linked to poor walkability and lack of access to recreational areas, accounts for 3.3% of global deaths.

There is robust evidence to support the claim that green space has a positive impact on people’s wellbeing with features such as parks, rivers and trees creating more liveable and pleasing urban environments. Research has shown that having access to green space can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being and aid in the treatment of mental illness.

Importantly, green spaces also help to regulate the impacts of harmful emissions in the city. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and help to filter out harmful pollution while urban waterways such as lakes, rivers or even fountains moderate temperature and together with vegetation, play a vital role in cooling cities. In some areas, it has been estimated that evapotranspiration (the process of converting water in leaves to water vapor which is then transpired through the trees) can reduce peak summer temperatures by 5°C. Additionally, green spaces provide areas where runoff interception can occur, thus reducing the likelihood of flooding, an issue particularly pertinent to Scotland where winter rainfall is expected to increase between 10-35% in some areas.

Supporting the development of green infrastructure is becoming an even more prominent part of urban policymaking across the world. From street planters to citizen gardening, the following section describes a couple of examples  in which local authorities in Scotland are helping to create healthier, greener cities. Read the rest of this entry »

The importance of dignity

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Preserving dignity looks like it is being built into the design Scotland’s new social security system. It’s also the phrase that was at the heart of work undertaken by the Poverty Truth Commission and Nourish Scotland on the community provision of food.  Consideration of how something might impact on a person’s dignity, could really transform the way we think about the delivery of public services. Here’s a great example of a community project in Aberdeen which tackles food poverty but always with a keen eye on preserving the dignity of those they serve. 

A basket full of high-quality food for £2.50 may seem too good to be true – but that’s now the reality for shoppers at Scotland’s first food pantry.

The Woodside Pantry in Aberdeen provides people living in one of the city’s most disadvantaged areas a way to shop for a lot less.

It is an innovative, community-run project. The aim is to combat food poverty, and it has been hailed as a sustainable alternative to food bank use.

“I can get some really good healthy food at a very reasonable price”

For a small weekly charge, members get access to food donated by supermarkets and a local charity. Clare Whyte, one of the workers at the community centre where the pantry is based, told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: “Food banks are not a long-term solution. It’s an emergency food service, really.

“This could be a way to reduce food waste which is massive and a huge issue as we know and also tackle food poverty at the same time.

Food parcels from food banks are often only available to people who have been referred by frontline professionals like GPs or advice agencies. But membership of the Woodside Pantry was initially open to anyone living in the immediate area around the Fersands and Fountain Community Centre, where the project is based. It proved so popular that the catchment area has now been widened and the membership cap extended. Almost half of the people using the service receive benefits or Jobseeker’s Allowance. A quarter of the users are single parents. There are now 83 households with membership to the pantry, and more than 200 local residents – including children – are directly benefitting.

“I can get some very good, healthy food at a very reasonable price,” said Margaret Aisbitt, who was one of the first to sign up. Read the rest of this entry »

Volunteers of the future

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People volunteer for all manner of reasons and roughly half of the population do so at some point in their lives. While that might seem like a lot of people, equally it means there’s a lot of people choosing not to participate. Dig a little deeper into the numbers and it becomes apparent that around a fifth of those who volunteer do two thirds of all the volunteering work. Dig some more and you hit the problem of an aging population with its potential impact on volunteer numbers going forward.

On a local level, Stonehaven Learning partnership is hosting a volunteer event on 6th June. See picture for more details.

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteering For All

Volunteering in Scotland is already making a crucial contribution to building social capital, fostering trust, binding people together and making our communities better places to live and to work.

Action to increase volunteering participation for all and to address inequalities is vital to continue to expand opportunities for more people to volunteer and participate in society. Although an estimated 51% of the adult population in Scotland has volunteered at some point in their lives, 49% have not. An increase in volunteering will also make a considerable contribution towards our individual, community and national economic and social well-being, particularly in the face of demographic and societal change.

The annual value of volunteering in Scotland is estimated to be £2.26 billion.4 Volunteering is clearly of great social and economic importance to the people and communities of Scotland. Within these communities, there are often those who are more likely, or more able, to volunteer than others. Volunteers in Scotland are more likely to be:

  • female
  • self-employed/part-time employed or in education
  • from higher socio-economic and income groups
  • from rural areas
  • from less deprived areas
  • healthy and non-disabled

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