Schools across Scotland should be used as community hubs to deliver a wide range of public services.
That’s the verdict of South Ayrshire Council and its partners following a pilot in north Ayr, which culminated in a community marketplace at Ayr Academy on 23 February.
A range of partners from NHS, Scottish Fire and Rescue service and the voluntary sector worked together to explore how this would work in practice.
Crucially, services were available to everyone living in the area – not just those with children in the schools.
Services provided included money and debt management advice, employability and skills information and advice, health and wellbeing support from school nurses and assistant nurse practitioners. Council Leader, Douglas Campbell, commented on the learning from the pilot,
“It’s been a terrific learning opportunity for all the partners involved and that’s been one of the key outcomes of this week – getting to know more about what each of us has to offer and how we can better link in and signpost to provide a more joined-up service for people.”
Spare Chair Sunday first launched in 2015 as a partnership between national charity Contact the Elderly and Bisto. Expanding on the charity’s model of free monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people aged over 75 who live alone, Spare Chair Sunday encouraged people to offer a ‘spare chair’ at their Sunday lunch tables to a Contact the Elderly older guest and their volunteer driver, to share a delicious warm lunch all together. The response to the award-winning campaign was amazing, with over 1,600 Spare Chair Sunday volunteers hosting Sunday lunches or becoming regular tea party volunteers in their local community.
Any host homes or venues must have a downstairs toilet and be easily accessible (generally we say no more than three steps where possible).
Any car used must be fully insured and drivers must hold a full driving licence, as well as supplying two references and completing a DBS check. This is for the safety and security of guests and host.
Interested? Click on http://www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk/volunteer to apply to become a volunteer. Applications are dealt with as soon as possible, but please do be patient, all necessary checks must be made. In some cases, there will not be anyone near enough to you, groups may already have as many volunteers as they require, or there may not be a group in your area. It may be the case that your application may enable work to be launched in the area for the first time, enabling more older people to benefit!
Some beautiful and unusual buildings and land are in community ownership.
A growing number of groups are getting together to rescue much-loved places from redevelopment or demolition – from castles and piers to public toilets.
Could your community take ownership of a local space? To inspire you, over the next few weeks we would like to share with you some of these. First up, The Burrow, Devon.
The Burrow in Exbourne is a community-owned shop with a difference – it’s underground. Like something from The Hobbit, this little shop, café and post office is built underneath a field in the centre of the village, and is the UK’s only underground shop.
In December 2001 the village shop and post office in the parish of Exbourne with Jacobstowe in rural West Devon closed and was sold as a private dwelling. This meant that villagers would have to make a journey of at least 5 miles each way to reach the nearest town for shops and services.
Early in 2002 following a public meeting to discuss the closure of the community’s only store and post office, the Exbourne Community Initiative Committee was formed. The original mandate of the organisation was to try and re-establish a shop – a community-run shop – possibly with additional facilities alongside it. The great importance of such activities in safeguarding the quality of village life was keenly recognised and the initiative was supported by the vast majority of local residents.
The Association quickly established a temporary shop, cafe and post office in Exbourne’s Village Hall, opening 2 mornings a week and run (with the exception of the Post Office section) by volunteers.
The shop has grown and grown and with the support of local growers, plus a lot of hard work, they have managed to get together an exciting range of products, from fresh vegetables, canned food and even some hardware items. Each shop day freshly baked bread is locally sourced.
Borrowing from neighbours was once a commonplace practice, part of the network of relations we once had with those who lived within close range.
So what’s changed?
The industrial revolution brought affordable modern technology—with it quick transportation and supermarkets. In ancient times, hunting, gathering, and foraging were communal practices. And it wasn’t long ago that many cultures, especially rural ones, still relied on weekly markets, traveling salesmen, and the growing of their own goods. But living in relative isolation also meant more contact with your neighbours because one of them probably provided your weekly dairy needs and another milled wheat for flour or grew pears you exchanged for apples.
Changes in food technology, making fresh produce less perishable, extending shelf life, has decreased the interaction we have with those who live close by to help out when we are running short. Communal cooking practises regularly seen in other countries don’t feature in our society.
It’s easy to reflect on past practises with rose tinted spectacles. Changes in our food supply has brought countless benefits. However, does the growing reliance on foodbanks indicate we should re-evaluate practises long forgotten? Reconnecting with our neighbours in times of need would not only strengthen bonds within our communities but provide welcome support during difficult times. The social distance created by modern society is a symptom of our increasingly busy lives and the sprawling communities we now live in. However, it is only a short walk next door for that cupful of sugar, but the benefits to our communities can stretch much further than that.
Solomon thought so, he says to ‘go to the ant’ and ‘consider the ant’ and refers to them as little upon the earth but exceeding wise. He suggests that taking a leaf from their book will preserve us from poverty and give us wisdom. Given Solomon is the richest man the world has ever known (today he would be worth 100 times more than John D Rockefeller), some ant facts are worth knowing.
So, how do ant communities do it?
1. Strong leadership
Ant communities are headed by a queen or queens, whose function in life is to lay thousands of eggs that will ensure the survival of the colony. Workers (the ants typically seen by humans) are wingless females that never reproduce, but instead, forage for food, care for the queen’s offspring, work on the nest, protect the community, and perform many other duties. When the queen of the colony dies, the colony can only survive a few months. Queens are rarely replaced and the workers are not able to reproduce. The lesson;
Without strong and clear leadership – failure is imminent!
2. Communicate & cooperate
Ants are social insects which form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. Ants communicate and cooperate by using chemicals (pheromones) that can alert others to danger or lead them to a promising food source. The lesson;
Nothing can succeed without clear communication and cooperation.
Carnegie Trust UK have published their second report looking at loneliness and social isolation and the impact of kinder communities. The report finds kindness is a necessary ingredient of successful communities. However there are major factors that get in the way of engaging and encouraging kindness both in individuals and organisations. Read the report here
Welcome to the second of Kincardine and Mearns local community plan priorities.
Communities, both place-based and people sharing a common identity or affinity, have a vital contribution to make to health and wellbeing. Community life, social connections, supportive relationships and having a voice in local decisions are all factors that underpin good health, however, inequalities persist and too many people experience the effects of social exclusion or lack social support. Participatory approaches directly address the marginalisation and powerlessness caused by entrenched health inequalities.
The assets within communities, such as the skills and knowledge, social networks, local groups and community organisations, are building blocks for good health. Many people in Kincardine & Mearns already contribute to community life through volunteering, community leadership and activism. Community empowerment occurs when people work together to shape the decisions that influence their lives and health and begin to create a more equitable society. This is not about a DIY approach to health; there are important roles for NHS, local government and their partners in creating safe and supportive places, fostering resilience and enabling individuals and communities to take more control of their health and lives.
Over the next few weeks we will share with you some stories about wellbeing and what it means to a variety of people. Look out for our first blog next week.We hope you enjoy