Empowering Communities Fund receives £20m boost

Alex Neil MSP visits sensory Garden at Oakburn Park. LtoR:  Alex Neil MSP, Ann Conlan (Manager Bield Oakburn Park)
Alex Neil MSP with manager Ann Conlan at the sensory garden at Oakburn Park

The Scottish Government has pledged a £20 million investment into helping communities tackle poverty and inequalities and take forward regeneration in their areas on their own terms.

To date, hundreds of projects which are making change happen in disadvantaged communities through training, employment, healthy eating and volunteering opportunities have received a boost through the Empowering Communities Fund which was established earlier this year.

Announcing the investment, Alex Neil, cabinet secretary for social justice, communities and pensioners’ rights, said that protecting funding for the initiative in the Draft Budget for 2016- 2017, signalled the Scottish Government’s commitment to giving even more power to communities.

Mr Neil said: “Investing in community-led regeneration is a priority for this government as we recognise communities are the ones best placed to address inequalities and identify how their areas can be improved.

“From food growing and healthy eating projects, to owning buildings and training and employment schemes, hundreds of communities have already benefitted from positive change through the Empowering Communities Fund.

“This £20m investment reinforces our commitment to giving communities a stronger voice in the decisions that matter to them. It will also help us work with community groups and give them the tools to deliver long-term solutions that tackle poverty.

“This investment supports the aims of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act which will be implemented over the next year. It will give people more powers to take over land and buildings and is a momentous step in our drive to increase participation in local decision making.”

Mr Neil recently visited Bield Housing and Care’s Oakburn Park Day Centre project in Milngavie, which benefitted from funding through the Empowering Communities Fund this year.

The project received £75,000 to develop the Community Dementia Services project which promotes social inclusion, health and well-being through the provision of IT training programmes, movement and art classes, the creation of a sensory garden and evening dining services for the people they support and their carers.

Since receiving the grant in May, Bield have launched new services and enhanced existing ones within their 5,300 properties including IT training programmes, an evening support service, restaurant services, movement and art classes, and a sensory garden.

Mr Neil said: “The garden and bistro at Oakburn Park is a great example of the holistic range of support being provided for vulnerable people.

“Older people are an asset to Scotland, and we want them to flourish in our communities. Not only does this project at Oakburn create a space for older people to come and enjoy, it also helps to reduce isolation and contribute to them living well later in life.

“The People and Communities Fund is enabling Bield Housing & Care to help support the delivery of complementary services at Oakburn Park, as well as additional services elsewhere in Scotland including the delivery of an IT training programme to enable older people to use new technology, together with weekly movement and art classes to promote social inclusion, health and well-being.”

With the funding provided Bield have expanded an innovative restaurant style service at Oakburn Park from once a month to twice a month. ‘Wee Betty’s Bistro’ allows people with any form of memory impairment to celebrate a special occasion with family & friends by enjoying a fine dining experience.

This is particularly important during the winter months as it ensures the people cared for by the leading care and housing provider continue to have the option to engage with others in safe, social situations and since the funding was received in May, 84 people have benefitted from the service.

Bield have also been able to encourage tenants at Oakburn Park to be more involved in outdoor activities by using the funding to create a bespoke sensory garden. This highly accessible space has been specially designed for people living with dementia, but can be enjoyed by people at all stages of life irrespective of any mobility or visual impairments.

Kevin Rowe, fundraiser at Bield, said: “Bield have hugely benefited from the £75,000 received through the People and Communities Fund – it has helped us enhance and enrich the lives of people who use our services across Scotland.

“The grant is the second largest we have received in our 40 years of providing quality housing and care to older people in Scotland and the reality of this funding is that it will improve so many lives across the whole country.

“There are many individuals at all of our developments who work very hard to enable such positive projects and there was a lot of excitement generated with the announcement of this funding.

“It is vitally important that older people in this country have access to fulfilling and beneficial projects and this is very much in keeping with Bield’s ‘free to be’ ethos.

“We are very grateful to Mr Neil for taking the time out to visit Oakburn Park and we are delighted he has seen the positive impact the funding has had.”


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