Supporting and sustaining community projects
The ALLIANCE Self Management Fund is open for applications! Mark Gallagher, Recovery Enterprises Scotland, shares the powerful impact of the fund on the creation of the Foundations Hub.
How much do we actively support and sustain community projects when clearly demonstrating their worth?
Recovery Enterprises Scotland is an East Ayrshire community of interest company. We have a vision of supporting the needs of individuals, families, and members of the local community who are looking to sustain recovery from alcohol, drugs, offending, homelessness & mental health issues. Having my own lived experience of social challenges and stigma, helped shape the ethos and approach of the organisation.
The Foundations Recovery Café
While our vision is well meaning, and the words and intentions aspirational, it is important to stop and consider what is required to achieve this vision? What are the collective responsibilities involved in ‘doing things differently’? Despite submitting proposals to local funders, attempting to mirror effective approaches from neighbouring areas, and offering solutions to stark inequalities, sadly there was no support offered. Add to this that it is a particularly challenging time to get a community project operational! However, I will never forget those offering support in all we aspired to achieve.
A peer approach
The Health and Social Care ALLIANCE Scotland Self Management Fund awarded us a £30,000 grant in September 2019 for an 18 month period. This enabled us to start the Foundations Recovery Café, the first in East Ayrshire.
We held a community engagement event in August 2019 in response to local drug deaths. This event gathered essential feedback and gauged interest from marginalised groups becoming involved in recovery activities. There were clear gaps identified in how the needs of people in recovery were supported. Many people told us they were not engaging with services as they felt judged, stigmatised, and many spoke of being subjected to negative experiences.
Prior to launching the Foundations Café in November 2019, a 6-week volunteer induction programme supported skill development, boundaries, self-management, confidence, and team building. This included input from external partners covering Naloxone and Overdose; Suicide Prevention; Adult Support and Protection and Child Protection; Catering Skills and Hospitality. The pool of 20 café volunteers were mainly people in recovery from addiction and mental illness. It was inspiring to see people become alive with hope and purpose as their confidence grew and skills and relationships developed. We had brought together a passionate group wishing to reach and support their communities through engagement in a social setting. A peer support and inspirational approach challenging stigma and discrimination where people ‘written off’ were making a valuable contribution.
Adapting to need
These opportunities, connections and supports are key to preventing future demand on acute services and people falling through systemic gaps. This is the actual ‘spend to save agenda’; yet what resources are aligned upstream?
We were saddened, Foundations Café closed in March 2020, due to the pandemic, particularly as the momentum was growing, having served 900 meals in the five months since launch. Despite a challenging two years, the team never stopped during lockdown, recognising the increased level of need and the challenges people were facing. We realigned our approach with community outreach food provision, and opened our first premises, the Foundations Hub, in April 2021. There is no doubt the Foundations Recovery Café was a steppingstone to community inclusion, both for volunteers and people accessing support. Many remaining involved in our community provisions or moving on to various employment. Something many thought impossible before joining the project.
We are eternally grateful for the ALLIANCE Self Management Fund award, as none of this would have been achievable without it. We are proud to demonstrate the significant return on investment and continue to offer innovative approaches; yet we are still reliant on national grant funding and hope for a future where valued community projects are supported and sustained.
The second round of the Health and Social Care ALLIANCE Self Management Fund is open for applications. Third sector and community organisations in Scotland can apply for a grant of up to £60,000 for up to two years to support people living with long term conditions, people living with disabilities and unpaid carers to self manage. Closes 9am on Monday 27 June 2022.