Community renewal in action - four successful projects report back

Cabinet this week heard how four East Ayrshire projects made the most of funding designed to help communities recover n the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic

In March 2021, the UK Government  announced the creation of a £220 million Community Renewal Fund in Scotland. As part of the move to the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, it invited bids from  community projects which promoted investment in:

  • Skills
  • Local business
  • Communities and place
  • Supporting people into employment 

With a rigorous bidding process, and conditions about contributing to Net Zero targets, achieving local economic growth in line with national ambitions,  and helping people most in need, the council worked with voluntary, community sector and its partner organisations to support four successful bids. 

Sharing a total pot of nearly £1.3m were:

  • Support to  Engage  (STEP)  – Auchinleck  Community  Development  Initiative (£85,253)
  • Community Re-use Hub – New Cumnock Development Trust (£73,860)
  • All in East Ayrshire – ENABLE-led Consortium (£445,327)
  • Leisure at the Heart of Every Community – East Ayrshire Leisure Trust (£668,442) 

Helping people who experience barriers to employment, education and training living in the rural areas around Cumnock and Auchinleck, the STEP programme helped people who were unemployed, on low incomes, ex-offenders and those with mental health and wellbeing issues. 

By taking support to the communities, reducing travel time and costs, the team was able to help local residents with job seeking while tackling issues such as:

  • benefits advice
  • cost of living crisis (fuel and food poverty)
  • addiction support
  • volunteering requests
  • social isolation and loneliness
  • lack of connectivity (transport and ICT connections) 

During the year, the project helped nearly 100 people, who reported that as a result of the help they got from STEP, their horizons had broadened and they had achieved new milestones in their lives. 

Re-Use Hub

In New Cumnock, The New Cumock Development Trust used the funding to establish a Re-Use Hub in New Cumnock Railway Station building. As a viable social enterprise it develops and creates sustainable jobs and functions as a welcoming community space for people to come together, share and learn new skills and socialise. 

At the same time it helps foster a carbon neutral agenda, focusing on repair and re-use of bikes, textiles and shoes. 

In general, project staff, the trainees and volunteers were very positive about the Reuse Hub project, describing it as ‘amazing’ and ‘a great project’ or ‘very successful’. 

One volunteer said, ‘Everyone at the Trust has been really good to me, it's really supportive and I enjoy it.’ 

Two other staff members said the taking part in the project had given them ‘a purpose’  and  there  was  a  strong  commitment  among  all  involved  to  the  environmental and social ethos of the Reuse Hub. 

Building on the success of this project, the Trust will now focus on developing the Trotters building, which, in phase two, would become the Re-use hub’s permanent home. This second phase has been successful in winning investment through the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF). 

All in EA

All in All East Ayrshire (EA), delivered by ENABLE Scotland with a consortium of seven partners was an innovative supported employment project. 

It offered a comprehensive, end to end employment service through one to one and group work. 

With a five stage approach to break down the barriers for those who find it hard to find and keep jobs, participants were able to choose from a package of interventions  including sport, outdoor pursuits, work academies and traditional employability support.

 265 people took part in the project, with an impressive 92% progressing into employment and 89% gaining a qualification. 

Feedback from both participants and employers was extremely positive, with everyone feeling that these new partnership working arrangements helped deliver a consistent approach to achieve the project’s goals. 

Leisure at the heart of every community

Finally East Ayrshire Leisure used their funding to meet their needs, identified in a 2020 survey, which showed that while many areas in East Ayrshire are well served by leisure facilities, some are not. To meet objectives of making sure leisure is at the heart of every community,  the  funding was used to establish four mobile units equipped to deliver a variety of activities. 

The Festival Bus delivers cultural programmes, events and workshops celebrating local heritage, culture and greenspace. 

The Branching Out Bus supports the Branching Out programme, an SVQ3 qualification in rural skills designed and delivered in partnership with Ayrshire College  and CAMHS to bring rural skills into green spaces and provide opportunities for young people with mental health and confidence issues. 

The Digital Communities Bus contributes to the “No one left behind Scotland” project supported by  SLIC  and Scottish Council for Volunatary Organisations to help people become digitally connected.  Offering workshops in coding and activities for young people, the bus will also provide a safe environment for people to work and study. 

The Activity on the Go Bus has been developed in conjunction with East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, taking a holistic approach to making positive lifestyle changes for people suffering from chronic disease and illness. By extending existing lifestyle activities currently offered in seven centres, more people in rural areas now benefit from the activities, coaching and support on offer. 

All four buses have so far exceeded expectations for popularity and use, proving that taking these facilities to the people really can help enhance lifestyle and opportunities for those who hadn’t previously been able to benefit. 

Commenting on the success of these projects Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader, East Ayrshire Council said: “These projects are all an amazing testament to what can be done when we work in partnership with our communities, sharing expertise, local knowledge and ambition and pursuing a will to make life easier and build community wealth. 

“We know that the key to success with any project is working with our communities to identify issues and come up with solutions by and for the people who will benefit. 

“Being tasked with putting together funding bids and establishing projects within such a short time has been massively challenging for all involved, but it’s very satisfying to see how when funding is available, people can work together to create well integrated and incredibly successful solutions which fulfil so many of our ambitions. 

 “All these projects are eco-friendly, cut isolation, provide life changing opportunities and enhance the wellbeing and prosperity of the people and places where they operate. It’s community wealth building from the ground up and an inspiration for us all to see what can be achieved by communities and teams with a passion for making the world a better place.”