“Working in the community, with the community, for the community”
The community identified that there were a number of social problems in the area that desperately needed addressing, the mains ones were: health, access to services and unemployment. ‘Getting Better Together’ (GBT) created this innovation to solve these problems and in turn they cover the vast majority of the SDG’s for example:
Glasgow Caledonian University
The innovation itself is based on the community of Fortissat Ward, a cluster of small villages in the North Lanarkshire area. The community were their own catalyst for change. There were a huge number of problems in the area which were initially identified as:
They provide a large number of services that are free of charge, for everyone of all ages, and everyone is welcome;
As well as these services, they have community transport service, a community garden, they also do a lot of work at the local prison and staff members from the job centre provide drop-in classes once a week.
A snapshot of some of the services they provide.
“It came from the community themselves because they were identifying that there were real issues in their community and nothing was changing, and nothing was happening for them, there wasn’t enough investment coming into the area to deal with the issues that were happening.”
The initial problems in the area were identified: “obesity levels were the highest in Scotland, people that were dying from cancer, people accessing services was limited as well because a lot of places were closing down”. As a result of these problems, poverty levels in the area were extremely high and unfortunately, causes a vicious cycle of poor general health. “One of the established areas we work in, 20% of the children are living in poverty”. The community struggled to fix these problems on their own, so June stepped in with her innovation idea and applied for funding to set up GBT Shotts and grew the organisation to what it is today.
The Original Iron Works, Cummin’s Engine Factory and Hartwood Hospital were all huge employers in the local area but they all closed down and left most people unemployed with little to no opportunity to access a new job. “So all these places started to close so the health of the people started to depreciate and what was happening, so it also meant there’s high unemployment in the area.”
Due to all the mentioned factors it was decided to start Getting Better Together. “This was one of the areas that they decided that they needed to bring an organisation into to work with communities and try to do something about their health and well being at the time.”
GBT offer the following services: cafe, food co-op, exercise classes, Job Centre drop in, community garden, community transport and support at HMP Shotts.
The short term effects that these services have on the local community can be that they are improving nutrition, with the cafe and food co-op, and improving overall health and fitness with the exercise classes. They also provided classes for children in order to teach them about different fruits, to encourage them to make healthier food choices. The job centre drop in allows for people to access the help and information that they would not previously had. The community transport bridges the gap of poor public transport, allowing people to access services that they would otherwise struggle with.
The long terms effects that the food co-op, cafe and exercise classes have on the local community are that obesity rates are now lowered among other diseases and illnesses due to people having a greater awareness of healthy living and eating. The families that are involved with prisoners at HMP Shotts will have a better connection with their friends and family. The work at HMP Shotts and the implementation of the Solihull program ensures that the child receives the support they need and has a continued relationship with their parents who are imprisoned. The long term effect of community transport is that people will be able to access the services such as appointments (hospital/ doctor/ dentist etc) and their employment which increases the general health and decreases poverty levels.
The innovation was started by June Vallance, in the beginning she was the only person doing the work, they then progressed to 3 members of staff and now they currently employ 33 members of staff and 62 volunteers. This allows them to provide the number of services that they have with ease and they are able to run them regularly.
When GBT first started off they opened up a food co-op, and “in the first year we sold about £80,000 worth of fruit and veg because this was them being able to access fresh fruit and veg.” Getting Better Together is not a ‘for profit’ business however, they do rely on money coming in to keep them afloat and to continue to provide and improve upon the services they run.
In the beginning the only services that they ran included; the food co-op, the community cafe, community transport, and a small number of the wellbeing classes. Without the revenue from the cafe and food co-op, as well as a growing number of grants, the organisation could not have progressed to be what it is today without the community and their input, but also the support from them as a business. The organisation now runs a vast number of services in addition to what they started with, e.g. support services with HMP Shotts, Job Centre drop-in, after-school clubs, a growing number of wellbeing classes for all ages.
“What we wanted to do was to local businesses ways of selling produce and try to encourage people to eat healthier so they changed their structure and the type of fruit and veg they were bringing in, so it was more available to people in the area”. Getting Better Together encourages local businesses to sell fresh, local produce as well, meaning that they food co-op was not taking away from the other local shops but instead, empowering them.
The entire innovation of GBT is to empower and improve local communities therefore, everything that they do must be a benefit to society and in particular the local community in which it directly affects. "Working with communities in North Lanarkshire ensuring that local people have access to, and are involved in the design and delivery of services that improve their health and well being".
“We looked at what we called social prescribing project. It's how we can connect people to do social things. So, rather than get a prescription from the doctor for instance, for antidepressants, they'll just write the prescription.”
GBT has worked with organisations Scotland wide and with 10 organisations in Northern Ireland to create community projects that can work towards the problems that people within the community are facing. The idea for this is to encourage individuals to instead of turning to temporary fixes such as a prescription from the GP, to look for a more sustainable solution. One of the projects as part of this initiative was the restoration of the village hall. The village hall was to be closed, but the community fought to keep it because it was a part of their identity. Social prescribing is all about giving individuals within the community an opportunity to take ownership of what takes place in their communities and to be a part of growing and sustaining these projects, whist also gaining the appropriate support where it is needed.
GBT’s volunteers use their own cars to take members of the community to hospital appointments that they otherwise would not be able to make. GBT are aiming to make the company more environmentally friendly and promote clean air, to achieve this goal they have applied for grants for electric cars to use for the community transport.
June Vallance, Executive Manager
Keep this story going! Share below!
Shotts, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, GB
Business Website: http://shottshealthyliving.com/on.html
Year Founded: 2000
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
The organisation was set up originally as a healthy living centre, it was created by a fund of £750,00 started by the Big Lottery, which was made up to £1million by NHS Lanarkshire. It was created for the purpose of improving the health and wellbeing of the local communities. Over the years they have expanded to empower the local community through their services which are catered for everyone from 'cradle to grave'. These services are run by the community themselves for the benefit of each other.