Possobilities is based in Possil, a deprived crime-ridden area of Glasgow, Scotland. Established in 1984 as a community led initiative, the organisation is now a vital lifeline offering respite, support and confidence to disabled and vulnerable residents in the local community. Possobilities currently employs 31 paid staff members and over 50 volunteers. An essential focus of the organisation is to promote independent living, by offering access to resources, training, support, companionship and employment opportunities. Possobilities gives members confidence to grow in a safe environment at their own pace while also encouraging them to try new things. Possibilities is working to break down barriers within the community to ensure members are given every opportunity to achieve the best they can. Anyone is eligible to utilise the facilities, referrals also come through collaboration with social work. It is an all-embracing facility where inclusion is the priority catering for all disabilities and ages.
Glasgow Caledonian University
Since the 1970s, Possilpark has been the most deprived area in the United Kingdom, with the lowest life expectancy of all neighborhoods in Glasgow (the age of 66) (Carrell, 2016). 10% of local people are unemployed, compared to 7% in Glasgow as a whole, and nearly half of the local population (48%) have no qualifications (Glasgow City Council, 2017). A relatively high percentage of people are also limited by a disability (Glasgow City Council, 2017). These are the factors that initiated the development of Possobilities. The centre manger Melanie recalls, “35 years ago there was definitely a need for safe, accessible facilities for disabled community members”.
Possobilities has grown significantly over the past 30 years and is now regarded as one of Glasgow’s most respected voluntary organisations. Originally offering very limited services, they now offer numeracy, literacy, money management, healthy eating and cooking classes, as well as various social clubs, sensory room and a vibrant community café facility. Furthermore, they offer various youth programmes with help from the Big Lottery, Children in Need and Glasgow City Council. Melanie notes, “these youth programmes allow children with complex needs, who may face financial, emotional or physical barriers, to learn new skills and socialise in a safe environment”. These services often carry a very low charge or are free of charge in order to be accessible and inclusive.
The main innovation is the Cook N Care initiative established in 2006, a registered social enterprise serving the North of Glasgow. Melanie notes that, “the social enterprise was established after demand for the service was recognized within the community”. Cook N Care provides a nutritious hot meal delivery and care service for vulnerable, elderly and disabled people in their own homes. The service is accessible to anyone, including disabled, elderly or temporary ill health. Run by volunteers this is the only hot meal service of its kind in Glasgow. Volunteers deliver and plate the homemade food for the service users at a cost of £4 for three courses; significantly cheaper than other alternatives. A free breakfast club and lunch clubs are also available across North Glasgow with the aim of ending hunger within the community. These lunch clubs allow community members to socialise and enjoy a healthy nutritious meal. The meals are prepared fresh daily by volunteers within Possibilities café facility. Apart from offering social benefits to the community, Cook N Care also offers work experience and skill development for the volunteers. The initiative works in conjunction with the Steamie, Possobilities' laundry service. Designed to support individuals who may struggle with large or soiled laundry items, they offer a collection and drop off service for £11 for one large bag. All of Possobilities' innovations have a social focus with an aim to end isolation, improve community wellbeing and offer opportunity for the residents of Possilpark.
Founding member Ronnie Rodden (OBE) identified a need for suitable facilities for disabled people. During the 1980s, the local community centre Possilpoint was the original place for disabled people to get together, however, the facilities proved to be unsuitable for the diverse range of disabilities of centre users. Concerns around safety and accessibility proved to be a catalyst for change in the area to offer improved facilities for disabled users to be in safe suitable accommodation. The location chosen was next to the community centre, in the heart of the community for ease of accessibility. Through previous networking events and working alongside the local council gathering knowledge from various sources, this would ensure that the new facilities were suitable for all disabled users. Objectives of the centre were to be more inclusive, provide training and help users gain employment or volunteering opportunities. Equipping users with vital life skills, experience, confidence and employability attributes while working in collaboration with local and wider businesses ensured the success of the centre and encouraged new members to come along too.
Possobilities is continually growing and striving to positively impact the lives of more and more people with disabilities. The organisation is currently aiding around 375 centre users per week. However, it is estimated that the indirect impact of the centre is around 1000 people, due to the Cook N Care service.
Possobilities contributes to the achievement of five United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) – Goal 2: Zero Hunger, Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities as well as Goal 12: Responsible Production and Consumption.
Contribution to the achievement of zero hunger and good health and well-being is made by the provision of free breakfast clubs and affordable meals. Furthermore, the social enterprise offers the centre users a 12 week cooking course teaching people how to prepare healthy meals and shop for the required produce. These services are much needed in an area that is known for its poor health and malnutrition.
Literacy, numeracy, money management and computer classes contribute towards the United Nations Quality education goal, allowing people with disabilities to improve their quality of life.
Volunteer opportunities enhance disabled people skills sets. Possobilities are integrating these people into the job market and empowering their social and economic inclusion. This contributes towards the achievement of reduced inequalities.
Finally, the organisation is trying to reduce its negative environmental impact by recycling its waste and reducing the amount of paper used, thus contributing towards the achievement of responsible consumption and production goal.
The organisation has invested in the community through the provision of a community centre. Melanie stressed, “Cook N Care has made a surplus of £36,000. This will be reinvested into the business through employing an additional kitchen assistant and obtaining extra transport for the food delivery service”. She further stated that, “Possobilities made an £80,000 turnover last year and that every penny was being spent on the business”. Melanie also reported that, “the key to the success of the business is to tailor its services to meet the needs of each individual. The staff in the centre develop relationships with the individuals and have gained recognition amongst the community for these efforts”.
Further expansion plans include expansion of current facilities and a gym that is currently under construction to enable the business to promote healthier living. Melanie hopes that the organisation can further develop the Cook N Care menu through offering healthier food options for the centre users. One of the goals of the organisation is to open a charity shop in Glasgow to help raise more money for the centre. Possobilities receives the majority of funding from Glasgow City Council. However, as 67% from that is distributed via wages, it is not sufficient to keep the centre afloat. “We still have to make up an extra £90,000 to keep the place open, so we have to apply for funding to private trusts”, Melanie notes. She further continues, “We keep private investors interested by showing them how their funding has impacted the lives of the centre users”, therefore keeping stakeholders informed. Melanie believes that the key to staff satisfaction is that, “the centre is a fun place to work and the staff get fulfilment from helping people in the community”.
Melanie notes that having the center in Possilpark has changed the north of Glasgow and peoples’ perceptions of disability, “These days people are more accepting of the use of mobility scooters, whereas before it would have been embarrassing’’. The organisation has created a community spirit within Possilpark. This can be particularly experienced during fundraisers that take place regularly within the community, also during the award shows that the organisation’s members attend. Receiving an award brings a sense of achievement for every member of the organisation.
The innovation has an enormous impact on its employees as well as centre users, providing a positive environment where people want to go to work. Staff feel empowered as they are giving back to the community by helping center members and building special relationships with them.
Furthermore, Melanie notes, “older people who are now in their 50s could have probably developed further if they had the opportunities that Possobilities offer today”. Thus, the organisation offers volunteer opportunities to any centre user who wishes to further develop their skills. With the skills gained through volunteering in the centre, people can then progress to college and receive qualifications. Often these same people will get employed by the social enterprise, but for those for whom there is not enough employment spaces, Possobilities will help to obtain employment in one of their partner organisations. This way the organization is enhancing peoples’ employability and integrating them into employment. A great example of this are the two young adults (one wheelchair bound) who have succeeded in obtaining apprenticeships in different organisations. Possobilities is also encouraging their partner organisations to make adjustments for disabled applicants. This promotes much needed employment in the local area
Water saving for Possobilities is quite difficult due to every day kitchen operations. However, the organisation is trying to minimise its negative environmental impact by recycling their waste and encouraging its members to become more familiar with the use of computers, thus reducing the amount of paper they use.
Melanie Fyfe, Manager
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Possilpoint, Glasgow, GB
Business Website: http://possobilities.org.uk/
Year Founded: 1984
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Over the last 33 years, Possobilities has developed into one of the most respected voluntary organisations in Glasgow. They have a proven track record of offering support and respite to disabled and vulnerable people in our community. They promote independent living, give members with disabilities access to the resources they require and support them to grow, learn and develop so that they can achieve their goals within society rather than feel isolated in their own homes. The purpose-built centre at Possobilities gives them confidence to grow in a safe environment at their own pace while also encouraging them to try new things.Members come from every age group and have disabilities in various forms and we understand that disability can limit opportunities. They go out of our way to break down those barriers. Possobilities is able to offer support through social groups and community-led assets in a welcoming environment. This allows us to give our members what they need to allow them to participate in activities and social circles.