Business supporting people with disabilities into the labour market. Recognising that there was a lack of opportunity for people with disabilities within Glasgow to engage in and contribute to their their local community.
Glasgow Caledonian University
Students of WUG are the adults with special needs as well as being workers. Nursery Needs is a branch of WUG, which sells a range of nursery equipment, refurbished prams, children’s toys, clothing and books, with everything sold at a reasonable cost. Students refurbish and clean all the products the organisation gets as donations to a high standard, ready to resell in the shop. It was founded in 2006 and with the business wanting to increase their organisational capabilities, the business decided to move to a bigger shop in December 2016, a much busier high street area. This area is Falkirk, “The ‘Wee’ Shop.” The shop provides supported employment with the end goal being able to reach full-time employment, see (Figure.1) The Wee shop sells plants and garden supplies.
Regular customers were upset to see the organisation move due to the good track record. Transport links between Kilsyth and Falkirk are available (Kilsyth is just 30 minutes from Falkirk on the train.) The organisation still does collections from Kilsyth and picks up donations. This allows the charity to become more sustainable and realise that this is part of the journey, changing and developing. This also allowed recruitment of trainees, volunteers, and supportive staff from the Falkirk area and helps build on the skills and ties they have.
The Wee Shop supports 6 people in paid employment, while at the same time providing a valuable resource to local people in the Kilsyth area, in addition to diverting 40 tonnes of surplus nursery equipment from landfill. The Cybertill (a cloud-based electronic point of sale system) enables them to recoup Gift Aid from HMRC and has been a fantastic investment, helping take Nursery closer to financial stability through Gift Aid. Non-profit organisations can reclaim an extra 25 percent in tax on every eligible taxpayer in the UK. The offices within the Palacerigg Country Park are also rent-free, which reduces the organisation's operational costs.
When Ann McCulloch decided she would like a change in occupation, she wanted a to pursue a career working with adults with special needs. After recognising that there was a lack of opportunity for people with disabilities within Glasgow to engage within their local community, Ann decided to gather a group of local activists and set up a steering committee. It was about helping these people to become more independent. Through local contacts, the group found out that there was a high instance of suicide in the Inland Revenue offices in Cumbernauld. A reciprocal benefit was established that if they were to help bring the two groups together with mental health and special need issues, it would essentially enhance their personal development. One of the issues that the disabled and mental health face is the rate of suicide within the Cumbernauld area and this was why Ann wanted to help. According to the NHS Health and Wellbeing Profile in 2013, the suicide rate of people with mental health in North Lanarkshire in 2011 was at 54 people.
Gardening is well known for being therapeutic and this is where Ann could bring the two groups together, essentially leading to the birth of Watch Us Grow (WUG). The garden offers 30 places (24 funded through a Service Level Agreement with North Lanarkshire Council, the other 6 where people access the service using their personal budgets.)
“Watch us Grow” overall impact on: -
* Students / Supported Employees (mixture of both mental issues and special needs) – Learning new competencies and life skills, gaining confidence and keeping active.
* Carers – Provides employability for staff and students. The carers supervise the adults with special needs.
* Community – Better equipped families from low-income households.
* North Lanarkshire Council (Learning and Leisure) – Contributing toward its aims of supporting local communities and skills development.
* North Lanarkshire Council (Environmental Services) – Local community more environmentally conscious and contributing towards NLC targets for diversion of waste from landfill.
* North Lanarkshire Council (Community Development) – Funding toward the aims of assisting community projects.
* Scottish Government Third Sector Resilience Fund – Contributes toward its aims of helping third sector organisations who are experiencing the impact of the recession through seeing an increased demand for their services or experiencing cash flow difficulties.
With the surplus that Watch Us Grow has achieved, it has allowed them to expand operations in the past 12 months. In addition, the development of increased sports opportunities and the garden offering accredited training opportunities has enhanced their personal development as well as their work ethic. Furthermore, due to the opening of the new shop in Falkirk, students, carers, volunteers and staff successfully campaigned in the spring of the last year to ensure the support continues and to increase awareness of the organisation.
The organisation has also received several awards and the ‘Wee Shop’ opened in the spring of the year. In addition to these, they have had several staff changes, have welcomed several new students, and have enjoyed the support of several new volunteers. Work with local schools and young volunteers has been particularly positive, as are the relationships developed with several new organisations keen to support the work.
* Improved health and wellness of Watch Us Grow to not only students but also support for the families for ‘rest bite’ – better way of life.
* Achievement of the recommended NHS minimum exercise levels (150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity) Students/supported employees are benefiting from this as this exercise brings added benefits to their lifestyles such as increased mobility. Also an improvement in mental health from being active.
* Social - Offers students better quality of life, improved independence with the chance for recruitment, gain relevant skills and gives these adults the chance to be involved in social situations to build upon which in turn enhances their social skills - 21 students/supported employees reported increased self-confidence; 4 carers reported that WUG allows them to continue in their caring role.
* ‘Thriving and Outstanding’ award, Finalist Lanarkshire Business Excellence Award. This recognition enhances the students' attitudes and social enterprise and helps generate funding and enhance the reputation.
* Delivery of value for money environmental improvements within the local community and recycling. Increased recycling about 40 tonnes a year and more since the shop has moved to Falkirk and expanded - 30 environmental improvements delivered. 18.7 tonnes of books, nursery equipment, furniture, and clothing through Nursery Needs recycled in the local community.
* Reduced costs to NHS, local government and the community; 4 carers report that they no longer have access to paid care support; 5 students/supported employees achieved the recommended NHS minimum exercise levels (benefit to NHS); 7 carers reported that WUG positively impacts their physical health; 6 carers reported that WUG positively impacts their mental health; 1 volunteer reported smoking cessation; 1 volunteer reported a reduction in mental health service consumption. Due to organisations such as WUG these adults have become more independent, therefore they believe these adults are more than capable to cope with this aspect on their own.
Ann McCulloch, General Manager
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Business Website: https://watchusgrow.org.uk/
Year Founded: 1999
Number of Employees: 11 to 50