community

Plastic is suffocating our Planet, what we throw away in on our street ends up in the ocean and then returns to poison us and our environment.

Young volunteers taking part in group discussions about the problems of discarded plastics

What we learnt from the Canal Clear ups

Terrible truths about plastics

A recurring theme throughout the Canal clear ups was how our littering actions locally actually impact upon the world globally and then come back to affect the quality of our lives locally. A big circle of environmental damage and pollution that will affect every one of us in our daily lives. The young people who took part in the workshop sessions at Tamfourhill Community Hub came up with highly creative ideas about how we can start to reduce the damage that we are causing by our constant use and dependency upon plastics.  Top of the list is the need to get rid of single use plastics like drinks cups and juice bottles and we need to stop them getting into our food chain through their pollution of animal habitats. One of the groups suggested that we ned to start using bioplastic, made from plants and therefore will break down naturally once we have finished using it, edible plastics was another suggestion so that fish can eat them safely once they end up in the seas. Governments need to get more involved and ban certain products like plastic cups and carrier bags can be taxed so they discourage people from throwing them away after using them which will also generate more cash to help tackle the climate emergency and the worldwide plastic problems. Young people felt that not enough people knew about the danger and consequences of what all this plastic was doing to the planet and so we had to raise awareness and having days like the canal clear up days was a really good way of highlighting the issues with the wider community. The biggest and most consistent message was that we must stop people dropping the litter in the first place, we must find ways of discouraging this destructive behaviour. The journey of a piece of dropped plastic like an Iron Bru bottle thrown into the canal was discussed and the process by which it ends up in the sea as it travels through our water system. Once in the sea it is then eaten by fish that we end up eating in our fish suppers, so it therefore comes back and poisons us through digesting the dangerous chemicals derived from the plastic which are now in the fish.  Here are some of the terrible facts and concerning realities of what plastic is doing to our environment:

There is an island of Plastic rubbish on our ocean which is the size of France

The amount of plastics discarded in our oceans contributes to global warming

The Plastic theme was very evident at both the canal and towpath litter picks, the most frequent litter that the groups removed were plastic bottles and discarded drinks cans, these items were by far the largest and most significant type of litter that was being collected.  I was again reminded of the scourge of thrown away plastic when I met up later in the week with the community volunteers who were taking part in the first if our monthly community litter picks. A big thank you to the group that worked in the sunshine, along Carmuirs Ave, around Elizabeth Crescent and clearing the back courts along the Glasgow Road. One of the volunteers highlighted to me the damage that leaving plastic does to our wildlife and animals and she described some horrific injuries which were  often fatal that are being inflicted upon hedgehogs due to discarded plastics, and I am therefore keen to promote the work of the Forth Hedgehog Hospital and their rescue line : 07815914912 or contact them at: queries@hedgehoghospital.org.uk, I would also point out this can also happen to your family pet, plastics are getting into every bit of our lives, the animals around us and the food we eat.  

Our plants and animals are getting poisoned by our discarded plastics and then are entering into our food chain

The Canal Clear ups will be operational monthly from May to August, there will be open community sessions , and others targeted at local groups and organisations, if you would like to book a place or find out more then please contact myself John R Hosie at: communitysafetyengager@tamfourhilltro.co.uk or give me a phone on 07391524528 , I have announced in past community safety blogs that Tamfourhill Community Hub is a national clear up Hub through Keep Scotland Beautiful, so our littering gear is always available for booking out, insurance can be provided and the rubbish that you collect will be uplifted by agreement with Falkirk Council ,you just need to contact  myself and complete a borrow form and you are away, and if you would like to be part  of a regular community litter pick, which will also involve an outdoor social activity, then the #tidycleangreen regular monthly litter picks will take place on the  first Thursday of every month at 4pm and to get involved with these then contact myself again at the same numbers. (Next Community litter pick is Thursday May 6th, Election day, location still to be confirmed so please keep out an eye on our Facebook page for further information)

The Community volunteers tackle the Glasgow Road area

Thanks to Ella Gorman at Falkirk Council Waste Services for producing and presenting the above slides on Plastics and world pollution.

community

The Easter Clear up is underway

Last Wednesday saw the first sessions in our Tidy, Clean and Green Easter tour begin with an extraordinarily successful Canal Clear up carried out by local youth groups and an incredible effort by members of the Addictions Support and Counselling Forth valley Recovery Group to clear the grass area next to Camelon Juniors FC Car park of all the discarded rubbish. The efforts of both events were noted and praised by many local people and the feedback on social media has been tremendous, so I would like to use this week’s blog to thank the partners who made this collaboration so successful and who helped demonstrate that when we all work together, we really can make a significant difference and create a community that is Tidy, Clean and Green.  The Canal Clear up has been supported by a generous grant from the Great Places Falkirk Development Fund and their contribution has enabled the participating groups to engage with the social and natural heritage of the canal and make a difference to the safety and quality of this great green space. The day’s activities were delivered and supported by Scottish Canals, TCV Scotland, Falkirk Council Waste Services, St Mungo’s High School achieve group and coordinated as part of our local community safety programme. The Easter school holiday fortnight has a youth focus on the canal whilst other community volunteers are concentrating on the streets and public spaces in Camelon and Tamfourhill. The great news is that the Canal Clear ups will be running monthly from May to August so there will be plenty of spaces and opportunities for local people and their families to get involved.   I will detail in next weeks blog and in our social media platforms how you can get involved and I would encourage you to come and make the most of the experiences, in addition to helping look after our environment, the younger participants are all receiving certificates of volunteering through the Saltire Award and other accreditations are being gained through learning new water-based safety skills.

Please enjoy these photographs from last week’s clear up along with some of the quotes from the participating young people:    

“Something I didn’t realise was just how much litter there actually was”

The youth groups excelled at the workshop session held at Tamfourhill Community Hub when they learnt about the danger of plastics to the environment and how we need to think global but act local.

There was a real social aspect to the days activities , new friendships were made through the different challenges on the canal

I learnt new skills using a paddleboard but I didn’t know that canoes are so hard to paddle

next time I would like my own canoe

I really enjoyed being with my new friend and learning how to use a canoe

And finally a view of the wonderful job the ASC Recovery Group carried out to clear all the litter from the grass area beside Camelon Juniors FC Car park: The difference is night and day

community

The Tidy, Clean and Green Campaign is on tour this Easter

As we approach the Easter holidays, and we anticipate the easing of the COVID restrictions I want to use this week’s community safety blog to highlight a programme of Community safety activities that are scheduled for the next few weeks. The Forth and Clyde Canal from Lock 16 to the Falkirk Wheel will be the focus of two full days of Canal clear up and conservation work and also happening is a series of COVID proofed community litter picks which will all take place as a part of our local Tidy, Clean and Green Campaign.

Lock 16: The centre of this Easters Tidy, Clean and Green activities.

Firstly, through funding that has been awarded by the Falkirk Great Place Project and with the support of Scottish Canals, The Conservation Voluneers and Falkirk Council Waste Services we will be launching the Canal Clear up and conservation Project. Initially this will involve local young people working on the canal over the school holidays, and this will include a water based clear up and a land-based conservation project. The young people will also take part in a workshop on the theme of keeping the community tidy, clean, and green and taking pride in Falkirk.  Every participating young person will have their volunteering rewarded with a Saltire Challenge Award and also by receiving a certificate of achievement from all the organising partner organisations. Central to this Project is to instil a sense of awareness with the young people about the importance of looking after our green spaces and through their own significant contribution to their conservation and improving the litter problems. This will be carried out in a challenging and enjoyable way. New skills will be learnt in watercraft and using paddle boards which will enable all the participants to gain their Paddle Start Award. This has really been a collaboration of a Project and it will continue to run on a monthly basis from May through to August. I will be encouraging local people of all ages and experiences to come and join us for a day’s environmental work on the canal, places will be available for each month and I will advise the local community of how to get involved and book their place by the end of April, so please keep an eye out for this on the Our Place social media and other local forums. Everybody who takes part will have an opportunity to gain certificates for volunteering and several accreditations, they will learn new skills whilst making a positive contribution to their local community.

Pupils from Carmuirs Primary School after their litter pick in December 2020

There will be three community litter picks taking place over the holidays and hopefully local people will be able to see a significant improvement to the chosen target areas. I know one of the challenges is keeping areas clean and tidy after they have been cleared, however there are plans to convert some of these bad grot spots into pop up parks and wildflower meadows and this will provide another opportunity for local activity as we move into spring and summer.  I am incredibly pleased to welcome the Addictions, Support and Counselling services Recovery community and the Cyrenians Navigator project who will be leading on two of the community litter picks which is a welcome development and I believe the beginning of a long-term community safety partnership. The third litter pick has been organised by local volunteers and I look forward to supporting them to clear a a particularly bad problem area in Camelon. I would want to point out that these litter picks all comply with COVID guidelines and will be carried out in pairs and will be fully physically distanced, and for these reasons I am unable to involve any additional people to these activities, however come May and onwards I hope that we are able to have a big community litter pick and outdoor activity at least once every calendar month.

The final action that I want to highlight is the new posters and signage that will be going up around the Camelon and Tamfourhill areas, it has a truly clear message and to remind everyone here is the competition wining drawing from Jaimee who is a Primary 7 pupil at Carmuirs Primary School, please keep an eye out for this character appearing on a rubbish bin near you.   

#tidycleangreen

community

‘Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away … God has cared for these trees, saved them from draught, disease, avalanches … but he cannot save them from fools’

John Muir Son of Scotland, born in Dunbar, father of the American National Parks and probably the world’s first conservationist and ecological campaigner.  The centenary of Johns death was in 2014 when the John Muir Way was opened to mark that anniversary, the walkway goes close by as it travels through Falkirk at https://johnmuirway.org/route/kilsyth-falkirk/ and then onto the next stage at https://johnmuirway.org/route/falkirk-linlithgow

John Muir Pondering on a rock

A quick resume of his childhood takes us onto the beaches of south east Scotland, Dunbar castle and playing high risk dares with his younger brother David. Fathered by a strict disciplinarian lay preacher and facing terrible brutality on a daily basis, John nevertheless developed a spiritual closeness to nature and all things wild.  He was not a great school pupil and was often getting into trouble with the class teacher, skiving off his class work to go on adventures looking for birds’ nests, animals, and rock pools and he is on record as saying, “Dunbar was my teacher”. Years later he was awarded a university degree and was hailed as a genius by many in the USA and certainly by President Roosevelt who responded to John Muirs expeditions and political campaigning by ensuring that the National Parks were established in America and have continued to thrive and develop as a core aspect of American life and culture. Muir knew that we could not take nature for granted and that as human beings we had a responsibility to look after every living thing, our human existence and the natural world were totally intertwined in an absolute whole.   

The Muirs emigrated to Wisconsin in America when John was 10 years old and its somewhat ironic that the father of the American National Parks would not have seen a national park established in his home country of Scotland until 2002 when the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park opened. His biggest realisation was that the trees and forests were the lungs of the world, our source of oxygen and hence the air we breathe. He was a prolific writer and campaigner for the protection of those trees and forests and he demanded their protection from man’s continuous destruction of them for profit. Remember that he was writing and campaigning about these issues over 150 years ago and it is a sad indictment on our lack of vision, action and ongoing abuse of our environment when we declare have to declare in 2021 a worldwide climate emergency.

“I have never seen an unhappy tree”

The keep Camelon and Tamfourhill Tidy, Clean & Green campaign can embrace the spirit of John Muir in two interrelated ways, firstly by looking after our local Green spaces and actively improving and restoring them and secondly through encouraging local people to volunteer in local projects whilst undertaking their own John Muir Award.  

The John Muir Trust was established in 1983 with a view to connecting, protecting, restoring and rewilding land for the common good. “Alongside communities nationwide, we connect people with wild places, campaign to protect those places, and restore and rewild land for the common good.” A key feature then is to work with communities, a theme that myself and Dan touch upon with regularity, the Trust cares for over 600,000 acres of wild land, the vast majority in Scotland and the Trust works with communities to conserve and improve this land. The Trust also supports and coordinates the John Muir Award, which is made up of 4 distinct sections, Discover, Explore, Conserve, and share your experiences about a wild place. A wild place could be a garden, a bit of waste ground, Easter Carmuirs Park, the Forth and Clyde Canal or the woodland around Antoine’s wall, it could even be the old coffin alley that links Brown Street with Glasgow Road in Carmuirs. Anywhere you decide is your wild place counts and then you can carry out your own John Muir Award. There are three levels of Award: The Discovery Award, The Explorers Award and the Conservers Award and each Award will involve you taking part in longer periods of time with more detailed involvement with each of the four sections.  I hope that we can use the John Muir Discovery Award locally and that volunteers, community groups, local schools, families, and individuals can all do a John Muir Award and get themselves a nationally recognised certificate whilst contributing to keeping Camelon and Tamfourhill Tidy, Clean & Green.

You can find out all about the Award here: https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/john-muir-award

There will be opportunities in the near future for local people to start their own John Muir Awards. Firstly, there will be ongoing canal clear ups taking place, initially for young people during the Easter school holidays but thereafter there will be monthly Canal clear ups from May through to August, and I will be looking to support any individuals or local groups that would like to get involved with these clear ups to potentially develop this involvement as part of their own John Muir Award. These Canal clear ups have been supported through funding awarded by the Greater Places Falkirk National Lottery Heritage Project and the active inputs of TCV and Scottish canals. My recent discussions with the Addictions Support Counselling Recovery community and the Cyrenians Navigator Project have agreed that we would offer opportunities for their local volunteers to participate with conservation and outdoor work and this again will provide an ideal opportunity for those volunteers to undertake their own John Muir Award. This is part of the developing Community Safety strategy and will be in align with several of that strategies key outcomes, especially around improving our local green environment, supporting the community’s capacity to address ASB and provide additional opportunities for those in recovery to gain training and qualifications through volunteering.

More information about the John Muir Trust can be found here: https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/john-muir-award

And of possible interest is my own experiences of the River Devon Valley and my journey of exploration with John Muir:

https://www.jhosiesite.wordpress.com/

‘When a man plants a tree, he plants himself. Every root is an anchor, over which he rests with grateful interest, and becomes sufficiently calm to feel the joy of living.’

community

A manifesto for safer communities: March 2021

The Scottish Community Safety Network’s ambition is that Community

Safety is valued and integrated across all relevant policy areas.

We are committed to working to achieve a fairer and more equal

Scotland.

Partnerships & working together will make our communities safer

It is abundantly clear that we have a Scottish General Election just around the corner, it will be a campaign like no other as hustings if they take place at all are likely to be virtual and public engagement is going to be extremely difficult and challenging. I really hope that this election campaign is not reduced to social media and the tabloid press as both platforms often shed more heat onto issues than any light or increased understanding.

Communities have many priorities and as I am writing up an interim community safety strategy for Camelon and Tamfourhill I am very conscious of an array of manifestos that are being published and all with the absolute and honourable intention of influencing the Political Parties in the run up to May’s election. In recent Blogs I have highlighted the Third Sector and their Manifesto for Change and the Walk Back Better from Paths for All and Ramblers Scotland both of immense local relevance. The manifesto of greatest importance however for community safety, and which will have a significant impact upon our local strategy, is the Scottish Community Safety Networks (SCSN) Manifesto for Safer Communities.  Although our local strategy and priorities will be a community led plan and will represent the voice of local people, we also have to acknowledge the wider national context that we operate within and be aware of the central driving forces of the main partners that we will be working with in the coming months.  

Let us consider the key features of the SCSN manifesto and clarify what this will mean locally for the communities of Camelon and Tamfourhill:

  • Poverty: Within Camelon and Tamfourhill we have 3 areas within the 5% poorest of the Social Index of Multiple Deprivation in Scotland, that is unacceptable, and we know that inequality impacts upon our community’s health, life opportunities and performance at school. The manifesto states:  The SCSN would like a commitment to a Universal Basic Income, thus ensuring people have more money in their pockets, Cross sector action on eradicating poverty and a continual dialogue about the harms caused by poverty.
  • Community Safety: This is a biggie for the Our Place Camelon and Tamfourhill Community Safety Strategy: The SCSN believes that communities will be safer if there is more involvement of people in communities in the planning, delivery, and development of the services that they use, they go onto stress the fundamental importance of youth work and Community Learning & Development and an emphasise upon working together through creating local partnerships which keep communities safe. This then will be the guiding principle of our local community safety strategy, it will promote community development and the local ownership of new projects and initiatives, especially with young people and the development of new local youth work opportunities.
  • Crime and Justice: There is a call for a system based on rehabilitation and more evidence-based approaches to reducing crime. Key recommendations include: a request to further raise the age of criminal responsibility, decreasing the prison population and increasing confidence in community justice, early interventions, and a topic I have raised in recent weeks: the decriminalisation of drug use. Locally this will be reflected through prioritising the development of new Recovery services and breaking down social barriers whilst reducing the stigmatisation for those who have been touched by the criminal justice system.
  • Unintentional harm and Injury: An increased focus on Home Safety, delivering more safe and affordable housing, highlighting a commitment to making roads safer and in particular 20 mph speed limits in all built up areas and a strong belief in place-based approaches in built environments. Locally we will work towards lower traffic neighbourhoods and in this respect, we are already developing work with a local Parent Council to develop- and resource a local pocket places safer school streets project.
  • Community resilience and Participation: We believe that communities that have a sense of belonging, connection and control are safer communities. The manifesto promotes a trauma informed approach, encourages a commitment to increasing community participation, including the expansion of participatory budgeting, or community choices as it is described by Falkirk Council. Our Place recently supported local people to make a submission to the Community choices programme as part of the wider; Tidy, Clean and Green campaign and in particular to further the development of local pop-up parks.
  • And Finally: In concluding the manifesto refers to a world beyond COVID where there are new opportunities in a society with increased kindness & compassion, zero tolerance of hatred and an increased focus on Human Rights and the incorporation of the UNCRC across policy and practice.

This is the wider context that our local community safety strategy will be placed within, it will be a very much local affair but one that draws strength and clarity of purpose from these manifesto aspirations, a final thought, are our would-be MSP’s listening to these aspirations for a fairer and more equal Scotland?

The full manifesto can be found at:  

community

Is it time to decriminalise drug use ?

https://www.surveymonkey.com/stories/SM-SLRX3LKC/

This was the community safety question of the month for February and posed on the Our Place social media platforms. It received the least amount of responses of all the previous questions asked and the results did surprise me: with 54% saying No, 33% Yes and 12.5% offering a mixture of views from favouring the legalisation of cannabis only and one person being totally opposed too any decriminalised use of drugs. This issue is very topical and the recent release of Scotland’s death rate through drug use was both very worrying and encouraged a wide range of responses or suggestions as to how matters might be improved. This off course shadows our fatality rates associated with alcohol which is legal to consume depending on your age yet there is no corresponding public demands for prohibition.

I have been attending a few webinars and presentations facilitated by an organisation called Home page – Recovering Justice they offer a radical rethink and strongly suggest that the Misuse of Drugs Act is of no use, it infringes human rights and hampers agencies from responding effectively to the harm caused by the use of drugs to individuals, families and the wider community. I heard solicitors, Police officers and workers from the health services and drugs agencies recount a catalogue of disasters and negative actions created through arresting and convicting problematic drug users for the possession of controlled drugs. When we begin to view dependency as a health matter and intervention as being about recovery and supporting individuals to deal with trauma in their lives then arrest and imprisonment is clearly not working.

This is a very different perspective to the views expressed in our main stream media:

Not a perspective that you hear very often

As the community safety engager I am very aware about the levels of concern that exists in Camelon and Tamfourhill about substance use and many of its associated behaviours. The Community safety survey found that 75% of respondents were greatly or fairly concerned about drug dealing and this was in the main associated with class A drugs. My focus group sessions also identified anger and disappointment that drug use continued to be so blatant on the local streets and that drug users and their behaviours had an extremely negative impact upon the safety of local people. At a time when Government policy is moving towards treating this matter as a health problem and moving away from it being a criminal and policing matter, then it is clear from the community safety survey, the recent question of the month and my focus group sessions that the community is maybe not ready to accept or support the decriminalisation of drugs.

The interim Community safety strategy that I am compiling at the moment will take account of the community views and needs however it will need to also be set within the context of developing Scottish Government Policy and the approaches of the local drugs agencies and other statutory bodies like the police. I am working towards outcomes which will put Recovery at the centre of the local strategy but also activities which will build better community cohesion and provide opportunities for those individuals that are on the road to recovery to make a positive and constructive contribution to their local community. We should try and remember that we are all part of a community and it is through our support networks and positivity that we can make the difference to somebodies recovery journey and reduce the stigmatisation of those who have become dependent upon certain substances.

In the coming weeks in the community safety blog I am going to showcase some of the contributions made by our local drugs agencies’, I will endeavour to give some members of the recovery community a voice and I hope that colleagues from partner agencies will also write up some short narratives about their work and how they can all contribute to making Camelon and Tamfourhill a safer and happier place to live.

I found this overwhelming

Transform Drug Policy Foundation
community

Community Assemblies and greater Decision-making powers.

In this week’s Community Safety Blog, I want to reflect upon community decision making and how as a model of active citizenship it can impact positively on all decision-making structures right up to national policy making in government. I have been reading the recently published Citizens Assembly Summary Report and as a model for involving ordinary people with the big issues of the day it has much to offer the practices of community empowerment. Citizens assemblies are new to Scotland, but they have been used successfully in many other nations, Australia, Canada France, Belgium, Poland and most recently the citizens’ assembly in the Republic of Ireland looked at issues including abortion, equal marriage and the opportunities and challenges of an ageing population.

Here are some very brief highlights lifted from our Scottish report:

6.

“The Citizens’ Assembly recommends that in order to

ensure that citizens can make informed decisions in

relation to rebuilding their communities the Scottish

Government and Parliament should:

establish community-based citizens’ assemblies

to assess what is happening in our communities

(including the effects of COVID-19), identify gaps

and recommend actions, including through digital

technology, that can bring people together and make

our communities more inclusive.

In my view this would work well in Camelon and Tamfourhill, it encourages localism and will ensure responses and activities really are appropriate to the needs and aspirations of local people. A local community -based citizens assembly of anywhere between 30 -100 members, they could be picked randomly within agreed demographics to ensure they are representative of the entire population and inclusive of all interests. I have a priority to support the formation of a community safety group for our local areas and this could easily be formed as an Assembly subgroup or community safety could be a key agenda item or theme for consideration by the wider assembly.  There is no reason why individuals could not be requested to participate on a similar basis as being called for jury duty, it could be treated as being a part of your responsibilities as a citizen, time of work would be guaranteed and of course a payment made to all Panel members. Alternatively, we could operate the Assembly in evenings or weekends and gift people for their time and participation.

37.

The Citizens’ Assembly recommends that in order to

overcome the challenges in relation to young people’s

health and wellbeing the Scottish Government and

Parliament should:

invest in and provide opportunities for all young people

to access extra-curricular activities, including sports

and the arts, with support and guidance for young

people to pursue opportunities that are right for them.

Through this national recommendation Young people can thus benefit though the provision of new leisure and creative opportunities, National government are now required to take notice and act upon this decision as agreed by the Assembly. Locally then this would operate along similar lines in Camelon and Tamfourhill, where Falkirk council, Local Community organisations and Statutory Agencies would be required to respond to the decisions reached by our own local Assembly.

I thought that was a particularly relevant recommendation:

55.

The Citizens’ Assembly recommends that in order

to overcome the challenges in relation to providing

equal internet access to all the Scottish Government

and Parliament should:

invest in infrastructure (and utilise existing

infrastructure) to widen mobile networks and remove

black spots, ensuring all communities have access

to the internet through free community hot spots

and publicly available hardware. Internet should be

considered as a basic need, free to all.

This really will address digital exclusion and providing a free phone service, especially for our elderly population would be a significant positive step to combatting social isolation and improving access to vital services.

59.

The Citizens’ Assembly recommends that in order

to ensure that citizens can make informed decisions

in relation to criminal justice reform the Scottish

Government and Parliament should:

undertake a full review of the criminal justice system

to improve outcomes for communities, offenders

and victims. This would include the reintroduction of

community policing, involving citizens in improving

local communications and services.

This could provide a big change to how we deal with criminality and anti-social behaviour and would work well in tandem with more restorative forms of justice and in directly involving the community with resolving the harm that has been done and remedying injustice in a smarter way. This is another area where a local citizens assembly could deliver big changes for the community.

The full Scotland Citizens Assembly report can be found here:

https://www.citizensassembly.scot/main-report

Dan our Community Coach recently in his blog was discussing free money and the Community choices programme, and this is another example of community decision making and an approach to improving grassroots and community democracy through participatory budgeting. We know about the role of community councils but there are other ways where we can enrich and extend local democracy. Oliver Escobar in his recent essay on the Futures in Common (Scotland after the Virus Gerry Hassan & Simon Barrow) discusses democratic innovations and describes processes where big policy-making decisions are conducted and made directly by citizens and not representatives or elected politicians. He lists: Mini-Publics (community assemblies), participatory budgeting (Community choices) and digital crowd sourcing (online decision making) He promotes the idea of Social commons, and this is a radical interpretation of models of community ownership, it has its origins in the common pastures and common lands that everybody once inhabited, enjoyed and utilised. These shared commons were in fact lands and resources held in common a form of community-based governance. We already have local community groups moving in the direction of asset transfers and taking back into community control buildings and facilities and this can be extended into parks and open spaces, canal towpaths, shops, and cafes. This is all about local democracy and community ownership and as we move towards COVID recovery and rebuilding aspects of our communities then this new democratic thinking provides a route map towards a more inclusive citizenship whilst encouraging greater communal responsibility.       

community

Private Keep Out

The forces of the Pandemic are never far from our daily lives, I do not go with the mantra that we are all in this together, but we are certainly all in the same storm, however some of us are better equipped and indeed better resourced than others to deal with this tempest. Existing health inequalities and disadvantage of Place make the pandemic far more dangerous to some areas than others and when you consider that the likelihood of job losses are far higher amongst the younger, part time and female workers then we certainly are not all in this together.

No entry. you cant play here: The barriers that we need to pull down and the new commons we need to reclaim for our children and young people.
No Entry stay out in your indoor enclosure!

The evidence is that the (COVID) crises has increased the gap between the haves and have-nots and laid bare the fragility of social and economic mores. If wealth is the greatest shield from infection and serious illness, then disadvantaged communities are the most exposed” (Scotland’s Urban Regeneration Forum 2020)

Within this prism of inequality, we have our younger people who have had to suffer a breakdown in their peer networks of friends and mutual support and where their social and academic learning has been badly disrupted and consequently there has been a marked deterioration in their mental health and spiritual wellbeing. We know this will end and there will be a route map out of these circumstances, inevitably some pain and negativity will be residual and its therefore crucial that we ensure young people and children have ample opportunity to reengage with their friends and peers and ensure their social spaces, especially in the outdoor environment are recognised, protected, and substantiated.Within this context I was drawn to a recent collaboration involving Outward bounds Scotland, Scottish Scouts and an array of youth work agencies called “A vision for young people” and where Moillie Hughes, Scouts Scotland President and Record-Breaking Adventurer said: “At a time where the lives of young people have been shaped by staying at home to protect their communities, it is crucial that we create future opportunities that give them a chance to spread their wings, foster confidence, and resilience, build new friendships and develop an attachment and respect for nature. This is unachievable in any other environment.” The cry is for greater outdoor learning and an acknowledgment of the healing power of the outdoors, the plethora of opportunities that young people can benefit from through engaging with their outdoor environment and where they can recapture a sense of wildness and freedom uniquely gained from unstructured and unsupervised play in the great outdoors.   

“When I heard the storm and looked out, I made haste to joint it” John Muir

You may ask what is the link to our community safety priorities? If we consider the landscape of our outdoor parks, open spaces, and common grounds in Tamfourhill and Camelon and then ask, are they safe and conducive to allowing our children and young people to explore, take calculated risks and bond with their peers and allow them to affirm with the natural world, and if the answer is, they are not, then they must be a local community safety concern. This is echoed in the community safety survey and has been highlighted in Focus groups and with some of the agencies that I have met with, rubbish, fly tipping, detritus, drug use and Anti-social behaviour have all been sited as reasons why our open spaces and common grounds might not be considered safe. Another historical factor at play here has been the steady erosion of available open spaces for children to play. In Scotland since the industrial revolution children have one ninth of the roaming room they had in earlier generations. Childhood is losing its ancient commons of woodlands, parks, and heaths and with the modern fixation with using technology, devices and computer screens that alienation from the natural outdoor world has been further accentuated. Play for children has become enclosed indoors whilst outdoors signs and messaging bark at children like vicious guard dogs: NO CYCLING, NO SKATEBOARDING, NO BALL GAMES, NO SWIMMING, PRIVATE KEEP OUT!!!!

In the months ahead it makes considerable sense to be encouraging greater outdoor experiences, for us all, but especially for our children and young people. I know ther will be genuine concerns that leaving children unsupervised in open and wild spaces is far to risky and increases stress levels for parents and family members. It would however be legitimate to ask the question the other way around, can we afford not to allow and encourage this in the post COVID world? There is a balancing act required but for certain the wellbeing and mental recovery of children and young people must be the critical and determining factor. The safety of our open spaces must be a local community safety priority.

“As part of a wider recovery
process, children should be
encouraged and supported to spend
time outdoors, playing with other
children and being physically active,”
say Play First UK. “This is not an
either-or decision. Social connection
and play offer myriad learning
opportunities and are positively
associated with children’s academic
attainment and literacy.”

“Let nature be your teacher”: William Wordsworth

community

The Third sector but the First responder

I attended last week’s Forth Valley Third Sector conference and was extremely impressed by the dynamic and versatile nature of our thriving voluntary sector. I have been away from working full time in the sector since 2006 and it was therefore a rewarding experience to be amongst my colleagues form across Forth Valley in common cause and to hear first-hand about the successes and aspirations for the sector.  There was a keynote speech from the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell MSP, who clearly is a champion of the sector and it was heartening to hear her acknowledgment of the absolutely critical role that the sector has played in supporting communities through the COVID crises. She characterised a sector with no logos, no egos and no silos which has worked with care and compassion right at the core of the community and supported services from befriending, connecting with the lonely and isolated and provided food and welfare to the most vulnerable within our communities. This action had more widely demonstrated what can be achieved when communities are empowered, and bureaucracy is stripped away. The third sector will be critical to the wellbeing and future of our communities as we recover and rebuild post COVID, our communities will be strengthened by this continuing support, dedication, and skills of the sector. There was however an understanding that the sector must have full an equal parity when governments make strategic decisions about funding and policy priorities and this was acknowledged as an area that can improve and that to not facilitate this would be to miss a real trick. The third sector is thus a key player in the National Performance Framework.  On a similar theme the need for sustainable funding and the avoidance of sudden ends to funds and the timescales for renewed funding were all areas that could be improved for the third sector and therefore for local communities.

The conference was used to highlight the new Third sector national strategy: The Manifesto for Change, and it cannot be emphasised enough that post COVID Scotland will be reliant upon these manifesto recommendations being acted upon and implemented in full. Here ae the key recommendations:

The TSI Scotland Network calls for:

Place: A decisive shift of emphasis and resources to help support and ensure community delivery of place – based services where the wellbeing of people , places and the environment come before profit to protect the communities and most vulnerable in our societies.

Community: Increased investment to build capacity and resilience by the TSI Scotland Network to ensure that every community in Scotland maintains robust , representative and resourced community-led organisations or partnerships that serve local needs.

Connected: Clear connection between TSI Scotland Network with Scottish Government directorates to inform the necessary policy changes to ensure implementation of localised place-based strategies for economic renewal.

 Volunteering: Recognition that the TSI Scotland Network can make a unique contribution to empower inclusive volunteering and maximise the social and community action that emerged through Covid-19

Fair work: Employment schemes that are linked to community, wealth-building and creating fair, inclusive and sustainable economies, to maximise community benefit, reduce poverty, and inequalities and tackle the climate emergency.

This is a radical agenda and one that builds from community empowerment, local action. and off course Our Place.

The full manifesto report can be found here: https://tsi.scot/manifesto/

Our Place Camelon and Tamfourhill were at the centre of the conference workshops and wider debates, and there was much discussed that was relevant to our own communities and in my case operational direction and examples of good practice which could be suitable for developing community safety initiatives locally. A strong third sector means a strong community; this is so relevant in the world after the pandemic but the response to date offers a glimpse to a thriving and dynamic future for local communities throughout Scotland.  

community

The Key to reducing Anti-Social Behaviour Is through community capacity building.

A key theme of the community safety consultation has been Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB), a contentious notion, hard to define, perhaps criminal perhaps a nuisance and a thousand shades of grey in between. I find particular TV programmes anti-social and the attitude of so-called celebrities as ASB, however I do not think that is the where the local communities concerns and priorities are, although reaching a consensus as to what is and what is not ASB and how-to best tackle this is an extremely challenging conundrum. The ASB Act (Scotland )2004 covers an extensive list of areas including the following:  Dispersal of groups, the environment, licensed premises, matters relating to housing, excessive noise and the Act gives specific powers to the Police the local council and other agencies to enforce the laws around ASB which can then lead to an array of interventions and sanctions, including issuing ASBOS, Fixed penalty fines, criminal proceedings, parenting orders, and referrals to the Children Panels.

The Anti-Social Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004 provides the legal definition of antisocial behaviour as:

“A person engages in antisocial behaviour if they act in a manner that causes or is likely to cause alarm and distress or pursues a course of conduct which causes or is likely to cause alarm and distress to at least one person who is not of the same household. (Course of conduct must involve conduct on at least two occasions).”

Antisocial behaviour may include, but is not limited to the following:

  • noise disturbances, including loud music, noisy parties and shouting.
  • harassment
  • hate crimes including race, religion or faith, sexual orientation, disability or transgender or gender identity.
  • violence or threats of violence
  • verbal abuse
  • vandalism and graffiti
  • drug dealing

The local community safety survey found that 35% of respondents identified ASB as their greatest concern in the local area, the notable issues were groups hanging about, underage drinking, noisy neighbours, vandalism, and fire raising.  These behaviours are not pleasant to have to live with and it is therefore important that the local community safety strategy tackles these concerns effectively. Let’s however take a look at the national picture and as I have highlighted in a previous blog Modern Folk Devils and moral Panics: – Our Place Camelon and Tamfourhill (opcamelontamfourhill.co.uk) youth crime and ASB have over the last 10 years been consistently decreasing throughout Scotland. This situation has been noticeable in many aspects of Scottish society, however the communal anxiety about ASB and youth disorder has remained the same in our most disadvantaged communities. The recent published research by Robyn Bailey: The Scottish picture of ASB July 2020 found this to be a significant issue, i.e., although youth crime is steadily reducing those communities most negatively impacted by poverty and inequality still perceive this to be a significant problem. This off course is open to interpretation but perhaps the underlying issue is that there is a lack of opportunities for our young people which makes their behaviours more visible and when the local community lacks the capacity or resources to better engage and support its local young people then the issues are amplified and can appear worse than the actual levels of recorded criminality. This would suggest that if we invest more time and resources into working with our young people and if we similarly build the capacity of our local community to better support and engage with the youngsters then we will achieve positive results and outcomes.  I know there is already good quality youth work taking place locally and I have experienced at first hand the community development approach utilised by TCV with their outdoor learning approaches with local young people. Outdoor learning and an appreciation for the environment can be used effectively to build positive relationships with young people and facilitate their personal and social development and instil an increased sense of social responsibility for that environment. Clearly if this approach could be sustained and further built upon then this would have many benefits for both the young people and their wider community. The local safety strategy I believe will be the most effective if it takes a community development and capacity building approach. The skills already exist within the community, the important thing is to build peoples confidence through training, support and investing in their knowledge, skills, and life experiences that they bring with them and which potentially can be deployed for the benefit of the wider community. This is a self-sustaining approach where the community sets a tradition and expectation of running and developing its own provisions, activities and services and these skills and knowledge get passed on through an ongoing programme of peer development. This also can potentially create new employment opportunities which will improve the local economy and address the adverse impacts of poverty and inequality. The community itself requires to build the confidence to deliver its own youth, children, and family work programmes. The exiting success of youth clubs and activities at Tamfourhill where local people have been empowered and built upon their skills to work in partnership with local families, children and young people is an excellent template for further development throughout all our local neighbourhoods.   

It is unlikely that increased law enforcement or punitive measures will really have any lasting impact upon the safety and cohesion of the local community. The answers I believe are much more internal and the assets of our communities within their networks of support are the foundation upon which a local community safety strategy should be built.