Sadly Tullibody Healthy Living (THL) closed its doors in 2018, although the community garden project remains open.
THL was a community-led health project where tackling health inequalities was at the heart of what it did. Set up in 2003, it was based in a small ex-mining community of 10,000 people in Clackmannanshire.
Operating from a shop-front in the shopping area of the village, the project was governed by a Board of Directors made up of local people, who employed five members of staff (two full time, three part time). One of the full time posts at THL was a Community Development Worker whose role was to ensure the community were at the heart of everything they did, keeping all of their activities ‘community-led’.
THL was part of Clackmannanshire Healthier Lives, a community-based programme which offered support and advice to people in Clackmannanshire, to help them make changes that could improve their health and wellbeing. Through this partnership, THL had a Service Level Agreement with Clackmannanshire Council to deliver services until March 2017. The council withdrew funding because of cut backs in 2018.
How it works
THL used a community development approach in its work. It firmly believed that local access and local support help to improve the reach for service providers and increase uptake by local residents, especially those who would not normally engage with the services. Community engagement happened on a daily basis within the THL office, but it advocated that the best engagement takes place locally is amongst local volunteers speaking to their friends and neighbours about the activities and services available for them at THL.
“Using the community development approach makes my job simple. It’s important to be available for people, to listen, and look for ways to turn wants, needs, and ideas, into reality.” Community Development Worker
The Fruit Barra
One of the first activities set up as a result of using this approach was the Fruit Barra in 2007. Run by local people for local people, the Fruit Barra went from strength to strength, with over 60 customers per week. Setting up the Fruit Barra was an easy activity to start with: community members wanted to be able to buy quality, affordable fruit and vegetables locally, and to have access to healthy eating advice. The project had a lot of support from one of the NHS Forth Valley Community Food Development Workers in the early days who provided training for the volunteers and liaised with suppliers. The Fruit Barra was run by volunteers, supported by a part-time member of staff.
As an organisation, THL grew organically over the years, with new activities and services that met the needs identified by the local community. As well as the weekly fruit barra, volunteers also helped to deliver weekly health walks, a work club to support those who were unemployed and delivered four community ‘fun’ events every year.
“The community events are becoming more and more popular every year and are proving a useful way to promote health services locally, as well as recruiting new volunteers.” Community Development Worker
The Christmas Event was a lunch for older people, where over 200 residents were treated to a healthy lunch, with singing provided by local school pupils and information on services available for older adults.
“I’m glad I popped into THL to buy tatties at the Fruit Barra and was invited to the THL Christmas Lunch. I met Billy from the Fuel Advice Service there who then came to visit me at home. I now have a new central heating system and am saving money on my bills. I also get the warm home discount. I had tried to access this support before, but when I filled in the form, I was told I wasn’t eligible. Thanks for all you help and encouragement.” Tullibody Pensioner
Tullibody Community Garden
One development was Tullibody Community Garden. The catalyst for the garden was the fruit barra receiving some home-grown produce from local residents or from the ‘square foot gardens’ based in one of the local primary schools. Through this, a number of people expressed an interest in buying local produce and suggesting that THL grew its own.
THL then carried out a ‘massive’ community engagement exercise, in partnership with the Community Council. This resulted in a feasibility study around setting up a community garden, funded by the Big Lottery ‘Investing in Ideas’. The feasibility study encouraged buy-in from Clackmannanshire Council who agreed that a piece of land could be used, with part of a local primary school’s grounds made available for the project.
Funding from the Climate Challenge Fund turned the idea into reality with the garden officially opening in July 2015. A community gardener was appointed who worked with local people for over a year to ensure that they were involved in the planning and development stages throughout. The garden is open two days a week (September 2020).
THL saw a steady rise in the number of people using its services over its last couple of years of operation, with around 100 doing so each week. Through providing services and activities in an unquestioning way, THL attracted new users that wouldn’t normally engage.
THL was one of the 45 Healthy Living Centres throughout Scotland funded through the New Opportunities Fund programme (the precursor to the Big Lottery Fund). When funding ceased in 2009, the Clackmannanshire Alliance (Community Planning Partnership) recognised there was still a need in the area for a project that focussed on dealing with the underlying causes of health inequalities. It has a Service Level Agreement until March 2017, recieving 70% of its overall running costs, with the remaining 30% raised elsewhere.
Applying for funding from The Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) was the biggest community development activity THL undertook since its formation. The Tullibody Garden Project was awarded £150,450 from the CCF to construct the garden and employ a community gardener for 12 months. Despite delays in the construction side, the garden has been developed, helped greatly by having a fantastic group of volunteers. Whilst the heavy construction work was carried out by contractors, the building of the raised beds and the initial food planting was carried out by local volunteers: within first 12 months they had invested 400 hours to help make this happen.
The Garden held two successful opening events in October 2015, which attracted over 100 local people both days.
Funding for the Community Gardener post finished in June 2015. However, THL are hopeful that other funding streams will be found to keep the post running for another year to allow community capacity building to take place. In the meantime, THL have now opened the garden to the public every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Over the coming months, local people will be consulted on their wishes for the garden development and how they could get involved. The community interest now needs to be documented if THL is to secure further funding for its community gardener, currently employed one day per week until further funding is found.
While committed to using a community development approach, the project found that partnership working could sometimes hinder this. Not moving too far ahead can frustrate some partners who want things to happen quickly and have their own outcomes to achieve. It took a while to develop the community garden idea, but THL insisted that local people be given the time to get involved in the planning and the community engagement to ensure that it continues to be ‘community-led’ and that the community have ownership of the idea.
THL’s partnership links with national organisations, including Community Food and Health (Scotland), encouraged it to stay determined that the community lead the way. All of its work could demonstrate that the community was driving the ideas forward. This allowed it to access funding to develop activities locally.
The commitment by the Clackmannanshire Alliance to continue funding THL demonstrated confidence that the project was making a positive difference to the health and wellbeing of the Tullibody community. The good partnerships built up over the years enabled THL to deliver on health outcomes for local residents through their referral system and through providing local access to health service provision. It knew that, for some residents, travelling a distance to meet with a specialist service could deter people from attending: this was why its office hub was a great asset for local people.
One of its aims was to encourage local people to feed into its activities. A THL Development Day was hosted every year, with board members, volunteers and some users invited to take part in facilitated discussions to help guide THL forward. Following the day in 2014, THL’s priority for 2015 was to set up new ways for young people to engage with it, and to provide a monthly event for older adults in the community. This involved recruiting new volunteers.
Providing opportunities for volunteers to gain new skills was an important part of THL’s work. Volunteers were encouraged to take part in any training needed for the work they were involved in and to attend national conferences to widen their knowledge about other projects throughout Scotland. Two of their staff started with the project as volunteers, with others finding work after they had been a volunteer with THL.
“I now work in a community project in our neighbouring village of Alloa and run the community cafe there. I would not have had the confidence to do this if I hadn’t worked with the volunteer team at THL over many years, both at the Fruit Barra and helping with the events”. THL Volunteer