Read about the impact visits carried out as an extension of our annual conference, 'Our Voice, Our Rights, Our Future'.

Our members are important in creating a society in which we can all thrive. That is why, as part of our 2024 Annual Conference, titled ‘Our Voice, Our Rights, Our Future’, we visited some of our member organisations to engage with the work they are doing to improve health and social care for those of us who have long-term conditions or chronic pain, or who face isolation. As we work towards creating a Scotland in which each and every one of us enjoys the right to dignity and respect, these charities remain crucial in achieving this goal. From Edinburgh to Stornoway, our series of impact visits highlighted both challenges and innovative solutions faced by health and social care organisations.

Through interviews and video footage, these visits aimed to showcase instances of resilience, innovation, and dedication. The visits not only shone a light on contributions, but also inspired collaboration and progress in health and social care. And finally, most important of all, they opened my own eyes to the vital work being done across the sector, and the level of passion and empathy that exists within third-sector organisations.

Our first impact visit took us to Networking Key Services (NKS) in Edinburgh, a vital hub of support for South Asian communities and women across Scotland. Here, amongst the hustle and bustle of busy city life, NKS exists as a second home for women, offering a lifeline to those faced with the profound isolation of migration to a new country through marriage. They offer their service users digital training, medical information, and a chance to socialise. Through a blend of community engagement, local services, and knowledge sharing, NKS becomes a home away from home, where friendships blossom and skills can flourish.

“NKS is like a house to me.”

NKS service user

Our journey then led us to the remote reaches of the Western Isles, where Long Term Conditions Hebrides (LTCH) supports individuals facing the dual challenge of long-term conditions and geographical isolation. LTCH acts as a bridge for people with long-term conditions, allowing people to form connections through virtual and in-person gatherings. Here, individuals find solace in shared experiences, forging bonds that transcend distance and adversity.

Our series of impact visits then brought us to Forres, where we met with Affa Sair, an organisation which provides support for those of us with chronic pain. Living with chronic pain in an isolated community in the north of Scotland can often exacerbate feelings of seclusion and loneliness. Speaking with Chris Bridgeford, Chairman, we soon realised that Affa Sair exists as a beacon of support for people. Through the provision of weekly activities and meetings, Affa Sair offering a sense of unity to individuals facing the challenges of chronic pain. Affa Sair provides people with the comfort of knowing that they not alone in their challenges.

Lastly, our journey brought us to Macauley College, a college for people with learning disabilities based in the beautiful landscapes of Stornoway. Macauley College fills a crucial void in post-school support for people with disabilities, with many of the families of students commenting that without the college, there would simply be no services on offer for their loved one. Therefore, its transformative impact resonates deeply with staff, students, and families, providing a sense of community that is otherwise scarce. Amidst acres of farmland filled with donkeys, sheep and chickens and the variety of activities on offer, there is a sense of warmth and community amongst staff and students. The college breaks down barriers for these students, providing them with purpose and families with respite.

Visiting these four organisations linked to our annual conference well, as each visit served as a reminder of the indispensable role played by third-sector organisations in combating isolation, nurturing community, and empowering individuals across Scotland. Through a shared goal to provide unwavering and dedicated support, NKS, LTCH, Affa Sair, and Macauley College enrich lives and strengthen communities. Their efforts to improve the health and social care sector bring about the promise of a more compassionate future in which all of us can thrive. With each visit, it became clearer to me that it is through collective action that we can create real change.

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