The initiative plans future projects to boost health, skills and employment

More than 30 former mining communities in 11 local authority areas across Scotland have benefited from the Coalfields Community Futures (CCF) programme which has awarded grants of £835,475 to boost employment, skills and health.

The ‘Coalfields Communities Futures: Our Learning’ evaluation report launched by the Coalfields Community Trust (CRT) at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh reports on progress made by the CCF programme since it started in 2011. CRT commissioned Glasgow-based consultancy the Social Value Lab to evaluate CCF and make recommendations for the future.

The CCF is CRT’s flagship initiative to find innovative ways to regenerate former mining areas across Scotland. It targets fragile areas which, to date, have not really benefited from specific funding. It aims to drive community-led change, complementing the Scottish Government’s emphasis on empowering such areas.

Speaking at the launch of the CCF evaluation report, Nicky Wilson, CRT Scottish trustee, said: “The Coalfields Community Futures programme is about forming umbrella groups based on what the people in those areas want and bringing all the different organisations together. I think this has been a tremendous success.

“We believe this type of work should be happening throughout the UK, not just in Scotland, and I’m pleased to say there is a project starting in Yorkshire that will be based on what the CCF has done here.”

CCF’s three strategic objectives centre around employment, skills and health. Since 2012:

  • £835,475 has been awarded in at least 33 former coalfield communities across 11 local authority areas
  • 227 community groups have received CCF funding, with 292 projects and activities delivered.

The newly launched evaluation found that CCF has had a positive impact on targeted communities. Two out of three community members said that funding allowed them to access essential equipment and resources they needed to enhance existing activities and deliver new ones for the benefit of local people. Other key findings include:

  • More than 90% of community members surveyed were very happy with programme delivery
  • Almost 70% of community members said funding had the biggest impact on their communities
  • 76% of community members said participatory budgeting - allowing them to decide how funding was spent in their local areas - was the most important part of the programme.

CCF’s collaborative approach and partnership working has led to the increased participation of young people in local projects and improved health and wellbeing, along with greater interaction and reduced isolation.

A key aim of CCF is to build community capacity and its success is shown by local asset transfers, with some areas, such as Dalmellington in East Ayrshire, repurposing and refurbishing empty buildings and disused land for wider community use.

In a joint initiative, the CRT and the Electoral Reform Society accessed the Scottish Government’s Aspiring Communities Fund for a ‘Reclaiming our Coalfields Communities’ project which Dalmellington participated in.

Elaine Stewart, a community activist in Dalmellington, spoke at the Dynamic Earth event about the recent impact of the CCF in her area, building on work that has taken place over several years.

Elaine Stewart said: “We published our new action plan in June this year and to date more than £250,000 has been awarded to different groups in the area. The main action people wanted was the formation of a development trust as Dalmellington is a small village with many different groups. I’m pleased to say we recently held a community event and more than 40 people have signed up as trustees.”

Looking ahead, CRT is currently working on number of developments to enhance and complement the work already achieved across Scotland. The evaluation has made a number of recommendations for the future, including: build on success; expand the programme; develop a wider learning network; build a formal programme of training and development and replicate the CCF model.

Pauline Douglas, CRT head of operations – Scotland, said: “The evidence shows that CCF has made a real difference to many former mining areas across Scotland by letting local communities decide the best way to use funding made available to them. We plan to build on this success and continue this vital work in helping fragile communities.”

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