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Touring the Lochs of Scotland

Thursday, 07 September 2017 15:36

Loch NessBy Lesley Prescott, Head Of Operations

On a rainy Monday morning I arrived in Inverness and having picked up my hire car with only 250 miles on the clock (no pressure there Lesley!) I headed off to ILM Highland in Alness. The scenery did not disappoint and the Loch was ‘shimmering’ as I strained my neck, with one eye on the road to see if I could catch a glimpse of any sea creatures, even if this Loch wasn’t Ness!

Martin ILM welcome desk

Martin Macleod, the new CEO of ILM Highland gave me the tour of his very impressive site and extremely professional retail area, and with his priorities in line with mine we headed off for lunch to discuss just how the FRN could support his business with the supply of white goods to this rather ‘remote’ UK location. Poverty and need can be found in every corner of our island and our role as a UK network is to try and provide a helpful service to each member, regardless of where they are and their varying requirements. Sometimes this can be challenging as suppliers will not cover the extra miles from a major city and without adequate back-haul opportunities charge excessive amounts for delivery of their product. ILM have diversified like most of our members to ensure a sustainable organisation beyond just the supply of reusable white goods and now deliver housing related services for older people and those with a disability through their Handy person and Care & Repair services (including stair lifts which was quite a fascinating conversation!). They’ve also established the Small Works Service, which was created primarily to undertake the larger building related jobs that the Handyperson service was unable to do and this project is currently thriving with ILM in the process of recruiting for a builder/operative.

Washing machinesWhere member organisations cannot engage in the networking opportunities we provide, like our annual conference or regional roadshows, they are often unaware of the partnering opportunities with neighbouring re-use organisations and frequently there is the challenge of sharing the limited donations in a region with limited urban collections and a large rural area. Suez (previously Sita) run the HWRC sites and access for our members is not encouraged – as I realised this impacted not just the Inverness members but also those in Aberdeen and further south in Scotland. Whilst the Scottish Government are trying to develop reuse and recycling, their contract decisions appear at times to be detrimental to the re-use sector who aim to provide social profit not just environmental. Martin who did attend our conference this year, made some very useful contacts within the network and I was able to provide him with others who were carrying out the same type of activities. I encouraged him to talk to them as our mantra is ‘don’t reinvent the wheel’, share your successes and failures so that everyone can learn from them.
ILM van That’s the point and beauty of the network. I was able to advise him of new electrical opportunities arising over the next few months and being trialled by one of our members in the Fife region through FRN Enterprises. This could prove to be very beneficial to this Inverness organisation, some 135 miles away from the Scottish member in Fife who may be able to provide Martin with the TVs that he’s been trying to source for some time. Partnership working at its best! Our friends at our property agency had also provided me with information on potential retail outlets for the Inverness members and hopefully, at least one, will be suitable as a new ‘free’ retail outlet for ILM for when he gets those new TVs!

So….after a great day with the ILM team I bid a fond farewell and headed off for a very enjoyable evening with friends at a local restaurant, this time on the bank of Loch Ness (and yes I was still straining to identify that funny shaped head on the horizon).

New Starts lady with chairThe next morning I found my way to New Start Highland. Everyone was very well dressed and on their best behaviour when I arrived and I was starting to feel quite flattered that my visit was of such importance until I was told that one of the Scottish Ministers was visiting that afternoon!

New start chairBased in some very nice offices (not the usual FRN members offices but with carpet and non-leaky ceiling) adjacent to their large warehouse and workshops, New Start Highland proved to be the professional retailers with a social heart to tackle homelessness, poverty and long-term unemployment in the Highlands that has enabled them to have shops in Inverness city centre, Dingwall, Fort William, Wick and Thurso. Everyone in the area knows New Start Highland with my old family friends assuring me that all their furniture was donated to them and even the very friendly car rental lady informing me that her partner was a volunteer there! Having spent a very enjoyable hour with Mairi and Iain learning more about the issues impacting their services of employability training, furniture provision and housing support and looking at ways that the FRN could support them, I was able to fulfil my inquisitive nature by having a really good nose around their refurbishment workshops and you can see the quality of their work…..and the fun that the volunteers have.

John LewisMy third day in the northern part of Scotland saw the sun come out and once again confirmed what a beautiful part of the world it is. It was great to meet our new charity member Instant Neighbour who provide a range of much needed services to the Aberdeen community. Besides a food bank and furniture store in St Machar, they also have ‘The Giving Tree’, which distributes over 6,000 donated gifts to children who would otherwise go without a gift a Christmas.  A fantastic idea that I know a number of our members emulate across the UK and which makes such a difference to parents and carers who, through poverty and hardship, struggle to provide food for their children let alone presents at Christmas time. Instant Neighbour also provide parents and carers with access to nappies, baby food and affordable and safe baby care and childcare equipment along with practical support to encourage them to provide a healthy environment for their children as they grow. The charity are very aware that children who live in low-income families are known to suffer more ill-health and home accidents than other children, and suffer from social exclusion in later life.  By providing these services, Instant Neighbour aim to reduce the chances of this happening to children in their local community. We have partnered Instant Neighbour with their local John Lewis store to enable them to collect seating furniture through the UK Take Back Scheme and feel sure this will be a great success in Aberdeen. This was the final store to be partnered and we are delighted that the FRN now have a full UK coverage for this scheme.


Read 782 times Last modified on Friday, 29 September 2017 11:09

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