Darach moves a step forward to ‘social crofting’ with Innovation Award

Competition winner Sarah Asher (right) with Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government. Photograph: Becky Duncan, Open Aye Photography

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The croft we spotlighted in our first podcast for its work to create a ‘social croft’ has won an innovation award worth £5,000.

Darach Croft began its journey to provide a place for people with disabilities to experience crofting in 2017, and the award it won from Firstport’s Social Innovation Competition will help to establish this project.

Hugh and Sarah Asher have backgrounds in social work and helping with people with disabilities, along with small-scale agriculture experience, and they have been working hard to get their land in Strontian ready for people to use.

Accepting their prize at the Social Enterprise Scotland Awards, Sarah was one of three winners of the Firstport Social Innovation Award, at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday November 12.

She said: ‘I’m delighted to win this award. Social farming is increasingly recognised as being an innovative and outcome-focused way of supporting individuals’ wellbeing, physically, mentally and emotionally.

‘We are aiming to compliment traditional health and wellbeing services and we look forward to welcoming individuals with learning disabilities or autism and mental health issues.’

Darach Social Croft will provide a range of ‘nature-based eco-therapies’ that get people involved in crofting activities and are designed to improve mental and physical wellbeing, and stimulate resilience and self-belief.

The theme for this year’s awards was ‘Individuals affected by disability’, which attracted a wide range of ideas to help those directly affected as well as carers and family that are indirectly affected.

The other winners were Positively Able CIC, a social enterprise that provides counselling to disabled adults, a confidential third party hate crime reporting service, and provider of Disability Equality Training; and Oshay FASD that runs parenting groups for families affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Josiah Lockhart, chief executive of Firstport, said: ‘Huge congratulations to our 2019 winners. Now in its fourth year, the Social Innovation Competition has unveiled three fantastic ideas that will make a difference to the lives of individuals affected by a disability, as well as their families and carers.

‘We are grateful to the Scottish Government for its continued support for the competition, which has helped kick-start the journeys of some great initiatives, including Studio Pop, Woodside Arran and the Soundplay Dome. We are looking forward to supporting this year’s winners on their journey.’

The awards were presented by Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell. She said: ‘Social enterprises are driven by a passion to improve their local communities and provide a service for the greater good. These awards are an excellent example of how we can continue to support their vision to create a fairer and more inclusive Scotland.

‘The winners’ innovative ideas will transform the lives of people living with disabilities, their families and carers through crucial support, counselling and therapies which will help to rebuild confidence and improve wellbeing.’