I thank Kate Forbes for lodging her motion for debate and bringing the work of the Serve Scotland coalition to the Parliament’s attention. It is good to have in our gallery members of Serve Scotland, with whom I spoke this afternoon at their stand outside the chamber. We welcome them here warmly.
Churches and the organisations that they support in our communities have great capacity to bring about positive change in the lives of individuals, communities and the nation. Research by the Cinnamon Network shows that churches and other faith groups are running more than 9,000 social action projects and thereby providing more than 9 million volunteer hours and 2.2 million paid staff hours, which cumulatively contributes £93 million to our economy.
In the West Scotland region, numerous churches and Christian organisations work hard to run groups and projects that support the community, with the help of Serve Scotland. For example, the Milngavie United Free church runs a craft group that supports local charities and organisations. The church’s website highlights a few examples of the group’s work. For instance, the blankets that it has knitted have been
“given to local day care centres, care homes and maternity units.”
It has also made hats, which it has
“sent to the Sailors Society, hospital baby units, our troops on active service overseas and to the homeless”,
and support has been given to our armed forces veterans in several ways. Members of the craft group have also knitted poppies, which they have sold, with the proceeds going to Erskine Hospital and Poppyscotland.
Another example is the Way Ahead Group (A Stroke Club for Bearsden) run by Killermont parish church, which supports people who have had strokes by holding weekly afternoon sessions that include a varied programme of physiotherapy run by professional physiotherapists, board games, carpet golf or bowls and afternoon tea.
A third example of the sterling work that various organisations do is the work of the street pastors, who play an active role in strengthening our communities and making our streets safer. Groups of street pastors are working in Inverclyde, Kirkintilloch and Paisley.
Serve Scotland’s work is useful to those groups because it provides a network where they can share best practice, ensure that there is no local duplication of work and create a clear picture of provision and the gaps in the services that are provided in our communities. To help with those aims, Serve Scotland set up four strategic aims, which are to represent the church to national and local government on issues that relate to the great community social action work that it does; to facilitate the network of Christian social action leaders to allow the sharing of best practice; to inform the church of national and local community social action policy development; and to resource local volunteers with advice on fundraising and development work to help them to continue their work.
All those aims are welcome because, if Serve Scotland was not doing that work, it would be necessary to create an organisation to do it. When I met the third sector initiative team in Helensburgh and Lomond yesterday, I witnessed the importance of Serve Scotland to meeting the community’s needs, which demonstrates its great work.