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BY MARY THOMPSON, SACRO Service Manager, Lanarkshire & Glasgow Services

In last year’s Community Justice Glasgow Annual Report (2018-2019)‘Digging out the Barriers to Employability and Social Inclusion’ we reported on how groups of individuals subject to Community Payback Unpaid Works Orders were helping with Sacro’s Garden Project.

The project, which was established in 2016 in Tollcross Park in Glasgow has gone from strength to strength and was made possible due to funding from The Endrick Trust until March 2020.

The project encourages referrals from a range of agencies including Social Work, Addictions Services, Health Providers and Mental Health charities for individuals who have barriers to employment and social inclusion such as offending behaviour, lived experience of substance misuse, poor mental and physical health.

The aim of the project is to provide a pathway to recovery, wellbeing, and employment through horticulture. The Garden Project provides individuals with the knowledge, skills and means to cultivate fresh fruit and vegetables to supplement a healthier diet, adding to the wellbeing of both the individual and their families.

On 11 June 2019, The Garden Project welcomed the trustees from The Endrick Trust and members of their Advisory Board to Tollcross Park where they had the opportunity to meet and chat to volunteers and see first-hand some of the work in progress. This was followed by a working lunch where all present discussed ideas for the future sustainability of the project.

Sacro believe that involving volunteers can greatly assist in service development and create an increased sense of empowerment and ownership. Volunteers commented on how much they enjoyed participating and appreciated having the opportunity to use their experiences to contribute to the discussions.

In early 2020 Sacro secured allotment space at Tollcross Park Allotments, a development which allows for increased growing capacity.

In February 2020 The Garden Project recruited an Educational Gardener to provide specialist horticultural guidance. Richard Walsh is experienced in working with a variety of groups and individuals including people with additional needs, those in recovery from addictions and people who have a lived experience of the criminal justice system. 

He is a qualified assessor for The Caledonian Horticultural Society’s – Grow and Learn award scheme – a person-centred award, recognising individual progress and achievement in horticulture. His approach to teaching is inclusive, individualised and offers skills-based education for all.

We continue to use the project to enhance employability (through the development of new skills), physical and mental health and wellbeing for those who we manage through their Community Payback Order with some great results.

The project is now supplying its excess produce free to Ruchazie Food Pantry, the first Community Food Pantry in Glasgow co-owned and controlled by its members.  

The Community and personal outcome benefits of Community Payback Unpaid Work are clear to be seen and speak for themselves, especially when we know that Community Payback orders are more successful at reducing the risk of re-offending and reconviction rates than short-term sentences – it’s a win win.

“A gentleman on Community Payback [carrying out Unpaid Work at the Garden Project] found that coming along to the Garden Project – because he was interested in gardening, [said] that it gave him a structure to his day and stopped him from drinking alcohol.

So he asked to come back as a volunteer – to come along voluntarily maybe 2 to 3 times a week to give him that structure again – just to keep him sober”


Click on the images below to find out more

YouTube Video – Intro to the Garden Proj 1

YouTube Video – Planting the Allotment 1

YouTube Video – Planting out the Beds 1

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