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Blooming marvellous: Martin’s schizophrenia story

May 17, 2019
Martin McGuinness in the garden at his residence

In honour of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, our Digital Communications Officer, Aymie Black, headed out to Rutherglen to meet Martin McGuinness, 62, a man with schizophrenia who was helped on his journey to wellness by National Lottery funded Central Scotland Green Network Trust.

I met Martin at his Richmond Fellowship residence in Rutherglen. As I headed towards the doorway, I passed through their magnificent, leafy garden. The garden was enviable; the love that had went into taking care of the place was something you could not only see – but feel.

Martin warmly greeted me and started chatting away, telling me the extraordinary stories of his life. Martin was 29 when he experienced his first symptoms of schizophrenia. At the time he was married with a young son, he owned his own business and was a keen marathon runner.

He told me:

“It felt like a light had went out in my head; one day I was alright and the next morning I woke up very ill.”

Martin in the greenhouse

Schizophrenia is a diagnosis given to some people who have severely disrupted beliefs and experiences. The causes are unknown, but episodes of schizophrenia can be triggered by a variety of causes including stress and recreational drug use. Martin couldn’t believe the sudden change in his life, and he told me about the frightening symptoms.

“I’d detached myself from reality, I had diminished responsibilities too. I couldn’t concentrate and I couldn’t look after myself.

“I was talking to myself and thinking that the TV was talking to me.

“The paranoia is like thinking everyone is against you and everyone knows what you’re doing, that you’ve got a mental illness and you’re no use to anyone.”

There is more misinformation about schizophrenia than any other type of mental health problem. A common misconception about schizophrenia is that those with the condition are violent or dangerous. In fact, those with schizophrenia are more at risk of harming themselves – with one in ten with the diagnosis taking their own life.

Martin explained:

“You find sometimes, with the stigma, that people think I’m crazy and won’t want to know me. People won’t understand me because of it.

“I had the fear of dying, but at the same time it made it feel like death might be better than living.”

Martin tending to seedlings in the greenhouse

It has been a long road to recovery for Martin; but for many with mental ill health – recovery is a journey not a destination. After three decades worth of hospital stays and trying a variety of treatments, Martin feels he now has the right medication and care, and is living a peaceful life in supported accommodation. The Therapeutic Gardening Project that Martin attends on a Tuesday has proven a beneficial activity for the residents – helping them socialise, learn new skills and better their mental wellbeing.

Central Scotland Green Network Trust, in partnership with the Richmond Fellowship, received £111,545 of National Lottery Funding to deliver a three year Therapeutic Gardening Project – Gardening for Better Mental Health. The project supports 175 people who have mental health issues, like Martin, in their supported accommodations across Scotland.

Martin showing off the newly blossomed flowers

Martin told me how wonderful the project is and that the project has helped him achieve wellness:

“It’s been something I haven’t done in about 20 years or so; I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing it. It’s quite rewarding when you see the plants flowering and coming to life. It’s nice to get out, it’s a wee change.”

“I never thought I’d get as well today as I was back then, I’m a lucky man – very lucky. You think you’re never going to get out of it, and there’s no real light at the end of the tunnel – and yet there is.”

“I feel at peace. I’m looking forward to the future. It’s a whole new way of life. I take it a day at a time.”

Martin’s story is one that inspires hope. As he lovingly showed me the plants that were flowering – the link between that and his story was clear: mental ill health can be painful and challenging – but everyone has the potential to flourish.

New deadline for Community Assets

March 27, 2019

Thinking of applying to us to develop a local building or asset? Yes! Then it is time to talk to us.

The clock is now ticking as we have set a deadline for closure and final applications: October 4, 2019 will be your last chance to start the process of applying for our Community Assets grants, when we will close to all new enquiries about this funding.

Community Assets is our National Lottery funding for community-owned building or capital projects. For more information on the funding and how to apply, visit the Community Assets page on our website.

Man outside of Connect Community Trust building

Connect Community Trust


If you are looking for Community Assets funding then your last date to make an initial enquiry and start the application process is October 4, 2019. After this point we will not take any new enquiries and will be closed to new applications for this funding.

All projects seeking Community Assets funding must be ready to submit their final application documents and strategic plans by March 31, 2020.

New Timeline:

Key dates for Community Assets applicants
4 October 2019 Close to all new Community Asset enquiries: your last chance to start the process of applying
1 November 2019 Our officers will complete all initial project visits – all groups will know if they have been invited to submit a strategic plan and other documentation in support of their Community Assets application.
31 March 2020 Final date for applicants to submit application documents and strategic plans
June 2020 All Community Assets funding decisions made


Why are you closing Community Assets now?

We are starting to review what our funding across Scotland will look like after 2020. Due to the long lead times for Community Assets we are sharing these deadlines now so as many community organisations as possible understand this is their final chance to apply to us for this funding support.

Does this mean you are closing all your other funding opportunities?

All our other funding remains open as usual and we welcome applications for our Improving Lives, Community-led ActivityNational Lottery Awards for All Scotland and Young Start grants.

Our group has already had development funding and/or had your project visit and been given an invitation to proceed. Will we get additional time?

We need all your final application documents/business plan by March 31, 2020. This deadline is for all applicants.

If you have any further questions, you’d like to talk to us about your Community Assets idea or if you’d like to know more about our other funding please email or call us on 0300 123 7112

You can find out about all our funding in Scotland at by visiting our website.

Let’s make grant reporting more useful for everyone

March 19, 2019

There are many great feelings associated with securing grant funding and delivering activities that make a difference to people’s lives. It’s safe to say that the topic of grant reporting, however, rarely generates as much joy or enthusiasm. But what if that reporting was actually useful to you and your peers, helping you to reflect, improve, share learning and make connections?

Well, conversations in important forums such as The Gathering suggest that 2019 could be the year to change this. Through the publications of IVAR’s ‘New Principles for Grant Reporting’, we see more funders – including the National Lottery Community Fund – committing to improving their practice.I

The principles have been developed to make grant reporting less stressful and burdensome for grantholders, and they challenge funders to acknowledge that it is within our gift to ‘make grant reporting a shared, more meaningful and mutually beneficial experience’.

The funder blog force on this topic has also been strong recently, with The Robertson Trust and the Corra Foundation sharing honest experiences and clear commitments for the year ahead.  We share many of their experiences and aspirations, from maximising the evidence grantholders share with their funder to developing closer, more equal relationships with funded organisations.

We want to be a funder that is associated with these principles and positive practices. We’re doing not too badly on some fronts, but we know we can do better.

Our aim: simple, clear and flexible reporting

Starting with the positive, we recently asked some of our grantholders about their experiences of reporting and we were pleased to hear that customers found the process proportionate, relevant and useful. This year, we’ll remain committed to some simple goals for reporting:

We ask grantholders with grants of over £10,000 to report back on four things:

  • What have you done?
  • What difference have you made?
  • What have you learned?
  • What have you spent?

Grantholders can choose to report via a form or in another way – alternatives could include an evaluation, a film, case studies and/or a report produced for another funder.

More support, reassurance and focus on what’s useful to you

But we recognise that some grantholders (particularly new ones) continue to have some worries about open and honest reporting to us, and we want to change this.

We also know we could be clearer about what our expectations for reporting will be at the application stage, so groups can build this into their plans and so we can support with this.

Evaluation Support Scotland offer fantastic workshops and tailored support around learning, evaluation and reporting and we’re delighted to continue to offer grantholders free access to this support throughout 2019. Crucially, their support is focused first and foremost on what data and evidence you would find valuable to collect – not just what funders want.

What we’re working on: sharing the learning

A key area we’re committed to improving this year is making better use of the information grantholders share with us. At an event last year, a member of a community organisation said:

‘Funders like you must have cupboards bursting with information and evaluations. You should share more of what you know because we want to learn from it.’

It was a call to action, and a fair one at that. We currently use the information you share with us to check everything is going ok with your grant, to refer organisations to support if required and to connect organisations where peer to peer learning can be facilitated. We find it difficult to aggregate and identify learning from the thousands of projects that we fund, but we’re committed to trying different approaches to share learning this year.

As a first step we’re going to start tweeting snippets of learning we’ve gleaned from your reports. We also have ideas to hold more face-to-face events that could bring groups together to share learning, and to write up these conversations.

But we need your help to make this useful and relevant! As we start sharing stuff we’d really appreciate your feedback – – is the learning we’re sharing interesting and of value? Are there particular topics you’d like us to identify learning around? Would you like us to share learning you’ve identified from your work? How we best do this together?

NOTE: Please get in touch with your Funding Officer if you’re interested in accessing support from Evaluation Support Scotland.

If you would like to know more you can contact us at: @elfmhairi @rowanboase

Involving young people to lead on evaluation

March 11, 2019

This is a guest blog post by Nicola Swan, ESS Evaluation Support Manager, about the user involvement work she has been leading.

Involving young people to lead on evaluation?!

Isn’t that a bit risky?

Surely young people wouldn’t be interested?

How would we even get started on this?

If these are some of the questions running through your mind when you think about service users or participants taking responsibility for evaluation, then read on!

ESS has been working with The National Lottery Community Fund to support their grantholders to try handing the evaluation reins over to young people they engage with.  Seven projects in the youth work sector stepped up to test out different ways of supporting young people to take the lead with evaluation, from agreeing project outcomes to designing evaluation tools, analysing feedback and sharing findings. 

We held a learning session to help project leads identify the right stage and time to involve young people. Some also tapped into ESS’s good practice guide Why Bother Involving People in Evaluation? Beyond feedback which provides hints, tips and prompts to help people plan how they will get young people on board. 

While it was a bumpy ride at times, several project leads found that their initial concerns that young people wouldn’t be interested in taking on evaluation tasks were generally unfounded. Young people were enthusiastic and committed (particularly if there was pizza involved!).   

Some highlights

At Gowrie Care two young people replaced a wordy exit questionnaire which everyone hated with a more user-friendly emoji game to gather feedback. One young person reflected that…

 ‘It was an honour to be asked and included in something that is ultimately going to help future service users.’

Young people from the Springhall and Whitlawburn Youth Development Team voted on their preferred evaluation methods. As the young people chose the evaluation questions and method (post-it wall), the development worker feels that not only do they get richer feedback, they can also get evaluation of sessions done without lots of moaning!

After encouraging young people to use visual tools to share their experiences, South Ayrshire Befriending then involved young people in analysing and reporting back.

What we’ve learnt

Supporting young people to be more involved in evaluation decisions seems to work particularly well if it’s not tokenistic – when there’s a real sense of young people contributing meaningfully. Through this programme we’ve been really encouraged to see young people improving the evaluation methods and tools organisations are using.

While it might feel a bit risky to start with, supporting young people to shape evaluation not only enables them to take ownership of the project but can help build skills and confidence.  It’s also a reminder for organisations about why they exist!

Overall the message we’ve taken away from this piece of work is that young people are fantastic problem solvers. If you feel that something isn’t working well with your evaluation (perhaps your project outcomes don’t feel right or the tools don’t give you rich feedback), we suggest asking young people to get stuck in.

What next?

On 11th April in Edinburgh, we will be bringing organisations together from across the youth work sector to share learning more widely and inspire others to think about how they could go ‘beyond feedback’ with their young people.

Click here for more information, and to register.

Evaluation Support Scotland

Contact us:

T. 0131 243 2770


Scottish Charity No. SC036529 Company No. SC284843

The pants that changed women’s lives

March 8, 2019
Ammy and Louise from MsMissMrs

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, our Digital Communications Officer, Aymie Black, headed out to the West End of Glasgow to visit MsMissMrs – a social enterprise empowering women from a variety of backgrounds.

It was a cold and wet Wednesday afternoon when I first walked into the colourful and cosy haven of MsMissMrs. From its open space and big windows to its lovingly chosen scatter cushions and beanbags; I soon realised that this was no ordinary space – this was a sanctuary.

Louise, the operations manager of MsMissMrs, cheerfully welcomed me in and I complimented her on how lovely she keeps the hub. She responded that she ‘would like everyone to have somewhere that makes them feel special’. The space – and the organisation for that matter – is summed up in that one word: special. Testament to this, when MsMissMrs is brought up in conversation, people animatedly recount their ‘Empowerment Pants’; the organisation’s boldly designed undies for ladies, to help raise funds to support their work.

Louise and Ammy chatting about Get S.E.T.

MsMissMrs received a National Lottery grant in 2017 to fund their Get S.E.T (Self Empowerment Training) programme for women and girls who have experienced a difficult life journey, as a result of poverty, addiction, abuse, homelessness or poor mental health.

As Louise and I sat down she told me more about the programme which offers practical strategies and life-enhancing tools for women and girls from a variety of backgrounds. This includes a bespoke training package – consisting of a Self-Empowerment programme for girls aged 10-18 and a self-care plan for women who are rebuilding self-esteem and wellbeing. What’s extraordinary about the programme is that it takes place in the uplifting environment of their wellbeing hub, and provides tailored and authentic support to help women make changes in their life – free of judgment.

Louise explained that many women build a relationship with their organisation initially through Get S.E.T. – but continue their journey by attending other activities and classes like their meditation, yoga and sewing classes. Louise excitedly exclaims that women ‘don’t want to leave!’. As advertised on their pants, MsMissMrs aims to empower women to help them realise their own potential.

Ammy working in her new role at MsMissMrs

Evidence of this, is the incredible Ammy Nicholson – a 22-year-old mum from Denniston, who was introduced to MsMissMrs through their Get S.E.T. programme. I previously knew Ammy through a film we had shared at the start of her journey, so I was more than excited to hear that Ammy has gone from strength to strength. Ammy is not only a cherished advocate for MsMissMrs, but now she works for the organisation – with the goal that in the future she can help facilitate the programme that helped her find her own strength.

Ammy told me about the moment she first walked into MsMissMrs:

“Everyone was so welcoming, it wasn’t like walking into an office or a meeting – there’s beanbags and there’s women chatting – all talking together. They were all just so nice!”

MsMissMrs Get S.E.T. programme

MsMissMrs was there for Ammy at the beginning, when she struggled with self-esteem after having her little girl Caragh. With her new found confidence, and her array of skills – Ammy looks to give back to the organisation that helped her flourish.

“I used to feel as if I didn’t have anything to do when Caragh was at nursery. If I was to remain the way I was, lying in bed watching Netflix – that would’ve taken me back to a depression.

“I like coming here, I’ve got other adults to have a conversation with. Before it was just talking to Caragh, talking on my phone or speaking with Caragh’s nursery teachers – then I’d go home sit in the house myself.

“I didn’t think last year I’d be where I am now!”

MsMissMrs is a place that provides a multitude of support for women and girls to help them unlock their potential. Speaking with Louise and Ammy resonated with me – that with the right support, all women can thrive. I wished the ladies goodbye as I headed back to the office – feeling inspired, and with my women empowerment pants firmly on.

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