Scotland’s social innovation rising stars unveiled at award ceremony

November 15, 2019

A peer counselling service to disabled adults, a ‘social croft’ providing a supportive environment for visitors with support needs, and a parenting group for families with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder have been announced as the 2019 winners of the Social Innovation Competition.

Delivered by social enterprise agency Firstport and with a different theme each year, the Social Innovation Competition uncovers exciting, innovative and enterprising new ideas that tackle Scotland’s most pressing issues. The competition offers three £5000 awards - including the Young Social Innovator category open to applicants aged 16 to 30 - combined with tailored support to develop these ideas.

The 2019 theme ‘Individuals affected by disability’ attracted a wide range of ideas offering solutions that support individuals directly affected by disability, as well as those indirectly affected, such as carers and family members. The winners – Kerry Biss of Positively Able CIC, Sarah Asher of Darach Croft Social Croft and Paula McPhail of Oshay FASD - were presented with their awards by Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, at the annual Social Enterprise Scotland Awards held in the Scottish Parliament last night (12 November).

Positively Able CIC is a social enterprise providing professional peer counselling to disabled adults, a confidential third party hate crime reporting service to victims of crime and Disability Equality Training to employers who provide services to disabled customers.

Darach Social Croft will combine the principles of care farming with the traditional practices of crofting, incorporating a person-focussed ethos to offer an innovative experience for people with additional support needs. A range of ‘nature-based eco-therapies’ will be on offer designed to improve mental and physical wellbeing, stimulate resilience and self-belief.

Oshay FASD runs parenting groups for families affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, a group of conditions including physical, behavioural and learning problems that affect children if their mothers drink alcohol in pregnancy. Currently the only parenting group of its kind, it supports families to provide effective parenting, as well as children affected by the condition.

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 their 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.

Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell 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.

Kerry Biss of Positively Able CIC said:

My business partner Fiona Lindsay and I are over the moon to have been selected as winners of the Social Innovation Competition. As the only known qualified disabled counsellor in Scotland, I’m confident that the peer element to the counselling service is unique and innovative. The user-led nature of our company and the focus on developing the needs of our demographic is essential to giving voice and choice to those deemed less able.

Sarah Asher of Darach Social Croft 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.

Paula McPhail, winner of the Young Social Innovator category, said:

To win the award is an honour and boost of confidence! As a 19-year-old with FASD, I struggled with school, I couldn’t make friends and teachers didn’t understand me. I know how other kids feel, that’s why I am confident that our parenting groups will be a much needed and welcomed service to families and children affected by FASD.