Thousands of people benefit from re-run of Winter Connections as programme 'goes from strength to strength'

Depute council leader Jacqueline Cameron attending a Winter Connections get together in the Methodist Central Hall, Paisley
-Credit: (Image: Renfrewshire Council)


Thousands of people are said to have benefitted from the re-run of the Winter Connections programme in Renfrewshire.

The warm spaces initiative – a network of events for people to connect with others in their area – enjoyed a successful second year. The scheme allowed groups and organisations to apply for up to £2,000 to provide free activities, which were inclusive and welcoming and offered warm drinks, snacks and food.

An evaluation of the programme for 2023/24 was discussed at the Fairer Renfrewshire sub-committee on Wednesday. It has been estimated at least 3,900 different people benefitted from the most recent Winter Connections – a figure that is already more than twice the 1,800 recorded in the previous year.

Laura McIntyre, the council's head of policy and partnerships, said the initiative "continues to go from strength to strength" as she addressed elected members about the evaluation at the meeting.

She added: "It's one of those reports I think, as I've said to colleagues, is good to read when you're having a bad day in the sense there's so much positivity there in terms of the benefit and outcomes that are being experienced from this programme for individuals who are accessing supports but also for the groups and organisations that are running them. We are really creating a legacy here around activities and capacity across groups and organisations and people coming to participate in activities that we know that they wouldn't otherwise have done."

Depute council leader Jacqueline Cameron, chair of the sub-committee and SNP representative for Johnstone South and Elderslie, said: "I think it's something as a council we should be very proud of and I'm very proud of the work that you've put into it because the fact that twice as many people have benefitted as last year, as you say, it's really becoming embedded in the council's processes."

Councillor Graeme Clark, vice-chair of the sub-committee and Labour representative for Paisley Northeast and Ralston, said: "I want to commend this report, it's really fantastic work. I think there's a lot in the model here which could be shared across Scotland. I think it's absolutely great."

The evaluation report explained: "The Winter Connections programme aimed to encourage people to connect and participate in activities in warm and welcoming spaces across communities in Renfrewshire. Feedback suggests that the programme continues to be successful in benefitting attendees by connecting them to each other and creating a sense of belonging to their local community.

"There is also evidence that the programme provides an inclusive and supportive environment for people to engage with services, helping to reduce social isolation, reduce financial costs and provide access to information and advice. The activities on offer were enjoyed by all ages and allowed access to new experiences."

A number of recommendations were put forward, which it said should be taken into account if a similar initiative is to be delivered in the future. The first acknowledged that, while projects are currently open to anyone, feedback has indicated some would benefit from a more targeted approach, such as for older people or those from ethnically diverse communities, where there may be a need for activities for women only.

The second said it may be helpful to set up a networking meeting with previously funded organisations to share good practice about the delivery of activities and to support community connections at an organisational level. The third said, although the programme started earlier this year, responses suggest starting the funding process even earlier would provide projects with more time to plan.

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