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North Ayrshire gardening project growing skills

September 9, 2021


A supported employability programme for those with disabilities is blossoming at Eglinton Country Park.

The Council’s EQUAL programme provides opportunities for people with physical and learning disabilities and mental health issues to learn new skills, gain experience and work towards a qualification with the aim of securinglong-term, fulfilling employment.

It forms a key part of Community Wealth Building, the economic model adapted by the council, by providing targeted support to groups who often struggle to enter the labour market – helping to lift people out of poverty.

It came to fruition through a £500,000 investment agreed by Cabinet in June

The current six-month programme is taking place at Eglinton Park with nine

The trainees have been working alongside the Council’s
Employability team, countryside rangers and volunteers from a variety of other groups to transform a vacant field into a community garden.

And in the first eight weeks, the team has already built a steel frame for their polytunnel, undertaken ground maintenance, built colourful planters and transformed a container into a comfortable ‘hub’ space – and they have lots of other exciting plans in the pipeline.

They have also been engaging with the neighbouring allotment group, getting advice on their planting and harvesting of fresh produce.

The group meet Monday to Friday and while most of their time is spent at the
garden, they meet once a week at Trinity Church in Irvine to undertake

The employability team running the programme has been speaking to local employers which has resulted in some job offers for the trainees, on completion of the project.

Council leader Joe Cullinane visited the park last week to meet the team,
trainees and volunteers involved and hear directly from them on the benefits
it’s providing.

He said: “It was fantastic to join everyone last week and see first-hand the

positive difference the EQUAL programme is making to the lives of those

“From chatting with the trainees, it is clear that the project is not only providing them with new skills and experience but is also building their confidence and giving them new aspirations for future employment. And that’s exactly what the EQUAL programme is all about.

“It’s about recognising that with the right approach, everyone can contribute to
creating a vibrant and inclusive economy here in North Ayrshire.

“There are so many positives coming from the project already. I look forward to seeing how it progresses over the remaining months and to see what’s next for the trainees involved.”

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