The Learn2Swim inclusive swimming programme is one of the award winners
Three South Ayrshire Council projects have achieved Bronze Awards in this year's COSLA Excellence Awards after being selected by judges as top ten projects in three separate award categories.
The ten projects long-listed for each of the five COSLA awards give a flavour of the innovative work that is transforming lives in communities across Scotland, setting new standards, spreading good practice, and improving service delivery.
The South Ayrshire Council Bronze Award winners recognise the trailblazing work underway to reduce inequality in our communities and give everyone the same opportunities and access to sport and leisure; improve energy efficiency, bring families out of fuel poverty and improve health and wellbeing; and empower local people and communities and get them involved in local decision-making.
The Council's Tackling Inequalities and Improving Health Bronze Award winner is Learn2Swim Plus. The inclusive swimming programme – for children aged 4-16 years with physical, sensory and/or learning needs – now has almost 100 swimmers actively participating either in mainstream or bespoke lessons, supporting them to live healthy and active lifestyles and helping them achieve their personal goals.
Many Learn2Swim Plus swimmers have gone on to compete in para-swimming and other aquatic disciplines, or completed coaching qualifications, which not only helps their own personal and professional development, but encourages the same in the next generation of swimmers.
Feedback on the programme has been so positive – and participation so high – that it's now operating at capacity and work is underway to extend the programme even further. It has also been recognised nationally by Scottish Swimming as an example of best practice across the country.
The Council's Strong & Sustainable Communities Bronze Award winner is Area-Based Schemes. This project, delivered in partnership with the Energy Agency, took a bold and dynamic approach to improve the energy efficiency of housing in whole streets, remove people from fuel poverty, and monitor and evaluate energy savings and health benefits to householders. It was based on the completion of 461 external solid wall insulations – in Council, private rented and privately-owned properties in areas of high deprivation – to improve the quality of the properties as well as the lives of the people living in them.
The outcomes, which exceeded all expectations, meant a reduction in carbon emissions, improved living conditions, reduced heating bills – taking households out of fuel poverty, increased disposable income for families, extended lifespan for the properties, and related improvements to existing health conditions. And, importantly, customer satisfaction with the project reached an impressive 92%.
The Council's Local Matters Bronze Award winner is You Decide. This community-empowering initiative has transformed local decision-making and put the power to decide what local projects are supported and funded right into the hands of local people. Taking a participatory budgeting approach to allocating grant funding, it was developed in line with the priorities chosen by the six Locality Planning Groups in South Ayrshire so that decisions would reflect local needs and demands.
Over a two-year period, 29 decision days were held in local community venues, bringing more than 6,200 people together to take part and choose the projects that mattered to them – awarding almost £1 million in the process. A total of £980,000 was allocated to 636 groups from across South Ayrshire, supporting initiatives and good causes ranging from sports pavilions and pipe bands, to young carers and recovery groups.
Councillor Peter Henderson, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Performance, said he was extremely pleased to see South Ayrshire Council projects among the top ten in the country. He said: "These projects show just some of the innovative ways in which we're transforming services, and transforming lives, and everyone involved should be very proud of their hard work and effort.
"I'm particularly happy that the projects receiving Bronze Awards – and now in the running for Silver Awards – epitomise some of the differences we want to make for our people and places and show what we're doing to deliver on our corporate objectives.
"That includes involving people in how we work and making decisions that matter; reducing poverty and disadvantage; increasing the number of affordable and warm homes for those on limited income; supporting the training and development of our young people; and encouraging healthy and active lifestyles.
"Most exciting of all is that these award-winning projects are only a small part of the bigger picture of what we're doing to ensure our people and places can thrive and flourish. It's great to see our efforts recognised by COSLA in this way and I have no doubt our projects will go far in the process."
All top ten longlists for each of the award categories will now be whittled down by judges to a top three shortlist, which will each win a Silver Award. The winners will be announced at the COSLA Excellence Awards ceremony in October.
Further information on the awards, including details of all categories and long-listed projects, can be found at www.awards.cosla.gov.uk.