By Joe McGuinness, former Community Manager for Dunfermline, Fife Council, and Katie Thomson, Dunfermline Advice Hub Coordinator.
The concept of the Dunfermline Advice Hub developed in 2014/15, from the Local Community Planning Partnership (LCP), where it was generally recognised that the 3rd sector was poorly represented at the partnership’s table. Using the Christie Commission Report (on the future of delivery of public services) as a back bone for Local Community Planning, it was clear that more needed to be done to establish community ownership of the LCP process and to include the 3rd sector.
An invitation was sent out to all 3rd sector operators who were either established in the Dunfermline area or at least offered local support services from a remote (Fife) location. What followed was the emergence of the Dunfermline Poverty Action Group (DPAG). The membership of the group included a variety of organisations who had a remit in poverty alleviation, social justice and financial inclusion, such as: foodbanks, homeless prevention charities, debt advice agencies, Citizens Advice, furniture charities, credit unions, mental health organisations and churches. The DPAG still remains a key aspect of the wider LCP vision and business plan and has strong clear links into the local community planning activities.
The actual development of the Dunfermline Advice Hub grew from a desire to find a more accessible location for our local Credit Union, in an effort to provide an alternative to the growth of pay day lenders who were at that time, establishing business locations in our town centre. Fife Council were in a position to support the Hub’s development from their Welfare Reform and Anti-Poverty budgets. The Chair of the DPAG in 2014/15 was the representative from Furniture Plus and a key 3rd sector organisation with established roots and a solid business base. It was agreed that they should take on the function of managing this significant new development on behalf of the DPAG.
An operational business plan was drawn up and appropriate funding identified and committed for an initial 18 month period. There was a definite demand for “town centre space”, which led to identifying the need for a Coordinator. This Coordinator would manage the day to day running of the resource, provide a point of contact for all of the activities, and be able to signpost and refer to partners when not on the premises. From concept to the official opening of the DAH in August 2015, took around 9 months to a year.
From opening in August 2015, the Hub has been a collaborative effort. Partners provided drop in advice sessions. Local people became volunteers, who welcomed, made tea, chatted and helped community members find the help they needed. The local clothing bank provided a small pay as you feel clothing shop. The BID, Dunfermline Delivers, donated public access computers. Local businesses donated shop fittings, shelves and furniture. Fife Council Housing donated paint, and Furniture Plus donated a team of workers to redecorate and move furniture.
This collaborative effort drew the attention of Scottish Government, who appointed a team of Local Government Advisers to help develop the Hub further. From 2016-2017, these advisers helped the DPAG and Hub Coordinator to develop the Hub to a new level, where the community were more included in its development. They also helped secure additional funding to appoint a temporary worker in 2017, who carried out a range of stakeholder and partnership sessions, to improve and strengthen the partnerships in the Hub (see report and DAH Animation)
In Summer 2018, it was clear that the Hub was a great success – the rooms were fully booked, advice sessions were at capacity, and there was no more room! The lease on 7 Douglas Street was coming to an end, and it seemed to be the right time to move on to a bigger and better venue. A steering group volunteered to help facilitate this move, and oversee the future planning of the Hub. In April 2019, we moved in with the community development finance initiative Conduit Scotland. By pooling our resources together and sharing a venue, we are both able to offer more to our community. Both our organisations have a similar ethos and values on dignity, respect and providing options for those who would normally be socially and financially excluded.
In our new venue, we are able to provide more spaces for partners to work from, more advice sessions, events and provide a wider range of information to our community with the introduction of the Information Library.
If you would like more information on The Dunfermline Poverty Action Group, Hub Steering Group or the Hub in general, please contact us.