Community Support

Created on: 03 Apr 2024 | Last modified: 11 Apr 2024

Shetland Community Connections 

Shetland Community Connections is an organisation that works with individuals to form new relationships, raise aspirations, find work opportunities, build on their skills, and participate fully in activities and social life.

We encourage people to explore what a good life looks like for them, what is working well, what resources there are within the community.

Part of the resources that are really important are the college-based ones. This is not just in the central campus, but all of the community learning hubs are hugely important to ensure that everyone is included. We support people with disabilities, carers, and others at the margins of society who cannot always afford to travel to Lerwick or are under a time pressure to complete their activities such as learning. We believe that these cuts will discriminate against these people.

We also see the importance of having a trained health and social care work force. Most of the people we work with are being supported by someone who has a qualification in health and social care from Shetland College. We contribute towards the Health and Social Care Partnership in Shetland who have a vison “...that by 2025 everyone is supported in their community to live longer; healthier lives and we will have reduced health inequalities.” Any impact on this workforce will be felt completely across the health and social care sector. 

Finally, as a third sector organisation we understand the importance of operating effectively and efficiently within limited resources, but we also understand that you can’t just look at the numbers and have to understand that everything in Shetland is interrelated and the impact of cuts in one area will have a definite impact on other areas within the Shetland economy.

Frances Browne, Community Involvement & Development Officer for North Isles

I have worked in collaboration with the North Isles Learning Centre for many years. I am aware of many people who access the introductory classes in digital media, computing, and general interest. These classes really help the older generation with digital literacy. A lot of these people would struggle to access courses online and would not be able to travel to Lerwick for them.

The access to broadband in our remote areas is patchy and does not facilitate easy access to online courses.  So, for people who aren’t digitally literate anyway, this makes accessing online classes even more complicated. We know that the North Isles has the fastest aging population with 31.3% of the population over 65.  

The SQA qualifications and PDA’s provided at the North Isles Learning Centre are also helpful for getting people back in to work.   The Shetland Partnership Locality Profiles show that the North Isles have the lowest median income in Shetland. We also know that 9.6% of the population claim out of work benefits, higher than the Shetland average of 8.8%.

So, courses to help with employment are useful. It also means that there is less spare income for the costs of travel. The North Isles currently have no formal childcare, so for families travel time to Lerwick is also an issue. And as noted before digital literacy issues and patchy broadband means that not everyone will be able to access these courses online.

I am also aware of students who have been able to complete courses through UHI Shetland through the local support they have received from the North Isles Learning Centre. These students may be vulnerable, or have poor access to Broadband at home, or difficulty getting to Lerwick with the public transport system.   The support they receive locally from the North Isles Learning Centre has enabled them to complete their course.

Most of the support available in Shetland for young people struggling to gain qualification or employment is based in Lerwick and can be difficult for young people from the North Isles to access, even though agencies try very hard to make things work. Access to the North Isles Learning Centre is the one part of support they can access locally, so it’s loss will be significant in this area.