MSP views work of community support group

Pictured: Mairi Gougeon, Duncan Thorp & Janice Nicol of SES and Lucy Nicholl & Pauline Lockhart of Community First.Pictured: Mairi Gougeon, Duncan Thorp & Janice Nicol of SES and Lucy Nicholl & Pauline Lockhart of Community First.
Pictured: Mairi Gougeon, Duncan Thorp & Janice Nicol of SES and Lucy Nicholl & Pauline Lockhart of Community First.
Angus North and Mearns MSP Mairi Gougeon visited a pioneering Forfar community support group recently to see first-hand how social enterprises are transforming local economies.

Community First, provides work and training opportunities, as well as affordable food, for people across Angus as well as a wide range of support and services to community, groups and organisations. It is one of more than 6000 social enterprises in Scotland which collectively contribute more than £2.6 billion to Scotland’s economy, creating almost 90,000 jobs.

Ms Gougeon was welcomed by Pauline Lockhart, founder and chief executive, and Duncan Thorp, from Social Enterprise Scotland,The organisation operates from a community and business hub based on Forfar’s West High Street which includes Angus’s first Social Supermarket, S-Mart. This tackles food insecurity and food waste by using surplus goods from supermarkets, local businesses and suppliers which are sold at discounted prices.The S-Mart model is unique in that it is open to everyone which means there is no requirement of means testing or need for referrals, promoting dignity and inclusivity.During the pandemic Community First worked with charity food network Fareshare to provide more than 35,000 meals in the form of free grocery packs to those in need across the county.Profits go back to organisations to support training and work opportunities as well as a programme of activities supporting local people, enterprises and businesses.Ms Gougeon said: "Social enterprises are vital for our communities as they provide opportunities and support for people that need it most."I know that Social Enterprise Scotland will give organisations like Community First a stronger voice in Scotland whilst also supplying extra investment and capacity to ensure these vital community organisations flourish.”

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Ms Lockhart added: “Enterprising, sustainable social businesses like ours are the backbone of communities across Scotland and will be even more so in the face of the cost of living crisis. Our vision is to see an S-Mart introduced into every town in Scotland ensuring no one is left behind and that everyone has access to affordable food in a stigma-free and dignified environment.”

In July, Social Enterprise Scotland was chosen by the Scottish Government to collectively represent social enterprises in Scotland. The independent and membership-led organisation supports and promotes the rich and diverse social enterprise sector across the country, helping them to maximise their social and economic contribution to Scotland.It follows the Scottish Government’s Social Enterprise Action Plan 2021-24, which commits to place social enterprise at the forefront of ethical and socially responsible business in Scotland.It includes investment, building capacity and supporting social enterprises to flourish – as well as creating the SEI.Chris Martin, Social Enterprise Scotland chief executive, said: “We are proud to be growing a strong and inclusive voice for social enterprises in Scotland.“We were delighted to welcome Ms Gougeon to see first-hand how the more-than-profit approach at the heart of the social enterprise movement is making a difference every single day.“Social enterprises play a leading role in putting greater fairness and equality into our economy and Community First is a fantastic example of what can be achieved.”