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'Outstanding' effort of High Life Highland staff during lockdown acknowledged by MP; Drew Hendry urges continued bounceback support for organisation that operates sport, leisure and library services across region

By Hector MacKenzie

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Drew Hendry MPwith HLH staff at a recent visit to Inverness facilities.
Drew Hendry MPwith HLH staff at a recent visit to Inverness facilities.

THE efforts of High Life Highland staff during the coronavirus crisis have been acknowledged today by a local MP.

More than 500 High Life Highland staff signed up to volunteer during the pandemic and subsequently worked to get community facilities reopened, in the process restarting swimming lessons for over 3000 children across the region.

Highland MP Drew Hendry has raised a motion in the UK Parliament to recognise the effort, hailing the "outstanding efforts to support Highland communities".

He highlighted several online programmes that supported the wellbeing of some of the area's most vulnerable citizens, including move more, music tuition, youth work and adult learning as well as leisure; archives and libraries services.

He said: “Groups and individuals in our communities have been nothing short of incredible throughout this pandemic, and the dedicated staff at High Life Highland are no different. They have been a constant source of support and activity across the region; be that through voluntary work or the many innovative ways they have found to provide health and well-being services online. The fact that they have had over two million customer engagements through their online services is a tremendous effort, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to put on record my thanks to the entire team.

“I must also pay tribute to (chief executive) Steve Walsh and his leadership team for the positive way they have approached this challenging time and for the care and attention they have shown to customers and their staff alike. As we have seen with so many Highland businesses and organisations, innovative thinking, and a positive vision really can make such a difference.

"The value High Life Highland brings to our communities cannot be underestimated, and it’s vital that we continue to support the organisation now and as they develop services and facilities into the future."

In figures

A total of 538 HLH staff signed up to the HLH Volunteering register in response to the Council’s call for volunteers to support its resilience work.213 were called upon by the council to volunteer.

Some 170 of these led and supported the food resilience work in the ten community hubs set up by the council across the Highlands. Forty-one were called on to support the key worker childcare hubs; and two were trained up as hospital delivery van drivers by NHS Highland.

In the summer school term, HLH staff provided online activities to support schools as they delivered lessons online. Dance activities proved popular with numbers attending online often exceeding 500.

During the lockdown, adult learning and youth work continued to provide a new online/remote service focusing on some of HLH’s most vulnerable customers.

The music tuition team continued to offer instruction shifting to online lessons, making Highland the only region in Scotland to continue music tuition through lockdown.

Members of the sports team provided online activities for school pupils through Google Classroom with dance sessions attracting 500 participants at a time –one of them 750.

Libraries and archives staff delivered online activities such as book-bug sessions, bed-time stories and family history sessions which were well received, and some of the Leisure Facilities team provided online fitness classes.

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Demand for HLH services expected to rise over winter says boss

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