Grassy Riggs feeling threatened by foodbank opening

Thursday March 14th 2019

The Grassy Riggs Service, Woodburn

The Grassy Riggs in Woodburn

Written by Midlothian View editor, Phil Bowen

The very successful Grassy Riggs service in Woodburn is feeling threatened by a new foodbank opening next week in the building it occupies.

The staff and people who use the service say they have not been consulted on the additional use of the building as a foodbank and say they have felt threatened in the way it has been imposed on them.

Last week, whilst they were in the middle of one of their groups, delivery men arrived unannounced and started delivering food and items to the building interrupting their group. The staff say they have felt intimidated by the building management which has led to two of the staff being signed off sick with stress.

The older folk present at the time said they too felt intimidated. As result a formal complaint has now been made to Midlothian Council about the incident and the building management for “intimidation, harassment and disruption.”

The Grassy Riggs staff and older people do not think the building is compatible with their service or with the building. They are sympathetic to the plight of people needing a foodbank, one of those attending the service said:

“It is sad that the country is in this state that people need a foodbank but we just don’t think this is the right place for it to be.

“A foodbank should be located in a building where people can discreetly visit it. But the location of this building is in the centre of Woodburn and thus in full view of everyone. It would be much better being placed somewhere in Dalkeith. We understand that the foodbank was offered such a building but turned it down.

“We also cannot see how our service can co-exist with a foodbank.”

Grassy Riggs provides a drop in service café and outreach service for older people, volunteering opportunities for over 65s and support for carers in Midlothian. The service started just over two years ago in the MARC building in Woodburn.

Starting with an almost empty shell of a building the enthusiastic and capable Grassy Riggs staff applied for funding from Midlothian Council and the Big Lottery to install a new kitchen and now provide a packed list of activities for the older residents of Woodburn and beyond.

The service regularly attracts a hundred people to it’s various events each week. As well as a daily drop in with soup lunches there is a specific group each day, such as widower’s group, computer group, carer’s group and advice groups.

Councillor Colin Cassidy, is an enthusiastic supporter of the service. He told Midlothian View

“I think this place is great. I have been visiting here for the last two years and the transformation of the building, the service but most of all the folk who attend is nothing short of remarkable.

“Just walking into the building you can feel the warmth, friendship and camaraderie. If I had my way I would rename this place “Cocoon” after the 80s film, as I have seen these people come alive in the two years the service has been going. What this service provides is priceless to them. This is what community is all about.

“And this is the reason I am so concerned about the threat to this service.

“The council really need to sort this out as it’s not right that staff and the old folk who use this service have not been consulted and worse have felt threatened. I do not think this building is the right place to locate a foodbank.”

One of the men at Grassy Riggs said:

“I am a widower and this place is just so important to me. The Widower’s club the service provides is a lifeline to me and the other widower’s here. We provide each other with support and friendship as well as being able to get support and advice from the staff here. The nutritional lunch provided ensures that all visitors to the service eat well.”

One of the ladies said:

“My husband has recently been diagnosed with dementia and I don’t know what I would do without the Grassy Riggs service. Twice a week my husband goes to a care centre and I am able to attend here for some respite and spend some time with friends. This place is my life line and I don’t know what I would do without it.”

In response to the complaint the council have assigned a council employee with the aim of managing the facility in a better way.

A Midlothian Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of a dispute between 2 of the charities using the building and working with both to try and resolve it.”

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