Pandemic impact leads to closure of a vital Galashiels charity after more than half a century of service

A vital charity which has supported people in Galashiels with learning disabilities for 55 years has folded – with the pandemic at the heart of its demise.

By Paul Kelly
Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 2:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 2:31 pm
Marlyn Anderson and her brother Sandy. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)
Marlyn Anderson and her brother Sandy. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Marlyn Anderson, treasurer with the Enable Selkirshire branch for 31 years, said it was with a ‘heavy heart’ she has been forced to call time on the group, members of which have been meeting at the town’s Focus Centre for decades.

Until Covid-19 emerged in March last year 25 members, aged between 21 and 85, accompanied by support workers, would attend the Livingston Place centre each week.

They’d enjoy social gatherings, sports and games in an informal and relaxed environment.

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Marlyn Anderson and her brother Sandy. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

For many members it was the only time during the week in which they would get out and about.

And now the service is gone there is a huge gap in the members social lives.

Marlyn said: “There’s nothing for them now, social-wise. There have been a number of factors, including a lack of volunteers, the government’s regulations due to Covid. A lot of the activities we had at the Focus Centre involved ball handling and you had to sanitise the ball after everyone used it, for basketball, for skittles, even dominoes. There was also the track and trace. As a lot of the members came with their support workers, whose details you had to take as well, it meant by the time you collated all that information the time on the Tuesday evening would be up.

"People with learning disabilities also find it really hard to keep to social distance regulations. It will be a great miss, but something we can’t stop with the way things are gong at the moment.”

Marlyn, whose brother Sandy has learning disabilities and attended the centre, said there was little chance of the charity reforming in the future.

She added: “We’ve had to unregister from the charity regulator. There’s a lot involved. It would have to be someone very enthusiastic to set it up again, it would be a lot of work. I think I’ve done my bit now. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all office bearers and volunteers past and present for their time and dedication.

"Most importantly I would like to thank all our members.”