Rural Community Care Project – communities can save local services

Local action helps when public sector funding cuts hit, says 5-year-report of Community Care Assynt.

This September Community Care Assynt (CCA), which took over local care for older people and adults with care needs after Highland Council closed down services in the Assynt Centre in 2010, reaches a 5-year-milestone. To mark the occasion the charity is publishing a report ‘2010-2015 – The Journey so Far’. Coinciding with the charity’s AGM on 16 September 2015 the launch of the report is a chance to celebrate results while also looking ahead to future challenges.

In the five years since Community Care Assynt was founded and took on the running of the Assynt Centre in Lochinver the centre has developed into a local health and wellbeing hub. This provides information, support, lunch and activities for older people and those with care needs. It also offers local transport for those who need it to access services.

  • Between 2010-2015 the Assynt Centre has served 15529 lunches to local residents.
  • Volunteers contributed 1702 hours of their time to drive service-users to and from the Centre in 5 years.
  • An additional 3909 hours were worked by volunteers at the Centre helping service-users on location.

The wellbeing-hub plays a key role in bringing people together and signposting service-users to the other social, care and practical services offered by the Assynt Centre. It also provides healthy-eating options, helps people with shopping trips, laundry services and many other basic needs which would otherwise be unmet. Importantly, the Centre hosts regular professional Health and Social care visits and is frequently used by GPs and community nurses to meet with service-users.

The charity’s Board and staff are proud of what has been achieved and that service-users describe the Centre as ‘a good anchor point’ and ‘a lifeline to all of us.’ However, funded by NHS Highlands on a much more restricted budget than the public services were before 2010, the Centre has not being able to replace all services that have been lost, especially the local respite services.

CCA’s Chairman Dr David Slator says ‘In 2010 Assynt was hit by public sector cuts in the same way as many other communities across Scotland and the wider UK. Services had declined for a number of years before, we lost residential respite care, then the Centre closed for good in 2010. Strong community action from the start meant we had our Community Care Assynt Action Group up and running swiftly, allowing us to make a bid to at least rescue core services, which has been a lifeline for many the last 5 years.’

As the local population ages challenges to services in remote rural areas like Assynt keep rising. Community Care Assynt remains dedicated to play a key role in bringing together the community to meet needs.

Dr. David Slator says, ‘We’ve experienced a steep learning curve. In the last year we have successfully consolidated our services and made them sustainable. Looking forward, our focus is less on re-establishing all we lost, but on looking at new ways of providing the best services possible. We are open to exploring ideas around new service and funding models, and we want to reach out to the local population before needs reach a severe level. We will do everything we can to boost self-reliance and independent living, to enable residents to remain in their local community for as long as possible’.

The full report can be found here

(Editor’s note – this is a rather large 17MB pdf, taking almost a minute to download on our broadband connection!)


  • Community Care Assynt Ltd (CCA) is a Registered Charity (Registered charity number: SC044803), based in Lochinver, Sutherland. The project started out as a Community Interest Company and achieved Charitable Status in April 2014.
  • The Charity Community Care Assynt is governed by a local Board of Trustees, which is supported by a small staff team, and a significant number of volunteers.  
  • Lochinver is a coastal village in the parish of Assynt, county Sutherland, Highland, Scotland. With a population of just 600, the Assynt Centre in Lochinver also services the wider community of the area. Overall, the local catchment area of Assynt is estimated to have a population of about 1200.
  • A recent report (August 2015) by the Royal College of Nursing in cooperation with Age Scotland has found that the NHS urgently needs to shift resources to community settings in Scotland faster to deal with the increasing number of older people living in rural areas. Covering the areas of NHS Western Isles, NHS Shetland, NHS Orkney, NHS Highland, NHS Dumfries and Galloway, NHS Borders and NHS Grampian (Aberdeenshire), the report ‘Going the Extra Mile‘ found these areas are expected to have a higher proportion of their population aged 65 and over by 2037, in comparison to the rest of Scotland. The situation in Assynt reflects this scenario well.