A PROJECT to reduce social isolation and loneliness among migrants and refugees in the Highlands has scooped top prize in a Scotland-wide awards scheme.
Inverness charity Birchwood Highland was named a winner at the second annual Scottish Social Services Awards in recognition of its migrant mental health initiative which included the creation of a peer support hub.
James O’Donnell, a student at Cantraybridge College near Croy, also achieved recognition after the judges picked him to be highly commended for his work in supporting vulnerable people.
They were among 12 other winning individuals, teams or organisations chosen from more than 100 entries across the third sector, independent organisations, local authorities and the NHS.
The awards, which aim to cut across boundaries and celebrate excellence, were presented by the Minister for Childcare and Early Years Maree Todd in a ceremony at Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh.
Birchwood Highland won in the making research and evidence real category which recognises those who challenge current thinking and find new ways of doing thing to make improvements.
The charity worked with partners to develop research into the mental welfare of European migrants moving to the region. By creating a peer support hub, it has enabled local migrant communities to better access mental health support and reduce social isolation.
Clare Daly, who manages the project, was thrilled it had won.
"It’s very important that the work we do is recognised in terms of the help we are giving to migrants and refugees in the Highlands," she said.
Chief executive Emily Stokes was also delighted.
"We’re hoping that our learnings can be shared within the social care sector," she said.
James O’Donnell, of Cantraybridge College and volunteer for a local nursery, was highly commended in the bright spark category which recognises and rewards a young person excelling in the social care sector.
The judges noted "his great attitude and determination" and said he was an asset to the service.
"I feel delighted about winning the award," he said. "I like to inspire people with learning difficulties. The event has been brilliant and I really am just so delighted."
Ms Todd praised the winners and all those who entered.
"The calibre of entries from across Scotland this year was outstanding and it’s been wonderful to see the vital and life-changing work being carried out by so many impressive people and initiatives," she said.
Chelsea Cameron, winner of the 2017 Sunday Mail Young Scot of the Year Award, was also present.