Angus Couple Roll Out Tactile Farm ProjectNeil Hardie
A tactile farming venture has been launched in Angus in an innovative move to unlock a new world for disabled groups and those with mental health issues.
Fraser and Catherine Govan have developed the Cartwheel idea around their 18-acre family farm just outside Montrose.
The couple welcomed the first group of visitors in a landmark weekend.
They have been working with charity PAMIS on the venture to offer new experiences and opportunities for those with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and their families.
The pandemic situation has broadened out the ambition to use the farm at Damside of Glenskenno to help those struggling with their mental health.
Fraser said: “Based on research carried out with families supported by PAMIS, we are looking to develop a social enterprise that will support the farm to cater and provide opportunities for wider family orientated groups that have a disabled member and provide them with a space that is always available to do something together.
“The intention, initially, is to provide animal therapy.
“Individuals and groups can have the opportunity to engage with the farm animals in a variety of ways including watching, touching, feeding and grooming.
“We are also able to provide disabled riding lessons and carriage driving rides for all, including wheelchair users.”
He added: “This also follows a number of years of research in the use of animals as a method of therapy for people with mental health issues.
“It probably couldn’t come at a better time given the past year we have all had when mental health has been so often highlighted.”
It is hoped to have a Changing Places toilet at the farm and the couple have made an application to the DIY SOS television programme for consideration as a community-build project.
PAMIS chief executive Jenny Miller said: “There are many lessons to be learnt from Covid-19 but what is clear is that accessible and safe outdoor activity is essential.”
The charity is the only organisation in Scotland that works solely with people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and their families.
It celebrated its 20th anniversary during then pandemic.
“Children, young people and adults who have PMLD continue to be a group that has been most adversely affected by COVID with many still isolating, and have been since before lockdown way back in March,” she said.
“Their complex healthcare has meant that family carers are unwilling to risk re-entering communities, particularly when they are not set up to support their needs.
“This has had an impact on both the physical and mental health of those with PMLD but also of their families.
“The future remains unclear and although a vaccine is now available we need to build forward with resources and activities that can continue to carry on safely no matter what happens.
“We cannot continue to lock away this group who desperately need fresh air and activity in order to thrive,” she added.
“The tactile farm community project would not only provide a purposeful and meaningful multisensory experience for the whole family, it would also be designed to ensure that it is accessible.
“The provision of a changing places toilet is absolutely core to the requirement ensuring that personal care needs can be met in a safe and respectful way.
“The commitment to work in partnership with our group has been absolutely core to their work.
“It highlights their vision as a family to value and listen to everyone, including those who struggle to communicate conventionally.”