Stories of success add up to spell an end to stigma

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
The Scottish Executive launched its latest adult literacy and numeracy campaign on Monday, to be run by Learndirect Scotland.

The usual television campaigns and leaflets will be reinforced by a national helpline (0808 100 1080) and website giving details of how to find help to improve skills.

The pound;1 million campaign, which will run for two years, will concentrate on removing the stigma which may be preventing the one in five adults in Scotland who have difficulties with reading, writing or number from doing something about it.

The initiative was unveiled by Jim Wallace, Deputy First Minister, at the Tannahill Centre in Paisley, base of the "buddies for learning" project.

The project is one of the beneficiaries of the Executive's pound;51 million investment over five years to help 80,000 people by March 2004 and 150,000 by 2006.

Mr Wallace said it was not the case that all those with literacy and numeracy problems could not read or write, "simply that they need to brush up their skills in some of these areas".

Fiona Roy from Ferguslie Park in Paisley was at the launch and recounted the reserves of courage she had to draw on before deciding to take action.

The need for confidentiality was a major factor, she said, but the catalyst was her daughter starting school.

That was three years ago and Ms Roy's life has been transformed. She has started work on a National Certificate course and hopes to become a community work assistant. Her learning experience had given her "an enormous confidence boost" and she plans eventually to go to university.

Ronnie Longwill, a shipyard worker in Glasgow, wanted to change jobs but felt "trapped" because of his problems with reading and spelling.

Encouraged by his wife, a primary teacher, he sought help but recalls:

"Walking through the door of that community centre was the biggest hurdle I have had to overcome in my life."

Mr Longwill's new confidence has been put to good use, having swapped the shipyards for outreach work with the buddies for learning project in Paisley.

Donna Brown, who like the others left school as soon as possible, avoided shops and dreaded ordering a drink at the bar because she couldn't tell if she had enough money to pay. "Professional people," she said, "didn't give me the time of day."

Improving her maths and English has been a "liberating and fun experience".

Her job now involves looking after the elderly in their own homes - and she has no fears about taking wheelchair-bound clients to the bar. She aims to go to college to do a nursing degree.

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