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​Alex Russell

Someone who firmly believes in the power of local branches is former ENABLE Scotland chairperson Alex Russell.

Alex began volunteering with ENABLE Scotland when he and his family moved to Scotland over 20 years ago.

Alex and his wife began attending meetings run by the ENABLE branch in Castle Douglas and, unknown to Alex, it was soon decided that he should be branch treasurer.  He was then nominated for the Scottish Council and it was at that time he got involved with ENABLE Scotland nationally.  In 2008 he became chairperson of the national organisation and although he stepped down in 2011, Alex is still very much involved with ENABLE but on a more local level. 

Alex stands up for and supports local people who have a learning disability.  He and another volunteer from Stranraer took action when the council imposed charges for support, and the pair pressed the local authority for greater transparency. They lobbied local councillors and drummed up community support.  Through their campaigning, the charge was eventually scrapped in March 2013.  

“The community generally need people who will attend meetings, go on-line and find out what’s contained in reports and challenge them. I’m involved on the reference group at the Carer’s Strategy locally and I also sit as a member of the Adult Protection Committee.” 

To strengthen this strain of people power, Alex’s local branch of ENABLE Scotland in Castle Douglas began organising regional meetings with other branches throughout Dumfries and Galloway.

“About two years ago, it was decided there were enough issues locally to try and get the branches together for discussion and debate at regional meetings. That’s still going strong and has good representation. We get people from Annan, Dumfries, Stranraer, Newton Stewart and, of course, Castle Douglas.”

The meetings, which take place every two or three months, are a vehicle for discussing topical issues, such as changes to the benefits system.

The forums also help combat the geographical isolation which many rural branches often experience. 

The drive to introduce more people with learning disabilities to the world of work concerns Alex, who doesn’t believe the government is doing enough.

“It’s got to be about quality of life for people who have learning disabilities.  I don’t think there is an understanding at government level about how lifestyle changes will affect some people. That’s why we need local people in the branches to be there to help. It’s like Citizen’s Advice but it’s more local and it’s someone you know.”

Alex believes volunteers are pivotal both locally and nationally to an organisation like ENABLE Scotland.

“We need more volunteers with plenty of ideas and enthusiasm. If we could establish enthusiastic branches all over the country that would do ENABLE at national level a power of good.
“It’s good to know you can pick up the phone and talk to someone who will understand what you’re going through.” 

Overall, Alex has found his time as a volunteer for ENABLE Scotland as very positive and feels he is just one of an army of people who help improve people’s quality of life by standing up for their rights.

“I just gave ENABLE Scotland a period of time in my life, like I still do locally. My time nationally was great, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I put in whatever effort people asked of me and I do the same locally. I’ll continue to give 100% as long as I’m needed.”

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