Fri 10 Jan 2020

Men's Sheds - Hitting the nail on the head for community empowerment

When you think about men and sheds, you usually think of one man enjoying some "cave-time" in his own shed.

This would be a place for him to pursue practical interests, practice skills and enjoy making and mending things as a solitary pursuit.  But this traditional men's shed scenario has recently started to evolve.  There is now a global movement making "Men's Sheds" a sociable place where groups of often older men meet and enjoy these interests together.  This initiative is intended to benefit men's health and well-being by providing a shared space to reduce isolation; also improving community engagement.

Founded in 2013, the UK Men's Shed Association currently reports on their website that there are 535 Men's Sheds open in the UK and a further 145 in development.  These facilities are not necessarily in "shed" buildings at all and operate from all types of properties.  This can provide a useful way to reuse and renovate disused properties, many of which are owned by public sector bodies.

One of the ways that Scottish Men's Shed groups are able to find a suitable location is by reviewing the Asset Registers which local authorities and many other public sector bodies ("Relevant Authorities") are now obliged to maintain under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.  The Relevant Authorities in terms of this legislation do not include UK government departments.   This legislation was introduced by the Scottish Government to empower community bodies through ownership and control of land or buildings and includes a range of measures to achieve this; some of which I have discussed in previous articles.

Once they have identified a property owned by a Relevant Authority, one of the ways that the Scottish Men's Sheds groups are able to secure a suitable space is by making an Asset Transfer Request ("ATR").  An ATR, again made under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, enables a community body to request ownership, lease, or other rights over property or land owned or leased by a Relevant Authority. 

A number of Men's Sheds groups in Scotland have already submitted ATRs to Relevant Authorities to secure suitable premises.   This is an excellent illustration of the Scottish Government's community empowerment legislation helping to improve mental health within local communities.

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