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High Life Highland keen to welcome the public back 'at the appropriate moment'

By Alan Hendry

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Chief executive Steve Walsh says senior staff have been working to identify ways in which customers can be welcomed back to High Life Highland locations across the region.
Chief executive Steve Walsh says senior staff have been working to identify ways in which customers can be welcomed back to High Life Highland locations across the region.

High Life Highland (HLH) is looking forward to being able to reopen its facilities in line with the Scottish Government route map for emerging from the coronavirus lockdown.

The charity – which provides culture, learning, sport, leisure, health and wellbeing services – says no time will be lost as preparations are made for welcoming the public back "at the appropriate moment" to its locations across the region.

Sites will have to be set up for social distancing and increased hygiene requirements.

HLH closed the doors to all its premises in line with government guidelines in March. With the exception of a handful of venues hosting Highland Council community hubs, all locations have remained closed and more than 1300 staff have been placed on furlough.

Speaking after the First Minister’s route map announcement, HLH chief executive Steve Walsh said: “Over the past number of weeks, we have had a team of our senior staff working to identify ways in which we think we will be able to welcome our many customers back to our locations when the government restrictions are relaxed or removed.

“The Scottish Government’s route map now offers clarity in terms of the national direction of travel in allowing businesses and organisations such as HLH to return as close to 'business as usual' as we can."

Referring to the four phases route map, Mr Walsh said: “The vast majority of services operated by HLH would appear to fall into phase three, therefore allowing us additional time to do what we can to prepare our sites for the necessary social distancing and increased hygiene requirements that will be put in place in line with the government guidance.

“In the meantime, HLH is continuing to develop, improve and increase its online offering across all our services in ways that we hope will be helping individuals and families both physically and mentally as well as supporting parents and carers with resources for home schooling.

“During the past few weeks we have been keeping our customers and members up to date with developments and we will continue to do this as we move through the phases enabling us to reopen some of our locations in line with the guidance.

“Everyone at High Life Highland is extremely grateful for all the very positive communications of support received.

“We would also wish to thank those who have been able to continue contributing their monthly subscriptions in order to allow the ongoing developments during lockdown while we get ourselves prepared and into a position to reopen our sites in line with the published route map."

Mr Walsh added: “Prior to the pandemic, it was clear that many people didn’t realise High Life Highland is a charity registered in Scotland dependent on members and donations to support delivery of all our services.

"We are delighted that more customers and public seem to be aware of this now. Because of this awareness, we are thankful that many of those members are coming back asking to reinstate their full or a proportion of their monthly highlife subscription to support the charity at this time.

“And although we have always had the ability to make donations online, we have now made the function much more prominent on our website – and again, we are grateful to those customers and members making use of this online giving feature.

“We would reassure our many customers that we are working as hard as we can, obviously now using the Scottish Government’s route map, to get our premises and locations ready to welcome as many people back as guidelines will allow.”

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