ARDROSSAN based charity The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety scooped the top prize in the Disability category at this year’s Charity Awards, the longest-running and most prestigious awards scheme in the charity sector.

The centre won the award for its personal safety and self-defence courses designed specifically for blind and visually impaired people, developed in consultation with two blind men.

The men were so inspired by the confidence they gained that they themselves trained to become course instructors and have gone on to deliver the course to others.

The training is now offered free of charge by 10 volunteer instructors, three of whom are registered blind, through the charity’s own Barony St John Centre in Ardrossan, and through three more par tner char ities.

Its architect, Alan Bell, is now replicating the techniques learned to devise similar courses for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Alongside the nine other category winners, the Overall Winner and the recipient of the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety was presented with the trophy at a black-tie ceremony at the Tower of London on Wednesday, June 5.

The Charity Awards shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of expert judges, themselves all eminent figures in the charity sector. The judges score each entry against six Hallmarks of Excellence before coming together for two days of challenge and discussion to select the winners.

Alan Bell, Volunteer Manager at The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, said: “Although we provide vulnerable people with personal safety and self defence skills, what we actually provide people with is self-confidence.

“We lower their fears of being attacked which in turn lowers their anxiety levels and allows them to lead richer, fuller lives... and we do this with only 10 volunteer instructors.

“Last year we taught almost two thousand people and we were really stretched so we are hoping that someone out there will want to sponsor us to help us reach even more people, both locally and nationally.”

Matt Nolan, Chief Executive of Civil Society Media which organises the Charity Awards, said: “We had more entries than ever before this year, and the standard was as high as ever, so The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety should be very proud to have won their category.

“Their programme has delivered great results.” Ruth Davison, Executive Director of Impact and Investment at Comic Relief said: “It’s just amazing the way this charity co-created the courses with blind people and then got the blind people to deliver the training. “It’s really progressive and unbelievably cost-effective.”

Sir John Low CBE, Chief Executive at Charities Aid Foundation added: “It is a magnifi cent achievement to be recognised at the Charity Awards and a real badge of honour for those involved in the charity sector.

“The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety is one of those charities you just want to tell people about becaus e nobody will believe it exists.

“My congratulations go to all 10 category winners, all of whom deserve full credit for their innovation, strong leadership and dedication to their cause.”