The History of CrossReach

Exhibition timeline

The history of CrossReach stretches back 150 years to the formation of the Church of Scotland Committee on Christian Life and Work in 1869. Throughout this time CrossReach and its predecessor bodies have worked in communities all over Scotland and beyond, providing social care for those most in need. The services provided have been as numerous as they are varied and have adapted to respond to the needs of the time, in keeping with our ethos:

In Christ’s name we seek to support people to achieve the highest quality of life which they are capable of achieving at any given time.

The beginnings

1869 - 1919

The Committee on Christian Life and Work 
The Committee on Christian Life and Work  was appointed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1869 ‘to inquire as to the progress of Christian work in this country and further to consider and report as to the best means of promoting evangelistic efforts’. In the initial years the main practical work of the Committee was information gathering.  The General Assembly would assign ‘queries’ to the Committee regarding social conditions and Church engagement in parishes throughout the country which the Committee would research by sending out questionnaires and communicating with Ministers and Presbyteries at local levels. Over the years the work of the committee became more focused, they began to identify opportunities for engaging people in Evangelistic work and providing spiritual guidance and social care in communities. 

Life and Work Magazine
One of the earliest and lasting successes of the Committee was the establishment of Life and Work Magazine. In response to the need for a distinctively Scottish magazine which could be circulation in parishes and able to be specially adapted to any particular Parish or District by means of a local supplement. The magazine would address the spiritual issues, help readers to confirm faith and make scriptures more accessible and better understood. The magazine would showcase successful work of the Church, setting an example to ministers and include practical observations from a broad spectrum of society.

The Young Men’s Guild
The Young Men’s Guild was established to engage the young men throughout the country and encourage them to take an active part in the Church.  By 1882 the Guild had over 3000 members. Among the notable activities of the Guild was the provision of welfare tents for the Territorial Army which began in 1904. During the First World War the Guild established 25 centres, manned by 350 workers, in France and Flanders.

The Organisation of Women’s Work
Between 1884-1886 the Committee investigated the work done by women in communities, they received a wide range of responses "from ministers and from their female helpers have come many requests to the Committee for some provision for training, some recognition and organisation of those who are trained… ministers frequently ask the Committee to recommend bible women, the Church of Scotland does nothing to train bible women”. The Committee reported to the General Assembly on the need to train women as Zenana Missionaries, Nurses and Sabbath School teachers, pointing out the vital work carried out by women in parishes and lamenting that ‘At present their talents and energies are not made the most of and both they and the Church are losers by this’. The General Assembly approved of this suggestion and it was decided to provide training through the establishment of the Women's Guild in 1887. The general aim of the Guild was to unite together all women engaged in the service of Christ in connection with the Church or desire to give help or any practical Christian work in the Parish. The Deaconesses Training Home, St Ninians Mission was established shortly in 1889 to give a home and practical training for such women as desire to be set apart as deaconesses or to give themselves to Foreign Mission work or to be better trained for parish work or to be district nurses. Although it was soon established as being independent from the Committee the Guild worked closely with the Committee and its predecessor bodies, often raising much needed funds and providing valuable support to the social services of the Church.

The Deaconess Hospital
The Deaconess Training Hospital was founded in 1894, to provide practical training in nursing for deaconesses. Although this was its primary goal, it also provided a much needed medical service in the local area before any kind of health care or district nursing service was available. The original hospital had 24 beds. Extensions in 1897 and 1912 brought this total up to 42. Emergency beds added during World War I further increased the number to 68, but these were reduced after 1918, so that in 1920 there were 50 beds. In 1936 the hospital reopened following a major reconstruction which increased the number of beds to 100. In 1948 with the introduction of the NHS the hospital was given over to the Edinburgh Southern Hospitals Group. 

The Committee on Social Service 1904-1919
The General Assembly established the Committee on Social Work in order that the Church could take its full share in social and rescue work. From its inception the Committee on Social Work was regarded as an ally of the Minister of the parish and its services were to be a complement to the parochial ministry, offering a means of assisting with personal and domestic problems beyond the resources of congregational life. At the outset, it was made clear that the Church of Scotland Homes and Agencies would be available to all in need, irrespective of class or creed. The initial work of the Committee was centered on rehabilitation and providing shelter and training to the destitute poor.  Hostels for working young men and women, rehabilitation centres and training homes for men and women were quickly established in areas where they were needed most. Between 1904 - 1919 the Committee opened 19 services as well as providing short term relief efforts such as soup kitchens and clubs for the unemployed as and when they were needed. The Committee also took over the running of the Women's Employment Bureau in Glasgow, helping women to find part time or full time domestic employment which would also allow them to care for their families. In 1905 the Committee registered as a Discharged Prisoners Aid Society and the Hon. Katharine Scott, was appointed Police Court Sister, responsible for the care of women and girls. At that time there was no probation system and few voluntary organisations were in this field.  Soon after she commenced duty, it became obvious that, without some form of residential accommodation, there was little prospect of rehabilitating women and girls who had no home of their own so a flat was rented in Atholl Place, Edinburgh. Another Court Agent was appointed in Perth to take up work among discharged prisoners in 1906 but unfortunately the records of this work are patchy and do not give details of how it progressed.

The nineteen twenties


The growth of services slowed in the 1920’s while the Committee worked on maintaining its existing services, with two notable exceptions. One of the most pressing needs the Committee wanted to address was that of provision of residential care for the elderly. At the time there were few alternatives available to people outside of the workhouse. The Committee opened its first elderly care home in 1926, at Powfoulis House in Stirlingshire. It was a modest venture, with accommodation for thirty-five residents in sparsely furnished rooms, with little privacy. Standards of furnishings and equipment were very different from what they would become just a few decades later.  Sitting rooms were equipped with gifts of old chairs from interested donors, bedrooms had a variety of iron bedsteads, with flock mattresses, and one large wardrobe in each bedroom.  Twenty coal fires requiring constant attention, took the place of central heating and a second-hand electricity generating plant, which was more often than not out of order, was the main source of lighting, until 1938 when the house was connected to the main electricity line. Even with all these inadequacies Powfoulis proved to be a preferable alternative to the workhouse for many people.

The second notable addition to the Committees list of ventures was the Edinburgh Sabbath Free Breakfast and People’s Palace Mission which had been running since 1874. In 1923 the people in charge of the Mission felt the time had come for it to be placed with an organisation which would give continuity to its work and provide more adequately for the changing needs of the community. The Mission provided free breakfast on Sunday mornings later adding evening and mid-week services through its café in the old Cowgate Church which became a social centre, the Cafe prospered and the Mission Buildings were used for a variety of activities over the years including a night shelter for those affected by drug misuse and a day centre for elderly people.  Attached to the People’s Palace Mission was Kinghorn Holiday Home which had been bought in 1905 as a holiday home for children and a rest home for mothers.

The nineteen thirties


By the 1930s the work of the Committee on Christian Life and Work was increasingly delegated to its sub committees and the decision was taken to merge it with the Committee on Social Work. The new joint committee was called Committee on Christian Life and Social Work. The Committee expand its services throughout the 1930s continuing to focus on training and rehabilitation homes while expanding services for children and older people. Care homes for the elderly were established at Belmont Castle in 1931 and Balmedie, Aberdeen, 1937, while a children’s home for boys was opened at Levenhall in 1938. A nursery school was also opened at the People’s Palace Mission in 1937 in response to the urgent need in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh.

The nineteen forties


The Second World War had a profound effect on the work of the Committee putting enormous strain on resources. The Deaconess Hospital was evacuated and requisition to receive war casualties, however after a few months it was decided this action was premature and the hospital returned to normal function albeit under increasing strain as the war wore on. Some of the children’s houses were evacuated and many homes were equipped with air raid shelters. Most services were spared mercifully spared the damage caused by air raids, however on 21st April, 1943, when Broadford House a Home for Working Lads suffered damage by enemy action. Thankfully no residents were hurt but the building was rendered unsafe and alternative accommodation had to be found quickly. Deeford House was acquired for £2,500 and the service users took up residence there in 28th June 1943.

After the war ended new legislation such as the National Assistance Act was introduced expanding the welfare state, bringing greater regulation to social care while also recognizing the value of the services provided by voluntary organisations. The Committee whose name was shortened to the Committee on Social Service took the opportunity to invest in services for the elderly, opening 8 eventide homes in just 3 years between 1947-1950, while 7 new children’s homes were opened between 1945-1957. In 1944 the Committee had been approached by the Scottish Education Department to open an approved school for girls at Tyenpark, the first such establishment run by the Church.

The aftermath of the war also required the Committee to provide services in unexpected areas. Working on behalf of the government ministries such as the Ministry of Labour the Committee operated hostels for displaced European workers employed in coal mines and textile factories, including Bellsburn Hostel, Linlithgow for European Displaced Persons employed in Shale Field and Fenchney Hostel in Fife which provided accommodation for 80  displaced German women working in the textile factories.

The nineteen fifties


The decade 1950-59 saw a proliferation of services as the Committee opened 19 new elderly care homes across the country. As well as this 3 children’s homes were opened bringing the total to 8 along with 9 hostels for young working men and women.  In 1954 the Committee, celebrating 50 years since the establishment of the Committee on Social Work affirmed in its annual report that its policies were still governed by the principles laid down by the General Assembly in 1904. The most important principle stated that in carrying out its work the Committee was “to carry with them the approval and active sympathy of the ministers and members of the Church in the immediate neighborhood”. Over half of the new care homes opened that decade were as a result of cooperation between the Committee and the Presbyteries.  Another principle was to embrace opportunities to work with other voluntary and statuary and religious bodies in order to share experience and avoid overlapping services and waste. To that end the representatives of the Committee were active members of various relevant organisations including the Scottish Council of Social Service since its inception and the Scottish Advisory Council on Child Care.

The nineteen sixties


Following the major expansion of services during the 1950's, the Committee on Social Service did not slow down in the following decade, and turnover increased from £200,000 to £1000,000. The Committee continued to open new care facilities and develop new service areas. The annual report for 1962 notes:

the Committee “Is about to enter a new chapter in its history. It will in no way supersede the Homes and Hostels already in existence but rather enhance their value and usefulness. The new emphasis will be on rehabilitation through individual and family case-work and in dealing with the problems met in the field, the Homes and Hostels would assume a new significance in helping individuals in need of guidance and direction”.

In December of that year, following cooperation with the Scottish Epilepsy Association the Committee opened to a hostel for young men with epilepsy at Bellhaven Terrace, Glasgow, the first of its kind in Scotland. It was followed by a service for young women which opened at Wolfson House in Edinburgh in 1969.

The Tom Allan Centre originally established as The Rehabilitation Centre was also opened in 1962 to provide psychological, psychiatric and other forms of specialized help and advice. Temporary accommodation would be provided to those only staying for the short term while two hostels would offer longer term accommodation for those seeking longer term treatment. The centre was renamed after the Rev Tom Allan who had been instrumental in its establishment.

In 1963 the Committee on Social Service was combined with the Temperance and Morals Committee and the Women’s Temperance and Morals Committee to form the Social and Moral Welfare Board. Under this new structure the Board continued to broaden the scope of services, opening two new Approved Schools, Geilsland in 1964, followed by Ballikinrain in 1968. In a new departure for the Committee Keith Lodge, a short term respite service for children with learning disabilities was established at Stonehaven in 1966. The home proved to be very popular during holiday periods but due to lack of education facilities for children with learning disabilities in the area there were many vacant places during term time.

The decade closed with the introduction of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 which brought about a major re-organisation of social services, and implementing the main recommendations of the 1964 Kilbrandon Committee. The Act enshrined into law that “It shall be the duty of every local authority to promote social welfare by making available advice, guidance and assistance on such a scale as may be appropriate for their area”. The Church had always worked in cooperation with statutory bodies in the provision of social care and welcomed this important principle.

The nineteen seventies


In 1970 the Social and Moral Welfare Board became a Department and the Committee on Social Service once again became an independent Committee. Then in 1976 the Committees on Social Service, and on Moral Welfare and the Women’s Committee on Social and Moral Welfare came to an end and the Board of Social Responsibility was formed to:

  1. Provide specialist resources to further the caring work of the Church
  2. Identify existing and emerging areas of need and to guide the Church in pioneering approaches to relevant problems
  3. To study and present essential Christian judgement on social and moral issues.1976 opening two cottages for disabled in Glasgow

During the 1970s the number of new services fell in comparison with the two previous decades although in keeping with precedent, 4 new elderly care homes were opened.  Taking advantage of the relative quiet period the Board looked to upgrade existing services and introduced new policies concerning fire precautions and adding passenger lifts to elderly care homes where possible. While other services were adapted to meet different needs such as Inchbank to operate as an in care facility for those referred by children’s panels and social work departments.

The nineteen eighties


The 1980's saw the Board initiate services which represented new approaches to healing, care in the community in these categories. Taking its cue from publications such as the ‘Scottish Health Authorities Priorities for the 80s’ which focused on the need to develop and expand provision for services for elderly dementia sufferers, people with learning disabilities and those with mental health needs. The Board worked with Health boards, and social work departments to establish provisions to enable people with learning disabilities to be transferred from hospitals to homes in the community.  

The Board further identified the increasing problems of drug misuse necessitating the need to develop a range of health education, day and residential programmes, and family counselling services. Rainbow House (now CrossReach Residential Abstinence Recovery Service) opened in 1985 providing counselling, treatment, educational courses and ancillary residential accommodation. Additionally counselling services specialising in post-natal depression began to be offered from Simpson House in 1987.

The first specialist dementia care home in Scotland was established by the Board at Williamwood in 1983. The other elderly care services continued to operate at full capacity taking in increasing numbers of 85-100 year olds with more complex care needs, meaning many of the existing homes were refurbished to accommodate them. Meanwhile the provision of children’s services reduced dramatically as local authorities moved away from residential care models. The passing of the Criminal Justice Act 1980 the Board was able to gain funding for the establishment of the Dick Stewart Hostels to accommodation and counselling services to 6 women and 8 men.  

The nineteen nineties


In 1990 The National Health Service and Community Care Act led to massive changes in the organisation and delivery of social work services in Scotland; it required local authorities to help vulnerable adults and their carers to remain in the community. Under the Act, social care departments were given the responsibility for community care for older people. Services would be now geared to what the older person needed rather than what was actually available. Home care, day care and respite care were to be developed to help people live in their own homes wherever possible.

 The Act was followed by the introduction of the Regulations for Registration of Residential Care Homes which introduced minimum standards for accessibility. This meant the closure of some of the Boards older homes where were impossible to repurpose in line with modern standards. While some existing homes were refurbished to provide more comfortable settings for residents, for example Queens Bay was refurbished to provide single en-suite rooms and 2 double rooms en-suite for couples. Other homes were adapted to provide a wider range of services, such as Balmedie which was refurbished to provide a day centre, a long term unit and a respite unit.

Services for children with learning disabilities expanded with the addition of the Mallard in 1995. Services for people with mental health issues also grew with the establishment of Morven in 1992. Cunningham House opened in 1994 replacing the People's Palace Night Shelter. The service provides accommodation and support for people who are homeless for up to 12 weeks

The noughties to date

2000 to date

In 2005 following a reorganisation of central administration the Board of Social Responsibility was re-named to the Social Care Council of the Church of Scotland, trading as CrossReach. The name CrossReach was chosen to convey the desire to reach out to people who need support across Scotland while making clear that faith is the motivation for our work.

In keeping with the principles set out in 1904 CrossReach continues working with other voluntary agencies to provide services to those who need them most. For example Perth Prison Visitors centre is a support and advice centre run in cooperation with Barnardos, the Scottish Prison Service, Perth & Kinross Council, Angus Council and NHS Tayside. 

In 2013, the Scottish Parliament passed the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013. The Act gives people a range of options for how their social care is delivered, beyond just direct payments, empowering people to decide how much ongoing control and responsibility they want over their own support arrangements. While the implementation of this legislation did entail some reassessing of processes, the concept of personalization has long been a consideration in CrossReach care services, particularly in the development of services for people with learning disabilities in the 1980s.

Support services continue to develop for adults and children addressing a broad spectrum of needs. A good example of this is the work being done at Simpson House which runs the Sunflower Garden Project, set up in 2003 to work with children affected by addiction within their families through therapeutic interventions. While in 2004 they began providing counselling service to long term prisoners.