Norton Park is home to 21 third sector organisations, many providing support to some of the city’s most vulnerable people

A Capital charity centre chief says safety is the priority as more of its tenants begin returning to their offices.

Norton Park, on Albion Road, off Easter Road, is home to 21 third sector organisations, as well as hosting various events and community activities.

And, while some staff from its tenant organisations have worked there throughout the pandemic to deliver critical services to vulnerable people, others are now planning for at least a partial return. Community activities are also poised for a comeback.

Norton Park chief executive Anne-Marie O’Hara said: “The work that charities based from here have done throughout the pandemic has been remarkable. We have been pleased to support them in any way that we have been able to.

“While the services carried out from here have been invaluable, restrictions have meant this is not the bustling place we were used to pre-pandemic, so we are looking forward to welcoming back more of our tenants’ teams as they are gradually able to return.”

Management are working with tenants to ensure a safe working environment, with one-way systems, social distancing, hygiene and cleaning measures.

It’s work that’s continuing while factoring nervousness about returning to the working environment into account.

Anne-Marie added: “The challenge for us now with more people coming back is complex. Not only do we need to deal with the physical issues but also the anxieties and concerns of people who have differing risk appetites.

“With that in mind, we are working with our tenants not only to keep our people safe but make them feel safe too.”

Norton Park’s charity hub is based in the former Norton Park School on Albion Road, with its conference centre in the old Lockhart Memorial Church which neighbours it.

Edinburgh Young Carers, which has supported more than 370 people since lockdown began in March last year, is one its tenants.

Chief executive Margaret Murphy is among those looking forward to staff being able to spend some time together again, with the charity planning for a hybrid model of remote and in-office working.

She said: “Zoom is fine and has its uses, but you can’t beat the spur of the moment idea you have that you can instantly share with your colleague next to you, the funny stories you share over a coffee, or just seeing a nice smile when you walk into the office. 

“Another important factor that we missed was easy access to information and expertise from the diverse range of charities based at Norton Park. I think you can underestimate the value of having this across the hall or next door to you, until you don’t have it. “

Visualise Scotland has managed its housing support, care at home and day services from its Norton Park base throughout the pandemic.

Chief executive Helen Brown said: “We are looking forward to welcoming back people when it’s possible to safely do so.

“For our core team who’ve been working here during the pandemic, it really has created solidarity, strengthened our ability to react to changing situations and provide a stronger service at a time when it was needed more than ever. We are grateful that we have been able to safely do that.”