Jan 072012

By Stephen Davy-Osborne, with thanks to David Forbes.

An Aberdeen charity is seeking all of your old aluminium cans to help them raise enough money to buy a much needed mini bus.

Future Choices Aberdeen was set up following the closure of the Choices Day Centre, which left a number of members of the community with nowhere to socialise in a safe and friendly environment.

The charity offers disabled people and their carers in Aberdeen opportunities to get involved in the community through a number of voluntary projects within the city.

They now desperately require much needed funds so that they can buy a minibus to allow them to get out and about in the city.

City carer David Forbes, 29, said:

“The Cash for Cans Appeal doesn’t ask for your money, it simply asks for your empty undamaged aluminium cans, which then can be used in exchange for cash to go towards getting the charity its dream.”

So far, the appeal has reached over 100 cans already and also received the backing from Dame Anne Begg MP, Lewis Macdonald MSP and many other local high profile individuals. Even local schools are getting on board this appeal.

To support the Cans for Cash Appeal, please donate any aluminium cans to:

The Stewart Craft Centre,
Unit 2,
Deemouth Business Centre
South Esplanade East,
Aberdeen, AB11 9PB,
 or alternatively to Lewis Macdonald MSP Office, 80 Rosemount Place, Aberdeen. AB25 2XN or call Mr Forbes on 07821700046 to arrange a pick-up.

Contact Aberdeen Charity, cash for cans appeal on Facebook:

Sep 302011

A Charity Dinner Dance in aid of Future Choices  is being held on Saturday 8th October 2011 at Pittodrie Stadium.With thanks to David Forbes.

Future Choices is a local charity set up to support Disabled people in the City of Aberdeen, with a range of social and recreational activities already established for it’s members.

The charity is geared towards encouraging and enabling disabled individuals to get out of there homes to meet up and interact, and have many more classes and activities  lined up for the future.

This is the second year in which the dinner dance has been organised to raise funds for Future choices. 

Last year,  £1,500 was raised  towards setting up activities and resources. This year it is hoped that much more will be raised enabling the charity to realise a long standing ambition to acquire a vehicle so that they can provide a greater level of basic support to disabled people in Aberdeen.

The event includes a 3 course meal, live singer and some special guests.

There will also be  a raffle and auction.  Future Choices are very grateful to the News team at STV for the gift of a signed football which will be going to the auction prize pool.  The group are also very grateful for the help and support from Staff Members at Mecca Bingo in Berryden – every bit of help makes a huge difference.

Charity Dinner Dance in aid of Future Choices.
Saturday 8th October 2011
Pittodrie Stadium
6.30pm – 00.30am

Call 07821700046 to book ticket(s)

If you wish to support this event but will be unable to attend, please call and pledge a donation, or purchase raffles or merchandise.

More info.

Following the closure of the Choices Day Centre in 2008, a group of former users of the Centre , their  friends and families  came together to form “Future Choices” which is now registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).   ( Registered charity number 040085  )

Future Choices gives disabled people and able-bodied people choices for their future together.
See: http://www.aberdeenccn.info/Networks/FC/FCHome.asp

Sep 172010

In the last issue, we focussed on events set around the closure of Choices day care centre. With gratitude to carer David Forbes for his contribution, Fred Wilkinson continues his series of articles.

Firstly, I must apologise, as due to illness, and a few thorny legal issues, I was unable to finish the article I hoped to present this week. However, from the closure of Choices to the ongoing work of the Future Choices charity, I doubt if we will ever be short of a story.

In the process of gathering information for previous articles, I was offered the opportunity to attend a Future Choices committee meeting. Having had very little contact with Choices’ former users in more than two years, this invitation was most welcome. As well as a chance to catch up with old buddies it was a chance to witness first hand how the group were faring, and what avenues and opportunities were being pursued.

It was an afternoon of mixed emotions. I was made to feel extremely welcome at the home of group chairman Kevin McCahery and greeted warmly by all who arrived. However, as I caught up with their news, I was also updated on behalf of others I would, sadly, never have the chance to meet again.

As they conducted their business, and exchanged humour in between, it was extremely reassuring to realise that their resolve was very much intact, and the friendships between those present were as strong as ever. Also uncompromised by time was the residual anger, which surfaced occasionally. This anger directed towards particular sections and individuals within Aberdeen City Council may yet subside, but it is clear that it will take more than time for their contempt to be replaced by trust. Altogether the uncomfortable subtext was a message – that the closure of Choices, and how it has affected group members, was unforgivable.

I thought it was an awful wind up, but when the news bulletin came on the TV, my heart sank

Present at the meeting was David Forbes. Mr Forbes’ mother previously attended Choices and he clearly remembers the heartbreak experienced by all involved with the Day Centre.

“I’ll never forget in all my life. I got a call from my mum’s Day Centre informing me that Aberdeen City Council had decided to axe it due to their massive cutbacks. How do you tell your disabled mum; who loved going to the centre to keep active, see her friends, and learn new skills, that she could not go anymore?”

Mr Forbes chose to sum up his feelings around that time in two words.

“Emotional Hell.

“Strangely I thought it was an awful wind up, but when the news bulletin came on the TV, my heart sank as I accepted it was very real.

“I was 26, and caring full time for my mum who suffers from memory loss due to severe brain damage following a heart attack.”

The impact of closure affected many in addition to the service users. A secondary function of Choices was, that in providing day care to disabled individuals, their families and carers like Mr Forbes could enjoy periods of respite, enabling them to work or otherwise focus on their own personal needs and interests, and their personal and professional relationships with countless others.

“On the very last day of the Centre closing, it was very difficult personally for me to witness many disabled people, including my mum, crying and comforting each other. It made me realise how vital the service was to the local community.

The hard work was worth it and the fight to press on is bigger than ever!

“My mum and I have built up very good friendships with the people who used the service. We worked as a team and helped the other users to protest against the axing of the centre, with marches, petitions, media interviews, even lobbying Parliament …sadly all failed.”

But rather than just lie down and accept defeat, users and supporters including Mr Forbes pulled together to form Future Choices – a charity whose primary aim is to do what Choices did for the users – helping the local disabled community of Aberdeen live their lives as they should be allowed to do.

As I observed the meeting in progress and contributed where I could, I wondered if in some perverse way the cruel loss of Choices, and the fight to win back that sense of belonging has made the group stronger. They are still some considerable way from having in place what they aim for, but I feel a real sense of momentum in the group and a sense of pride – assets which give the group huge appeal.

Mr Forbes confirms this observation.

“The Charity is now up and running with new members being added regularly, and with loyal supporters and lots of future fundraising events in the pipeline, the future for Future Choices will hopefully be brighter.”

“The Question that I ask myself everyday when I see and do work with the Charity is where would we be now if we didn’t pull together as a strong team?

“And then when I turn to my mum and remind her she can still see her friends these days, it suddenly becomes clear. The hard work was worth it and the fight to press on is bigger than ever!

The meeting rolls on at a pleasant pace. The group are as always glad to be together, so no decisions are hurried, and the hard edges and painful memories are outweighed by the many, shared experiences they still laugh heartily about. Much as I share the desire to stay on and enjoy their fantastic company, I realise an hour has passed since I announced with apologies that I had to be heading home, and so I leave fortified with optimism that Future Choices are moving forward, and I pity anyone who dares to stand in their way.

David Forbes has organised a dinner dance event at the Hilton Treetops, Aberdeen on 13th November.
Tickets are £30 which includes live entertainment, a welcome drink, and a 3 course meal.

Contact David Forbes.
07821700046 / 01224486372

All proceeds to Future Choices ( Charity Reg SC040085 )

Sep 032010

By Fred Wilkinson.

An Aberdeen charity is making progress towards re-establishing a range of facilities and activities for disabled people lost to them as a result of savage cuts imposed by Aberdeen City Council.

Future Choices is an organisation comprising former users of Choices Day Care Centre, their carers, friends and families, who feel that the service was unjustly withdrawn, and was vital to their functioning as individuals on a par with non-disabled persons.

Choices, the only day care facility in the city for physically disabled people, was closed in June 2008 as part of the city council’s endeavours to address a £29m budget deficit.

Users enjoyed access to a regular program of therapeutic, educational, recreational and socially stimulating activities tailored to their needs, abilities and preferences. More importantly, together with needs based transport arrangements, Choices Day Care Centre provided the means for users to meet regularly, enjoy social contact, and to maintain friendships in an environment where fellow users and staff alike were regarded as equals.

Two years on, the high profile legal challenge to the closure, the media scramble, and the 4000-strong procession down Union Street in protest against the cuts has perhaps understandably been forgotten by many. For former users of Choices however, it is impossible to forget.

The Wrong Choice from Scott Millar on Vimeo.

Sadly, since the closure of Choices Day Care Centre, seven former users have died. It will take much to convince Future Choices members that the closure had no impact on this statistic. Nevertheless it is an uncomfortable thought that the last months or years of their lives should be blighted with upheaval, uncertainty, frustration and deep disappointment.

We are still here! We have not gone away, and we have no intention of doing so!

This was not unanticipated. On March 3rd 2008, in response to the announcement of the closure, Acting Manager of Choices Clare Rochford wrote to Corporate Director Pete Leonard underlining how vital the service was to the independence and functioning of the users and their families, and warning of the potential human cost of the proposal.

It has indeed been a costly and difficult struggle punctuated with emotional highs and lows.

Early in their campaign, the group were offered a minibus free of charge, including maintainance, storage, and a driver by an employee of a major public transport operator. It was a cruel let-down for the group when said employee became increasingly unavailable to deliver on his promise.

More recently, the group were forced to give up office space due to unsustainable rental costs, however, negotiations are ongoing as regards premises for meetings and activities. But despite the many disappointments, they are undeterred from fulfilling their objectives.

“We are still here” Future Choices chairman Kevin McCahery told Aberdeen Voice “We have not gone away, and we have no intention of doing so!

” Furthermore, we will still be here when certain people within Aberdeen City Council are not!”

As well as having secured a regular alternative therapy session, and holding regular coffee mornings which, incorporate bingo and beetle drives, the group have a number of options under consideration as regards adding other activities such as arts and crafts, basic computer skills and/local history.

Transport remains their greatest logistical hurdle. Many of the members having mobility problems, transport is vital to all aspects of their activities, and is central to all future plans.  Mr McCahery points out that even accessing reliable means to attend group meetings is far from straightforward, and such problems can affect attendance – which has a knock-on effect regarding efficiency of information sharing and decision making.

None of us are qualified, but we are determined to do some good for ourselves and other disabled people.

Much of Future Choices energies are dedicated to fundraising to keep the organisation running and to maintain meaningful and productive interaction between its members.
The process of securing funds and organising events has at times been a minefield.

“The amount of red tape we have had to go through has been unbelievable” said Mr McCahery, commenting on the task of coming to terms with legal and logistical hurdles. “None of us are qualified, but we are determined to do some good for ourselves and other disabled people.”

Carer and Future Choices member David Forbes has organised a dinner dance event at the Hilton Treetops, Aberdeen on 13th November.
Tickets are £30 which includes live entertainment, a welcome drink, and a 3 course meal.

Contact David Forbes.
07821700046 / 01224486372

All proceeds to Future Choices ( Charity Reg SC040085 )

Next week, Aberdeen Voice looks back at events set around the closure of choices, the users’ brave campaign to save the service, and the marginalisation of staff.