Feb 022013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

A new facility in Aberdeen, run by VSA, a social care charity that supports more than 2,500 people each year in the city and shire, has launched a plea to local people with unwanted memorabilia and accessories dating back to the sixties, seventies and eighties.

The project, funded by Aberdeen City Council’s Change Fund will be a community-based facility for adults aged over 50 who are cared for at home.  It plans to support around 150 people each week.

Scott MacLeod ( pictured ), manager of the new facility at 22 King’s Gate, Aberdeen, said:

“We’re aiming for a March launch but are just waiting on confirmation from the Care Inspectorate.  We can’t reveal too much until everything’s confirmed. 

“The project has been on the go for months now and we don’t want to jinx it.  But we can say that, as far as we know, there’s nothing else like it Aberdeen.  We’re so excited.

“But this doesn’t mean we can’t start getting organised.  Because it’s a facility for older people, the building and activities within it will be largely based around reminiscence.  We’re looking for a quirky selection of vintage items and hope that the kind-hearted people of Aberdeen can reach out to help us.  We have a wish list but we’re generally really open to anything from the specified eras. 

“We’re also keen to hear from people who want to volunteer their time to support the more vulnerable people in their community.  In particular, we’d love trainee hairdressers or beauticians who can offer a bit of pampering.”

The 22 King’s Gate wish list is based around memorabilia, decorations, wall-hangings and miscellaneous items from 1960s, 1970s and 1980s but specifically includes:

  • Old fashioned projectors
  • Old fashioned clocks
  • Old fashioned tea service
  • Picture books from these eras
  • Traditional scales for measuring sweets
  • Old glass bell jars to hold sweets
  • Vintage taxidermy
  • Wii games, especially keep-fit ones
  • A piano or full-size keyboard
  • Any CDs
  • Any DVDs
  • Any books
  • Games and activities dating from any time period, including current

If you have an item that may be of use to 22 King’s Gate please contact Scott MacLeod on 07720972377 or e-mail scott.macleod@vsa.org.uk

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Jan 242013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

This month, VSA is urging unpaid carers who look after someone with a mental health condition to come together for the Mental Health In-Forum.

The monthly group ( on Tuesday 29 January 2013) offers mental health carers respite, education, support and socialising opportunities.

Arlene Malcolm, carers’ support and development worker at VSA’s Carers’ Services, said:

“It’s open to absolutely any person who looks after someone with a mental health condition, such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.  You don’t have to be a full-time carer.  You might help out your parent or child, support your husband or wife or occasionally lend a hand to a friend or neighbour.  Anyone linked to someone with a mental health condition is welcome.

“I want to create a safe, informal place where people can share stories, tips and ideas.  It’ll be a knowledge exchange with social and support elements too.  The idea is to get in insight into how the illness affects the person they care for but also to encourage carers to monitor their own mental health.” 

A 2012 Carers Trust poll revealed that 60% of unpaid carers found their mental health was affected by their role.

“Each session will have a specific focus and staff from Cornhill will be on hand to advise too.  This month we’re exploring therapy options.  We want carers to know that, although medication is available, it can be combined with other helpful rehabilitation, such as exercise and art, to help recovery.  We’ll also help carers apply for new funding available for them and those they care for.  It ranges from short breaks to relaxation therapies.”

The concept follows successful Aberdeen dementia support group, Information XChange, run by Alzheimer Scotland in conjunction with VSA.

“Three carers of people with dementia wanted to share their stories to help and inspire others.  It’s evolved over almost three years.  About 20 carers come to each meeting, which is a lot considering their commitments, and we have a lot more on our books.  The carers really get something from it.  They enjoy the fact it’s information-led but love the social side too.

“People worry that joining a group like this means lots of admin work or being talked into running for chairperson.  There’s none of that here.  VSA does it all.  The group belongs to the carers but the administration side doesn’t.”

The January Mental Health In-Forum meeting will be the second so far.

“We had our first meeting at the end of November.  Numbers were small but it’s all about getting word out.  I’m hoping we’ll catch up with the dementia group in no time.”

According to Carers UK, there are nearly 6 million carers in the country.  The Scottish Household Survey, conducted by The Scottish Government in 2010 reported 657,300 carers north of the border, more than 25,000 of which live in Aberdeen City.

The Mental Health In-Forum meeting will take place on Tuesday 29 January 2013 between 7pm and 9pm at the Recovery Resource Centre, Royal Cornhill Hospital, Aberdeen.  For more information about the Mental Health In-Forum or Information XChange please contact Arlene Malcolm on 01224 557868 or e-mail carers.info@vsa.org.uk


Jan 142013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

On 14 January, Aberdeen community food initiative Cfine made its first annual donation to VSA, the UK’s largest social care charity which supports more than 2,500 people each year in the city and shire.
This comes as Cfine agreed to donate 1% of VSA’s total spend each year they work together.

Social enterprise Cfine donated £400 to VSA’s Linn Moor Residential School, its longest standing customer, to cover the first few months of a cultural eating project taking place at the school during 2013.

This donation is backdated for the period 2011-2012, so the charity is set to benefit from a similar amount in April 2013.

Linn Moor general manager Shona Duff said:

“The staff team came up with the project to help the children learn about different cultures, taste new foods and enjoy socialising together. The taste sensation sessions will be a huge benefit to the 21 youngsters who are aged between five and 18, all with additional support needs and many with autistic spectrum disorder.

 “We’re so grateful that Cfine are kicking the year off for us. But we’re eager to hear from others who can help us on our journey. We’d love some local people or organisations to take Cfine’s lead by helping to fund the food and joining us on the night.

 “We actually started our international journey in November with an alternative St Andrew’s Day celebration. The children had a curry night in honour of Scotland’s second favourite meal. Cfine’s support means we can go ahead with January’s Burns Night and Chinese New Year in February and, hopefully with the help of others, the children will continue to explore world foods, cultures, dress and flags throughout 2013.”

It’s not the first time the not-for-profit organisations have joined forces. Cfine have conducted talks and food tastings for VSA staff and service users, as well as providing raffle prizes for VSA events. All Cfine profits are invested in health and community development work in disadvantaged communities.

For further information about VSA and its work in the local community, visit www.vsa.org.uk

More about Cfine

Cfine is a social enterprise which has been selling fruit, vegetables and other produce to oil companies, restaurants and sandwich bars across the city since 1997. It also creates employment for adults with learning difficulties.

More about Linn Moor School

VSA’s Linn Moor School provides high standards of care and education for children and young people with complex needs. It is committed to nurturing the unique abilities, strengths and talents of children and young people, aged five to 18, who have additional support needs, and is committed to engaging with the community and developing social skills to ensure that inclusive opportunities are not limited.

Dec 212012

With thanks to Claire McBain.

Aberdeen’s first festive luxury meat charity auction will benefit social care charity Voluntary Service Aberdeen (VSA) .
On Christmas Eve, Monday 24th December,  Aberdeen butcher Andrew Gordon will host Aberdeen’s first ever luxury meat auction. It’s in aid of VSA, which is the UK’s largest city social care charity, supporting more than 2,500 people in Aberdeen each year.

The event, at Andrew Gordon Butchery and Fine Foods on Chattan Place will see all remaining festive stock in the counters up for grabs.  VSA will benefit from 20 percent of each final auction price.

Andrew said:

 “Anyone who wants to stock up their freezer, create a last minute Christmas banquet or make up a last minute gift should come down to see what’s on offer.  We’ve got free range turkey, Aberdeen Angus beef roasts and lots of other surprises.

 “My auction is all about festive cheer, Christmas, goodwill and giving back to a very worthy cause.  I want to celebrate a fantastic year of food and drink innovation in Aberdeen by giving something back to the community.  VSA is a hardworking charity that transforms lives of young and old people, as well as supporting people with learning difficulties, mental health issues or people who are carers.

“I always try and keep some Christmas stock in reserve and this gives us the chance to completely clear our shelves as we make room for more fresh meat deliveries in the New Year.  Hopefully I can save a roast for myself and my family but also present a welcome donation to VSA.”

The Christmas luxury meat charity auction will take place on 24th December between 5 and 5.30 p.m. at Andrew Gordon Butchery and Fine Foods, 35-37 Chattan Place, Aberdeen, AB10 6RB.

Andrew Gordon Butchery and Fine Foods is an Aberdeen-based butcher shop that specialises in the essence of excellence through sourcing the best quality products and bringing them to customers.

Andrew is also exploring areas of healthier eating with The Food and Health Innovation Service, Scottish Food and Drink Federation, Interface and others.   Specialities include the areas of reduced salt and low fat, and lean produce.

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Nov 302012

With thanks to Claire McBain. 

To mark Carers’ Rights Day today (Friday 30 November), when an estimated two million people will have become unpaid carers, supporting someone who is ill, frail or disabled, since 30 November 2011, local charity VSA’s Carers’ Service is determined to educate as many local carers as they can about their rights, before it’s too late.

An estimated £5.3billion  has been wiped from the economy in lost earnings due to people who have dropped out of the workforce to take on unpaid caring responsibilities.

Could more knowledge about carers’ options and benefits prevent informal, unpaid carers having to choose between staying in paid employment and being at home to care?

Chris Sojka, a carer support worker at VSA, said:

“Living costs are rising, and the UK faces salary freezes and job losses, but for families affected by illness and disability, the situation can be a lot worse. Their struggle can be harder, faced with added costs of caring and lost earnings, as well as the risk of cuts to essential services and benefits. Carers make a huge contribution to society.  It’s about time society gave them something back.”

“On Carers’ Rights Day we want to educate as many local carers as possible about how to get help in tough times. We can point them in the direction of financial help, boost confidence when asking for a helping hand and educate carers on getting the most from technological sources.”

“Earlier this year, we revealed that there are at least 25,000 unpaid carers in Aberdeen city and shire. There are lots more unidentified, who take their role in their stride and don’t realise they’re entitled to support. We want to make life as easy and financially stress-free as possible.”

Carers UK recently revealed the extra costs of ill-health and disability. These families commonly face higher household bills, particularly food and heating. The rise in VAT hits carers hard, often spending more on VAT-rated products such as cleaning materials, detergents, bed clothes and bandages. In addition, Carer’s Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind and has lost value according to earnings since its creation in the 1970s.

There are nearly six million carers in the country. The Scottish Household Survey, conducted by The Scottish Government in 2010 reported 657,300 carers north of the border, more than 25,000 of which live in Aberdeen City. Within this, there are an estimated 2240 Young Carers in Aberdeen and far more ‘hidden carers’, both adult and child.

Earlier this year, Aberdeen Lord Provost George Adam spoke at a Carers Week lunch. He said:

“We, as a city, can’t hold carers in a high enough regard.  It’s vitally important that we raise awareness of the work they do and highlight the support and representation that is out there for them.”

Aberdeen City Council, VSA Carers’ Service and NHS Grampian will reach out to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire carers at an information point at Aberdeen Indoor Market on Friday 30 November between 11am-3pm, offering information and advice about carers’ rights.

VSA will also host an information session at Horizons Rehabilitation Centre, 2 Eday Walk, Summerhill, Aberdeen about Telecare, how it can help carers and the people they care for. To find out more about equipment available, such as fall, heat and flood detectors, bed and chair sensors, book a place by calling 01224 212021 or e-mail carers.info@vsa.org.uk

For more information about VSA Carers Services, visit our headquarters at 38 Castle Street, call 01224 212021, visit our website at www.vsa.org.uk/carers or e-mail carers.info@vsa.org.uk

Nov 302012

With thanks to Claire McBain.

This week, Voluntary Services Aberdeen (VSA), the UK’s largest city social care charity, took positive steps to combat a predicted downward recruitment trend by extending opportunities to a new generation of care workers.

VSA’s month-long effort culminating in a recruitment day on 29 November, to attract new blood into employment in older peoples’ services, mental health services and Linn Moor School.

The service, which employs around 500 people, both full and part-time, hosted recruitment stands and mini-interviews at Union Square and VSA’s Castle Street headquarters.

Earlier this week Marjory Moran, VSA Director of Services for Older People , told Aberdeen Voice:

“We’ve looked to the future of Aberdeen’s recruitment market and predict a serious lack of care workers. Qualified support staff are aging and it’s difficult to get more due to Aberdeen’s economic bubble. A huge pool of resources goes into oil and gas. Saying that, we’re obviously very grateful for this energy bubble, as many oil and gas giants support their communities through VSA.

“We want to increase the pool of staff for VSA and the industry as a whole by pioneering the idea that anyone can do it. Whatever your skills, there’s a place for you. Obviously we love hearing from qualified support workers but regardless of job history, if you have the life skills, we’ll provide the training and qualifications. Who else will provide the next set of qualified care staff if we don’t get them on the career ladder?”

Jacqui Sharp (pictured), a senior support worker at VSA’s Westerton Crescent, emphasised the care worker time bomb:

“I should have retired four years ago. But I love my job. I’m forcing myself to retire next year though.”

Marjory continued:

“You don’t need a care-related qualification to apply to VSA. There are major career progression opportunities here. We want to hear from naturally compassionate people who can leverage their personal caring experience, like bringing up children, caring for a disabled relative or looking after an ill friend, to get into social care.

“VSA looks after more than 2500 people in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. Over the years, it’s branched out to provide support it couldn’t before. We need to secure staff now to make sure we can keep this up in future. It’s all about caring for the community you live in.”

Ex-hairdresser Sarah Taylor, support worker at VSA’s Arrdeir House, is part of a new generation of support workers:

I’d always wanted to care for people but assumed you needed a qualification. I didn’t think companies would give you a chance and train you  But seven years later, after studying and working in hairdressing, I found VSA and started work with absolutely no training in care. I’m doing my SVQ and studying other modules to progress my career. It’s the best move I ever made. I should have done it years ago.’

“I was used to building relationships with clients so took my social skills with me. But I was surprised to realise that my hair and beauty abilities have been useful too. I’ve started hosting therapeutic nights for the service users. It makes them feel pampered without travelling far or spending money. And for me, it’s a good, different way of having one-to-one time with them.”

VSA has created city-wide vacancies after completing a two-year plan to improve its service.

For more information or to apply for a position:

e-mail: HR@vsa.org.uk
Tel: 01224 358589

Nov 262012

With thanks to Claire McBain.

Local charity VSA’s Easter Anguston Farm, a Peterculter-based visitor attraction that offers vocational training and support to adults with learning difficulties, is urging its local community in Peterculter, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to get behind its Ruby Doo, St Andrew’s Day ceilidh, to mark the farm’s 40th anniversary.

The Ruby Doo takes place at the Culter Mills Club, Peterculter, on Friday 30 November when Easter Anguston Farm will host an evening of live music from Dark Island, with ceilidh dancing and stovies.

While staff and service users from Easter Anguston Farm and VSA in general will attend, farm operations manager Fiona Davidson is encouraging the wider community to get involved.

Fiona said:

“Easter Anguston has been welcoming people from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire for 40 years, as visitors to the farm and as working trainees. Friday night will be an amazing celebration of how far we’ve come. It was established to give students from VSA’s Linn Moor School support and sheltered employment after their school years. But the farm and its service users have changed dramatically. Now, we’re open to anyone in the North-east and employ from as far afield as Moray, Angus and Falkirk.

“The farm’s purpose has evolved too. In recent years, the introduction of nature trails, a children’s play area, farm shop, garden centre and café, has turned Easter Anguston into a tourist hotspot, popular with families with young children, school groups and older visitors.

“But our purpose remains solid forty years on. We want to develop our trainees to the point that they can secure work in the sometimes scary job market. We work on personal skills and social skills but also help develop expertise in agriculture and land-based work.

“Friday will be a fun night in aid of a really worthwhile cause with our endlessly enthusiastic service users getting everyone in the party spirit.”

The Ruby Doo takes place on Friday 30 November, 7.30pm-midnight at the Culter Mills Club, Peterculter.

Tickets cost £12.50 per person, £10 for concessions and can be obtained by calling 01224 212021 or e-mailing fundraising@vsa.org.uk

For more information about VSA’s Easter Anguston Farm, contact Fiona Davidson on 01224 733627.

Nov 092012

VSA Aberdeen’s annual Diamond Ball was a massive success. Supporter Garreth Wood of the Speratus Group boosts the feelgood factor by announcing an extra 3-year commitment to the charity. With thanks to Claire Mcbain

The UK’s largest city social care charity VSA raised more than £130,000 at its Diamond Ball on Saturday 03 November.
This total was reached combining a silent auction, live auction and funds raised when loyal VSA supporter and main ball sponsor Garreth Wood donated a full day’s takings from four of his city bars totalling more than £48,500.

Garreth, of The Speratus Group, has supported VSA for three years through its ball and associated fundraisers. He has also contributed staff time through corporate volunteering.

His initial three-year pledge was completed last night but Garreth delighted ball guests by announcing an additional 3-year commitment to VSA worth around £250,000.

“I’m over the moon with what we raised last weekend for such an incredible cause,” said Garreth. “I’m so very proud of our enthusiastic, hardworking staff and I’m really grateful to the people of Aberdeen. We challenged them to come out and support VSA and they absolutely surpassed our expectations.

“Working closely with VSA over the past three years has been very fulfilling for me and my team. I’m very much looking forward to growing that relationship over the next three years. I feel very much part of the VSA family and I’m fully committed to their worthy cause.

“Part of the Speratus Partnership’s mission is to develop young people with learning difficulties and disabilities and, personally, I’m very passionate about providing high standards of care to our elderly population. Naturally, my pledge for the next three years will focus on these areas within VSA.”

VSA Director of Fundraising and Communications Karen Barlow said:

“The event was a sell-out and I’m delighted with how much our generous guests raised for VSA through the silent auction, live auction and raffle. Events like this are essential to make sure VSA can continue supporting people in Aberdeen city and shire each year.

“Garreth has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for VSA over the last three years and we’re ecstatic to have him on board for longer than expected. He really understands VSA and he’s passionate about helping us achieve our goals. We’re so excited and already forming plans for the next step.”

This year’s ball was themed to honour VSA patron Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and attracted almost 350 guests to Aberdeen’s Ardoe House Hotel. To celebrate the jubilee, a diamond necklace donated by Garreth and supported by Finnies the Jewellers was raffled and won by one lucky lady.

The event was also sponsored by chartered accountants Simpson Forsyth, oilfield service company Roemex Ltd, NYOP Education and luxury hamper company Highland Fayre. Principal sponsor Garreth traditionally marks the ball date by donating monies from several of his Aberdeen bars. This year all four city centre hotspots – Amicus Apple, Illicit Still, Paramount and NOX – took part in the fundraiser.

Oct 312012

With thanks to Claire McBain. 

VSA, the UK’s largest city social care charity, is embarking on a month-long recruitment drive for its older peoples’ services, mental health services and Linn Moor School.
As part of the drive, it will be aiming to dispel care industry stereotypes, demonstrating that VSA is pioneering a new generation of care work careers.

Supporting more than 5,000 people in Aberdeen city and shire each year, VSA employs around 500 full and part-time workers and has created city-wide vacancies after completing a 2-year plan to refurbish and improve its services.

The call for staff comes as VSA aims to boost positive impressions of the care industry.

VSA director of social care and wellbeing Diane McCabe told Aberdeen Voice:

“We’re totally committed to opening the eyes of the public to the exciting, forward-looking opportunities of social care. There’s a misconception that to apply to an organisation like VSA, you need a care-related qualification. This is absolutely not the case.

 “It’s all about caring for the community you live in. Obviously we welcome qualified support workers but it’s also great to hear from naturally compassionate people who can use their personal experience to get ahead professionally.

“We want to hear from people who have brought up children, looked after a disabled relative or even just cared for an ill friend. Regardless of job history, if you have the life skills, we’ll provide the training to turn what could be ‘just a job’ into a career.”

Helen Dunn, support worker at VSA’s Arrdeir House, said:

“Anyone can do it. My last job was teaching English as a foreign language. But wherever you’ve been and whatever your skills, there’s a place for you at VSA. My teaching skills transfer well into this job and natural people skills enhance it. My hobbies are cooking and gardening, so I bring that, too. I’ve started a culinary group at Arrdeir and help the service users in the garden.”

Nicola Lindsay, support worker at VSA’s Millbank House, said:

“I used to work in catering but was always intrigued by support work. What I brought to the job was my experience of caring. All my official training has been on-the-job. Working at Millbank has given me the opportunity to progress with my career.”

A VSA recruitment day will be held on 29 November 2012 at Union Square (upper atrium) between 9am-6pm and at 38 Castle Street between 10am-4pm. For more information or to apply for a position, visit www.vsa.org.uk/jobs, e-mail HR@vsa.org.uk or call 01224 358589.

Sep 032012

Fifty members of HM Royal Marine Band will be playing at the International School Aberdeen on Wednesday 5th  September to benefit the charity, Combat Stress. With thanks to Susie McKay.

Combat Stress helps service veterans who live with the unseen scars of war.

Many veterans find it difficult to move on with their lives; for some, their lives change forever and due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they may lose their families and end up on the streets, homeless.

Too many end up in prison.

The concert will be a very intimate event with only 250 guests. There will also be a pre-concert reception at 6:45 pm.

Tickets are £30 and are available in advance from Catherine at 07879 854 927,
email cylross@btinternet.com

Combat Stress would like to hear from any potential volunteers, fundraisers, or from anyone who may benefit from its services.