May 022013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

Dr. Peter Kiehlmann who is Aberdeen’s GP cluster lead, encouraged unpaid carers in the North East to plan for the future of the person they care for if in a worst case scenario, something should happen to the carer. Three in five people in Aberdeen will be carers at some point in their lives.

This was at an event organised by Aberdeen City Council and Voluntary Service Aberdeen’s (VSA) Carers’ Service, on the 1st of May.

Wilma Collie and her husband care for their 42-year-old autistic son Martin.  She outlined the importance of decision-making on his behalf, urging fellow carers to follow suit:

“As morbid as it sounds, we’ll all die one day.  It’s something you have to face as a carer.  But it’s a huge benefit knowing that if anything happens to us Martin’s future is as secure as it can possibly be.  I know he’ll be cared for, and I know it will be a simple process for our family to handle.

“I’d been to meetings through the years and heard the word ‘guardianship’ but thought nothing of it.  Why would I need to be my son’s guardian?  I’m his mother.  But I realised having guardianship gave me legal power and a boost to my confidence when discussing Martin’s welfare. 

“The process took over two years but it was well worth it.  I’ve noticed the difference already when dealing with Martin’s affairs.  It may seem like a daunting process but it’s not.  Legal experts are there to help.  Carers need to take advantage of their expertise.  Don’t let potential costs hold you back either.  Everyone’s circumstances are different but it is possible to do the process for free.”

Lesley Gray, the team leader at VSA’s Carers’ Service, said:

“Unpaid carers do an amazing job. But they have insanely busy lives and may not have time to delve into planning for the future. What if something was to happen to the carer?  Cared-for people must have their future safeguarded.  We want to get people thinking and planning. 

“We all hope it won’t happen but prevention is better – and easier – than cure. In a time of crisis and panic, they would be faced with a lot of decisions. We want to make life easier now and in future.  It’s so important to give carers an insight into what’s available.”

The event included a welcome from Len Ironside, convenor of Aberdeen City Council’s Social Care and Wellbeing Committee, a personal perspective on planning from Wilma Collie and presentations on power of attorney and guardianship.  Relevant services including Aberdeen City Council’s Welfare Rights and Transitions Teams, Advocacy Aberdeen and Alzheimer’s Scotland were represented with information stalls.

Further information: 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.

Apr 262013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

During Child Contact Centre Awareness Week (23 – 29 April 2013), the only unsupervised Family Contact Centre in Aberdeen, run by the north-east’s largest charity VSA, is urging people to support a vital, free service that almost everyone in the city can relate to.

Cathy Maxwell, family support co-ordinator at VSA’s Family Contact Centre, said:-

“Our small but effective project makes life easier for ordinary, separated families in the north-east, giving children a relaxed, neutral, happy place to spend valuable time with the mum or dad who no longer lives with them. But it costs £21,000 each year to fund.

“We want to secure this cost on a regular basis to keep potential parental costs to a minimum. Without such a special place ties that are broken are sometimes never repaired and children grow up without knowing both parents.”

Catherine [surname omitted for confidentiality reasons] and her family used the service for two years:-

“My partner and I just couldn’t see each other after we separated. It was difficult to even communicate. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to just drop the children off at his place. VSA’s Contact Centre was a godsend. If it wasn’t for our time there, we’d probably be going through court right now.

“There’s no shame in using the service. It’s for ordinary people who happen to be going through a difficult time. We did it all with the childrens’ interests in mind. They got used to going. In fact, the first time we tested out an alternative meeting place, they wanted to go back.

“It was nice for them. They played with toys or in the park if it was sunny. It was their chance to get used to being with their dad again.

“It really puts you at ease. There are even separate doors for each parent. My ex-partner would go one way and I would go the other. We never had to see each other. It was relaxing. There was no pressure. And thanks to the Contact Centre we came to a mutual arrangement. The children see their dad every second weekend now.”

Cathy continued:-

“Around one third of children in Scotland aren’t living with their biological fathers. But it’s probably not a hugely surprising statistic. If people were to cast their mind through friends-of-friends, close friends and even their family, it’s fairly easy to relate to. VSA’s Family Contact Centre steps in when contact is hard to achieve for practical or personal reasons.”

Apr 092013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

On Monday, VSA, the north-east’s largest charity, announced that it has two places in the Edinburgh Marathon on Sunday 26th May up for grabs.  The option of a half marathon is also an option.

Athletic Aberdonians can pick which part of the charity they want to fundraise for from a selection of more than 30 VSA services that support a wide range of people which includes babies, children, adults with mental health difficulties, children with additional support needs, carers, young carers and older people.

VSA’s events co-ordinator Debbie Fotheringham, who is leading the search for competitors, said:

“At VSA we’re passionate about making sure our runners know that they can raise money for something that matters to them.  Asking people to sponsor you is never easy, but if it’s for something important to you, it’s a million times easier.

“VSA is such a diverse charity.  I think that, for almost every person out there, there’s a service that means something.  You might want to run to raise money to send our hardworking young carers on a well-deserved trip or to buy an iPad so that our older people can Skype their overseas relatives. 

“You could even run to raise money to buy a goat for VSA’s Easter Anguston Farm in Peterculter.  The list is long and flexible.” 

Looking back at the 2012 Edinburgh Marathon which he ran in aid of VSA, John Willis of telecommunication consultancy 9 Dots said:

“Running for VSA was a pleasure.  The charity provides an incredible range of services for those in need and has been an integral part of the north-east’s third sector since the Victorian times. 

“Not only does VSA play an important role for the local community but it’s one of the most cost-efficient charities in the UK – for every £1 you raise, 96p of it goes directly to helping those who need it most. 

“Charity begins at home and we need to do as much as we can to support our local third sector.”

To book a place or to find out more about running for VSA at the Edinburgh Marathon, please contact Debbie Fotheringham on 01224 212021 or e-mail 

Apr 052013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

A Deeside-based service that supports unpaid carers who look after a family member, friend or neighbour who is ill, frail or disabled has re-launched with two new carer support workers who will pioneer new activities to benefit Deeside’s hardworking unpaid carers and help to distribute new funding for much-needed short breaks and respite.

Tracey Bell, carer support and development worker, said:-

“Three in five people will be carers at some point in their lives.  There are a lot of services to support the people being cared for.  But the carer’s own wellbeing is of paramount importance too.”

“Respite is essential.  We recently got access to the Creative Breaks Fund through the Scottish Government and the Change Fund.  It can be used flexibly to help carers have a short holiday, pay for leisure or gardening equipment or enjoy a bit of pampering.  It can be a chance to have a break from their caring role or spend quality time with the person they care for.  It means they can rest and recharge their batteries as well as trying a new skill or picking up an old hobby.  I’d urge any local carers to get in touch as soon as possible to get support in applying for this funding.”

“For short-term respite we’re working in partnership with Alzheimer Scotland to offer relaxation sessions for carers at Victory Hall in Aboyne.”

The Aboyne-based centre’s staff are able to advise on care-related issues, such as respite, housing, holidays, benefits, training and support groups.  For those who can’t make it to the centre, home visits are available.

“It’s a part of life but the personal costs of caring for someone with a long-term condition, disability, addiction, physical or mental health problem can be high.  For some, it’s a 24/7, 52-week commitment.  Many suffer due to a lack of understanding about what they do.  Some don’t even recognise themselves as carers.  Others struggle with health and career problems as they try to look after sick or disabled relatives without help. We want to make life easier for these hard workers and those they look after.”

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.

VSA’s Carers’ Services in Deeside is located at Unit 9, Aboyne Business Centre.  For more information call Tracey Bell or Kirsteen Heneghan on 01339 887291 or e-mail or  The office is open between 9am and 3pm Monday to Wednesday and between 9am and 5pm on a Thursday and Friday.

The relaxation sessions will be held at Victory Hall in Aboyne between 2pm and 3pm on 12 and 26 April and 10 and 24 May.  Each will be followed by a drop-in information session until 4pm.

Mar 282013

Forest Grove, which is believed to be the first short break carers’ support centre in Scotland, was officially opened by Lord Provost George Adam on Wednesday morning.

With thanks to Claire McBain.

Social care charity VSA’s Forest Grove facility will offer people living with dementia and other debilitating conditions, the opportunity to spend a morning or afternoon in the care of professionally trained staff and volunteers while their carers take a well-earned break.

Forest Grove is a partnership with the Change Fund, which is overseen by Aberdeen City Council, NHS Grampian and VSA and will provide company, conversation, tea, coffee and snacks.

Activities will be geared to the needs of those attending and individual programmes will be developed in accordance with service users’ abilities and wishes. A carers’ support and development worker will provide information, support and advice to carers.

Referrals to Forest Grove can be made via health or social work professionals as well as carers.

Mar 192013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

To commemorate Autism Awareness Month, Graham Andrew and Stefanie Milne, will run the 2013 Virgin London Marathon to raise £3000 for Linn Moor School. Their eleven-year-old son Lewis, who has autism, as well as delayed speech and language, ADHD and hyper-sensitivity syndrome, has attended the school for four years.

Graham said,

“I can’t begin to explain what Linn Moor and VSA have done for us. They’ve kept us together as a family. They’ve provided so much respite, not just for Stefanie and me, but also for our daughter Leona who goes to VSA’s Young Carers’ service  She’s not much younger than Lewis and they grew up together, but she’s done a lot that most kids of her age could ever imagine.

“Neither of us are runners.  It was just one of those things that we thought ‘I really fancy doing that one day,’ and decided to go for it now, whilst we still can. The training is hard but knowing I’m doing it to raise much-needed funds for Linn Moor is a tremendous motivation.

“Lewis has come on leaps and bounds since he joined. Before, he wasn’t very forthcoming with information but now he’s able to offer chat and tell us about his day at school.  It’s truly amazing.”

Lewis became a Monday to Friday residential student at Linn Moor a month ago.

Graham explained,

“We resisted residential care for as long as we could but we always knew it might come to it. He’s settled in so well though and has a lovely room. When he’s there he loves it, but we were determined it wouldn’t be full-time. Our family misses him so much during the week and it’s great to see him every weekend.” 

Shona Duff, general manager at VSA’s Linn Moor School, said,

“It’s great to hear about people tackling ambitious personal challenges while fundraising for us at Linn Moor. We’re lucky to have such passionate parents who want to get involved and support the cause.  Generous efforts like this are essential to keep giving our students the best care, support and education possible.”

The couple, who live on Abbotswell Road, Aberdeen, are encouraging people to attend a fundraising ceilidh at The Douglas Hotel on Friday 22 March. There will be two ceilidh bands, a fiddler, with local comedian Peter Wood compering, Tickets cost £15, including stovies.

Mar 142013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

N.E. charity VSA, with principal sponsors Brewin Dolphin and Munro’s Travel Group, and Golfers Scotland have launched the 2013 VSA Tartan Pro-Am golf day, encouraging local businesspeople to sign up for a day of golf and entertainment that will keep VSA’s desperately needed Family Contact Centre – the only one of its kind in Aberdeen – running.

The VSA Tartan Pro-Am, part of the PGA Professional Tartan Tour, will take place on Thursday 15 August at Aboyne Golf Course, followed by a prize giving dinner at The Marcliffe.

Anna Garden, general manager of VSA’s Children and Family Services, said:

“Our Family Contact Centre is a volunteer-run facility where children from separated families can spend valuable time with the mum or dad who no longer lives with them.  Just think what that would mean to a child.  And for parents, it means they don’t have to meet, so there’s less chance of hostility in front of the children.  It’s actually a really happy environment to be in.”

Bruce Angus, divisional director for Brewin Dolphin Aberdeen, said:

“The Family Contact Centre is an amazing local facility.  But it depends entirely on voluntary income.  It’s thanks to the success of fundraising events like the Pro-Am, and the enthusiastic, generous local people who attend, that VSA can continue to provide much needed facilities like this in the north-east.”

Murray Burnett, managing partner at Munro’s Travel Group, said:

“The Pro-Am is an opportunity to be part of a fantastic golf day and entertaining evening but more importantly, in supporting the event you are playing your part in helping the VSA bring vital assistance to families across AberdeenCity and Shire.  The charity and the Family Contact Centre in particular provide an invaluable service to the local community and we are delighted that through our participation in the event we are able to help ensure that VSA can continue to carry out its outstanding work.”

Former footballer Alex McLeish attended last year’s event:

“The atmosphere was brilliant and the course was in excellent condition.  The prize giving and fundraising dinner was a great end to a fun-filled day.  The entertainment was second-to-none and a welcome change from your usual after dinner speakers.  I’m already practicing my swing for this year.”

Debbie Fotheringham, events co-ordinator at VSA, said:

“As well as supporting a really important cause close to home, the Pro-Am is a great opportunity for companies to treat clients and staff.  I’ve re-launched the corporate sponsorships this year, with an extended range of cost-effective ways to get involved.  It’s the perfect way to promote your brand to some key north-east businesspeople.”

For more information about VSA’s Tartan Pro-Am, or to book a place at the golf, dinner or both, contact Debbie Fotheringham on 01224 358617 or e-mail

Mar 072013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

Last week Learning Opportunities students at Aberdeen College, some of whom are also young carers, raised more than £1,100 when they hosted a pop-up charity shop. The funds will benefit young carer services run by the local charity Voluntary Service Aberdeen (VSA).

The Aberdeen College charity shop will continue to fundraise for young carers until the end of this week, Friday 8th March.

Chris Sojka, Senior Carers’ Support and Development Worker with VSA, said:

 “I’m overwhelmed with the success of just one week in the charity shop. It’s fantastic. The money will go towards a school holiday respite programme, which gives young carers a much-needed break during their time off school. It will also help fund our education support for young carers. This ranges from helping them catch up with homework, to studying for exams, to making sure they get to College if that’s their goal. It’s all about fulfilling aspirations.” 

There are an estimated 2,240 young carers in Aberdeen, and far more that we don’t know about, who try to look after a sick or disabled relative without help.

Fiona Duff, lecturer in the Learning Opportunities department at AberdeenCollege, nominated the cause:

“Some of our students are young carers. I’m overwhelmed with what they do to help their families. It can take a lot for them to get to and stay in College. For students who don’t have direct caring experience, they can easily relate. They may have a friend who cares for someone. If not, they could imagine the situation. It could be them. It could be their brother, sister or cousin.”

“It went very well. We’re delighted with the amount raised: it would take us many weeks to raise that in the College charity shop. The students really enjoyed it and we got a lot of positive customer comments. Considering it’s something we’ve never done before, it went very smoothly.”

Chris added:

“We love to hear about people getting behind our young carers, especially people directly associated with the cause.  We’re so thankful to Aberdeen College for thinking of us.”

“Young carers are a phenomenal group of people, with some as young as five and others juggling Standard Grade study, who experience the struggles of growing up and their caring role. It might feel normal for them but they actually make a very special contribution to the community and their family. VSA’s Chill Out Zone gives them much-needed support, whether it’s respite, help with homework or a chance to have fun and just be a child.”

For more information about VSA’s Carers Services, visit their headquarters at 38 Castle Street, call 01224 212021 or visit the website at

Feb 082013

With thanks to Claire McBain.

On Sunday 3 February 2013, Voluntary Services Aberdeen launched an appeal for athletic locals to support it at the annual Balmoral Road Races. Budding athletes have been invited to pick which part of the charity they want to fundraise for, from a selection of more than 30 VSA services.

VSA has spaces in both the Conoco Phillips 5k race and the Stena Drilling Tartan 10k.

Debbie Fotheringham, fundraising officer at VSA, is leading the quest for competitors:

“We’re delighted to be part of Run Balmoral again.  This year, we’re passionate about making sure our runners know that they can raise money for something that matters to them.  Asking people to sponsor you is never easy.  But if it’s for something important to you, it’s a million times easier.

“VSA is such a diverse charity.  I think that, for almost every person out there, there’s a service that means something.  We support babies, children, adults with mental health difficulties, children with additional support needs, carers, young carers and older people. 

“You might want to run to raise money to send our hardworking young carers on a well-deserved trip or to buy an iPad so that our older people can Skype their overseas relatives.  You could even run to raise money to buy a goat for VSA’s Easter Anguston Farm in Peterculter.  The list is long and flexible.”  

“Last year we attracted a variety of runners, including me and a colleague.  I’m taking a break this year but I’d love to hear from people of all ages and abilities.  In 2012 we had marathon champions, regular runners and first-timers trying to keep their New Year resolution of getting fit.  But it’s not just about the running.  The Balmoral Road Races is really fun family day out.”

To book a place or to find out more about running for VSA at Run Balmoral, please contact Debbie Fotheringham on 01224 212021 or e-mail 

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

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