Mar 242017
 

With thanks to Clare Scott, Communications Consultant, CJS Communication & Marketing.

An Aberdeen-based family support charity is using Mother’s Day to highlight the important role that experienced parents can play in supporting new mums and dads.
Home-Start Aberdeen works with families in the city, with at least one child under five years old, who may be vulnerable or suffering from
isolation. 

It provides these families with weekly support, which is delivered in their own home by a trained home visiting volunteer.

The majority of Home-Start Aberdeen volunteers are parents themselves, who understand the challenges involved in bringing up a family.

Now one of the largest Home-Start schemes in the UK, Home-Start Aberdeen supports over 220 families and 360 children each year. Isolation remains one of the most common reasons for referrals and the charity has a waiting list of more than 30 families who are in need of help.

Georgette Cobban, scheme manager, Home-Start Aberdeen said:

“Many of today’s new parents don’t have immediate access to a solid support network.

“People move around a lot more, meaning that extended family are not always available to give a helping hand, or to provide new parents with a break.

“Our home visiting volunteers help to fill that role, by providing a regular presence along with advice and encouragement on how new parents can get involved with community life. As we approach Mothering Sunday, we hope that experienced parents might consider reaching out to others.

“The Home-Start model works very well as the relationship is equal. It is all about parents supporting other parents and we know that our volunteers, as well as our families, get a great deal from it.”

Now in its 30th anniversary year, Home-Start Aberdeen has launched a ’30 in 30’ campaign to recruit 30 new volunteers within 30 weeks. Volunteer induction courses are taking place throughout the year, with the next course starting on Wednesday, 3 May. For further information, go to www.homestartaberdeen.org.uk or email volunteering@homestartaberdeen.org.uk.

Home-Start Aberdeen has been working with communities in the city for 30 years. The charity provides vulnerable families with practical and emotional support in their own homes. Support is provided by trained volunteers, with supervision from a small team of coordinators. Families must have at least one child under five years old and live within the city, otherwise there are no barriers to access.

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Nov 172016
 

With thanks to Clare Scott, Communications Consultant, CJS Communication & Marketing.

28/10/16 Home start Chair- Roberta Eunson-

Home-Start Aberdeen’s chairperson, Roberta Eunson, with a book bundle ready for delivery.

An Aberdeen-based family support charity has been overwhelmed by the response to an appeal for donations of children’s books towards its 2016 book advent.

Home-Start Aberdeen launched the book advent appeal in September. The initiative encourages parents to read a book with their children each day in December prior to Christmas.

It is believed that reading together encourages families to bond, as well as helping with literacy, communication and imaginative skills.

The charity, which works with local families who are vulnerable or suffering from isolation, was inundated with interest. Sufficient donations of books were received well within the stipulated cut-off date of 4 November.

Home-Start Aberdeen representatives have now received and wrapped a total of 2225 books. These have been stacked into bundles of 25 books for each of the 89 Home-Start Aberdeen families who asked if they could be included in this year’s book advent.

Roberta Eunson, Home-Start Aberdeen’s chairperson, said:

“The support we have received in connection with this year’s book advent has been fantastic.

“Our thanks go out to all of the playgroups, schools, community organisations, businesses and individuals who have collected books on our behalf. We are also very grateful to Kirsty Blackman MP and Peter Vardy Aberdeen who offered their premises as additional book collection points.

“Our final thank you goes to the volunteers who worked tirelessly to sort all the donated books into age-appropriate bundles and beautifully gift wrap them. The book bundles will bring tremendous enjoyment to the families Home-Start Aberdeen supports and we are looking forward to distributing them prior to 1 December.”

2016 is the third year of the Home-Start Aberdeen book advent. Demand for books has grown alongside the charity’s own development. Now one of the largest Home-Start schemes in the UK, Home-Start Aberdeen supports around 180 families, including 297 children, per year. Its unique blend of emotional and practical support is delivered by over 100 trained volunteers, who visit their allocated family each week in their own home.

Further information about Home-Start Aberdeen is available at www.homestartaberdeen.org.uk, or by calling (01224) 693545.

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Aug 262015
 

With thanks to Phil Moar, Account Manager, Citrus Mix.

Shire Instant Neighbour

Susan Cheyne, business development manager at Instant Neighbour.

Players and members of Aberdeenshire RFC have come together to raise donations for local charity Instant Neighbour.
The Woodside club has been collecting items throughout the last month and has managed to raise a grand total of 202kg of bric-a-brac and 17kg of food which will go towards supporting those in need in and around Aberdeen.

Aberdeenshire RFC club president Alasdair Farquharson said:

“I’d like to thank all those players, both past and present, and members of the club who have come together to generously support our efforts in helping Instant Neighbour.

“To raise such a fantastic total really is testament to the efforts shown throughout the last month and it is great to be able to help a charity that is located in the community that we play out of. It really is our way of giving something back to the local area.”

Susan Cheyne, business development manager of Instant Neighbour, said:

“This is excellent and will certainly help us in our quest to support those hit by poverty.”

Among other charitable endeavours, a group of players, friends and family of the club volunteered in last weekend’s Celebrate Aberdeen parade, lending a helping hand to the North East Disabled War Veterans.

Shire Celebrate Abz

The parade itself saw thousands of people take to the streets of Aberdeen to celebrate the tireless work of the city’s third sector organisations in a display of colour and fun.

Now, the club will turn its attention to this Saturday’s opening league game as the 1st XV face a repeat of last season’s opening fixture when they travel to Fife to take on Kirkcaldy RFC.
Aberdeenshire RFC are a BT National League Division 2 side situated in the north of Aberdeen.

In addition to the club’s three senior teams, Aberdeenshire has a burgeoning ladies and junior team.

Further information can be found at http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/aberdeenshire/

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Aug 122013
 

By Renee Margaret Slater.

The ‘In-Tent On Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’ at Union Terrace Gardens event is to highlight the plight of those faced with paying the Bedroom Tax in our city. We want the event to emphasize what may happen to public parks when tenants are faced with eviction due to housing debts.

The Bedroom Tax has been brought in by statute to charge people who have spare bedrooms, who are on Housing Benefit and reside in social housing.

Those people in such properties will have money deducted from their benefits – 14% for one bedroom and 25% for more than one.

This legislation discriminates against those disadvantaged through low wage and those who are unemployed. ‘In-Tent on Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’ will highlight what could happen when those who cannot afford to pay the Bedroom Tax are evicted from their homes.

This government wants tenants in Housing Associations & Council Housing (i.e. not private) who are on Housing Benefit to downsize to smaller properties. There aren’t the smaller properties for families to move into. This situation is common throughout the UK. One of our members in Aberdeen Against The Bedroom Tax has acquired information from ACC on the actual waiting figures regarding one bedroom properties in the city.

The number of people on the waiting list for one bedroom properties is 3,855. The number of one bedroom properties available to rent is 89.

Something is definitely not adding up here. This situation is repeated throughout the UK.

In-Tent on Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen is supported by a large group of people directly affected by the consequences of the legislation, plus Aberdonians not affected but disgusted by the effects of a government that has no concern about the outcome of its benefit cuts on the poorest sections of our community.

Unlike the poll tax that affected everyone – this Bedroom Tax legislation only affects those on housing benefit residing in Social Housing.

Moving To Other Premises:  One of our members who has an autistic son – has been told by Aberdeen City Council that she must leave her 3 bedroom house in Torry to move into 3 bedroom premises in Manor Avenue. There is no logic here. Apart from the massive upheaval it will bring for her and her child, she still has to pay the bedroom tax, only it will be without family and friends’ support.

We have one major obstacle to overcome. We are faced with government propaganda machine that brands ordinary people on benefits as scroungers. They have a ‘Jeremy Kyle’ attitude to claimants that assumes that ‘everyone is on the take’.

Discretionary Housing Payment is to help those who have paid for the Bedroom Tax from their general benefits – money that is used for food, clothing, travel etc. Discretionary housing payments are worth only a small fraction of the total cut in housing benefit and are often only temporary, meaning problems can go unresolved. In Aberdeen, the City Council has decided not to repay the money to people affected but to add the cash to their Council Tax.

Many people who have to pay the Bedroom Tax are now in arrears with their rent. Once tenants are in arrears they are excluded from the exchange list and therefore cannot move to smaller properties. A vicious cycle ensues, forcing tenants into making painful choices.

This legislation has forced people to juggle paying rent and buying food for their children. Many have resorted to food banks.

We wish to ensure that ordinary citizens in Aberdeen are not fooled by a Coalition Government which accuses friends and families of ‘ripping off the taxpayer’. For every so-called scrounger there are 9 others suffering from this insidious Bedroom Tax. The In-Tent on ‘Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’ – in UTG’ is an opportunity for Aberdonians to see for themselves what may happen when we begin to see our parks occupied by ordinary people who have been evicted due to arrears.

Our protest is a message to both Aberdeen City Council and the UK Torry LibDem Coalition – Do not be complacent – your legislation WILL force families onto the streets!

Those expected to turn up on Saturday 24th August are people already paying Bedroom Tax, Those In arrears due to Bedroom Tax and supporters who see their friends and neighbours suffering from this insidious legislation.

This will be a peaceful and symbolic gesture from the people of Aberdeen in support of those affected by the Bedroom Tax. Similar actions are happening in over 30 cities throughout the UK.

We request that people be peaceful & to keep the park clean. We expect tents, gazebos, food parcels soup kitchen & some musicians. There should be speakers explaining the effects of the Bedroom Tax on the population. There will also be stalls with information..

 ‘In-Tent on Action Against the Bedroom Tax in Aberdeen’

 Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen

 24th August 2013

 12 noon – 8.00pm

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May 242013
 

With Thanks to Claire McBain.

After welcoming almost 3,000 visitors to its spring fair at Easter Anguston Farm on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th May, social care charity VSA raised £14,581 at an event which marked the re-opening of the farm for the summer.

This figure is significantly more than ever raised before at either their spring fairs or the charity’s VSA Days which were previously held in Duthie Park.

While the farm’s new donated pygmy goats – which can be seen on YouTube at http://ow.ly/kz3Nf  – were the highlight of the day, visitors were also kept entertained by Segway experiences, a bouncy castle, face painting and games.

VSA services also hosted stalls, spreading the word about the good they do and fundraising for their individual causes.

Staff and service users from VSA’s Arrdeir House, a long-term residential support for adults with varying degrees of mental health difficulties who would struggle to cope alone in the community, focused their efforts on fundraising for a trip of a lifetime to Disneyland.

By working in the Farm’s café on both days, the group exceeded their target and will be able to send two long-term service users on their dream holiday.

Doreen Murray, team leader at Arrdeir House, said:

“It’s fantastic! 

“Elspeth [Donald] and Richard [White] have been with VSA for 21 years but neither of them have been on an aeroplane, or even been out of Aberdeen. 

“Now they can!”

Debbie Fotheringham, event and fundraising co-ordinator at VSA, said:

“Of course, the most important thing about the day is the cause behind it. 

“VSA is the largest charity in the north-east, an umbrella to more than 30 life-changing social care services. 

“VSA supports thousands of the most vulnerable people in the community, reaching out to newborn babies, children with additional support needs, young and adult carers, adults with mental health difficulties and older people. 

“The services include a nursery, school, play schemes, respite, advice, care homes, day care, respite opportunities, a bookshop and, of course, the farm.”

For the last six years the charity has taken over Duthie Park for the VSA Day, but this year the Peterculter-based farm incorporated the landmark event with its annual spring fair, raising awareness of the local work which VSA does in looking after thousands of people, and celebrating those who have supported the charity over the past year.

Easter Anguston Farm will now be open daily throughout the summer, from 10.00 a.m. until 5.00 p.m., when visitors will find all the usual attractions – the coffee shop, education centre, farm shop and garden centre – in full swing.

For more information about VSA and other events visit www.vsa.org.uk or www.youtube.com/supportvsa

Mar 012012
 

Aberdeen Against Austerity informs Voice of its intention to take to the city’s streets this Saturday (3rd March).

This action is part of a national day of protest against the UK Government’s Workfare Scheme under which multi-national companies, whose profits run into billions of pounds, receive countless hours of free man/womanpower courtesy of taxpayers.

At least thirty other cities around the UK will host similar demonstrations.

How does the Workfare Scheme operate?

The jobseeker labours for perhaps eight hours daily, receives no wages from the company, creates wealth for the bosses and shareholders and in return receives only his/her Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA). As a result, participants in the programme receive well below £2 per hour for time they have been forced to give to multi-billionaire companies.

Many fear that these phenomenally low wages are being used by bosses to drive down existing staff wages under threat of replacement by Workfare participants. Commentators have used the term ‘slave labour’ to describe this Tory policy, with some even challenging the legality of the Scheme under Human Rights Law.

Not looking hard enough for work

Conservative ministers and right-wing journalists have tried to justify the Scheme in recent weeks using the same tired old argument that JSA claimants are responsible for their own misery because they are ‘workshy’, ‘lazy’ and ‘lacking in drive’.

“These ‘lazy’ individuals just aren’t looking hard enough for work,” cries the right.

Figures show these ludicrous opinions to be baseless whilst revealing the underlying structural problems of our economic system. We have 2.67m unemployed, although the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has reported that the true figure might be 6.3m, and only 476,000 job vacancies. That means 5.6 people are applying for every job, or 13.2 people if the TUC figures are used.

Joblessness is a very real and serious issue woven into the fabric of our economy and it cannot simply be blamed on the ‘feckless unemployed’.

The proponents of Workfare claim that the most effective way to get ‘workshy’ claimants back to work is by threat of the loss of their JSA. This is very misguided. The Government’s own review, commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions in 2008, concluded:

 “There is little evidence that Workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers.”

Political and ideological

It’s clear. Workfare is a political programme, designed and carried out by a government of millionaires with a strong ideological undercurrent, through which they seek to:

  • Undermine the legal minimum wage.
  • Continue the demonisation of those out of work to justify the increasing wealth gap between the rich and poor.
  • Strengthen the very close ties between big business and government.
  • Ensure that the most vulnerable in society pay for the economic crisis rather than those who caused or played a major role in it.
  • Continue to apply downward pressure to existing workers’ pay and terms and conditions

Aberdeen Against Austerity and many other groups will be raising awareness nationwide by naming and shaming Workfare providers this Saturday (3rd March) in Aberdeen city centre. We’ll meet in the Castlegate at 12 noon.

See you on the streets.

Aug 182011
 

Last week we brought you the first installment of a six part tragedy by Jonathan Russell concerning the decimation of services for disabled people in Aberdeen and what we can do to reverse the destruction.  This week we look at the excellent things that existed – and have been snuffed out. By Jonathan Russell.

The Growth Of  Community – ‘Aberdeen Social Work  Team Praised For Good Practice’

The Community Placement Team was set up to provide alternatives to day centre provision for people with learning and/or physical disabilities. The workings of the team were progressed through the development and operation of a business plan well ahead of such developments in other services.
The evolution of this plan involved staff, clients, council sections, and all relevant outside agencies. 

It set forward a vision with targets on a whole variety of areas including work opportunities, training, leisure, finance, fundraising, client involvement, promotion through the media and training of staff. There were also service developments requested by clients including a craft business, a cafe and horticultural opportunities.

A voluntary organization ‘Access to Training and Employment’ was set up by our clients to help progress these client-led resources. The response from management at the time in Social Work was that the objectives in the plan were unrealistic and would not happen.

In reality over a ten year period we achieved all our objectives and went on to improve and expand further opportunities for people with disabilities. Staff and clients were empowered to take on responsibility within clearly structured areas of responsibility. Each member of staff was given responsibility for particular areas of work. At the height of our work we were providing services for 480 clients.

Achievements included:-

  • Receiving the highest possible quality assurance marks for our Department of Work and Pensions scheme, supporting people with disabilities into real, fully-paid jobs.
  • Rapid increase in permitted work and voluntary placements. Work involved seeking out work placements and then supporting and reviewing the placements. People in the main were however supported by employers and their staff at no cost to the council. To resource this expansion as well as the hard and creative work of staff and supporting employers, we received funding for three European funded projects and one from the Scottish Executive, particularly aimed at young people.  A joint project was set up with Cornerstone Community Care which allowed this agency to get further European funding as well as funding from the private sector, which could not be applied for by a local authority. The Cornerstone Employment team was managed by a worker from the Community Placement Team which had an outstanding track record of finding work placements
  • We had an excellent partnership with Aberdeen College who provided pre-employment training courses.  The College was receptive to providing new courses dependent on need. The courses had no cost to Aberdeen City Council except referral and review work. The College also provided lecturers for Community Outreach classes in community settings

Services set up and developed included:-

  •  Crafty Things – making wooden, textile and art goods this grew and grew and was awarded the first Scot Rail award for Social Enterprise
  • Choices Therapeutic Gardening  – a special garden was set up for the physically disabled; allotments were run, and we helped with the
    setting up of the Manor Park Garden. Choices Therapeutic Gardening was awarded the Grampian Television Overall Adult Learners Award
  • ‘Inclusion for All, – a project aimed at including people with disabilities in Community Centres. As well as integrating individuals into the wider activities of Centres, we also became involved in coordinating 12 Aberdeen College Community Outreach classes from computing to job clubs
  • Café Cairncry– a café run by young people with disabilities for a group of Senior Citizens in the local community
  • ADAPT – a project aimed at providing training in disability awareness for employers
  • Va –va -vroom – a highly successful drama group run with the Lemon Tree and putting on a whole
    host of successful stage productions

Access to Training and Employment, along with the Community Placement Team, were also involved in organizing two major conferences.  Out of the first conference a business breakfast was organized with the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce and Scottish Enterprise.

All of these exercises aimed at promoting employment for people with disabilities in Aberdeen. They were well supported by politicians and local representatives of business. As was so often the case, Social Work Management at the time showed no interest and would not get involved.

Leisure and Social activity groups were set up for people with physical and learning disabilities including:

  • Two leisure groups where people progressed from one group to another depending on ability, and were given the opportunity to try out a number of activities. Those involved were actively involved in putting together new programmes. Wherever these groups went they were welcomed by the organizations who owned the facilities.
  • An Independent leisure group run by clients but with back-up support from the team
  • An evening social group
  • Two bowling groups
  • A swimming group

All of these groups were well attended  and operated on a philosophy of fostering independence and progression. Groups were developed based on the demand of clients. The team made good use of volunteers and worked with other agencies where appropriate in operating these services making the services of good value.

The Community Placement Team also worked closely with Adult learning which (until re-organized into three Neighbourhoods and then was dramatically cut), ran group learning and provided individual tuition.   We also worked closely with the Workers Educational Association Reach Out project which ran more informal educational groups ideal for those who found it a challenge to fit into more conventional educational situations and Inspires Local Area Co-ordination which worked primarily in Northfield and the Bridge of Don.

The team identified a gap in services for those with disabilities moving from children’s to adult services. This concern was ignored by social work management until the report by the Social Work Inspectorate in 2008 which raised major concerns.   The Council’s Education Department did employ a consultant, but after a number of (costly) meetings as sadly so often the case, nothing ever materialised — wasting even more valuable, scarce resources and time.

We worked closely with Schools, Skills Development Scotland and Aberdeen College to try and progress the situation for young people in transition. We managed to get some funding via Scottish Enterprise, European funding and from trusts, and developed a structure with Skills

Development Scotland so that duplication of responsibilities for individuals between the agencies involved did not take place. Hazlewood School organised a conference ‘Moving On’ with which a whole variety of agencies were involved: yet again management at the time in Social Work and Wellbeing showed no interest.

Crucially there was no financial analysis in the Aberdeen Strategy of what money was available

On top of this the team also provided a considerable Social Work and Care management role.  This included supporting clients and their career, helping with housing and welfare rights, finding, supporting and reviewing paid for placements with Social Businesses; and attending a whole array of multi-disciplinary meetings.

Like all working situations the Community Placement Team faced its challenges.  It did however have high morale and staff were supported by weekly team meetings, regular supervision and yearly appraisals. Appraisals and informal supervision were also given to part-time staff employed through Access to Training and Employment and Aberdeen College.

All client services were reviewed and this included active involvement of clients with this process. We also worked closely with carer’s and parents and tried to create an ethos that was one of where all concerned parties were working together as part of a team.

The Scottish Executive had an excellent strategy called the ‘Same as You,’ which is presently being reviewed throughout Scotland whose aim was to include people with disabilities in the wider community. The Community Placement Team were involved in developing this agenda, there was, however, a distinct lack of support from management at the time.

As the Social Work Inspection pointed out management failed even to mention the ‘Same as You’ strategy in Aberdeen Councils own Learning Disability strategy.

Crucially there was no financial analysis in the Aberdeen Strategy of what money was available, nor how they could best provide services within financial restrictions. Management was out of touch with the developments that were taking place in other council areas across Scotland and were in effect burying their heads in the sand.

The Community Placement Team was well supported by outside agencies, the major challenge that the team faced however was the lack of support and involvement from middle and higher management within Aberdeen City Council.

Considerable effort was put into trying to improve our relationship with management but to little avail.

So what happened next?  Read all about this over the forthcoming three weeks of Aberdeen Voice in a tragedy in three acts called A COMEDY OF ERRORS MEETS MACBETH

Aug 122011
 

Aberdeen Voice presents the first installment of a six part tragedy by  Jonathan Russell concerning the decimation of services for disabled people in Aberdeen and what we can do to reverse the destruction.

Services for people with disabilities have been a particular target in the cuts implemented by Aberdeen City Council. These have included loss of services through changes in eligibility criteria, the cutting of Classroom Assistants and Adult Learning provision, the closure of Day Centres  for the physically disabled and for those with a learning disability, and the closure of Alternative Day Community provision.

Given the over-spend that developed in Aberdeen Council in the last ten years, cuts were inevitable. However, some of these cuts have belied logic.

The development in Classroom Assistant provision had largely followed the cutting back in Special School provision. All across Scotland, in line with the Scottish Executive policy document ‘Same as You’, Day Centres had gradually been replaced by Alternative Day opportunities, with a particular emphasis on employment.

Ironically, now the cuts have come they are affecting the very services which were meant to be part of that alternative provision eg. Adult Literacy and Community Learning.

What follows highlights one crucial part of this target, the closure of the Community Placement Team which provided work, training and leisure activities for people with disabilities in the city.

In a damning report in 2008 into the Social Work Services of Aberdeen City Council one of the few teams that was commended for good social work practice and high outcomes was the Community Placement Team.

The Community Placement Team worked with 480 people with both learning and physical disabilities. In particular the CPT were involved in finding and creating work for disabled people, and training and leisure activities for those people, but importantly also providing a wider Social Work service for clients and their families.

The Social Work inspection evidenced the Community Placement Team as an example of good practice and stated:

“In 2006, 29% of adults with learning disabilities had employment opportunities compared with 16 % nationally. This was a major achievement by the service with the figure increasing from 17% in 2005.

“We met a group of people with learning disabilities who used CPT services. They spoke highly of the opportunities the Community Placement Team provided for employment, training and leisure pursuits.”

Within two years the very managers who had been criticised and asked to take urgent action to improve relations and rebuild trust between staff and managers in the Social Work Inspection report, had – with the agreement of the council administration – closed down the Community Placement Team.  This has left many vulnerable people isolated, and in many cases their families also.

  • In the coming weeks, five further articles will be published, written by the ex-Team Leader of the then Community Placement Team, documenting what happened, and making suggestions for the future of services for people with disabilities in Aberdeen city.
Apr 222011
 

Voice’s Old Susannah casts her eye over recent events, stories, and terms and phrases familiar as well as freshly ‘spun’, which will be forever etched in the consciousness of the people of Aberdeen and the Northeast.

There have been a fair share of animal cruelty stories in the last few months; Donald Forbes will soon have is day in Court (looks like 16th May at Aberdeen Sheriff Court – if you’re free, do stop in and wish him well).  But there are some other charming people who deserve a mention this week.

Picture this:  you are frail, in your 80s, and a youngish girl has been sent as your carer.  Just hope it isn’t Kirsty Rae, a home carer for Aberdeenshire Council.  She has been caught apparently stealing hundreds of pounds from elderly, vulnerable older women – one believed to be 89 years old. It is a crime how little money our oldest residents are expected to live on to start with – but can you imagine the stress for these women – thinking you had lost your money – and worrying if you were losing your senses?

Allegedly Ms Rae has previous form – she is one to watch in future – actually just watch your older relatives and your wallets if she is within a few hundred yards.

No doubt she has a problem, maybe had a tough childhood, money problems or some other reason we should all feel really sorry for her – and no doubt has reasons why she should not get a custodial sentence.  As for me, I will reserve my sympathy for the robbed women – who have lived through World War II, probably worked hard and scrimped and saved all their lives.

Nice one Kirsty.

My second man to watch in the news is the Aberdeen Football Club fan who apparently head-butted a 12-year-old boy.

The boy was asking for it – he had the nerve to be wearing a Celtic jersey AND was in a shopping centre – with his parents.  Matthew Brown is thought to be pleading to avoid a football ban – he had been drinking you see.  I guess that makes it all right.

The little boy will obviously be very apprehensive and intimidated for some time to come, and was nauseous and ill after the vicious attack.  But hey, Matt probably won’t do it again.  Unless he has been drinking.  Matt – it is only a game, and not an excuse to attack children who choose a different team than yours.  No need to get the younger generation involved in any of your personal gripes.  Deal?

There is of course no reason why a party would want to stick to the usually generous promises it makes in a manifesto

On a happier note, spring is in the air (well, the haar is pretty thick anyway), and election fever is gripping the City and Shire.  In the pubs and clubs the talk is all around the AV  – Alternative Voting system referendum, and with the exciting leaflets flooding through the letterboxes explaining how honest, gifted and wonderful each candidate is, it is all anyone is thinking about.

Is the suspense getting to you?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this exciting election looming for the 5th May.  But what does it all mean?  What will it mean for the Country?  For our great democratic, unified City?  Perhaps looking at some of the terms in depth will help.

Manifesto: (Noun) Work of fiction used to deceive; usually deliberately written to be so long and tedious that anyone who tries reading one will utterly forget their own name, let alone remember the manifesto’s economic policy on EU agricultural subsidies or educational targets.

A party just isn’t a party without a good manifesto; the manifesto gets to have its own  ‘launch’ party at which the press stifle yawns and try to think of interesting questions on a document that is ultimately as exciting as a telephone directory – only a lot less believable.  There is of course no reason why a party would want to stick to the usually generous promises it makes in a manifesto.

Some parties – for some reason Liberal Democrats in the last prime ministerial elections come to mind – promise the world.  Free education for all, ice cream for everybody, and two cars in each garage.

I know – perhaps we can have a consultation on this:  maybe the public can be given a choice of route options

They then find themselves with a tiny bit of power, and needing to have a slice of the pie, they fold like a cheap suit and do as they are told by the more powerful party (for some reason I think of the Tories).  If your manifesto promises no tuition fees, there is some possibility that one or two of the voters will notice if you are a bit less than good to your word.  But then again, it is not as if they can do anything about it.

I’ve had a look at the 89 page Liberal Democrat Manifesto, and see that they intend to deliver something called the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route; this pledge is filed under the phrase ‘for efficiency’.  I know – perhaps we can have a consultation on this:  maybe the public can be given a choice of route options and vote on the matter after some road shows.

Old Susannah is getting old and her memory is going, because I mistakenly remember sitting at an ‘Aberdeen Civic Forum’ meeting in the town hall, where NESTRANS promised that the route would be finished in 2012.  Maybe I got that wrong:  perhaps it is the LibDems that will be finished.

But there is good news:  The LibDems care about wildlife:  From the manifesto:

“The nation’s farmers are also stewards of the countryside, playing a key role in protecting Scotland’s wildlife and habitats”.

Presumably, with the  exception of inconvenient deer.

Polling Station: (Noun) A place where, if you are lucky enough to find it, you will be given a numbered piece of paper, have your name written on a numbered sheet of voters names – and then be told that your vote is totally anonymous.

You will have a choice of parties to vote for – Raving Monster Looney party being amongst the more conservative and long lasting of them.

You will wonder if you are looking at photographs of fashion models and movie stars at first

It is the 21st century and we are a technologically advanced society.  This is why we are voting using pieces of paper which are stuffed into a wooden box, then later taken to a larger counting area and people hand-count the votes for hours into the night and the next morning.

Mistakes are never made, and no one ever counts incorrectly.  You might think that an electronic voting system would be a good idea, but there is something to be said for this method.  I’m just too polite to say it.

I said it can be difficult to find your polling station – particularly as some 14,000 Aberdeen residents received their polling cards telling them where to go to vote:  to a school that had been closed down some months before.  To be fair to the Council, it would be awfully hard to keep track of all the schools we’ve closed, and you cannot be expected to check all the fine details when you print a couple of thousand polling cards.

Flyer: (noun) Printed page delivering short, factual, truthful messages. The means by which political parties remind you of all the good they have done and will do.

The person receiving a flyer through their letter box will religiously read all flyers and save them for posterity, if the dog hasn’t chewed up the flyer and the flyer deliverer’s hand first.  They come in fabulous colour schemes such as sickly gold and dark purple to seem all the more cheerful.  You will wonder if you are looking at photographs of fashion models and movie stars at first, then you realise it is pictures of your would-be elected officials.

Remember, if it is printed in a flyer, it is true.  Candidates are very careful not to promise more than they can deliver, and with our services and society in the shape they are today, there is very little left to promise anyway.

NEXT WEEK:  news on FOI requests into Union Terrace Gardens and City property sold to Stewart Milne; Deer update (the deer have 19 days left as things stand before the blackmail ultimatum is up), and more definitions.