Steven’s Big Aberdeen Story
My name is Steven and I was 26 years old when it all started. In 2001 I was staying with my partner and 1 year old son. I had a good career as a welder and was able to provide a comfortable life for my family. July that same year I got diagnosed with cancer and things started going downhill for me.
I was first diagnosed with testicular cancer, resulting in removing my testicle. After that I was put on a course of chemotherapy for six weeks. The cancer had spread and my stomach nodes had to be removed too. Further spreads to my bowel were discovered and they had to fit a colostomy bag to my body. That news came as a big shock to me after waking up from my surgery. I was then cared for by Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow, which made it difficult for my family and friends to come visit me. It was a tough time for me and I was going through it mostly alone and with the support of my carers.
By February 2002 I was still off work for sickness and was still recovering. when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I was put through more chemotherapy and was scared for my life and losing hope. Fortunately, I was put through a course of radiotherapy which was successful.
I went back to my job but was made redundant due to closure of the company. I was unable to get a new job with my current health and disability. This forces me to start claiming benefits in the form of incapacity benefits and disability allowance. My whole life had to adjust to those changes. In June it was found that I had a brain infection and had to undergo three surgeries.
In the following couple of years things between my partner and me were not going well. We separated in May 2011 and that made me homeless.. I spent four and a half months before I found out about the food banks. I lived in B&B supported by the DWP, and then eventually I was offered a property in Aberdeen.
Now I relay on food banks as I struggle to maintain my flat and car, which is essential to get to my doctors/nurse appointments. CFINE changed my life for the better when I really needed help by providing me not only with food packages and tips on how to live on a budget, but also with the moral support, positive attitude of everyone around and a much needed support in benefits advice. I believe that support like CFINE is vital to people like myself and I will always be grateful for the help and understanding of my difficult situation I found here and for all the friendly faces I see whenever I come around.
Aberdeen Issues from this story
- Has this story changed your perceptions about Foodbank users?
- Is there enough support and information about transport to hospital and doctors appointments?
Sean O’Neill and Diana Polihranova, students at University of Aberdeen, made this video on a voluntary basis. Diana has been a key part of the #10Aberdeenstories since its inception.
CFINE is Steven’s STORYTELLER.
Community Food Initiatives North East
Improving Health and Well-Being: Business for Community Benefit
CFINE is the lead partner in the, presently, 37 organisations-strong Food Banks Partnership Aberdeen (FBPA)
What do we do?
- 60 Community Food Outlets across city and Shire making affordable produce accessible to disadvantaged and vulnerable communities;
- 220 volunteers, work placements and supported employees recruited, trained and supported over past year;
- Education, information and training on environmental issues eg reducing food waste, healthy cooking on a budget, ‘benefits and budgeting’ etc;
- FareShare Grampian where food through the FareShare network is received, organised and distributed to people in food poverty; the produce is distributed to 130 ‘Community Food Members’ across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray;
- Through FareShare 200 tonnes, saving 100 tonnes of carbon emissions, distributed over the past year;
- FBPA, 37 partners will distribute >25,000 emergency food and other products eg toiletries, nappies, sanitary ware through 2015;
- CFINE’s own food bank will distribute >10,000 parcels through 2015;
- 21 of 29 employees recruited from our priority communities eg unemployed, mental health issues, learning disabilities;
- Roots and Shoots project supports ex- offenders through work experience;
- With support from partners, CFINE offers employability, ‘benefits and budgeting’, health and well-being support to respond to the needs of beneficiaries.
- And through CFINE’s enterprise company, selling commercially and competitively wholesale and retail fruit, veg, pulses, healthy snacks and various upcycling eg garden furniture using recycled materials – ALL profit invested in our work for community benefit.
How can YOU support this work?
- Volunteer with a range of functions required including driving, stores, administration, IT, databases, customer care, marketing, social media etc;
- Donate food , organise a food drive at your work;
- Financial donations are always welcome!
The scale of the issues and needs we are supporting and addressing mean our organisation is under tremendous pressure; ‘Stephen’s Story’ represents the tragic circumstance and challenges thousands of NE residents are facing daily – CFINE strives to respond effectively and sensitively but support as described above always needed and welcome!
- If you or someone you know has money issues – or you would like to find a local project to support on these issues – Cash in Your Pocket Partnership (CIYPP) at ACVO can help you find paths to support. Visit www.ciyp.co.uk or http://website.directory.ciypp.azure.flexviews.com or phone 01224 686077
- Instant Neighbour can help with food, and with providing cheap essential items for a household.
- If someone you know is paying too much for their fuel, or their home is cold Contact SCARF
- If you are interested in volunteering with a local organisation working with people facing these issues contact Mike Melvin at Aberdeen Volunteer Centre at ACVO
- The Scottish Government’s Scottish Welfare Fund is run locally by Aberdeen City Council Revenue and Benefits team. Go to http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/council_tax_benefits/crisis_community_care_grants.asp or phone 0800 03 04 713 to enquire about the Crisis Grants available for people in dire need or the Community Grants for people who could not otherwise live independently in the community.
- If you are a non-UK national facing these issues there is specialist support available from Aberdeen Citizens Advice Bureau
- Healthy Start Vouchers are free weekly vouchers to spend on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk. They are available if you are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old and you or your family get certain benefits. Find out more at Healthy Start Vouchers
- If you are working with an organisation which is interested in current local initiatives around welfare reform and its effect on Mental Health & Wellbeing, Susan Morrison at ACVO will be pleased to try to help at 01224 686056.
- Third Sector organisations who would like to know more about their representation on the local Welfare Reform Board through ACVO should contact Joyce Duncan, ACVO’s CEO on 01224 686058 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Financial Inclusion Team at Aberdeen City Council can help with an array of financial difficulties Contact 01224 522709
- Dave Simmers from CFINE has written a guest blog on the Creating a Fairer Scotland website. “Policy makers must ‘stand in the other persons’ shoes”
- Community Centres around Aberdeen have a range of services available. Why not find out more about yours at Community Centres Contact List
- Transport to Healthcare Information Centre (THInC) – They provide practical transport advice for people who have difficulty getting to and from medical appointments in Grampian.
- To find out more about the context in which Third Sector work on these issues is carried out, you may be interested in Child Poverty Action Group , Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Voluntary Action Scotland and Rightsnet
What Happened Next
What is happening since Steven told us his Story?
- ‘Stephen’ is in a difficult position with his benefits and, given the changes and complexities through welfare reform developments, CFINE through AHEAD (Action Health Education Employment Against Disadvantage), a partnership between Grampian Housing Association, North East Scotland Credit Union and CFINE, is providing guidance and support through AHEAD’s Financial Capability Officers. It is intended that an improved position for ‘Stephen’ is realised to remove some of the financial pressures he is under. CFINE continues to assist with food and social support but ‘Stephen’s’ challenges continue.
- CFINE’s food bank is providing c200 emergency parcels of food and other products eg toiletries, nappies and sanitary ware – our supplies are under immense pressure – would you consider donating yourself or organising a food drive in your community/ workplace to donate food or other priority products – if yes, please contact Christine or Graeme on 01224 596156/ email@example.com (www.cfine.org)
- CFINE have published a Food Bank Update Summary detailing food bank usage in Aberdeen.
- Marion Douglas commented “It makes me think life is not fair, some people have everything thrown at them one after another. How much can they take.Thank god for organisations such as Foodbanks etc. People moan about having a sore head, we don’t know the half of it.”