Scotland business

The charities that focus on Scotland's trades

Image copyright BDCI
Image caption The Butchers' and Drovers' Charitable Institution helps people who have worked in the meat trade

Thousands of Scots are helped each year by charities which focus on providing financial and emotional support to people who are linked to a particular trade.

But some charities worry that many potential beneficiaries may be missing out because they are not aware that help is only a phone call away.

After working for more than a decade as a butcher's shop assistant, Mary's life took a turn for the worse.

After retiring in 2011, the 63-year-old from Clydebank devoted her time to caring for her husband until his death from a dementia-related illness two years ago.

Her own health deteriorated and she found herself struggling to make ends meet.

But help was at hand.

A friend in the meat trade put her in touch with a charity she had never heard of - the Butchers' and Drovers' Charitable Institution (BDCI).

It is one of dozens of charities which specialise in helping people who are linked to a particular trade or profession.

Mary explains: "I had just lost my partner of 25 years who had gone through a process of dementia. I had also retired and you don't realise how difficult it is to live on a limited amount.

"I had no idea that a charity like BDCI existed but they could not have been nicer. They helped me get a bed, which was really needed, and a carpet. It gave me a right good pick-up.

"It was like an angel looking over my shoulder."

BDCI is the meat industry's own trade charity. Founded in 1828, it was established to provide support for those who had worked in the meat industry but had fallen on hard times.

Each year the UK-wide charity spends about £250,000 helping hundreds of people in need.

Trade charities are also on hand in the most tragic of circumstances.

Following the Clutha Bar helicopter crash in Glasgow in 2013, which claimed the lives of 10 people, the Benevolent Society Of The Licensed Trade Of Scotland arranged financial support for bar staff affected by the tragedy.

Image copyright PA

They also reached out to help those staff who were still able to work to find other jobs.

More generally, The Ben - as it is known - provides a wide range of support for anyone connected to the trade.

The charity, which has an annual income of about £400,000, is currently helping 135 people on an annual basis. It also runs a home in Pitlochry.

In addition, The Ben provides "visitors" who call on beneficiaries regularly to check that they are okay.

Chief executive Chris Gardner says: "There is a misconception that we only support older or retired people but we actually help anybody in the trade who has fallen on hard times and may need financial help through a one-off grant or on an annual basis.

"We offer support to anyone who has worked in the trade for at least three years.

"It is not only for those who have worked in a bar - it can be someone who was in a bottling hall or a drayman, for example."

Relatively few rural workers may be aware of the work of another charity which focuses on people in land-based occupations who are suffering hardship.

Last year Edinburgh-based RSABI spent £500,000-plus helping more than 500 Scots with backgrounds in farming, crofting, forestry, horticulture, fish-farming, gamekeeping and estate work.

Image copyright RSABI
Image caption RSABI was on hand to support farmers on Orkney after they were hit by poor weather conditions

At the end of October, it contributed more than £22,000 to support emergency shipments of straw to farmers on the Orkney island of Westray, after poor weather conditions left many producers without enough fodder for their cattle.

RSABI chairman John Kinnaird explains: "RSABI is delighted to be able to help the farmers on Westray - it is what we are here for. The weather on the Orkney Islands has been terrible this year, and many are struggling to make ends meet.

"Straw is an essential item and normally sourced locally. The huge costs to import straw to Westray may well have meant financial disaster for many."

The RSABI's work has become even more significant in an age of volatile markets and poor prices.

In one case, the charity was approached by a dairy farmer with very young children who was not earning enough to cover his costs as a result of low milk prices.

RSABI agreed to pay for heating oil and to provide food by way of supermarket vouchers. It also instigated a review of his farm to look at options for its future.

Given the isolated nature of many land-based occupations, the charity also runs a confidential helpline to offer support to anyone who may be suffering from depression or stress or facing difficulties in their life.

Image copyright RSABI
Image caption RSABI provides financial and confidential helpline support for land-based workers in Scotland

The exact number of trades charities operating in Scotland is unclear because many are cross-border entities, such as the National Grocers Benevolent Fund, the Motor and Allied Trades Benevolent Fund and the Retail Trust.

Although thousands of Scots are helped each year by such charities, many potential beneficiaries may be missing out.

Charities such as BDCI fear there may be many others like Mary who have no idea that support is only a phone call away.

BDCI marketing co-ordinator Andrew Garvey said: "We understand that many people are not aware of our charity and there are many we could help if they knew about us."

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