Nestled in the heart of Europe’s Oil and Gas capital, Aberdeen, the widening chasm between affluence and poverty has become glaringly evident amidst the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. An employee at CFINE, a charity committed to aiding those in poverty, regularly witnesses this stark dichotomy during daily commutes. Recently, an incident involving a stranded green Lamborghini outside a homeless hostel served as a poignant symbol of the challenges faced by many amid economic turbulence.
Experiences at CFINE have shed light on the toll Aberdeen’s economic structure takes on the mental well-being of its residents. The influence of the oil and gas industry has perpetuated extreme wealth alongside poverty, fostering an environment of inequality. The unequal nature of Aberdeen adversely affects individuals’ self-worth, emphasizing the struggle faced by the city’s most vulnerable.
The United Kingdom is currently grappling with a cost-of-living crisis, marked by a notable surge in essential expenses coupled with stagnant wages. Last winter, wages in real terms experienced a 2.6% decline, leaving workers £11,000 worse off annually compared to fifteen years ago. These challenges are compounded by spikes in the prices of food, energy bills, fuel, and other necessities. As of July, fuel inflation stood at 7.3%, while food inflation reached a staggering 14.9%. Aberdeen mirrors the national struggle, with its citizens feeling the impact of inflation across various aspects of their lives.
CFINE, a frontline charity in the battle against poverty, has experienced a concerning surge in demand for its services. In March alone, the organization distributed 4414 emergency food parcels, a stark contrast to the 2770 parcels delivered during the same period the previous year. The strain on charities like CFINE is indicative of the widespread impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the most vulnerable members of society.
Tillydrone Community Flat, operating in one of Aberdeen’s most deprived areas since 2012, is another crucial player in supporting those in need. Dedicated employees of the flat not only run a food bank but also provide essential services ranging from social security assistance to collaborating with substance abuse support groups. The community flat has experienced a surge in demand, serving 611 people affected by poverty in the past year alone.
The influx of African immigrants to Aberdeen, particularly university students with families, has contributed to the increased demand for Tillydrone Community Flat’s services. The flat, which usually sees around 6,400 people using its facilities annually, has witnessed a spike in the need for necessities such as shoes, cleaning products, and even pet food. Employees at the community flat express concern, stating that it is disconcerting to see people coming to the flat to keep warm.
To combat the rising tide of poverty, the FAIRER Aberdeen fund allocates an annual budget of £65,000 to Tillydrone Community Flat, supporting not only the flat but also 33 local organizations aiding 35,000 of Aberdeen’s most vulnerable citizens. Despite these efforts, the challenges persist, and the community flat’s employees remain at the forefront of providing vital assistance to those in need.
The organizer of Aberdeen is Jist Scunnered believes apathy amongst the public is a significant obstacle to positive societal change. He suggests that those facing poverty are focused on immediate concerns, such as their next meal, rather than actively seeking ways to create positive change.
An employee from CFINE echoes these sentiments, attributing the increase in poverty to the combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. Former donors to food banks are now struggling themselves due to rising food prices, exacerbating the challenges faced by those on the brink of crisis. “Most people are only 2 or 3 pay cheques away from an absolute crisis; anyone can fall into poverty,” warns the employee.
An individual who knows first hand what it’s like to fall into poverty shares their story. This person, a chef by profession, found themselves jobless during the pandemic after experiencing health issues. Despite a redundancy payment sustaining them for a couple of years, they eventually turned to disability benefits, with the assistance of Tillydrone Community Flat. The cost-of-living crisis, coupled with the challenges of raising a child with learning disabilities, has left this person’s family grappling with financial strain.
Tillydrone Community Flat has not only provided essential food supplies but has also aided in securing social security benefits. An employee at the community flat ensures that those in need receive the full entitlement of social security support.
However, this family’s situation is not an isolated case. AberNecessities, a charity founded to ensure no child goes without necessities, has seen a staggering 900% increase in demand for its services since 2021. A supporter of AberNecessities, who also works as a primary school teacher, witnesses the toll the cost-of-living crisis is taking on children first hand. This person recounts heart breaking stories of children unable to celebrate birthdays because their parents can’t afford presents.
AberNecessities’ initiatives like “Believe in Magic” and “Sweet Dreams” aim to provide some reprieve to families during challenging times. However, the charity faces challenges of its own, as former donors find themselves unable to contribute due to their own financial struggles.
The irony is not lost on those working tirelessly to support the community. This supporter of AberNecessities aptly puts it, “It’s pretty ironic that we’re in the energy capital of Europe, and yet some people can’t afford to put their kettle or cooker on because they can’t afford the bill.” In Aberdeen, the cost-of-living crisis has laid bare the stark realities of economic inequality, reminding us that even in the wealthiest regions, the struggle for survival is very real for many.