Posts Tagged ‘anti-poverty’

In the late 1960s there was a movement of community activism and a myriad of organisations were formed such as claimant unions, community workshops and tenants associations. The first claimant union was founded by students in Birmingham in early 1969. Soon, many other groups were formed throughout Britain, and a National Federation of Claimant Unions was established. The Federation Charter stated the aims: the right to adequate income without means test for all people, a free welfare state for all with its services controlled by the people who use it, no secrets and the right to full information and no distinction between so-called ‘deserving’ and ‘un-deserving’. The unions were designed to fill the gap of representation in the trade union movement and they called themselves ‘the Union of the poor’.

The group in Aberdeen was formed by individuals who were receiving assistance and were concerned at the treatment they had received and witnessed. A meeting was therefore convened by leafletting outside the Employment Exchange and Social Security Offices. The role of the union was mainly to fight assistance claims on behalf of its members and to press forward on policy demands stemming from the experience of members.

The group was made up of people receiving Supplementary Benefit and relying on this means tested benefit. Membership was open to this group on benefits but also to unsupported mothers, the sick, the disabled, pensioners and those on low income. The group met at the Trades Union Council offices. They issued a broadsheet called ‘The Penny Rebel’ which was distributed in benefit offices.

Related entries: Aberdeen Unemployment Centre.

References: pamphlet (undated, c.1971).

Sources: pamphlet held at Scottish Radical Library/ACE archive in Edinburgh.


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The 1840s were a time of great distress and there was not in existence a society for improving the conditions of the poor. As a result, delegates from the different trades and sympathetic professional men and merchants banded together to form a Committee of Sympathy. A list of the poor families in the city was kept and food was provided to them on Sundays.

William Lindsay (newsagent/bookseller and radical) was involved and it is he who recorded the existence of this organisation.

Related entries: William Lindsay, bookseller.

References: Some Notes Personal and Public by William Lindsay (W & W Lindsay, Aberdeen, 1898).

Sources: unknown.

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Aberdeen Unemployment Association was one of a number of associations set up after a request from the national Trades Union Congress, which had the intention of countering the influence that was exercised by the Communist Party in another related organisation, The National Unemployed Workers’ Movement (NUWM). The Aberdeen Association was run under the auspices of the Aberdeen Trades & Labour Council (later known as the Aberdeen Trades Council) and was only one of two in Scotland. Although the associations across the country had been set up to counter the NUWM, in Aberdeen, both organisations worked together latterly.

Related entries: Aberdeen Trades Union Council.

References: see below. Also ‘Unity from below: the impact of the Spanish Civil War on Labour and the left in Aberdeen and Dundee 1936 – 1939’ (Malcolm Petrie, Labour History Review, 2014).

Sources: minutes from 1936 – 1941 are held as part of the Aberdeen Trades Union Council archives at the University of Aberdeen Library.

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In 1980 the Grampian Union Against Youth Employment was set up with the assistance of Aberdeen Trades Council, to campaign for better services and facilities for the unemployed. By 1981 the Union (now called the Grampian Unemployment Union) had a ‘centre’ at the Trades Council property at 21 Adelphi and provided advice on welfare rights and campaigned against benefit cuts etc. In 1983 the Aberdeen Unemployment Centre was established at 334 George Street, in 1985 re-located to the St Katherine’s Centre at West North Street and finally in 1988 moved to 54 Frederick Street. The Centre published their own news-sheets, initially ‘Beat the Doledrum’ and then from the late 1980s ‘The Signing-On-Times’. The Centre was also utilised by various groups such as the Anti-Poll Tax Movement and in 1989 the Memorial Library of the 15th International Brigade was opened at the Centre (the library is now housed at the Aberdeen Trades Union Council offices at the Adelphi).

In 1992 the centre became the Aberdeen Employment Restart Centre.

Related entries: Aberdeen Claimant’s Union and Aberdeen Trades Union Council.

References: Aberdeen Trades Union Council Annual Reports and see below.

Sources: Some material such as annual reports are held as part of the Aberdeen Trades Union Council archives at the University of Aberdeen Library.

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The National Council of Women of Great Britain was originally formed in 1895 as the National Union of Women Workers. It came out of the 1880s national movement of several women’s philanthropic organisations concerned about civil, educational, religious and social issues affecting women. A body which was part of this movement was the Aberdeen Ladies’ Union (originally called the Ladies’ Union for the Care and Protection of Women and Girls), founded in 1883. The Union had a key role in forming the Central Council of the Conferences of Women Workers in 1891, which was a precursor to the formation of the National Union. In 1897 the Ladies’ Union became the Aberdeen branch of the The National Union of Women Workers.

The Aberdeen Union of Women Workers was made-up of numerous affiliated organisations which worked with women and concerned itself with issues such as poverty, social reform, equal rights, family rights and also suffrage. The affiliated organisations had representatives on the Executive Committee: organisations such as the Aberdeen Clothing Society, Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Employment Exchange and the Aberdeen Women’s Citizen Association. In 1909 the Union worked with the Women’s Liberal Association, Primrose League, National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies to promote female representation on the school boards in Aberdeen and this included joint canvassing work for candidates.

The National Union of Women Workers changed its name to the National Council of Women of Great Britain in 1918. The Council is affiliated to the International Council of Women.

References: website and see below.

Sources: Aberdeen Union of Women Workers papers (1900 – 1926) and a few items as part of the Mary Esslemont papers (an Aberdeen physician) are held at University of Aberdeen Library. National records are held at London Metropolitan Archives.

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Aberdeen World Poverty Association was founded in 1970 on the instigation of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen. The aims were: to collect and make available information about the causes, nature and extent of world poverty and about endeavours to combat or alleviate it; to keep the questions of world poverty and needs of developing countries before the public elected representatives and local interests in north-east Scotland and to co-ordinate efforts of individuals and organisations concerned with these questions. The Association held public events, lobbied and tied up with national groups such as the World Development Movement.

The Association was still active in 1982.

References: see below

Sources: a few items are part of the Mary Esslemont papers (an Aberdeen physician) and are held at University of Aberdeen Library.

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The aim of the group is to organise direct action against unfair public spending cuts, to raise awareness of tax loopholes and tax avoiders and to do this through informing, educating and entertaining the public. The group has staged a number of protests in conjunction with other groups and also staged a number of public lectures and workshops. There is a strong connection with the anarchist movement.

References: website

Sources: unknown

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