GroceryAid Scotland revitalised under new committee

Jim Harper and Peter Steel

The GroceryAid charity supports hundreds of Scottish grocery and convenience trade industry colleagues every year but has been something of an unsung hero – however that’s all set to change under a new management committee headed by industry veterans Peter Steel and Jim Harper.


For a charity dedicated to helping people in need across the entire grocery and convenience trade industry, including hundreds in Scotland, GroceryAid has historically flown a little under the radar north of the border. Formerly known as the National Grocers Benevolent Fund, it merged in 2012 with the confectionery trade body Sweet Charity to form GroceryAid. While Sweet Charity was reasonably well known in these parts, GroceryAid has yet to really make its mark in the Scottish local retailing trade.

All that is about to change if a brand-new Scottish committee’s ambitious plans come to fruition over the next few years. Jointly chaired by industry veterans Peter Steel (ex-McCurrach, pictured right) and Jim Harper (ex-Scotmid, pictured left), the Scottish committee aims to bring GroceryAid’s message – and support – to a wider audience in Scotland.

Steel explains: “We believe that GroceryAid is an ‘unsung hero’ in Scotland – supporting hundreds of Scottish industry colleagues across all the trade sectors including independent retail and wholesaling. It’s worth noting that most beneficiaries are currently in work and may actually work for businesses who are not engaged in the charity. That’s something we need to change. We can, and want to, support more colleagues but we need help from more of the Scottish trade.”

That’s where the Scottish branch committee comes in, but it’s also where the wider local retailing community has a part to play. “I don’t think awareness of the charity and the great work it does in Scotland is as high as it might be,” says Harper. “But we’re intent on changing that because the support that GroceryAid can provide to people who have fallen on tough times can be absolutely vital. We need more retailers to be aware of what the charity can offer so that they can spread the word and hopefully allow us to bring even more help and support in Scotland to those who badly need it.”

GroceryAid Scottish committee
  • Peter Steel & Jim Harper – Joint Chairs
  • Scott Black, Senior National Account Manager, Highland Spring – Branch Treasurer
  • Stephen Wilkes, Regional Customer Business Manager, Warburton’s – Branch Secretary
  • Lynsey Graham, National Account Manager, Ian MacLeod Distillers
  • Mark Graham, Field Sales Representative, AG Barr
  • Gordon Neil, Strategy & Marketing Director, McCurrach
  • Eddie Lynagh, retired (ex-Booker)
  • Geraldine Bruce, Senior Regional Buyer, Sainsbury’s
  • Colin Pearse, Regional Manager, Morrison’s Supermarkets
  • Craig Milne, Off-trade Commercial Manager, Heineken

To support this drive, the pair have recruited a committee of people from across the industry [see panel] who are volunteering their time to raise the profile of the charity and, obviously, raise funds to help colleagues in need.

GroceryAid is wholly funded by charitable donations and the fundraising efforts of colleagues and companies in the trade. There is no charge to businesses for the range of support services from which qualifying industry colleagues can and do benefit. These include:

  • Financial help – both long term funding and short-term ‘crisis’ grants
  • A confidential helpline which gives access to advice and support in a number of areas including:
  • Relationship counselling
  • Emotional support and advice
  • Debt advice
  • Health and Wellness
  • Disability
  • Housing
  • Workplace Critical Incident support

The final item on that list – Workplace Critical Incident support – was recently launched to help industry colleagues who have experienced some form of traumatic event. This is hugely relevant in Scotland where our independent sector in particular continues to be blighted by violent crime.

The charity spent £4.25m on welfare last year of which over £500,000 was spent in Scotland. That spend in Scotland was roughly split three ways: a third to colleagues in independent retailers, a third to colleagues in the major multiples and the final third to those in the manufacturing and wholesale sectors. The charity truly touches every sector of the trade.

And the support that GroceryAid can provide has never been more important. Over the last year, there has been an 8% increase in the number of colleagues supported. There has also been a 10% increase in people accessing confidential advice and an increase of 35% of people seeking financial advice.

“If anyone thinks the need for charitable support isn’t growing, then think again,” concludes Steel. “This year, the committee has set out new aims for the next three years in Scotland with one overriding target: we want to double the number of Scottish beneficiaries from around 500 to over 1,000 people – but to do this we need the support of the Scottish local retailing community.”

To get in touch with the Scottish committee, email peter.steel@groceryaid.org.uk.

Scottish case study

To bring home how important the work that GroceryAid does in Scotland, consider the true case of Maggie* who works in an independent store in Scotland and who had her life turned upside down overnight:

“On the 20th of April we received an application for help from Maggie. She included a supporting letter from her employer who owns two independent newsagents in Scotland, where she has worked for the last seven years. In her early 40s, Maggie is a single mum with two daughters aged 19 and 5.

Maggie has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and is receiving palliative care. Unable to work she is in receipt of Statutory Sick Pay at £94.65 per week.

On 24 April we awarded the family a one-off grant of £1,500 and referred them to Law Express who can offer legal advice around the children staying together in the future.”

*Name changed to preserve anonymity.