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Our Story:

Our History

From a person’s first breath through to their last

VSA has stood next to the people of Aberdeen for over 150 years offering care, support, and vital services to vulnerable people living in our communities as and when they needed it.

As times have changed, so has the way we have delivered our services, but always with one ambition: to give the people of Aberdeen and beyond the best of care to enable them to live the best of lives.


Did you know?

Our connection with the Royal Household dates back to 1870.

When VSA was born, in March 1870, as the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, Queen Victoria accepted the position of Patron which was a fantastic achievement for the city of Aberdeen and a real boost to our charity's profile. Ever since Queen Victoria said yes, the reigning monarch has been the Patron of VSA, spanning six reigns and 150 years. After inheriting the throne, at just 18 years old, she went on to be a national global icon for her strict sense of personal morals and straight-talking.


10th March - Alexander Nicol - Aberdeen Lord Provost - called a public meeting to form the Association with regards to the condition of the poor time rule and regulations.


8th November - The Association held their first Annual General Meeting formalising the board of volunteer charity trustees.


The first day nursery for children in East North Street opened. This provided care from 5.30am to 6.30pm each day to meet the needs of working people.


Formation of Prisons’ Aid Society: focused on the rehabilitation of prisoners and provision of support.


The Association set up penny banks throughout the city to encourage the poor to save what they could.


The Association rented a house for the rehabilitation of women recently released from prison.


The Association made the purchase of 15, 17, 19 & 21 Princes Street. These were used to house both a nursery and workshops. Workshops offered the unemployed paid jobs in either timber or steel.


The Association made the purchase and move to 38 Castle Street at a purchase price of £1,600, where it has operated from since.


The sudden closure of Bannermill textile factory resulted in the loss of 400 jobs. The Association coordinated free meals and rooms to those affected and 254 applications for assistance were answered.


The Association began undertaking administration for the “Fresh Air Fortnight” and Ailing Children’s Home (which later became Linn Moor School).


World War I – This was a relatively quiet period for the Association due to the increased employment available in the city, although the Association worked in conjunction with the War Pensions Committee among other things.


The Bairns Boots and Clothing Fund was set up; recycling old garments and shoes with proceeds going towards the Association. This was so popular there was need to hire a shoemaker.


The Association opened the Children’s Shelter at 38 Castle Street to support young people while their parents were in hospital. The renovations were paid for by the Evening Express at a cost of £2,400.


The Association erected a tent at the Beach each summer to house lost children until their parents could be found. This was undertaken until 1948 and reunited hundreds of lost children with their parents.


World War II – the Association set up the Aberdeen Branch of Citizens Advice Bureau to help people understand war time rules and regulations.


Marked the employment of the first trained social worker within the Association.


Richmondhill House opened its doors to unmarried mothers from all over the UK. This service supported women and their babies and continued to be a core service for the Association for many years.


St Aubin's Opened


7th May - The Association initiated the North East Association of Mental Health; one of the first mental health services in Scotland.


Formation of the Joint Liaison Committee to work closely with the statutory departments (known now as the Health and Social Care Partnership board).


Broomhill Park Opening


Relocation of the Children’s Shelter from Castle Street to a newly-purchased Millbank House, located on 139 Hardgate, Aberdeen.


Halloween Party, Broomhill Park.


The Knitters’ Guild formed in Aberdeen to create garments for the children and families of those helped by the Association.


Forestgait Care Home Completed


The Association first founded the Adoption Society to aid with the adoption rates especially children with learning difficulties.


Annual variety entertainment Sing Sing Sing!


The Association worked with Aberdeen University to develop a social science course within the city. It was 1966 before the course was first opened to the public however The School of Social Science still exists today and hosts a wealth of courses.


The Children’s Home at Linn Moor altered its service to specialise in children with disabilities.


Formation of the Castlehill Housing Association – this service specialised in providing housing for the homeless and those in need.


The Queen came to visit


Local authority adopted responsibility for prisoners and their rehabilitation and therefore the Association discontinued their work with the criminally convicted.


The Association purchased Easter Anguston Farm in order to deliver hands-on care for up to 20 adults with learning difficulties.


The Association purchased and converted 56 Loanhead Terrace. Creating 5 sheltered housing units and a further 2 chalets in the garden designed for couples.


The Association undertook a large amount of development; renovating Fountville sheltered housing to create 16 units at a cost of £75,000 and Forrestgait to create 28 units at a cost of £182,000.


The working title of the Association changed to Voluntary Service Aberdeen.


The construction of Ruthrieston House began; a 30-bed elderly people residence in Broomhill Park. Funds for this construction were raised through the Happy Old Age Appeal which was the first appeal for the Association and raised the £1million needed for the build


VSA phased out the adoption service after helping more than 300 children since 1963


The St Aubin’s Project was established for people with mental health problems and as such the house was converted to an eight-bed facility.


Van for Easter Anguston Farm.


The Association first began offering day care for older people living with such problems as dementia. This would later evolve into our current Airyhall service.


Carers Handbook


Craigton Grove residential accommodation opened for Easter Anguston trainees, situated conveniently in the heart of Peterculter close to the farm.


The Association opened the first Carers Centre in Scotland in conjunction with the Princess Royal Trust, recognising and supporting those that have a caring role.


125th Anniversary Appeal raised £250,000. The Maisie Munro Children’s Resource Centre was constructed and opened adjacent to Richmondhill House.


Woodgrove care home opened for older people with dementia which later became Crosby House.


VSA completed its largest construction project, Cloverfield Grove, costing £3.4 million and providing 40 flats. This facility was opened by Brian Murphy and was a fantastic achievement for the Association.


Broomhill Park Housing with Care and Support Unit was completed and opened by Sir Alex Ferguson after a successful campaign raising over £2million. The Broomhill Activity Centre was also opened.


VSA opens the Mercat Bookshop at Castle Street - this is VSA’s last remaining thrift shop.


Apache Cottage was developed at Linn Moor, to act as a transitional step into adulthood for young people.


Ruthieston House opened again by HRH The Duke of Gloucester after a £1.5 million redevelopment, increasing the provision for older people services.


VSA achieved Investors in People - Gold Standard.


Adult Carers’ Respite Service (day care) moved to Airyhall Community Centre.


VSA undertook a large development at Easter Anguston Farm constructing the café, shop and car park. This increased accessibility; providing a new disabled toilet and blue badge car parking.


The gym hall at Linn Moor School was created by converting the swimming pool. This has provided a fantastic indoor facility with a range of uses that better meets the needs of the students.


Linn Moor School Play Ground


The Education Centre at Easter Anguston Farm was completed and ready for use. This is utilised by the school as well as other groups as an extra educational space.


VSA helped support hundreds of children, adults and families across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, as the coronavirus spread around the world.


Since the charity was founded we have changed the lives of over 3 million vulnerable children and adults.


Our Founding Story

On 10th March 1870, one hundred and fifty years ago, the precursor to VSA was born. The Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor came into being as an organised response to supporting the people of Aberdeen, who had the least. It was founded by a group of people who were willing to do three things: make regular donations to support the poor; visit the poor to better help and understand the problems they faced and to manage the Association.

Over 500 volunteers were recruited; each were allocated 10-12 families to build a supportive relationship with “gentle speech and behaviour, kindly inquiry and interest and advice of a practical sort.” It was hoped that this was the only way of coping: “with the great evils that prevail in the midst of the population, by organising a system of combined and harmonising action.” It was inspired by similar poor associations in London, Edinburgh, Liverpool, and Glasgow.


There was a strong focus on enabling the poor to help themselves rather than just giving handouts. The aim was to “foster a spirit of self-reliance and thrift.” The Association did a lot of work to identify who they believed to be “the proper objects of relief.” They considered worthy recipients to be “sober and industrious” individuals who, through no fault of their own, risked falling into poverty from which there was no way out.

This could be caused by accident, sickness, or family distress which they could not predict, or avoid. The members of the Association, through their visits, started encouraging the poor people of Aberdeen to live “temperate, frugal, industrious, provident and cleanly lives.” The members also wanted to better understand what assistance they could provide in order to turn people's lives around.


It was not a religious association and one of its early aims was that relief should be given without reference to any religious distinctions and complete impartiality should be observed. The prosperous people of the city were keen to show that they really cared about those who were worse off and wanted to explore ways to encourage them plus lift them out of poverty.

Some of these aims, set out in March 1870, still ring true today. VSA aims to provide the best of care to enable the best of lives by supporting individuals and communities to fulfil their potential.

What an incredible thing it is that the people of Aberdeen have built and maintained these ambitions for over 150 years, and what a powerful thing it would have been for those founding members to know how many generations of Aberdonians their vision would support.

Impact Reports

Our annual report and accounts tell the story of our impact, over the last year, as well as bringing to life our continued dedication, passion and care in helping to change the lives of vulnerable children and adults forever.

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