KeyStore and JW Filshill highlight GroceryAid Scotland

As retail charity GroceryAid continues to raise its profile across Scotland, wholesaler JW Filshill and its KeyStore independent retailers are among those reaping the benefits of the charity’s many services

For JW Filshill, which supplies KeyStore outlets across Scotland and the north of England, raising awareness of what GroceryAid does has never been more important and, as the wholesaler’s health and safety manager Amanda Casey explains, everyone has a responsibility to help their colleagues reach out for support when they need it.

“In the last two years, at Filshill we have repositioned the business to put mental health and wellbeing at the heart of everything,” she says. “So we are delighted to work with GroceryAid to strengthen what we are doing to support our staff by getting the message across that both Filshill and GroceryAid are there for our customers too.

“GroceryAid is an amazing charity but many independent retailers aren’t aware that it is there to help them and their staff – we want to collaborate with the charity to really raise awareness of its critical work.”

Amanda points to April’s GroceryAid Day which represented an ideal opportunity to signpost people to the charity. “Raising funds is obviously crucial for GroceryAid but what is arguably more important is that it helps people by offering what can often be life-changing support – be that practical, financial or emotional,” she says.

Engaging all staff at Filshill is important, Amanda continues. “Our drivers, for example, because of the nature of their job, are not always around during office hours so they can’t always have that quiet, confidential chat with someone so easily,” she explains. “So we had a think about how we could engage with them and for GroceryAid Day, we gave keyrings featuring the free 24/7 Helpline number to all our drivers.”

That such a simple tool can help an individual was quickly confirmed when a staff member revealed to Amanda that he had been struggling with an issue for some time and called the Helpline as a result of seeing it on his keyring.

“This is exactly what GroceryAid is about,” she adds. “I also know that another two colleagues received support after calling the Helpline. In fact, 37% of our staff have used GroceryAid’s services at one point and many have told us they had previously been unaware of the charity and that they could benefit from it.”

While Filshill’s strategy is to support staff via a range of measures with the focus particularly on mental health and wellbeing – the wholesaler has 23 mental health first aiders – GroceryAid’s remit sits perfectly alongside the wholesaler’s commitment of “Always Doing the Right Thing”.

“When you are part of the Filshill family,” Amanda explains, “we are there for you whatever the problem is. Colleagues know that they can speak to us confidentially about any issue – anything that’s worrying them, or even if they just need some advice on something they feel they can’t discuss with a loved one.

“GroceryAid allows us to reach out to our retail customers and let them know that there is free and confidential welfare support available to them through the charity’s website and, most importantly, the 24/7 Helpline – emotional, practical and financial support is available and it’s so easy to access that support.”

Jim Harper, GroceryAid Scotland’s joint chair, explains: “In the last few years we’ve been working really hard to raise awareness of the charity in Scotland and we’ve effectively reinvented GroceryAid here with the support of retailers, wholesalers and suppliers.

“The multiples have traditionally driven GroceryAid both north and south of the Border and I think that has, at times, given the impression that it is not a charity for independent retailers. There has also been a feeling that it is there to support those who have retired or have had to leave their jobs, and they have fallen on hard times.

“However, this is not the case – GroceryAid is for everyone in the industry – and in the last few years there has been a shift towards supporting people currently in the workplace. That is the message we want to get across to the industry in Scotland.”

Jim points to increasing numbers using the Helpline in Scotland. “Clearly the pandemic has had an impact on people in various ways with mental health really coming to the fore and Filshill has to be commended for its work in this area and setting up a Wellness Group, organising events and activities – and also sharing their best practice with other businesses,” he adds.

With about 26 people now sitting on the GroceryAid Scotland committee, the charity is seeing the benefit of its collaborative approach. Jim points out: “We can offer such a wide range of support to colleagues in the industry – the free, confidential Helpline, financial support via one-off non-repayable grants, heating grants, grants for school essentials, practical advice on debt and how to navigate the current cost-of-living crisis, support for colleagues who are carers, relationship counselling … our services are very comprehensive.

“Working with wholesalers like Filshill, we can get the message across to independent retailers and their staff that this help and support is available to them – there is a lot of support that they can access via GroceryAid.”

Many KeyStore retailers are now promoting the charity’s services in staff rooms by displaying posters and the 24/7 Helpline number, further pushing the message that GroceryAid is available to them.

Amanda Casey GroceryAid Jim Harper JW Filshill KeyStore Scotland