ISLANDS MSP OPENS CARE DAY 2019 EVENT
The joint Who Cares? Scotland and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar exhibition “Journeys in the north – the local story” was officially opened on Friday [15 February] afternoon by Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan and care-experienced young leader Louise. Large numbers of care experienced young people and their friends and fellow young leaders came together with service providers, carers and professionals for the interactive event.
This was one of a number of ambitious events taking place across Scotland to mark Care Day 2019. Care Day is a celebration of Care Experienced people across the world. Care Experienced is a term used to refer to anyone who has experience of care in their lives. This includes foster care, children’s homes, secure care, kinship care or living at home with social work involvement.
Care-experienced young people and their friends and fellow young leaders in the islands have worked with artists, musicians and story-tellers over several months to create and curate a powerful range of art work for the exhibition, from film and music to sculpture, stories and textiles – all on the theme of the journeys that matter in our lives. A strong partnership between Who Cares? Scotland and the Community Learning and Development Department within the Comhairle has been at the heart of that work, creating a host of group opportunities for large numbers of young people.
Leading charity Who Cares? Scotland, an organisation that works for and on behalf of Care Experienced people, has celebrated those who have backed Care Day 2019 nationwide, and the children and young people at the heart of the events.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“Care-experienced youngsters face more obstacles in their lives than most, and we as a society need to reflect on how we can do better for them in the future. The artwork and creativity on display in today’s exhibition told some very powerful stories and it was a great honour to officially open it alongside Louise.”
“Every young person should have an equal opportunity to succeed in life. However, for far too many young people in care, and through absolutely no fault of their own, that has not been the case.”
Alison Frizzell, who works for Who Cares? Scotland locally, providing support to children and young people including those with experience of care, said:
“People across the islands have been working to recognise and support Care Experienced people. We do this through listening to them, amplifying their voice and making sure they are a valued part of the community. We want Care Experienced people to feel free to be themselves.
“Today’s exhibition in Stornoway was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate care-experienced people and their friends and fellow leaders, by bringing together young leaders, young friends, amazing creators, and all the range of partners who can help support them in shaping their wonderful lives going forward.”
Duncan Dunlop, CEO of Who Cares? Scotland said:
“There are communities across Scotland celebrating Care Day and their Care Experienced people.
“Where people stand up to recognise Care Experienced people and the need for a lifetime of equality, respect and love, we will commend them. This has been done in the Western Isles and we know that our members across the islands will feel more accepted as a result of this.”
The first Care Day took place in 2015 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Scottish Parliament cross party support for the passing of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill 2014.
This was a very significant moment as the evidence of 21 Care Experienced campaigners helped change the Bill’s course and secure more rights for Care Experienced people in Scotland.
Care Day takes place on the third Friday in February each year and has continued to go from strength to strength. It is now recognised across the UK and internationally as an opportunity to celebrate the lives and voices of Care Experienced people.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan and Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP earlier today met with both staff and management at the closure-threatened TalkTalk call centre site in Stornoway.
Two weeks ago, the telecoms company announced that it would be making all 59 staff at its site in Stornoway redundant as of July this year. Talktalk are one of the largest private sector employers on the island.
The islands MSP has been in contact with the company, HIE and the Scottish Government since the impending redundancies were first announced, recently raising the issue at First Minister’s Question time.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“This was a good opportunity for the Deputy First Minister and I to hear directly from TalkTalk staff about the unfortunate situation they find themselves in.
“While TalkTalk have guaranteed their employees jobs elsewhere in the company, most people are not going to want to, or be able to, uproot their lives from the island. The loss of nearly 60 jobs is equivalent to the loss of thousands of jobs in Glasgow, so this could have a very significant impact on the local economy.
“It is therefore, imperative that the site and the availability of a skilled and loyal workforce for other potential operators is promoted as much as possible, and I know HIE are actively engaging on that front.”
PENSIONERS IN WESTERN ISLES COULD LOSE OUT ON £7,000 PER YEAR
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil and MSP Alasdair have slammed the Tory government for ‘sneaking out’ changes to state pensions, which could affect older couples to the tune of £7,000 per year.
Changes to benefits for mixed-age couples – which will be introduced from 15 May 2019 - were quietly released by Tory ministers on the eve of Theresa May’s humiliating Brexit deal defeat.
Currently, couples can claim Pension Credit - an income related benefit meant to top up the state pension as long as one partner is of pension age. Universal Credit will reverse this – meaning a mixed-age couple will be defined by the working-age person, not the pensioner.
Experts have claimed that the changes could leave some pensioners almost £7,000 worse off per year, and Age UK warned that it could leave “some of the poorest pensioners paying a hefty price for having a younger partner.”
Alasdair Allan MSP, who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee, commented:
“People will rightly be aghast that the UK Government tried to quietly bury the news that new pensioners with younger partners are set to lose out on hundreds of pounds each month.
“Amid the chaos and distraction of Brexit, those who may be affected by this change in the islands deserve to know about it, and have been let down by UK government attempts to ‘sneak out’ the news at 7.20pm on the night of the Brexit vote.
“Serious concerns over the Tory government’s welfare policies have already been raised by my SNP colleagues at Westminster and, at Holyrood, the SNP will continue to tackle poverty and create a social security system based on equality, fairness and dignity.”
Angus Brendan MacNeil MP commented:
“This change was conveniently brought in amongst the ongoing chaos of Brexit, showing complete disregard for those who will lose hundreds of pounds a month. The SNP at Westminster are pressing the UK Government to reverse this cut which will hit those on the lowest incomes.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has called on his political opponents across the Highlands and Islands to get behind the Scottish Government’s draft budget proposals that commits an extra £729 million for health and care services.
Last month, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP announced plans to increase spending on NHS frontline boards by £430 million – including a £2.7 million funding boost for NHS Western Isles.
MSPs will vote on draft budget proposals next month, that include an extra £90 million to improve waiting times and a further £8 million to support trauma networks.
Analysis from HM Treasury, shows health spending per head in Scotland is almost 9% higher than in England, amounting to over £1 billion more spending on health services for Scotland compared to England.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“The SNP in government is investing record amounts in the NHS to build a health service fit for the future. These plans would take spending levels to £754 million over and above inflation since 2016/17.
“As a cherished public service for the past seventy years, MSPs must do all we can to ensure our health service is properly funded and fit for the future.
“That’s why I’m calling on Highlands and Islands MSPs to get behind the Finance Secretary’s plans. These will protect the health service, ensuring it remains safe in public hands and not put at risk of privatisation by the Tories. If Highland and Island MSPs want to see investment in the NHS they should not vote against it when the Budget comes before Parliament.”
Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed today’s announcement from the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland that it has begun a review into the electoral arrangements for six councils areas, including Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
This has arisen because of the Islands (Scotland) Act, unanimously passed by the Scottish Parliament last year, which allows for electoral wards of one or two councillors to cover populated islands.
The review will lead to recommendations on the number of councillors for each council area and the number and boundaries of wards for the election of those councillors. Consultation with the island councils and the public is planned for spring and summer 2019.
Alasdair Allan MSP commented:
“Since 2007, council wards in Scotland have been represented by either 3 or 4 councillors. In some areas, this has led to wards that cover huge areas and take in a variety of communities. One of the most obvious examples of a need for reviewed boundaries is in Barra, Vatersay, Eriskay and South Uist, which is the only ward in the Western Isles separated by a ferry journey.
“There will be a range of views on how we can ensure that council wards in the Western Isles are more representative of the communities they encompass and I hope as many islanders as possible engage with the consultation.”
FEARS RAISED OVER SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS ON ISLANDS
MSPs from across Scotland have teamed up to highlight their concerns over the impact that ending Freedom of Movement through Brexit may have on the local areas they represent.
The Parliamentarians from Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Dundee City East, Kirkcaldy, and South Scotland are hoping to raise awareness of the unique local impacts that Brexit could have across Scotland: whether that be in cities, towns, islands or rural communities.
Representing the Western Isles, Alasdair Allan MSP has highlighted the impact that ending freedom of movement would have on Scotland’s island populations. The islands MSP said:
“The biggest issue facing communities across the Western Isles is depopulation, with our working age population set to decrease by 17% over the next decade.
“The current system of free movement has allowed people from across the EU to do much needed jobs in the Western Isles. Whether it’s the doctors who work in our NHS, those working in the fishing industry or those who have come here and started businesses; EU nationals are an integral part of our communities and have contributed enormously.
“Ending freedom of movement has dire implications for our population projections. It would damage certain industries of vital importance to the islands while exacerbating labour issues across our health and social care sector.”
MSPs from across Scotland have also expressed their concerns. Dundee City East MSP Shona Robison commented:
“Dundee’s higher education sector attracts significant talent from Europe for work, study and research. Sectors such as nursing and biological science depend heavily on European talent to provide the necessary skills. Ending freedom of movement and making it harder for European citizens to work and study in Scotland could have significant impacts not only on Dundee’s universities and colleges, but also have far-reaching consequences throughout Scotland.”
MSP for Kirkcaldy Constituency, David Torrance, has also highlighted concerns relating to the social care sector in towns with an aging population:
“Kirkcaldy has an aging population and relies heavily on care homes. Over 60% of these are now having problems with recruitment and finding people to work in them. Brexit is having an effect right now, with EU citizens leaving my constituency and the care homes that heavily depend on them. When Brexit comes into effect, recruitment for care homes in my constituency will be extremely difficult.”
MSP for South Scotland, Emma Harper, said:
"Rural communities like Dumfries & Galloway in my South Scotland region rely heavily on doctors, nurses, carers, and agricultural workers from the EU coming to the South West and supporting our communities. Despite being one of the most beautiful parts of the country, it can be challenging to attract workers already living in Scotland away from the attractions of the larger cities in the Central Belt to live and work here. The ending of the Freedom of Movement through the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement will mean less workers from EEA countries choosing to come live and work in the South West, which could lead to businesses downsizing or even closing."
On Wednesday 5th December, the Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the Brexit deal proposal offered by the UK Government, with concerns expressed about the impact upon constituencies across Scotland. The motion backed on a cross-party basis stated that a better alternative must be found.