News - Naidheachdan

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has urged islanders who face financial hardship due to being asked to self-isolate to apply for a £500 self-isolation grant offered by the Scottish Government.

The new Self-Isolation Support Grant will help people who would lose income if they needed to self-isolate, such as those unable to work from home.

This grant is for those who will face financial hardship due to being asked to self-isolate and will be targeted at people who are in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits, with some discretion to make awards to others in financial hardship.

Applications for the Self-Isolation Support Grant opened on 12th October and will be delivered through the existing Scottish Welfare Fund, which is administered by local authorities.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:

“We know that self-isolation can be tough, but it is essential to protect people and reduce the spread of coronavirus.

"To ensure people do not experience financial hardship as a result of doing the right thing, the Scottish Government has introduced this new £500 grant for people on low incomes who have been asked to self-isolate.

"These payments will help ensure islanders do not have to make a choice between self-isolating and supporting themselves financially.

"Applications for this new benefit are now open, and I'd urge anyone in the Western Isles who is facing a loss of income due to self-isolating to apply for it.”

To apply for the grant in the Western Isles, visit:
www.cne-siar.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/coronavirus/self-isolation-support-grant/

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has said the Tory government must perform an urgent U-turn over its reckless decision to withdraw support for jobs with the closure of the furlough scheme next month.

It comes as a new survey revealed four in ten (42%) small and medium businesses think they will have a smaller workforce in December than they did in September, and a quarter think they might go out of business next year if there is a second wave of Covid-19.

3000 people in the Western Isles have accessed the furlough scheme since the pandemic began.

Commenting, Alasdair Allan said:

"I am really concerned about the potentially devastating impact of the UK government's decision to withdraw support for jobs in the middle of a pandemic.

“Analysis from HIE just a few weeks ago showed that 26% of the Western Isles’ workforce are in at risk jobs. With infection rates rising and outbreaks happening locally, this simply is not the time to be cutting support.

"Boris Johnson was repeatedly warned that thousands of people could lose their jobs unnecessarily as a result of Tory cuts, and we can see across the country that those warnings are now starting to become reality.

"The Tory government must perform an urgent U-turn, reinstate a full job protection scheme, and devolve financial powers to the Scottish Parliament so we can protect our economy.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has urged close adherence to public health guidance in light of the recent spread of COVID-19 in South Uist and Eriskay.

14 positive cases have been confirmed by Sunday (27 September), leading to the closure of Uist schools, the Daliburgh care home, Cothrom Òg nursery and Am Politician pub on Eriskay.

A problem assessment group has been organised the next steps and the team has been working with the Scottish government and Public Health Scotland to provide advice and support.

The individuals, which represent the first confirmed cases in Na h-Eileanan an Iar since June, are self-isolating at home with mild symptoms.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“I can only urge everyone to adhere closely to public health guidance. If you develop symptoms, you can book a test using the local phoneline on 01851 601 151. The symptoms are a new persistent cough, a fever or loss of smell or taste.

“If you have questions about self-isolating, testing or symptoms, your first port of call is https://www.nhsinform.scot/.

“Please limit your contact with other households and avoid car-sharing. Ensure physical distancing and good hand hygiene. People should work from home if they can and avoid non-essential travel. We all need to abide by public health guidance, which matters now more than ever.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has again raised in the Scottish Parliament the opportunities for home-working to bring more public-sector jobs to rural and island areas.

During a portfolio question time session in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, the islands MSP highlighted the potential benefits this would bring, and asked what more the Scottish Government can do to ensure more posts in the public sector are open to home-working or hot-desking in rural offices.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“The rapid shift to home-working brought about by the pandemic has the potential to be beneficial for the islands if we can encourage employers and public sector organisations to make sure that more and more of their jobs can be done by home-working or hot-desking.

“We know that a key reason for people moving away is that they can only pursue their chosen career path on the mainland, and so if we can enable people to do that while remaining in the islands it would help to tackle depopulation.

“I was pleased to see the Scottish Government acknowledge the need for them to show leadership in this area and commit to further discussions with representatives of the rural economy.”

ALLAN URGES VIGILANCE OVER TEST AND PROTECT PHONE SCAMS

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is reminding islanders what to expect if they are contacted by an NHS contact tracer, following reports in the national media of scammers pretending to work for the Test and Protect contact tracing service.

When contacting individuals who have tested positive, contact tracers will ask people to identify others who they’ve been in close contact with and places they’ve been 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms up until the time they’ve self-isolated. This information will then be inputted into contact tracing software and used to identify and contact those identified.

The positive individual will not be named by the contact tracer in line with patient confidentiality, unless they agree to have their details disclosed to help the contact tracing process.

Importantly, contact tracers will not ask anyone for information about bank accounts or medical records, and they will not try to sell you anything. The data gathered will be stored securely by NHS Scotland and safely destroyed as soon as possible after the pandemic concludes.

Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“I am urging my constituents to be on guard about potential phone scams. Contact tracing is an important part of tackling coronavirus, but unfortunately it seems there are unscrupulous individuals seeking to take advantage of peoples’ fears over the virus.

“The NHS already has a number of protections in place to stop potential fraudsters and ensure all information is kept confidential.

“Contact tracers will introduce themselves, state the reason for their call, and will always identify who they are calling by name. They will not ask for information about bank accounts or medical records, and they will not try to sell you anything.

“The tracers are supported by software which builds on a tried and trusted platform, allowing teams to identify outbreaks and reduce transmission for high risk groups.

“Test and Protect is one way we will tackle this pandemic, but physical distancing and good hand hygiene continues to play a huge role as we hopefully continue to keep the islands free of coronavirus.”

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan is organising a series of community conversations on Gaelic’s future as a community language in the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Tiree. Consultations will establish an open forum to discuss and determine appropriate actions in securing the language within the islands.

The recent publication of a comprehensive sociolinguistic study into the use of Gaelic in the vernacular island communities, titled ‘The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Communities’, concluded that the language will fall into obsolescence unless significant changes are made in approach and strategy.

Alasdair Allan MSP is working with the authors of the study from the Soillse research team based at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and a cross-party group of MSPs.

Eight community meetings will take place in the late autumn across Na h-Eileanan Siar, Skye and Tiree to engage island residents and organisations. Residents will also have the option to submit written opinions as part of the process. As well as discussions about Gaelic usage in the home and community, the meetings will also gauge opinion on whether a Gaelic community cooperative – Urras na Gàidhlig – could be an appropriate structure to coordinate and drive forward local development actions under the direct control of the Gaelic-speaking community.

Commenting on the consultations, Alasdair Allan MSP said:

“The language’s visible decline in community and family usage is a serious concern to everyone working to foster a thriving, sustainable society in the Western Isles. The language forms a vital part of the cultural ecosystem which informs our shared identity, values and wellbeing.

“Against the continued loss of Gaelic, however, I am aware of extensive support and goodwill for the language amongst islands residents. We need to engage all parties in ensuring that future solutions are rooted within the community.

“Where do we want to see Gaelic in the next decade? We need to have a broad conversation about the language’s future and determine appropriate steps to get us where we want to be. Ultimately, this should start and end with the community, with the government playing a crucial role in supporting them to realise this.”

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