Sandra White MSP for Glasgow Kelvin

Furlough

We have now had confirmation on the extension to the furlough scheme until March 2021, and whilst I very much welcome this move, I have to question why after months of both myself, and the Scottish Government calling for an extension has it now only materialised? It seems fairly obvious why, England has been put into another lockdown. Yet again, our voice ignored in this partnership of equals.

What is utterly appalling is that for many businesses this is too little too late. The UK Government have resisted requests by the Scottish Government to devolve financial powers leaving us with our hands tied and reliant on the UK Government.

This latest move illustrates yet again that we are far from an equal partner.

Restrictions

Glasgow remains in protection level 3 and the Scottish Government have published guidance on the new framework system here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-protection-levels/ this sets out details for each level and information on what you can and cannot do.

I know this is hard for everyone but we must stick with it to suppress the virus.

Please follow the FACTS – Face coverings, Avoid crowded places, Clean hands and surfaces regularly, Two metre distancing; and Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

Mental Health

Many people struggle with good mental health and the past 8 months have exacerbated the situation for many.

Sadly, there have been reports of a rise in the number of people who have tragically taken their own lives and I took the opportunity this week in Parliament to ask the Minister for Mental Health what action the Scottish Government is taking in suicide prevention.

I am particularly concerned about our student population across Glasgow Kelvin and the impact on their mental health due to Covid-19.

You can access the full exchange here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=12916&i=116731

Fireworks

I very much welcome the Fire Review Group report on the way fireworks are bought and used. The reports publication is well timed with many people looking to access and use fireworks today as they celebrate Bonfire Night.

A number of recommendations have been put to Scottish Ministers including:

• the introduction of mandatory conditions when fireworks are purchased from retailers

• restricting the times of day fireworks can be sold and volume of fireworks that can be purchased at any one time

• restricting the days and times fireworks can be set off

• the introduction of no firework areas or zones

• the creation of a proxy purchasing offence to prevent adults from buying fireworks on behalf of those under the age of 18

The Scottish Government have committed to taking the recommendations forward within the powers available to the Scottish Parliament.

Please remember to stick to the rules on meeting up with other households to help stop the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). If someone does plan on using fireworks I would urge them to do so responsibly and safely and to be mindful of their neighbours. Adapting alternative celebrations and sticking to the rules in place can go a huge way to ensuring everyone’s safety.

Short Term Assistance Payment

People challenging disability benefit decisions will be able to claim a new Short Term Assistance payment under Scotland’s new social security system.

Short Term Assistance will mean people continue to receive the amount of money they were getting before the decision was made to lower or stop their payment.

To ensure people are not put off seeking an appeal or re-determination, they will not have to repay Short Term Assistance if the re-determination or appeal upholds the decision to lower or stop their social security payment.

This is a first for benefit delivery in the UK and it will be introduced alongside Child Disability Payment, the Scottish Government’s replacement for Disability Living Allowance for Children.

Social Care

I very much welcome the publication of The Adult Social Care Winter Preparedness Plan, backed by an additional £112 million in funding, which will support social care users in residential, community and home settings, and the people who provide that care, including unpaid carers.

This new plan and additional investment will provide further support to the sector to respond to the demands of winter alongside the ongoing challenges of coronavirus.

An evidence paper has been published with the plan outlining how the new measures have been informed by lessons learned about COVID-19 to date, including last week’s Public Health Scotland discharge report and the Care Inspectorate’s Care at Home inquiry. The plan also takes into account the findings of the root cause analysis of care home outbreaks commissioned by the Cabinet Secretary, which is also published this week and can be accessed here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/root-cause-analysis-care-home-outbreaks/

Women Returners

Further steps to tackle inequalities in the workplace and help women return to work following a career break have been announced by the Scottish Government this week.

A new Women Returners Programme – backed by £500,000 and following on from a 2018-19 pilot scheme – will fund projects that help to address gender inequality in the workplace and build on the Scottish Government’s commitment to reduce the gender pay gap.

A further £850,000 will be available through the Workplace Equality Fund to help organisations to develop more inclusive and diverse workplaces.

You can access further information on this programme here: https://www.gov.scot/policies/employment-support/fair-work-and-pay/

Face Covering Exemptions

This is a reminder that the Scottish Government has produced a face covering exemption card, to support those who are unable to wear one to feel more confident and safe when accessing public spaces and using public services.

Physical and digital cards are available to request online from 29 October at http://www.exempt.scot or via a free helpline on 0800 121 6240.

#WeAreStillHere

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) launched their #WeAreStillHere campaign highlighting their scholarship fund which supports aspiring artists who wish to study at Scotland’s national conservatoire.

The campaign has the backing of former graduates of the RCS including award winning actor James McAvoy who narrates the campaign film and acclaimed pianist and composer Fergus McCreadie who provides the soundtrack.

The RCS scholarship fund supports approximately one-third of incoming and continuing undergraduate and postgraduate students from the UK, the EU and internationally based on merit and financial need. The scholarships are vital in removing the financial barrier many young people may face and ensures they can study at the world-leading conservatoire.

You can find out more here https://www.rcs.ac.uk/support-us/