The First Minister provided further updates on the restrictions this week in Parliament. Current restrictions, including the ‘stay-at-home’ requirement, are set to remain in place until at least the end of February and schools will continue to be closed to most children for the rest of this month.
Nurseries and Primaries 1 to 3 are, however, now scheduled to return full-time on 22 February, subject to final confirmation two weeks from now that sufficient progress in tackling the virus has been achieved.
In addition, there will also be a part time return for senior phase pupils – S4, S5 and S6 – on a limited basis, for essential in-school practical work only. It is intended that there will be no more than 5 – 8% of a secondary school roll physically present at any one time for these purposes.
To complement the return to in-school teaching, there will be a significant expansion of testing. People who work in schools, early learning and childcare settings attached to schools, and senior phase pupils, will be offered at-home testing two times a week.
The First Minister also confirmed that a managed quarantine system for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland regardless of which country they have come from will be introduced as soon as practicably possible.
You can access all of the most up to date information and guidance on Covid-19 here: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
Updates this week on the vaccination programme are encouraging with 98% of all care home residents vaccinated and 90% of over 80s receiving their first vaccine.
I recognise that there are many people, who are anxiously waiting to hear about their vaccine, and I understand that anxiety. The Scottish Government are working to the vaccination programme and are on schedule to meet the target dates.
If you are over 80 and have not had your vaccine by 5 February please get in touch with the vaccine helpline on 0800 030 8013 (available 8am–8pm 7 days a week). For those over 70 the timescale is to have everyone in this cohort vaccinated by the middle of February.
The £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant is being significantly extended to more people on low incomes.
The grant will be available to workers earning the Real Living Wage or less, as well as those in receipt of a council tax reduction because of low income.
People with caring responsibilities for someone over 16 who is asked to self-isolate, where the carer themselves meet the other eligibility criteria, can also get the grant.
In addition, the Scottish Government is lengthening the period during which people can apply for the Self-Isolation Support Grant. They will now be able to apply within 28 days of being told to self-isolate.
The changes will take effect from 16 February to allow local authorities time to change their systems and application forms, but eligibility will be backdated to 2 February. This means an additional 200,000 people will be eligible for the grant if they are asked to self-isolate.
If you require further information or support please contact the Self-Isolation Support National Helpline on 0800 111 4000.
Very good news this week from the Scottish Government with the announcement of £100 million to support the modernisation of the Subway system.
The Subway is an integral part of the city’s transport system. I have been calling for additional funding to upgrade the system and I am pleased to see those calls have been delivered.
The funding is part of the Infrastructure Investment Plan (IIP) and Capital Spending Review, both published this week, confirm a five year plan of investment that will support 45,000 jobs and build healthcare facilities, schools and local facilities across Scotland.
Also included in the plan is a commitment to a new city centre primary school and a new Gaelic School.
You can access further information here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/national-mission-local-impact-infrastructure-investment-plan-scotland-2021-22-2025-26/
Moves to ensure students can complete their college and university courses this academic year are being explored.
A Task force comprising representatives of colleges, universities, students, unions and government met today to consider the challenges that colleges and universities face in delivering practical learning as a result of the current Covid-19 restrictions.
While the issue impacts on both sectors, colleges are adversely affected given the predominance of practical learning.
The immediate priority for the task force is to help students complete their courses and move into further study or employment. The task force will also consider arrangements if some students need to defer a part of their course.
Drug Rehabilitation Funding
A total of £3 million has been given to NHS boards with to increase provision of residential drug rehabilitation placements and improve access to treatment and harm reduction services.
The funding is part of the £5 million support package announced by the First Minister last month to ensure immediate action on improving drugs services before the end of this financial year.
Integration Authorities have been allocated funding based on the number of drug deaths in each area to spend through Alcohol and Drugs Partnerships. Glasgow HSCP will be allocated a total of £539,171 and will be distributed as follows:
- 65% on increasing residential rehabilitation and aftercare
- 20% on improving access to harm reduction services such as naloxone, heroin-assisted treatment and opiate substitute therapy
- 15% on improving access to treatment
Support for Teachers
Hundreds of teachers who are new in post, or working in pastoral or child protection roles, are to be offered support to manage the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Education Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Scotland have partnered with social enterprise organisation KnowYouMore who will provide coaches for the new online one-to-one sessions. Sessions are already being offered to headteachers as part of a support package funded by the Scottish Government in 2020.
The new programme now includes support for more than 500 teachers in their first four years of post-probation to discuss any personal or professional pressures they are facing as a result of delivering remote learning.
Free Personal Care Funding
Adults who pay for their residential care in Scotland will be better off from April as a result of a change to the rates of allowances they receive for personal and nursing care.
Those who ‘self-fund’ their residential care receive an allowance in recognition of their personal and nursing care costs.
Regulations laid in Parliament will raise these allowances by 7.5 per cent, well above the normal annual increase, in recognition of the increasing cost of providing care, particularly for people with dementia.
The change is backed by an additional £10.1m in Local Authority funding to cover the increases.
Organ Donation Law Change
Throughout February all households will a receive a leaflet explaining the change in the law around organ and tissue donation in Scotland.
From 26 March 2021 the law will change to an opt out system.
This means that most adults who die in circumstances where they are able to donate will be considered as having agreed to be a donor unless they record a decision not to – what’s known as ‘opt out’.
People will still have a choice. If you don’t want to be a donor you can choose to opt out on the NHS Organ Donor Register at any time, before or after the law changes.
If you support donation, you can still choose to actively record your decision to be a donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register. You can also choose which organs or tissue you would want to donate on the register.
The leaflet contains detailed information about law change and it clearly explains the choices people have. Everyone aged 16 or over in the household should read it in order to understand why it’s important to make their donation decision, record it and share it with family and friends.
The new law will add to the package of measures already in place which have led to significant increases in donation and transplantation over the last decade.
You can access further information here: www.organdonationscotland.org
Please continue to follow the Scottish Government 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.
Please also if you have not already done so download the Protect Scotland App which you can access here: https://protect.scot/