Over 600 Children Across Central Scotland Homeless This Christmas

December 16, 2014 Leave a comment

639 children in Central Scotland will face the winter in temporary accommodation as Scotland faces its worst Housing Crisis since the Second World War.

The shocking figures were announced by Shelter Scotland this week, showing that over 4,000 children in Scotland will be homeless this Christmas. The charity said a shortage of affordable social housing is the root cause of the problem.

The amount of children facing a homeless Christmas is enough to fill the Scottish Parliament chamber 32 times over and equivalent to more than two homeless children for every primary school in Scotland.

Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon said the figures had to act as a wake-up call to the Scottish Government that Scotland is facing a social housing crisis, as nearly 180,000 people in Scotland sit on social housing waiting lists. She has also called for the Scottish Government to back Scottish Labour proposals for a National Housing Action Plan. 

Ms McMahon said “It is an absolute scandal that any child would spend Christmas homeless, but over 4,000 is nothing short of a national disgrace.

“With 639 children across Central Scotland facing Christmas in temporary accommodation it is time that the Scottish Government woke up to the fact that  Scotland is facing a full blown  housing crisis not seen since the Second World War.

“Despite this crisis, 23,000 homes across the country are lying empty, and the Scottish Government’s own figures have shown a 22% drop in social house building in the last year.

“This cannot continue to happen. If we are serious about fighting poverty and building a better country for every child in Scotland we need a National Housing Action Plan to deliver more social housing where it is needed, to those who most need it.”

To help support Shelter Scotland, people can visit shelterscotland.org or text to SHELTER 70123 and donate £3 to support their work

You can donate to the Shelter Scotland Christmas appeal here

Local authority figures attached

  • As at 31st March 2014, 179,954 people were on Council waiting lists (150,500 waiting; 29,500 transfer);
  • The SNP slashed the capital budget for housing by 29% (in real terms) between 2008/09 and 2011/12; and

Housing Statistics for Scotland  Quarterly Update – November 2014

  • 22% drop in social housing completions in year end to September
  • 9% drop in affordable housing completions in year end to September

 

 

 

 

 

Siobhan McMahon MSP Backs Iain Gray’s Bus Regulation Bill

December 15, 2014 Leave a comment

Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon has backed Iain Gray MSP’s Bus Regulation Bill which aims to regulate how bus services are delivered in Scotland.

The Members’ Bill aims to give transport authorities greater power over how bus services are run, including a new franchising power to tender “quality contracts” for profitable and non-profitable routes together, without seeking ministers’ consent or having to “demonstrate market failure”.  The Bill proposes a power for the Traffic Commissioner to penalise operators where franchise agreements are broken.

Within hours of launching the Bill to create new powers for transport authorities over bus services, Iain Gray has gained the support he needs for the Bill to proceed.  Over eighteen MSPs have signed the proposal, including Patrick Harvie (Green) and Tavish Scott (Liberal Democrat).  This gives the Bill the cross-party support it needs to continue to its next stage in Parliament.

Ms McMahon said “I’m pleased to be able to support Iain Gray’s Bill, which will give more power to local transport authorities, by giving them a greater say in how services are delivered in their area beyond the most basic terms. At the moment, the system makes it too easy for operators to walk away from even those services they are paid to deliver, and when they do, it’s communities that suffer.

Crucially, the Bill would allow transport authorities to contract out commercial as well as non-commercial routes. Currently these are delivered almost entirely on the terms bus operators choose.

Iain Gray’s Bill will allow councils/spt to package commercial and uncommercial routes together and franchise them in a “Quality Contract”. This will finally give communities some say in the services they depend on.”

 

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Siobhan McMahon MSP Urges Scottish Government to Conduct Review into Miners’ Strike Convictions

December 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon has called on the Scottish Government to reconsider their opposition to a review into the conviction of miners in Scotland during the 1985/85 Miners Strike.

Ms McMahon made her plea in a letter to the new Cabinet Secretary of Justice, Michael Matheson. This follows the publication of ‘The case for a review of the miners’ strike in Scotland’ by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS). This document highlights the fact that miners in Scotland were disproportionately convicted in comparison to those in England and Wales. In the rest of the UK 23.6% of miners brought before court were acquitted, in Scotland this figure was only 15%.

Ms McMahon wrote “Coming from Lanarkshire I am acutely aware of the contribution of the mining industry to our past achievements and current standard of living. In 1910 Lanarkshire was home to nearly half of Scotland’s pits and thrived as a coal producing region until the onset of Thatcherism. As one of the Central Scotland MSPs I have come to appreciate the strength of mining traditions in Falkirk and surrounding areas such as Larbert and Bo’ness. Despite only being an infant during the strike, the mining industry and the impact of the strike has had a profound impact on my life.

Only by understanding the importance of this background and knowing the history of the tragedies associated with the trade can we appreciate the scale of the insult miners were subjected to during the strike. To demonize these men who had toiled to provide us with energy and who’s forbears had given their lives at Auchengiech, Blantyre and Udston as the enemy within was unpardonable.

It was not evident, prior to the respective inquires, of the extent of wrong doing by state forces during Hillsborough disaster and on Bloody Sunday. After the reports into both events victims and their families were able to continue with their lives, confident that justice had been done. Miners and their families in Scotland are yet to receive this courtesy. I would implore you to correct this.”

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Urgent Action Needed on Private Rents

December 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Speaking in Housing Debate

Central Scotland Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon has called for a ban on rip off rent rises – and criticised the Scottish Government for backing rogue landlords instead of hard-pressed tenants.

Ms McMahon made her calls during a debate at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 3rd December on Private Rented Reform. This follows Ms McMahon pledging her support to Shelter Scotland’s Make Renting Right Campaign, which aimed to make Scotland’s growing private rented sector fir for families and fairer for all by reforming the outdated private tenancy regime.

There are currently around 20,000 private renters across Central Scotland; 10,000 in North Lanarkshire, 6,000 in South Lanarkshire and 4,000 in Falkirk. The number of homes in the private rented sector living in poverty has more than doubled in a decade to over 100,000, with one in four Scots who live in poverty living in the private rented sector. Some parts of Scotland have seen rents rise by as much as 40% in the last 4 years.

During her speech Ms McMahon backed Shelter’s calls for more flexibility in tenancy agreements, and for action to be taken on the spiralling costs of private rents. She also backed Scottish Labour proposals to stop tenants being exploited by landlords imposing excessive rent hikes, plans that were voted down by the SNP.

Ms McMahon said “To hear that the number of people who are living in poverty in the private rented sector has doubled in the past decade should make all politicians extremely uncomfortable. That is why we need action now and that is why I ask the Scottish Government to support Shelter Scotland’s campaign and to back Scottish Labour’s proposals to introduce a bill on the private rented sector.

We want a bill to provide people with greater security of tenure and we wish to see a cap on rent rises. That would make a huge difference to tenants’ lives, and it could be legislated on quickly. But the SNP have now voted against our plans three times, despite their own expert welfare group recommending rent caps. Only Scottish Labour are willing to reform the market in Scotland to give Scots in the private rented sector some security and peace of mind.”

The Scottish Government’s own Expert Working Group on Welfare recommended rent caps:

“We believe it is important to strike the right balance between supporting a well-functioning private rental market and preventing excessive rents that can arise through pressures in the private rental sector in areas of high demand and low supply. This means looking at the nature of tenancies, for example, giving tenants in the private sector longer-term tenancies than generally exist at present, as well as building into tenancy agreements that rents should increase in line with inflation but not above it, at least for the duration of a tenancy.”

Source here.

Some parts of Scotland have seen rents rise by 40% in the last 4 years.

Source here.

Poverty in the private rented sector.

“The number of households in poverty in the PRS has doubled in the last decade to 120,000, while the number in social housing has almost halved to 190,000.”

“At the start of the 2000s, poverty in Scotland was predominantly in the social rented sector but this is no longer the case. Two fifths of households in poverty live in social housing, compared to three fifths a decade ago. Meanwhile a quarter live in the PRS, up from 1 in 10.”

Source here

You can read Ms McMahons speech in full here.

Praising Charity Fundraisers

December 8, 2014 Leave a comment

hope

I was pleased to be able to lodge a motion at the Scottish Parliament praising the contestants of the Miss Scotland Charity pageant which took place on the 16th of November in aid of HOPE for Autism.

My motion congratulated the pageant director, Christina Smith, on raising £3600 for the charity and organiser, Jennifer Glasgow, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure that the event was a success. I also congratulated pageant winner Ashleigh Friel and teen pageant winner Aimee White. The 12 contestants aged 13-24 took part in fun-days, bag packing, coffee mornings and other events for a period of 12 weeks, which culminated in the pageant.

HOPE for Autism is a great cause and provides meaningful support to families in North Lanarkshire affected by autism spectrum disorders. As the most experienced third sector autism specific sector and service provider in the area, HOPE run a range of activity groups for young people aged 2 – 25 years of age, over 6 days a week. Staff also offer support to local carers and families affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

I am delighted to see the dedication and generosity of all involved with the pageant in raising awareness of the great service that HOPE provides. I am certain that the money raised will be greatly appreciated by its staff, volunteers and members.

Pageant Director Christina Smith said “The support has been overwhelming. I do this for others, not for myself so it’s great to see such an impressive amount of money raised for the charity.”

Volunteer Claire Dalgleish, who was asked to appear as a guest judge at the pageant, said The pageant was an absolutely amazing night. The girls raised over £3000 for a brilliant charity. Christina Smith has done some fantastic work and we cannot thank her enough for all of this.”

 

Motion S4M-11793: Siobhan McMahon, Central Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/12/2014

That the Parliament congratulates the Miss Scotland Charity, which recently raised over £3,600 for Hope for Autism; understands that the 12 contestants in the Miss Scotland Charity pageant volunteered at Hope for Autism in Airdrie and hosted fun-days, coffee mornings, bag packs and other events in the 12-week run-up to the event; recognises what it sees as the dedication and hard work of both the director, Christina Smith, and the organiser, Jennifer Glasgow, in working tirelessly to organise the pageant; congratulates Ashleigh Friel on winning the 2014 event, Aimee White, who was named Teen Miss Scotland Charity and Louise Casson, who won the Miss Charity award and who continues to volunteer at Hope for Autism; understands that Hope for Autism is the most experienced third sector autism-specific service in North Lanarkshire and supports over 150 families affected by autism spectrum disorder, and wishes everyone involved with it every success.

 

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Progress of transition to individual electoral registration in Scotland

December 2, 2014 Leave a comment

The Electoral Commission have published a report containing an analysis of the Confirmation Live Run exercise that took place in Scotland in September, and which forms the first stage in the transition to Individual Electoral Registration (IER). The report also summarises progress with the implementation of IER in Scotland to date. You can read the report here.

Overall, the results show that:

  • 2 million electoral register entries were sent for confirmation against the DWP database.
  • 2 million entries matched with the DWP database, and could be directly transferred onto the new IER registers. This corresponds to 75% of the total number of entries sent for matching .
  • All Electoral Registration Officers in Scotland have also carried out further data matching using local data sources, to supplement the matching against the DWP database, and a further 416,000 additional matches were made as a result of these checks.
  • This takes the total percentage of register entries automatically transferred in Scotland to approximately 6 million (86%)

As part of the change to IER in Great Britain, for the first time, people have been able to register to vote online, which I would encourage you to do here. 

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Encouraging Families to Take Up Support with Caring

December 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Carers Scotland

Last Friday (28th November), I was pleased to support Carers Rights Day, a national awareness day which seeks to raise awareness about the information, advice and practical support available for carers.

On Carers Rights Day local organisations join in to encourage carers to get the advice and information that they need to make sure they can access the help and support they are entitled to. This includes information on financial support, practical support, breaks from caring and workplace rights for those juggling work and care.

There are tens of thousands of carers across Central Scotland; 34,393 in North Lanarkshire, 32,796 in South Lanarkshire and 15,056 in Falkirk. There are around 657,000 unpaid carers in the UK who provide care and support to family, friends and neighbours, saving the country an estimated £10.3 billion each year.

Carers are fulfilling a vital role in our society, but too often they go without the support they need because they don’t know about the support available. We must all play a role in helping to identify and support people who are looking after ill, frail or disabled loved ones and making sure they get the right information and advice about the support they are entitled to as early as possible.

Carers Scotland Director, Simon Hodgson: “Caring can be tough and finding out about what support is available can feel like finding your way through a maze of information. It’s essential that carers are given information and advice to guide them early so they don’t miss out on vital support.

Without help and assistance carers can find themselves facing financial hardship, health problems, emotional stress and relationship breakdown. This has serious consequences for individuals and families and for employers and the Scottish economy as a whole.

This Carers Rights Day we particularly want to make sure that carers know about their rights as well as changes to flexible working rights and benefits.”

Carers can order a free copy of Carers Scotland  guide to carers’ rights and benefits called ‘Looking after someone’ by visiting http://www.carerscotland.org or calling the Adviceline on 0808 808 7777. 

Facts about carers:

  • Across the Scotland there are 657,000 people caring for a loved one who is older, seriously ill or disabled. This number is set to rise to 1 million by 2037.
  • Full-time carers are twice as likely to be in bad health as non-carers.
  • An estimated 1 in 5 people have given up work at some point to care for older or disabled loved ones.
  • Over 132,000 people care for over 50 hours a week.
  • Carers save the Scottish economy an estimated £10.3 billion per year (£119 billion in the UK as a whole) with the unpaid care they provide, an average of £18,473 per carer.
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