I was pleased to be able to speak in Jackie Baillie MSPs Members Business Debate at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 8th October which highlighted the significant absence of suitable hospice and respite facilities for young disabled adults across Scotland.
This follows a Petition lodged by Robert Watson on behalf of CHAS Young Adult Council which calls on the Scottish Government to work with charities to help create suitable respite facilities to support younger disabled adults aged between 21 and 45 with life shortening conditions.
As someone who has visited CHAS Hospices Robin house and Rachel house, I know about the tremendous work that CHAS does in supporting not only the young people who require its services from the very first stages to the very last stages of their lives, but also their friends and family. However unfortunately, we all know that current hospice provision in Scotland does not meet the demand from patients who require the service.
Moreover, following CHAS’s understandable decision to impose an upper age limit on its facilities, which will come into force in approximately three years’ time, further pressure will be put on hospices such as St Andrew’s in Airdrie which provide these services to young adults.
You can read my speech in full here.
I was pleased to be able to sign up to “Carer’s Labour Network” which was launched by the Scottish Labour Party alongside Carers Champion Claire Lally.
The network aims to build on the commitment already shown by Labour towards carers whilst pledging to bring forward practical initiatives to issues they face, including providing Young Adult Carers access to SAAS dependency grants which currently stands at £2,640 per year.
The Carer’s Labour Network pledge to ensure accountable, transparent and responsive support and services for Carers. This will be achieved through giving the Care Inspectorate responsibility over inspecting carer’s services and requiring local authorities to do yearly reports on Carer’s support and services.
The Network also commits to ensuring young carers get the support they need through fully committing to the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Care, Fair, Share campaign.
The Carer’s Labour Network will build towards launching a Scottish Labour Carers Manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections that will be led by Clare Lally and written by fellow carers.
Scottish Labour has long been committed towards ensuring the best possible support is available to carers across the country.
The Carer’s Labour Network will continue this work and ensure that the services available for carers are accountable and responsive to their needs.
Currently there is little concrete information on exactly how the £112 million Scottish Government funding for carers has been spent.
As a result carers find it difficult to access information, with no independent body to raise any concerns they may have. Giving the Care Inspectorate responsibility over carers service will insure accountability and transparency across the board.
Part of Labour’s pledge is to listen to the needs of carers and find out first-hand the problems that they face.
By listening to carers like Clare we will be able to hold the Scottish Government to account and deliver the step change needed in support for Carers.
Carer’s Champion Claire Lally said “I’m delighted to announce Scottish Labour pledges for carers and pleased that my role as Carer’s Champion has resulted in concrete promises that will improve the lives of carers across the country.
“I’m especially excited to play a role in developing a Scottish Labour Carers Manifesto for the 2016 election. By having a manifesto written by fellow carers we can address the problems we face in our everyday life.
“I look forward to working with carers from across Scotland to ensure that Labour’s Carers Manifesto will deliver change to the problems faced by carers like myself.”
I was pleased to join the fight against breast cancer by taking part in Breast Cancer Campaign’s flagship fundraiser Wear it Pink day at Parliament recently.
The theme of Wear it Pink this year is to ‘look good, do good’ in support of breast cancer research. On Friday 24 October people across the country will come together to find fun and stylish ways to wear pink in the office, at home or at school.
Donations raised by this year’s fashion inspired event will go to Breast Cancer Campaign to fund lifesaving breast cancer research.
Every year in Scotland more than 4,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly, more than 1,000 women die from this disease each year. This is why we need to support Breast Cancer Campaign’s fundraising efforts to support world-class breast cancer research that saves and improves lives, giving people quicker diagnoses and more effective treatments. I hope you’ll all join me by wearing it pink on Friday 24 October and showing your support for breast cancer research.
• Breast Cancer Campaign funds innovative breast cancer research, bringing together the brightest minds to share knowledge to produce better, quicker results to overcome and outlive breast cancer.
• As of June 2014, Breast Cancer Campaign funds 90 research grants throughout the UK and Ireland, worth over £13 million. They currently fund 7 grants in Scotland worth £1,354,320.
• Breast Cancer Campaign has launched the campaign ‘#spreadtheword to stop the spread’, to highlight that breast cancer is not a done deal. Visit http://www.breastcancercampaign/spreadtheword
• Breast Cancer Campaign’s action plan ‘Help Us Find the Cures’ sets out 66 key actions Breast Cancer Campaign will take to address the gaps in breast cancer research to overcome and outlive breast cancer by 2050. http://www.breastcancercampaign.org/breast-cancer-research/help-us-find-the-cures
• The Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank, the UK’s first ever national breast cancer tissue bank, is a unique collaboration with four leading research institutions to create a vital resource of breast cancer tissue for researchers across the UK and Ireland. Visit http://www.breastcancertissuebank.org
• Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and accounts for nearly one in three of all cancers in women. In the UK, around 50,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year – that’s 138 a day. Visit http://www.breastcancercampaign.org or follow at http://www.twitter.com/bccampaign
The visit was organised in partnership the Falkirk Football Community Foundation, the community arm of Falkirk Football Club, who deliver programmes to support communities across Forth Valley.
HemiHelp is the UK’s national charity for hemiplegia and its primary aim is to help each child with the condition reach their full potential. It provides information, support and events for children and young people with hemiplegia, their families and the professionals who support them.
Hemiplegia is caused by damage to the brain (most often before or around the time of birth) and the effects are similar to that of a stroke. It leads to weakness and lack of control on one side of the body, but the physical severity will vary from one person to the next.
The HemiHelp awareness week runs between 13-17th October and there is range of fun activities planned for the week, kicking off with Mitten Monday, which encourages people to wear a mitten on one hand to get a sense of the impairment experienced by a person with the condition.
As someone who has hemiplegia, it is an honour to be a patron of HemiHelp and I am all to aware of how important it is to raise awareness of the condition. Better awareness enables families and individuals to get the support they need and leads to increased understanding, allowing those affected to reach their full potential.
I also know how difficult it can be to carry out everyday tasks that others take for granted and that is why Mitten Monday is such a great idea as it shows people how difficult it can be to live with hemiplegia. My experience is not unique as one child in every 1000 is affected by the condition and therefore it is important that HemiHelp continues to provide vital support those with hemiplegia and their families. I would like to thank all those at Falkirk FC and at the Community Foundation for taking part in Mitten Monday and I hope that they will have learnt a little more about the condition as a result of this.
Eleanor Davis, Fundraising & Marketing Officer at the Falkirk Football Community Foundation said “I would like to thank Siobhan for coming down to The Falkirk Stadium to talk about Mitten Monday. Having not heard about Hemiplegia, it was interesting to learn more and understand what it must be like living with such a condition. We hope that this visit has helped to raise more awareness and the profile of the charity, Hemihelp.”
HemiHelp CEO Amy Couture said “It is fantastic to see Falkirk FC and our patron Siobhan McMahon supporting Hemiplegia Awareness Week. It is this sort of action that will lead to better awareness of hemiplegia, enabling families and individuals to get the support they need.”
I also submitted a motion at the Scottish Parliament calling on everyone to support Hemiplegia Awareness Week.
Motion S4M-11172: Siobhan McMahon, Central Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/10/2014
That the Parliament notes that 13 to 17 October 2014 is Hemiplegia Awareness Week; understands that hemiplegia affects one in 1,000 children across the UK and can occur before or during birth; notes that it is caused by damage to a part of the brain and can affect either side of the body with varying degrees of weakness; understands that this impacts on motor control and can cause hidden problems such as epilepsy or speech or visual impairment; recognises that Hemiplegia Awareness Week was established to promote a knowledge and understanding of the condition; believes that Mitten Monday, in which people wear a mitten on one hand to mimic one of the possible aspects of hemiplegia, is an effective way to raise such awareness; further understands that other awareness days are scheduled, including Put-up-a-Poster Thursday, in which people are encouraged to put up a poster in an innovative and eye-catching place, with prizes for the best places; believes that more should be done to help the people and families affected by the condition, and calls on everyone to participate in, and support, Hemiplegia Awareness Week.
NHS Forth Valley are carrying out a major review of clinical services to help develop a new healthcare strategy as their current strategy ends in 2014. They want to make sure that patients, their families and local people across Forth Valley are involved in this important work and have the opportunity to help shape their plans and priorities for the future.
I would therefore encourage people to take a few moments to tell them how you would like to see health services developed in Forth Valley over the next five years. You can feedback comments direct via email, post or a short online survey on their website http://www.nhsforthvalley.com/shapingourfuture.
I was delighted to be able to support Macmillan Cancer Support’s coffee mornings at Parliament recently.
The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is Macmillan Cancer Support’s biggest charity fundraising event, where thousands of groups across the country hold a coffee morning, with donations on the day being made to Macmillan. In 2013 154,000 people signed up to coffee morning, raising a record £20 million for charity.
These are a great fun way to help raise much needed funds to support cancer care. With one in three of us facing cancer, MacMillan is doing fantastic work in providing medical, emotional, practical and financial support for those affected.
Find out more about Macmillan Support’s Coffee Mornings here.
I was worried to read new figures released by letting agents Your Move which show that the average rent in Scotland has increased by nearly 3% in the last year, and by 5.5% in the Glasgow and Clyde area.
The average Scottish rent now stands at £537 a month – more than the weekly median wage in Scotland.
The average rent in the Glasgow and Clyde area, which includes 10,000 privately rented households in South Lanarkshire and 6,000 in North Lanarkshire, is now £575.
Previous analysis has shown that 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.
Nearly half of private renters in Scotland are families.
That’s why I have called upon the SNP to work with Scottish Labour to deliver fair rents for people in Central Scotland as new figures show that rent levels have increased across the country.
Earlier this year, I supported proposals for a fair rent cap the Housing (Scotland) Act to cap rent rises to stop tenants being ripped off by landlords.
The proposal was blocked at the time by the SNP.
However, the It is time for Scotland’s parties to work together to make a real difference to the lives of people in Scotland, and they should start with fair rents.
These new figures are really worrying, times are hard enough for families in Central Scotland with rising energy bills and spiralling childcare costs, the last thing we need is to see rents rise to unaffordable levels.
We must make the private rental sector work for the people who need it most – families and people on low pay.
It was a missed opportunity for the SNP to oppose Scottish Labour proposals to make rents in Scotland fair. It would have provided some relief and security to the tens of thousands of renters across Scotland.
The referendum made clear that we must work together to build a fairer, better, more prosperous Scotland. It is what Scots want regardless of whether they voted Yes, whether they voted No, or what party they will support in the future.
We can begin by having an honest debate about how we can make renting more affordable for the low paid, so that they can have a home, not just a roof over their heads.