been both moved and thoroughly impressed this week by a little girl in
my constituency. From Stonehouse, Amy Carmichael, who is just eight
years old, is having treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Diagnosed less than a year ago, Amy has endured the distress of
intensive chemotherapy and the loss of her lovely long, blond hair.
she’s obviously a bright and tenacious lassie with great strength of
character and real determination. Amy has been busy helping to raise
funds for research into blood cancers like hers. Her target is £5,000
and she’s already more than half way there with £2,830.
has been involved in a fundraising fashion show and her school, Newfield
Primary, has also raised funds for the Schiehallion ward at Yorkhill
Hospital where Amy has received treatment.
would like to contribute to Amy’s campaign, please go here:
asked for support on a motion congratulating Amy and requested that the
First Minister writes her a letter in support of all her efforts. Every
good wish to Amy and her family.
forward a motion for debate in the Chamber about the impact of
Westminster’s welfare reforms in terms of how the ‘digital by default’
approach is heaping more disadvantage upon those who are already
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is an excellent organisation that does
very valuable work in keeping us, as MSPs, informed of their experiences
in our local communities. The office in Hamilton has been absolutely
fantastic in supporting me in what I do and in supporting my
recent reports, Voices from the frontline – Digital by Default and
Offline and left behind (http://www.cas.org.uk/publications)
highlight the organisation’s concern about how those without internet
access are finding themselves facing massive issues as a result of the
UK Government’s drive to move access to benefits and job search
facilities totally online.
As the introduction to
the report puts it:” Citizens Advice Scotland is concerned that a
digital by default approach to welfare benefits could exclude some of
the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society from accessing
the very services they rely upon.”
The evidence shows that
CAS is right to be concerned. Only half of its clients have an internet
connection and a computer at home – in South Lanarkshire, it’s only
about 30 per cent - more than a third said they had never used the
internet and less than a quarter thought they would be able to apply for
a benefit without any problems.
Nearly three quarters of
their clients said they would struggle to apply for a job online and
nearly half of those who said they would be completely unable to
complete a benefits application online said that their main barrier was
that they had never used a computer before.
Government wants 80 per cent of applications to be made online by 2017.
That just cannot happen because claimants have neither the means nor the
experience to deliver in that way.
year old man had his benefit sanctioned – stopped – for two weeks
because he had left no digital trace of his job searches. Why? Because
he had used the phone, not the Internet.
target is as out of touch with reality as Westminster’s claim that it
can move 90,000 people to alternative accommodation in one year so as to
stop people living in homes with a spare bedroom. It doesn’t seem to
have occurred to the UK Government that there is but a tiny number of
one-bedroomed homes available in social housing accommodation.