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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
16th May 2013


I’ve 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.

But 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.

Amy 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.

If you would like to contribute to Amy’s campaign, please go here: www.justgiving.com/beatbloodcancer-now

I have 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.

I put 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 disadvantaged.

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 constituents.

CAS’s 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.

The UK 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.

One 60 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.

That 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.


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