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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
20th June 2013


CRIME is a global concern at every level. While the likelihood of being murdered or shot on the street may be small, it’s the everyday burglaries and fights that so blight the lives of ordinary people.

And sadly Scotland is no exception. We can’t claim to be perfect and we’re certainly not complacent. All the same, I was pleased to discover on Tuesday that violent crime in the South Lanarkshire local authority area has fallen by almost a half since 2010.

The Scottish Government’s Recorded Crime statistical bulletin (http://tinyurl.com/mj9a6uw) ­­­shows a reduction from 616 offences in 2009-10 to 341 between 2012 and 2013 in this area.

Scotland now has a single police force, Police Scotland (www.scotland.police.uk) operating throughout the country rather than the much more fragmented structure of eight separate forces. These figures have been collated before that shift took place on 1 April and hence are still listed by each police force. Strathclyde Police, the largest of those eight forces, included South Lanarkshire in its area of operations.

Vandalism, fire-raising and related incidents have also fallen by a third from 5,633 in 2010 to 3,492 currently.

Don’t get me wrong. None of us thinks we can stop concerning ourselves about crime. Our Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill points out: “Make no mistake, there will be no let-up in our efforts, backed by record numbers of police offers – over 1,000 extra since 2007 – who are keeping communities safe and clearing up crimes more efficiently than ever before.

“We are continuing to work tirelessly to reduce knife crime and violence in Scotland and believe education and prevention are key to tackling the root causes of violence.”

If you read last week’s blog, you may recall that I was speaking to a Motion in Parliament upholding the work of the Scottish Guardianship Service. This is a uniquely Scottish model of care that helps asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking to make a life here in Scotland.

Young people, particularly, can arrive here without any understanding of the language, culture or practices involved in establishing an individual’s case. The service is very highly regarded by those whom it helps.

So it was with real pleasure that I hosted a Refugee Week Reception at the Parliament on Wednesday evening. Some of the young people performing had really frightening and traumatic stories to tell and some had benefitted from the Guardianship Service which appoints a single case worker to help each individual understand what is going on and what the next steps are likely to be.

The theme of Refugee Week in Scotland (www.refugeeweekscotland.com) is heritage and we saw some examples of what that means to a handful of refugees here at the Parliament.

Take the example of Isra Mohammed Shahani from Somalia: “I came to Scotland when I was 17. I had to leave my home country, Somalia, because it wasn’t safe for me to be there anymore.

"The clothes I wear are part of my heritage and make me who I am. I love life in Scotland but I still wear clothes from my country – I just make them a bit more stylish! The scarves I wear now are more colourful and looser than those I used to wear.”

The whole week has an amazing range of events that run from local carnivals to an enactment of a Sudanese community wedding day; stage performances, singing, comedy, discussions on big issues like housing, workshops on creative writing and literature.

It all kicked off with a big concert in Glasgow on Monday that fabulous guest stars like Admiral Fallow, Karine Polwart and Malcolm Middleton, formerly with Arab Strap, putting their spirit behind the events.

Age Concern Scotland, who run a great charity shop in Hamilton, is hosting what I’m sure will be an interesting event on Friday. The charity wants to see a much more joined-up approach to combining community transport with the broader public transport service.

It’s crucial that I listen to what various particular interest groups want to say about their needs and how it feels the Scottish Government ought to respond. Age Concern is running a campaign, of which this is the local launch, to lobby for a more joined up kind of transport service (http://tinyurl.com/phbq3sz)

 Some older people are finding it difficult to access mainstream bus services and rely on locally arranged community transport services.

The problem is that those regular bus services aren’t available everywhere, and if you are quite elderly, perhaps disabled, you can’t always get at them. So folk in that position want to see a more joined up infrastructure.

The Scottish Government has protected free bus passes for people over 60 throughout Scotland (and for people of any age with disabilities) but although these are crucial to a lot of older folk, they don’t work for everyone.

The Still Waiting campaign recognises what a huge benefit the bus pass is but points out that “it is only of value where a suitable bus service is available.

“We would like the Scottish Government to adjust the scheme so that it includes community transport providers – the local organisations that step in to provide transport for otherwise isolated older people in circumstances where commercial bus companies say they can’t turn a profit.”

This Government already provides far better and more inclusive care for our older people than is available in England. We introduce free personal care so that folk can stay in their own homes for longer. Having someone to come in and help you with those basic needs can mean you are able to maintain your independence.

For those people who can no longer cope on their own, our care home services – some run by local authorities and some privately owned – are carefully and thoroughly monitored to make sure the standards are kept very high.

Friday is National Care Home Day and I’ll be visiting Douglas View Care Home in Hamilton.

Douglas View is a purpose built 100 bed care home offering dementia, nursing, residential and specialist care.

Comfortable, well equipped and considerate of the particular needs of its residents – it has specially designed furnishings for example, a choice of comfortable lounge areas and lovely bedrooms overlooking the garden – and it provides good, home-cooked, fresh, nutritional meals that respect each individual’s tastes.

Homes such as this one look after people with all kinds of complex conditions. Increasingly, the residents suffer from multiple problems and often present with challenging behaviour as a result.

My admiration for Gwyneth Langley and her staff is huge. This is a demanding, 24/7 job with enormous challenges. It is, says Gwyneth, also very satisfying. If, like her, you have a real love and commitment to people reaching towards the ends of their lives, then being able to help and support them must be fulfilling.


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