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The Working Life of Christina McKelvie MSP
7th September 2013

Thereís been a great buzz at the Scottish Parliament this week as we opened up the shop for business again on Tuesday, following the recess.

Thereís an almost tangible sense of excitement and enthusiasm as we set about the new legislative programme and soon we will mark the one-year to go point for the Referendum on 18 September 2014. Time flies!

The First Minister set out a hefty chunk of work for all of us. You can see the full statement here:

We are seeing very clearly just how successful this Government is. As the FM put it, ďindependence should be about empowering Scotlandís people as well as their Parliament.Ē

Our powers remain limited for the present but in the year ahead we have 13 new bills to accelerate economic recovery and create more jobs. We want to reduce, as best we can, the negative impact of economic austerity and to help create a fairer Scotland.

The record of this Scottish Government is reflected in opinion polls both about him and about votersí attitudes to what has been achieved.

Polls, as we all know, are not completely reliable but it was good to see that our First Ministerís backing has gone up another 11 points to 48 per cent of people being ďtotally satisfiedĒ with his leadership. Set that beside the Westminster party leadersí support. UK Prime Minister David Cameron gets a 21 per cent satisfaction rating while Labour leader Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, both get 13 per cent.

Scotlandís people know full well where the best hope for the future lies. We are fed up being subjected to legislation like the Welfare Reform Bill coming out of Westminster from a Government we didnít vote for. Now we have the opportunity up ahead to change all that. That is our history in the making.

People also showed that they overwhelmingly trust the Scottish Government to make the best decisions here with 60 per cent in favour and just 16 per cent wanting Westminster to make those decisions.

Speaking of daft decisions by Westminster, you have already viewed my opinions on the so-called Welfare Reform Bill and I was talking in the Chamber about its inequalities on our first day back.

As a first principle, one of the most outrageous points about this cost-saving exercise is that the Chancellor, George Osborne, is reaping the cash to subsidise mortgages for £600,000 properties in Kent for his Tory supporters.

So the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The UK is now the fourth most unequal society in the developed world. An independent Scotland would become the fourth most equal.

That women and families are disproportionately affected by the UK governmentís benefit reform programme can hardly come as any surprise to its leaders. This is a landmark policy in the current Westminster governmentís investment in future generations.

The National Childrenís Bureau produced a report last week that found up to 1.5 million more children are growing up in poor households than in 1973. That means there are now about 3.6 million children in the UK growing up in poverty. Thatís UK fairness for you.

The freeze on Child Benefit, the benefit cap, reduction in the proportion of childcare costs covered by Working Tax Credit, increase in the taper rate for all Tax Credits, removal of the baby element of Child Tax Credits, the requirement for lone parents on Income Support with a youngest child aged five or six to move to Job Seekers Allowance, abolition of the Health in Pregnancy Grant Ė and thatís all before the assault of the bedroom tax where families have the audacity to give their two children separate rooms or those with disabilities need space for special equipment.

I got a reply to a letter I had written to Lord David Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform at Westminster, regarding some of the brutal inequalities being endured by people in my constituency.

His reply? He said they should get jobs or take in a lodger. Some of these people are terminally in, unable to walk or move, dress or eat on their own. I donít suppose Lord Freud has many lodgers in his Kent mansion, which he only uses at weekends and for holidays.

In the constituency, I was deeply saddened to learn that Philips Lighting company in Hamilton is cutting 133 staff at its factory in the town. That equates to more than half of the workforce there so it is devastating to all of those individuals and to their families.

The factory workers at Philips are a kind of family, all of them very loyal and committed staff. Being paid back with redundancy is a hard blow to take.

More positively, it was great to see a new scheme to help older people stay safe and secure in their own homes. I put forward a Parliamentary Motion in support of Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire (VASLan).

The charity is beginning a new call line providing regular contact with older people so as to ensure that they are safe and well at home. The service also acts as an early warning system, highlighting any problems that could become more serious.

Christina McKelvie, MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse, visited the team at its Montrose Crescent office a couple of days ago for the launch of the new service.

I met with Teeda Boyd, the Locality Officer of Reshaping Care for Older People and with some of the young people who are being trained to up to make the calls.

I was really impressed to see sound community action at work, helping not only the vulnerable older people but the young people who are providing the service. There is real commitment, compassion and care at VASLan and I could see that these young volunteers are keen to help the older people in their community.

Older people can refer themselves for daily calls or a relative or carer can do so on their behalf. Social services may also make a request.

The calls are short, just two or three minutes to check the individualís wellbeing. The young volunteers, part of VASLanís Employability Project, are also trained to be alert to any possible source of distress, such as fearfulness or isolation, and to refer any issues onwards.

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