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Friday, 14 June 2013
Child poverty set to increaseThe Deputy First Minister has welcomed official poverty statistics published today that show that the number of children living in relative poverty has fallen in Scotland between 2009/10 and 2011/12. However, she warned that there is no room for complacency in light of estimates suggesting that more than 50,000 children are at risk of being pushed into poverty in Scotland by 2020.
She pointed out that the figures do not take into account the full impact of the UK Government’s welfare reforms. The figures also show a fall in average household earnings in Scotland over two years from £461 per week to £436.
Ms Sturgeon said:
“These figures released today - while welcome - present a complex picture in terms of understanding child poverty in Scotland.
“While the number of children in poverty fell in 2011/12 compared to the previous year, this decrease was the result of an overall drop in average household incomes across the UK.
“We know that the UK Government’s welfare reforms are already having a significant impact on Scotland’s children, with further damaging changes still to take effect. These figures take into account the environment in 2011/12, but a number of changes have been made since then.
“These measures include changes to eligibility for child tax credits and working tax credits, which could, on average, mean that households will become around £700 per year worse off.
“While we must continue to do everything we can with the powers and resources we have, there is no doubt that a much greater ability to tackle the scandal of child poverty will be one of the big prizes of independence. This will of course take time, and no one is suggesting it will be easy.
“In an independent Scotland, we could take welfare decisions that would ensure fair and decent support for people. Over time we could create a system that would encourage those who can - and should work - into work, but also support people who are unable to work, allowing them to play a full and active part in society, and help to tackle poverty where it exists.
“Only with access to our own resources and the ability to join up policy across devolved and reserved areas, can we make the substantial difference we need to and tackle child poverty for good.'
Link to statistics - http://www.scotland.gov.uk/stats/bulletins/01048
Disabled man refused entry to nightclub after Scottish Charity AwardsPolice were called to a Glasgow nightclub last night to remove a disabled man who crawled into the premises after being refused entry.
Actor Robert Softley Gale, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, attempted to enter the Polo Lounge in Glasgow with his husband Nathan Gale after attending the Scottish Charity Awards with the Equality Network.
They claim that the bouncers informed them that they could not enter because the nightclub didn’t have disabled facilities.
Despite the couple explaining that they wanted to enter the popular gay nightclub anyway, they say staff continued to refuse to allow them to enter.
“The manager came and said that they didn’t have disabled facilities so they weren’t letting us in,” Nathan told TFN. “We said, you can’t not let us in just because we’re disabled, that’s a violation of the Equality Act, but he still wouldn’t let us in.”
Robert then decided to make a political statement, and getting out of his wheelchair, crawled through the doorway of the club.
“They then called the police to get Robert removed,” explained Nathan. “I tried to go in after him, because I was worried because he was out of his wheelchair inside the club, and the bouncer picked me up and put me back on the pavement.”
“Throughout all of this, their whole attitude was really horrible. They were really disrespectful.”
The police arrived after about 20 minutes and persuaded Robert to leave the premises.
The incident has caused an outcry on social media today, after disability campaigners heard about it.
Disability organisation Inclusion Scotland posted on its Facebook page: “Robert is a well known actor, playwright and activist. When he was refused entrance by doormen he got out of his wheelchair and crawled through the door. The police were then called and instead of upholding the law against disability discrimination sided with the doormen and removed Robert. Both the police and Polo Lounge should be ashamed of their actions. Please re-post and tweet to get this story out there.”
Bill Scott, manager of Inclusion Scotland, said: “If this incident is as Robert and Nathan describes, it’s disgraceful. The police should have acted to uphold discrimination law, it is not a criminal law but they should have been pointing out to the door staff that there’s no reason to restrict entry purely on the basis that somebody’s in a wheelchair.”
However Kristin Nicol, director of risk and compliance for G1 Group, which owns the Polo Lounge, said that the couple were refused entry because of their aggressive attitude.
“An incident was reported just after midnight this morning, the details of that report are as follows,” said Nicol. “Three males approached the main entrance to the Polo Lounge. At that point they were informed that there was no facility for wheelchair access to the building (due to the structural restrictions of a Grade A listed building, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010). The three males became agitated and abusive.
“At that point the decision was made to refuse entry to the whole party. They then forced their way past the front door security and as a result the police were called to deal with them. The police removed the males because of their disorderly and antisocial conduct and then dealt with them. To be absolutely clear, they were removed for their disorderly and antisocial conduct. The police ultimately made that decision for us.
“Nonetheless, G1 are carrying out a full internal inquiry in line with our robust policy in relation to the Equality Act 2010, as is standard compliance practice at G1.”
A spokesperson for Police Scotland said: “Police were called to a report of two men refusing to leave the Polo Lounge, Wilson Street, Glasgow around 0010 hours on Friday 14 June. Police attended, there was no complaint made.”
The couple are preparing complaints to both the club and to Police Scotland over their treatment.
“We’ll complain to the club and will probably take it further and take legal action under the Equality Act,” said Nathan. “It was pretty blatant.”
Thursday, 13 June 2013
Pledge to pay back wrongly charged care costsThe Scottish government has pledged to refund anyone being wrongly charged for care which should have been free.
It comes after BBC Scotland revealed people may be spending thousands of pounds on nursing home care which should be paid for by the NHS.
This can happen with people suffering severe stroke, or with Dementia, Parkinson's and Motor Neurone Disease.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said every case would be examined where someone felt they should not have been paying.
Opposition parties called on the government to establish how many people may have been affected.
If someone has severe health problems which require intense or complex nursing care then the NHS is obliged to pay for that care, even if it is delivered in a nursing home or in the person's own home.
While Scotland does provide personal care for free, people in care homes and nursing homes are still charged accommodation costs.
It is this 'hotel bill' which the NHS is obliged to pay for people who need nursing care as well as social care.
An Ombudsman decision in 2003 firmly established this principle in England, and thousands of individuals were able to claim back care costs they had been wrongly charged.
Since that landmark ruling, the number of 'continuing healthcare' funding packages has been steadily rising in England. However, the number of people qualifying for continuing healthcare in Scotland has fallen by 26% in the four years since monitoring began.
Mr Neil urged those who felt they had been wrongly turned down for a continuing healthcare package to contact him and he would ensure the situation was 'properly investigated'.
He told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: 'The last thing I want to do as the health secretary is see people who are so seriously ill being denied the payment or the care they are entitled to. Where there is evidence, we will tackle that situation.'
Mr Neil insisted: 'If there is anyone, or anyone's carer or family, who feels they should have been receiving this payment and either haven't been told about it or aren't receiving it, please let us know because we will look at the case, case-by-case, and those who are entitled to it who haven't been getting it will be appropriately reimbursed.'
The health secretary said he believed only a small number of people would have been missing out, adding: 'The issue of whether somebody gets this payment or not is based on very clear, clinical criteria.
'Clearly there are a number of people, I think it's a small number, but there are obviously a number of people who feel they have been wrongly turned down for this support.
'If they feel that they have been wrongly turned down then let me know. I will have it properly investigated and if they are entitled to the payment they will get the payment.'
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: 'There needs to be delivery behind the SNP's rhetoric about improving access to care, but we also need some honesty about how it should be funded so that people in need benefit from clear and sustained levels of support.'
The Scottish Liberal Democrat also called for 'immediate clarity' on the issue.
Lib Dem health spokesman Jim Hume said: 'The health secretary must explain why the number of people being awarded funding for nursing care is decreasing when our population is living for longer and spending more years in ill health.'
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: 'This first minister has a responsibility to find out how many people in Scotland caring for critically ill relatives have been handing over thousands of pounds when they shouldn't have been - we need a full audit of every person in every health board who may be affected, either currently or historically, in order to ensure proper reparations are paid.'
Mr Salmond said people were assessed within the system at the moment.
He added: 'What needs to be done and will be done - and certainly will be done - is that we'll ensure that the regulations are properly followed.'
Mr Salmond stressed that there were opportunities for patients and their relatives to come forward.
'If there's anything that has been done contrary to these regulations then it will be rectified,' he added.
In one case, Robert Fyans asked for his mother to be assessed for continuing healthcare funding after a stroke left her severely brain damaged, but his request was refused.
The family were forced to sell their mother's flat in order to pay her care home costs. As there is no independent appeals process in Scotland, the Fyans family felt they could not challenge the decision.
Parkinsons UK, Alzheimer Scotland, the Stroke Association and MND Scotland have all told the BBC they have concerns about the implementation of continuing healthcare in Scotland.
The Stroke Association is now calling for every stroke survivor to receive an assessment of their needs.
Interim director in Scotland, Elspeth Molony, said: 'Some of the most severely disabled stroke survivors will also be eligible to receive a continuing care package which covers all their care costs from accommodation to personal and nursing care.
'However, not everyone entitled to this support is currently receiving it, meaning that many of the most severely disabled survivors are left struggling to cope with the after effects of stroke alone. This needs to change.'
Millions allocated to help heat homesHouseholders in every local authority in Scotland are to benefit from almost £50 million of funding which will make their homes warmer, more environmentally friendly and easier and cheaper to heat.
Housing Minister Margaret Burgess announced today (June 13) that Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland (HEEPS) funding has been allocated to all Scottish local authorities.
The investment, targeted at fuel poor households, will be used for the installation of energy efficiency measures such as solid wall, cavity and loft insulation.
The funding is expected to help lever around £125 million of investment from major utility companies to deliver the projects.
Mrs Burgess today visited a Dalkeith householder who has had external wall insulation fitted through previous HEEPS funding saving around £500 a year.
Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess said:
“The Scottish Government is determined to help householders stay warm and reduce their energy bills.
“Basic energy efficiency measures can make a huge difference to Scottish families who are struggling to make ends meet, allowing them to heat their homes more cost effectively.
“Today’s funding will see thousands more homes across Scotland receive new measures like solid wall insulation– helping to drive down the number of people living in fuel poverty.
“This further investment will also help to generate work and support jobs – providing a much needed boost to our economy.
“To help tackle fuel poverty we are actively working with councils and energy companies to ensure that Scotland continues to get its fair share of funding for efficiency programmes like these. Unlike the UK Government, we believe it is important to provide this type of funding, which is why we are committing around a quarter of a billion pounds to it in this spending review period.
“Rising energy bills remain a huge concern for this government and there is still funding available to local authorities. We urge councils to consider applying for additional support.”
Midlothian councillor Owen Thompson, cabinet member for housing, said:
“So far, we have organised external wall insulation for 200 private homes in Mayfield and the scheme has been very successful in helping local families.
“Our aim is to help people out of poverty in Midlothian and we are delighted to be involved in this project, which offers a reduction in household energy bills and excellent carbon savings benefiting the environment.
“Going forward we will continue to work with the Scottish Government on the HEEPS scheme and hope it will benefit many more householders throughout Midlothian in the months and years to come.”
Commenting on the HEEPS announcement, David Sigsworth Independent Chair of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum, said:
“This is just the start to the new programmes we need – allocations of funding to councils to enable them to put in place programmes to tackle fuel poverty where it is most needed.
“The Forum understands that not all of the available funding has been allocated to date and is encouraging councils to look at what further steps they can take to realise their fuel poverty plans.”
Householders who would like to know more about this and other Scottish Government funded offers can contact the Scottish Government’ s Home Energy Scotland hotline on 0808 808 2282 or visit www.homeenergyscotland.org
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
GPs not ‘supporting’ Atos disabled patientsGPs will be seen as “lacking compassion” over their refusal to provide support letters for disabled patients who face losing benefits as a result of the overhaul of the welfare system, MSPs warned today.
Doctors in Glasgow are now reconsidering the controversial move after an outcry from vulnerable groups which have been hit by measures like the bedroom tax.
The leader of Scotland’s GPs, Dr Alan McDevitt, told Holyrood’s health committee today they are being overhwelmed by additional work and warned that the situation will damage wider patient care.
GPs must fill out initial forms from Atos, the firm helping implement the changes like the new universal benefit, which set out the fitness of claimants to work. The row has erupted over additional letters being sought by vulnerable people if they have been ruled fit to work, but argue this is unfair. Doctors say they don’t have the resources to do this.
But Tressa Burke, a director and trustee with Inclusion Scotland, slammed the approach from doctors.
“The only thing between disabled people and far greater harm, either through destitution through removal of benefits or serious deterioration in their mental or physical health through being forced to work when they’re not fit to do so, is a letter from their GP,” she told the committee.
“That this is being refused is wrong - professionally, legally and morally.”
She added: “It seems like a really unfair and unjust punishment that the solution is to just not to provide the evidence.
“Glasgow disabled people are losing out in a devastatuing way with potential consequences for their income, their participation in society and their helath and well-being.”
Ms Burke said the only way that disabled people can challenge decisions against them is for a doctor to provide a letter.
She added: “This is not the right response and we ask that the decision be reversed.
“This will make the situation much, much worse.”
Nationalist Glasgow MSP Bob Doris said posters had been appearing in recent weeks in surgeries in the city urging patients not to even request extra support letters.
“These posters are basically saying don’t ask in the first place,” Mr Doris said.
“I have a fundamental concern with that. My constituents will see it as a lack of compassion from some GPs and its a lack of compassion from the very people in their community that they trust the most.
“That seeming lack of passion will be corrosive and erode trust in the people who are the most important people in some of the most deprived communities to help vulnerable people.”
Mr Doris said this is how it will be interpreted among vulnerable groups, but was not his opinion.
Mr McDevitt said the posters have now been removed in response to “negative feedback” to the local medical committee in Glasgow which was behind them.
“They’re reconsidering whether that’s the right response,” he added.
“The problem still remains should everyone get an additional report or should only some people when I decide to grant them tha."
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