South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has hit out at the Tory led UK Government this week over a callous decision to force newly-retired people with partners younger than the state retirement age of 65 to claim Universal Credit, rather than Pension Credit.
The change came into force on Wednesday, 15 May, despite calls from Age Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, Engender, MSPs, MPs and campaigners who have expressed concerns about the impact this move will have on some of Scotland’s poorest pensioners.
The switch to Universal Credit could cost affected households £140.44 per week, or £7,320 per year. Put another way, the Pension Credit Guarantee tops up a couple’s income to a minimum of £12,940 per year. Under Universal Credit, the Standard Allowance entitles couples to less than half that amount.
Those affected by the loss of Pension Credit will also miss out on other aspects of social security delivery, as Pension Credit is a passporting benefit, enabling access to free NHS dental treatment, Cold Weather Payments, and help with Housing Benefit and Council Tax.
The Scottish Government estimate that, by 2020-21, 3,800 mixed-age households in Scotland, will collectively lose around £20.8 million.
The announcement was sneaked through on the day of the first ‘Meaningful Vote’ on Brexit.
Age Scotland issued a statement which said:
“Such an outrageous new policy will do nothing but penalise older couples of mixed age, making them poorer for living together”.
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:
“This decision by the UK Government is utterly disgraceful, plunging even more people into financial difficulty.
“These changes to Pension Credit eligibility will only exacerbate the situation already faced by women who are affected by the Tory increase in the state pension qualifying age.
“The proposed changes are extremely unfair and in exceptionally bad taste in light of other Tory proposals which hurt pensioners, including proposals to take away free TV Licences for over 75s and thousands more pensioners being pushed into poverty while the UK already has one of the lowest earnings to pension ratios in Europe.”
Joan McAlpine with Dumfries and Galloway Local, Stuart, at The Scottish Parliament for Enable Scotland's 65th Birthday
Scotland’s largest learning disability charity marked its 65th anniversary at the Scottish Parliament, making a vow to continue its campaigning for an equal society for every person with a learning disability.
At a reception at the Scottish Parliament attended by South Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, ENABLE Scotland celebrated 65 years since, in April 1954, five sets of parents of children who had a learning disability held a meeting in Glasgow and formed the charity to help them fight for their children’s rights to live as equal members of society. That charity would become ENABLE Scotland, and from humble beginnings set about changing Scotland for people who have a learning disability.
Around 120,000 people have a learning disability in Scotland. According to the charity, many are lonely and isolated, are victims of bullying and hate crime, are unable to find work and have lower life expectancy than the general population.
A recent Scottish Government report found more than 700 people with complex needs are still in institutional placements far from home, and the experiences of pupils, parents and teachers show that more must be done to deliver the objectives of additional support for learning legislation to make our schools truly inclusive.
Joan McAlpine MSP said:
“I am proud to support ENABLE Scotland’s work at national and local level as they campaign on issues from bullying, to transport, and access to healthcare, education and jobs – all with a view to building an equal society for every person who has a learning disability.
“I was delighted to attend ENABLE Scotland’s anniversary reception, and I wish all of their members, staff, volunteers, supporters and everyone the charity works with a very happy 65th birthday.”
The charity’s CEO Theresa Shearer said:
“For 65 years, ENABLE Scotland has been breaking barriers – winning the right of children who have a learning disability to be educated, securing the closure of institutions and the right to self-directed support in the community of your choice, and campaigning against bullying and discrimination.
“We continue that work today, and through our strong partnerships, ongoing innovation and the continued backing of our members and supporters, I am confident we will be here for as long as people with learning disabilities need us to campaign for them and give them a voice. We will be here until every person with a learning disability lives the life they choose.”
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon was a guest speaker at the event, and said:
“Congratulations to ENABLE Scotland for its fantastic work enriching the lives of people living with learning disabilities across Scotland for the last 65 years.
“ENABLE Scotland has been an essential partner for the Scottish Government, helping to tackle inequalities and supporting the ambitions set out in our learning disability strategy for everyone in Scotland to live full, healthy and rewarding lives.”
ENABLE Scotland has grown over the years to be the country’s largest learning disability charity, with more than 5,000 members across 38 local branches throughout Scotland, plus a growing network of 28 ACE Groups – Active Communities of Empowered people who have learning disabilities – and 9 ACE Youth Groups.
The charity is also one of Scotland’s largest third sector social care providers, commissioned by local authorities across the country to deliver services to support people who have learning disabilities to live the life they choose. Through a combination of its charitable, employment and social care services, ENABLE Scotland supports almost 3,000 people who have learning disabilities.
Joan McAlpine with Jane Ryder, OBE, Chair, Historic Environment Scotland and Alex Paterson, Chief Executive Historic Environment Scotland
Joan McAlpine Praises Dumfries and Galloway at Historic Environment Scotland Event
SNP MSP for South Scotland, Joan McAlpine, has celebrated the unique cultural heritage of Dumfries and Galloway at a Scottish Parliament reception to launch Historic Environment Scotland’s new corporate plan ‘Heritage for All’.
Ms. McAlpine, who is also convener of the Scottish Parliament’s committee on Culture, Tourism, Europe, and External Affairs, sponsored the event in parliament and used her opening speech to highlight Dumfries and Galloway heritage sites which have benefitted from HES custodianship since the body was established in 2015 by the Scottish Government.
She praised high-profile attractions like Caerlaverock Castle, which is being brought to life using VR technology. Ms. McAlpine also drew attention to several smaller projects which have benefitted from HES investment, including parish churches in Sanquhar, Dunscore, Kirkcudbright, and Thornhill.
She also singled out restoration projects to bring older buildings back into good repair in order to benefit the community, including Annandale Distillery, Moat Brae children’s literature centre, Moffat town hall, and the Crichton memorial church. The funding HES provide for such projects helps support local businesses, social enterprises and voluntary groups.
HES also manage 12,525 Canmore Galloway records, 33,000 catalogued archives, and have a role in safeguarding 3367 listed buildings locally.
Historic Environment Scotland is the result of a merger between previous public bodies ‘Historic Scotland’ and ‘The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland’.
Speaking to gathered guests, Joan McAlpine said:
“In Scotland we are blessed with a rich cultural heritage, containing the most incredible built heritage, from medieval castles, through Georgian mansions to ancient brochs.
“The committee I currently chair is responsible for overseeing the work of HES and it is clear the merger is a considerable success – I think we were all particularly impressed when conducting our pre- budget scrutiny last year when HES told us that there were so many people visiting their properties, that their self-generated income was actually growing.
“This reflects the success story and indeed the passion for Scotland’s heritage by our growing cohort of international visitors as well as Scots themselves.
“It’s clear that many people are already enjoying Scotland’s cultural heritage, and I am really looking forward to hearing about how Historic Environment Scotland plan to make sure that many more people get to enjoy that heritage.”
9 March 2019
A cancer patient from Brydekirk has reached out to local MSP Joan McAlpine to ask for help promoting Bowel Cancer Awareness Month this April and to encourage others to undertake their regular screening tests.
Mrs Myra Little was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the end of January after sending off a routine screening sample in the post. She received a letter back right away telling her that cancer cells had been detected. Within seven days she’d had a colonoscopy, a week later a scan and a week after that had undergone surgery to remove the tumour.
“I’d heard stories about waiting times for treatment so was afraid when I first got the diagnosis,” says Mrs Little. “But the service I’ve had has been incredible and I was so relieved when the tumour was fully removed within just 21 days. I’m so grateful for everything the NHS has done for me and I can’t thank them enough. We’re so lucky to have such hard working, dedicated people in the NHS who care for us so well. I still have to undergo a course of chemotherapy to stop the cancer returning but I’m confident going forward that I’ll receive the best care possible.”
Mrs Little wanted to take advantage of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month to encourage others take part in the screening process. “The bowel screening kit is such a brilliant initiative, everyone should complete it so that no cases go undiagnosed. If I hadn’t sent off mine it might have been too late by the time I found out.”
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine agrees. Commenting, she says,
“I’m delighted that Mrs Little has had such a positive experience with our local NHS, and that her treatment has been so prompt and successful. It’s great that she’s now speaking up to encourage others to carry out their tests and send them back.
“Like Mrs Little, many people with bowel cancer show no symptoms. That’s why it’s really important to undergo regular screening. The test kits are posted out to everyone on a regular basis once you reach 50. It’s been simplified so it’s really quick and easy to carry out at home yourself.
“I’d encourage everyone to send back their sample as soon as possible after they arrive through the post. It’s a free service, it’s really effective it could save your life.”
Notes to Editors:
Image of Joan McAlpine MSP and Myra Little attached
Bowel Cancer Awareness Month is an initiative promoted by the charity Bowel Cancer UK, it takes place throughout April.
More information on is available at https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/support-us/bowel-cancer-awareness-month
South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that tenant farmers, David and Alison Telfer from Canonbie, have won their fight against eviction from their farm at Cleuchfoot, near Canonbie.
Ms McAlpine has been campaigning on behalf of the couple and has raised their plight in parliament, the media and with the Scottish Land Commission.
Now a deal has been brokered between the commission’s tenant farming representative and the new owners of the land which the Telfers tenant.
They’d been told to leave by the Duke of Buccleuch when he put the land up for sale as part of the Evertown Estate last year. The couple had previously been under the impression they could remain until their retirement in a few years’ time, but the Duke then changed his mind. Over 89,000 people had signed a 38 Degrees petition asking him to reconsider and accusing him of removing tenants to secure lucrative forestry grants. The Duke went ahead with his plans anyway.
But now the new owner, James Jones of James Jones & Sons Ltd, the timber manufacturers in Lockerbie, has agreed to let the Telfers remain at the farm until their original retirement date.
Commenting, Ms McAlpine says,
“I’m delighted to hear that the Telfers have won their fight to remain at Cleuchfoot. They’ve been at the farm for over 20 years and had expected remain there for the rest of their working lives. It was a shock for them to be told they’d have to move away and start over again with just a few years to go until they retired.
“The new owners, James Jones & Sons Ltd deserve credit for extending the Telfer’s lease. They were under no legal obligation to keep them on but I believe they have made the right moral decision.
“I know, too, that Bob McIntosh, the Tenant Farming Commissioner at The Scottish Land Commission has been working with both the Telfers and the new owners to find an amicable solution. I’d like to thank Bob for all his hard work on this case, it shows the commission, which was set up as part of the SNP’s land reform programme, is really making a difference in rural Scotland. I’m delighted that their intervention has led to such a positive outcome.”
"I'd also like to thank the organisers of the 38 Degrees petition who gathered 89,000 names of people who wanted to support Alison and David."
South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has written to local NHS Chief, Nick Morris, to challenge his reasons for failing to back a campaign to appoint a clinical nurse specialist for children with epilepsy in Dumfries and Galloway.
NHS D&G is the only health board area in Scotland that doesn’t employ a dedicated paediatric epilepsy nurse. This is despite claims by Epilepsy Scotland, Epilepsy Action and the Royal College of Nursing that the role is essential for children with the condition,
The SNP MSP had teamed up with local parents of children with epilepsy to campaign for the appointment of the nurse. But Mr Morris, the Chairman of NHS Dumfries & Galloway, says the role is unnecessary because they already employ a hospital based Community Children’s Nurse who has had training in epilepsy.
The group of parents who established the campaign disagree. They say the CNN has been unable to offer them the level of care that their children require with some of them yet to have any contact at all. Others say CCN’s are in no way trained to the level of a specialist paediatric nurse and are unable to offer the kind of direct support relationship with them that a specialist nurse could.
Commenting, Ms McAlpine says,
“I’ve written to Mr Morris to ask him to meet with the parents. Children’s services in NHS Dumfries and Galloway are currently undertaking a service needs analysis and the meeting would be beneficial in contributing towards this analysis.
“Mr Morris has claimed that only 20 children in the region require access to a Community Children’s Nurse out of an estimated 40 to 50 who have epilepsy. However, Epilepsy Scotland dispute that figure. They say it’s more like 150 children in Dumfries & Galloway who are suffering from the condition.
“I’m very concerned that the figures being quoted by the health board are being disputed by both people with lived experience and the main epilepsy charity, and believe more work needs to be done on this. But even if the NHS is correct it’s still unacceptable that only twenty children have a healthcare plan in relation to rescue medication in epilepsy or for managing seizures, when potentially a lot more require them.”
“I’ve also written to the Scottish Health Secretary, Jeanne Freeman, to ask for her support. The need for a specialist nurse in our region is even more acute than in other areas of the country because the consultant paediatric neurologist who specialises in epilepsy is based in Glasgow and only visits the region every few months. Also, Scottish Borders have their own paediatric epilepsy nurse despite having an even smaller population than Dumfries and Galloway.”
SNP MSP for South Scotland Joan McAlpine has praised hard working staff at NHS Dumfries and Galloway after the latest statistics showed increased staffing levels across Scotland - helping give patients the best possible care.
The region is benefitting from an increase in the numbers of staff working for NHS Dumfries and Galloway - part of a Scotland-wide increase that has seen the NHS workforce reach record levels in 2018.
NHS Dumfries and Galloway had its full-time equivalent staff levels increase from 3537 to 3670 - a rise of 3.8%.
Thanks to the SNP's 2019/20 budget, NHS Dumfries and Galloway is set to receive an extra £10m in spending power - a 3.5% increase on last year's spending.
Commenting, SNP MSP for South Scotland Joan McAlpine says:
"Staff are the lifeblood of our NHS here in Dumfries and Galloway - and it is welcome news there are record numbers working in our hospitals and surgeries across Scotland.
"NHS Dumfries and Galloway will now benefit from having even more dedicated and highly skilled staff in our hospitals and surgeries - ensuring people in our region receive the world-class care that they have come to expect from our NHS.
"Of course we understand there are particular challenges in all rural areas recruiting some specialisms, and the board is working hard on recruitment. However these figures show real progress is being made.
"As a cherished public service the SNP will continue to ensure our health service is properly funded and fit for the future."