Saturday, 29 December 2012

A Co-operative New Year ?

Enjoyed a very productive visit to CASA Knowsley (on the edge of Liverpool) just before Christmas. Part of the Care And Share Associates (CASA) Group, based in Newcastle, CASA Knowsley are one of a handful of care co-operatives in the north of England. Basically, a workers owned and run company they recruit locally, often from the ranks of the long term unemployed, and deliver local domiciliary care services in and around their own community. A true co-operative, their strength appears to lie literally in the sense of ownership felt by their workers which leads to a real commitment to the task, much lower turn over of staff and therefore lower recruitment and re-training costs. They still have to compete for Council contracts against private sector businesses and third sector organsations but where they have successfully secured contracts the evidence is that high quality services are delivered and people enjoy being part of the organisation. Don't know if the concept can be transplanted to Edinburgh but given our commitment to creating the Co-operative Council it's an idea whose time may have arrived. Needless to say talks are continuing and if we do set up something similar, remember where you heard it first !

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Santa's Little Helper

Crap photo, but you get the idea...
Had a great time last night helping the Currie and Balerno Round Table on one of their famous Santa Runs. Santa and Rudolph manned the brightly lit and very noisy (all the Christmas classics, Cliff, Slade, the Pogues et al) Santa Buggy with myself and about another 6 or 7 elfs knocking doors, collecting money and making sure any children that wanted to meet Santa got their chance. He seemed to go down well with children of all ages actually with an excitement and expectation that the Round Table and Santa would perform their customary pre Christmas rounds. We covered all the Riccartons, Bryces, Weavers Knowe and then had time head up to Kirkbrae and Blinkbonny. A three hour stint in all and then back to the recently refurbished Riccarton Arms for a well earned pint and count the night's proceeds. £727.75 was the grand total and testament to the generosity of the good folks of Currie. The money raised from this run and the other 11 in other parts of the community goes to local charities and good causes throughout the rest of the year so a very worthwhile exercise all round.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Not Caring

Very productive and informative meeting with Seb and his colleagues at Vocal (Voice Of Carers Across Lothian) this week. If Health and Social Care Integration and Self Directed Support are to work and we achieve our ambition of more community based care services and less unnecessary time spent in hospital then the role of carers, often close family members, is crucially important. And not just because of the important work they do, but because they have vital experience that should inform our policy making and preparation for the two initiatives mentioned above. I think we have come a long way in recognising the voice of carers, the recent appointment of our Carers Champion for example, but we need to continue the joint work going forward. I was keen to reiterate that if we do make mistakes (not unheard of) that Vocal and other carer organisations need to tell us so that we can get things back on track quickly. I look forward to working with Vocal and others in the months and years ahead.

Wester Hailes Community Council on Wednesday evening where we had a lengthy discussion about the underpass/link from the new Healthy Living Centre to the Shopping Centre. We've run into problems again and I share the CC's disappointment and frustration that we keep running into issues and can't make the progress we need. Further thought is required. On a positive note the HLC itself is progressing well and looks very impressive.

On Friday I attended my first meeting of the Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty at the CoSLA offices in Edinburgh. We discussed a paper that analyses the impact of the Chancellor's Autumn statement (issued in mid December!) Among other things Gideon Osborne announced that various benefits will be capped at 1% increase each year rather than the rate of inflation (RPI or CPI). You wouldn't think the difference between 1% and 2.2% would make that much difference but you'd be surprised, I was. Shocked actually, based on a basket of only 5 benefits (tax credit calculations are still to be added) Edinburgh will lose over £3.1m each year with the overall figure for Scotland £35m. That's £35m directly out of the pockets of the poorest people in Scotland. 'Tis the season of goodwill to all ? Aye, right.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Big Build Up

Santa and Carols
Having attended a couple of the Council group Christmas parties on Friday night, the Tories plied us with mulled wine and mince pies, while the SNP was more Karaoke and lager, I made my way to Balerno's Christmas Farmers Market yesterday morning full of festive cheer and a fuzzy head. It was going like a fair though, as they say, the market was the busiest I've seen it with Christmas Carols in full swing and Balerno (Ravelrig) Riding for the Disabled providing pony rides up the Main Street. Official duties to perform though and myself and Alistair Darling were duly escorted to the three different locations hosting decorated Christmas trees as part of the annual competition. About 40 in all and they were all excellent, so we debated and agonised before announcing that the winner was the Balerno Baby and Toddlers Group, see below. Second was the 3rd Balerno Brownies and 3rd was the local Fair Trade group. Nice community spread of honours I'd say. 

And the winner is ....
Managed a half pint with Paul and a few regulars in the Grey Horse before drawing the raffle for the ubiquitous Christmas Hamper. In a nice twist they had already decided to donate the proceeds evenly to the Syrian Humanitarian Aid stall and the Cyrenians whose stalls were side by side. What a coincidence. Nice touch a very much the embodiment of the modern Christmas message, in my humble opinion.

Then off to Tynecastle for a satisfying 2-0 victory over Aberdeen. Last week's cup disappointment already a distant memory.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Just Another Saturday

Or not, as the case may be. Managed to haul myself out of my kip at a decent time this morning to head for Craigroyston High School in Muirhouse for the North Edinburgh / STUC Anti Poverty conference. A very healthy turn out was addressed by Terry Anderson from the STUC, local activist Willie Black, Kez Dugdale MSP and Independent columnist and author Owen Jones. A very stirring contribution from Owen in which he advocated a house building programme, jobs creation and better pay for low paid workers, all of which would contribute to rebuilding the economy. Difficult to disagree with the logic of his strategy. Might be a bit optimistic to expect this message to be heard or understood at Downing Street.

Unfortunately I couldn't hang around for the interesting looking workshop sessions as I'd already agreed to visit the Scottish Women's Aid Open Day. It was pleasure to meet everyone there and have a chat about the excellent work they do in Edinburgh and across Scotland, supporting women and their children who have been victims of domestic abuse.

In tackling the big issues, services and budgets often involving millions of pounds and services to hundreds or thousands of people it's sometimes easy to forget about the satisfaction that can be taken from a relatively small local success. This week I've had confirmation that we have secured the required funding to install a new set of goal posts at the pitch at Clovenstone. Very pleased to have been able to support their request and look forward to this improvement being delivered and used by local teams. Talking of which, starting to look forward to tomorrow's big cup tie at Easter Road with the usual mix of excitement and apprehension. I may be in a minority among Hearts fans but I really enjoy the trip to Easter Road, the atmosphere and tension will be intense. Here's hoping we're still in the Scottish Cup by tomorrow night.

And Finally - A Christmas Thought.....

If you REALLY loved your child, you'd prepare them for the real world by gluing all their advent doors shut and shouting "THAT'S LIFE KIDDO" 

Brought to us courtesy of October Jones on Twitter.