Thursday, 18 April 2013

Foodbank Trolley Push

As can been seen in the photo I was happy to lend a hand to the Trussell Trust supported foodbank trolley push today, promoting and collecting for the growing network of foodbanks in the UK. The Edinburgh NW Foodbank were leading the charge today but I believe there are another couple in the city, all doing good work. They're also in the process of building a network of contacts with various organisations, churches, charities etc, many of who were represented today in the City Chambers Quadrangle, so that crisis help, in the form of food, can be provided where and when it is most needed. Its a sobering thought that in this day and age some people, and families, struggle to feed themselves. Sadly it seems there is a growing need for such support, much of which is provided by donations and co-ordinated by volunteers. Its a movement that's in its infancy but will definitely continue to grow.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Shared Lives

Big Fat Panda giving it laldy
Was delighted to speak at the relaunch of Edinburgh's Shared Lives programme this week. The scheme supports carers who are prepared to look after an adult with learning difficulties, either short or long term. Not a decision to be taken lightly obviously, but potentially rewarding and worthwhile for all parties. Part of a national scheme Shared Lives Plus, its an innovative way of supporting vulnerable adults in a home environment and is structured in a way that still ensures high care standards are met but not in an institutionalised setting. Its actually been going for a number of years and one of my fellow speakers, Nicky from Leith told the audience that him and his wife have been caring for the same lad for 44 years now. He spoke excellently about the challenges and rewards and stressed the need for commitment. Cleary that that's something that Nicky and his wife have by the barrow load.

Also managed to get to see Big Fat Panda at Bannermans on Thursday, supported by the Skababs. Excellent gig and the guys have produced a CD in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. There's a launch gig at the end of May and I'll certainly be going and will post more info nearer the time.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Holocaust Memorial Service

Attended the annual Jewish Holocaust Memorial service at the Peace Gardens in Prince's Street Gardens earlier this week. As ever, it was a short, dignified, solemn and moving event, hosted by Edinburgh's Jewish community. The memorial stone in the picture was placed there by the Council in conjunction with the local Jewish community about 20 years ago. I've been to the service a few times now and I think the attendance seems to grow slightly each year with more young people there this time than I've seen before. The old saying "You can't know where you're going, until you know where you've been" springs to mind and the crimes of the past must never be forgotten.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Edinburgh's No Eviction Policy

After some internal discussion with our Capital Coalition partners we have decided, like many other Scottish Councils, to commit to a No Eviction policy for Council tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax. There are real implications for the Council's Housing service in this approach but to be honest the Bedroom Tax was already putting investment plans and existing services at risk, not to mention taking money out of the pockets of some of the poorest people in Edinburgh. We simply couldn't contemplate taking eviction action against our tenants who make every effort to pay their rent and whose only crime is having the goalposts moved on them by Iain "£53/week" Duncan Smith and George Osborne, et al .....

The motion below has now been submitted for consideration to the Council's P&S Committee on 16 April.

Policy and Strategy Committee 16 April 2013

Motion By Councillor Ricky Henderson – Welfare Reform

1)         Committee wishes to express its concern regarding the impact that the range of Welfare Reform measures is having on people in Edinburgh.

2)         Specifically the Committee is concerned that, from April 2013, measures to reduce housing benefit for tenants of local authorities and housing associations (Bedroom Tax) have not taken account of the acute shortage of one bedroom homes.  This will lead to significant hardship for the tenants affected and increase the risk of homelessness.

3)         Committee is further concerned that these measures may have an adverse impact on council and housing association landlords’ rental income and their ability to invest in improving their own stock and in building new, affordable to heat, homes.

4)         Committee notes that there is a significant risk of a reduction of £45 million in capital investment, funded from the Housing Revenue Account, as a result of this and other measures.

5)         Committee agrees:

(a)             that where the Director of Services for Communities is satisfied that tenants who are subject to the under-occupancy charge have done all they reasonably could to avoid falling in to arrears, then all legitimate means to collect rent arrears should be utilised except eviction

(b)        to establish a joint working group that will include elected members, officials from Housing and Revenues and Benefits, Registered Social Landlords and tenants representatives. The role of the working group shall be to monitor the implementation and impact of various benefits changes and to contribute to consideration of further measures to support tenants.

(c)        to support calls by local campaigns to scrap the Bedroom Tax.