Friday, 30 August 2013

PALM Launch

Really enjoyed the launch of PALM at Balerno Parish Church this week. Hosted in St Joseph's Hall, PALM (People with Advanced Loss of Memory) is a new group created -

  • To provide a space for people with memory loss and their carers to meet others for support and social contact.
  • To use activities such as music, movement, reminiscence and craft to enhance the wellbeing of the person with advanced memory loss.
  • To provide an opportunity for informal support and information for carers.

    More details on the Balerno Church website. It was really well attended and it looks like this could be a popular monthly routine. As we know, with an ageing population and an increase in age related health conditions we need to look more to providing community based services that support people in their own homes and their own area. Not forgetting  a bit of support for carers too obviously and the PALM cafĂ© aims to do this.
    Congratulations and thanks to Kay and her colleagues for staging such a successful opening event and to the church for hosting. Looks like this will grow and there's obviously a need for such initiatives.

    Monday, 26 August 2013

    51st Balerno Scouts marching on and handing over the baton

    Was delighted to accept an invite to the 51st Balerno Scouts AGM on Friday night. A significant meeting in many ways as Lawrence Mitchell, with 20 odd years of supporting the Scouts at many levels, standing down as Group Scout Leader and handing over the reigns to a worthy successor in John Henderson. As with many such organisations this scout group exists largely due to the generous support and contribution from numerous volunteers and 51st Balerno is in fact thriving and very successful due to that commitment. Several young members of the group received various certificates of achievement and then after a lovely tribute to Lawrence the meeting was adjourned and the cheese and wine got underway. Very enjoyable it was too and nice social way to end the evening. If you want more info check out their web site on this link.

    Tynecastle yesterday was rocking. If all the games are going to be like the last three (Hibs, Partick, Aberdeen) that I've been to then its going to be some season. Passion, excitement, incident some good football and late goals makes for a compelling spectacle. Okay, it's our current predicament that's produced that heady mix, but in the face of adversity its up to everyone to rise to the occasion and the fans, the players and the club are certainly doing that.

    Tuesday, 13 August 2013

    Our Glass House

    Was delighted to attend the launch of Our Glass House this afternoon. A play produced by Common Wealth Theatre Ltd as part of the Fringe deals with the issue of domestic abuse and is staged in an empty house in Westburn, Wester Hailes. Different strands of the performance telling separate stories are played out in different rooms and coincide and collide and combine to produce a very powerful experience. The audience watches on but does not intervene. The invited guests then adjourned to the Whale Arts centre for some formalities and a cuppa. Today's attendance was by professionals from various agencies ; the Council, Police, NHS, Scottish Government, Prospect Housing and the Edinburgh Violence Against Women Partnership, but I was delighted to hear that the twice daily shows are now sold out and that a  number of tickets were reserved for the local community and they too have been snapped up. Also delighted that the launch event was attended by new Police Scotland Chief Constable Steve House who has a well known commitment to tackling domestic abuse and carried out some significant work on this in his previous role in Strathclyde. A successful event and information was also provided of some good partnership working being developed. We need to build on this though and make sure that the messages of help and support for victims and confronting and changing the behaviour of perpetrators gets through to all our communities.

    Monday, 12 August 2013

    Big Hearts, Roddy Hart and back to business

    Not a bad weekend all in all. A hugely significant derby victory and Roddy Hart in concert. Hearts just about deserved the win, on commitment and desire, if nothing else and hopefully this will be a good start to what will be a long hard road to overhauling the 15 point deficit. Best wishes to Ryan Stevenson who picked up a bad injury after only 13 minutes. Next stop, Maryhill (Partick Thistle) on Friday night. Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire were awesome at the Assembly Rooms last night, uber cool and a modern day combination of Johhny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and Gerry Rafferty, can't understand why the lad isn't a huge star by now. Semi acoustic set (with the full band from what I could tell) in the ballroom which had been transformed into an intimate all seated venue that was perfect for the occasion. 

    Back to business this week though, community meetings each night in Currie, Balerno and Wester Hailes. Expecting a full house at the Balerno public meeting tomorrow to discuss Green Belt issues and the recent spate of applications by developers to build on various fields in the area. Currie Community Council tonight, Wester Hailes Community Council special meeting on Wednesday to discuss public transport links to the new Healthy Living Centre and Balerno Community Council on Thursday. Oh yeah ! the summer hols are over !

    Thursday, 8 August 2013

    Speak Up Speak Out

    Not funny and not sexy I'm afraid. Amid the fun and frolics of the largest arts festival in the world the Council has launched its public protection Speak Up Speak Out campaign. This part of the campaign focuses on older people and is designed to encourage older people themselves or family or friends to report any suspicions they may have about older people being harmed. It could be physical, psychological or financial and the message is that it must stop and there is help for people who don't know where to turn. Material will be circulated throughout the city in Council buildings and through our partners in the voluntary sector as well as newspaper and radio ads. Full details are here on the Council's Speak Up Speak Out blog page. Feel free to keep a note of numbers and hand them on to people who may wish to use them.

    Thursday, 1 August 2013

    Welfare Reform / Bedroom Tax - Edinburgh Update

    The latest Welfare Reform update report goes to the Council's Policy and Strategy Committee next Tuesday (6th August). As would be expected for a professionally written report by Council officials it is purely factual and not designed to be contentious or political, however, when one considers that there's a person, a family, and a story behind each of the statistics it does make for depressing reading.

    You can read the report in full on this link to the Council's website but the edited highlights (???) are as follows -

    The Council, in partnership with the voluntary sector has applied for more funding for advice services, so that we can tell people exactly how much financial doo doo they're in and hopefully help them climb out.

    The Benefit Cap, introduced in London boroughs in spring is likely to be rolled out in Edinburgh at the end of this month.

    Scottish Welfare Fund Grants, disbursed by the Council, are within budget and the relationship with Bethany Christian Trust who provide furniture to people on our behalf appears to be working particularly well.
    At the end of May 2013 there were 3,566 Council tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax. Prior to implementation on 1 April 2013, 969 (27%) of affected tenants were in arrears; by the end of May and this had increased to 2561 (72%). In terms of rental income it is estimated that in the eight weeks following the 1 April 2013, around £390,000 (69%) of the £560,000 of rent due, has not been collected. As I've mentioned before this money should be used to pay for Council housing staff and to finance investment in existing and new homes. 
    Next step is to prepare for the introduction of direct payment of Universal Credit (all benefits lumped together basically) and paid direct to the tenant rather than the housing element paid to the Council (or RSL) as it is now. Happy days !!!

    Discretionary Housing Payment (short term awards based on circumstances) spend is within budget (£1.348m). Up to 5 June 2013, there had been a total of 1134 DHP claims assessed, 831 ongoing awards, 19 one-off payments and 284 refusals. This equates to 75% of applications receiving an award, a rate that is markedly higher than the Scottish average of 44%. We've also received news this week that due to a DWP miscalculation we are to receive an additional £80k, one small crumb of comfort amidst the unremitting gloom.

    Now, moving on to benefits for people with severe illness or disabilities -

    the ongoing replacement of Incapacity Benefit and related benefits by Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), with more stringent medical tests, greater conditionality and time-limiting of non-means tested entitlement for all but the most severely ill or disabled: the DWP intends to complete this process by 2014; and the phased replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) by Personal Independence Payments (PIP), including more stringent and frequent medical tests, (sometimes carried out by ATOS, who you may have heard of) as the basis for financial support to help offset the additional costs faced by individuals with disabilities.

    From 7 October 2013, existing recipients of DLA will begin to be transferred to PIP and from October 2015 all the remaining claimants in receipt of a DLA award will be invited to make a claim for PIP. DWP will randomly select those recipients of DLA in receipt of an indefinite award or a fixed term award, and notify them about what they need to do to claim PIP. The intention is that this process will be completed by October 2017.

    The new benefit is expected to bring an anticipated reduction of expenditure by 20% on current levels and an anticipated 55% of current DLA recipients will receive reduced benefit or will be refused PIP when the reassessment takes place. 

    The conclusion is that more people will experience more hardship and uncertainty and as result will seek more support from Council services. This, at a time when budgets are reducing, inflation is rising and demand for services is already expected to increase due to other factors.

    I'm not normally a pessimist but it's difficult to see a bright side in all of this :o(