29 Jun 2011

Paisley Daily Express - 29 June 2011

Care Homes Concerns
With more of us living longer, care for the elderly is becoming more of an issue. Recent press reports about the abuse and maltreatment of older people is a real worry. Also of concern is the financial stability of major care home companies. Some of these companies have used questionable financial methods to try to cash in on what they thought was a lucrative market. Care has not always been the priority.

Over the years steps have been taken to strengthen the role of inspectors who will ensure that our vulnerable elderly are protected and that high standards are maintained. And here in Renfrewshire we need the support of these inspectors. In Renfrewshire, thirteen percent (13%) of care homes for the elderly have been graded either unsatisfactory or weak. It’s shocking that our loved ones are having to live in these circumstances.

And what do you expect your MSP’s to do about this? Well the Health Committee has the responsibility to examine these issues. So exactly why did the SNP use its new found majority to refuse to invite the inspectors to give evidence to the Committee? What exactly do SNP members fear that the inspectors might say? Alex Salmond promised to use his new found majority wisely. What does he have to fear from a public examination of the facts? Refusing to allow MSP’s to find out why some care homes are failing is hardly a wise move. It looks like Alex Salmond wants to use his majority to shut down hard questions. Surely the vulnerable elderly deserve better?

A future for our children?
A country’s future is our young people. The economic downturn is hurting ordinary people right across the UK. Well, almost everyone. The financiers who caused the crisis and the top bosses are again raking in the millions. Many of them have been generous donors to the Tory Party. And what about our children? Last week we saw the sobering statistic that one in seven school leavers in Scotland are heading straight to unemployment. What a waste and what a disgrace. Alex Salmond needs to spend the summer working on an action plan to give our young people a future.

Young Criminals
We all know that if youngsters don’t have a job and are left at a loose end, then they can often become involved in bad behaviour and criminality. The social problems caused by unemployment were starkly seen during the Thatcher years. But of course we also know that sometimes young people with money in their pocket can stray from the straight and narrow.

When young people break the law or commit anti social behaviour, then they need to face the consequences. I’ve been worried that for the last few years, the SNP Ministers have been giving out a clear signal that we should go soft on tackling young people who step out of line. Last week we found out that more than half of all young offenders aged 16 and 17, including some sex offenders and violent criminals, will not be prosecuted. The Scottish Government has issued guidance to prosecutors and the police to reduce the number of young adults facing trial. Surely sex offenders and violent criminals deserve to be sent for trial?

Welcome probe
Over the last couple of years, energy companies have hiked up the price of gas and electricity. At the same time these companies have been reporting huge profits. Many families are worried about fuel bills. Some elderly are having to think about switching on their heating. These hikes in prices hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. I welcome the announcement that Ofgem is to conduct an investigation into the price rises announced by Scottish Power. But Ofgem should not stop at Scottish Power. I want to see all the major fuel companies investigated.