5 Oct 2011

Paisley Daily Express - 05 October 2011

Youth Unemployment
The UCS debate was a reminder that we can all do something to give our young people a future. Actions by the Tories and Lib Dems at Westminster, and inaction by Alex Salmond in Holyrood is leading a catastrophic situation for young people. The number of young people (18-24 year olds) out of work has increased again. The youth jobless statistics are worse than in any period since the Tories were last in power in January 1997. And it’s not just young people. More women are claiming benefit than at any time since August 1996. These statistics represent a waste of talent. We cannot afford to be complacent. If we fail to give this generation of young people a proper start in life, we could blight the rest of their lives. We need action to tackle the scourge of unemployment.

Carers Crisis
A recent survey has shown that less than one percent of Scots who are identified as carers, have actually received any services. The figure is getting worse. Just over a year ago 97 percent of carers did not have their needs assessed. And worse, of the few who actually have their needs assessed, only 0.2 percent actually received any services. Alex Salmond promised they would treat carers as partners and give them a more direct voice, with a “Carers Parliament”. But we need more than warm words of support. Why doesn’t Alex Salmond call a Carers’ Summit to get things moving? Carers provide an invaluable service and we should not take them for granted. 

Food Parcels?
David Cameron likes to talk about the “Big Society” and how the Tories have changed. Oh really? Recent press reports said that Hedge fund managers and financiers were pouring millions into the Tory party. Bankers’ pay and bonuses continues to soar and all in all, the wealthy are doing not too badly.
On the other hand, press reports indicate that many families in 21st Century Britain are having to turn to charities for food parcels. In Northamptonshire concerns have been raised about increased demand. In Harlow in Essex, there has been a 35% increase in demand. In Wales there has been “a sharp increase in demand”. In Shropshire food parcel schemes are expanding. And here in Scotland, a major national newspaper reported on “Breadline Scotland”. The paper reported that Jobcentres have been told to send desperate families to charity food banks. The Tory/Lib Dem benefit cuts will make it worse for the poor and the needy.
We like to think of ourselves as a civilised country. It’s a badge of shame that families are having to rely on charities for food in 21st Century Britain.

Bogus Collectors
Give with Care is a recently launched scheme which aims to increase public awareness about charity giving. The British public is incredibly generous with donations to help good causes here and abroad. But it’s not just money which is donated. More charities are collecting clothes and goods, often using doorstep collections. It’s a disgrace that a number of unscrupulous and bogus companies are trying to cash in on this generosity. These companies use misleading promotional literature that could lead the public to believe that their collections are for charitable causes.
The bogus literature often mentions vague causes rather than specific charities or good causes. I know that readers of the Paisley Daily Express are always quick to help out good causes and those in need. But I would urge you to be careful. If you don’t recognise the name or the charity, then think twice. These bogus collectors are stealing from genuine worthy causes. If you want information on this, call my office on 0141 848 7361.

Reid Kerr College
I recently spoke in a debate about Scotland’s colleges. Across Scotland, colleges provide a first class service to many who would otherwise be excluded from education. Here in Renfrewshire we are fortunate to have Reid Kerr College – a college with a reputation for excellence and commitment to local communities.
With the jobs crisis facing young people, we need to make sure that Reid Kerr and other colleges are able to respond to the demand for education and training.
Unfortunately the debate highlighted severe cuts by Alex Salmond’s Government, to our colleges, right across Scotland. We will pay a high price if we don’t educate and train our young people. Our colleges also offer a chance for education to women who missed out in further education first time round.
I hope Alex Salmond will think again. We need to shout loud and clear right across Scotland, that we value colleges like Reid Kerr.