8 Jul 2013

Paisley Daily Express - 8 July 2013


The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is, as the name suggests, an organisation dedicated to the prevention of child cruelty. It has its origins in Victorian times after the question was asked, “Whilst we have a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, can we not do something to prevent cruelty to children?” It’s sad that this Victorian humanitarian initiative is still required in 21st century Scotland. Just last week, the Paisley Daily Express highlighted the case of one foster mother inflicting years of appalling abuse on those children in her care.

I recently met with Matt Forde and Joanne Smith of the NSPCC to discuss their report “How safe are our children?” The report acknowledges that in some ways, today’s children are safer from abuse and neglect than those of previous generations. Unfortunately the report also suggests that the extent of child abuse and neglect in our society remains deeply worrying. It says that child abuse is more prevalent and more devastating than many of us are prepared to recognise. It suggests that in one recent year, 2,900 rapes or attempted rapes of children under the age of 13 were recorded in Scotland, England and Wales.

The shocking revelations about Jimmy Savile confirm what the NSPCC has been saying. And Jimmy Savile was not alone. But we also know that there is growing abuse through the increasing amount of time which children are spending on the internet and social networking. Social work services are already stretched to the limit and cuts to Council budgets are going to make this worse.

That’s why the NSPCC is saying we need a different approach to child protection; one that does more to prevent abuse from happening rather than having to react once it happens. The NSPCC is also calling on wider society, that’s you and me, to take more responsibility. It’s calling on us to act if we are worried about a child. The NSPCC is right, we can’t afford to look away when it comes to a child’s wellbeing and safety.

Huntington’s Disease

I was delighted to see one of our hardest working local charities, the Scottish Huntington's Association, winning a significant award from the Big Lottery's Young Start Fund. They're using it to set up a new service to support young people living in families with the degenerative brain disorder Huntington's Disease (HD).

The 'HD Generations' project will develop an online workbook that the team will use with teenagers to explain the implications of being diagnosed with HD.

Being hereditary means it's not just the person diagnosed affected by the condition, it impacts on the whole extended family. Learning about HD at an early age better equips young people for some of the difficult life decisions that they may have to take when they're older.

Each child of someone diagnosed with HD is at 50% risk of developing the condition themselves. Over time it causes changes to muscle control, thinking processes and may cause long-term mental health issues. There is no cure, so the more initiatives that can be supported to improve the lives of those living with HD the better.

If you want to know more about the Association go to www.hdscotland.org or call 0141 848 0308.

Stamp Duty

The Scottish Parliament has just passed a new law bringing in a new tax to replace Stamp Duty. The new tax will take effect from April 2015. There are real problems of unfairness with the present system and something had to be done. What I can’t understand is why Alex Salmond’s Ministers are refusing to announce the rates and tax bands until after the Referendum on whether Scotland should separate from the U.K. Why can’t he tell us now what we might expect to pay when a house is bought and sold?

Books for South Africa

Recent news coverage of Nelson Mandela's illness has reminded the world of Mandela's enormous contribution to ending apartheid and encouraging peace and reconciliation in South Africa. The United Nations has designated every 18th July, Mandela's birthday, as Nelson Mandela International Day. On that day, Action for South Africa is asking people to mark the event by donating children's books which can be sent to school libraries in Nelson Mandela's home province. The books obviously should be in good condition. I am delighted that we have a collection point in Renfrewshire. Brian Evans at the Independent Financial Advice Centre has agreed to collect all Renfrewshire donations. So if you have any unwanted children's books, why not drop them off at the Independent Financial Advice Centre, 67 Causeyside Street, Paisley, PA1 1YT?