UK GOVERNMENT WARNED AGAINST “CALLOUS” THREAT TO PENSIONS IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

REPORT FINDS ELDERLY IN UK SUFFER THE WORST POVERTY RATE IN WESTERN EUROPE

SNP MSP, Joan McAlpine, has warned the Tory government against increasing the state pension age, which would have dire and disproportionate consequences in Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland.

The Tories’ threat comes following a report published by the Centre for Social Justice – chaired by close Boris Johnson ally, Iain Duncan Smith – which concludes that the state pension age should rise to 75 over the next 16 years.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has said that any further increases in the state pension age could have a hugely disproportionate impact on Scotland due to its unique demographic needs.

The MSP also called on the UK government to heed warnings raised in a new report that found the proportion of elderly people living in severe poverty in the UK is five times what it was in 1986 – the largest increase among western European countries.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:

“The Tory’s government’s approach to the UK’s elderly population and state pension policy has been cruel and callous.

 

“From the burning injustices facing the WASPI women who have been denied the right to their state pension, to the stripping away of free TV licences for the over 75s, this government’s attitude towards its older people is shameful.

 

“Instead of taking on board policies written up by one of the architects of Tory austerity, the new Prime Minister must take action to address the dire levels of pensioner poverty in the UK.

 

“The Tory government must take a step back and tackle these injustices – rather than ramping up the threats.”

 

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“GAME CHANGER” ANTI-POVERTY PAYMENT TO BENEFIT 13,400 CHILDREN

An estimated 13,400 children in 7,600 families across Dumfries and Galloway are expected to benefit from the Scottish Government’s ground breaking anti-poverty payment, it has been revealed.
 
The Scottish Child Payment will be worth £10 per child for low-income families by the end of 2022, with introduction for under-6s starting by early 2021.
 
The brand new benefit was described as a “game changer” and a “lifeline” by anti-poverty campaigners and is central to the SNP’s ambitions to tackle child poverty.
The Scottish Government this week published estimates, based on the number of Tax Credit recipients prior to the rollout of Universal Credit Full Service, showing how many children and families are expected to benefit in each local authority.
 
Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:
 
“The Scottish Child Payment is an ambitious and ground breaking new benefit that will directly tackle child poverty.
 
“When fully rolled out, the Scottish Child Payment will benefit over a third of all children – giving families £10 per week for every eligible child under 16 years old.
 
“Tory cuts are driving too many families into poverty – but the SNP are determined to use every power at our disposal to help families make ends meet.”


John Dickie, Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland: “This new payment is an absolute game changer in the fight to end child poverty. £10 a week for each child will make a real difference to families struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and pay for the ordinary school trips, sport and other activities that are fundamental to a decent childhood.  Today’s announcement is a landmark recognition of the role the Scottish social security system can play in ending child poverty. It’s now vital that the UK government follows suit and starts to use its powers in an equally positive way and scraps the universal credit two child limit and the UK benefit freeze, so that government at every level works together to protect children from poverty.”

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance: “Amid a rising tide of poverty, the new Scottish Child Payment will act as a lifeline for families struggling to stay afloat. An additional £10 per week will help unlock tens of thousands of children from poverty and underlines the important role that Scottish social security powers have to address poverty. The early introduction of the new payment in 2020/21 for families with children under six is particularly welcome, and shows what can be done when there is political will to address poverty.”
 
The qualifying benefits for the Scottish Child Payment include Universal Credit and all the legacy benefits it is replacing, as well as Pension Credit. Universal Credit is in the process of being rolled out and current caseloads across local authorities are not representative of the long-term steady state. We also have limited information on the number of children in families on Universal Credit.

Given these limitations, we have estimated the above figures by applying proportions from HMRC data on the number of children and families receiving Tax Credits in each local authority prior to the rollout of Universal Credit Full Service. To avoid double counting and because most families with children in receipt of legacy benefits receive tax credits we have not factored in other legacy benefits.

The above caveats mean that the figures should be treated with caution and could overestimate or underestimate the numbers eligible in individual local authorities. We will continue to refine our analysis of the Scottish Child Payment as we develop the policy.

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5,275 D&G HOUSEHOLDS HELPED IN TIME OF CRISIS

The Scottish Welfare Fund made 5,275 payments to people in Dumfries and Galloway in the last financial year, new figures show.

 
A total of 1,150 Community Care Grants and 4,125 Crisis Grants were awarded in Dumfries and Galloway over the year.
 
The money helped people with essentials such as food, heating costs and household items.          
 
The SNP introduced the Scottish Welfare Fund in 2013. The Fund is part of a £125 million annual package to mitigate the impact of UK government austerity.
 
Since its launch in April 2013, the Fund has paid out more than £200 million to support over 336,000 households across Scotland, with a third of recipients being families with children.
 
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:
 
“The Scottish Welfare Fund is a vital lifeline for many people facing poverty or personal crisis.
 
“The fact that so many households in Dumfries and Galloway are in need of emergency financial help is appalling, and a sad indictment of the UK Government’s record on austerity and welfare changes.
 
“The SNP would prefer these resources were invested directly to tackle poverty rather than protecting people from Tory austerity. 
 
“Indeed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty described it as outrageous that the Scottish Government had to divert funds to protect people from Westminster’s mess.
 
“The SNP will continue to do everything in our power to tackle poverty and support low income families. It’s time for the Tories to end their austerity agenda and stop forcing Dumfries and Galloway families into poverty.”
 
ENDS                                                              
 
Notes:
 
The Crisis Grant aims to help people in financial emergency, such as those struggling on low incomes or benefits                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
 
Community Care Grant aims to, among other things, help people set up home or help families facing exceptional pressures                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
In the UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty, Professor Philip Alston praised Scotland’s “ambitious” schemes for addressing poverty, including the Fairer Scotland Action Plan and the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. He noted Scotland’s “promising social security system, guided by the principles of dignity and social security as a human right, and co-designed with claimants on the basis of evidence”
 
The Scottish Government’s response to the Special Rapporteur’s report shows UK Government welfare cuts have increased the risk of deprivation for low-income families across Scotland
 


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Scottish Government Help for Border Cars Workers

Joan McAlpine, SNP MSP for South Scotland has spoken of her regret at the closure of Border Cars after 35 former employees attended a Scottish Government led event in Dumfries to offer help.

 

The support event, which was organised by the Scottish Government’s initiative for responding to redundancy situations, Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE), took place in Dumfries on Wednesday 17th July at the Best Western Station Hotel on Lovers Walk.

 

People who are facing redundancy in the wake of the company going into administration were able to hear about the help and support which is available to them through PACE and other sources. Similar events have since been held in Stranraer and Ayr.

 

Those who attended the event in Dumfries were a mixture of people including some whose contracts had already been terminated, some people who were still working for the company, and others who had handed in their notices having secured alternative employment.

 

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) leads on the delivery of PACE support in conjunction with a number of key partners including the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

 

Speaking about the closure and the support available to those affected, Joan McAlpine MSP said:

 

“The closure of Border Cars is very regrettable indeed and is a blow to several communities.

 

“My sympathies are with the workers who are affected by redundancy or job insecurity, and their families.

 

“I was pleased, however, to see the government respond so promptly with these PACE events, which are designed to support workers move forward.  I would encourage anyone who is facing difficulty or insecurity as a result of this closure to get in touch with Skills Development Scotland on 0800 917 8000 or by popping into their office on the High St. in Dumfries.”

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Plans for a Langholm Eco-Tourism Development

SNP MSP for South Scotland Joan McAlpine took to the hills last week to see first-hand how eco-tourism could make a success of the proposed community buy out of Langholm Moor. The MSP’s visit came as Buccleuch estates announced they would put all 25,000 acres of the Langholm moor up for sale, but would allow the community time to explore how they could best make a bid using Scottish Government right-to-buy legislation.

 
Ms. McAlpine discussed the plans with project leaders at ‘The Langholm Initiative’ and was shown round the moor by the  ‘Wild Eskdale Project’, who use the money generated by eco tours for education projects. The MSP said many people would be unaware of the rich wildlife on the moor, which is the best place in the UK to see displays of black grouse and also hen harriers.  Kevin Cumming of Wild Eskdale, accompanied by Margaret Pool from the Langholm Initiative, explained how the moor, which has been declared uneconomic for grouse shooting, could generate income through conservation and measures such as a visitors’ centre, walking trails, and education courses – all of which could generate tourist income and jobs for Langholm itself.
 
Speaking about the project, Joan McAlpine MSP said: 
 
“Langholm has had considerable challenges in recent years, most recently with the move of EWM to Carlisle. However it is a town with enormous potential for tourism and the proposed buyout could help deliver those benefits.  Langholm Moor is also very significant in the Common Riding and so it seems appropriate that it should be owned by the people of the town – in fact many locals tell me it is their birth right already.
 
“The Scottish Land Fund was established to help communities make the best of land through ownership and has been given millions more recently by the current Scottish Government to help more communities. It  and has been mainly used by communities in the Highlands – although local successes include Lochmaben Castle Loch and the land around the lighthouse on the Mull of Galloway. The 25,000 acre sale of Langholm Moor would, should it go ahead, be by far the biggest sale to a community in South Scotland. But we must remember that the Government has provided the Land Fund with additional money for exactly this purpose.  
 
“The very special environment of Langholm Moor could also help obtain donations from environmental charities, and of course if more visitors are encouraged to come, they will spend money in Langholm, supporting local businesses. I spent a great day with Wild Eskdale learning about the spectacular biodiversity on the moor, seeing everything from slow worms to marsh orchids. It is a hidden gem and the buyout offers a chance to make more of it for everyone’s benefit. It’s good that there is cross party and wide community support and the important thing is that everyone keeps talking to agree the strongest possible bid.
 
In a recent exercise to gather community support, the Langholm Initiative group achieved over 800 signatures to an open letter expressing their plans, already surpassing the necessary ten percent requirement for Scottish Land Fund applications.
 
Kevin Cumming, Project Leader at Wild Eskdale said:
 
“The Langholm Initiative and in particular the Wild Eskdale project were delighted to host Joan McAlpine MSP. It was a great chance to share and discuss our various projects. We are very thankful to Joan for her ongoing support regarding the potential community buy out at Langholm Moor. The potential for nature based tourism in Langholm and the surrounding area is great and being able to demonstrate this in person was a wonderful opportunity.”
 
“I first met Joan at a parliamentary event earlier this year. We had discussed the possibility of a visit to have a closer look at our Wild Eskdale project and we are thrilled that she has made the effort to visit.”
 






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McALPINE HAILS NHS DENTAL FIGURES

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has hailed the latest NHS figures that show NHS dentist registrations have rocketed under the SNP – with 130% more adults registered in Dumfries and Galloway since 2007 meaning almost 87% are now registered compared to just 38% under the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                     
The number of children in Dumfries and Galloway registered with an NHS dentist has also risen dramatically with 92% now registered – a 48% rise since 2007.  
 
Previous Labour and Lib Dem administrations at Holyrood oversaw a decline of 6% in adults registered with a dentist in the region – while the figure for children stood at just 62%.
 
Across the whole of Scotland there are now 107% more adults and 43% more children registered with an NHS dentist than before the SNP came into power.  
 
Commenting, South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine said:
 
“This SNP Scottish Government has taken huge strides in improving the oral health of people in Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland.
 
“Since the SNP came to power, efforts to increase the number of people receiving regular dental check-ups is paying off, with the number of adults registered more than doubling across Scotland.
 
“Here in Dumfries and Galloway, we’ve seen 130% more adults and 48% more children registered with an NHS dentist since 2007.
 
“Of course there’s always room for improvement, and I hope to see more people in our region ensuring they are able to access a local NHS dentist.”
 
 

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3,980 CHILDREN TO BE HIT BY TWO-CHILD CAP IN DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY

23.3% of the total number of children in Dumfries and Galloway could be affected by the two-child cap, according to new research  – prompting more calls for the UK Government to scrap the “heartless” policy.
 
The “two-child policy” allows low-income families to claim child tax credits or universal credit for their first two children only.
 
New research from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has revealed that 160,000 families have had their income slashed by the two-child limit to-date.
 
The charity estimates that more than 3 million children could eventually be affected by the benefit cap.
 
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said: 
 
“Social security should be a safety net for all of us, but the two-child limit is having a devastating effect on families up and down the country, with 23.3% of children in Dumfries and Galloway set to be affected by it.
 
“All families are valuable and worthy of support, but this heartless policy turns people away when they most need support, and leaves children to grow up in hardship – which can have lifelong consequences for their health and wellbeing.
 
“The SNP government has been left to pick up the pieces, investing over £125 million to mitigate callous Tory welfare policies.
 
“In addition, it is introducing a Scottish Child Payment to tackle child poverty. Without the two-child cap, this payment could go so much further.
 
“The next Tory Prime Minister should make it a priority to tackle poverty and enable children to thrive, starting with reversing the two-child limit and horrendous ‘rape clause.’”



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Draft Proposals to Improve Transport in SW Scotland

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the publication of draft proposals to improve transport links and infrastructure in South West Scotland. The draft publication of the South West Scotland Transport Study, which was launched on 27th June, gives local people and interested parties the opportunity to have their say on the future of transport in South West Scotland through a public consultation process.

 
Twenty-three potential options for further consideration have been put forward in the South West Scotland Transport Study, with the intention for these recommendations to be considered nationally in the second Strategic Transport Projects Review.
 
The options put forward include enhanced rail services, significant upgrades to the A75 and A77 to improve connectivity to the ports at Cairnryan, and upgrades to the A76 and to transport hubs in towns like Dumfries, Stranraer and Lockerbie.
 
Joan McAlpine MSP said:
“I am very pleased that the South West Scotland Transport Study is now available, and I’m looking forward to reading in detail the proposals put forward.
“I am glad that the study takes forward proposals I have backed, such as new stations, and upgrades to road and rail networks, particularly upgrades to A75 and A76.
“I’m encouraged by proposals for a new railway connections and a Dumfries to Stranraer line which would be great for the region, and I’m glad that such an ambitious, popular, and environmentally friendly project is included.
“This is an opportunity to get South West priorities earmarked for the national transport strategy, so I would encourage everyone to respond to the public consultation with their views.”
 
Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said:
“We understand the importance of connectivity for the South West of Scotland and extensive stakeholder engagement and data gathering has taken place during this study to help us develop a good understanding of the issues and opportunities for strategic transport links across all modes.
“The draft report will now be available for eight weeks to allow all those with an interest to provide comments on it. Following this, the emerging recommendations will be considered as part of the nationwide Strategic Transport Projects Review which will set out future transport infrastructure investment priorities.
“We have already had valuable local input into the Study with more than 3000 people contributing and we will keep them updated as work progresses.”

Notes:


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New Child Welfare Payment for Low Income Families

South of Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed news that the Scottish Government will use new powers over social security to introduce a payment to help lift children out of poverty.

 

The Scottish Child Payment will give eligible families £10 a week for every child under 16 by the end of 2022. For a family with two children under the age of 16 this is an additional £1,000 a year.  It makes Scotland the only part of the UK to introduce an extra payment for the children of low income families..

 

The payment will be introduced early for all families with children under six. 170,000 children will benefit from early introduction which will start in early 2021. This is a more than a year earlier than the timescale outlined in the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.

 

Scotland is the only UK country to have set statutory income targets to end child poverty in the Child Poverty Act, with the Scottish Government also having brought forward its Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan. The Scottish Government has already spent £527 million across all government policies to support low income families with children.

 

Joan McAlpine MSP said:

“This new benefit shows that the SNP committed to helping people in Scotland, and to tackling the alarming levels of child poverty. The SCP will go some way towards mitigating against continuing benefit cuts from the UK Government. If we didn’t have those UK Government cuts pushing families into poverty, the Scottish Child Payment could do much more and have more reach.

 

“UK benefit cuts will be an annual £3.7 billion in Scotland by next year. We cannot stand by and let that happen. We need more powers to ensure we are not fighting poverty with one hand tied behind our back. Where the Scottish Government do have powers, we will use them to do things differently.

 

“Already the SNP Government are making a real difference to thousands of families across Scotland with the new Best Start Grant, increases to the value of the School Clothing Grant, nearly doubling funded provision of Early Learning and Childcare, and delivery of 50,000 warm and affordable homes.”

 

Notes:

  • The SCP will be a monthly payment administered by Social Security Scotland alongside the existing programme of devolved social security benefits. There will be no cap on the number of children in eligible families. Of all children in poverty, almost 60% live in a family where a child is under six. The early years in a child’s life are key for long-term outcomes.

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REGIONAL SKILLS INVESTMENT PLAN

South Scotland MSP, Joan McAlpine has backed a new plan to ensure Dumfries & Galloway has the skills and training to keep young people in the region and ensure future prosperity.

 

She made her comments after attending an event to promote the Regional Skills Investment Plan of the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, which was unveiled in the college in Dumfries on Monday.

 

The new plan has a focus is on communities, farming, fishing, forestry, rural high streets and land management.  It has a strong emphasis on young people with plans to provide more employment opportunities and work-based learning offers for school leavers and graduates.

 

Commenting Ms McAlpine says

 

“The Regional Skills Investment Plan is good news for the South of Scotland and it’s great to see the economic partnership making so much progress already.

 

“Improving digital and transport connectivity and increasing access to education, skills and training will help meet the needs of local employers and hopefully enable more of our youngsters to stay in the region instead of moving away.

 

The plan, which has been developed alongside Skills Development Scotland, has been the culmination of twelve months of partnership working with organisations, employers, parents and young people across the region. It aims to contribute to the economic growth of the south of Scotland by providing a greater choice of career opportunities for young people while offering more opportunities for upskilling and reskilling to the current workforce. 

 

Ms McAlpine continued:

 

“The approach to partnership working is impressive and should ensure the successful delivery of the plan in the coming years. I can’t praise the members, stakeholders and other contributors highly enough for their achievements.

 

“While Brexit is unresolved there’s still a lot of uncertainty hanging over the region so it’s reassuring to see a well thought out, realistic strategy to unlock the full potential of the South of Scotland economy.”

 

Image attached : from left to right, Joan McAlpine MSP, Chris Brodie, SOSEP Board Member, Amanda Burgauer, SOSEP Board Member

 

A copy of the Regional Skills Investment Plan can be downloaded here :

https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/media/45740/south-of-scotland-sip.pdf

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