POSITIVE DISCUSSIONS WITH CHOIR CHIEF EXEC GIVES HOPE FOR FUTURE OF GALLOWAY BRANCH

POSITIVE DISCUSSIONS WITH CHOIR CHIEF EXEC GIVES HOPE FOR FUTURE OF GALLOWAY BRANCH

Local MP Russell Brown has said he is hopeful that there is a future for the Galloway youth choir, following talks with the new Chief Executive of the National Youth Choir of Scotland today (Tuesday).

Morag Campbell took up her new role as Chief Executive on Monday, and Russell Brown spoke to her today ahead of a meeting in Newton Stewart tomorrow between her and parents of children attending the Galloway branch of the choir.

Parents of young people attending the Galloway Branch of the National Youth Choir of Scotland, based in Newton Stewart, received letters in April saying that the branch was to ‘merge’ with Dumfries, effectively closing the choir. This would mean children facing a 2-3 hour round trip every week through to Dumfries for rehearsals. The announcement was made without any consultation with parents and Russell Brown asked for a member of NYCoS to visit Newton Stewart. The new Chief Executive, Morag Campbell, has now agreed to do so and will meet with parents next Wednesday (20 June).

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“I felt it was important to speak to the new Chief Executive of the National Youth Choir as soon as possible after she took up her new post at the start of the week. It was a positive discussion and I impressed upon her the importance of doing everything we can to keep the Galloway youth choir open.

“The parents have been in the dark about much of the problems facing the choir, which is why the letter in April from NYCoS announcing it was to close came out of the blue. I hope the meeting between parents and the Chief Executive will allow everyone to have an open discussion about the options to keep it going. I am confident that the issues can be resolved if there is a bit of give and take and I’m hopeful that there is a good future for the Galloway choir. The parents can be assured I will be fighting alongside them every step of the way.”

ENDS


CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

LOCAL MP PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR CARERS

LOCAL MP PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR CARERS

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown has teamed up with TV presenter and former carer Fiona Phillips to support this year’s Carers Week (18-24 June) and recognise the contribution made by those people in our area, and throughout the UK, who provide unpaid care for someone who is ill, frail or disabled. The work they carry out is vital for their families and friends, and for their communities.

The theme for Carers Week 2012 is ‘In sickness and in health” recognising the strain families are under as they see their services cut back. It calls for better financial and practical support for the diverse range of people who have caring responsibilities.

Earlier this month Russell Brown presented certificates to volunteers at the Princess Royal Trust for Carers in Dumfries.

Research carried out in 2012 found that carers are at breaking point:

- 47 per cent of unpaid  carers said they were made ill by money worries
- 45 per cent of unpaid carers said that caring had pushed them into debt¹

Russell Brown and Fiona Phillips have joined together to pay tribute to carers, and to urge that they receive more support in their caring roles.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“Thousands of people in Dumfries and Galloway sacrifice not only their time, but also their money and their health in order to care for a loved one. Together they save this country an incredible £119 billion every year. It’s vital that carers are offered regular breaks from caring and health checks so that they can be supported.

“I am taking part in Carers Week to show my respect and appreciation for our carers. I also want to let them know that there are services out there to help them. Caring can be so incredibly demanding. It’s important that carers know that they don’t have to struggle on alone.”

Fiona Phillips, who has personal experience of being a carer, said:

“From personal experience, I know caring can demand a lot of your time and attention, which in some cases can put pressure on other areas in your life such as financial responsibilities and relationships. These problems can prove to be exhausting and mentally gruelling and can really take its toll on your health and wellbeing.  I hope that Carers Week can again help to achieve change, and make a real difference to the lives of carers in this country.”

Helen Clarke, the Carers Week Manager said:

“I’m delighted that MPs are listening to carers’ concerns and supporting this year’s Carers Week. We must take action to support the UK’s 6.4 million carers. Many are paying the price of a care system in crisis – being forced to give up work to care and often pushed into ill-health, financial hardship and debt because of a lack of support to help them care.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Attached – Photo of Russell Brown with Fiona Philips

2. Carers Week 2012 takes place from 18-24 June, and highlights the vital work carried out by those who provide unpaid care for someone who is ill, frail or disabled.

Carers Week campaigns for greater recognition and support for carers; to ensure that all carers know that they are not alone, and that help and services are available.

Carers Week is organised by a partnership of eight charities: Age UK, Carers Trust, Carers UK, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, MS Society and Parkinson’s UK.

Throughout the UK thousands of events take place throughout the UK. To find out what is happening locally visitwww.carersweek.org or contact Carers Week on 0845 241 2582

DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY SET TO GIVE OLYMPIC TORCH A “GREAT SCOTTISH SEND OFF”

DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY SET TO GIVE OLYMPIC TORCH A “GREAT SCOTTISH SEND OFF”

Local politicians said that Dumfries and Galloway is set to give the torch “a great Scottish send off” as the region is set to host the final visit from the torch in Scotland on Thursday (21 June)

The torch will begin the day shortly before 8AM at Robert Burns’s statue in Dumfries and travel along Buccleuch Street, the Whitesands, Bank Street, Great King Street, Loreburn Street and English Street, before finishing on the Annan Road. It will then go to Annan, where it will travel along Church Street and Scott’s Street, and then head to Eastriggs where it will travel along the Annan Road. Its final stop in the region will be in Gretna, where it will travel along the Annan Road before finishing at the National Speed Limit Signs on Glasgow Road.

The Olympic torch was welcomed to Scotland in Stranraer on Thursday 7th June.

Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said:

“Huge numbers of people have turned out to see the torch everywhere it has been so far in Scotland. It is a great honour for Dumfries and Galloway to be the torch’s final stop in Scotland and I know we will give it a great Scottish send off as it heads to the Olympic Games. After the initial torch relay route missed out our area, and we campaigned with local people to bring it here, we are really looking forward to seeing it on home soil”

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“This is a special moment as the eyes of the world will once again be on Dumfries and Galloway and the local heroes carrying the flame. After our region gave it such a fantastic welcome to Scotland in Stranraer, we now proudly send it on its way to London.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT “WALKING AWAY” FROM REGION AS THEY REFUSE TO RULE OUT DOWNGRADE OF COURTS

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT “WALKING AWAY” FROM REGION AS THEY REFUSE TO RULE OUT DOWNGRADE OF COURTS

LOCAL SNP MSPS SPLIT OVER PLANS TO REMOVE JURY TRIALS FROM DUMFRIES AND STRANRAER

Local Labour politicians have said the Scottish Government is “walking away” from the region, as Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has refused to commit to retaining jury services at Dumfries and Stranraer Sherriff Courts.

The Scottish Courts Service is currently discussing plans to centralise jury trials, which would mean jury trials from Dumfries and Stranraer being transferred to Ayr Sheriff Court. This latest move, which would leave Dumfries and Galloway without any jury trials, follows plans revealed earlier this year to close Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court and Annan Justice of the Peace Court.

Earlier this month Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown and Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray wrote to Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MasAkill regarding the proposals. They called on him to rule out downgrading Dumfries and Stranraer Sheriff Courts and retain jury trails in the region. In his reply, Kenny MacAskill refuses to rule out the changes, saying that “the Scottish Courts Service is currently considering a range of proposals” and that the Courts Service is “independent of Scottish Ministers”. However, he ignores the fact that the final decision rests with the Scottish Government, as they would have to approve a plan to downgrade the sheriff courts. (1)

The plans have split local SNP MPSs, with Joan McAlpine saying it is ‘irresponsible’ to raise fears about the plans, while only days later fellow South of Scotland SNP MSP Alieen McLeod raised her own concerns about the issue with Kenny MacAskill. (2)

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“This response from Kenny MacAskill is deeply disappointing. The Scottish Government is walking away from Dumfries and Galloway. Kenny MacAskill is ignoring the fact that Ministers make the final call on whether Dumfries and Stranraer courts are downgraded. They have to approve the proposals so it is frankly ridiculous to say it is nothing to do with them. Local people will pay the price if these plans to put cost cutting ahead of local justice go ahead. Surely there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that a three hour round trip to attend court is unacceptable. Once again under the SNP, Dumfries and Galloway is left fighting to keep what we have.”

Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said:

“These proposals have split local SNP MSPs, with Joan McAlpine saying it was ‘irresponsible’ to raise fears about the plans, but then a few days later her SNP colleague Alieen McLeod was actually concerned enough to raise the issue with Kenny MacAskill herself. This confusion doesn’t help anyone. I hope all politicians, whatever their party, will join us in standing up against yet more plans to remove services from our region.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

NOTES

1. Attached – Response from Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

2. Local SNP MSPs are split on the proposals:

“It is irresponsible and unhelpful for Mr Brown to suggest that Dumfries is under threat.” – Joan McAlpine MSP, letter to Dumfries and Galloway Standard on Fri 8 June.

Headline in Thursday 14th June Free Press: “MSP has concerns over proposed court changes” after fellow South of Scotland SNP MSP raised her ‘grave concerns’ with Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill

3. Sheriff and jury business is currently conducted at 47 of the 49 sheriff courts. This proposal will see that centralised, with jury trials only being conducted in 14 of the 49 sheriff courts.

The 14 courts would be: Edinburgh, Livingston, Paisley, Dumbarton, Kilmarnock, Airdrie, Hamilton, Ayr, Dundee, Falkirk, Dunfermline, Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow.

Ayr Sheriff Court would carry out jury trials currently undertaken at Dumfries and Stranraer.

The Scottish Courts Service admits that the proposal to consolidate jury trials to just 14 sheriff courts, rather than the 47 at present, is a cost cutting exercise following a Scottish Government decision to cut their operating budget by 20% in real terms by 2014/15.

VULNERABLE CHILDREN “STUCK IN THE MIDDLE” AS COUNCIL AND GOVERNMENT AT “LOGGERHEADS” OVER FUTURE OF CHILDREN’S PANELS

VULNERABLE CHILDREN “STUCK IN THE MIDDLE” AS COUNCIL AND GOVERNMENT AT “LOGGERHEADS” OVER FUTURE OF CHILDREN’S PANELS

COUNCIL WARNS OF ‘INEVITABLE TENSION’ CAUSED BY NEW PLANS

Local Labour politicians have warned that vulnerable children in the region are “stuck in the middle” as Dumfries and Galloway Council and the Scottish Government are at “loggerheads” over changes being made to the way Children’s Panels operate.

Children’s Panels are a crucial part of the Children’s Hearings system, which deals with children and young people who are in trouble or at risk. The Children’s Panel makes vital decisions about vulnerable children who are either in need of care or who have offended and is made up of three members from the local community. Currently the responsibility for the Children’s Panels is with local councils, but the Scottish Government is changing the way they operate. The Children’s Hearings Bill, which passed through the Scottish Parliament in November 2010, creates a national body, Children’s Hearings Scotland, with a National Convener and all duties and responsibilities are removed from local authorities.

The new arrangements were due to come into effect across Scotland in April, but have now been delayed until next year. The delay has largely been caused by problems establishing partnership agreements with local authorities, and a report to Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Policy and Resources Committee on 19 June details some of the concerns in our region.

While the responsibility for the Children’s Panels will be removed from Dumfries and Galloway Council, the Scottish Government wants them to continue to fund a Clerk and administrative support.

In the report, the Council says that current arrangements to support the Children’s Hearing System in Dumfries and Galloway are “well established and well respected” and warns about the consequences of the Scottish Government’s move to replace them. They say that there are “risks” that the current arrangements will “not be maintained” or be “subjected to change” while the new system is being set up. The report then goes further, stating that the changes being introduced by the Scottish Government is “not an optimal model” and warns of a “range of supervision and other operational considerations” that will need to be taken into account. Finally, they say that there will “inevitably be a tension” caused by the new arrangements between the council and the new Child Hearings body.

The Council’s recommendation is that the funding only be provided to support the new arrangements for only three years – leaving the new system with an uncertain future beyond that.

Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said:

“I am deeply disturbed that the Council and Scottish Government are at loggerheads over these new arrangements. Some of the most vulnerable children in our region are stuck in the middle of this disagreement. Under the current system, the Children’s Panel in Dumfries and Galloway is well respected and if we are changing that model we need to have confidence in the replacement. The Council warn of ‘inevitable tensions’ between them and the new Children’s Hearing System, which makes me really fearful that the focus will shift to a power struggle between council and Government, and children will fall through the cracks. The interests of the children must come first and, rather than ignoring their concerns, the Scottish Government needs to listen to what the Council is saying.”

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“When a child comes in front of a Children’s Panel it means they are in trouble or at risk, and how they are dealt with can literally determine the course of the rest of their life. It is too important to play games with, but by railroading these changes through the SNP Government is gambling with the futures of these children. There are so many unanswered questions, and there are serious concerns about how the new arrangements will operate. With the council only looking to fund the new system for three years, the Children’s Panels in our region face operating under a cloud of uncertainty that doesn’t help anyone. The SNP Government has already had to delay the introduction of these plans until next year and I think it is time they seriously consider how they are being implemented.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

NOTES

1. Link to report to be discussed at Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Policy and Resources Committee on 19th June:http://rpu.dumgal.gov.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/committee_reports/026546.pdf (See paragraph 3.3.5)

2. For more information about Children’s Panels: www.childrenspanelscotland.org