*This column was first published in the Daily Record newspaper on the 31st of July 2018*
The Scottish Government should be commended for the ground-breaking legislation it passed in 2014 to support care experienced young people.
I said that at the time and I’ll say it again. At the heart of that law was an understanding that we are the parents of kids in care. That’s you and me as the taxpayer.
Our taxes pay for their care and they also pay to pick up the pieces when things go wrong.
Think of your own kids, or those of people you know. Did they walk out the door aged 16 and never look back? Or did they return home with dirty washing, or requests for cash? Did they need you when a relationship broke down or their landlord turfed them out? When they were sick or just needed a cuddle from someone that loved them?
If your answer to any of that is yes, then think for a moment what life is like if you don’t have that family structure, or those relationships, or that love. That’s why giving young people the right to remain in care, or return to it when things go wrong, is so important.
I’ve spent the last 12 months researching what happens to young people when they leave care – and the results are deeply disappointing. Too many young people don’t know their rights and too many councils don’t know their duties. Other councils say they simply don’t have enough money to provide the support needed, while others have spent the cash on competing priorities.
It all boils down to the reality that just 6 per cent of young people entitled to help are actually getting it.
That ground-breaking legislation exists in a dusty folder in government offices; it’s not living and breathing on the streets and estates where it’s needed.
Who Cares? Scotland, which is the leading charity for care experienced young people, has also told us that you are 20 times more likely to die before you 25th birthday if you’ve been in care than if you’ve not. Twenty times. Why is that not a national scandal? Why are we only beginning to talk about it now? Because we don’t count them. It’s that simple. And because we don’t count them, their lives don’t count to public policy makers.
Resources tend to follow the need – if you don’t identify that, then you miss out. Well this report I have published, Falling Through The Cracks, identifies the need. It states very clearly what we need to do be better parents for these kids. Our kids.
There’s a moral duty to act, and you might expect a soft leftie like me to say that. But there’s an economic imperative to act too. Because when these lives fail, when things go wrong and there’s no mum or dad to crawl home to, we see the consequences in our police cells, prisons and A&E wards. We see people sleeping rough on the streets or in abusive relationships.
We see addictions rise and health fall through the floor. We pay for it in so many ways.
I hope this research is taken seriously, but I hope above all else we all start to demand that our government becomes a better parent for the young people who so desperately need a chance denied to them throughout their lives.
You couldn’t convince me Brexit was a good idea for all the tea in China. Which is just as well, because it’s starting to affect the price of our caffeinated cuppas.
I’ve noticed it in the supermarkets for some time now, with the price of a bag of coffee a good pound dearer than it was a year ago. That’s because those packets are imported and always going to be subjected to global commodity prices. It doesn’t automatically follow that Brexit will make it worse, until you start following the supply chain.
Fresh tea used to travel up the Forth into Edinburgh on a clipper boat called Isabella. You can just about see the estuary from the factory door of what’s now called the Edinburgh Tea & Coffee company. It’s a small booming business which has just won the contract to supply the Scottish Parliament with all its tea and coffee. They’re doing really well but they’re worried about Brexit. Like so many people it’s the uncertainty, the not knowing, that’s the problem.
They blend tea from all over the world there. They also roast coffee beans from places as diverse as Costa Rica and Kenya. But the tea and beans are now bought from huge wholesalers in the Netherlands and no one knows what the customs arrangements are going to be in 12 months’ time.
They’re just one of thousands of small businesses across the country which have a love and a passion for what they do, but no amount of hard work is going to overcome the unknowns ahead.
What an uncompassionate and callous move to change the locks on refugee accommodation in Glasgow.
Around 300 refugees could be made homeless as part of a ‘Move On’ programme for those who the Home Office has ‘determined will not be granted refugee status’.
There are now fears that many of those involved will have nowhere to go and will end up homeless and sleeping rough on the streets of Glasgow. Some of the asylum seekers have major mental health issues.
My Labour colleagues Mary Fee MSP and Paul Sweeney MP are making representations to ‘landlord’ Serco on behalf of the refugees.
Every person has a human right to housing, which means access to a safe and habitable, home with freedom from forced eviction. It is vital that Serco reassesses this situation and reverses the policy.
But be in no doubt who is to blame here: it’s the UK Tory Government with its hostility towards migrants, as evidenced recently with the Windrush Scandal.
There vulnerable people are the victims of the some of the world’s cruellest dictators and repressive regimes. We have a duty of care as a society to provide basic dignity for these families.
Happy birthday to The Beano.
For 80 years from its Dundee home it’s been making kids laugh and encouraging a spot of harmless mischief.
It’s also punctured the egos of a few pompous politicians in its time, including Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Here’s to another 80 years of menacing by Dennis, Gnasher, Minnie, the Bash Street Kids, Roger and all their pals.
It’s great to see Andy Murray back in action on the court.
Wimbledon wasn’t quite the same without him – a bit like SW19 running out of strawberries and cream.
Let’s hope his match fitness improves so that he can mount a real challenge in the US Open.