In Scotland we are seeing some good progress with Covid-19 transmission rates, which is largely due to the rollout of the vaccine. By the last weekend in September we hit the milestone of eight million vaccinations in Scotland. However, there are sadly still a number of deaths being reported, which is a reminder of the grief the virus continues to cause families across the country. My condolences are with those who have lost a loved one.
This month, the Chief Medical Officer and the JCVI have concluded that the offer of one dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine should be extended to all eligible 12-15-year olds. This advice has been broadly endorsed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
The Scottish Government accepted the JCVI advice on the Covid-19 vaccine booster programme which will be offered to all adults over 50, frontline health and care workers, and to younger adults with certain health conditions. Furthermore, MSPs voted in favour for Coronavirus vaccination certificates to enter some events and higher risk venues including nightclubs, music festivals and some football grounds. There are currently no plans to introduce certification for the wider hospitality industry, but this will be kept under review over the autumn and winter months.
I urge anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated at their local drop-in clinic or through NHS Inform. Also, please keep up to date with the latest Covid-19 guidance on the Scottish Government website.
It has been a busy return to Parliament after the Summer recess.
Scottish Ambulance Service
I made a statement to Parliament in which I thanked the incredible hard work of our Ambulance Service staff but also addressed the issue of the standard of service some have recently experienced. I accepted that some of the cases we have heard about in Parliament and in the media are completely unacceptable and I apologised to those families and individuals who have been let down.
It is in response to this that the Ambulance Service is currently operating at Level 4 of its escalation plan, which is the very highest level. The Service has stood up its National Command and Control Centre and management teams, regional coordination cells, and support teams are all working to extended hours.
Prior to and since the onset of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has taken significant action which includes additional funding to recruit more Ambulance staff to support their vital service. In the Chamber I outlined the measures the Government are putting in place to ensure out Ambulance service has the fullest range of support at its disposal.
Child Disability Payment
The Scottish Government introduced the first of the complex disability benefits which will replace the UK Government’s Disability Living Allowance for children. This payment provides financial assistance to help meet the additional costs associated with having a disability.
Families of children and young people with a disability or terminal illness can apply to the new benefit administered by social security Scotland.
Those already receiving Disability Living Allowance for children do not need to make a new application – you will be contacted ahead of your award being automatically transferred, which will happen in a phased approach from mid-October until Spring 2023.
In the constituency
- Despite getting to grips with my recent Achilles Heel injury, I have still been as active in the constituency. I have been able to speak with local constituency groups and host surgeries as well as getting out and about in the constituency myself. My team and I have also moved offices from Paisley Road West to our new location in the Govan Fairfield Heritage Centre. We are not fully open yet as my team are currently working from home, but we hope to be open for business again shortly for constituents to book appointments to visit us in the office.
- September saw both Youth Mental Health Day and National Suicide Prevention Day. Both campaigns highlight very important messages which encourage us all to speak to our loved ones, speak up if we are struggling and break the stigma of talking about our mental health and wellbeing. There are a great range of resources on the Scottish Government ‘Clear Your Head’ website.
- I welcomed the extra money from the Scottish Government to the Child Winter Heating fund. The Child Winter Heating Assistance is one of seven brand new benefits the Scottish Government have used using social security powers. I’m pleased that by extending eligibility, over 5,000 more families will benefit from this £202 payment during the colder months.
- Vodafone launched their charities connected campaign to tackle digital exclusion. The initiative gives any charity in the UK the opportunity to apply for free connectivity to help the individuals and families it supports get online or improve their own digital capability. I encourage local registered charities to apply by completing the online application form.