Caring in Craigmillar

– in the Scottish Parliament on 1st March 2016.

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Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-15407, in the name of Kenny MacAskill, on Caring in Craigmillar. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises what it considers the outstanding contribution made by Caring in Craigmillar to older people in the greater Craigmillar area and beyond; understands that the group has operated a Phonelink telephone care call service 365 days a year since 1998 in addition to the care that it provides at its premises; looks forward to the further outreach work that it will provide as part of a wider city homecare collaboration network; notes that it started out as the social welfare arm of the Craigmillar Festival Society, which is considered an outstanding organisation and which is now over 50 years old; welcomes Caring in Craigmillar’s planned return to 63 Niddrie Mains Terrace in Edinburgh, where it previously operated from and which will now provide the group with a wider community hub, and believes that Caring in Craigmillar is an excellent model for other organisations across the country to follow.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I thank members from all sides of the chamber for supporting my motion. That is as it should be, because Caring in Craigmillar is an outstanding organisation that acts without fear or favour, political partiality or prejudice, for the welfare of the elderly not simply in Craigmillar but throughout east Edinburgh.

The debate affords me an opportunity not just to praise an outstanding local organisation but to flag up a national issue, and I hope to be able to input some lessons that have been learned that could be emulated elsewhere. Caring in Craigmillar is a truly remarkable organisation, and I will detail some of its work and history. Moreover, care of the elderly is one of the major issues of our time; it is one that is trying local and national Government and testing communities.

Like every member, I am fortunate to have innumerable voluntary organisations in my constituency. There are too many of them to mention individually but, collectively, they make the community a much better place. They do it through the input of time and effort by people who often receive no remuneration, and in some instances they go well beyond contracted hours or job specification. We are blessed with them.

I have a soft spot for Caring in Craigmillar, which I have gotten to know during my nine years as the constituency member for the area. The organisation has come a long way and it operates in a community that has had more than its fair share of challenges. For many years, it was synonymous with poverty and deprivation.

Caring in Craigmillar is the welfare arm of the Craigmillar Festival Society, which itself is now more than 50 years old. That sprang from the community and remains rooted in it. The Craigmillar Festival Society and its constituent organisations provided a template for others to follow and are a testament to what can be done by good people with energy, drive and ideas. They were intent on overcoming the obstacles that were faced by many to provide chances for all. In that, they have succeeded for countless people and are witness to how communities can take control of their own destiny and help to shape their own future. The modern buzzword is social capital, but I prefer to describe it as heart and soul. Craigmillar has that in abundance, and Caring in Craigmillar is the embodiment of it.

The organisation has now run for a generation and has expanded from providing day care to providing a PhoneLink service that proves invaluable to many people scattered across the city who are often isolated in their own homes. Its day care project is one of the longest-serving day care projects in the city. It provides more than 34,000 hours of care to individuals in a group setting annually and is one of only two Saturday day care projects. A Wednesday evening additional needs club is also provided.

The PhoneLink care call service takes place twice daily and makes upwards of 80,000 calls annually. Caring in Craigmillar regularly attracts funding that allows it to top up the work of the council award. It has replaced one community bus and has raised half the funds for a second one. Its work is outstanding, but it is also expanding.

The organisation required to move from its former premises at 63 Niddrie Mains Terrace several years ago, but it is now returning there. As well as being in many ways Caring in Craigmillar’s spiritual home, it provides premises that are far more suitable for current and future needs. It is a place that is known to the community, given its long history, and one that is sited centrally. It was first opened in 1936 by the university settlement and dubbed “Craigmillar College”. It is fitting that Caring in Craigmillar should return there. That will create a new open access community facility to serve the growing regeneration.

Craigmillar has been undergoing redevelopment. Houses were knocked down, and that ripped the very heart out of the community, but thankfully new homes are now appearing. The old community is returning and is being joined by new arrivals from all parts. It is necessary to have the facilities to serve that community, and it is therefore right that Caring in Craigmillar becomes the principal tenant of those centrally situated premises.

Caring in Craigmillar is doing so with a dedicated staff and management board. It would be remiss not to mention the general manager, Midge Lamb, and the day care manager, Peter Calvey, who have been with the organisation for more years collectively than they may care to remember. However, it has been forged by them, often on an anvil of considerable difficulties. Craigmillar is a better place for the work that they have done in it and in the wider community. I record my thanks and appreciation for the excellent work that they and all the staff have done.

I move on to aspects that, although they are replicated elsewhere, are worthy of consideration for wider use. Care of the elderly is one of the major issues of our time. An increasing ageing population is a good thing: gone are the days of deaths within months of retiral and little chance for people to enjoy twilight years at the end of an extensive working life. However, that brings challenges for us as a society. As well as the elderly population extending, the nature of our communities is changing. Families are more likely to be separated from each other, and generations live apart, not just in different households, but in different communities. Sometimes, they live in different countries.

Craigmillar is maybe more fortunate than many, but it still faces challenges. The integration of health and social care is the right thing to do, but the challenges are considerable and are not just financial. Understandably, private sector operations have seen an opportunity to provide a service in care of the elderly, and they are needed. Many do an excellent job, although sadly some do so at the expense of their workforce. Others—thankfully, they are few—can be entirely undesirable and need to be weeded out by statutory agencies.

The benefit and lesson of Caring in Craigmillar is that it is from and for the community. It is a charity that is operated by the community, that is staffed in the main by the community, and that works for the community. That reduces costs, but it brings innumerable intangible benefits.

The PhoneLink service extension is a medium of modern technology that is being used to benefit a community that is often marginalised, if not excluded. Although nothing can compare with face-to-face engagement, that service offers reassurance to family and companionship to many elderly people who are housebound or alone. It can ensure that vulnerable individuals can be monitored, and it affords conversation, which is vital to the human spirit. Its cost is significantly cheaper than that of a personal attendance and, although it should never be a substitute for personal attention, it offers additional benefits.

I thank Caring in Craigmillar for its sterling work and offer its model as a template to the minister for others.

This may well be my final speech in the chamber and the Parliament, in which it has been a privilege to serve. I thank all the staff and colleagues of each and every party. It has been an honour and a privilege. I may not be returning to Holyrood, but I will most certainly return in and around Craigmillar, and I will definitely return to Caring in Craigmillar. [Applause.]

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

I congratulate Kenny MacAskill on lodging the motion.

We are talking about elderly groups. Kenny MacAskill and I are certainly not that elderly—[Interruption.] Linda Fabiani says that we are not that young, either. We will see her after about that.

It has been an absolute honour and pleasure for me and others to work alongside Kenny MacAskill for many years. I have done so not just since I was elected to the Parliament but alongside him in the Scottish National Party before we were elected. That has been a great pleasure, and I know that he has worked tirelessly not just for Craigmillar but for the area in Edinburgh that he represents and others. Obviously, a lot of people do not know about that. He has done a lot of work behind the scenes, and it has been a great privilege for me to know him as a colleague and—I hope that I can say—a friend.

I just want to mention something that Kenny MacAskill did not say. Craigmillar people sent me some information, and they end by saying:

“We could not have done it without you, Kenny, and for that we are eternally grateful.”

I end this part of my speech by again saying thank you to Kenny MacAskill.

As Kenny MacAskill mentioned, he and other MSPs have many groups in their areas that do sterling work for the elderly in their communities. I certainly do. I cannot mention all of them, so I want to concentrate on one particular group in my area, which is Glasgow Old People’s Welfare Association. We call it GOPWA for short. Just two weeks ago, it celebrated its 68th year of working tirelessly for the older people of Glasgow. It has over 1,000 volunteers who give their time, and it runs day care centres throughout Glasgow residential homes and sheltered accommodation, neighbourhood visiting services, outreach services and more than 100 weekly clubs. It does form filling, it gives advice and information, and it provides many other services that benefit senior citizens in Glasgow.

Sheena Glass and her team are to be commended for all the work that they do, and it is a privilege for me to know them and work with them. The Glasgow Old People’s Welfare Association is also involved with the David Cargill centre, which provides a varied programme of activities from Mondays to Fridays including armchair exercises, music, general knowledge quizzes and bingo, and it has also supported the Donald Dewar centre in the north-west of Glasgow for 22 years. It arranges transport to bring older people to the centre to enjoy activities, entertainment and lunch. The staff at both centres are absolutely fantastic.

GOPWA also fundraises for the older people to be able to go on visits to museums and theatres. As Kenny MacAskill mentioned with regard to Caring in Craigmillar, community transport is important and a community bus is a lifeline for older people.

GOPWA does such a lot of good work throughout all the communities. It holds tea dances and other events, and it embraces all the cultures in Glasgow and collaborates with other services to make them more accessible and compatible. Just recently, it has worked with the Muslim people who live in the Woodlands area. I think that Hanzala Malik will talk about that, as he has also been involved. GOWPA holds club nights to bring the elderly of all the communities together.

I echo what Kenny MacAskill said—I do not know what we would do without such organisations, which do such a lot of great work. Once again, I congratulate Kenny and I wish him good luck in the future. He has made his last speech in the Parliament, but I am sure that we will see a lot more of him.

Photo of Hanzala Malik Hanzala Malik Labour

Good evening, Presiding Officer. I congratulate Kenny MacAskill on securing this debate about Caring in Craigmillar. Kezia Dugdale MSP sends her apologies for not being able to join us and wishes the organisation the very best. She recognises the good work that it does. I join her in congratulating the organisation, its staff and its volunteers on the truly local community spirit that they have, and I say well done to them.

The value that third sector organisations such as Caring in Craigmillar provide to people who are elderly, disadvantaged and suffering from isolation is priceless. Sometimes, we do not consider the value that such organisations bring to our communities. I assure them and the people who benefit from their provision that local authorities and Governments are just not capable of providing the one-to-one service that they provide. I feel personally indebted to such organisations.

It is particularly important that local areas have day care facilities. A phone line service that gives morning and evening phone calls to people who are in need is a clear way of reducing isolation.

We always underestimate people’s need. I know for a fact, through the experiences of my constituents, that any contact is always welcome, because it reassures people in their daily lives.

In my constituency, elderly care centres such as ASRA, Mel Milaap, Shanti Bhavan, the Chinese day care centre and GOPWA all play a vital role in supporting and helping community groups. Many such groups make a difference to the lives of elderly people in our communities. I thank them for all the hard work that they do.

Many of us tend to overlook the amount of hard work that volunteers do. I know that they are sometimes accused of being busybodies and interfering, but we should ask the people who receive the services, because they will tell a completely different story about how valuable the services are and how they value the contact. The third sector is the backbone of today’s society and we should never be too shy to respect it, recognise its contribution and thank it for its contribution. I say again to all the volunteers and staff in community groups: please keep up this very valuable work.

Kenny MacAskill has—rightly—recognised one such group for its good work, which we can see on the website. I am pleasantly surprised to see that such good work is being done. It needs to be supported consistently. Kezia Dugdale has promised that she will always be there for the organisation because she recognises the good work that it does.

To close, I will make a personal point. I genuinely and truly wish the very best for all the third sector organisations that make such a valuable contribution to our society. Like many of my colleagues, I will always be there to support them.

Photo of Nanette Milne Nanette Milne Conservative

I, too, congratulate Kenny MacAskill on securing what I now know will be his final debate before he retires as the member for Edinburgh Eastern. I wish him well for the future.

The motion is very much a constituency-focused one, as Caring in Craigmillar is a grass-roots support service that aims to help the elderly, disabled or vulnerable at a dedicated care centre. As a north-east MSP, I do not mind admitting that I was not aware of the group or its activities. However, I have been interested to learn about its work during the past 15 years and about the positive contribution that it appears to make in providing assistance to the most vulnerable people in the east of this city.

The motion talks about the PhoneLink service, which has operated since 1998, and I am told that it was originally funded by a grant from the Craigmillar priority partnership, which was established and funded in 1995 by the then Conservative Scottish secretary, Michael Forsyth. That was part of the Conservative Government’s innovative work to tackle poverty. I further understand that much of the Craigmillar Festival Society’s work of that time was funded through European objective 2 and European social funds, which were secured by Michael Forsyth and the Conservative Government. Perhaps Mr MacAskill will correct me if that was not the case.

One of the key objectives of Caring in Craigmillar is to combat loneliness and isolation by providing group activities and outings, facilitating social interaction and providing new opportunities to make friends. That is important because, as we know, loneliness and isolation are affecting an increasing percentage of elderly and socially disadvantaged citizens. People with disabilities, people with a range of long-term conditions and people who are restricted physically, psychologically and socially may all experience isolation and loneliness. Many elderly people live alone because of bereavement, and many more have little or no contact with family or friends.

Centres that provide respite from such circumstances are vital to the wellbeing of the most vulnerable people in our society. In an age when so many channels of communication are available, it is telling that there is still a significant problem with social isolation and loneliness in Scotland today. We should all remember that it is everybody’s problem, which should not be ignored or tolerated, and that a change in attitude is required in our society if its impact is to be reduced.

The motion looks at how Caring in Craigmillar can be a model for other organisations to follow. As we have heard, a large number of excellent projects and community activities are already in place in many parts of Scotland to identify and tackle the widespread issues of social isolation and loneliness. I feel that I should mention one project in my region.

The Aberdeenshire Signposting Project works with people who are affected by or at risk of developing low to moderate mental health problems to increase their level of social contact and their usage of locally available leisure and educational facilities. It does that by putting people who are referred to the project by general practitioners and others in touch with sources of appropriate support, help and advice.

All such support services, including Caring in Craigmillar, need to be assessed regularly so that proper standards of care are being given to the community’s most vulnerable people. Enhanced staff and volunteer training programmes should always exist to ensure the highest standards of care. To do otherwise would defeat the purpose of such groups and organisations.

I thank Kenny MacAskill for bringing Caring in Craigmillar to the Parliament’s attention by securing this evening’s debate to highlight an important project in his constituency, and I wish him well in his endeavours after he leaves this place.

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party

I join other members in thanking Kenny MacAskill for securing the debate. As he said, this is likely to be his last contribution in Parliament. It would be remiss of me not to comment as he prepares for a new life outside Parliament after 17 years of tirelessly representing his constituents—first in the Lothians then, since 2007, as a constituency MSP first for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh and latterly for Edinburgh Eastern. He was, incidentally, the first member of the SNP to win a constituency seat in Edinburgh.

I want to avoid commenting on whether Kenny MacAskill and Sandra White fall into the category of being elderly—I suspect that that would serve only to get me into trouble. However, I do want to reflect on the fact that in his time as a member of the Scottish Parliament, Kenny MacAskill has made a substantial contribution to civic and political life. Indeed, that contribution began even before he was elected, as he helped to shape my party as a modern political force.

It is of course as the Cabinet Secretary for Justice—a job that he described as the only one he ever wanted in Government and a post that he held with distinction for seven years—that he will be best remembered. In that time, he took forward far-reaching reforms in the courts and judiciary, as well as reform of the fire service and the creation of Police Scotland in 2013.

Kenny MacAskill also began the reform of penal policy—in particular, in relation to how we treat women and young offenders. He took a particular interest in making sure that young people have positive opportunities to use their energies. Many thousands of young people in Scotland have benefited from life-changing opportunities as a result of cashback for communities, which is the scheme that seizes money from criminal networks and reinvests it in projects and new infrastructure to provide diversionary activity. As minister for sport, I have been able to visit many locations that have benefited from that investment.

For all his achievements in ministerial office, I am sure that it is as an outstanding constituency representative that Kenny MacAskill will want to be remembered. It is therefore apt that his last contribution in Parliament is on an important constituency matter, so I am pleased to close this debate on Caring in Craigmillar. It has been gratifying to hear so many positive stories about the care that our older people and people with disabilities and support needs are receiving in Craigmillar and east Edinburgh. We would be hard pressed not to be impressed by the scope of the organisation’s work, which—as Kenny MacAskill set out—continues to expand.

Caring in Craigmillar provides an invaluable service to older people and people with learning disabilities who would be socially isolated in the community without it, so I add my congratulations to the organisation on receiving this well-deserved recognition today.

As Kenny MacAskill set out, Caring in Craigmillar aims to combat loneliness and isolation by providing a range of group activities and outings, by facilitating social interaction and by providing new opportunities to make friends. It provides an excellent service to its clients in running projects and activities six days a week, including outings and holidays. Caring in Craigmillar’s Wednesday club helps people with disabilities to meet and interact with new people and to participate in social and fundraising activities, thereby improving their social skills and integrating them more in their community. The men’s group that Caring in Craigmillar supports has regular days out, often with a lunch and a meal at the centre in the evening, which brings together people who are at risk of becoming isolated from their community.

The services are hugely important and it is great that Edinburgh Eastern benefits from them. It would, of course, be great if every community had such services. We know that many communities are lucky to benefit from similar projects. It was instructive to hear Sandra White talk about the experience in her constituency. In my constituency, we are fortunate to have Cumbernauld Action for Care of the Elderly, which provides similar services. Hanzala Malik was right to make the point that such organisations and their volunteers are the backbone of our society.

Nanette Milne mentioned Caring in Craigmillar’s important PhoneLink service, which provides a lifeline for vulnerable people in the area. The service checks on people in the morning and evening. It provides not only reassurance that someone will be alerted if they are ill or have a fall, but a friendly ear for a chat, which we know is important to wellbeing.

I have not had the pleasure of visiting Caring in Craigmillar, although I should say even at this stage, if it is appropriate, that I would be happy to visit in the future. However, I have seen at first hand the benefit of such a service, as I visited the Good Morning Service in Springburn last year, which provides a similar service. From that experience, it was clear to me that the many service users who benefit are being provided with an important service.

Kenny MacAskill touched on our changing demographics and the challenge of providing care in that context. As Nanette Milne said, he posits in his motion that Caring in Craigmillar is a model of good practice for other parts of the country to learn from. I want to be clear that, where there is good practice such as we see in Caring in Craigmillar’s services and other local organisations that provide similar services, as an Administration, we will always be keen to roll out that best practice to ensure that other areas learn from it and can benefit from similar services.

We are investing in similar approaches: we are addressing loneliness and isolation right now. Alex Neil, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights recently announced an additional £250,000 towards tackling loneliness and isolation, which includes £80,000 that Age Scotland will distribute to its local groups Scotland-wide to use towards lunch clubs and other social events, including classes and tea dances. We have also awarded £34,000 to Age Scotland for a specialist post for its phone service, the Silver Line. We will always do what we can to replicate good practice. I assure Kenny MacAskill and others that we greatly value the work of Caring in Craigmillar and the many similar organisations around the country. We seek to learn from that experience and to roll it out further.

I again thank Kenny MacAskill for securing the debate to highlight the important work that is done by Caring in Craigmillar, and for allowing us to hold it up as a great example to other areas of what can be done to tackle loneliness and isolation in our communities.

Kenny MacAskill will be very much missed in Parliament. He has said that he does not intend to be a stranger to the community of Craigmillar, but I ask him not to be a stranger to the Scottish Parliament. I look forward to being able to continue to work with him in the future, albeit in a different context, and I wish him all the best for the future.

Meeting closed at 18:34.