NSPCC needs to review their plans to close Childline in Edinburgh

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Ian is calling on the NSPCC to review their planned closure of the Childline office in Edinburgh, amid fears the move will let down the city’s most vulnerable children.

The Childline office in Edinburgh – which is staff by 14 members of staff and 10 volunteers – receive calls from thousands of youngsters every year.

But it is one of a number of Childline centres across the UK that has been earmarked for closure at the end of this month (July) by the NSPCC.

Reports suggest that following the closures Childline intends to offer a greater proportion of their services through the internet.

But with 35 per cent of homes across Scotland not having access to the internet, Ian fears many of the most vulnerable children will find themselves excluded from the services offered online.

And he is appealing to the NSPCC to reconsider their plans, ensuring their vital service remains accessible to all.

Ian said: “The Childline staff and volunteers in Edinburgh answer thousands of calls every year. Many of those calls are made by desperate youngsters who may have felt they had nowhere else to turn.

“If the Edinburgh office is allowed to close at the end of the month the talented pool of highly motivated staff and volunteers will be a serious blow to the voluntary sector.

“It has been reported that Childline intend to offer a greater proportion of their services through the internet. And I can understand how this may initially seem like a sensible approach to take.

“But, according to the latest statistics available, one in three homes in Scotland have no access to the internet. And that means many vulnerable children in our area will no longer have the same access to the vital services offered by Childline.

“I am concerned that the changes to the Childline service in Edinburgh are being rushed through too quickly. And I believe there needs to be a thorough analysis to make sure that the service remains accessible to all children.”

Government data suggests 35 per cent of homes do not have access to the internet in Scotland.

Children living in homes where income is low, where they are cared for by a single parent or where a member of the family has a long-term health problem or disability are among those homes that are less likely to have access to the internet.

Ian has already listed an Early Day Motion expressing his concern at the decision by the NSPCC to close the Edinburgh office.

And he has called on Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to meet with Childline staff and volunteers in Edinburgh to discuss whether the decision could be reversed.

IAN BACKS CAMPAIGN AGAINST UNFAIR CHANGES TO WOMEN’S STATE PENSION AGE

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Ian is backing Age UK’s campaign against Government plans which will see thousands of women waiting up to two years longer for their state pension than promised under the Coalition agreement.

Ian met with South Edinburgh residents who were protesting against the changes in Westminster at a mass lobby organised by Age UK.  They are part of the 330,000 women who will be worst affected by the changes being introduced by the Tory Lib Dem Government.

Ian has joined hundreds of MPs who have signed an Early Day Motion to reverse the changes which break the Coalition Agreement’s pledge to hold off speeding up the equalisation of the State Pension Age.

In its current form the Pensions Bill intends to bring forward equalisation of the State Pension Age to 65 to 2018, instead of 2020 as previously planned. Pensions Age for both men and women will then increase to 66 by 2020. All women born between 6th April 1953 and 5th April 1960 will be affected by the changes. State Pension Age will be increased for 2.6 million women, but 330,000 women across the country will be hit hardest, having to wait between 18 months and two years longer for their state pension.

Ian said: “These proposals will hurt thousands of hard-working women who believed their retirement was just around the corner. Many are being forced to wait up to two years longer and stand to lose up to £10,000 as a result. This is the second time these women’s pension has been delayed and it is unfair to expect them to postpone their retirement plans.

“Working longer is not an option for many of this age group with the caring responsibilities and health problems they face. In addition to these difficulties these women are anxious about how they will make ends meet if these proposals go ahead. After paying into their pensions all their working lives these women don’t deserve a second delay to their state pension.”

Earlier this year in the House of Lords debate on the Bill Peers showed strong support for reversing the proposals. The vote was narrowly lost, with 214 votes in favour of the amendment and 226 against, but the close result shows the strength of the level of support for the campaign.

IAN JOINS STRONG MAN OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT FOR GREEN POWER PLEDGE

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Ian joined Friends of the Earth’s green strong man ‘Energy Bill’ outside Parliament today to show his support for a tough new law to save energy and tackle climate change in homes and communities around the country.

Ian is backing Friends of the Earth’s call for key changes to the Energy Bill currently being debated in Parliament.  The  environmental campaigning charity wants the Government to lead a nationwide refurb to make sure no one lives in a cold home –  and to beef up support to help councils tackle climate change in their areas.

Ian said: “The Government’s Energy Bill needs to be overhauled to make sure our homes and communities get the green refurb needed to  help fight climate change.

“I’m backing Friends of the Earth’s call for the new law to be stronger, so councils get independent advice to help communities go green, tenants are protected from heat-leaking homes by 2016 and the Government has a plan to insulate every home.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner Liz Hutchins said:

“It’s great that Ian has committed to backing amendments for a stronger Energy Bill.

“We need MPs like Ian to stand up and be counted to help fight dangerous climate change and create clean, green communities we can be proud to live in.”

Ian calls for greater recognition for the UK’s six million carers

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Ian has teamed up with TV presenter Angela Rippon to support this year’s Carers Week (13-19 June) and recognise the contribution made by those people in South Edinburgh and throughout the UK who provide unpaid care for someone who is ill, frail or disabled.

The theme for Carers Week 2011 is ‘The True Face of Carers’. It calls for greater recognition for the diverse range of people who have caring responsibilities. The work they carry out is vital for their families and friends, and for their communities.

Ian met up with Angela at the House of Commons to pay tribute to carers, and to urge that they receive more support in their caring roles. Ian said:

“Thousands of people in South Edinburgh 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 astonishing £119 billion. They deserve to be recognised for their contribution to both our local community and to wider society.

 “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.”

Angela Rippon has personal experience of being a carer. She says:

“For a number of years now I’ve become aware of the extraordinary job that carers do throughout this country. I feel that it’s important that anybody who has any knowledge at all stands up and be counted for them and make the job that they do public, because they should not be invisible, they should be out there and being seen as the heroes and heroines that they are.

 “It’s a strain that people accept willingly and lovingly, and if they’re prepared to do that, I think that as a civilised nation we should be prepared to do something in return.”

Other celebrities supporting carers and Carers Week include Dame Judi Dench, Sir David Jason OBE, Jack Charlton OBE and Martin Lewis.

 Carers Week is organised by a partnership of 9 national charities: Age UK, Carers UK, Counsel & Care, Crossroads Care, Dementia UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, and The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

For more information about local events and activities taking place as part of Carers Week, visit www.carersweek.org.

MP IAN MURRAY USES FOOTBALL SKILLS TO RAISE FUNDS FOR CYSTIC FIBROSIS TRUST

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Ian swapped Parliament for the football pitch for a couple of hours this week, to help raise more than £30,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
Ian was part of the UK Parliamentary Football Team who took on an all-star celebrity team – including Omid Djalili, Angus Deayton, Dalton Grant and Kyran Bracken – at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground.
The team of MPs – which brings together politicians from across the political divide – were beaten by the celebrities, 6-4.
But Ian says that despite the loss, they were all just pleased to have played a part in raising so much for the charity.
He said: “The Parliamentary Football team brings together MPs from all the main parties. And while we may have strong political differences in Parliament, we are united on the football pitch.
“Unfortunately we didn’t win the game at Stamford Bridge. But it was a fantastic opportunity to raise funds for such a worthwhile charity.
“Cystic Fibrosis is affects a significant number of people. And the Cystic Fibrosis Trust funds valuable work, both supporting people who live with Cystic Fibrosis and funding research.”
The annual football match is organised by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, which is the only UK charity dealing with all aspects of Cystic Fibrosis.
Other MPs taking part included East Renfrewshire MP Jim Murphy and Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown.
Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited diseases. Only half of those living with Cystic Fibrosis are likely to live past their late 30s.
Commenting on the match, a spokesperson for the CF Trust said: “It was a fantastic day and the MPs really gave our team a run for their money this year, at one point it looked like it might be a draw. We’ve raised over £30,000 from this event and are really grateful to everyone who played.”

IAN CHALLENGES VINCE CABLE ON SCRAPPING OF THE EQUALITIES ACT

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Ian today challenged the Secretary of State for business, Innovation and Skills on the scrapping of the Equalities Act.

The exchanges arose as part of the Secretary of State’s appearance before the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee to give evidence on the Committees enquiry into “Rebalancing the Economy:  Trade and Investment – The Plan for Growth”.

During an exchange on The Plan for Growth, Ian Murray MP, asked the Secretary of State if, as part of the “Red Tape Challenge” to cut regulations for business, if he had any intention of scrapping the Equality Act 2010, which is Primary Legislation.  The Secretary of State reassured the Committee that he had no intention of doing so.

Ian strongly challenged the Secretary of State as the Equalities page of the www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk clearly states that “You can find the Equality Act 2010 here.  Tell us what you think should happen to this Act and why, being specific where possible: Should they be scrapped altogether?”.

The Secretary of State responded by saying that, “You are quite right, and I regret that. It should not have gone out in that form. In the last few days a corrective has been put on the website making it very clear that that was not the intention.”

The enquiry session took place last week and the “corrective” has still not appeared on the website.

Ian said, “The coalition government has no real plan for growth in the economy so they are going after legislation that protects the most vulnerable in our society.  To call for the scrapping of the Equalities Act will take the UK back 30 years in terms of equality issues.  If this is not the Governments intention then they must say so and make it clear that they are fully behind the Equality Act 2010.

IAN TO PRESS FOR HALLMARKING TO REMAIN AND SAVE JOBS IN EDINBURGH

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Ian has challenged the Secretary of State for business Innovation and Skills on the Governments proposals to remove the need for hallmarking.

During an evidence session of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee Ian Murray MP expressed his disappointment that the removal of Hallmarking as part of the Governments Red Tape Challenge would cost jobs at the Assay Office in Edinburgh.

Ian said, “The Secretary of State clearly does not know the policy of his own Government with regards to Hallmarking.  The website clearly asks if Hallmarking should be scrapped and that will cost Edinburgh jobs and a process that has been happening for centuries.  He really needs to sort this out.”

Ian has also back a recent Early Day Motion highlighting the issue:

“That this House believes it is in the best interests of consumers to maintain hallmarking as a statutory independent service carried out by the four assay offices, London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh in Scotland; notes that hallmarking is Britain’s oldest consumer protection practice and is paid for by the industry not the taxpayer; further notes that the 2010 review of hallmarking by the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation and a recent OFT investigation showed that hallmarking offered important protection to consumers; and therefore calls on the Government to remove hallmarking from the list of regulations which might be abolished under its Red Tape Challenge.”