30 November 2011

New Favourite Son For Iowa

I was saying to some one this evening that if I use the magic words Manchester United or Chelsea then the number of hits for this blog rockets!!!

Anyho' I tripped across this brilliant speech which  nails the myths surrounding same sex marriage and on the basis of this performance Iowa has a new favourite son!

25 November 2011

Kennedy Tribute

Yesterday was the 48th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. This track was US left wing folk singer Phil Ochs tribute to him. Ochs said that his communist friends were less than sympathetic about Kennedy's death and that that was one reason he wasn't a communist!

23 November 2011

Social Progress Edie Family Style!

Another day another sod cutting! Yesterdays was in Currie where Link Housing Association are building 30 flats onto the side of Lanark Rd. The steep slope they are building onto will ensure that the residents have stunning views onto the Water of Leith and mature woodland. 

It stuck me last week when I was helping to cut the first sod at the Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre that my Great Grandfather came over from Ireland to dig the canals in the 1860's and probably worked on the Union Canal near the centre. 

It struck me that 150 years on here I was up to be ankles in mud digging holes a few yards away! Have we moved much further forward as a family? At least old man MacFarlane, the Great Grandfather in question, got paid for his efforts!

That old feller was a truly remarkable. He moved here to work as a navvy, taught himself to read and write and joined the Edinburgh Police where he  rose to the rank of Sub Inspector in the CID, a remarkable feat especially considering that he was illiterate when he started to work and he was the first catholic Sub Inspector in the CID.

There's No One Quite Like Grandma

Tonight I have been attending the launch of Boyling Point 2 celebrating the works of Evenings news Cartoonist Frank Boyle.

Frank's cartoons are always perceptive and really funny. He is the best political cartoonists in Scotland by a mile. 

Frank told of how he grew up with Giles annuals as a kid and that drew out his interest in becoming a cartoonist. I suggested to him later that he might like to draw Council Leader Jenny Dawe as Grandma Giles. She was not amused. I fear a career as Trams spokesperson beckons!!!

As Frank was speaking the various original cartoons sequentially fell off the stand behind him. First to go was the one of the Tory Blue Bus going over a cliff. It was quickly followed by Alex Salmond semi nude with a saltire blanket over him a-la Sally Berkow! Then a couple featuring Labour and lesser Nationalist politicians slipped off leaving Willie Rennie's caricature as the last man standing. I wonder if this is an omen!

16 November 2011

Work Gets Underway for the Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre

A chilly Monday morning saw me at another sod cutting. The event was to get work underway for the Wester Hailes Healthy Living Centre. This project will combine, for the first time in Edinburgh, a wide range of Community Health Services, a GP Practice and council services under one roof. 

Over the years it has struck me that  in spite of the NHS having a very strong commitment to reducing the inequalities relating to health -  where your quality of life and indeed length of life can vary significantly depending on your ethnicity, deprivation and where you live -  the NHS alone can't sort this out. So many factors relating the Health Inequalities such as exercise, diet and housing quality are outwith the scope of the NHS and strong partnership working with other agencies is what is needed. 

The results of partnership working are, in my experience, greater than the sum of the parts. On the basis of  the beginning at Wester Hailes we are definitely moving in the right  direction.

11 November 2011

New Care Home Brings Jobs to Drum Brae

I spent this morning getting good and dirty at the sod cutting for the new Care Home at Drum Brae.

The new 60 bed unit is being built by Graham's who did such a great job building Inchview. This brings to five the number of new care homes the Lib Dem led Council  have built. Our officers  can't recall an administration ever building so many!

In the last year in the  Drum Brae area the Lib Dem led council have built a new library and Day Centre where more than a hundred council staff and police  will be located and now a much needed care home again with 100 staff. 

I represented the this part of town for 13 years until boundary changes took it out of my ward. This care home will bring much needed employment to the area and provide excellent care to frail older people in very high standard home.

All are to be congratulated in getting this project off the ground and I can't wait to see it when it is finished. 

The snap above is of local Lib Dems Councillors Jenny Dawe and Robert Aldridge, Mike Crockart  MP and yours  truly.

8 November 2011

End of an Era

Two of Europe most enduring and resilient political figures are heading for the door.  George Papandreou and Silvio Berlusconi have to greater or lesser extents dominated Greece and Italy's political scenes in recent years and both have run out of luck. 

It remains to be seen who will replace them and how successful they will be in recasting the economies of these two nations but we are seeing the end of an era in each of these countries. 

Proving the adage that there is never a dull moment when Nicolas Sarkozy is around reports have just emerged of a conversation with US President Barack Obama in which Nick calls Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "liar"! Obama replies moaning about having to deal with Netanyahu on a daily basis.I feel his pain!

The interesting insight  is even more fascinating because of what it says about the media. In France this has so far gone unreported due to the deference of the French press while the Israeli press have made a meal out of this.

Elizabeth Maginnis Court Opens

Today I spoke at the opening ceremony  of Dunedin Canmore Housing Associations excellent new development in the Granton area  of the City.

Elizabeth Maginnis Court is a superb  development which houses 68 older people and has been named after the late Councillor Elizabeth Maginnis who represented that area with great distinction on both Regional and City Councils until her death three years ago at far too early an age.

Elizabeth was best known as one of the UK's leading councillors  running Educational services but she was also some one who proudly represented her community. She had a strong interest in older people issues and I am delighted that this excellent new facility will carry her name on into the future.

The City Council have put £8 million to match £3.7 million Dunedin Canmore  have raised from the private sector.  Half of the homes will be for people who require care and  the council have also rented a corner of the building to run a day centre in. 

An excellent development and Ewan Fraser and his team at Dunedin are to be  congratulated as are the council staff in Services for Communities and Health and Social Care for their  work in getting such an excellent project off the ground. 

Margo MacDonald MSP opened the building and we also had excellent speeches from cardinal Keith O'Brien and former Lord Provost Eric Milligan.

3 November 2011

Preventing Homelessness In Edinburgh

The release below explains how Lib Dem led Edinburgh Council have been working in partnership with the voluntary sector to reduce and prevent Homelessness. 

I am immensely proud of results the report highlights.

First major prevention study into pioneering service shows stopping homelessness saves misery and money

The first ever major study into Scotland’s pioneering homelessness prevention service has shown a near 100 per cent success in stopping people from losing their home, while saving a local authority money in the process.

The ‘Prevention Saves Money and Misery’ report (1) released today (Thursday) by the Edinburgh Cyrenians and focusing on its specialist Homeless Prevention Service (2) has already attracted supportive comments from the Minister for Housing and Transport and a leading academic.

The charity’s CEO Des Ryan will be joined by people who have successfully kept their home thanks to the service, when he presents the findings and recommendations to MSPs at a special Parliamentary reception tonight. (3)

He will urge that homelessness is a key focus for money spent on prevention in Scotland, in light of the risk of homelessness rising and to help councils meet the upcoming 2012 homelessness target (4).

Mr Ryan said the Homelessness Prevention Service, which is commissioned by the City of Edinburgh Council and was the first of its kind, was a pioneering model of best practice.

Des Ryan, Edinburgh Cyrenians CEO, said:Scotland is a leading light to the world on homelessness and we must continue in that vein. The new report today shows that our pioneering way of preventing homelessness works – saving not just misery but money. We propose to policy makers that stopping people becoming homelessness should be a key part of preventative spending.”

The study comes at a time when interest in prevention is at an all time high, following the Christie Commission’s recent report and the Scottish Government’s focus on prevention in September’s budget statement. (5) 

Councillor Paul Edie, Housing Leader for the City of Edinburgh Council, said this report showed that the services put in place by the council to tackle homelessness in the Capital were working well. 

He said: Support from Edinburgh Cyrenians, along with our other partners, has helped many people who are in danger of falling into homelessness. Preventing homelessness means they can avoid a whole range of associated problems such as rough sleeping, health issues and increased financial difficulties. 

These findings are testament to the hard work carried out by Edinburgh Cyrenians, the Council and our partners in tackling homelessness and shows that  our radical strategy is paying dividends by helping those who need it most. Homelessness in the Capital has reduced by almost 15in the past five years which is a fantastic achievement in these tough economic times.

“We have a long way to go before homelessness can be eradicated but as long as I have anything to do with this issue then this Council will do everything in its power to ensure those who most need our help and support receive it.”

Welcoming the report, Minister for Housing and Transport Keith Brown, said: “The Scottish Government is aware of Edinburgh Cyrenians’ valuable contribution towards tackling and preventing homelessness.

“We welcome this research which shows the effectiveness of a preventative approach. This benefits not only those being assisted by the project but also the wider community. Scotland has an important, but challenging, homelessness target: that by the end of December 2012, all unintentionally homeless households will have the right to settled accommodation.

“With the evident success of Cyrenians Homelessness Prevention Service, we are a step closer to meeting that target.”

The in-depth study demonstrates the effectiveness of the service in preventing homelessness, with 99 per cent of people the Cyrenians charity worked with in 2010/11 still being in their home a year later. (6)

It also shows that prevention can save councils’ money and brings other improvements to people’s lives, in particular their financial, employment and health circumstances. For example, within a sample of 50 service users studied in depth for the research:

  • The Cyrenians Homelessness Prevention Service helped people pay back £19,400 in rent arrears, around £15,000 of which went back to the City of Edinburgh Council.

  • Eleven had moved into employment since first contact with the Cyrenians. Many had seen a significant increase in income during that time.

  • During their first assessment, 30 people talked about being depressed but within a year this had reduced to 14 people reporting depression.

  • Also, across the service as a whole, volunteering hours in the local community had risen from 624 to 1,040 during a one year period.

Leading academic, Professor Isobel Anderson, from the University of Stirling, in her introductory foreword to the report, writes: “I very much welcome this report as a contribution to the emerging evidence base on homelessness prevention in Scotland…..This evaluative study from Cyrenians illustrates how organisations can implement monitoring and evaluation of outcomes alongside development and delivery of services which seek to help people sustain homes and avoid homelessness. I hope this report will stimulate further discussion across the sector.”


Notes to Editors

(1)    The summary and full report can be downloaded from here. It looks at  performance data provided quarterly to the City of Edinburgh Council, which commissions the service, and Cyrenians internal recording for 376 people; a tracking questionnaire with a sample of 50 service users and a comparison questionnaire with 15 people who have been homeless.
(2)    Edinburgh Cyrenians is an independent charity that has been working to prevent and alleviate poverty and homelessness since 1968. The Homelessness Prevention Service was set up in April 2009, commissioned by the City of Edinburgh Council. It was designed to prevent people presenting as homeless by either keeping their current house, or moving onto another in a planned way. It works with people who have never presented to the council as homeless before and helps around 400 people a year.
(3)    People who have used the service will be available to speak to members of the press on Wednesday, November 2, between 2-3pm at the Cyrenians office. Please contact Christina Cran, 07725 316 513, to arrange access.
(4)    The Homelessness (Scotland) Act 2003 sets out the intention that by 2012 every unintentionally homeless person will be entitled to permanent accommodation.  This means that the main criteria for determining ‘need’ for a house – priority need, which historically has meant families – will no longer be used and all those who present as homeless and are unintentionally homeless will be entitled to housing.
(6)    The report shows that out of the 376 people that the Cyrenians Homelessness Service worked with in 2010/11, only 3 went on to present as homeless within the next 12 months.
(7)    For more information about the Edinburgh Cyrenians visit here.
Christina Cran 
Cran Communications 
fishing out stories: creating new hooks

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