This week, Ruth has:

  • Debated the Scottish Government’s Child Poverty (Scotland Bill) – which introduces four main statutory income targets for reducing child poverty and includes stringent reporting requirements at both the national and the local level. The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill will make Scotland the only part of the UK with statutory targets to reduce child poverty by 2030, and commits the Scottish Government to publishing regular Child Poverty Delivery Plans, which will be reported on annually. All local authorities and health boards will also be required to produce annual local child poverty action reports outlining the action that they have taken to reduce child poverty. The Scottish Government Bill is a direct response to the UK Conservative Government’s decision to repeal the UK wide income-based targets for child poverty, and to remove the child poverty remit from the then Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. During the debate, Ruth both welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling child poverty and condemned the record of the Tory Government.

 

  • Met with Kim Black of Centrestage Communities, an Ayrshire charity which supports many thousands of people living with multiple deprivations, to feel more connected to the wider community. The group also works alongside children, looked after and excluded young people, prisoners, ex-offenders, the elderly and adults and children with additional support needs. Ruth and Kim visited Pennyburn to meet local volunteers and see the group’s work in action in carrying out dignified food provision with pay it forward methodology.

 

  • Met with local and national representatives of Marie Curie Scotland for a get-to-know-you meeting in Irvine and to talk about their local fundraising and nursing services

 

  • Following a statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance, on social security, Ruth highlighted that the take-up of sure start and funeral assistance is low and, therefore, people have not been getting the financial support that they are eligible for. Ruth then went on to ask about when the Scottish Government has successfully increased take-up, what additional resources the UK Government could provide to further encourage people to take up benefits that they are eligible for and entitled to, but which they do not currently claim. In response, the Cabinet Secretary noted that under the fiscal framework, the UK Government will not provide the Scottish Government with additional resources if benefit take-up rates in Scotland are higher than those in the rest of the UK – but that this will, nonetheless, not stop the Scottish Government carrying out its duty to increase some of the abysmal take-up rates of benefits that people are eligible for. The Cabinet Secretary went on to condemn the UK Government, noting that ‘To date, the UK Government has done little to encourage the take-up of benefits or, indeed, to help people with the application process by simplifying it. It is ridiculous and a damning indictment of the current system that we talk about people having to navigate their way through the benefits system. It can make a huge difference to people’s lives if they get the financial support that they are entitled to. I see that as a key role of Government. Unfortunately, the Tories do not see that as a key responsibility for Government.’

 

  • Following a Ministerial Statement on Widening Access to Higher Education, asked The Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville, what steps the Government and Universities are taking to ensure that young people not only get the chance to go to university but can sustain their place and complete their degree. In response, the Minister stated that retention of students plays an important part in the discussions underway about widening access, going on to say that a great amount of good practice takes place in our universities to support students, whatever background they come from. The Minister also pointed out that there is also much to learn from what happens in the further education sector and colleges in the front-line support that support staff give to students.

 

  • Held MSP advice surgeries at Cranberry Moss Community Centre and Dreghorn Library

 

  • In Education Committee, continued the Committee’s investigation into Workforce Planning for Scotland’s Schools. The Committee heard evidence from John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

 

  • Submitted a parliamentary motion congratulating Ardeer Services petrol station shop on being awarded Local Retailer of the year 2017 at the Scottish Local Retailer Rewards Ceremony

 

  • Submitted a parliamentary motion congratulating the three North Ayrshire primary schools, Whitehirst Primary School, Beith Primary School, Dalry Primary School, awarded ‘Digital School’ status at the first Digital Schools Awards Scotland 2017

 

  • Submitted a parliamentary motion welcoming the efforts of Action on Hearing Loss Scotland to offer educational drop in sessions for deaf people in Irvine and Kilwinning

 

  • Submitted a parliamentary motion welcoming Tesco Irvine’s Bags of Help Scheme’s newly selected charities; recognises that money taken from the carrier bag levy is used to fund three different charities, with awards of various amounts totalling £7000m distributed based on a public vote by way of a token count; acknowledges that this year’s charities are the SHOUT Kinship Care Group, Irvine Cricket Club, and Fullarton Church Action Group, and wishes all of these groups every success.

 

  • Submitted a parliamentary motion congratulating The Dirrans Centre, which is part of North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, on its recently achieved Investors In People (IIP) accreditation at Platinum standard, the highest level of the internationally recognised IIP accreditation scheme