Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health

COVID-19 Vaccination Programme To Start Next Week

Deliveries of the first coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to Scotland are expected to be made early next week with injections being given from Tuesday 8 December.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has confirmed that the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has been authorised for use in the UK.

The vaccine, which must be stored at well below freezing, will be transported to 23 locations around the country in temperature controlled lorries.

Everyone being vaccinated will need two vaccines, between 21 and 28 days apart.

Those giving the vaccination to others will receive the injection first. The programme will then follow the independent advice received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which recommends prioritising those with the greatest clinical need – including those aged over 80, and health and social care workers. The storage requirements mean logistics around delivery to care homes are more challenging and they are currently under consideration.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Today’s announcement confirming that a safe and effective vaccine can now be used is the best news than any of us have heard about the virus since the pandemic began.

“As long as we receive the first doses of vaccine when we expect to, we will begin vaccinating from Tuesday next week.

“It is of course worth remembering that everyone will require two vaccines, with the second vaccine between 21 and 28 days after the first, so even for those who are among the first, there will be very few completed until early next year.

“We intend to vaccinate the vaccinators first, followed by the priority groups recommended by the JCVI, however we also need to take account of the conditions attached to the authorisation to supply the vaccine which will present challenges around transporting the vaccine to care homes and individual homes.

“We are therefore in the process of working through how we can ensure people in priority groups in those settings can be vaccinated.

“For all the difficulties that lie ahead, it should give us all real hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight.”

Categories
Children Coronavirus Public Health Social Security

Winter Support Fund for Families and Children

£100 million package will help communities at risk.

Funding to help people pay for food, heating, warm clothing and shelter during the winter is part of a new £100m support package.

The fund will help those on low incomes, children and people at risk of homelessness or social isolation cope with winter weather and the economic impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) and Brexit.

The Winter Plan for Social Protection, announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, will also address domestic abuse and digital exclusion.

COVID-19 has had a significant negative effect on Scotland’s economy hitting jobs and living standards hard – and Brexit will exacerbate the situation.

With winter approaching, some of Scotland’s most at-risk communities are facing rising costs for food, fuel and other essentials.

Key elements of the plan include:

  • £22m for low income families including £16m to give the low income families of an estimated 156,000 children in receipt of free school meals a one-off £100 payment by Christmas
  • £23.5m to help vulnerable children through additional support for residential and care homes, social work, and the Children’s Hearing system
  • £15m for the Communities and Third Sector Recovery Programme to support the work of local organisations
  • £5.9m to promote digital inclusion for older people, support social isolation and loneliness and to promote equality
  • £7m to help people who are struggling to pay fuel bills
  • £5m to help those at risk of homelessness find a settled home

The Winter Plan for Social Protection also includes £15m of flexible funding for local authorities entering COVID-19 protection level 4 – announced by the First Minister earlier this month – which can be used to pay for food and essentials.

The First Minister said:

“We will shortly become the only part of the UK to give low income families an extra £10 per week for every child – initially for children up to age 6 and then for every child up to age 16.

“This has been described as a game changer in the fight to end child poverty. The first payments will be made in February, but I know that for families struggling now, February is still a long way off.

“So I am announcing today a £100 million package to bridge that gap, and help others struggling most with the impact of COVID over the winter months.

“It will include money to help people pay their fuel bills and make sure children don’t go hungry. It will offer additional help for the homeless, and fund an initiative to get older people online and connected. And it will provide a cash grant of £100 for every family with children in receipt of free school meals.

“The money will be paid before Christmas and families can use it for whatever will help them through the winter.

“That could be food, new shoes or a winter coat for the kids. Families will know best what they need – that’s not for government to decide.

“Initiatives like this are not just about providing practical help to those who need it most – they are an expression of our values and of the kind of country we are seeking to build.”

Background

The £100m Winter Plan for Social Protection has been developed to mitigate social harms posed by the concurrent risks of COVID-19, winter cost of living increases and EU exit, as well as to promote equality and human rights.

The full breakdown of the £100m fund is:

Support for families on low incomes (£22m)

Supporting services for children and young people (£23.5m)

Enhancing capacity within the third sector and communities (£15m)

Funds for local authorities moving into level 4 (£15m)

Further help with fuel costs (£7m)

Further investment in strategic national food activity (£2m)

Further investment to support people affected by homelessness (£5.14m)

Increased digital inclusion through Connecting Scotland for older people, support for social isolation and loneliness and strategic investment to promote equality (£5.91m)

A campaign on benefit uptake and income maximisation (£0.25m)

Reserve fund to meet potential pressures (£4.2m)

Categories
Social Security

£540 Million in Scottish Benefit Payments Since Launch of New System

Social Security Scotland reports on its first full financial year.

The Scottish Government has provided people who need it with over £540 million in payments since launch in September 2018 up to 31 March 2020, according to the Social Security Scotland’s annual report published today.

From 1 September 2018 to 31 March 2020, benefits were delivered that support low income families during key stages in a child’s life, people struggling to pay for funerals and unpaid carer

The support paid over the course of the financial year reporting period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 totalled £346.7 million.

A further three benefits have been introduced since March 2020. Job Start Payment, Child Winter Heating Assistance and the Scottish Child Payment which is estimated could pay an extra £142 million to people in Scotland every year.

Joe FitzPatrick MSP (right) with David Wallace (left), Chief Executive of Social Security Scotland, on a tour of their Dundee offices.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“Social security is the most significant new public service to be created in Scotland since devolution.

“Social Security Scotland’s latest annual report shows that our new service is already supporting thousands of low income people including families with young children, carers and those who have lost loved ones. It paid out £346.7 million in the last financial year and we expect this to be much higher when we report again next year given the introduction of three more benefits – including the game changing Scottish Child Payment.

“What’s also encouraging is that over 80% of clients who rated their experience of applying for Scotland’s benefits said it was good. Making sure we get money to those who need it is our priority but to truly do things differently we want to make sure that people have a good experience – that they are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.

“Of the ten benefits we currently offer, seven are completely new forms of assistance and the others are more generous than the UK benefits they replace. And despite the impact of Covid-19, we have introduced three new benefits in the last four months and our new Scottish Child Payment that will provide eligible parents and carers with an additional £10 per child per week is open to applications and will be paid from the end of February 2021.

“Over the course of this year, the service has continued to grow and take on new responsibilities. And next year will bring even greater challenges with the introducing of the more complex disability benefits. People can be reassured that we will continue to ensure that our social security system is there for people when they need it, and is something they can be proud of.”

Chief Executive of Social Security Scotland, David Wallace said:

“I’m very proud of what we have achieved during the 2019/20 reporting period and since launching our brand new public service. And I’m pleased we have been able to effectively get money to so many people in Scotland who need it.

“There is still a lot more to do as we prepare to start to deliver the more complex disability payments and our service will continue to grow.

“The annual report demonstrates all that we have accomplished. Looking forward, our new Corporate Plan sets out what we will do to deliver on our responsibilities in the future.

“And our Charter Measurement Framework co-designed by people with lived experience of benefits – will help us measure our success.”

Background

  • Payments made during the reporting period of 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 include Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment, Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment, Best Start Grant School Age Payment, Best Start Foods, Carer’s Allowance Supplement, Young Carer Grant and Funeral Support Payment.
  • Social Security Scotland also reports on Carer’s Allowance payments that are made on its behalf through the Department for Work and Pensions.
  • Over £537 million in benefit expenditure was recorded in the Social Security Scotland annual report (£346.7 million in 2019/20 and £190.9 million in the seven months of 2018/19) with an additional £6.9 million in 2019/20 Best Start Foods payments coming from the Scottish Government’s health budget. Best Start Foods spend is accounted for in the Scottish Government’s annual accounts.
  • As of 23 November 2020, Social Security Scotland now directly administers ten benefits. Benefits introduced in 2020/21 include Job Start Payment (introduced August 2020), Scottish Child Payment (applications accepted from November 2020 with payments to start end February 2021) and Child Winter Heating Assistance (introduced November 2020)
  • Read Social Security Scotland’s latest Annual Report
  • Read Social Security Scotland’s Charter Measurement Framework 
  • Read Social Security Scotland’s Corporate Plan
  • People can find out more and apply for Social Security Scotland benefits by visiting mygov.scot/benefits
Categories
Children Education Health

SNP Announce Free School Meals For All Primary School Pupils

“Progressive vision to tackle poverty in the face of Tory cuts”

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick has welcomed the announcement that every primary school pupil in Dundee will be eligible for free school meals, all year around, if the SNP is re-elected in May.

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, set out this latest step in the drive to tackle child poverty and make Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals at the SNP annual conference this weekend.

The SNP previously extended eligibility for a free school lunch to all P1 to P3 pupils while P4 to P7 pupils are eligible based on a range of income and benefits criteria.

Now, in the face of predictions that Westminster cuts will drive child poverty rates even higher, the expansion – estimated to cost around £230 million per year in additional expenditure – will introduce a free year-round breakfast and lunch for all primary school pupils from August 2022.

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put real financial pressure on families, and it’s right that the Scottish Government ensured that children in Dundee would continue to receive free school meals over the holidays.

“But we will not stop there. If the SNP is re-elected in May, every single primary school pupil in Dundee will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch, all year round.

“And unlike the Tories, we didn’t have to be publicly shamed and condemned into choosing to feed hungry children – that is the basic duty of any government.

“This ambitious expansion of the free school meals scheme is the next step in our battle to stop the Tories forcing more and more kids into poverty, support families, and make Scotland the best place to grow up.

“That progressive vision, underpinned by human rights, equality and wellbeing, is exactly why people in Scotland continue to put their faith in the SNP.”

Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health

Second Phase of Flu Vaccine

People aged 60-64 will be invited to receive the seasonal flu vaccine from 1 December as part of the largest flu immunisation program ever delivered in Scotland.

The most effective way to protect against flu this winter is continuing to prioritise those who are most at risk, especially in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

With vaccination for the first phase of the flu programme well under way, eligibility is being extended next to those aged 60-64.

Those entitled to the flu vaccine will receive an invitation letter by post from their health board letting them know where they can receive the vaccine and how to book an appointment.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nicola Steedman said:

“Flu is serious in itself, but with COVID-19 also circulating in the community, getting a flu jab is more important than ever.

“For those who may be concerned about going to get the flu vaccine, we can assure you that there will be strict infection and prevention control measures in place at delivery sites to protect you.

“The vaccine is safe, and the best protection we have against flu. This year more than ever it is important that those invited for vaccination take up the offer to protect themselves, their family and, where possible, the NHS. I’ve had my vaccine already, and would urge all of those who are eligible, including the new group of 60-64 year olds, to get one too.

“We will continue to adapt our approach to any changes that occur throughout flu season, always prioritising those most at risk from flu, as well as seeking to protect the NHS.”

Background

NHS Inform is the best source of information for finding out more about how you will be invited to book a flu vaccine appointment

Vaccination policy in Scotland, as with the rest of the UK, is based on recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent expert group which considers a full range of available evidence before providing impartial advice on matters relating to vaccination. It is recommended that we prioritise those most at clinical risk, and we continue to do that as we review vaccine uptake levels.

We are operating in a context where global supplies of flu vaccine are constrained. If demand for the vaccine is a lot higher than we predicted, then those at the greatest clinical risk will continue to be prioritised.

Categories
Housing

Increased Funding Commitment for Affordable Homes

Greater certainty for housing providers.

Housing providers and the construction sector can plan more affordable homes thanks to an additional £200 million funding commitment announced today by Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell.

Ahead of the Scottish Budget in January, the interim funding available for the Affordable Housing Supply Programme in 2021-22 has been increased from £300 million to £500 million.

This will help provide funding certainty for local authorities, housing associations and the construction sector as they look to recover from the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). The Affordable Housing Supply Programme helps to deliver homes for social rent, mid-market rent and shared equity.

Ms Campbell said:

“COVID-19 has underlined the value of home as a safe place to live. This announcement shows our dedication to continue delivering affordable, warm, secure homes for the people of Scotland and to build on our achievement of delivering nearly 96,000 affordable homes since 2007.

“By significantly increasing the funding able to be committed now, we are building on our record £3.5 billion commitment over this Parliament and our plans for further capital investment laid out recently in our draft Infrastructure Investment Plan. This will help the economy and the construction sector to recover from the pandemic while ensuring we maintain momentum in the delivery of social and affordable homes to those who need them.”

Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health Social Security

More People Can Claim Self-Isolation Support Grant

Help extended to parents of children self-isolating.

The £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant is being extended to include parents on low incomes whose children are asked to self-isolate, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced today.

The grant will also become available to those who may be eligible for Universal Credit, but have not yet applied.

Both changes will be introduced from 7 December.

Ms Somerville said:

“We introduced this grant at unprecedented speed, and I am grateful for the work of COSLA and councils to ensure it is up and running.

“While self-isolation can be difficult for everyone, we know there are particular financial barriers to complying faced by some people.

“We always said we would review this grant to make sure it worked for people who face hardship as a result of self-isolation. That is why we are making changes for some people who are not currently eligible.

“We are extending it to parents of children aged under 16 who need to take time off work because their child is told to self-isolate, and also to people who are eligible for Universal Credit, but have not claimed it – providing they fulfil all of the other criteria for the grant.

“Supporting people to self-isolate is critical to controlling the spread of the virus. These are important changes, and I am grateful to councils for their continued work to support those who can claim this grant.”

COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson Councillor Kelly Parry said:

“COSLA welcomes the Self-Isolation Support Grant being extended to parents and carers of children who have been asked to stay home from school because of the virus and that it will also include those with an underlying eligibility for benefits.

“Council staff across the country have been working really hard to ensure the grant is accessible to people who have experienced a loss in income after being asked to self-isolate.

“By extending the eligibility for the grants, more people will be helped to stop the spread of the virus over the winter period.”

Background

The Self-Isolation Support Grant provides £500 for low income workers who are in receipt of Universal Credit or other benefits and will lose earnings as a result of having to self-isolate.

Parents or carers of children under 16 who are asked to self-isolate, but who are not required to self-isolate themselves, are not currently eligible for the grant.

This is why the grant will be extended to those parents and carers, where they fulfil the other eligibility criteria:

  • employed or self-employed and unable to work from home
  • in receipt of Universal Credit or one of those which will be replaced by UC (legacy benefits)
  • facing a loss of income from looking after the child during the period of self-isolation

Only one claim per household can be made, where a parent or primary carer is required to look after a child who must isolate.

Eligibility will also be extended to people with a low level of income which means they would be entitled to Universal Credit.

Categories
Carers Coronavirus Mental Health

Supporting Health and Social Care Staff

Key workers are using National Wellbeing Hub.

More than 53,000 health and social care staff have received psychological support from the National Wellbeing Hub since it was launched in May.

Established during the first phase of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the hub supports all health and social care workers, including unpaid carers, who need help due to COVID-19, alongside a new 24/7 National Wellbeing helpline.

The hub helps people facing challenging situations at home or at work and includes digital programmes designed to help manage stress and reduce anxiety.

Trained practitioners at NHS24 offer callers to the helpline a compassionate and empathic listening service based on the principles of psychological first aid, as well as advice, signposting and onward referral to local services if required.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“We are all deeply grateful for the continued hard work, commitment and professionalism of those working in health and social care services. With a second phase of COVID-19 and additional winter pressures, I know our frontline workers continue to face increased anxiety and fatigue due to the unprecedented public health challenge we continue to face.

“The Hub has already helped more than 53,000 people and I hope all health and social services workers in hospitals and in the community make use of the high quality resources and advice available on managing stress and anxiety, fatigue, sleep, relaxation and exercise. For those who need one-on-one support, our wellbeing support line continues to provide around the clock help.

“I would also encourage everyone, especially those who receive health and social care support, to remember the challenges facing key workers and continue to thank them for their incredible work.

“We are continuing to monitor the impact of the pandemic on our valued workforce and will do our best to ensure that appropriate support services are put in place to help them.”

To access the helpline, health and social care staff should dial 0800 111 4191.

Background

The National Wellbeing Hub is designed to be the first point of contact for all employed health and social care staff but also for their families, as well as unpaid carers and volunteers looking for support.

The wellbeing helpline is a confidential service for staff. There are no automatic notifications to GPs or employers and onward referral is only with the caller’s consent. Trained practitioners provide a compassionate listening service and psychological first aid to callers. They provide a range of support including directing people to resources available through the National Wellbeing Hub. If needed, and with a caller’s agreement, they can also refer people on to local staff support services.

Categories
Community Safety Coronavirus Health Mental Health Public Health

Cautious Approach To Christmas

Joint agreement on festive period but there are still risks, warns First Minister.

The Scottish Government has agreed a cautious and limited relaxation of the rules on household meetings to support people over the Christmas period.

A maximum of three households are to be able to meet in a “bubble” during a short window of time across the festive period.

Households will be able to travel between local authorities and between the four nations during December 23 and 27 to form a bubble, and must only join one bubble.

The five-day period provides time for travel, and for those who may have to work over Christmas. Households are not required to use all five days and should keep visits to no more than one or two days if possible.

Confirming the plans, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it is clear that there is a risk inherent in any relaxation of the restrictions and asked everyone to consider very carefully whether the opportunity to mix for a few days is necessary given the risk of spreading the virus.

She said:

“We know that for some, contact with friends and family is crucial during this time as isolation and loneliness can hit people especially hard over the Christmas period. The “bubble” approach aims to reduce this impact.

“But we must be clear, there cannot be any further relaxation of measures for Hogmanay. Even this short relaxation will give the virus a chance to spread. Our priority is to suppress transmission of COVID-19 and reduce the risk to the vulnerable and those who have spent so long shielding – and that involves abiding by the rules.

“Just because you can mix with others indoors over this time, that doesn’t mean you have to. If you choose to stick with the rules as they are, then you will be continuing the hard work to beat this virus and prevent its spread.”

The approach states:

  • a “bubble” should be formed household to household only (i.e. different people in a household should not pick their own bubble)
  • between 23 and 27 December, people can meet in an exclusive “bubble” composed of three households
  • you should stay with your “bubble” where they are hosting you and you should follow the travel advice for the level you are in (e.g. people being hosted in a level 3 area cannot go on an outing to a level 2 area)
  • within your “bubble”, you can gather in a home, an outdoor place or a place of worship
  • in all other settings – eg. hospitality, entertainment venues – those who have formed a bubble must only socialise with members of their own household
  • households deciding to form a bubble will be advised to limit social contact before and after the period of relaxation

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for festive period

Categories
Business

Scottish National Investment Bank Officially Opened

First Minister launches Scottish National Investment Bank.

The Scottish National Investment Bank has officially opened for business with the completion of its first major investment.

It is the UK’s first mission-led development bank and it is being capitalised by the Scottish Government with £2 billion over ten years.

The bank’s proposed missions will focus on supporting Scotland’s transition to net zero, extending equality of opportunity through improving places, and harnessing innovation to enable Scotland to flourish.

It will provide patient capital – a form of long term investment – for businesses and projects in Scotland, and catalyse further private sector investment.

Today’s £12.5 million investment in Glasgow-based laser and quantum technology company M Squared will support the company’s further growth in Scotland and speaks to the bank’s proposed core missions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“The Scottish National Investment Bank will help to tackle some of the biggest challenges we face now and in the years to come, delivering economic, social and environmental returns.

“It is hitting the ground running with its first major investment in M Squared – a great example of the ambitious and innovative companies we have here in Scotland that will be key to our economic recovery and future prosperity.

“The launch of the bank is one of the most significant developments in the lifetime of this parliament, with the potential for it to transform, grow and decarbonise Scotland’s economy.”

Scottish National Investment Bank Chair Willie Watt said:

“Today is a key milestone for the Scottish National Investment Bank. Our launch enables us to make mission-led, strategic, patient investments in businesses and projects that can deliver benefits for the people of Scotland. I am excited about the role the Bank will play in supporting and enabling growth in the Scottish economy.

“We are particularly pleased that our first investment is in M Squared which is at the cutting edge of innovation and is a recognised world-leader in its field. It is our firm belief that the bank will make many more investments that deliver positive mission impacts in the years and decades to come.”

Dr Graeme Malcolm, CEO and founder of M Squared, said:

“Science and advanced technologies have a major role to play in Scotland’s future economic prosperity. By increasing investment in research and development with a mission-based approach, Scotland has a real opportunity to actively tackle climate change and benefit from the coming quantum revolution.

“We are delighted that the Scottish National Investment Bank has invested in M Squared as its very first business – our shared commitments to society and the environment makes this an ideal partnership that will enable accelerated growth and progress in frontier technologies.”

Benny Higgins, Strategic Adviser to the First Minister on the establishment of the bank, said:

“It has been a privilege to be part of an outstanding effort to make this a reality. We could not have predicted that the current pandemic renders the need for mission-led investment even more vital to create a robust, resilient wellbeing economy in Scotland.”

Background

Scottish National Investment Bank

The Scottish National Investment Bank has now been formally established as a public limited company. State Aid approval for the establishment and capitalisation of the bank was received from the European Commission in November 2020.

The proposed missions focus the bank’s activities on addressing key challenges and creating inclusive, long-term economic growth.

The bank’s Chief Executive Eilidh Mactaggart was appointed in April 2020 and its non-executive directors are: Tracey Ashworth-Davies, Carolyn Jameson, Peter Knott, Jason McGibbon, Nicholas Moon, Candida Morley, Dr Jacqueline Redmond and Sir Jonathan Taylor.

The Scottish Government recently  consulted publicly on the proposed missions for the Scottish National Investment Bank. That consultation was welcomed by the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, and found clear support for the proposed missions. The final missions will be set by Scottish Ministers shortly.

Categories
Social Security

£8.7 Million Funeral Support from Scottish Government

Thousands get help to cover funeral costs.

Almost 6,000 people received a Funeral Support Payment in its first full year, according to statistics published today.

Since it started making payments last September, Social Security Scotland has paid out £8.7 million to people who have lost a loved one.

Eligible applicants currently receive an average of £1,761 to help with the costs of a burial or cremation and expenses such as travel and flowers.

Funeral Support Payment replaced the UK Government’s Funeral Expense Payment in Scotland.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“Coping with the death of a loved one is one of the most difficult events any of us can face – it’s even harder when there’s extra stress trying to find the money to pay for a funeral.

“It’s important that we support people at key times like this. We want to do what we can to stop those who are dealing with grief having to get into debt too.

“The economic impact of COVID-19 means many more people are receiving Universal Credit or other qualifying benefits than previously, which means they could also be eligible for the Funeral Support Payment.

“I’d encourage anyone who thinks they might qualify for this important financial support to find out more and apply. People can apply for the payment up to 6 months after a funeral has taken place, although if you could not apply within this timescale because of COVID-19, we’ll accept your application as on time.

“Making sure that everyone gets the financial support they are entitled to is a basic step in putting dignity and respect at the heart of social security in Scotland.”

Background:

  • Read  the full report.
  • Funeral Support Payment can help cover burial or cremation costs (these costs vary throughout the country – see the published reasonable local costs.
  • The payment includes a flat rate for any other expenses – £1,000 for the majority of applications and £122.05 if the person who died had made provision for their funeral through a funeral plan. It can also cover some travel, document, and medical costs
  • Clients can find pre-application advice which includes eligibility and award amounts and apply at  mygov.scot/funeral-support-payment
  • Clients can choose to apply online, via a paper application form or by calling our specially trained Funeral Support Payment team on 0800 182 2222.
Categories
Coronavirus Education Health Universities

Guidance for Students Returning Home

Plans for mass testing of asymptomatic students.

Students travelling home at the end of term will be able to take voluntary coronavirus (COVID-19) tests through their college or university from next Monday.

As part of a number of measures to support a safe return home, students are also being asked to take extra care in the period leading up their departure, only going out for essential purposes such as learning, exercise and food shopping. This is to minimise the number of contacts they have with others and reduce the potential for spread of the virus.

Updated guidance has now been published for students on minimising social contact, testing and end of term travel – whether to other parts of Scotland, the UK or the world.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Richard Lochhead said:

“Our priority is to ensure that students who wish to go home at the end of term can do so while keeping themselves, their families, friends and communities safe.

“We are asking that students continue living at their term-time accommodation for now and minimise any opportunity to pick up the virus by limiting themselves to only essential reasons to mix with others.

“Voluntary testing will also be available from next Monday. This is part of a huge UK-wide effort by colleges and universities to test asymptomatic students before they leave their term-time accommodation.

“I want to thank all students for their tremendous resilience and patience this academic year and I know that they will continue to do all they can to stay safe and ensure a happy reunion with their loved ones.”

NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly said:

“The introduction of mass testing for students and staggered departure dates are warmly welcome and will be a relief to many students and families across Scotland allowing students to return home safely this winter.

“But we now have our part to play and so I’d strongly encourage any student moving household over the holidays to plan ahead and get tested if you can.”

Professor Gerry McCormac, Convener of Universities Scotland, said:

“Students who intend to return home this Christmas should take the test for people without symptoms as soon as possible. The test is quick and free and the results are available fast. The tests are a helpful extra step to take to keep your family and friends and the wider community safe from COVID-19 this Christmas. A double negative result will give you more confidence to travel home but it doesn’t change the need to practise personal safety measures; wear a face covering, avoid crowds, keep two metres distance and wash your hands regularly to minimise your risk.

“This has been a challenging term for students and I want to thank them for their continued vigilance against the virus. I also want to put on record my thanks and admiration for the staff involved in making these testing centres a reality as well as those who will be working in them. To have these testing centres open so quickly is a testament to our dedicated staff as well as the partnership approach across colleges and universities to ensure that as many students as possible get tested.”

Background

Universities and colleges will be utilising lateral flow devices (LFDs) – a clinically validated swab antigen test that does not require a laboratory for processing and can produce rapid results within half an hour at the location of the test.

Students will be offered two LFD tests, spaced three days apart which are bookable through their college or university. Those receiving two negative results will be encouraged to safely return home as soon as is practical after the second result.

If either of the lateral flow tests returns a positive result, the student will be asked to self-isolate and undertake a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test through the usual NHS Test & Protect channels.

Colleges and universities will have specific information for students on the care and support that will be available for those who are either not returning home, or who are having to self-isolate.

FAQ on the student testing programme and returning home

Guidance on how to travel safely

Categories
Education

42 Extra Teachers In Dundee Following SNP Funding Boost

A further 42 new teachers and support staff recruited in the Dundee City council area since the summer..

Local MSP Joe FitzPatrick has welcomed news that 1,250 new teachers, and 155 support staff, have been recruited in schools across Scotland in recent months.

The SNP Government pledged £80 million of support this summer to help local authorities’ recruitment for the safe re-opening of schools.

Councils across Scotland indicate that an estimated further 200 teachers are also in the pipeline with 100 extra support staff also expected to follow.

Last month, figures from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) showed that the number of newly-qualified teachers going straight into employment has risen by nearly 30% under the SNP’s leadership.

Analysis also revealed that the number of teachers in Scotland under the age of 45 has risen to 61.5% of the workforce as of 2019. In 2009, the majority of teachers were over 45.

Commenting, SNP MSP for Dundee City West Constituency, Joe FitzPatrick said:

“In the middle of a global pandemic, it’s absolutely vital that local authorities are fully supported to ensure that our schools remain safe for pupils, teachers and staff.

“Thanks to significant investment from the SNP Government this summer, we now have hundreds of extra teachers and staff in our schools to support their safe re-opening.

“These additional teachers and support staff will not only bring much needed resilience to Scotland’s education system, but they will help compensate for the loss of learning suffered by pupils during lockdown.

“I want to express my appreciation once again for our amazing teachers, and wider schools workforce, right here in Dundee, who are helping to ensure our young people continue to get the education they deserve during these tough times.”

Categories
Coronavirus Public Health Transport

£2 Million Spaces for People Walking and Cycling Fund for Dundee

WORK has started to deliver four types of project funded by a second bid to make it safer for walking or cycling for commuting, essential trips and exercise.

A £2 million application to Sustrans to back upgrading the Green Circular, connecting schools and communities, pop-up cycle lanes on commuter routes and measures around physical distancing in District Centres was agreed earlier this year.

The charity distributing funds on behalf of the Scottish Government endorsed the second request following the success of the first Spaces for People projects in the city, and have continued to work closely with the council in the planning and use of the funds.

Mark Flynn convener of Dundee City council’s city development committee said:

“I am pleased to see that the preparation work is well underway on what are another set of exciting and interesting projects.

“It takes safe active travel for pedestrians, wheelers and cyclists during the Covid period out to more areas across the city and broadens the scope of measures already in place.

“These four new projects provide greater encouragement for people to use cleaner, greener and healthier ways of getting to and from their destination, not just in the current period but also as we move into the future. Reinstatement and relaunch of Dundee Green Circular was awarded £400,000 to re-establish Scotland’s first sustainable “ring-road” with work to take place at 20 sites along the route including resurfacing, widening, installing traffic signs and removing overgrown vegetation.

A £400,000 project will help to boost usage of the established cycling network connecting schools and communities. It will incorporate widening the existing footway in the park near St Andrews PS and provision for a table top crossing at St Leonards Place; a new footway/cycleway along the south verge of Gilburn Road and provision for a new pedestrian crossing near Asda to improve the safer route to St Paul’s Academy.

In addition, a new footway/cycleway within the central reservation in Balgowan Avenue will improve the safer routes and connecting school links for St Andrews, Sidlaw View and St Paul’s.

To connect communities a new footway/cycleway link will be created along West Grange Road from Lawers Drive to the existing cycleway/footway link adjacent to A92 Arbroath Road.

New pop-up cycle lanes will use £700,000 of the money to improve the key commuter route between the city centre and Ninewells Hospital. The council has been working closely with NHS Tayside over the past two years to identify potential improvements that will make it easier and safer for people to travel to and around the Ninewells Hospital site on foot and by bike.

District Centre physical distancing measures totalling £500,000 will be implemented and engagement and communications with businesses and traders to review ideas and suggestions is set to start in the near future. Suggestions have included widening of pavements, creation of parklets, decluttering of footways and removal of some parking.

Funded by Scottish Government and managed by Sustrans Scotland, Spaces for People is a temporary infrastructure programme in Scotland offering funding and support to make it safer for people who choose to walk, cycle or wheel for permitted journeys and exercise, while physical distancing is in place during Covid-19 and as we transition out of the current restrictions.

Categories
Coronavirus Mental Health

Mental Health Support for Veterans

More funding for services.

Veterans across Scotland will continue to have access to a range of welfare and psychological support with more funding for mental health services.

The Scottish Government is providing Veterans First Point Scotland with more than £658,000 to continue to deliver its services in 2021-22.

The charity has a network of six regional centres across Scotland and provides essential support to veterans through peer-support delivered in person and online.

Mental Health Minister Clare Haughey said:

“Veterans First Point Scotland has done an excellent job during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, adapting service delivery to continue to support veterans remotely as well as face-to-face.

“Not only does the charity provide an essential support service, it also actively aims to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help, by encouraging veterans to socialise with their local community and engage with their local centre.

“That’s why I am pleased that we are supporting Veterans First Point again in 2021-22 to help them continue their vital work with our veterans across Scotland.”

Background

Veterans First Point Scotland provides a veteran-led mental health and welfare support service. The charity aims to maximise engagement with Scottish veterans and support recovery from mental health issues through welfare and psychological support.

The employment of experienced veteran Peer Support Workers who provide essential welfare and life support ensures the service continues to be veteran-led in its approach.

Veteran Peer Support Workers co-ordinate with partner organisations to provide a broad range of welfare and wellbeing support to veterans engaged with the service.

Categories
Social Security

Child Disability Payment To Be Introduced Next Summer

Update on delivery timeline for devolved benefits.

Child Disability Payment will be the next new benefit to be introduced by the Scottish Government.

In an update to the Scottish Parliament today, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security Shirley-Anne Somerville said Social Security Scotland will start taking applications from summer 2021 as part of a pilot, ahead of a full roll-out across the country from autumn 2021.

This will be followed by the introduction of Adult Disability Payment, which will be piloted from spring 2022 and available across the country by summer 2022.

Child Disability Payment will replace the DWP’s Disability Living Allowance for Children and Adult Disability Payment will replace Personal Independence Payment.

People who currently get UK Government disability benefits will be transferred to the new Scottish system in stages after the new benefits are introduced. This work is expected to be completed to the previously announced timeline of 2025.

Once Adult Disability Payment has been rolled out, anyone on Personal Independence Payment or Working Age Disability Living Allowance who reports a change in condition, has an upcoming review date, or is about to reach the end of their DWP award period, will transfer to Social Security Scotland so that they do not have to undergo a DWP face-to-face assessment.

The Cabinet Secretary also confirmed the ambition to roll out Scottish Child Payment to under-16s by the end of 2022, subject to getting the data for 6-16 year olds from the DWP.

Ms Somerville said:

“I am pleased we have been able to make progress this year with our work to establish a new social security system for Scotland, despite the impacts of COVID-19. Our progress includes the introduction of three new benefits. Our Job Start Payment helps young people starting a new job after a period of unemployment. Child Winter Heating Assistance will help families of the most seriously disabled children and young people heat their homes. And through our prioritising of the game-changing Scottish Child Payment, we were able to start taking applications for children under 6 last week.

“Ahead of COVID-19 we were on track with our other new benefits too. However, the pandemic halted that. There was a limit to what we could do given the changes to our own operations and without the valuable input from delivery partners. We were forced to review our timeline for the introduction of these more complex benefits. Given how close we were to introducing the first of our major disability assistance payments, this is of course hugely disappointing to me. I know that feeling will be shared by others.

“It is clear that while the fight against this virus continues, work needs to be re-prioritised by both the Scottish Government and our partners to focus on the response and recovery. Health and social care professionals – whose expertise we need to deliver disability benefits – are rightly working on the frontline to both fight this virus and restart health services. Councils are concentrating on maintaining services, while providing the additional support people need right now. The Department for Work and Pensions, who are essential partners in the work on the transfer of benefits, face similar challenges.

“Working with these partners we have developed as ambitious a timeline as possible, while remaining cognisant that COVID-19 is still here – indeed we remain in the grip of it. The new timeline I have set out today is reasonable and realistic.

“I am glad that I am now able to provide people with more clarity. Being transparent about our plans and what is achievable is part of ensuring our social security system continues to treat people with dignity, fairness and respect.”

Background:

  • Read the  Cabinet Secretary’s statement in full
  • This update follows an  announcement in April 2020 that outlined the impact of COVID-19 on the introduction of further devolved benefits
  • Position papers  setting out what disability benefits under the Scottish Government will look like were published last month
  • From week commencing 23 November 2020, Social Security Scotland will administer a total of ten benefits of behalf of the Scottish Government. More information on these can be found at mygov.scot/benefits or by calling 0800 182 2222
  • Work is continuing to with the UK Government to establish timelines for Scottish Carer’s Assistance, the other disability related benefits and winter benefits. People will continue to get their payments in the meantime under agency agreements with DWP
Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health

New Framework To Help Health Boards Prioritise Elective Care

As NHS Scotland prioritises essential and urgent care as well as continuing to treat Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients, new guidance has been published to ensure patients with the greatest need are treated first.

The Framework for the Clinical Prioritisation of Elective Care sets out six principles that Boards will follow when making decisions on elective care waiting lists. It also ensures they have appropriate COVID-19 safety and priority measures in place.

Patient cases will be categorised into four levels of clinically agreed urgency based on their particular clinical condition. This approach will support patients and their clinical team when discussing treatment plans and the categories will inform how quickly patients will be seen and treated, allowing boards to prioritise those most in need.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Throughout the pandemic our guiding principle has been keeping as many people safe as possible – both from COVID-19 and from other health conditions. We are resuming services as quickly and safely as possible, and this new framework will allow our NHS to prioritise patients who need urgent care, including cancer treatment, ensuring they are treated as quickly and safely as possible.

“As we continue to respond to COVID19, this necessary guidance will ensure patients have a clear and realistic expectation of when they will receive treatment that is clinically appropriate to their individual circumstances. This is especially important as we approach winter and the additional pressures this places on health services, together with the continuing critical need for the NHS to respond to COVID-19.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer David Caesar said:

“Health and social care services in Scotland have gone above and beyond in responding to the COVID pandemic since March. However, we recognise that in order to continue doing this, and to provide essential services for emergency and urgent conditions, services may need to be prioritised for patients with the greatest need over the winter months.

“It is vital patients receive the right care in the most timely way possible, and this framework, developed with expert input from senior clinicians across Scotland gives Boards and clinicians the principles to make decisions around elective care proportionately and consistently.”

Background

Coronavirus (COVID-19): supporting elective care – clinical prioritisation framework

The Framework has been developed by a newly formed Clinical Prioritisation Group which was tasked with delivering key principles to support elective care throughout NHS Scotland. The group is chaired by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and is made up of senior clinicians from across Scotland.

Categories
Health Mental Health

£1m Fund To Keep Care Home Residents Connected

Digital device funding to keep residents connected with their loved ones.

New funding has been announced to provide around 1,400 care homes in Scotland with digital devices to connect those receiving care with their loved ones.

The £1 million fund will enable all care homes in Scotland to access iPads to help care home residents stay connected with friends and relatives, and support the clinical management of health conditions remotely.

From today, all care homes will be able to apply for up to two iPads to support their residents through combined Scottish Government funding from the Connecting Scotland programme, which has committed £500,000 to the initiative, on top of the £500,000 allocated in the Adult Social Care Winter Preparedness plan.

This follows a pilot project that provided digital devices to six care homes in Aberdeenshire to address digital exclusion, supported by Scottish Care, the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Digital devices can never replace human interaction and we continue both to actively review what more we can do to support visiting with input from family members, carers, and clinicians and finalise our plans for routine designated visitor testing. But the pandemic has shown us that digital technology can help keep us in touch with our loved ones and provide vital access to healthcare through services such as NearMe for video consultations.

“This fund will give care home residents an additional way to keep in touch with family and friends. Staying connected will be even more important as we approach winter, and the Scottish Government is committed to doing everything we can to prepare and support care home residents and the staff who look after them.”

Dr Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive of Scottish Care said:

“The funding which has been announced by the Cabinet Secretary will help to improve connection for many. We hope that it is the start of an increased recognition of the critical contribution of technology in the care home sector and that we will see an enhanced commitment to the appropriate use of technology and digital in social care as a whole.”

Isla Cowe, acting care home manager at Allachburn Care Home in Aboyne said:

“Many of our residents have really embraced this new technology and are delighted to be in regular contact with their loved ones. It really makes the difference to their general wellbeing and they don’t feel such a sense of loss at being unable to have the physical contact with their families at this time.

“Having the Near Me technology has proved so useful in reducing the number of people who need to visit whilst still being able to provide the same level of service that our residents and their families would expect. We recently had a consultation using this technology with the Speech and Language Therapy team, and were able to change the course of action to be taken for this particular gentleman which has proved immensely beneficial to the care that we deliver to him.”

Background

Connecting Scotland is a Scottish Government programme set up in response to coronavirus to provide digital devices and support to develop digital skills for people who are digitally excluded and on low incomes.

Adult Social Care Winter Preparedness Plan

Categories
Children Education

Majority Of Children Receiving Expanded ELC

Expansion progress report published.

The majority of eligible children are now receiving the full 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare (ELC) and more than 80% are receiving more than 600 hours.

Latest data from the Improvement Service, compiled in August, shows that more than 56,000 children (61 per cent of those eligible) are already receiving 1,140 hours of funded ELC, despite the statutory expansion being paused in April to give local authorities the flexibility to focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, 87% of the additional staff forecast to be required for the expansion are now in place.

Children’s Minister Maree Todd said:

“I’m pleased to see that despite the impact of the pandemic, the majority of children are getting the full 1,140 hours of funded, high quality childcare – almost doubling what was previously provided.

“Overall, more than 93,000 children are benefitting from the high quality care and learning provided by our fantastic ELC practitioners. This is a great achievement by all involved.

“The pandemic has had an obvious impact on construction and recruitment plans across the country, however local authorities are making good progress to get back on track and we will continue to support them to do so.

“We have always been clear that the suspension of the statutory duty on local authorities to provide 1,140 hours is a pause, not a stop. We will agree a new delivery date with local government before the end of this year and continue to work with partners to deliver this transformational policy.”

COSLA’s Education and Young Person Spokesperson Councillor Stephen McCabe said:

“Local Government’s main concern throughout this whole pandemic and indeed always is to put the needs of our children and young people first. We took the difficult decision jointly with the Scottish Government to pause implementation of the 1140 hours ELC expansion as the pandemic disrupted plans. We are working closely with the Scottish Government to agree a timeline to reinstate the national duty for 1140 .

“Despite the challenges in construction projects and recruitment issues Councils have worked hard to create additional places and a number of Councils are already offering 1140 hours of funded provision, with more coming online in the months ahead.”

Background

The report can be found at Early Learning and Childcare Expansion Delivery Progress Report .

Data returned by local authorities indicates that 93,438 children were accessing funded ELC as of the end of August 2020.

Of these, 74,870 children (80%) were accessing more than the current statutory entitlement of 600 hours, and 56,697 children (61%) were accessing 1140 hours funded ELC.

Constituents can check whether they are eligible and apply online at mygov.scot/benefits/.

Categories
Energy

Renewable Heat Scheme for Homeowners

Support to reduce energy usage.

A new £4.5 million cashback incentive to help people install renewable and energy efficiency measures in their homes has been announced by the Scottish Government.

Homeowners will be able to apply for 75% cashback up to the value of £7,500 towards the cost of a renewable heating system and a further 40% cashback up to £6,000 for energy efficiency measures.

This is in addition to the £4 million renewable heat cashback scheme for SMEs which opened for applications last week.

Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said:

“This new scheme is part of our ongoing work to support people to install renewable heat measures and the improve energy efficiency in homes across Scotland while we also seek to stimulate development of local supply chains.

“The Scottish Government already provides a substantial free advice and support service to Scottish households to support them to make the transition to renewable heat and improve energy efficiency in their homes.

“Through this new cashback incentive homeowners could receive up to £13,500 of Scottish Government support, helping them to improve energy efficiency in their homes, reduce energy usage and save money on their bills.

“This new scheme is part of our action to reduce emissions from heating our buildings and to support a green economic recovery from COVID-19 and I hope suitably qualified businesses are able to also pick up some valuable local work. Our wider package of work to support the recovery includes a £4 million renewable heat cashback scheme which opened to SMEs last week.”

Background

The cashback offering for owners of domestic premises is an extension of the Home Energy Scotland loan scheme which offers interest free loans for those wishing to install renewable and energy efficiency measures in their homes.

Through the new offering, £4.5 million will be allocated across the new incentive to offer homeowners a 75% cash back up to £7,500 for renewable heat measures and an enhanced 40% cashback for energy efficiency measures up to £6,000. Both incentives operate on a first-come-first-served basis until the end of financial year 2020/21.

More information about the cashback grant scheme to encourage homeowners can be found on the  Home Energy Scotland website.

More information about the SME loan scheme cashback, which launched last week, including how to apply, is available on the  Zero Waste Scotland website.