£2 Million Additional Funding Available For Charities

There is a new project providing funding that is available for charities supporting children, families and adult learning. The Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention and Adult Learning and Empowering Communities Fund has already supported over 100 third sector organisations, benefiting thousands of children, families and communities across Scotland, by providing more than £14 million worth of core funding that enables them to deliver their services.

This new element of the fund is designed to enable charities to bid for project funding that will allow them to deliver fresh and innovative ideas, beyond their core work. Applications will be invited in the summer for a share of £1 million that will be made available in 2017/18, with a further £1 million to be available in 2018/19.

The first round of funding allocations announced last year enabled more than 100 organisations across Scotland to plan and deliver work to benefit a range of people in our communities.

Ambition and innovation is alive and well in the voluntary sector. This new project fund will support activities or evidence-based approaches that can build on the good work they are doing so far.

I would encourage groups in Inverclyde to learn more about the fund, with the intention of applying for support.

Picture from Howard Lake

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New Dog Microchipping Laws

As of the 6th of April 2016 microchipping will now become compulsory in Scotland, England and Wales. Any dog over the age of eight weeks will be legally required to be microchipped and registered to an approved database.

It is up to the breeder to microchip the dog and for each subsequent new owner to ensure the details have been changed are up-to-date. If your dog isn’t microchipped and / or registered on an approved database then you could be served with a notice ordering you to microchip your dog. You’ll have 21 days to do so or you may be liable to pay a £500 fine and could face criminal prosecution.

To raise awareness of the changes Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, brought its larger than life mascot ‘Dogcilla’ to meet MPs in Westminster following a 145,942 mile cross-country tour to raise awareness of the changes.

Microchipping your pet gives them the best chance of being identified and returned to you if they become lost or stolen. These changes will only apply to dogs however many pets can be microchipped including cats, dogs, rabbits and horses.

Raising Awareness of Bowel Cancer

As April marks Bowel Cancer Awareness Month I am supporting a call by leading research charity Bowel Cancer UK, urging more people to take part in bowel cancer screening and help save lives.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, affecting both men and women. Every year over 41,000 people (one every 15 minutes) are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 16,200 people die of the disease.

Bowel cancer screening can save lives but at the moment in some areas of the UK only a third of those who receive a test complete it. Thousands of people are missing out on the chance to detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat.

As the local MP, I am totally committed to improving uptake rates for bowel cancer screening, both locally and nationally. I would urge my constituents who are sent a bowel screening test to use it. Taking part in bowel cancer screening is the best way to get diagnosed early. If you are over 50, take the test when you receive it in the post. If you are younger, tell the people over 50 in your life to take the test. Early diagnosis really can save lives.

Westminster Diary 26 March

Monday

Meeting with High Speed 2 Ltd who following an announcement that there are aspirations to extend the high speed rail link to Glasgow and Edinburgh are keen to discuss the matter with Scottish MP’s.

I had the pleasure of meeting teachers and pupils from St Columba’s High school in Gourock when they visited Westminster. We had a time for a quick question and answer session amidst their busy schedule.

My select committee took evidence from the three secretary of states or the “territories”. I hate that word. The new secretary of state for Wales was only 24 hours in the job but along with his Scottish and Northern Ireland counterparts were questioned around intergovernmental relations.

I had a meeting with Angus Robertson MP, these are regular events that ensure the smooth running of the group.

Tuesday

My day started with a seminar on judicial activism. It was very informative but also hard going with a room full of legal eagles talking about the judiciary and government. This was followed by interviews for the position of the public appointments commissioner. To be clear, I was conducting the interviews not applying for the job.

SNP group meeting into the evening, which was extended by a raft of votes.

Wednesday

Scottish questions followed by Prime Ministers questions. I left PMQs to support protestors that had gathered in the central lobby. They were many disabled people angered by the cuts in their benefits. Normally the BBC broadcast from the central lobby during PMQs but they were told to stop which is a pity as the protest was far more interesting than Mr Cameron.

Met with Network Rail to discuss their investment in Scotland and Inverclyde and was heartened to hear about investment in signalling equipment and extension of platforms to accommodate longer trains. I also took the opportunity to raise a few issues around Wemyss Bay station that constituents had brought to my attention.

There was a ten minute rule on the legalisation of cannabis which was interesting. It is scheduled for a second reading.

I had an extremely productive meeting regarding land valuation tax. I only went as an observer but, as often happens in these cases, being the only Scottish MP there I was required to speak. We are a long way off the finished solution regarding land reform but it is good to see that many other parts of the UK look to Scotland for ideas and examples.

I ended the day voting through the Scotland Bill. It was historic but given the end game rather hollow moment

Thursday

Was a day for writing articles and planning my recess. I am in my constituency from Friday 25th March and back at Westminster on Monday April the 11th
Recess shall be a time to catch up with lots of local people, organisations and businesses.

Friday

The office was closed to observe the public holiday.

Small Grants Fund – Now Open For Applications

Organisations can now apply for Inverclyde Council’s ‘small grants fund’ for the financial year 2016 – 17. Application received by 11th April 2016 will be considered by the grants to voluntary organisations committee at the meeting scheduled for 11 May.

The council is encouraging organisations not in receipt of a three year grant to apply for a share of the £135,429 available for one of grants in the year 2016 – 17. The ‘grants to voluntary organisations fund’ is aimed at helping local voluntary organisations with a variety of expenses including running costs, developing or starting up a new project and buying new equipment.
Organisations are required to register with the Council when they apply. This is done using a registration / application form. Guidance notes are available to assist applicants to both decide if the fund is appropriate for them and to help them register and apply.

Guidance notes and registration / application forms are available to download from the Council’s website here – http://www.inverclyde.gov.uk/community-life-and-leisure/community-grant/grants-to-voluntary-organisations from Inverclyde Council’s safer and inclusive communities service, 40 West Stewart Street, Greenock, Inverclyde, PA14 1YA or by emailing safer.communities@inverclyde.gov.uk or by calling 01475 714 298.

Learning About Vital Training For Children With Sight Loss

Last week I visited an exhibition in the House of Commons, hosted by the charity Blind Children UK, which promoted the importance of training in mobility and independent living skills, known as habilitation, for children with sight loss.

Staff from the charity who work directly with children were there to tell MPs that early intervention was crucial in enabling young people with a vision impairment to fulfil their potential as adults and more needs to be done to make sure that these habilitation services are consistent throughout the UK. Children with sight loss need to learn certain key skills as early as possible to help them get around, orientate themselves in the world and eventually live independently as adults.

Speaking to Chris and Reshma, from Blind Children UK, brought the importance of providing habilitation training to children with sight loss to my attention. Giving children mobility and independent living skills to enable them to be active and happy in childhood and then onto adulthood is crucial.

St Columba’s School Visit

This week I had a welcomed visit from 16 & 17 year old pupils from Gourock’s St Columba’s High School.

The students spent the weekend in London visiting museums, taking in shows and then finished it off with an educational visit to the Houses of Parliament. The Parliament Education Centre is a recent addition to the estate, it houses world-class education facilities that aim to inspire and connect young people with Parliament and democracy.

When I joined the class they were learning about the different voting systems in the UK. It was apparent that the students knew exactly what they were talking about.

I was happy to take questions on my life in Westminster in an attempt to lift the veil of what goes on down here. As ever these pupils did Inverclyde proud with their informed and interesting questions.

Visiting the Renal Unit at the IRH

On Friday I visited the Renal Unit at the Inverclyde Royal Hospital thanks to the British Kidney Patient Association. I was shown round by Ewen MacLean who is himself on the kidney transplant waiting list and using a dialysis machine daily at home.

Currently there are approximately 65,000 people in the UK requiring Renal Replacement Therapy such as dialysis or transplant. Further to this it is suggested that 2 million people are on the Chronic Kidney Disease spectrum, however most will never require dialysis.

The work being done in the IRH Renal Unit is incredible, the nurses run a very tight ship, seeing 65 patients a week is not an easy task.

During the visit I had my eyes opened to the reality of receiving dialysis. It becomes a very large part of your life, having to attend hospital three times a week for up to five hours at a time.

It is also sometimes necessary to restrict your liquid intake to 1ltr throughout the day. This may seem like a reasonable amount but when you consider a handful of grapes would be 10% of your daily allowance or a cup of tea being ¾ it quickly fills up.

Pictured with Eric Butt, Alison Hyslop, Ewen MacLean and Mira Cox

PACAC: Inter-Institutional Relations in the UK

Today the PACAC Committee held an oral evidence session on the inter-institutional relations in the UK. We heard from David Mundell MP; Secretary of State for Scotland, Theresa Villiers MP; Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the newly appointed Alun Cairns MP, who is the new Secretary of State for Wales, replacing Stephen Crabb who is now Work and Pensions Secretary after Ian Duncan Smith resigned from the position on Friday.

I didn’t envy Alun Cairns who was expected to give evidence to the committee despite only being in the job for a few hours. While many people were interested in seeing how Alun Cairns would get on I was more interested in asking Mr Mundell about inter-institutional relations between the Scottish and UK Governments.

There was a resounding no when I asked him if he believed the majority party in Scotland should have a position on the cabinet. He reminded me that he was elected as part of the UK wide elections which delivered a Conservative majority and he serves the UK Parliament. A position I believe is symptomatic of Tory MPs currently is the complete unwillingness to acknowledge the SNP majority in Scotland.

#EarthHourUK

Earlier this month in parliament I visited WWF to see what projects they have planned for 2016. I got my picture taken with Tom Tugendhat MP who sits on the PACAC Committee with me. The event was worthwhile just for getting a picture with Tom and the two pandas, we all know the joke – there are more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs, however there was a more serious side to the event as it was to raise awareness of this year’s Earth Hour.

This year’s Earth Hour will be taking place tomorrow, I will be joining millions of people form cross the world who will come together in a symbolic and spectacular ‘lights out’ display. Earth Hour 2016 will be held tomorrow, Saturday the 19th of March from 8:30pm.

Join people in more than 7,000 cities and towns across almost every country in the world. Iconic buildings will plunge into darkness along with schools, businesses and communities. You can both get involved during the hour but also by pledging to take greener steps throughout the year.

Earth Hour is a brilliant reminder that together we can make change happen and sends a powerful message to world leaders that we must protect our planet.

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