Vacancy: Caseworker position

Working for: Ronnie Cowan MP for Inverclyde

Job Title: Caseworker (maternity cover for 9 months)

Location: Constituency office in Greenock, Inverclyde. Travel around the constituency may be required. Must be willing to travel occasionally to the MP’s office in London.

Salary: £16,000 – £26,093 (pro-rata)

Details: Ronnie Cowan MP is looking for a fixed term Caseworker, to cover maternity leave, in his busy constituency office in Inverclyde. This a perfect opportunity for someone with excellent casework, administrative and IT skills who works well in a small team, has a positive attitude and would like to gain experience in a Member’s office.

The Caseworker will provide advice and support to the MP’s constituents on a range of issues, such as financial, housing, welfare, immigration and health, and help to resolve problems through liaison with government agencies, voluntary sector or other organizations.

Applicants should have a strong interest in local and national politics, and an awareness of the constituency of Inverclyde.

Occasional evening or weekend work may be required.

There is no possibility of the contract being extended or made permanent.

Responsibilities will include:

  • Attend constituency surgeries and meetings.
  • Manage and progress a portfolio of casework, including logging cases, taking appropriate actions promptly, monitoring progress, analysing patterns of enquiries and producing reports.
  • Liaise with government agencies, voluntary sector and other organizations to help resolve cases.
  • Gather relevant information to assist with resolving cases.
  • Respond to correspondence and enquiries from constituents, including drafting letters, emails and documents.
  • Retain records and information confidentially and in line with the Data Protection Act.
  • Maintain, update and develop knowledge of relevant legislation and guidance.
  • Administrative support for the office.

Necessary skills:

  • Excellent IT skills including a casework tracking system, MS Office Applications (i.e. Word, Excel and Outlook), Internet and Intranet.
  • Excellent interpersonal and oral and written communication skills, with a positive and flexible approach.
  • Ability to draft letters and emails to a high professional standard.
  • Motivated to work independently as well as the ability to work effectively as part of a small team.
  • Good office administration skills.

 

Interview:  Interviews will be held in the constituency office on 21st, 22nd & 23rd December (morning, afternoon or evening)

Start Date: 6th February 2017

How to apply: Please send your CV and covering letter setting out your eligibility for the role, paying particular attention to the necessary skills and responsibilities, to: iain.fraser@parliament.uk or 20 Crawfurd Street, Greenock, PA15 1LJ.

Closing Date: 12th December 2016.

Advertisements

Westminster diary w/b 14th November

Monday

The week started gently and offered great promise as I was only scheduled to be at Westminster for Tuesday and Wednesday, allowing me to spend three days working in the constituency. It wasn’t going to work out that way. Broadband to home and business continues to be a problem in Inverclyde. I have been engaging with the big suppliers to raise Inverclyde’s profile and seek better solutions. With this in mind I had a meeting with representatives of the Scottish Government and Openreach. We poured over maps of the area and I identified pockets of residential and business communities that are poorly served. Needless to say the conversation is on-going but alternative solutions are being sought.

Tuesday

Red eye to London and straight to Westminster Hall for a debate on the acceleration of the state pension for women born in the 1950s. This issues has been debated many times already, the Women Against State Pension Injustice (WASPI) campaign has been well presented as well as loud and colourful. Members across parties support the call for justice but no Conservative MPs other than the Minister and his aid attended. The Conservative MPs are letting down their constituents by remaining silent on this issue. Then attended a briefing from Foreign Office minister, Tobias Ellwood MP around the Balfour Declaration. Next year is the centenary of the declaration and it is widely felt that the people of Palestine have not been treated fairly in regard to the promises made all those years ago. I had the pleasure of hosting the British Red Cross Humanitarian Citizens Awards in the Churchill room. It was very well attended and it was good to see exceptional young people being praised and rewarded for their selfless acts of kindness and their commitment to helping others. My last appointment was a briefing from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Wednesday

All of yesterday’s briefings culminate in the first debate of the day in Westminster Hall which is the Balfour Declaration 100 years on. It’s a Conservative led debate designed to praise the declaration but nobody considers that it has been good for Palestine. An agreement designed to nurture military support for the U.K. In the Middle East in 1917 which promised to establish Israel and help the Arab state of Palestine has proved troublesome ever since. Getting both sides round the table has been nearly impossible and trust between them is nearly nil. We shall pursue a two state solution but frankly more should have been done over the last 100 years to help these people live in peace and allow them to prosper. Prime Ministers Questions is possibly the poorest I have witnessed. The Labour opposition was even weaker than usual. Jeremy Corbyn increasingly looks like a man isolated from his own Members and the pressure is clearly taking its toll on him. The prime minister mocked and jeered him, encouraged by her sneering hyenas seated closest to her, she laughed at him throughout. It was an unedifying spectacle. The SNP had six questions on the order paper plus two from our Westminster leader Angus Robertson and we dragged the prime minster all over the place leaving her stuck for answers and removing the grin from her face. In the afternoon I met with the Independent Service Providers Association. They are the industry body for broadband providers. Once again I presented the problems we have in Inverclyde and I am now working up a few alternatives that we can look at. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals took evidence from Tracey Crouch MP as she is the Minister with responsibility for gambling legislation and we took evidence from Sarah Harrison (Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission). Hopefully the UK Government is going to act. I just had time to drop in to the Guide Dogs for the blind event and help highlight issues with taxi legislation. That should have been my last event at Westminster for the week but the boundary changes was being debated on Friday and I was whipped to attend. I came home on Wednesday evening and made plans to return on Thursday evening.

Thursday

An early start so I can open the new Lidl store in Greenock. Always good to see existing employers in the area investing in the community. I then have other constituency duties and meetings before returning to London in the late afternoon.

Friday

I attended the launch of the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals independent review and then the debate on the change of constituency borders and the reduction of MPs from 650 to 600.

I caught the six pm flight home.

British Red Cross Awards Ceremony

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of hosting this year’s British Red Cross Humanitarian Awards for Children and Young Adults.

The awards span four categories, first aid, fundraising, community action and volunteering. Twenty finalists, aged seven to twenty-five, attended the award ceremony at the Palace of Westminster.

It was the Inverclyde Peer Support Group from my  constituency who were the overall winners last year, in recognition of their work to drastically reduce the levels of knife crime in their area.

Amongst this year’s shortlisted entries for the awards, sponsored by Canon, was a young man who has set up a coffee shop venture for homeless people, a seven year old who has raised thousands of pounds for diabetes charities and young people who had performed emergency first aid to save the lives of others. Attendees also heard of a young man who has raised over £100,000 for the hospital which treated him for leukaemia and from a young woman who provides her disabled mother with an astonishing level of care every day.

This year’s overall winner was Ben Harrison, who volunteered in the Calais refugee camp for twelve hours a day, helping to organise accommodation for people in truly desperate conditions.

It was both humbling and inspiring to hear these stories. I was really proud to hear of the accounts of what each of these young people had done. Their achievements are indicative of a selfless spirit which should motivate us all to do more in our communities.

Mike Adamson, Red Cross Chief Executive said:

“These young people are an inspiration to everyone. They are committed to making a difference and helping people in their communities – they embody true humanitarian qualities. Their actions have saved lives, helped vulnerable people and supported communities. Across the UK thousands of young people selflessly give up their time to help others. These awards are a chance to give those young people the recognition they deserve and to say a huge thank you for all their hard work.”

Bob Pickles, Head of Corporate and Government Affairs at Canon UK, said:

“Once again, we are delighted to come together with British Red Cross to support such a great event.

“Canon has been sponsoring the Humanitarian Awards since 2005, and every year, we’re inspired to see the incredible lengths that young people go to, to make a difference in their community.

“We had some incredible nominations this year. We congratulate them all and in particular the winners for their inspirational hard work and dedication to helping those in need.”

The ceremony included an exhibition of shortlisted photographs on the theme ‘Making a difference matters’. The competition, open to anyone under the age of 26, invited young people to capture moments showing community or charitable work.

Minister Gives Evidence on FOBTs

The All-party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) asked the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Culture, Media and Sport, Tracey Crouch MP, a number of questions during a parliamentary meeting.

During a meeting of the APPG on FOBTs (Thursday) the Minister gave evidence to the group regarding the on-going review of gaming machines and social responsibility requirements across the gambling industry.

The review will include a close look at the issue of B2 gaming machines (more commonly known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – FOBTs) and specific concerns about the harm they cause, be that to the player or the communities in which they are located.

I have continued to campaign for further action to be taken on gambling related harm.  I previously proposed that funds from dormant betting accounts should be used to support individuals and families whose lives have been affected by gambling related harm.

It was refreshing to have the Minister take the time to come before the APPG and give evidence on the review of gaming machines, which includes FOBTs.

The evidence shows that these machines are directly linked to problem gambling with 4 out of 5 FOBT gamblers exhibiting problem gambling behaviour at stakes in excess of £13 a spin compared to 1 in 5 at stakes £2 and under.

I look forward to learning the outcome of the review.

 

Continued Support for WASPI Campaign

I continue to add my support for Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) group and attended a parliamentary debate on the subject. 

In a Westminster Hall debate on the acceleration of the state pension age for women born in the 1950s, SNP MPs Ian Blackford and Mhairi Black called on the UK Government to act and implement the transitional measures needed to deliver justice to the Local Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) group.

The debate follows on from a long-standing campaign by SNP MPs with WASPI women who have been affected by pension changes. The SNP have argued that transitional measures to mitigate the issue would cost significantly less than the UK government’s £30 billion figure, with independent research commissioned by the SNP showing the cost would only sit at £8 billion. 

The UK government must fulfil their responsibility on introducing measures that would deliver justice to WASPI campaigners and those affected by the rapid rises to the State Pension Age.

Millions of women have been affected by these changes and it is now time for action to be taken to support the women of Inverclyde and Scotland as a whole.”

 

Westminster diary w/b 7th November

Monday

A good start to the week as there were no delays to my journey and I am at Westminster by 9:30. However the scheduled debates in the chamber are delayed by statements on the invoking of article 50, promoted by the high court ruling that Parliament must vote on whether the UK can start the process of leaving the EU. Then a statement on a better defence estate, which encompasses the planned closure of Fort George after 250 years. The main debate in the chamber is around protecting workers rights upon exiting the European Union.

Tuesday

My Select Committee has two investigations on the go and we took evidence regarding them both. Firstly from Gus O’Donnell (former Cabinet Secretary) on the work of the civil service. We also heard from the father of Sam Morrish. Sam died of Sepsis and his father, Scott, has been seeking answers to questions around his death for over five years now. The Public Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) have published two reports but we are no nearer to guaranteeing that the issues that matter have been resolved. I had a fantastic meeting with Gillian Stamp. Gillian is an adviser to the Select Committee and runs her own company ‘Bioss’ which provides advice to people and institutions in both the private and public sectors. She helps her clients make sense of uncertainties, clarify opportunities, and initiate positive change. I found my time with her extremely useful. I squeezed in two Westminster Hall debates before rushing home. First debate was on independent adviser on Minister’s affairs and the second on sentencing for animal cruelty.

Wednesday

November recess gave me the opportunity to spend Wednesday in the constituency. It was most consumed by research and writing. In the evening I had the privilege of attending the awards ceremony for graduates from West College Scotland. It was great to see so many people achieve their academic goals and good to see so many mature students too. My one disappointment was the continuing gender balance that’s sees less woman than men graduate from the faculty of business and technology. It’s an issue I know that people have worked hard to redress but it continues to frustrate.

Thursday

If only every morning was like this one. I had the pleasure and privilege of hosting a meeting with a dozen local stakeholders to discuss the regeneration of Inverclyde. This follows on from a paper I published entitled ‘the island of Inverclyde’. Time spent with positive, innovate, creative achievers is time well spent. We shall be meeting again in the New Year and hopefully these small steps can lead to greater things. In the afternoon I met with constituents and in the evening had a quick meeting with town centre residents and discussed the improvements required to enhance town centre living.

Friday

I had my regular meetings within the Chief Executive of Inverclyde Council where we talk all things Inverclyde. The rest of the day is taken up by meetings with constituents. My day was saddened by the death of Leonard Cohen. A compassionate writer and a man of peace and love. In these times of increasing xenophobia and hatred we need all the poets we can get.

Tele column – 11th November 2016

When I was a child we had a family pilgrimage. Every year we went on holiday to Portmahomack. The family Ford Anglia was loaded with all our requirements for a caravan holiday in a Scottish summer, along with my mum, dad, brother, sister and me. Despite it being a long cramped journey we would always make a detour to the commando memorial at Spean Bridge. My late father served in the Second World War. He signed up on his 18th birthday. He never spoke of his time in the military. He never mentioned his brothers in arms by name. We don’t know how many were injured or died. And we don’t know the circumstances. But it was important to him that we recognised the sacrifice others had made that allowed us to live the carefree life that we did. Even in the mid-1960s, only twenty years since the hostilities had ended, the Second World War seemed a long way off to a seven year old. But for my father and his generation there were places, events and people that could not and should not ever be forgotten. I believe this remains true today.  

The world has not been free of war since 1945, the United Kingdom has continued to participate in conflict across the globe and members of our armed forces are living, fighting and dying in war zones to this day. Personally I find it disturbing that so many return physically or mentally ill and have to rely on charity. If the United Kingdom sends them to war then the United Kingdom should be a safe haven for them upon their return. Too often this is not the case. Organisations such as the Erskine Care Homes for disabled soldiers do a magnificent job and are at the forefront in providing the very best medical care and attention. The Earl Haig Fund was established to raise money to help disabled soldiers. Earl Haig is a controversial person to name a war charity after, given his contribution to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of British army personnel but the charity is credited with stepping in and providing much needed support for many veterans. Its primary source of income was the manufacture and sale of red poppies.  

Every year, leading up to Armistice Day the vast majority of United Kingdom citizens would make a donation, take a poppy and wear it as a mark of remembrance. Over time however this simple act has been undermined. Partially, due to the passing of time during which the significance of such an act can become less obvious but also, in some quarters, due to the increasing inference that wearing a poppy is a sign that the wearer supports military conflict. It has, in some areas of the media, become almost a crime, treason, to not wear a poppy. The inference is that wearing a red poppy is the British thing to do. It smacks of a rule Britannia mindset and British imperialism. This attitude has in fact turned people away from the red poppy. Many have taken to wearing a white peace poppy. They feel that promoting peace is closer to their own stance but recognise the poppy as a symbol of acknowledgement to those that have sacrificed their health or indeed their life. I support those people who prefer to wear a white poppy and they must be free to make that choice but I choose to wear a red one. Not because I am told to or because I agree with everything we have done in the last seventy years in theatres of war but for my Dads unknown, unseen, unnamed, comrades in arms. Young men, who in truth, had little or no choice but to offer up their bodies as weapons of war. For me the red poppy is a symbol of remembrance. It says we will not let the men, woman and children of the world be slaughtered in the name of national aggression or political idealism. And we will not forget those that gave their lives to give us the luxury of being able to choose. When I lay a wreath at the war memorial in the Wellpark I shall be thinking of the young men that left this area, from Wellington Street, Finnart Street, East Blackhall Street, Ann Street and beyond. They were joiners, bricklayers, post men, clerks. They were fathers, husbands, brothers, sons, uncles, friends and they never came back.

Lest we forget.