The Lib Dem week in Scotland

Welcome to our weekly roundup of what the Scottish Liberal Democrats, led by Willie Rennie, have been getting up to.

The plight of 50,000 children on housing waiting lists

Jim Hume highlights the tens of thousands of children on housing waiting lists in Scotland. This is an area entirely devolved to the SNP Government. Jim said:

It’s unbelievable that someone has been on a council house waiting list since the end of the Second World War. The lack of housing available for social rent in this country is a disgrace and Ministers should be ashamed of themselves. The SNP has muddied the waters on housing by backtracking on election promises and Scots and their children are paying the price.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats believe children need the best start in life. This cannot be achieved if there is uncertainty about whether they’ll even have a roof over their heads. Last week we discovered 30,000 children have been homeless on Christmas Day over the past three years. When you put that figure with the tens of thousands of children currently on housing waiting lists, it paints a very bleak picture for young people needing support as they’re grow up in Scotland.

Projects such as the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is funded by the Scottish Government, are bringing properties back into use but not at a rate that will actually make much of a difference.

These kind of schemes need more funding so that they can stop being a drop in the ocean and start having an impact. How many more thousands of children will be left languishing on waiting lists before the Scottish Government recognises there is a housing crisis in this country?”

Another SNP failure – the decline of the classroom assistant

Data gained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats through a Freedom of Information request shows that numbers of classroom assistants have tumbled in recent years.

Education spokesperson Liam McArthur said:

All the evidence shows that classroom assistants can make a big difference in helping deliver high quality education to our children. As well as bringing a range of skills into the classroom, assistants free up teachers to focus on making best use of their time.

While some local authorities have managed to increase classroom assistant numbers, in the majority of cases there has been a fall. Overall, the drop in numbers is significant, placing additional pressure on teachers at a time when they are already being asked to do more with less.

Councils have been put between a rock and a hard place by the SNP government.  A teacher number guarantee, with swingeing financial penalties for those who fail to meet their targets, is inevitably leading to pressure elsewhere in schools budgets.

New requirements on the minimum teaching week, introduced with absolutely no consultation and with no evidence basis, will only make matters worse. Ministers micromanaging education policy and putting councils in a straightjacket will create a domino effect from savings having to be found elsewhere. And we are not only seeing this in the cutbacks to classroom assistants.

Councils need to have the flexibility and resources to appoint the staff they need, rather than following a one-size-fits-all policy directed by the SNP.

Tavish highlights councils’ data loss

Tavish Scott has highlighted some appalling examples of Scottish local authorities’ carelessness with data:

In the last year alone:

  • In Edinburgh, more than 13,000 service user records were compromised following theft of council property;
  • In Aberdeenshire, an email regarding a pupil at a school was accidentally copied to all other pupils.
  • In East Dunbartonshire, information from a mental health tribunal was sent to the wrong individual;
  • In East Ayrshire, the personal details of 52 families who made placing requests with schools were released inadvertently.
  •  In Glasgow, fostering diaries which hold information regarding vulnerable children was disposed in domestic waste.

Tavish said:

Our teachers, social workers and councils do extremely hard work serving our local communities but these figures show local councils have a mountain to climb in order to protect community data. Given the pressures our local services are under, the Scottish Government must do all it can to support councils.

In the last year alone we have seen thousands of personal records lost in Edinburgh. Information on a mental health tribunal was sent to the wrong person in Aberdeenshire and other vulnerable individuals were victims of data loss or theft at councils across the country. Letters have been sent to the wrong addresses, confidential files have been found in public places and personal information has been published online.

No-one is suggesting that this information is being lost on purpose, or that council staff are not doing all they can to comply with data protection law. But people have a right to expect that their private information is protected properly. These new figures show is that there is a great deal more that needs to be done.

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This entry was posted in A weekly catchup and Scotland.
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2 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 3rd Jan '16 - 7:39am

    So nothing changes. I see there are questions on the expenses in the House of Lords this week.

    Nothing changes. You as a Party are critical of the honours system. You are critical here. You had your chance.

  • Last week we discovered 30,000 children have been homeless on Christmas Day over the past three years.

    Once again disengenious presentation of information:
    “Data obtained under freedom of information shows that 10,695 children were left without a home on Christmas Day last year – an increase of more than 1000 on 2013.
    There were warnings hat the situation will only worsen if the Scottish Government does not deliver its election promise to deliver 30,000 homes for social rent before the 2016 Holyrood election.”
    [http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/14158041.Thousands_of_Scots_children_homeless_at_Christmas/ ]

    As for the numbers of children on council housing waiting list, this is a largely meaningless data extract, particularly given the council waiting list only represents registered applications and not imminent or actual need.

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