It was magic for nearly 150 youngsters from a dozen schools in and around Glasgow who played in the Variety Scotland 5-aside tournament today.
The annual event was held in Toryglen Sports Centre. Real magician Stevo, who’d just flown in from a big gig in Germany, and his colleague Tickles who was, appropriately, dressed in pink, entertained while the teams in three age groups competed.
Who won in the under 12s, the 12-14 and the over 15s categories may be revealed at a later stage. But the best bit was socialising and playing the game. ‘This was football and it was fun,’ said one 10-year-girl at the end.
Variety Scotland Chairman, Iain Forbes and long serving Variety member Jack Zimmer were delighted with the turnout. Said Iain: ‘We bring together kids from special schools and schools in less well off areas to compete in a friendly way in sport.’
The Variety Scotland coaches were on duty outside to take everyone home at the end.
The charity, till recently called the Variety Club of Scotland, holds major events to raise funds for their work. Their annual race meeting will be in Hamilton on 23 August and they are already well ahead with plans for their St Andrew’s Night Tartan Ball in November.
‘We spend 90p out of every £1 we raise in Scotland,’ explained Iain. ‘Volunteers do the bulk of the work with only two part time staff in a small office which is about to move to Westerton.’
While the organisers talked, the children played. Said class assistant Evlyn Sim of Kirkrigg School in Castlemilk: ‘This has been a fun day. The children had a great time and it generates a great team spirit.’
More than a dozen Kinship Carers groups have formed a Scottish Kinship Carers Alliance to fight the ‘institutionalised discrimination’ experienced by the young relatives they look after.
Glasgow City’s Lord Provost Sadie Docherty, welcomed more than 170 people who are concerned about the legal rights being denied the children – often their own grandchildren – in their care.
Alliance Chair, Anne Swartz said: ‘We are sick of seeing the children in our care suffer without the basic support from Local Authorities. Kinship children are routinely written off and discriminated against while foster placements have access to a wide range of support and services. Enough is enough. We have come together to put a stop to this institutionalised discrimination and fight for the rights of our children.’
She added:’The Alliance was partly formed in response to large charities being tasked with representing and supporting Kinship Carers. We do not feel that these agencies represent us, and want direct access to policy makers and politicians. We are the experts with the best knowledge of the issue and it’s solutions. From now on we should be the first port of call on Kinship Care for all service managers and policy makers.’
Jessie Harvey a Kinship Carer for her 8-year-old grandson, had the audience on their feet applauding her moving speech. She said: ‘We will not stand for any more discrimination or injustice against them. Their human rights are being exploited by education, health visitors, politicians and funders. These people need to sit up and address the needs these children have.’
Chair of the Kinship group for North Glasgow, Jessie said later: ‘Psychological help for children as young as five, is withheld from kindred carers’ children but is offered as a matter of right, to fostered children. She added: ‘Children’s sleeping patterns, their eyesight, hearing and difficulties paying attention in school are all the result of what they’ve gone through. But there is no-one to help them or their carers. The children are excluded from the class. But schools should be helped to help them. There is no research going on right now into what is happening to these young minds and there should be. The addiction problems of their parents should not rub off on the kids. And present funding allocation are not putting a pint of milk on my table. We should be asked about what we, as carers, see is needed.’
A video message from Northern Ireland Kinship Carers Alliance was screened. Said Anne Swartz: ‘They have been an inspiration to us.’
In a keynote speech, Anne Marie Peffer, Scotland Manager of the charity Buttle UK, launched their groundbreaking Kinship Care Report almost at the same time as it was released in London.
A leading children’s grant-giving charity, Buttle ‘s report ‘The Poor Relations? Children and Informal Kinship Carers Speak Out.’ is a comprehensive study showing the impact of informal kinship care arrangements.
Carried out by the University of Bristol, the research shows that Local Authorities in Scotland currently recognise and support 1,736 children in Kinship Care. The majority of placements are informal and are not, automatically, entitled to any support. Said Anne Marie Peffer: ‘We have been taken aback by the poor health Kinship Carers and their children suffer and the severity of the financial hardship they are enduring. While unable to provide even basic items, they are saving the Scottish Government millions in care costs each year.’
One child in every 71 in Scotland is estimated to be living in Kinship Care.
With this research, the Scottish Kinship Care Alliance now plans to lobby hard to negotiate changes in the new Children and Young People’s Bill later this month (April)
SUNDAY 14 April 2013
Tomorrow, more than 100 kinship carers and VIP supporters will meet in Glasgow City Chambers to launch a Scottish Kinship Care Alliance.
They will campaign for the rights of the children – often their own grandchildren – in their care.
Chair of the Alliance and a Kinship Carer from Dumbarton, Anne Swartz, says: “We are sick of seeing the children in our care suffer because of the lack of basic support from local authorities. Kinship children are routinely written off and discriminated against while foster placements have access to a wide range of support and services. Enough is enough. We have come together to put a stop to this institutionalised discrimination and to fight for the rights of our children.”
She adds that large charities had been tasked with representing and supporting Kinship Carers. “We do not feel that these agencies represent us. We want direct access to policy makers and politicians. We are the experts with the best knowledge of the issue and it’s solutions. From now on, we should be the first port of call on Kinship Care for all service managers and policy makers.”
According to Buttle UK – a leading children’s grant-giving charity – as many as one child in every 77 in the UK was being brought up by grandparents or other relatives in 2001. The charity considers that figure is higher today and in Scotland currently estimates one child in 71 is cared for by relatives who are not their birth parents.
At the Alliance launch, Buttle UK will deliver their most recent study of the true cost of Kinship Care in advance of publishing it in London. It will reveal the correlation between Kinship Care and poverty as well as give up-to-date figures and details of the impact on the caring relatives.
The move will coincide with negotiations on the new Children and Young People’s Bill later this month. The Alliance proposes a number of changes to Kinship Care provisions and will press to have them taken into full consideration.
The launch will be attended by a range of MPs, MSPs, Councillors and civil servants as well as heads of Social Work, Police, Scotland’s Human Rights Commission and the Children’s Commissioner.
The biggest protest rally Glasgow has seen in years had more than 3000 people marching from Glasgow Green to George Square, united in their opposition to the bedroom tax.
Seasoned campaigners, families with their children and baby buggies, trade unionists, people in a wide variety of mobility carts and folk walking their dogs, took more than an hour to wend their way to the city centre. Many of them shouting: ‘Axe the tax.’
Facing the City Chambers, a series of speakers explained why their campaign was part of a wide strategy to protect the most vulnerable in the community.
Labour MP Ann McKechin, MSP Frank McAveety and Glasgow City Councillor George Redmond were among the group who marched. Arriving in George Square, Westminster MP Ann McKechin said to this website’s reporter: ‘I’m not surprised at this turnout. People are shocked by the scale of this unfair and unjust tax. The Westminster government doesn’t understand the full impact it will have.’
But Labour politicians were castigated by different speakers. Said one: ‘They might have marched near the front but it is inconsistent with what they are doing to the families they are victimising in the learning disability community in Glasgow. Glasgow City Council has these families on its hit list by closing three of the seven day centres they use.’
Another speaker put it more bluntly: ‘Glasgow City Council should be ashamed of themselves. They have influence and power. They should tell all Housing Associations in Glasgow and Glasgow Housing Association that there must be NO EVICTIONS in the city. We need to know who’s side they are on.’
The same speaker highlighted the £100 billion cost of the Trident refit and warheads for Faslane nuclear base. She urged people to support a March on Easter Monday from Glasgow to Faslane which they intended to shut down for the day. ‘All these things are connected. They say there is no money, so attack the poor. But they can spend billions on weapons which can wipe out half of humanity. If we stand together we have the power, strength and determination to stop evictions and end this bedroom tax policy.’
Alan Wyllie of the West of Scotland Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation summed it up for most of the speakers: ‘I’m an ordinary guy and don’t see this as a political fight. I ask what is right and what is wrong? I believe it is wrong that the most vulnerable people are the hardest hit. It is wrong that fuel and food costs are rising while wages and benefits are going down. It is wrong to have this tax on bedrooms when millionaires are having their taxes cut. We are all in this together and must stop evictions. I urge Labour and SNP to protect all Scots. It is your duty!’
He said he’d read all the 2010 election manifestos. ‘There was no mention of the bedroom tax. The Westminster government has no mandate for this,’ he claimed to loud applause from the crowd. ‘We didn’t ask for this. We don’t want it. But the Government is attacking the most vulnerable in our communities. Mark my words: We will unite and we will win.’
He led the way for many different groups to work together against the bedroom tax, by launching a Facebook campaign several months ago.
Speaker John McFarlane said the first round of the battle had been won by Dundee City Council declaring there would be no evictions in their city as a result of the tax. ‘Every council should do the same. MPs and MSPs are supposed to represent us but we have to ask – do they stand for us or do they stand for the Tory bankers? If they do we must remove them!’
Black Triangle speaker David Churchley said: ‘This bedroom tax is unworkable and unmanageable. It’s better for us to get off our knees and fight than not to fight at all.’ Calling for a 24 hour strike he added: ‘It is up to us to keep what has been ours for 100 years. We didn’t cause this crisis but we’re being made to pay for it.’
Daniel McGarrall from the Glasgow against ATOS campaign said that 73 people die each week after being found fit to work by ATOS. He invited listeners to join the demonstrations on the last Friday of each month outside ATOS offices and the Commonwealth Games offices because ATOS is a sponsor of the Glasgow 2014 Games.
He outlined how he and another campaigner face a court trial for campaigning. ‘We are defending the right to protest. And we will not be beaten.’
A spokesman from Govan Law Centre said that the bedroom tax was bringing misery to 100,000 people in Scotland. ‘Around 80% of those affected are disabled. It is wrong that the Government is targetting the most vulnerable people,’ he said, voicing his support to axe the tax and for no evictions.
Mary Lockhart reminded people of the Govan women who fought against the rent increases in 1919 when their menfolk were fighting in the war. ‘They fought the landlords so that their children wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor. They took a stand, got the shipyard workers on their side and said: ‘I will stand by you, if you will stand by me.’ Everyone today needs to be ready to protest and take action and stand by each other.’
As the marchers assembled at Glasgow Green, David Churchley was proudly holding the leading banner with his one good hand – the other being unusable because of a stroke. He said: ‘ I’m on the march because of this appalling, vicious vindictive bedroom tax. If you thought Thatcher’s poll tax was bad; Cameron’s is worse.’ A former IT worker, he has been unable to work since his stroke. He added: ‘My benefit will be reduced by £12 a week. I use my spare room for equipment like my treadmill so that I can do the exercises that keep me reasonably fit.’
Said worker Michael Collins with son Finn (8): ‘We work and pay our taxes so that people can get help when they need it. We don’t want our money to be given to bankers.’
Said student Jennifer Dornan: ‘We must fight to oppose the injustice of the bedroom tax and convince people to do something about it. This attack is on the most vulnerable. We should be gunning for the people in government who can afford it.’
Paul McLaughlin of Glasgow West GAP which has been providing welfare support and advice for 13 years, said: ‘We have to show our real anger and opposition to these charges. People of good conscience can’t let this happen. Everyone must stand up and be counted because individuals are being isolated and made scapegoats. We’ve got to waken people up to the need to organise.’ The advice centre is now located at Kinning Park Complex, 43 Cornwall Street, near Kinning Park underground.
Frank Doyle of Glasgow Against Atos said: ‘This is an unjust society. The bankers get off but there is an assault on the most vulnerable.’
A 23-year-old banner last used in protest against the poll tax, was dusted down and on display by Dundee Fintry fighters.
Said Albert Mitchell: ‘I’ve got a two bedroom house. My benefit of £141 will be reduced by £41 a fortnight. By the time I pay things like my gas and electricity I’m left with £10 a week to live on.’ Colleague Michael MacGregor, who brought the banner out of his cupboard, said: ‘We have the same threat of evictions and bailiffs now as we had in the days of the poll tax.’
Another marcher, called Sarah, of the West of Scotland Anti-bedroom Tax Federation said: ‘There are an awful lot of people worried about the consequences of this terrible tax. A separated couple with joint custody and where the woman receives the child benefit, will find that the man will be penalised for having a bedroom for his own child.’
Fighter Margaret Jaconelli, who was evicted from her East End property because it was in the way of Commonwealth Games development and who wouldn’t accept £30,000 compensation for her home of more than 20 years, was also on the march. ‘This bedroom tax will mean that people will be evicted – just like me. I’m still fighting for justice two years on and haven’t received one penny of compensation.’
Mum Sharon with her two-year-old, was protesting on behalf of a friend who also has a two-year-old. ‘My friend has the wee one and a 14 year old. The two children will have to share one bedroom. Their dad, who is in a new relationship, will have to move into a one bedroom place from his present two bedroom house. He’ll need to sleep on the sofa when his kids come to stay. But where is his new partner expected to sleep? Families aren’t static today and there is no thought given to that.’
Another woman in the crowd told this website’s reporter: ‘I’m not paying the bedroom tax. I’ll put the money by and hope that stops them evicting me. But I’m not paying it.’
Supporters were urged to turn out ‘in your hundreds’ at every local council chambers and Housing Association headquarters on Wednesday 10 April. ‘Give them holy hell,’ said the speaker. ‘Tell them in no uncertain terms we say ‘Axe the bedroom Tax’ and ‘NO’ to evictions.’
Anyone interested in the Southside of Glasgow, its history, traditions, fun and music will have a feast on Saturday 23 March 2013 when an all-day conference will be held by the South Glasgow Heritage and Environment Trust.
The day will include many great speakers who can tell about the Music, Mirth and Magic of the cultural life of that part of the city. Pantomime, Temperance and the Glasgow Apollo are on the list of subjects to be discussed.
All of this for £10 which includes lunch in the cosy environment of the Premier Inn, Ballater Street, Gorbals G5 from 10.30am till 4pm.
Thursday 21 March 2013
Glasgow City Council will – today – almost certainly decide to close three of the seven day centres currently used by 520 people with learning needs.
More than 300 angry people who consider the centres vital to the well-being of their families, agreed tactics to persuade the city’s Executive to reverse the expected closures of Berryknowes in Cardonald, and Summerston and Hinshaw Street in Maryhill. Some of them will be at the City Chambers to make their voices heard.
The mass meeting on Sunday elected representatives to continue pressure on the Council. An 11 point action plan was also agreed unanimously.
Dr Christopher Mason, Glasgow’s official Carers’ Champion elected by the Council, admitted his report hadn’t made much impression on the Council decision makers. He had proposed a review of the services for people with learning needs before any decision on closures. ‘There is not enough money to run seven centres. Therefore they need to shut three. But we have to ask the question: ‘After the centres are closed, will the 320 people who attend them, suddenly have got better ?’ The answer, of course, is no.’
SNP Councillor Susan Aitken for Langside Ward said that ‘constructive suggestion, after constructive suggestion’ had been ‘blocked and shouted down’ by the Labour group. ‘They have lost the moral argument and their language has become offensive. It is disgraceful. This decision (to close the centres) was made a long time ago and the administration don’t want to listen. The Labour group are in power and they’ve made it clear they’ll use that power. But their decision on Thursday has no legitimacy. Not one single Labour Councillor is present at this meeting to listen.’
Bob Doris SNP MSP who has presented two motions against the closure of the centres in the Scottish Parliament told the meeting: ‘It is unacceptable that a Glasgow Labour Council is closing these day centres. They are lying when they say they have to do this. They can’t use legislation as an excuse. Other local authorities are doing things better and when the SNP administration in Dundee got it wrong, they had the humility to admit it and start again. Glasgow’s approach is a shambles and an affront. Neither services users nor carers have been asked what they want and that is not acceptable.’
Karin Mc Sherry, a 50-year-old user of one of the centres said: ‘I love my centre. It’s where I see my friends and use the computers.’ Her sister Eileen explained how much the centre meant to her sister. She said: ‘When Karin was five, we were told she’d never learn to read or write. But our mother fought that. The centre has given her a life far beyond what had been mapped out for her. She has friends, goes to college, done drama and computing. The Labour administration does not represent constituents like us. It represents the Labour Party.’
Brian Smith, Secretary of Glasgow branch of UNISON union which helped organise the meeting in the Radisson Blu hotel, said: ‘We are shoulder to shoulder with you in opposing any closures.’
A similar message came from Ian Hood, co-ordinator of the Learning Disability Alliance for Scotland. He gave detailed figures of how spending on learning disabilities in Glasgow was much smaller proportionately than the budget for older people and even less than the rate of inflation. ‘We’re in this for the long haul,’ he said. ‘Glasgow’s action is discriminatory against people with learning disabilities.’
Glasgow City SNP Councillor, Billy McAllister, speaking from the floor of the meeting, said: ‘The people of this city need to waken up. They are being treated with total contempt.’ He recommended that families concerned in the day centre closures should make Councillors’ lives ‘misery.’ He said: ‘Go along to their surgeries. There’s usually no-one there. Talk to them for three or four hours and tell them they were voted in to represent their constituents – not their political party.’
One carer outlined the time when social workers who’d rarely visited her, arrived in force and stayed for three hours. ‘We were exhausted,’ said the carer. ‘But we are still fighting and we won’t go away quietly. We have rights and we can make demands.’
Chairman Tommy Gorman said a carer who was called ‘obstructive’ by social works’ people was actually being ‘protective’ of their family. Later he said: ‘In the short term we’re not going to change the minds of the Councillors but we can vote them out next time round.’
Councillor Matt Kerr, Executive Member for Social Care on Glasgow City Council later said: ‘The way social care is to be delivered will be completely changed by the Scottish Government’s self-directed support legislation and we have to manage that change.
“We believe that a Public Social Partnership offers the best possible way ahead as providers, service users and carers will all be involved in the design of future services.
‘We have also written to the Scottish Government asking for transitional funding to support the Public Social Partnership and to assist with the modernisation of our learning disability day services.
‘The reform of services would be phased in over a 12 month period and no-one will leave their day centre until they have a personal care plan that details exactly how they will be supported in future.’
A Christian family who had to flee for their lives from Pakistan are now instrumental in alerting European leaders to the suffering of minority groups in their homeland and elsewhere.
Currently living in Glasgow, brothers Sheraz and Shahid Khan have set up the Global Minorities Alliance. Chairman Sheraz said: ‘There is a lot of discrimination in Pakistan and this motivated us to set up the Alliance which condemns any kind of violence against minorities anywhere in the world.’
The Alliance website reported how – earlier this month – a mob set fire to the homes and shops of more than 100 Christians in Lahore, Eastern Pakistan. The area, called Joseph Colony, was attacked after two men who had been friends, had a disagreement. The Muslim man accused his Christian friend of ‘blasphemy.’ Under recent laws, people found guilty of blasphemy can be sentenced to life imprisonment or death. A Christian woman farm hand, Aasia Bibi has been on death row for almost five years after work colleagues accused the mother of five of blasphemy. In 2009 amid similar accusations of blasphemy, eight Christians were burnt alive in Gojra, a small town in Punjab.
Shahbaz Bhatti, the country’s only Christian minister for minorities and a long-time critic of the blasphemy laws, was gunned down on 2 March 2011.
In Pakistan 97 percent of the population are Muslim with the remaining 3 percent made up of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadiyya and Parsis.
Younger brother Shahid Khan was in Germany when violence erupted in Joseph Colony. As Vice Chairman of the Alliance, he was meeting German Parliamentarians and religious leaders to alert them to the plight of minorities in his own country and in other places around the world.
He said: ‘We are deeply concerned over the continuous abuse of Pakistan blasphemy laws. We call for peace, tolerance and harmony in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world and we request President Zardari of Pakistan, to release Aasia Bibi.’
Only days after the recent violence in Lahore, Shahid met Mr Memet Kilic and Mrs Ute Granold both German Parliamentarians, and told them of the conflicts in Pakistan and elsewhere.
Both Parliamentarians expressed support for the Alliance’s call for peace, global tolerance and interfaith respect and harmony. Along with Mr Khan, they condemned the growing sectarian, religious and communal violence in Pakistan.
Later, Rabbi Daniel Alter, a representative of Berlin’s Jewish community on Interfaith Dialogue, assured Shahid Khan of his strong support of the Alliance. He invited the Alliance to apprise his community of its vision. The two men pledged to work together to promote global interfaith harmony.
The Alliance website reports on persecution of minority groups around the world: www.globalminorities.co.uk
Thursday 14 March 2013
Lord Provost Sadie Docherty swapped her chain of office for a school tie today when she returned to her old secondary school, St Margaret Mary’s, in Castlemilk. Her visit was part of the school’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Suitably dress to meet the school’s strict uniform code, the Lord Provost was presented with a tie by Head Teacher Brian Brady. She then sat in on classes in each year covering geography, English and biology. At lunch time she joined staff and then continued her day with time in an art class and at a drama session.
Councillor for the local Linn Ward since 2007, the Lord Provost said at the end of the day: ‘I was terrified to come here in case I got detention or was asked to draw something! But what the day has shown me is how much education has changed since I last sat in a classroom. Geography in particular, was interesting because we used to refer to books and encyclopedia for information but everyone just Googles now to do the research.’ She added: ‘I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my day and I’ll be back!’
Head girl, Katelyn Roberts along with deputy head boy James Forrester were her escorts for the day. Said Katelyn: ‘It was a really good experience and exciting. The Lord Provost wanted to experience what school is like. It wasn’t just a polite visit to mark our 50th anniversary. By the end of the day she’s spoken to almost everyone in the school. She is a great role model for me. I’m from Castlemilk and so is she. We’ve both attended this school and she’s made it to the top as a politician. If she can do it anyone can.’
Said Head Teacher Brian Brady: ‘Many politicians ask to visit us and we’re delighted the Lord Provost has spent so much time here. She has seen for herself how today’s educational approach is different form the ‘chalk and talk’ she remembers. We know this is not just a cursory visit and look forward to seeing her again.’
He also appealed for information to ‘fill a lot of gaps’ in the school’s history. ‘We don’t know which primary schools people came from at the beginning of St Margaret Mary’s, for instance. We have no archives and would like to know where all the pupils came from.’ Many former members of staff – including four former Head Teachers and lots of former pupils – planned to attend one of the anniversary events where a video made by present day students will be shown to illustrate school life today. The school has built up a very supportive relationship with Caledonian University, in particular, and most recent results show that one in four of St Margaret Mary’s final year students now go to University.
A thanksgiving mass is scheduled for Friday 15 March with Archbishop Tartaglia. Other events are programmed throughout the rest of this year.
Anyone with information on the early days or who’d like more information on 50th anniversary events, should contact the Jubilee committee by email at : firstname.lastname@example.org
Abir Kopty, a Palestinian from Nazareth, told members of Glasgow University Palestine Society: ‘When I speak to people like you, I feel hope.’
One of 6 million Palestinian refugees she explained: ‘I’m 48. My land was taken. My village destroyed. I’m one of 11 million Palestinian people who face apartheid daily.’
In the course of an eloquent review of the issue and a neat summary of the present situation she said: ‘We have lost faith in the negotiating table.’
As she travelled to Glasgow to speak during the Society’s Israel-Apartheid Week, she learned of the death of Arafat Jaradat, a campaigner who died in prison of injuries inflicted while he was there according to a post mortem.
‘He was arrested by the occupying Israeli occupation forces accused of throwing stones. Such things are designed to crush us. But we will continue to resist. Children are in jail, women and men are being killed. These things happen with impunity. The silence of the world is noticeable.’
But, she added: ‘There is a lot of frustration and anger. Palestinians question the effectiveness of the sacrifice. Will such sacrifices lead to change?’
She answered her own question by saying it is leading to stronger resistence.
The village of Alaragrib which has been demolished 45 times, keeps being rebuilt by local people.
‘We know we cannot rely on governments. But we can rely on people of conscience – like those attending this meeting.’
She continued: ‘Everything you do; everything that people like you do around the world puts pressure on Israel. We are willing to pay the price but that is not effective without your action.’
Chair of the Society, Kate Connelly, invited those interested to contact the group which organises visits to Palestine. ‘These are not tourist trips. They offer a really broad view of what life is like there.’ Anyone interested was invited to check out the Society’s Facebook pages.
Tuesday 5 March 2013
The body of a woman recovered from the River Clyde near Mavisbank Gardens in the city centre, is believed to be that of Yasmin McLaughlin the 46-year-old who has been missing from her Ruchill home since Friday 1 March.
A post mortem will take place to establish the exact cause of death. Strathclyde Police say there appear to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death and a report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal. The body was recovered on Monday 4 March 2013 around 6pm.