Claire raises adult programme concerns

Before recess I raised concerns in Parliament over the decision by Fife College to drop their Adult Programme courses, due to be replaced by Community Skills courses after the summer. The decision from Fife College has raised concerns that students with additional support needs will be unable to make the transition from the old course to the new one and will ultimately miss out.

I raised these concerns after being contacted by constituents who fear that the changes introduced by Fife College will result in their family missing out on the college opportunities that the Adult Programme course brings. The cancellation of these non-certificated courses is due to a combination of severe budget pressures and a focus on employability.

I was able to quiz the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning during Education questions and I raised my fears that the change in course would lead to some being “excluded from college opportunities, and the social and educational benefit this brings them.” Continue reading

Care home inspections vital for good service

Recently I met with the Care Inspectorate in the Scottish Parliament to discuss care issues across the Kingdom. The Inspectorate is the official body responsible for inspecting standards of care in Scotland.

Over 14,000 care services are registered with the Care Inspectorate, including care homes, childminders, day care centres and support services which includes care at home. The inspection regime looks at quality of care and support, staffing and management and leadership.

Recent figures from the Inspectorate have found that across Scotland the number of care homes with unsatisfactory or weak grades has increased. However, services in Fife have improved, with now over 95% achieving grades of adequate or better. Continue reading

Action needed to help Kingdom’s renters

Ahead of the Housing (Scotland) Bill Stage 3 debate next week I have called for action to reform the rental market in Scotland. Amongst proposals brought forward by Scottish Labour are plans to limit rent increases to once a year along with capping those increases. We have also, through my colleague James Kelly MSP, called for an increase in the level of tenancy from 6 months to 3 years.

These proposals come on the back of recent figures that highlights that over a fifth of those receiving benefits in Fife find themselves within the private rented sector. The moves that we have brought forward are essential to tackle the housing crisis faced by many across Scotland.

With many households facing ever increasing bills we must do all that we can to relieve the pressures families are continuing to face. Affordable rents are one way to achieve this and that is why I support Labour’s proposals for a capping rent increases in the private sector and limiting them to only once a year. Continue reading

Hat-trick of missed targets Embarrassing for Government.

Responding to the release of the latest climate change emissions that shows Scotland has missed its yearly target for a third year in a row, Scottish Labour’s Environment spokesperson Claire Baker MSP said:

“The news that Ministers have delivered a hat-trick of missed climate change targets is deeply embarrassing for a Scottish Government that continually heralds them as world leading.

“The latest statistics are worse than what was expected with emissions actually rising in the past year. The Minister must now fully explain why, under his watch, emissions have risen in the past year and the SNP Government have failed to make the step-change needed.

“It is 5 years since the Climate Change Act was passed by the Parliament but so far the Government’s lack of action has led to a significant lack of progress on a number of environmental targets. Continue reading

Claire celebrates the Scottish Spud

MSPs gather to celebrate 10 years of the Grow Your Own Potatoes programme in Scotland -

MSPs joined representatives from the Scottish potato industry on Thursday, 5 June 2014 at a lunch event in the Scottish Parliament to celebrate 10 years of the Grow Your Own Potatoes (GYOP) programme in Scotland’s schools.

In the past decade the GYOP programme has inspired over two million children to grow their own food and taught them about the health benefits and sustainability of home grown foods like potatoes. Today the programme is run in over 800 schools across Scotland involving 20,000 children each year.

The event was sponsored by Claire Baker MSP, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Continue reading

Claire meets local Kinship Care Group

Recently I met with a local kinship care group to hear first-hand the challenges they face as kinship carers in Fife. The meeting, which took place in Fair Isle Nursery school, also offered the carers the opportunity to quiz me on care issues within the Parliament.

It was great to meet local kinship carers at Fair Isle nursery and hear about the children they care for.  They are providing grandchildren, nieces and nephews with stable loving homes when their parents, for whatever reason, aren’t able to do so.

The group, who meet regularly, are open to new members from within the Kirkcaldy and surrounding areas. Their support group is a great idea and is open and welcoming to other kinship carers in the area. They meet every Tuesday and I would urge other kinship carers to head along for a cup of tea and a chat along with support for the important role they are doing. Bringing up children is hard work, and we should do all we can to support kinship carers.  Continue reading

Claire backs calls for reform of the private rented sector

I have backed plans to reform the private rented sector in Scotland following the SNP failing to support Labour’s amendments at the committee stage of the Housing (Scotland) Bill. Scottish Labour is proposing amendments to the bill which is currently making its way through Parliament that will cap rent rises.

Such a move would impact on approximately 17,000 households in Fife as 10% of housing in the region is privately rented. The amendments also propose making 3 years the market standard for renting tenure in Scotland, offering renters in Fife peace of mind in their homes.

We need to take action to tackle the rising rent costs facing some in the private renting sector throughout the Kingdom. With pay-packets being increasingly stretched we should be doing all within our power to help ensure households aren’t faced with a choice between heating their homes and putting food on the table.  Continue reading

Claire calls for promotion of the living wage

I have urged for active promotion of the living wage in Fife after a YouGov poll found that 90% of Scots believe companies should be paying the wage to their workers. Figures estimated that there are over 23,000 workers in Fife who are paid less than the living wage, the 3rd highest total across local authority areas in Scotland. The wage, currently set at £7.65 an hour, would see a rise of £2,600 per year for a full time worker currently earning the minimum wage.

I have called for the living wage to be actively promoted amongst the private sector and has urged the Scottish Government to back a tax rebate for firms who pay it, along with establishing a National Living Wage Strategy. Continue reading

Action now needed on Land Reform

Below is my Herald newspaper Agenda column from Friday 23rd of May

Today the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Review Group will be publishing their final report and the onus is on them to provide a comprehensive and radical argument for the reform of land in Scotland.  

So far they have yet to match Johann Lamont’s pledge for extended community right to buy – even if there is no willing seller – as long as it is in the public interest. Nor have they proved to be as challenging and questioning as the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster who propose a robust and workable land register and a review of taxation and financial benefits. Continue reading

Levenmouth Rail Link raised in Parliament

Recently I raised the campaign for the reintroduction of the Levenmouth rail link during General Questions in the Scottish Parliament. As a supporter of this campaign since I was first elected in 2007, I believe that if there is any chance of the rail link being reintroduced we need to see a firm commitment from the Scottish Government.

I was able to question the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure,  Nicola Sturgeon MSP, asking where the rail link ranks among the Scottish Government’s transport proprieties. In my question I highlighted that such a project will not be able to go forward ”without financial backing from the Scottish Government.” Continue reading