Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Keep Calm and Curry On

Was delighted to accept an invitation to be guest Chair at the Milan AGM today. Founded in 1991 as a welfare organisation serving the older members of the local Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Mauritian communities they are now very well established and important partners in delivering social welfare services. The AGM was very well attended (women outnumbering men by about 5 to 1) and the business conducted briskly but thoroughly, including elections to the board and allowing for occasional translation as we went. Also included an excellent and hard hitting presentation on how the Welfare Reform changes may impact on the BME community with advice services perhaps even more important to people of ethnic origin who don't understand our rather complex systems, never mind the changes. It was all rounded off with a rather fine curry. My very generous hosts insisted I should have seconds, and it would have been rude to decline ! By the way, Milan is an Urdu word for friendly gathering or meeting.

Then managed to pop in to the Assembly Rooms where we were hosting an event called Living Well in Later Life, a public exhibition / drop in event where numerous health and social care related organisations who deliver all sorts of services to older people were on hand to offer advice and answer questions. It had a real buzz while I was there with members of the public taking advantage of having so much expertise available in one place and professionals taking advantage of the opportunity to network with colleagues in this specialist sector. Now we need to think about making this a more regular event and taking it out into some of Edinburgh's communities. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Nil Nil and a glance towards Christmas

Saturday saw me fulfilling my stewarding slot at Juniper Green Community Market before nipping into the Kinleith Arms to catch most of the Motherwell v Hearts nil nil draw. I didn't think the game was as bad as some of the papers reported yesterday but I do have an admittedly low quality threshold, molded from years of watching Scottish football.

Sunday, we managed a very healthy 2 hours newsletter delivery session in Currie. Okay, it was a bit damp but if you kept moving the cold, steady downpour could almost be ignored. Then it was off to the first pre-Christmas community engagement, the Christmas Fayre (their spelling) at Currie High School. Never has a cup of tea and choccy biscuit been so enjoyed (and well earned). Also bought the usual quota of home baking and Fair Trade chocolate. Very satisfying afternoon's work.

Back to business today with a lengthy session at CoSLA. First the Health and Wellbeing Executive Group, followed by another seminar session on Integration.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Nurses have their say

Spent an interesting, challenging and fun afternoon at the RCN Scotland Conference on Integration at Heriot Watt earlier this week. More info at their website on this link. A two day conference just on this issue clearly demonstrates how seriously nurses are examining the Integration agenda and its implications.
My role, along with 9 other far more significant speakers, was to host a table during a World Cafe discussion, a sort of rolling debate where table hosts keep the discussion pot boiling while participants flit from table to table depending on where their interest or ideas take them. A 2  minute intro from the rostrum was followed by a 2 hour discussion session, concluded with our own personal observations at the end. It was demanding but fun and interesting.
I'm beginning to appreciate that despite the Council and NHS both being major Public sector service providers their cultures are markedly different. There was some scepticism about what Integration may achieve and even some cynicism about the motives of politicians who are advocating this approach (surely not, I hear you cry !). One of the most serious issues raised was the fear by nurses that Integration will lead to a de-skilling of the nursing profession or downgrading of the nursing role where less qualifed care workers carry out tasks that should really be done by nurses. I don't think this will happen but it's a legitmate concern and one that will have to be borne in mind as the process develops. The day was wrapped up with a speech from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and a brief drinks reception before heading off for a no.34 bus home.    

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Seeing Auntie

We arranged a briefing this week for elected members to look at Dementia and the various services offered by the Council and NHS Lothian. We were of course looking to increase awareness of the condition and highlight that this is going to be an increasing challenge in the years ahead as people live longer and more individuals and their families are affected by dementia. Rather than the usual "death by powerpoint" approach I was asked to consider using a one woman show called "Seeing Auntie" which describes the journey through dementia from the perspective a family member.

It is no exaggeration to say that the performance was absolutely stunning. Moving, funny, touching, tragic, every emotion was touched by the play which was quite superbly delivered by Naomi Breeze of Breeze Productions. The half hour performance described more vividly the emotional highs and lows and deep experiences of those affected than a thousand reports or strategy documents could ever do and it certainly left a lasting impression. I'm hoping we can consider this approach in the future as the impact on my colleagues was a clear indication that this form of communication is very powerful.

"Seeing Auntie" is one of Naomi's many productions and you can find out more at her website - www.breezeproductions.co.uk/

Awards Awards

The last couple of days have been dominated by awards events. On Thursday I had the dubious pleasure of attending the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards at Prestonfield House Hotel. I wasn't on the guest list originally but Andrew Burns had been nominated for the Local Politician of the Year category and couldn't attend due to a Council Staff Awards event the same evening, so came off the sub's bench.. It was a good event but slightly more "corporate" than I had expected. Andrew didn't win, by the way.

Yesterday I was given the much more pleasurable duty of handing out Long Service Awards (25 years) to Health and Social Care Staff, nearly all women incidentally. It was a short, simple event but really significant in that I think its really important to recognise the contribution of staff. A piece of crystal, cup of coffee and a scone but it was really a big thank you to people who deliver very important front line services. 

Last night saw the annual Currie & Balerno News Community Award at Balerno Bowling Club. Great event with Maureen Woodburn the worthy recipient of this year's award. Its also a great opportunity to meet activists from numerous local organisations. Very well organised by Ray Wyper and his team and a good night was had by all including yours truly.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The normal run of events

Busy, busy couple of days. Yesterday's normal run of Monday morning meetings and catch ups was followed by my first meeting as a member of the Heriot Watt University Court. Always an unnerving experience trying to familiarise oneself with the workings of an organisation for the first time. HWU is of course a massive institution with an excellent, and growing reputation in the higher education sector. They already have a campus in Dubai, are developing a new university in Malaysia and of course their more established facilities in Orkney, the Borders and here in Currie (Riccarton). Looking forward to getting to grips with the important issues.

Then it was off the Clovenstone Community Centre to present Youth Achievement Awards to a group of local youngsters who have pursued their activity based programme diligently, some for three years, to a successful conclusion. Always a warm welcome at Clovie and good to see everyone in fine form. Then a quick run up the road to Deanpark Primary Parent Council in Balerno. Much ongoing business to be discussed including the safer routes to school project whereby we're trying to improve road safety on the Mansfield / Bavelaw Road stretch for local children who are being encouraged to walk to school. Slow, but steady progress being made.

Finally, time to drop in to Currie Community Council which was better attended than it has been of late. Planning issues dominated as usual but also a growing frustration with vacant sites that need to be developed but no viable proposals have been forthcoming.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


I was honoured to be asked to lay a wreath at the Service of Remembrance at Balerno Parish Chucrh this morning. The place was full to overflowing with many people listening and watching on a video link to the adjoining hall. Excellent service, as ever, led by Rev Louise Duncan and a welcome involvement by many young people through their various groups, Scouts, Girls Brigade, Beavers, Air Training Corp and quite a few more. Louise did a great job of connecting past events, war and conflict, to the experience of young people and others in the congregation to create a shared sense of reality and remembrance. It was also a privilege to meet Gordon Winter, a former radio operator and gunner with the RAF who served in the Second World War. Gordon also laid a wreath and of course I let him take the lead given his seniority and higher rank, probably. A welcome cup of coffee in the St Joseph's Hall after sealed a pleasant, sombre but memorable and important morning.

A busy week now lies ahead but also lots of good material for the diligent blogger. If only I could find one ...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Edinburgh's Living Wage

I'm absolutely delighted that our Capital Coalition has announced that we are to pay Council workers the Living Wage, at £7.50 / hour from the beginning of 2013. There's more detail on the Edinburgh Labour web-site and Andrew Burns's Really Bad Blog but suffice to say it's great news that we will be able to fulfil one of our most important manifesto commitments so early. This won't make poor people rich of course, but then again it won't make poor people poorer as the ConDem Welfare Reform changes will, but it does bring some element of social justice and fairness to some of the poorest paid workers in the city. Having been responsible for constructing the Labour Group budget in our last two years of opposition, which prominently featured the Living Wage (only to have it rather arrogantly dismissed) I'm especially (but quietly), chuffed to bits.