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Bliss Scotland raises concerns about crippling financial costs for parents of premature and sick babies.

Rhoda Grant MSP attended the launch of a new report looking at the financial costs faced by families of babies admitted to neonatal care in Scotland.

The campaign is organised by Bliss Scotland, the special care baby charity, which provides support to families of babies born premature and sick.

The new Bliss Scotland report, ‘It’s not a game: the very real costs of having a premature or sick baby in Scotland’, is based on a survey parents and responses from 13 neonatal units in Scotland

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Motions tabled by Rhoda

SANDS Awareness Month—That the Parliament welcomes June as Stillbirth and Neonatal Death (SANDS) Awareness Month; understands the great sadness that is felt at the loss of a child and that every day in the UK approximately 17 babies will be stillborn or die shortly after birth due to complications during pregnancy; recognises that more can be done to support parents and pregnant women by improving the quality of services, creating databases that can be used to gain statistical information regarding stillbirths and neonatal deaths, and supporting medical and scientific research in this area, and notes the Scottish Government’s goal of reducing the number of deaths due to stillbirth by 15% by 2015.

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Older People – speech in the Scottish Parliament debate

Rhoda Grant MSP

Older People

Debate in the Scottish Parliamernt

10 June 2014

I welcome the cabinet secretary to her new role.

I also welcome Nanette Milne back to the chamber, and I join others in paying tribute to her husband for caring for her so well while she was off.

We should also pay tribute to the many older people who take on caring roles all the time—the people whom Fiona McLeod talked about, who are looking after parents, children and grandchildren.

They contribute the equivalent of around £34 billion to our country.

This is carers week, and it is really important that we take the opportunity to celebrate their contribution and thank them for it.

The debate should have been about the contribution of older people.

At the weekend, we commemorated the D day landings, which reminded us all of the sacrifices that that generation made for the rest of us.

Post-war, they faced a period of huge austerity, but what did they do in the face of that?

They set up the welfare state and the NHS, selflessly determined to make the collective lot better.

Hugh Henry talked about that and said that we owe them a debt of gratitude, which indeed we do.

The labour and trade union movements have worked together to improve people’s lot and we benefit from that today.

The debate should have been about their contribution, but many speeches have not touched on that at all, which is disappointing.

Labour has delivered and will continue to deliver for older people.

Only a few of the things that we have achieved are mentioned in the Government motion.

All that the SNP does is accuse us of having set up a cuts commission—that is a figment of its imagination—while it implements cuts here and now.

It makes unfunded promises to older people while cutting services here and now.

It is the elderly and the disabled who face a postcode lottery when it comes to the services that they receive and those that they must pay for.

They are the new council tax payers, as a result of the stealth cuts that the Government has imposed. It does not have a commission; it is implementing those cuts right here and right now.

Shona Robison: Did we imagine the statement about a something-for-nothing culture that Johann Lamont made when she was elected leader of the Labour Party in Scotland? Is the cuts commission not under way? It was certainly the subject of one of Johann Lamont’s big announcements at the time. I think that we should know where that is at and when it is to report.

Rhoda Grant: The cuts commission is a figment of the minister’s and, indeed, her party’s imagination.

The SNP is the only party that seems to believe that it is possible to deliver Nordic-style services with American-style tax rates.

We need to take on the challenge of how we pay for those services and not make the least well-off in our society pay for them, as the SNP is doing here and now.

People are waiting on trolleys, getting seven-minute care visits and not being looked after as they should be, and that should be a source of shame to this Government.

I turn to the issue of free bus passes, which was mentioned by Nanette Milne, Ken Macintosh and Jim Hume, to name but a few.

The point was made that people are less able to use them in rural areas, where there is no public transport, but that is not the case.

A form of public transport is available in rural areas through the community transport schemes.

Those schemes are not free, but they provide access to public transport and they are valued by older people.

The schemes are under threat right here and right now because of the Government’s stealth cuts, which are having an impact on our older people.

Older people are being kept at home and prevented from socialising and getting out to do very basic things such as going to the doctor and doing their shopping.

It is extremely important that the Government tackles the issue and funds those things, instead of implementing stealth cuts.

Other members talked about the health service and A and E. Jim Hume and Neil Findlay mentioned people lying on trolleys for hours on end without knowing when they will be seen, which is a disgrace, and issues such as bedblocking, which means that people are being boarded in wards and the like.

Surely that is unacceptable in this day and age.

That is why we need a Beveridge-style review. NHS workers are telling me that they have never seen the NHS in such a bad state as the one that it is in now.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing has admitted that there are huge problems with the NHS, but all that he has said is that a review is not necessary, because he knows what the issues are.

Let us see him start to address them, because people are confronting them now.

People accuse us of seeking to put the NHS on hold—that is not what we intend—but it is not on hold; it is actually in decline.

The Labour Party appears to be the only party in the Parliament that can see that and which wants to address it.

Tinkering at the edges is not enough; we need a Beveridge-style review to deal with the situation.

The debate should have been about the action plan, but not many members mentioned it. Those who did welcomed it.

I think that we would all agree that it is a welcome document to have, but Ken Macintosh identified that something was missing from it—any mention of the role of kinship carers.

We have a duty to ensure that older people who act as kinship carers are supported emotionally and financially in providing care for children and young people.

Neil Findlay pointed out that the Labour Party attempted to address the postcode lottery of financial support for kinship carers during consideration of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, but the Government voted down our proposal.

In this country, some kinship carers are paid £40 a week, some are paid £200 a week, and some are paid nothing at all, which is an absolute disgrace.

We need to support older people who perform that role.

Because they are living off their pension and have no ability to increase their means, they are bringing up children in poverty, which has an impact on both children and carers.

Margaret McCulloch mentioned the need for young people to have access to older people.
Because of generational change and families moving away, such access can be difficult to provide.

She talked about initiatives in Germany that are helping younger people to have access to and learn from older people.

It is important that that happens.

We need to plan to deal with the challenges of demographic change, but I do not see the Government doing that.

We celebrate people living longer, but we must also plan for that, to ensure that people are able to lead worthwhile lives and are not left feeling afraid and excluded from society in old age, as happens to many, many people.

On the pension age and people living longer, I find it quite disgraceful that the Government seems to be saying that our early mortality rates are a cost-saving exercise about which we should be pleased, instead of apologising for its failure.

That is not to do with independence; mortality rates in other parts of the UK are much better than ours.

Why are we not doing more with the devolved powers that we have, instead of bleating from the sidelines and accepting mortality rates that are a disgrace in this day and age?

The Deputy Presiding Officer: You must close, please.

Rhoda Grant: I understand that I need to close.

I am disappointed that in the debate we did not talk more about the contribution that older people make as they live longer and enjoy good health into old age, which is a good thing.

Our aspiration should be for all people to live longer and enjoy good health.

We owe them that.