Mhairi Black MP attended an event in the UK Parliament run by the charity Guide Dogs to raise awareness of discrimination against guide dog owners. The MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South heard from guide dog owners about the impact of being turned away by businesses because of their dog. They also collected a Christmas card with messages highlighting Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign.
It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances. However, a Guide Dogs survey found that three quarters of assistance dog owners reported that they had been refused entry by businesses.
Businesses that closed their doors to assistance dog owners included shops, supermarkets, gyms, campsites, places of worship, public transport, taxis and minicabs, pubs and hotels.
Mhairi Black MP said:
“I was shocked to hear about cases of guide dog owners being turned away by businesses. This isn’t just poor customer service; it’s discrimination and it’s unacceptable. Disabled people have the same rights as anyone else to shop, take a taxi or visit their local pub.
“Guide Dogs’ is a brilliant service that supports so many people. I am happy to support the Access All Areas campaign to open all doors to guide dog owners this Christmas.”
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, said:
“It’s against the law for a business to close their doors to someone because of their assistance dog, but it’s still a daily concern for many guide dog owners going about their lives.
“When you rely on your guide dog to get around, leaving the dog outside is not an option. Businesses shouldn’t be allowed to make guide dog owners feel like second-class citizens. That’s why we’re calling for better enforcement of the law, and better staff training in some sectors to stop this discrimination from happening in the first place.”
MHAIRI BLACK WELCOMES RIPOFF OVERDRAFT CHARGES BAN
Paisley and Renfrewshire South MP Mhairi Black has welcomed the news that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have today banned banks from charging “rip-off” unarranged overdraft fees under new proposals. The FCA will ban fixed daily or monthly fees. They will also make banks advertise single interest rate overdrafts.
Research by Which? Showed that some fees that have been imposed by banks can make this form of debt more expensive than payday loans. Overdrafts costs can reach 10% a day while Payday loans are capped at 0.8%.
It was revealed that in some circumstances, High Street banks were charging ten times more than that of payday loans companies for unarranged overdraft fees, with those in some of the most deprived areas hit hardest. These findings were part of the UK regulator’s high-cost credit review and the impetus for fundamental new reforms on the way banks charge for overdrafts.
Mhairi Black MP had been a supporter of consumer watchdog Which? #EndRipOffOverdrafts campaign demanding that the financial regulator, the FCA, take urgent action to end this unfair practice by restricting unarranged overdraft charges to the same level as arranged overdrafts.
Mhairi Black MP said
“This is good news as the research was showing that incredibly some of these overdraft fees had actually been above the cap that has been put in place for payday loans. In many cases these charges had been penalising some of the poorest people, I welcome this decision today by the FCA.
“I was happy to support this campaign but we need to go further to make sure that banks and lenders are not leaving people in overpriced debt through borrowing especially when it is targeting people who are already struggling to make ends meet.
“This move by the FCA will come as a massive relief to many people in Renfrewshire who find themselves thousands of pounds out of pocket due to rip-off overdrafts every year.”
Gavin Newlands, SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North has welcomed today’s proposals to ban banks from charging rip-off unarranged overdraft fees that regularly penalised the most vulnerable customers and cost some people thousands of pounds a year.
Newlands joined with consumer champion Which? and over 80 fellow parliamentarians in May in signing a letter calling on the Financial Conduct Authority to bring an end to these excessive charges. Which? has been campaigning on this issue for years and welcomes today’s strong action from the regulator.
Today the FCA announced that banks will no longer be able to charge higher prices for people who go over their arranged overdraft limit, in radical new proposals set down by the UK’s financial watchdog.
“Excessive overdraft fees are unfair and are extremely unhelpful, as they often plunge people deeper into debt when they are already in difficult financial situations.
“These proposals are a significant step forward towards a financial system which is fairer on the most vulnerable in society.
“I was glad to add my name to the letter from Which? and I would like to congratulate them on this carrying out this vital work.”
Jenni Allen, Managing Director, Which? Money, said:
“Finally, banks will no longer be able to charge rip-off unarranged overdraft charges, which have long penalised their customers, many of whom can afford it the least.
“Which? has campaigned on this issue for years and today’s strong action from the regulator will come as a massive relief for all those regularly hit with such extortionate charges, which cost some people thousands a year.
“The regulator must now ensure these important changes are swiftly introduced and enforced to finally stop this unfair practice and put an end to these excessive fees.”
Renfrewshire Councillors have approved £30,000 funding to Renfrewshire Food Bank to reduce the impact of Universal Credit.
The proposals to give the food bank the money over a three year period were agreed at a meeting of the Council’s Leadership Board today (December 5).
The funding follows the introduction of Universal Credit in Renfrewshire in September 2018.
Administered by the Department of Work and Pensions, Universal Credit replaces Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits with a single monthly payment.
However, research by Trussell Trust has shown that there has been a 52% increase in demand at food banks in areas where the new system has been in place for 12 months.
Renfrewshire Council’s Convener for Finance, Resources and Customer Services, Councillor John Shaw, said: “The introduction of Universal Credit by the UK Government in other areas has put a lot of additional pressure on food banks with more demand from those most in need. This funding will help Renfrewshire Food Bank cope with any increased demand that may come, allowing it to continue supporting anyone in Renfrewshire that needs its help.”
Renfrewshire Council has provided the food bank with funding in recent years, working flexibly with them to provide extra money when needed from its Tackling Poverty Fund.
The Tackling Poverty Programme has been at the centre of many projects to help struggling families and households in Renfrewshire since launching in 2015.
The Healthier, Wealthier Children Service, which is funded by the programme, helped 219 families in Renfrewshire boost their household incomes by a total of £300,000 between April and September 2018. The service gives financial, debt and welfare rights advice to new and expectant parents and helps families check what benefits they are entitled to before and after the arrival of their baby.
The Tackling Poverty Initiative’s energy advice service, which provides support to people who need to reduce their energy bills, has also helped 177 households in Renfrewshire save a total of £49,220 since July 2018.
In March 2018 Renfrewshire Council announced £5million funding for the Tackling Poverty Programme over five years to deliver key projects and activities that will support people and families on low incomes.
Projects within the programme are designed to provide support for families that need it most, remove barriers to participation for children and young people, and support health and wellbeing for young people.
Councillor Shaw said: “The work that the Tackling Poverty Programme is doing is making a real difference to the lives of families in Renfrewshire who are struggling to make ends meet.
“This additional funding will ensure that these crucial services can help families in need in Renfrewshire for years to come.”
MHAIRI BLACK WARNS THAT UNIVERSAL CREDIT IS PLUNGING PEOPLE INTO ABSOLUTE POVERTY
A UN expert has said that UK ministers are living in a “state of denial” over the extreme poverty existing around the country, and has welcomed the Scottish Government’s attempts to counteract Westminster welfare cuts.
The UN Rapporteur for extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, said today that he was extremely surprised that UK Ministers were “happy” with the way in which their welfare policies were playing out. Mr Alston was speaking at the end of his ten day investigation into poverty in the UK.
The human rights expert visited areas across the UK, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, during his investigation, and has reported on the effects of the UK Government’s failing efforts to tackle poverty in the UK, the impact of austerity measures, welfare cuts, Universal Credit, and Brexit.
Mr Alston also highlighted that many of the flaws in the social security system were a result of political choices, saying that “if a new minister was interested, if a new government was interested, the worst aspect of these policies could be changed overnight and for very little money”.
Esther McVey – who has steered the shambolic roll-out of Universal Credit since January – resigned yesterday in protest at the Prime Minister’s handling of a Brexit deal, after facing months of criticism for her refusal to scrap the botched policy.
MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South Mhairi Black said:
“the UN Rapporteur has confirmed what many have been saying all along, the UK Governments austerity programme targets societies most vulnerable people and has shifted thousands of people into absolute poverty.
“In Renfrewshire we have seen a drastic rise in food bank use since the rollout of universal credit. Food banks are not part of the welfare state. They are a symbol that the welfare state is failing.
“It is time for the Scottish Parliament to have the full powers to prevent even more people being dragged into hardship. We can have a fair welfare system that puts people’s dignity at the forefront.”
Yesterday [Wednesday, 14th November ‘18], it was announced that Bank of Scotland intend to close local branches in Burnside, Dundee, Glasgow, Keith, Kirriemuir, Lossiemouth, Paisley and Stonehouse.
The Paisley South Bank of Scotland branch on Neilston Road is expected to close in February 2019.
MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South Mhairi Black has now written to Bank of Scotland’s Managing Director, Robin Bulloch, calling for an urgent re-think of the plans.
Mhairi Black MP said on the closure –
“I was disappointed to learn that Bank of Scotland have the intention of closing the Paisley South branch on Neilston Road in February 2019.
“I have written to the Bank’s Managing Director urging them to reconsider this move. This is an indispensable service for many of my constituents and I hope that Bank of Scotland will rethink this decision.
“It is outrageous that banking officials believe they can just up sticks and leave behind the communities and loyal customers that they are supposed to serve.”
Communities across Renfrewshire have paid tribute to those lost while serving with the Armed Forces as services took place to mark Remembrance Sunday and 100 years since the end of the First World War.
The largest service was held in Paisley and saw hundreds turn out to pay their respects at the Cenotaph.
Military personnel from the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy took part in a parade around the town centre before readings were undertaken by local ministers and the Royal British Legion presented their standards.
A bugler played a moving rendition of the Last Post shortly before a two-minute silence was observed and wreaths were then laid on behalf of the Armed Forces, schools, local organisations and community groups.
Kenny Lipton, Chairman of the Royal British Legion – Paisley Comrades Division, said: “It’s so important that we remember the fallen as we don’t ever want this to happen again.
“Remembrance is what the Legion is there for, our ethos is all about remembering and honouring those who have gone and those who are still with us.
“Walking up towards the Cenotaph carrying the standard, or just being part of the parade, honouring those who have gone before you, it’s one of the proudest things you can ever do.”
Another nine events were held across Renfrewshire, including a special evening service held in Paisley Abbey to mark the centenary of the Armistice.
A short church service was followed by a concert of music, song and poetry performed by the Starlight Youth Music Theatre, Chamber Choir and the Johnstone Brass Band, and Renfrewshire’s Provost Lorraine Cameron was joined by a young person to light a candle of remembrance
Provost Cameron, who also attended the 10:45am service in Paisley, said: “Renfrewshire has a vast military history and it is fitting that we recognise the sacrifices that have been made to give our lives today.
“It was great to see so many people attending services across the area to mark the occasion, especially on the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War.
“Our thanks and prayers are with all our service personnel, past and present, for the outstanding work they do to keep us safe and I’m delighted we were able to honour them once again this year.”
Renfrewshire’s also hosted its annual Children’s Remembrance Service on Friday 9 November at Mossvale and St James Primary School in Paisley.
Pupils performed poetry and sang as they showcased their learning about Remembrance Day and paid their respects to those who have been lost.
Veterans from the Royal British Legion Scotland (Paisley Comrades Division) were also there to give pupils the opportunity to ask questions about their experiences and the work of the Legion, before a two-minute silence was observed at 10am.
For more information on why we mark Remembrance Day every year, visit www.britishlegion.org.uk/