Natalie-Don-MSP-at-RAMH-November-2021

Natalie Don MSP has praised the efforts of Recovery Across Mental Health (RAMH) staff and volunteers in providing much-needed support for Renfrewshire residents experiencing mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a meeting with RAMH’s Chief Executive, Stephen McLellan, and recently appointed Operations Manager, Claire Gallagher, the MSP for Renfrewshire North and West was informed that the charity, which usually supports around 7,5000 people across Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire in their recovery from mental ill health each year, saw an increase of 10 per cent in the number of individuals contacting the organisation during the last 18 months.

Stephen McLellan, Manager of RAMH, said: “We were pleased to speak with Natalie Don MSP to highlight the valuable one-to-one support we are providing to people throughout Renfrewshire during the pandemic – including to many individuals who were previously not known to Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s Adult Community Mental Health Team.

“Unsurprisingly, we have been contacted by an increasing number of Renfrewshire residents who are experiencing COVID-19 related anxiety both in terms of the social isolation being suffered during times of restrictions as well as concerns relating to the prospects or reality of unemployment and debt issues.

“Anyone in Renfrewshire aged 16 or over who is experiencing a crisis in their mental health can reach out on an anonymous basis to our FIRST Crisis service which operates out of hours and offers essential personalised support.”

Natalie Don MSP said: “It’s vitally important that we all look after our mental health as much as we can and don’t hesitate to reach out for confidential support offered by dedicated services such as those run by RAMH.

“Through correspondence and conversations with my constituents, I am acutely aware of the range of difficulties and everyday challenges facing a lot of local people during the COVID-19 pandemic and offer RAMH staff and volunteers my heartfelt gratitude for making themselves available to provide life enhancing person-centred support to residents across Renfrewshire.

“I encourage anyone struggling with their mental health to make immediate contact with RAMH’s FIRST Crisis service and give the charity’s trained staff and volunteers the opportunity to gently talk you through steps which can help improve your wellbeing and recovery.”

Renfrewshire residents can contact RAMH’s FIRST Crisis service between 9am-8pm Monday-Friday or 9am-5pm Saturday-Sunday on freephone: 0800 221 8929 (or standard rate 0141 848 9090) seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Natalie Don MSP is encouraging families of children and young people with a disability or terminal illness in Renfrewshire to apply for the Scottish Government’s new Scotland’s Child Disability Payment which becomes available from Monday (22 November 2021).

The MSP for Renfrewshire North and West welcomes the fact that it is the first disability benefit in the UK which can be applied for online, with local families also having the options to apply by post, phone, or face-to-face (COVID-19 restrictions permitting) as part of Social Security Scotland’s commitment to inclusive communications.

The new benefit replaces the UK Government’s Disability Living Allowance for children. Families already receiving DLA for children do not need to make a new application as Social Security Scotland will contact them ahead of their award being automatically transferred.

Natalie Don MSP said: “I welcome the launch of the Scottish Government’s new Child Disability Payment and encourage eligible families across Renfrewshire to apply for this financial assistance which will help towards meeting the additional expenses such as extra care and mobility costs, associated with children who have a disability.

“Families with disabled children were directly involved in developing the application process so I’m delighted that applicants will experience a simplified, person-centred system and that it is the first disability benefit in the UK which can be applied for online.”

For more information about the Child Disability Payment, go to www.mygov.scot/child-disability-payment or call telephone: 0800 182 2222.

Natalie-Don-MSP-with-Sylvia-Sneider-Chrissie-Johnson-and-Heather-Clissett-in-Erskine-Community-Garden

Natalie Don MSP was delighted to visit the Erskine Community Garden on Friday to discover the valuable work that the team of volunteers are doing to support the local community.

The MSP for Renfrewshire North and West was welcomed by volunteers Heather Clissett, Chrissie Johnson and Sylvia Sneider to the project which, since its launch in 2018, has flourished into a beautiful area with something for everyone including an eight-seater picnic benches for teenagers, a stick store for four-legged friends and a sensory area will soon be available for children’s play.

The development of the area is hugely appreciated throughout the community, with thanks given in the form of donations which have been integrated into the garden. The trees are decorated with bunting gifted by neighbours and the path is accompanied by benches kindly given by members of the wider community.

As well as providing a safe, relaxed environment for people to meet at any time, Erskine Community Garden hosts organised activities for many groups within the community such as a children’s garden club which entertains and educates local young people about the great outdoors. Sylvia also hosts meditation sessions as part of mental health support as we move out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heather Clissett from Erskine Community Garden said: “We were extremely pleased to welcome Natalie to the garden. Knowing her interest in the communities she supports, it was good to tell her of the garden’s openness and inclusivity, what has been achieved and what we hope to achieve in the future in keeping with the garden being a positive resource for all.”

Natalie Don MSP said: “I really enjoyed my visit to this beautiful space and was very impressed by the Erskine Community Garden team offering so much to support people and encourage wellbeing locally.

“It was a real pleasure to learn about all the different areas and features within the garden from the labrynth to the up and coming sensory area and I give my thanks to Heather, Chrissie and Sylvia for showing me around and giving me a great insight into their inspirational work.”

Renfrewshire Council also recognises and appreciates the work that the team at Erskine Community Garden is doing and has provided funding to support the project, which can be found at Barwood Road, Erskine, PA8 6AB.

Natalie Don MSP outside constituency office October 2021

Natalie Don MSP is looking forward to ramping up her constituency service operation after securing an office in Renfrew town centre.

Natalie Don MSP outside constituency office October 2021

After making several enquiries about premises in locations across the Renfrewshire North and West constituency, the MSP has agreed to rent office space, previously used by estate agents, at 1A Paisley Road, Renfrew, PA4 8JH.

Natalie Don MSP said: “I am delighted to have secured a constituency office in Renfrew town centre. The office is in a great spot, highly visible, front facing and, importantly, accessible for people with disabilities.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic not yet over and the Scottish Government continuing to ask people to work from home whenever possible, I look forward to opening the office for constituency business as soon as practicable.

“In the meantime, my team and I will be using this time to make the office a safe environment for both my staff and constituents while COVID-19 remains a risk to public health.

“I am excited about having a presence at the heart of Renfrew, which will provide further opportunities for people to share their concerns face-to-face with me. I appreciate, however, the limitations on travel and the fact that some people from our villages may find it difficult to travel to the office by public transport.

“I assure constituents that I will always be accessible in our villages, and if anyone has any problems travelling to the office after it opens. please get in touch or feel free to arrange an appointment at one of my 12 local advice surgeries.”

Natalie Don MSP’s next surgeries take place at The Bridge, Bridge of Weir 10:30-11:15, Hunter House, Quarriers Village 11:30 – 12:15 or the Carrick Centre, Houston 12:30 – 13:15 on Friday 5 November; followed by Bargarran Community Centre, Erskine 10:30 – 11:15 and The Cherrie Centre, Renfrew 11:30 – 12:15 on Saturday 6 November.

Constituents can currently raise enquiries for Natalie Don MSP’s attention by emailing: natalie.don.msp@parliament.scot or calling her office in the Scottish Parliament on telephone: 0131 348 5085.

national insurance

Natalie Don MSP has slammed the UK Government for its decision to increase National Insurance for 117,115 working age people across Renfrewshire and then cut the tax surcharge for banks.

national insurance

The MSP for Renfrewshire North and West has condemned the decision by Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak to cut the tax surcharge for banks by more than 60 per cent, less than a month after his announcement that thousands of hardworking families would face a 1.25 per cent increase in their National Insurance contributions.

Natalie Don MSP said: “It is absolutely shameful that this out-of-touch UK Tory Government is giving tax breaks to their rich pals in the banks whilst putting up taxes for hardworking families in Renfrewshire and across Scotland.

“With local families facing a cost of living crisis through increasing food and energy bills, and many enduring lower incomes due to the Tories’ callous cut to Universal Credit, it is clear that Westminster Ministers living in their world of unfettered privilege are happy to make decisions which devastate the lives of people who can least afford to absorb such hits.

“It is becoming clearer by the day that the only way to protect people in our communities from Tory cuts is by becoming an independent country, with the full powers to build a fairer and more equal society.”

food bank

Natalie Don MSP is encouraging Renfrewshire residents to share their views on a draft national plan by the Scottish Government to end the need for people to use food banks.

food bank

The MSP for Renfrewshire North and West is urging local people to input their ideas and opinions via a consultation about the plan, which is supported by food bank operators including the Trussell Trust and Independent Food Aid Network, to prevent food insecurity.

The Scottish Government’s proposals are weighted towards strengthening incomes through fair work and social security to ensure everyone can afford food that meets their needs and preferences, and supporting joined-up local responses seeking to make food banks the last port of call for people experiencing hardship by promoting emergency financial assistance and money advice first, alongside holistic support services.

Natalie Don MSP said: “The staff and volunteers at food banks in Renfrewshire and across Scotland provide a vital service, thanks to generous donations, to support many people in our communities experiencing poverty to the extent that they cannot afford to feed themselves or their families.

“Food banks, however, are not a long-term solution to poverty and I welcome the Scottish Government’s draft plan to end the need for food banks, which aligns with the SNP’s national mission to eradicate poverty.

“Rising energy and food prices, along with the UK Tory Government’s callous cut to Universal Credit, ending of the furlough scheme and failure to use wage-setting powers to ensure household incomes keep pace with the cost of living, is increasing financial hardship.

“Unfortunately, as 85 per cent of benefit spending in Scotland is still decided by out-of-touch Westminster politicians, the Scottish Government has limited powers and budget to mitigate the impacts for people being driven further into poverty and requiring to use food banks, but has set out these proposals to use existing powers to minimise food insecurity.

“I urge people in Renfrewshire – especially those who are or have been directly impacted by poverty – to take the opportunity to get involved and help shape this national plan as everyone should have the right to an adequate standard of living, including the ability to access food that meets dietary, social and cultural needs.”

For more information about the government’s plan and to participate in the consultation, go to consult.gov.scot/housing-and-social-justice/ending-the-need-for-food-banks before 25 January 2022.

carer

Natalie Don MSP has welcomed a Scottish Government announcement that 2,715 unpaid carers across Renfrewshire will have their Carer’s Allowance Supplement doubled in December.

carer

The MSP for Renfrewshire North and West hailed the increase of the supplement to £462.80 for unpaid carers, which follows the Carer’s Allowance Supplement (Scotland) Bill passing its third and final stage in the Scottish Parliament today.

The Carer’s Allowance Supplement is paid twice a year to carers who live in Scotland and receive Carer’s Allowance, paid by the Department for Work and Pensions, on specified qualifying dates. The qualifying date for the December 2021 double payment is 11 October 2021.

Natalie Don MSP said: “Unpaid carers across Renfrewshire have experienced an incredibly difficult time during the COVID-19 pandemic and, without their heroic efforts, our services would have been under greater strain.

“I’m pleased to see the SNP Government doubling the Carer’s Allowance Supplement in recognition of the vital contribution that dedicated carers are making in our communities, as they begin to face increased pressures on their incomes due to rising energy and food prices.

“While the out-of-touch UK Tory Government cuts Universal Credit at a time when those on the lowest incomes need it most, the Scottish Government is building a social security system in Scotland based on dignity, fairness and respect.

“The people of Renfrewshire and throughout Scotland must have the choice of a different path in a referendum for recovery to give us the chance to escape the callous decisions made on welfare at Westminster and gain full powers over social security so we can protect those who need supported most.”

To be eligible for Carer’s Allowance and the Carer’s Allowance Supplement, a carer must be providing 35 hours or more of care per week, and earn only up to £128 a week, after deductions, through paid work.

The person the carer looks after must be in receipt of one or more of the following disability benefits: Personal Independence Payment (daily living component), Disability Living Allowance (middle or highest care rate), Attendance Allowance, constant Attendance Allowance (at or above the normal maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit), Constant Attendance Allowance (at the basic full day rate with a War Disablement Pension) or an Armed Forces Independence Payment.

Natalie Don MSP RAH

Natalie Don MSP is welcoming a review of parking places for Maternity Unit patients at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH), after raising deep concerns about the uphill challenges currently facing mothers-to-be.

Natalie Don MSP RAH

The MSP for Renfrewshire North and West asked NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to consider the unacceptable situation of pregnant women presently being expected to walk up a big hill in the hospital’s main car park due to parking provision not being secured for patients immediately outside the maternity wards.

In the health board’s response, the MSP was advised that the limited parking bays at the Maternity Unit, with the exception of two spaces allocated for disabled motorists, will be reviewed and re-provided for maternity patients, where possible, at the earliest opportunity. 

Natalie Don MSP said, “I am thankful that the health board took heed of my concerns and will re-allocate spaces to allow pregnant women to access the parking facilities at the maternity unit.

“It is simply unacceptable that women who are attending antenatal appointments or going into labour, currently have no access to parking facilities at the unit, especially at a time when, due to COVID-19 restrictions, many women are expected to attend appointments on their own.

“Although I appreciate the offer of sincere apologies for the difficulties and distress experienced by my constituents trying to access parking close to the RAH Maternity Unit, this does still remain a problem for women in Renfrewshire accessing the hospital via public transport or foot. I will therefore continue to seek further solutions to this for all women, in the future. 

“No woman should be forced to walk up this hill to access maternity services while they are pregnant.”

CAB Worried about bills and money

Natalie Don MSP is backing the new ‘Our Advice Adds Up’ campaign encouraging local residents to contact Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau to get advice to maximise their incomes and cut their bills.

CAB Worried about bills and money

The MSP for Renfrewshire North and West is supporting the campaign after being by informed that more than 1.4 million people in Scotland have run out money before payday in the last year.

Natalie Don MSP said: “It is truly heart-breaking to discover that so many people across Scotland are struggling to put food on their tables ahead of their work, pensions or benefits payday.

“With food and energy prices already rising, and the latest figures showing 15,476 people in Renfrewshire are claiming Universal Credit, thousands of hard-pressed local families will be devastated by the cut to the £20 UC uplift, and I dread to think about how they will cope during the winter months as they are driven much deeper into poverty.

“I’m pleased to support the ‘Our Advice Adds Up’ campaign and encourage people in Renfrewshire who are experiencing financial pressures to obtain vital advice from Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau about how to maximise their incomes and cut their bills.”

Gavin Lovesey, Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau’s Service Development Manager, said: “We welcome this support for the campaign. With the National Insurance contributions increase, rising inflation and rapidly rising energy prices, going into this winter will be challenging particularly for those on low incomes.

“As furlough ends, many more people may find themselves living solely on benefits. We urge anyone who is struggling with money, or worried about how they’ll cope with these challenges, to get in touch with us to ensure they’re receiving everything they’re entitled to, getting help to manage any debt, and reducing spend where possible.”

Get in touch with Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau on telephone: 0141 889 2121 or via the contact details on www.renfrewshirecab.org.uk

In 2020/21, Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau provided advice to help 3,564 local people to gain a cumulative total of £2.4million.