Latest welfare reform hits as DLA change gets underway

People in Renfrewshire who want to make a claim for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are being urged by the council to find out more about key changes the Government is making to the benefit.

From June 10 working-age adults will no longer be able to make new claims for DLA and will instead have to claim for a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The move is part of the UK Government’s current benefit change programme and will see DLA replaced by PIP for 16-64 year olds over the next few years.

Councillor Mike Holmes, Renfrewshire Council’s Deputy Leader, said: “The changes are confusing and worrying a lot of people. The UK Government wants to achieve a 20% saving in the cost of DLA – but we still don’t know how that will impact on disabled people. The Government’s own figures recognise that only 0.5% of DLA is claimed fraudulently, so when they cut the bill by 20%, many genuine cases will lose out.”

The second stage of change will happen from October 2013 when existing DLA claimants will have to apply for PIP – if they report a change in their condition, turn 16, or reach a review date.

Everyone else on DLA will be contacted to apply for PIP from 2015.

Councillor Holmes added: “When you need to apply for PIP – whether it’s just now as a new claim, in October because your DLA comes for review or its later down the line when the DWP writes to you – please don’t forget that we’ve set up a dedicated team of advisors who are here to help you through the process.”

Only those who turned 65 on or before 8 April 2013 will remain on DLA. Children will continue to receive DLA until they turn 16.

For more information on the changes visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/benefitchanges or phone 0300 300 0288.

Renfrew Museum Opening Hours Survey  – We Want to Hear From You!

Renfrewshire Arts & Museums are currently undergoing a customer consultation about the opening hours at Renfrew Museum and want to hear from you about your opinions on what you think the opening hours should be.
(direct link to survey click here http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DGBJTFF )

Renfrew Museum

The brand new Renfrew Museum opened its doors in January 2012, with specially designed exhibits and displays. The museum tells the story of Renfrew from Medieval times until the present day, using objects, pictures, film and people’s own words. The museum is based on the elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water.

The response to the new museum has been very positive, attracting 5690 visitors in the first year of opening. However, the evening opening hours have not been popular and received, on average, less than 0.5 visits per evening opening during the first year. In contrast to this, the main town hall building is open to the public from 9am, however the museum does not open until 11.00am, which visitors are finding confusing and could mean the museums is losing out on visitors.

The current opening hours were agreed following community consultation and we would like to know your views on whether we should stick to these times or take the opportunity to amend them.

Hard copies of the survey can be found at Renfrew Town Hall, Paisley Town Hall, Paisley Arts Centre and Paisley Museum. Alternatively you can access the online survey on the Renfrew Museum page on Renfrewshire Council’s website: www.renfrewshire.gov.uk or on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/renfrewshirearts. Deadline for completion of surveys is Sunday 30 June.

Photograph copyright of Renfrewshire Council not to be used without permission.

Accord Hospice Summer Fayre

Paisley Town Hall welcomes the annual Accord Hospice Summer Fayre

Accord Hospice is an independent charity giving free Specialist Palliative Medical and Nursing Care and support to people whose illness is causing physical pain and emotional distress and for whom curative treatment may no longer be appropriate.

This years event  is to be held on Saturday 8th June 2013 10am – 4pm

Accord Hospice Summer Fayre always attracts a huge crowd and this year is already promising to be bigger than ever

A craft fayre, bric-a-brac stall, a tea room, hot food stalls, games, competitions and lots lots more

And to keep the kids amused there will be face painting, bouncy castles and more

So come along and support ACCORD  – we hope to see you there.

http://www.accordhospice.org.uk

 

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St Vincent’s invite all to Summer Gathering

St Vincent’s Hospice continues its 25th Anniversary celebrations with an open invitation to the Summer Gathering on Sunday June 23rd from 2-4pm.

The annual Summer Gathering is a celebration of thanksgiving and remembrance and St Vincent’s are keen to highlight that the invitation is for everyone, not only those who have received services through the hospice.

st vincentsCatherine McGrath, spiritual care coordinator, said “we extend this invitation to everyone who would like to join us, there may be family and friends that you would want to remember. You don’t have to have a personal connection with St Vincent’s Hospice, everyone is very welcome indeed.”

“The event is a celebration including songs, readings and reflections – there’s something for everyone. We use symbols such as placing stones to form a cairn to remember those we love, all in a spirit of thanksgiving, for what that person means to us.”

A humanist celebrant will join spiritual representatives from churches and faith groups in the event led by the Patient & Family Support Team of St Vincent’s Hospice. Tea, coffee and refreshments are served afterwards.

No booking required, simply arrive on the day or for more information contact 01505 705635 or info@svh.co.uk.

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Renfrewshire Council Leader in ‘toxic debt’ of payday loans warning

Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan is urging local residents to avoid falling into the toxic debt spiral of using payday loan companies and join the local credit union instead.

Renfrewshire Council has banned access of payday loan websites from council PCs and the Leader recently met with the board of the Renfrewshire Wide Credit Union to hear about their services.

Anyone who lives or works in Renfrewshire can join and make full use of a range of financial services including affordable credit – meaning there’s no need to resort to payday loans.

renfrewshire council logo .JPGCouncillor Macmillan said: “Put frankly, these payday loan companies are absolutely shocking. To charge ridiculous interest amounts of anything up to 4,000 per cent, fail to check if the customer can afford the repayment then use bully tactics to hound for payment when they fall behind, is appalling practice. The result is vulnerable people falling into a spiral of toxic debt that they can’t get out of.

“I’d urge all Renfrewshire residents to avoid these companies. They are still unregulated and they will unfortunately be looking to take advantage of hard-pressed families in 2013 as benefit cuts start to take hold.

“Our local credit union offers a far better alternative. I had a really useful  meeting with its board recently. The credit union has a positive role to play in the community to help people through these difficult times by encouraging saving and ensuring access to affordable credit rates.”

For more information drop into the Renfrewshire Wide Credit Union at 41 High Street, Paisley, or call on 0141 889 7442.

Cllr Roy Glen

Details of extra £4.5m jobs cash boost agreed

Details have been agreed over where a £4.5million cash injection for the Renfrewshire economy will be spent.

The money will be used over the next two years to deliver Invest in Renfrewshire, a council programme pulling together a number of schemes aimed at supporting local businesses and tackling youth unemployment.

At the council’s budget meeting in February, councillors agreed to pump an extra £4.5m into Invest in Renfrewshire, which – when added to the initial investment from the programme’s launch a year ago – takes the total to £7m.

Cllr Roy GlenThis week saw members of the council’s Economy and Jobs Board agree a report which lays out where that money will be spent between 2013 and 2015.

Just over £3.85m will be targeted at supporting businesses, with the largest chunk to go on wage subsidies to encourage companies to take on new staff.

Money has also been set aside to help companies grow, with funding to help pay for new premises, staff and technology, and grants to improve the look of shopfronts.

Another £1.5m will be spent on supporting unemployed young people to find and keep work.

This includes funding for graduate internships – with the council and with private-sector employers – and money for training and support for schools.

Councillor Roy Glen, Convener of the Economy and Jobs Policy Board, said: “Supporting the local economy and helping young people find work are two of the major priorities of this council.

“We have been able to make this substantial investment in both in spite of the challenges caused by the tough financial climate, and the reduction in the council’s budget by the Scottish Government.

“We are determined to make Renfrewshire a better place to do business, and want to work with local firms to do that.

“June will see the first anniversary of the launch of the Invest in Renfrewshire programme and in the past year, almost 300 businesses have signed up to the scheme.

“But we want others to come forward and take advantage of the range of funding packages which are available to them.

“I would encourage all Renfrewshire businesses to speak to one of our team, who will advise them on what we can do.”

For more information, visit www.investinrenfrewshire.com, email invest@renfrewshire.gov.uk, or phone 0300 3000 144.

All change as libraries ‘stamp out stamping’

It’s the end of an era for Renfrewshire Libraries as they ‘stamped out stamping’ this week.

Library staff have begun to issue borrowers with receipts rather than ‘date stamp’ their books.

Renfrewshire Council’s Libraries Manager, Jenifer MacFarlane, explains: “Date-stamping equipment is messy and expensive to replace, and smudged dates on books are difficult to read – a receipt is so much more clean, swift and efficient.”

“One receipt can list all of the loans a person has at that time so it’s much easier to keep track.”

“We trialled this system in Lochwinnoch and it proved very popular, especially with parents – they want to keep track of library books their children have borrowed, which often sit stacked in with the ones they own!”

“All the library staff are looking forward to the switchover and it’s another sign of how the libraries service is modernising to match customer expectations.”

To help with the change, borrowers are being issued with free plastic wallets to hold membership cards and receipts.

Last year, adults borrowed over 420,000 books, CDs and DVDs from Renfrewshire Libraries with junior members taking out a further 120,000 items.

Crime fiction authors James Patterson and Lee Child were most popular with books on job-searching and interview techniques the most borrowed non-fiction titles.

Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown’s latest, Inferno, was hotly-anticipated here in Renfrewshire with the greatest number of reservations this year.

For more information about Renfrewshire Libraries, visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/libraries.

Doors Open Day 2013 will be chance to get into buildings

An annual celebration of Renfrewshire’s fascinating architectural history will return later this year – and organisers are looking for buildings to add to the list.

Doors Open Day is a showcase of the country’s built heritage, where visitors take a peek through the keyhole at hundreds of Scotland’s buildings for free.

This year’s event takes place on 14 and 15 September and will be the 20th anniversary of Renfrewshire’s participation.

Paisley Abbey interior

Local buildings set to throw open their doors on the day include Paisley Abbey, the council chambers at Renfrewshire House, local churches and fire stations.

But organisers are looking for local buildings of historical or architectural significance which have not taken part before to come forward for this year’s event, which is supported by Renfrewshire Council.

Councillor Terry Kelly, Convener of the council’s Planning and Property Policy Board, said: “The idea behind Doors Open Day is to show people the hidden gems that link present-day Renfrewshire to its past.

“Renfrewshire has an architectural heritage to be proud of, and Doors Open Day gives residents a glimpse of the fascinating history on their own doorstep.

“While there are many local buildings that prove popular with visitors every Doors Open Day, we would love to add new attractions to our list.

Paisley Abbey interior“We are keen to hear from the owners or managers of interesting buildings throughout Renfrewshire.

“If you would like to offer or recommend a building to add to Doors Open Day, please call 0141 618 6794 or email towncentres@renfrewshire.gov.uk by the end of May.”

Doors Open Day is part of a wider Europe-wide celebration of built heritage, and sees over 50 countries take part, with over 20 million visits annually.

The Renfrewshire event will feature a competition for children to have their passport ‘stamped’ as they visit different venues, and will have a fun historical theme.

The council will also be running a photo competition with visitors encouraged to share their pictures of the buildings on social media.

For more information about the national event, visit www.doorsopendays.org.uk

 

You can download the Doors Open Day Leaflet for the Renfrewshire area by clicking here..

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Renfrewshire Council blocks 300 payday loan sites

Renfrewshire Council has become the latest local authority to block access to payday loan websites from computers in its libraries, offices and community facilities.

Some 300 sites have been blocked as part of the council’s strategy to help local people manage their money and avoid getting into debt.

In addition to banning access to payday loans, Renfrewshire Council has created a 45-strong team to provide local people with advice and assistance about the changes to their benefits and money and debt issues.

council-logoCouncillor Michael Holmes, Depute Leader of Renfrewshire Council, said, “The people who use payday loans are often on low incomes. They don’t have savings to fall back on and they struggle to get affordable credit through more traditional ways of borrowing. Payday lenders charge significantly more interest than banks and credit unions; sucking money out of low-income communities.

“The idea behind payday loans is that people borrow a small amount of money and pay it back quickly. But if these loans aren’t repaid within a month, or if the borrower defaults on their payments, interest charges and penalties can cause the debt to spiral out of control.

“One leading payday lender charges 4,214% interest a year. In 12 months this would turn a £30 payday loan into a £1,264 financial millstone.

“The changes to the benefit system are going to take £22million out of the pockets of the poorest people in Renfrewshire. Many of them will be driven to payday lenders to try and make ends meet.

“The council is determined to use its voice and influence to guide people towards affordable credit such as credit unions and protect them from falling into a high-interest debt trap.”

In addition to high interest charges there can be other pitfalls with payday loans.

Councillor Holmes said, “Payday lenders often set up Continuous Payment Authorities when people take out a loan. This gives them the right to take money out of people’s bank accounts even if it puts them into the red. This can lead to overdraft charges which make the situation even worse. It also means the payday lender can help themselves before the person has paid their essential bills such as rent or power bills.

“Payday loans may be easy to understand. They may be simple to use but with an annual interest rate of an eye-watering 4,214%, they can be very, very difficult to repay.”

Peter Tutton, Consumer Policy Officer at Citizens Advice, said, “The problems we see are where short-term credit becomes long-term and people get into a cycle of debt. Many people using these types of loan can’t afford them in the first place, can’t pay them back and end up by taking out multiple loans.”

The Government is currently considering the Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) review of payday loans and the OFT has opened formal investigations into several lenders.

www.renfrewshire.gov.uk

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Young people encouraged to attend apprentice event

Young people from throughout Renfrewshire are being encouraged to attend a special event designed to showcase the benefits of a modern apprenticeship.

Renfrewshire Council is organising the one-off information evening on Tuesday 21 May, from 6 to 7.30pm.

It will take place in the Youth Employability Hub at Assurance House, 17-19 Gauze Street, Paisley.

The event – taking place as part of Scottish Modern Apprentice Week – is targeted at pupils in S4-6, and young people aged between 16 and 19 who have left school but are not already in further education.

Young people who sign up for a modern apprenticeship receive on-the-job training from their employer, who supports them through a relevant vocational qualification.

Those attending on the night will get the chance to speak to representatives of around a dozen local companies with their own training programmes.

Also there will be representatives of the council’s own modern apprenticeship programme, which offers office-based and craft apprenticeships within a variety of areas.

The programme has just been launched for 2013 and opportunities in horticulture, bricklaying and painting and decorating are currently available on the MyJobScotland website.

The council’s MA scheme was recently honoured at a prestigious national awards ceremony, when it was named the joint-winner of the Apprentice Award category at the s1jobs recruitment awards.

There will also be a ‘meet the apprentice’ feature allowing visitors to speak to young people who have benefited from apprenticeships, and who can answer questions about their own experiences.

Staff from Skills Development Scotland – which funds modern apprenticeships in Scotland – will be there, while advisors from Renfrewshire Employability Partnership will be on hand to talk young people and their parents through their options.

Councillor Roy Glen, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Economy and Jobs Policy Board, said: “Modern apprenticeships are a great way for young people to learn practical job skills, while also picking up a vocational qualification.

“The council’s MA programme has proved very popular over the years and has now been recognised as among the best of its kind in the country.

“There will also be a number of other major local employers there on the night, all of whom have their own training programmes, which could open the door to a great career for those involved.

“This event will allow young people and their parents to get a feel for what might be out there for them, and I would encourage them to go along on the night.”