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Keeping up with you

Hello and welcome to all of you in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse.

Thank you for taking a moment to look at this email. I want to keep everyone in touch with what’s going on in the constituency and what it might mean for you.

My door is open to anyone who seeks advice and support, so you can  phone or email me at any time.

You also have the option of visiting  constituency surgeries on Mondays. You don't need to make an appointment.

If you haven’t yet subscribed to receive your personalised copy of this newsletter, which we are sending out every two weeks, then please do  sign up here.

Free wi-fi for Millar Park residents in Hamilton 
It was a real delight to switch on the free wi-fi service in Millar Park a few weeks back. The world of Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse is acting on the realisation that the web and all the associated services isn’t just for the under 25s!

The team at Millar Park spent most of a month installing the free service to all residents throughout the 38 flat complex in Hamilton.

The delightful and friendly residents were thrilled to be getting the chance to speak on Skype – and to see – their children and grandchildren in countries like Australia and New Zealand.

 And the Silver Surfers aren’t being abandoned if they’ve not yet had the opportunity to try out some of the technology available to them. Ipads have been handed out so that people can start to learn the ropes and discover the possibilities out there in cyberspace.

Lorraine Masterton from Millar Park Homes said: “We were delighted to welcome Christina to the official launch of our new wireless internet system and to join us for lunch. The staff have been working tirelessly to get the system up and running to ensure our residents have first class access to the internet.

“Just having that ability to access the internet really does help empower those living here in a way that some might struggle to otherwise. We are looking forward to building on this with ongoing opportunities for residents to improve their digital skills so that they can take full advantage of the digital age.”

It was heartening and a great pleasure learning from the residents what a difference this service is beginning to make in their lives. Not only talking in real life to family members across the world, but watching classic movies they’ve loved, or classic football games if that’s your interest.

The vast array of catch-up services, film options, music, news and current affairs is all there at the touch of a few buttons.

Great to see technology opening up communications, especially for people who may be feeling a little lonely and isolated.
Best Start Grants and Best Start Foods Schemes in South Lanarkshire
I was delighted to welcome new figures showing that 3,780 payments have been made to low income families under this scheme.

The Best Start Grant package is putting more money in the pockets of low-income families than the DWP system it replaces.

The Grant is comprised of three cash payments: The Pregnancy and Baby Payment for parents with babies of up to six months old; the Early Learning Payment for children between two and three and a half years old, and the School Age payment when a child reaches school age.

Best Start Foods is a prepaid card that can be used in shops and online to buy healthy foods for children under three.

It’s another great example of what this country could do so much more of if only we had full powers over social security.
Self-Directed Support Network in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse
I recently had a great meeting, finding out about the enduring and invaluable support work this group offers in supporting people seeking self-directed care.

Founded in 2011, the mission of the group is to help disabled people and their carers to live their lives, whether ordinary or extraordinary, without having to negotiate continuous obstacles imposed by the systems in place.

As a user-led network, these are the people who can share their concerns, their ideas and how they have managed to work through challenging systems imposed by Westminster.

A spokesman said: Since 2011 we have been the local voluntary user-led independent Self -Directed Support champions of choice and we continue to empower and signpost to ensure people have full flexibility, choice and control over their own lives.”

I look forward to supporting the group in whatever ways I can.

Refugee children
Boris Johnson’s large group of loyal MPs in Westminster has happily voted down proposals to enshrine protections for child refugees as part of the Brexit deal.

The row-back from the previous Government’s acceptance of the provision is as miserable as it is predictable.

In 2016, after a long campaign by the Labour peer, Alf Dubs, the Conservative government consented to what became known as the “Dubs amendment” to the 2016 Immigration Act. 

But then, first Theresa May, and then Boris Johnson decided they didn't want that kind of compassion in the post-Brexit UK. Lord Dubs wrote to the Conservative MPs:

But outrage greeted Theresa May reducing the number from 3,000 to just 350 children at the height of the refugee crisis where countless parentless children were destitute all over Europe.

Lord Dubs escaped from the Nazis through Nicholas Winton’s humanitarian evacuation scheme. He escaped the Nazis in Prague with the Kindertransport at the age of six.

He vividly recalls his mother waving him off on the train and to this day, he hates railway departures. “I much prefer to meet people off the train than to say goodbye to them,” he comments.

And even though councils insisted that they could accommodate more and the number was upped, fewer than 300 children have been offered the opportunity to join family in the UK.

In the Commons chamber, SNP home affairs spokeswoman, Joanna Cherry MP, urged the Government to accept the proposals to protect child refugees after Brexit or risk “tragic consequences.”

But Mr Johnson and his loyalists prefer to hammer the nails into a lot of new and probably rather small coffins.

Ms Cherry told MPs “Right now, across Europe, there are thousands of unaccompanied children living in the most desperate circumstances. Legal family reunion is a lifeline to these children who otherwise risk their lives in dinghies or in the back of lorries in order to reach a place of safety with family: or, indeed, die in the attempt.

                        Lord Alf Dubs in Calais with fellow campaigner, Claire Mosley

New accommodation for UWS students
Plans to give the former UWS campus in Hamilton a lease of new life are inching forwards as councillors have granted permission for the proposals to be taken forward.
The Caird Building is set to provide student accommodation alongside a new residential four-storey building and a car park.

Bernard Darroch, Hamilton area manager for Planning and Building Standards services said: "The applicant seeks detailed planning permission for a change of use of the former university accommodation contained within the Caird Building to student accommodation with associated alterations in addition to the erection of a four storey building which would provide 96 bed spaces with associated parking."

A total of 206 beds should be available for students by May 2022.