20/08/2009

Dundee Youth Festival

This afternoon I was delighted to attend the signing of the Twin Cities Youth Charter. It was an excellent event and I was able to hear the views of young people from Orleans, Wurzburg, Alexandria, as well as Dundee, unfortunately young people from Nablus could not be present. It was excellent to see young people working together and sharing their concerns no matter what their cultural differences.

St Andrew's Family Support Project

This morning I attended a briefing at the St Andrew's Family Support Project, which runs in the church hall sat St Andrew's Church in King Street. Along with a number of other councillors I was able to hear about the excellent work which is done there. The project offers support to young parents (mostly mums). I think that this is essential work and I was really impressed by the work which they outlined to us today.

I wish them all the very best for the future and note that they rely on voluntary donations and offer a wide range of support to young families who very much need our support.

19/08/2009

Brandon Muir Case Review

The reports into the case of Brandon Muir were published today you can read the report by Peter Wilson and Jimmy Hawthorn here. There is also a report to the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee next Monday which can be read here.

This is clearly an issue which every elected member has to take seriously. As a member of the council I have a duty along with my other 28 colleagues to protect Dundee's children.

When discussing this report we must remember that a child aged 23 months died. This was a tragedy. We must remember Brandon and do everything in our power to protect Dundee's children.

This report is a complex document and requires detailed study. It must also be considered in the context of HMIe report on Child Protection Services. I think that there is a need for more scrutiny of these reports.

My colleague Councillor Kevin Keenan has made some interesting comments on this report prior to the publication of the report, his comments are below

Statement by Councillor Kevin Keenan, Leader of the Labour Group, Dundee City Council

Tomorrow we will receive a Presentation and a copy of the Independent Reports carried out by Mr Hawthorn and Mr Wilson. They have been looking into the very short life of Brandon Muir paying particular attention to the final three to four weeks before he was subjected to the horrendous ordeal that lead to his death. The death of a child is always a sad matter.

Again at this time our thoughts go out to Brandon’s wider family who will still be coming to terms with the loss of a loved one so young. This was a particularly tragic set of events and Brandon's death came as a shock to everyone.

We have no doubt that this Report will have its own set of recommendation that the City Council and its child protection partners from Police, Health and the Voluntary Sector should all accept and adopt these without reserve.

This Report can now be clearly linked to the recently published HMI(e) Report that highlighted serious short falls in the area of child protection across Dundee. We believe there is still a need for this Report to be reviewed to establish the root cause of each failure highlighted by the Inspectors in relation to this underperforming, yet vital service for our City’s vulnerable children. Only when the root cause is identified can the correct action be taken to address the problems and can confidence be rebuilt.

The Labour Group will be calling on the Scottish Government to initiate an independent review of Children’s Protection Services across Scotland, as we consider that the services currently being delivered can only be described as a post code lottery. A standard must be set and adequately funded so that no child in Scotland is left at risk due to their family’s choice of post code.

People in Dundee have to look no further than Perth for an area that received an excellent commendation following its HMI(e) Inspection into Child Protection Services. We must also take time to reflect that their partner agencies are mainly the same as ours - NHS Tayside and Tayside Police.

We also call upon all agencies involved with Child Protection in Dundee to engage the help of the local expertise within Dundee University or from other Universities e.g. Stirling as they have considerable, but untapped knowledge with the subject of Child Protection. They hold a multi disciplined team that could also undertake audits/inspections that would help drive up the quality of services delivery within Dundee until the current partners start self inspections/service evaluations that the public can be confident reflects the service being delivered.

I support Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray's call for a national inquiry into Child Protection in Scotland. His statement is below

GRAY: BRANDON MUIR REPORT SHOWS SYSTEM NOT WORKING

LABOUR CALLS ON ‘COMPLACENT’ SALMOND TO BACK NATIONAL INQUIRY


Labour leader Iain Gray says the publication of the Brandon Muir report today shows the “system is not working” and it is time now for the First Minister to rethink his complacent attitude over child protection and back Labour’s call for a National Inquiry.

Iain Gray, MSP, said:

“It is damning indictment of the system that Brandon Muir’s case did ‘not stand out as giving cause for concern’ as the report concludes. The evidence revealed at the trial show Brandon Muir was living in horrific conditions. It is obvious the threshold before agencies consider more serious intervention is far too high.

"It’s clear from the report that Children's Services in Dundee acted within their powers and resources but that the chaotic lives of Brandon Muir and those around him were not deemed serious enough by the system to take more formal action before it was too late.

“We have to ask ourselves what prevented us from taking the right action that could have saved Brandon 's life.

“I have criticised the First Minister for persisting in defending the system. Maybe now Alex Salmond will think again and back Labour’s call for a National Inquiry into Child Protection across Scotland .

“Surely the Scottish government will recognise now that there is something wrong if as the report says concerns ‘never reached a threshold which prompted consideration of more formal intervention until shortly before Brandon’s death’.

"We have to challenge the presumption that the best place for a child is always with their family. “We have had a series of damning reports on child protection services in Dundee , Moray, Aberdeen and Midlothian in the recent past. Alex Salmond could act immediately so that agencies are required to share information so children at risk are identified and receive the help and support they need urgently. Too often overworked social workers have taken the rap when the wider system is clearly inadequate.

“We know that 10–20,000 children live with drug addicted parents. Many more – perhaps up to 100,000 - live with parents addicted to alcohol. We have heard these same figures from the Scottish government for two years now. I have been saying for months now that we don’t need to count them. We need to find them so we can protect them. But the First Minister has failed in the last two years to find out exactly who these children actually are.

“We cannot wait for yet another damning report and take only piecemeal action. There needs to be a national debate and inquiry and it needs national leadership.”

Surgeries are back

I had my first set of surgeries after the summer recess today. I welcome the opportunity to hear local people's concerns and to get the opportunity to try and help them.

There is no need to make an appointment at my surgeries if you think I can help please come along at one of the times below.


Corso Street Sheltered Housing Complex 1st and 3rd Mondays 1.30 pm to 2.00 pm(except school and public holidays)
Morven Terrace Sheltered Housing Complex 1st and 3rd Mondays 2.15 pm to 2.45 pm(except school and public holidays)
Blackness Library Wednesdays 5.00 pm to 5.30 pm(except school holidays)
Lime Street Sheltered Housing Complex 1st and 3rd Wednesdays 3.30 pm to 4.00 pm(except school holidays)
Mitchell Street Centre 1st and 3rd Wednesdays 4.15 pm to 4.45 pm(except school holidays)


I am happy to arrange a home visit or to deal with constituents on the phone 434475 (City Council) or 641241 (home) or richard.mccready@dundeecity.gov.uk or use the e-surgery form at the side here.

17/08/2009

V & A at Dundee



Today I was delighted to hear that the Scottish Government has eventually stated its support for the proposal to locate a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum in Dundee. When I was the Convener of Leisure, Arts and Communities I was involved in a number of discussions on these exciting proposals.


Responding to the announcement this morning I said,


"I welcome the announcement today of support of the V & A in Dundee. I think this project can make a major contribution to the ongoing regeneration of our city.

Dundee has a well deserved reputation for excellence in arts and culture and this will add to it. I hope the V & A will work with other cultural bodies in the city, especially Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art to improve and enhance Dundee's reputation for cultural excellence.

I hope in the not too distant future that this project can provide a major boost to the construction industry and the economy of Dundee. It is a very exciting prospect to have this world famous British institution come to Dundee, it is important that everyone with Dundee's best interests at heart works together to secure this exciting development for our city."


My colleague Laurie Bidwell, Labour spokesperson on Education also welcomed the announcement. He said, 'The announcement this morning progressing the development of the V & A offshoot in Dundee will be very positive for art education in the city. This will bring national and international exhibitions to Dundee which will make these more accessible for our pupils and their teachers. This will likely to inspire more of our pupils to engage in the arts and crafts and the related creative industries. This is also very positive for Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. This will reinforce their place as one of the top six research led Art and Design higher education institutions in the UK.'


Marlyn Glen MSP also commented on the announcement, she said, 'It is absolutely vital that everybody gets behind this fantastic project to bring the Victoria and Albert Museum to Dundee and I am pleased that the Scottish Government has finally committed funds.

The new museum has the potential to create nearly 900 jobs and bring tens of thousands of tourists to Dundee every year.

Our city the potential to become a world class cultural destination and I believe that if we get this right it will help rejuvenate Dundee in the same way that the Guggenheim did Bilbao, in the Basque country.'


Dundee West MP Jim McGovern said, 'I am very pleased that the Scottish Executive have finally given their backing to the V&A Dundee proposal.


Whilst we will need to secure significant private sector funding on top of that offered by the Scottish Executive, I believe this is a wonderful opportunity for Dundee with the potential to bring 900 jobs and 130,000 visitors a year to the city whilst earning millions of pounds for the local economy.'

Development Quality Committee

Tonight saw the first council committee after the summer recess with a meeting of the Development Quality Committee, this is the meeting where the Council decides on whether to grant planning permission or not.

The Fenwick Weavers & Keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock

This morning I attended a wreath laying ceremony in honour of the 75th anniversary of the death of Sir George Fowlds, a New Zealand politician originally from Fenwick in Ayrshire. He had strong links with the Fenwick Weavers' Co-operative, the oldest co-operative in the world. The Fenwick Weavers' Co-operative was reformed recently and efforts are being made to bring more attention to their important contribution to the history of Scotland and to the history of the co-operative movement. After the ceremony at his grave there were a series of very interesting speeches on the contribution of the co-operative movement to Scotland's past and to Scotland's future. At the meeting there were calls for support for a current day campaign in the Ayrshire, I was happy to show my support for the campaign to keep Johnnie Walker in Kilmarnock by signing a petition in favour of the campaign.