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Rhoda Grant: Policies and resources needed to bring our communities back to life

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Holyrood Notebook by Rhoda Grant

Rhoda Grant at Wick.
Rhoda Grant at Wick.

I hope you all had a Happy Christmas and a good New Year, despite the Omicron restrictions which we’re following.

The health of the nation is paramount, particularly to protect the vulnerable, but I realise that hospitality, retail and tourist businesses have been badly affected.

We cancelled our office Christmas lunch at a local hotel in December and I really felt for the owner and the staff as countless other staff dos and parties were also scrapped or postponed.

Before you ask, there was no cheese and wine for us, either inside or outside! We will rebook for a later catch-up, but when we have come out of this latest wave.

Council cuts

I opposed the Scottish Government’s latest budget, which will inflict £284 million of cuts on key local services across Scotland.

Highland Council has already suffered under-resourcing for years, and this year’s reductions will pile more pressure on to the already stretched services – meaning even less money to fix potholes, run libraries, provide buses and keep our streets clean.

Council workers were right at the heart of the region’s pandemic response, supporting the most vulnerable and going above and beyond to help the community. I could not vote for a budget that puts this vital work at risk.

I backed the Labour Parliamentary Group’s proposals, which included a community clean-up fund to freshen up town centres, support for high street businesses struggling after the pandemic and fair pay for care workers, to recognise their incredible work and tackle the crisis in social care.

These are the policies that I believe could make a real difference in our community.

Unacceptable waits for mental health services

There are unacceptable waits for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) that support young people with their mental health.

Statistics published recently have shown that almost 2000 young people have waited over a year for treatment nationally, despite the SNP government aiming to treat 95 per cent of those referred within 18 weeks.

The statistics show that 702 children and young people were waiting for CAMHS services as of September 30 at NHS Highland.

Of this figure, 181, some 25.8 per cent, have waited more than 53 weeks – busting the government’s own 18-week time limit by a mile.

As readers will know, I’ve been campaigning on mental health, particularly adult mental health in Caithness.

However, I’m keen to discover from Highland Council how its Caithness Mental Wellbeing Pathfinder Project has developed.

A grant of £534,000 was given to the council by the Scottish Government in response to children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing issues arising as a result of the pandemic. Initial investment was targeted as a response to the traumatic events in Caithness to inform the expansion to a pan-Highland approach.

I see by council reports that Caithness Cares was born out of the project and now the local authority is looking to expand to other areas.

While I welcome this addition, it is concerning that CAMHS has such a long waiting list at NHS Highland. We are risking a lost generation of young people experiencing mental health issues.

The Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, needs to take action to ensure everyone gets the treatment they need and quickly.

  • Rhoda Grant is a Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands.

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