The Government is under attack for claiming it is tackling social exclusion while projects in Scotland helping the young, homeless and disabled face closure.

Words: Stephen Naysmith

DAY BY DAY, Sheila and Neil James get on with the job of bringing up their eighteen-month-old daughter Megan. They just need more help than your average young parents.

Sheila, 27, suffers from cerebral palsy while Neil, 28, has muscular dystrophy and spends part of every day on a ventilator. But they are a family like any other, and it is all Sheila has ever wanted.

’We just want to be able to make chOices about our lives and to live independently,’ she explains. ’Neil used to live with his parents and I was in supported accommodation in a block of flats, but who wants to live in a ghetto? We just want our own home and family'

Now the scheme which helped them set up their home in Edinburgh’s Gogar Park faces a huge cut in its funding.

The Lothian Centre for Independent Living (LCIL) offers support and advice to people with disabilities who want to escape a life in hOSpitals or residential care.

Many need to employ personal assistants, so they need detailed advice on employment law, National Insurance and holidays. They may need to liaise with architects, social workers or occupational therapists.

’We wouldn't be living independently if it wasn’t for them,‘ Sheila says. 'Neil would have to live in hOSpital. It is about breaking down the social and physical barriers.’

Bill Alexander, chairman of LCIL, said he felt ’betrayed’ by the Government. Although councils administer the urban programme funds, they have no choice but to make cuts, he said: ’This wasn’t what I voted for when I voted Labour.

’LCIL meets all the criteria they are trying to push fon/vard to avoid social exclusion. All the skills that have been built up over seven years could be lost,’ he claimed.

LCIL is not alone, however. Last week representatives of 100 charities in the Edinburgh area demonstrated outSide the Scottish Office. They were protesting against what they claim are cuts worth

£24 million to the Urban Programme, funding aimed at regenerating deprived urban areas.

Twelve projects have been told they will lose their funding this year, while ten face severe cuts. Jack Perry, chairman of the campaign, warned the effects could be devastating, as other funds are often contingent on the main sum. ’Remove one source and the others tumble,’ he said. 'It is a domino effect.’

'At a time when the Government talks of tackling

social exclusion it is

outrageous that they are so 'Who wants to live in a

complacent about local 7 -

Cm, he added ghetto. We just want our Other Edinburgh own home and family.

organisations affected

include the Lothian Family She'la James

Mediation Servrce, which helps ensure children are not caught in the cross-fire when parents divorce or separate, SOLAS, which works with people affected by HIV and Aids, and the Edinburgh Furniture Initiative, which helps poverty-stricken families to equip their homes.

Joyce Thomson, information officer for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations in Glasgow said


Government under fire over social exclusion strategy


‘I-.“ u: I y -. : ~‘.i’..’«’.'?;ji"i' i * ’i . ~

Sheila and Neil James and daughter Megan: disability hasn't stopped them setting up home

the problem was not confined to Edinburgh. 'Another 40 projects are under threat in Glasgow, while Fife and Lanarkshire are likely to be badly hit,’ she said. ’Some will undoubtedly go to the wall.’

However, the Government insisted the Urban Programme was only for setting projects up, not for supporting them indefinitely.

Calum MacDonald MP, minister for Local Government in Scotland blamed the problems on the previous government, and said the worst of the cuts was over.

The Government was movmg towards targeting resources on the most deprived areas, he claimed. ’We are increasing regeneration partnership funding by £16 million, which more than balances the £10 million worth of old pr0jects which may come to an end,’ he argued.

But Sheila James cannot understand why something which works should be allowed to close. ’It is ridiculous that LCIL is under threat if people are forced back into residential care it Will cost the Government much more than independent living does,’ she said,

And finally . . . it’s what’s in our pockets not what’s in their pants

IN THE LIGHT of Bill Clinton's recent slippin’ and a-slidin', and with our beloved Foreign Secretary dubbed ‘Throbbin’ Robin‘ by the less subtle end of the press, the question arises - does anyone give a flying fig? There are, of course, elements to both men's shenanigans which have more important consequences - such as whether the Americans would want a President who indulges in a cover-up to save his

sure you're in the right country before handing it over. I'm not talking here about trying to get some sangria on the beach by handing over bits of metal with the Queen’s head on. The real challenge is getting stuff in the UK with Scottish notes. A Lincolnshire branch of 8&0 recently had Motherwell-born Ross Firth interrogated by the rozzers after he tried to buy his shelves with a

contemplating the possibility of a return to I can hardly say it the poll tax. Tam Dalyell claimed Scots had chosen devolution to protect themselves from another Margaret Thatcher. Has he not had a look in Number 10, lately?

STILL. MAYBE THERE'S no point in busting your guts out for cash. It clearly can't buy you happiness, love or, in the case of George

own skin or whether Mr Cook actually used taxpayers' loot, £3500 at the last Tory count, to foot his ‘lost weekend’. But are we really so blind that we can't see it's the lumps of cash in pockets of the common person and not the wads of flesh in powerbrokers' trousers which really concentrate the minds and affect everyday existence?

MIND YOU, EVEN if you do have brass in pocket, you better make

Bank of Scotland £20 note. Seems that the only legal tender in this country is spat out from the vaults of the Bank of England while Scottish and Northern Irish notes are taken only on trust. Something which the staff of your favourite hardware superstore could apparently be doing with a lesson in.

BEING TOLD YOUR cash is no good is one thing, but reviving the evil

Clooney: dies in a hail of bullets

spectre of a hated method for extracting it from you is quite another. You're not going to believe this, but the Government is

Clooney, the desire to stay in the top-flight TV show which helped you earn it. A mere S1million bonus was not enough to keep him in the corridors of ER yet he gets all huffy because the makers won't give him a say in his on-screen demise. I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who managed to miss the coverage, so I won't reveal what happens to his character . . . (oops, caption cock-up - Ed).

(Brian Donaldson)

6—19 Feb 1998 THE U87 25