Social Bite scheme helps homeless Scots find employment

The charity will work with employers to help breakdown the barriers homeless people face when looking for a job.

Social Bite: Jobs First programme. Social Bite via Social Bite
Social Bite: Jobs First programme.

Social Bite has launched a new scheme to help people who have experienced homelessness find employment.

Through its new Jobs First programme, the Scots charity will work directly with some of the UK’s biggest employers to help breakdown the barriers people who have been homeless face on their route to employment

Businesses including BaxterStorey, Mitchells & Butlers, Andron FM, have signed up with a plan to help create a target of 60 employment opportunities.

The program is being part funded through a grant from the Oak Foundation.

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The initiative, which guarantees living wage employment for each person, will provide support for both the employer and employee.

Each Jobs First employee will be allocated a support worker from Social Bite who will assist them throughout the programme and their employment contract, meeting weekly to offer practical support on bills and forms, as well as emotional guidance and confidence building to adapt to working life.

George Watson kickstarted the programme today, taking on his role with hospitality provider BaxterStorey who supply Royal Bank’s Gogarburn headquarters in Edinburgh where Social Bite recently opened a café.

Josh Littlejohn MBE, CEO and co-founder of Social Bite, said: “Social Bite started life nine years ago by offering jobs in a small café to people who had experienced homelessness and over that time we have seen the power of employment to change lives.

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“Too often, the response to people experiencing homelessness is to ‘get a job’ – however, it’s not that easy. Proactive employers stepping out of their comfort zone to provide chances for those who would otherwise be excluded and a wraparound support alongside the job are the solutions.

“That’s why the Jobs First programme is so important. We will match people who are excluded from the jobs market with some of the UK’s largest employers.

“The wrap around support we will provide will help both employers and employees enjoy a fruitful working partnership.

“At a time when the UK is facing a serious labour shortage, we are incredibly proud to be partnering with major employers to deliver a program of scale throughout the UK that can act as a blueprint for how we can provide employment opportunities for homeless and marginalised people.”

Over the past four years, Social Bite has supported 34 people into employment from a background of homelessness and in total, one quarter of its workforce has experienced homelessness.

Operations manager, Caroline Bacigalupo at BaxterStorey, said: “Jobs First is a fantastic programme and we’re proud to be working with Social Bite to offer training and employment opportunities to people who were previously homeless.

“We’re all thrilled to welcome George on board and can’t wait to support other Jobs First employees reach their full potential as the programme develops.”


Man arrested after teenage girl Amber Gibson found dead in woods

The 16-year-old's body was found in wooded area of Hamilton on Sunday.

Police Scotland
Police launched an investigation into Amber's death.

A 19-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the death of Amber Gibson whose body was discovered in a wooded area in South Lanarkshire.

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing from Hamilton on Friday, November 26, and was found dead shortly after 10am on Sunday.

Police launched an investigation into Amber’s death and confirmed on Wednesday night that an arrest had been made.

Amber, who also used the surname Niven, had last been seen on the town’s Cadzow Street just before 10pm on Friday after leaving her home in the Hillhouse area around 9.15pm that night.

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Her family are “devastated” by the loss of the 16-year-old who was just “at the start of her life”.

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Amber’s body was discovered near Cadzow Glen in Hamilton on Sunday morning.

The teenager was a pupil at Moore House Academy in Bathgate, West Lothian, a privately run schiool which cares for children aged 11 to 18-years-old who have faced social and educational challenges.

A spokesperson from Moore House said: “Amber was a well-loved, bright and lively young girl who attended our academy in Bathgate as a day pupil.

“Our children and staff are devastated at the news of this tragedy, and we are all supporting each other through this difficult time.

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“Our deepest sympathies extend to Amber’s loved ones and to everyone who knew her.”

Anyone with information can call police on 101, quoting incident 1281 of November 28. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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Warning for snow and strong winds as thousands still without power

With 6400 homes without power, thousands are facing another cold and dark night.

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While thousands face another day and night without electricity, people have been warned to brace for snow, strong winds and freezing temperatures.

More than 100,000 homes had their power cut off by Storm Arwen on Friday and Saturday.

Water supplies to thousands were also disrupted in the extreme weather which felled thousands of trees across the country, damaged buildings and caused the death of a driver in Aberdeenshire.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) said 6400 homes are still without power, most of which are in rural and isolated communities.

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“You just become desperate,” a mother-of-three who has had no electricity since Friday told STV News.

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Jade Tilley, from Sauchen, said her four-month-old daughter has had to sleep in a snow-suit because it is has been so cold.

“It’s been awful especially with the young family and the kids being so cold and you can’t to keep them clean and you want to keep them fed but you can’t give them a bath and you can’t heat up any food.

“You’re driving all the way to Aberdeen just for a bit of warmth, just for a bit of food, spending all this money, that we really don’t have, just to get them a hot meal.

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“There’s only so much you can do that.”

Mrs Tilley said she had no idea when her power will be back on.

STV News
Deputy first minister John Swinney visited The Monymusk Welfare Hub to meet staff and volunteers supporting the response to Storm Arwen.

SSEN called Storm Arwen a “once in a generation event” and has more than 800 staff working to restore supplies. It said it expected to restore all connections by Friday.

But, it warned, this timetable was subject to no new damage being found or unforeseen challenges.

Deputy first minister John Swinney visited The Monymusk Welfare Hub to meet staff and volunteers supporting the response to Storm Arwen.

He said: “I’ve come to listen to understand their understable frustration at the situation. I would assure ethem we are doing everything we possibly can to try to recover the situation

“It’s my job to make sure that we restore services as quickly as we possibly can do and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

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Scottish Water engineers have restored water supply to remaining communities in rural Aberdeenshire and Perthshire where service was impacted by Storm Arwen, but generators continue to support the operation of five water treatment works across Scotland where the normal power supply is still to be restored and at seven pumping stations across the north east.

A MetOffice yellow weather warning for ice is in place from 6pm on Wednesday until 10am on Thursday.

It covers almost all of north east Scotland, the inland Highlands, Shetland and Orkney.

Forestry and Land Scotland warned people not to enter woodlands after Storm Arwen made them dangerous, with many trees only partially felled.

Aberdeen City Council said it is gritting primary routes with road surfaces temperatures expected to drop below freezing.

A major support operation remains in effect offering emergency accommodation, food and water to those in need.

Chris Burchell, SSEN’s managing director, said: “The impact of Storm Arwen has caused catastrophic damage to the electricity network across the north east of Scotland and is the most significant event we have ever had to deal with in the area in a generation.

“…due to the extent of damage and complexity of repairs our teams are dealing with, unfortunately, restoration times for more remote and isolated communities will extend to later this week.

“We therefore encourage all customers who remain off supply to consider our welfare provisions, which we hope will go some way to help them deal with what remains an incredibly difficult situation.”

Kes Juskowiak, water operations general manager for Scottish Water, said local teams remain on standby to respond to any issues that may affect some people as the network recovers.

“The biggest impact has been on our customers in the most affected communities, who have had to contend with disruption to their essential services over several days during challenging weather conditions,” he said.

“We are enormously grateful for their patience and support, as well as that of our emergency response partners.”


People with Covid booster appointments turned away from vaccine centre

All adults in Scotland are eligible for a coronavirus booster jab three months after their last dose.

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Woman given Pfizer vaccination at Glasgow Central Mosque, May 2021.

The Scottish Government has apologised after people were turned away from booked vaccine appointments following changes to Covid-19 booster jab plans.

The UK-wide Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued advice after the emergence of the new Omicron variant. All over-18s were made eligible for a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine three months after their second.

But many adults who attended the vaccination centre at Glasgow Central Mosque reported being told they needed a gap of 24 weeks between the doses – in line with previous advice.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde announced that those eligible for booster shots could book appointments online or by phone on Monday.

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The Scottish Government said those who had went to the vaccine centre and were turned away attended before “necessary protocols were in place”.

Ten cases of the Omicron variant have been found in Scotland, with nine linked to a single birthday party.

The Scottish Government announced it intended for all adults to be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine by the end of January.

The JCVI said both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines can be used as a boosters for adults.

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Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for health Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “Patients are rightly frustrated and confused over mixed messages coming from the SNP Government on booster vaccine eligibility.

“No-one that is eligible to get their booster jag under current guidance should be turned away from vaccination clinics.”

Scottish Labour’s health and covid recovery spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “This is nothing short of a shambles.

“The need to accelerate our booster programme has never been greater, so we cannot have people being turned away.”

Experts believe the new Omicron variant could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, but they think the jabs may still protect against severe disease.

However, it could be three further weeks before more details on how transmissible the variant is, whether it evades vaccine protection and whether it causes more severe disease.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Following JCVI advice, clinical and legal guidance requires to be put in place for vaccination teams to implement the changes. This has been progressed urgently and instructions have now issued to all health boards to vaccinate in line with the latest advice.

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“The new guidance is also being updated on the NHS Inform website.

“We apologise to those people who have been keen to get their booster vaccination and attended before the necessary protocols were in place.

“Booster appointments are booked in advance via the portal, therefore the vast majority of appointments will not have been affected.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was contacted for comment.


Scotland records 97 Covid-linked deaths in one week

A total of 12,127 people have died in Scotland with confirmed or suspected coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

Andrew Milligan via PA Media
Covid: Just under 100 deaths in Scotland last week.

A total of 97 coronavirus-linked deaths were recorded in Scotland in the week to November 28, the latest statistics show.

This is an increase of one on the previous week and takes the total number of people in Scotland who have died with confirmed or suspected coronavirus to 12,127, according to National Records of Scotland (NRS) data.

Of the latest deaths, 18 were people aged under 65, 34 were aged 65-74 and 45 were 75 or older.

Fife was the council area with the highest number of deaths at 11, followed by Glasgow with ten and South Lanarkshire with eight.

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The majority of the deaths – 82 – occurred in hospital, with nine at home or in a non-institutional setting and six in care homes.

The statistics are published weekly and cover all deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

They differ from the lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths announced daily by the Scottish Government because the NRS figures include suspected or probable cases of Covid-19.

Pete Whitehouse, NRS statistical services director, said: “The number of deaths from all causes registered in Scotland in this week was 1270, which is 140, or 12%, more than the five-year average.”

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Among the higher than average deaths in the week to November 28 were those from cancer and circulatory causes, which each accounted for 24 more than five-year-average.

Figures released on Wednesday show 19 new deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours.

The Scottish Government’s daily Covid update also showed that 2796 people had tested positive for the virus.

There are currently 702 people in hospital who have recently tested positive for coronavirus and 54 of those are in intensive care.

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Scottish rugby international Siobhan Cattigan dies aged 26

Scottish Rugby 'deeply saddened' and says thoughts with her family.

Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via SNS Group
The Stirling County back row won 19 caps for Scotland between 2018 and 2021.

Scotland rugby international Siobhan Cattigan has died at the age of 26.

The Stirling County back row – whose cause of death has not been revealed – won 19 caps for Scotland between 2018 and 2021.

Scottish Rugby said it was “deeply saddened” by the news, and that thoughts were with her family and friends.

They wrote: “The thoughts of all our people and players go out to Siobhan’s family and many teammates at Stirling County and Scotland at this incredibly difficult time.

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“Specialist Scottish Rugby employees are now providing ongoing support to those most closely affected.”

Cattigan started all three matches of the 2021 Women’s Six Nations tournament, playing at number eight against England, Italy and Wales.

She was also involved with Scotland’s Rugby World Cup 2021 European qualifiers squad, where she came off the bench in Scotland’s win over Spain.

Cattigan also studied Criminology and Sociology at the University of Stirling before going on to receive a Master’s degree in sports psychology.

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In a statement by Stirling County, Cattigan was praised as an inspiration and described as being central to the development of women’s rugby within the club.

“Shibby has been a big part of County for many years and will be hugely missed by everyone at the club,” they wrote.

“She was central to the development of women’s rugby within the club and an inspiration to the girls in the youth section.

Shibby was a teammate and friend and we deeply mourn her loss. Our love, thoughts and heartfelt condolences are with Shibby’s family at this devastating time. 

“We very much hope their privacy will be respected by everyone as they deal with their tragic loss.”


Support for Scottish independence rises to 55% – STV poll

2014 referendum results could be reversed if another was held now, according to the Ipsos MORI poll.

Jeff J Mitchell / Staff via Getty Images

Support for Scottish independence has risen to its highest level for a year, according to a new poll for STV News.

Backing for ‘Yes’ is now at 55% – up five points compared to the last Ipsos MORI poll just before the Holyrood election in May.

Excluding undecideds, it suggests the result of the 2014 referendum could be reversed if another was held now, and comes just days after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for indyref2 by the end of 2023.

Meanwhile, approval ratings for Prime Minister Boris Johnson have hit a record low in Scotland, where four in five said they were ‘dissatisfied’ with his performance.

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Sturgeon remains the highest-rated party leader, but while Scots are overwhelmingly positive about the Scottish Government’s handling of the Covid vaccine rollout, they are less pleased with its performance in health and education.

What did the poll tell us?

Independence

STV News

Party leaders

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Scottish Government performance

  • Vaccine rollout: 84% believe the Scottish Government has done a good job
  • Health: 48% say the government has done a bad job of improving the NHS; 40% think it has done a good job
  • Education: Bad job – 46%; Good job – 35%
  • Handling Brexit implications: Bad job – 43%; Good job – 37%

‘Far from over’

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Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, said: “This latest poll from Ipsos MORI and STV News indicates that the argument for Scottish independence is far from over, with a slight improvement for the Yes side. 

“Given the margins of error around polling estimates, however, neither the Yes or No camps should be confident of victory at this point. 

“The Yes camp may be benefiting from what has been a very bad week for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives at Westminster, with fieldwork taking place after heated debate about MPs’ second jobs. 

“This is certainly reflected in Johnson’s own ratings, which have fallen to a new low.”

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1107 adults aged 16 and over across Scotland by phone between November 22-29.


Abuse inquiry hears how pupil was held down and abused by teacher

Witness tells of his ordeal at New Park School in St Andrews in the 1970s.

Nick Mailer/PA via PA Media
Former pupils have been giving evidence at the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry.

A former pupil who was physically restrained and abused by a teacher has told an inquiry the trauma he suffered left him fearing for his life and that it will stay with him until he dies.

The witness, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry about his ordeal at New Park School in St Andrews in the 1970s, and how it still affects him.

“It will stay with me forever, until the day I die. There is no repairing it,” he told the inquiry on Wednesday, under the pseudonym of “Andrew”.

In evidence to Judge Lady Smith, he said that soon after he had moved to the senior school, aged around ten, he was pinned down at night in his dorm by a teacher, who covered his mouth and abused him.

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He told Andrew Brown QC, inquiry counsel, that he thought it was “unbelievable” that somebody would be “that brazen”.

“I have no explanation for why no one said anything or did anything,” the witness told the inquiry, which heard the school’s dormitories had three bunk beds to sleep six boys.

“If I was speculating, possibly everyone else was absolutely terrified themselves and grateful it wasn’t happening to them,” he said.

He told the inquiry his abuser would pull him away to get him on his own, and was impossible to avoid.

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In a written statement to the inquiry, read out by the QC, “Andrew” said he spent his time at the school thinking he would die.

“I genuinely spent my time fearing for my life. I lived this 24 hours a day.

“I knew I could wake up any night with a hand over my mouth holding me down. Every single night I went to bed terrified, with days and evenings being not much better.”

He said he is terrified of physical and mental constraint to this day, adding that only recently has he been able to speak openly about the abuse he suffered.

The school read letters sent out by its pupils, and “Andrew” began to keep a diary which charted his abuse, but he said this disappeared after he left it out.

He said that some time later he was called to his headmaster’s office and when he arrived the head was flanked by two police officers, and told “Andrew” that “we’re here to look after you”.

“I remember that like it was yesterday,” he said. “It was the first time that anyone ever said anything like that. That was the first time I thought, ‘gosh, this might stop’. That was a huge moment in my life.”

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He said that after the 30-minute meeting with the police, in which it was “simply not possible for them to have an understanding of what I had been through”, he was sent back to class with a note explaining his absence.

He was soon pulled out of the school, and later found out the teacher responsible had been jailed for just six months.

He was sent to Fettes College in Edinburgh and “loved virtually every minute of it”.

The private school, which counts one-time prime minister Tony Blair as one of its former pupils, was an environment where pupils either “sank or swam”.

“Andrew” told the inquiry he agreed with the description that Fettes was “run by boys” with “teachers there to educate and referee”.

But others reported a much more traumatic time.

In a written statement read out to Judge Lady Smith, “Thomas” said the school had a culture of “institutionalised cruelty”. He said the “place was a shambles”, and he was constantly hungry.

He said he was groped aggressively by an older pupil who tried to feel his genitals.

Another pupil, “Alistair”, said he was not happy at the school, and there was a culture of violence and abuse which had a scarring impact on him.

The inquiry was told “Alistair” was forced to line up by older pupils who used a makeshift dart gun, and if younger pupils moved they would be hit with hockey sticks.

He said he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experience, adding that other boys were taken out of the school, and as he saw them leave, “I learned I was not loved and didn’t deserve to be loved”.

“Alistair” said “small boys became traumatised men”, adding: “For some of us it was a violent and evil place which has had an impact on our lives.”

The inquiry in Edinburgh continues.

‘It was a small decision that changed my life irreversibly’

Niki Smith supports festive drink and drug driving campaign after being left paralysed in road crash 24 years ago.

Contributed via Simon Price
Niki Smith was paralysed in a crash involving a drink driver in 1997.

Niki Smith had been enjoying a night out with her sister in 1997 when she unknowningly accepted a lift from someone who had been drinking.

The vehicle was involved in a collision and Niki was left paralysed after breaking her neck. Her sister broke her collarbone and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now, 24 years later, Niki is urging people to take care this festive period and reminding drivers that drink-driving can have devastating consequences.

The 48-year-old has thrown her support behind this year’s drink and drug driving campaign, which was launched by the Scottish Government and Police Scotland on Wednesday.

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Recalling the day of the collision, Niki said: “It was a Friday evening and my sister and I were having a great night out. I enjoyed letting my hair down in between working as a carer and being a busy mum.  

“We accepted a lift from someone we knew, although we had no idea he’d been drinking. It was a small decision that changed my life irreversibly.  

“It must have been heart-breaking for my family and partner to be told I’d broken my neck and was paralysed. My sister, who was in the car with me, broke her collarbone and was later diagnosed with PTSD. I’m glad it was me, as I would have struggled to accept her having my injury.”

Niki, from Aberdeenshire, got involved with Spinal Injuries Scotland last summer and became a peer support volunteer. She says their workers have inspired her to come forward and share her story in the hope of raising awareness of the dangers involved in driving while under the influence.

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“There has definitely been years of stress, physical pain and frustration for me and everybody involved in my life,” she said.

“I have now found ways to enjoy special moments and not just sit at home and dwell on the difficult times. I’ve had to become a more confident person so people see me and not just the wheelchair. If I hadn’t had my kids I don’t think I’d be the person I am today.  

“I hope that by sharing my own experience I can help raise awareness of the devastating consequences drink-driving can have on so many lives. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through the same as me and my family.”

Contributed via Chris James
Transport minister Graeme Dey and chief superintendent Louise Blakelock, Police Scotland’s Head of Road Policing, launching festive drink and drug-driving campaign.

Police Scotland and transport minister Graeme Day launched this year’s festive enforcement campaign to tackle drink and drug-driving on Wednesday, highlighting the criminal and personal consequences of being found guilty of driving under the influence.  

With Christmas parties returning this year, the festive enforcement campaign warns motorists of a zero-tolerance approach to drink and drug-driving.  

In the last two months, 852 roadside drug tests have been carried out across Scotland, resulting in 395 positive tests.

Dey said: “The consequences of drink and drug-driving can be devastating and those found guilty of breaking the law could face a criminal record, a large fine, and up to six months in prison.

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“Driving while under the influence puts not only the driver, but passengers and other road users at risk of serious injury, or even worse. Our message is clear, if you’re having a drink, leave the car at home and if you’re driving, the best approach is none.”  

More than 20,000 drivers are stopped by the police in Scotland every month. On average, specialist road officers encounter 40-50 motorists a week who have taken drugs.

Drivers who provide a positive roadside drug test are arrested and taken to a police station where a blood sample is obtained and sent for further analysis. In the same time period, 600 drivers were arrested for drink-driving related offences.  

The campaign draws attention to the significant consequences – criminal as well as personal – of being found guilty of driving while under the influence of alcohol or with drugs in your system.  

Chief superintendent Louise Blakelock, Police Scotland’s Head of Road Policing said: “We want everyone to enjoy this festive season for all the right reasons and so we are urging motorists to help us keep the roads safe for all.

“We continue to see motorists put others at considerable risk by driving under the influence of alcohol or after taking drugs, despite repeated warnings about the dangers of drink or drug driving.  

“As we approach the festive season, our officers will be focused on targeting drivers who recklessly put others at risk by driving after consuming alcohol or drugs.

“Driving under the influence reduces reaction times and continues to be a factor in serious and fatal collisions. The fact you could kill or injure yourself or another member of the public should be reason enough not to risk it.”

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NHS staff to use transparent face masks to aid lip reading

The masks, made in Dumfriesshire, are designed to help patients with communication needs.

PA via PA Media
PPE: The masks have been developed to help people with communication needs.

NHS staff in Scotland will begin to use new transparent face masks this month to help with lip reading.

The masks have been approved for use in health and social care settings and are designed to help patients with communication needs.

They were made by Dumfriesshire-based PPE supplier Alpha Solway.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Although face masks are essential to reduce the spread of coronavirus, it can cause difficulties for people who rely on lip reading, or have other communication needs.

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“Patients and staff have rightly been calling for an alternative to the usual surgical face masks in clinical settings, so I am pleased NHS Scotland is rolling out these new, innovative transparent masks.

“These masks mean staff and patients can communicate clearly while staying safe.”

Kamini Gadhok, chief executive of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, welcomed the move.

She said: “We’ve been calling for the introduction of transparent face masks since early on in the pandemic.

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“So we’re delighted to hear that the Scottish Government has announced that it has approved the use of clinically safe, transparent face masks in health and social care settings in Scotland.

“Many people with communication needs will benefit from their introduction as the masks will help address the challenges they may face interacting with others and provide access to health and social care on an equal footing.”

Mike Hobday, of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “Transparent face masks will be an absolute game-changer for deaf children, young people and adults alike because almost all of them rely on lip reading and facial expressions.

“They will now be able to understand the health and social care professionals they meet much more easily, receiving crucial information in a way that works for them.

“What’s really important now is that clear face masks are made available across Scotland, not just in health and social care settings but in schools, colleges and everyday life too.

“Deaf people have been hit hard by the pandemic and it would provide a welcome boost whenever they met someone who was wearing one.”


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