Union chief urges improved mental health support for pupils
Carole Thorpe called for enhanced investment in education as the sector recovers from coronavirus.
The outgoing president of Scotland’s largest teaching union has used her final speech in the role to call for more mental health support for pupils.
Speaking at the Educational Institute of Scotland’s (EIS) annual general meeting, Carole Thorpe called for enhanced investment in education as the sector recovers from coronavirus.
The education secretary is due to address EIS members at the virtual AGM on Friday.
Speaking to the AGM on Thursday, Ms Thorpe said: “Dealing with the issues left in the wake of the pandemic will require partnership going forward.
“The government must work with teachers and lecturers because we are the ones best placed to understand our pupils and what their needs are, both educational needs and their health and wellbeing needs, including mental health.
“It is vital that sufficient funding is provided to give us the resources to do this.
“There has been, and will continue to be, a huge increase in the need for mental health support due to the pandemic.
“During this last year so many of our young people have missed out on social contact, have experienced grief and loss, have lived with stressed parents, have been subjected to domestic abuse, hunger, and so many other issues.
“For so many of our young people, school is the stable, dependable part of their existence and they have struggled without it.
“Cracks in our society will be irreparable if we do not act now.
“Money must be made available to support education – pupils affected by the pandemic are the future of our country and we cannot afford to fail them.”
Three asylum seekers who were hurt in mass stabbings at a hotel are still suffering from flashbacks a year on.
Sudanese national Badreddin Abedlla Adam, 28, was shot dead by armed police after injuring six people in a knife attack at the Park Inn in Glasgow.
Police officer PC David Whyte and two hotel workers were also taken to hospital after the incident, which prompted a huge emergency response in the city centre.
Ahead of Saturday’s anniversary, the three asylum seekers spoke together for the first time and revealed they’re haunted by the memories every day.
Max Aubin Glossoa and two other men – being named only as Mo and Mohamed – also told STV News they had no “bad feelings” towards their attacker.
‘I spend the days in my house’
Max, 21, from Ivory Coast, rarely ventures outside even 12 months on from the “worst day of my life”.
“To me now ‘safety’ is just a word,” he said. “I came here to be safe and I was stabbed, so it’s just a word.
“Physically I have a lot of scars on my body and there are a lot of things I still can’t do, like go to the gym and work out. Mentally it is difficult to forget as the flashbacks are still coming and coming.
“I feel alone. There can be ten people in the room but I still feel alone because I don’t trust anyone.
“I don’t like to go outside in case someone will hurt me, so I spend all my days in my house, far from the city and from people.”
‘I just have to be stabbed‘
Blood in the hotel lift was the first thing that alerted Mohamed, a teenager from Sierra Leone, to the danger, before he was confronted by the knifeman.
“He was keeping a knife behind his back,” the 18-year-old said. “He grabbed me and punched me and tried to reach for his knife. I was shouting for help, but no one was coming to my rescue.
“I thought ‘I’ll just have to be stabbed. I’ll just have to die’.”
The teenager, who spent three days in hospital with severe bruising, managed to break free and ran outside, where he saw his friend Mo had been stabbed.
“He was crying and saying he was going to die,” Mohamed said. “As he was calling my name, I was just thinking how was I saved.”
‘Will I play football again?‘
Mo was going to get lunch when he was stabbed in the back.
“I tried to turn and he stabbed me again,” the 19-year-old said. “He was holding two knives and stabbing at my back and stomach. I was shouting and shouting. The place where I tried to run to was blocked.”
Mo spent ten days in hospital and still needs treatment for a liver problem.
“The first thing I asked my doctor was ‘will I play football again?’. The doctor said ‘yes’ and I was like ‘thank god’.
‘It’s killing me slowly‘
The three men were moved into flats after being released from hospital and have had counselling, but still face an uncertain future as they wait to learn whether they can remain in Scotland.
Mo said: “It’s killing me slowly. We are always thinking about one thing – is the Home Office going to do this or that? We are in total darkness and thinking about this every day is not good for my mental health.“
Their immigration lawyer Andrew Bradley said his clients’ cases deserved to be treated as a priority.
“These three men are going to have to live with what happened to them in Glasgow for the rest of their lives,” he said.
“They have been struggling over the last year and their recovery from this trauma is really poorly served by the ongoing delay.
“It is time the authorities involved and Home Office gave these cases the priority they deserve.”
Needs ‘were not met’
In the aftermath of the attack, serious questions were raised about the treatment of asylum seekers, who were placed in hotels by the Home Office – following a suggestion from housing contractor Mears Group – as Scotland went into lockdown.
Charities and politicians said the needs of vulnerable people – including children, pregnant women and trafficking survivors – were not being met.
An agreed pause with the city council on asylum seekers being placed in Glasgow by the Home Office remains in place.
Mears said the victims of the Park Inn attacks had been offered counselling and other support, and that it aimed to move all asylum seekers out of hotels within the next month.
A statement read: “We are seeing the housing and lettings market open up and we are now able to procure additional dispersed accommodation in the community.
“We have 170 service users currently and we are arranging moves out every day, with the aim of all service users being out of hotels by the end of July.”
What did the Home Office say?
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take the welfare of those in our care extremely seriously. All asylum seekers in hotels are provided with full-board accommodation with three meals a day served as well as all other essentials.
“In the aftermath of the Glasgow incident, our accommodation provider offered trauma response services and had regular conversations with residents to ensure mental health needs were addressed.
“Our New Plan for Immigration will reform the broken asylum system, allowing us to welcome people through safe and legal routes, while preventing abuse and pressure on the system and the criminality associated with it.”
Who was Badreddin Abedlla Adam?
The 28-year-old from Sudan had been living in Glasgow for six months before carrying out the attacks at lunchtime on Friday, June 26 last year.
He’d been struggling to get help with his mental health during the pandemic and fellow asylum seekers at the hotel were worried about his behaviour.
One person told STV News he had previously warned he was going to carry out an attack – which campaign group Refugees for Justice said was the culmination of a “tragic chain of events”.
A year later, Max said he had “no bad feelings” towards his attacker.
“Every day when I remember, I still feel guilty,” he added. “We were the same. We lived in the hotel and we were asylum seekers. We didn’t take the time to say ‘are you ok?’.”
‘Remembrance and unity’
A commemoration event will take place in Glasgow at 1pm on Saturday, when people are being asked to bring flowers, candles and poems to George Square.
Refugees for Justice coordinator Pinar Aksu said: “We want to mark the anniversary of what happened last year, by remembering our friends and all of the people seeking asylum in our city who lost their lives.
“We want June 26 to be a day when we all come together in a moment of remembrance and unity.”
Brother and sister with rare genetic disorder seek match
Five-year-old Lily and three-year-old Benjamin are so unique their condition doesn’t even have a name.
A brother and sister thought to be the only people in the world with the rarest of genetic conditions are joining an international search to help find other families who could be like theirs.
Lily and Benjamin Arnott, from Penicuik, Midlothian, are so unique their condition doesn’t even have a name.
Their parents, Kenny and Crystal, have signed up to a world-leading database in the hope of finding support.
“It can be quite lonely sometimes being parents of children with additional support needs,” said Mr Arnott.
“Being a parent is hard full stop. It’s hard. But it’s quite hard to explain to other parents what you go through every so often.
“So I guess that’s going to start being really important to us.”
The Arnotts are among 684 families in Scotland who have signed up with Surrey-based charity Unique, whose world-leading database helps to track down and pair families with extremely rare chromosome and gene disorders in the UK or overseas.
Children, who were thought to be the only one with a specific rare chromosome or gene disorder (RCD), are being paired with others and given a lifeline to share experiences and information.
“Our hopes with being on Unique is to be part of this ever-growing database and hopefully reaching out to other families that may have the same rare chromosome and then being able to support each other,” said Mrs Arnott.
There are no set milestones for Lily and Benjamin’s development because there are no other confirmed cases exactly like theirs.
Genetic testing after Lily was born showed that she had an extra chromosome strand.
Her younger brother, Benjamin, has the same unusual arrangement which has so far not been identified in other patients whose details are logged with UK or international databases.
Finding other families offers the family not just emotional support, but also an opportunity to share information that could help answer questions about the children’s future.
If a match were to be found with an older child or even adult, it would provide valuable information to the family and their doctors.
“Having a child with a rare or unique condition can be a very lonely place but this incredible application of science is leading to new discoveries every day, so we have been able to put families in touch with similarly ‘unique’ families across the world,” said Dr Beverly Searle, CEO of Unique.
“Many of our families have been told that their child may be the only one in the world with their specific disorder so discovering someone else like them and sharing their journeys can be life-changing.”
Competition officials are to examine whether people and businesses have been able to post fake reviews online with too much impunity.
The Competition and Markets Authority has opened a formal investigation into whether Amazon and Google have done enough to crack down on the practice.
CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations.
“Equally, it’s simply not fair if some businesses can fake five-star reviews to give their products or services the most prominence, while law-abiding businesses lose out.”
The watchdog said that over the past year it has become concerned that the two technology giants are not doing enough to detect fake and misleading reviews or suspicious behaviour.
In some cases users might have reviewed the same range of products or businesses, or at times reviews suggest that the writer was paid or given another incentive to write the post.
It questioned whether the two are doing enough to investigate and promptly remove fake and misleading reviews from their platforms, and impose adequate sanctions on reviewers or businesses engaged in the practice.
“It’s important that these tech platforms take responsibility and we stand ready to take action if we find that they are not doing enough,” Mr Coscelli said.
The CMA said its concerns have been prompted by a year-long initial inquiry, which caused it to launch this formal investigation.
If it finds that the two companies are not doing enough, the CMA could force them to change how they work.
But officials stressed that they have not yet reached a view on whether either has broken the law.
Last year Facebook, Instagram and eBay removed groups and banned individuals for buying or selling fake reviews on their sites.
Barbados, Bermuda and Malta are among the countries that have been added to the UK’s green travel list.
On Thursday, the list was announced by the Northern Irish Executive, ahead of the announcement by the UK Government.
The new additions to the green list are Malta, Madeira and the Balearic islands; the Caribbean nations of Antigua, Barbados, Barbuda, Dominica and Grenada; and the UK overseas territories of Anguilla and Montserrat, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Pitcairn, and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Current green list countries include Australia, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
Meanwhile The Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Haiti, Mongolia, Tunisia and Uganda have been added to the red list following the latest review, which means travellers are required to enter managed isolation for ten days upon their return.
The latest changes come into effect at 4am on June 30.
The Scottish Government said there will be close monitoring of the position in the Balearics over the next three weeks ahead of the next review point.
The easing follows the latest review of the ‘traffic light’ risk warning system for international travel which came into effect on 17 May.
The steps were considered on a four nation basis at a strategic meeting which also considered possible options for future changes to amber list arrival requirements.
The Scottish Government said it was “cautiously considering the evidence” for easing amber list travel restrictions for fully vaccinated people.
However no decision is expected on this immediately and four nations discussions will continue.
The latest analysis of international travel restrictions has seen no change to the green and red list requirements.
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson said: “From the outset we have said caution is required regarding international travel and people should think very carefully about travelling abroad as situations can suddenly change.
“We continue to work closely with the other home nations and are cautiously supportive of exploring options for the easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from countries on the amber list – but only if the clinical advice supports it and if systems are in place to ensure the wider safety of the Scottish population.”
Joanne Dooey, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association, said: “Any destination going on the green list which has a route from Scotland is welcome.
“The Balearic Islands are one of the most popular destinations for Scots to travel on holiday.
“The additional Caribbean destinations are also good news.
“Being able to travel to amber countries if you have been double vaccinated is the next positive move we need.
“We need to bring back customer confidence that holidays can be booked now.”
A charity has warned of a new “epidemic of loneliness”, as a study has revealed the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on older people.
Age Scotland’s ‘Big Survey’, conducted with ScotInform, found that 10 per cent of people over 50 – an estimated 218,000 in Scotland – say they feel lonely most or all of the time.
This figure rose to 17% among those who live alone, which is an increasing sector of the older population.
More than half of respondents said that lockdown had made them lonelier, but this rose to 65% with those living alone.
The charity believes that the country needs to get to grips with rising feelings of loneliness before they reach epidemic levels, otherwise the health of the nation could be severely impacted.
They are urging people to reach out to those at risk of loneliness in their community, and end the stigma around talking about it.
The survey also found older women were more likely to be affected, with almost six in ten saying they felt lonelier in the past year compared to 42% of men.
The charity said this could be because they are more likely to live alone, since life expectancy is longer for women.
People in their 60s were most likely to feel lonely at 12% compared to just nine per cent of those in their 80s.
However just two per cent of respondents felt that the pandemic had made them less lonely.
During the pandemic, Age Scotland launched its free Friendship Line in response to the increasing number of older people feeling alone.
As well as taking thousands of calls, its staff and volunteers call many older people for a regular chat and to check how they are doing.
These include David Rollie, 70, a retired ambulance driver from Jedburgh, who found himself living alone after his wife died.
He said: “I lost my wife last year and found it really hard. I wasn’t even able to visit her in hospital because of Covid-19 which made things much worse. All of a sudden the house was a lot quieter. I still miss her every day.
“I was shielding for some of last year, so that meant I wasn’t able to get out and go anywhere. At least I had my dog for companionship, and I’m lucky living down here in the country. I don’t have many friends down here, and I don’t see my son very much.
“I called the Friendship Line as I thought it would be nice to chat to somebody. I think it’s a really good thing – you can talk about anything and get to know volunteers from all over Scotland. It really makes a difference and I enjoy getting their calls.”
Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said: “We already knew loneliness and isolation were huge problems among older people in Scotland even before the Covid-19 pandemic. This new research has confirmed our fears that older people are feeling lonelier than ever before.
“Our helpline has taken heartbreaking calls from people across Scotland who have gone days or weeks without hearing a friendly voice. Tens of thousands have only their television or a pet for company, while some even say they feel their lives aren’t worth living any more.
“We need to get to grips with the increasing feelings of loneliness before they get to epidemic levels. This is taking a serious toll on their physical and mental health and well-being. Loneliness significantly increases the risk of heart disease, dementia, and premature death, as well as leading to depression.
“While shielding and lockdown restrictions have helped save lives, we now need action to tackle this epidemic of loneliness and isolation. As we look towards the recovery, we need to redouble efforts to reach those who are alone, and ensure support is there in their communities.
“We can all do our part to help end loneliness, whether by volunteering or simply reconnecting with an older friend, relative, or neighbour. Even just a friendly chat on the doorstep or phone call can brighten someone’s day if they are feeling alone.”
Age Scotland can be contacted on its free Friendship Line on 0800 12 44 222