Private Rented Sector vital to success of Dundee regeneration

Amanda Wiewiorka, Owner/Comapny Director, Wardhaugh Property

Uncertainty and discouragement must stop if landlords are to provide the accommodation needed for Dundee to grow, says Amanda Wiewiorka (Director, Wardhaugh Property)

For the past two decades Dundee has been at the centre of what could be one of Scotland’s greatest city regeneration stories.  The growth of the biotech sector, the video games industries and the variety of education and research opportunities, not to mention the transformation of the Waterfront are the signs of a city that is developing rapidly.  That is good not only for Dundee and the wider Tayside region but for the whole of Scotland.

In the Private Rented Sector (PRS), we have seen a similar transformation in the city.  For years, the market in Dundee was flat with rent levels and yields low, restricting the ability of landlords to either expand their portfolios or improve existing properties.  However, in the past couple of years all that has changed – yields are increasing and investment has been on the up.  As a result, there have been more properties available for rent, including landlords bringing derelict homes back in to use, as well as an increase in quality and standards, providing more value for money for tenants.

This increase in the supply and standards of accommodation is vital for any region looking to grow and thrive, be that the rented accommodation, hotel rooms or new housing for families or students.  However, it is the PRS, in particular, that provides the kind of high-quality and flexible accommodation that employers and workers require, be that in Dundee itself or in the wider Tayside area.

However, this optimistic outlook is being threatened by tax changes and other uncertainties that are making it harder for landlords to invest either in new properties or in renovations and improvements.  For example, tax changes brought in last year by Westminster and Holyrood are already starting to choke off investment.  This, coupled with the continued uncertainty around the EU referendum vote which we are told could reduce the attractiveness of Scotland for business investment and to students, is making landlords cautious and highly risk-averse.  Although there was a rush of buyers prior to April when the increase in the Land and Building Transactions Tax (LBTT) took effect, we now hear from landlords in Angus and Dundee that they are holding back on investment until the uncertainty around the EU Referendum has passed.

Unless there is a halt to actions which create uncertainty or discourage landlords from investing in more privately rented property, there is a real danger that the fantastic economic turnaround we are seeing take hold in Dundee could stall, with far-reaching implications not only for the city but for the wider Tayside region and Scotland.

Now’s the time to think about helping others

James Fletcher
James Fletcher, Director, ARC Scotland @ArcScot

This week marks the second anniversary of the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013, which came into force in 2014.

This legislation places a duty on local authorities to offer people who are eligible for social care a range of choices over how they receive their support.

Self-directed Support allows people, their carers and their families to make choices about what their support looks like and how it is delivered. As a result of this, and other changes, we have started to see a shift in how social care is provided and how social care organisations operate.

One of the biggest challenges for many support organisations in making the change to self-directed support is staff shortages. Many are forced to rely on agency staff, leading to a lack of continuity of care and support for people whose relationship with their support worker is often critical to their quality of life and ability to achieve the things that are important to them. This includes people who have learning disabilities, mental health problems, autism, physical and sensory disabilities.

To address this challenge, organisations need to make connections with people of all ages who have the right values to support people with additional needs and in turn encourage them to consider working in this rewarding field. As a sector, we have a long way to go to promote the many positive aspects of working in social care and the satisfying career it can provide.

Unfortunately, the social care profession has been perceived to be undervalued for many years. It is often commented that people who work on supermarket check-outs may receive better terms and conditions. Zero hour contracts are prevalent in some organisations. There is a perception that social care offers entry-level employment for those who cannot find it anywhere else. It is also true that the work can sometimes present complex and challenging circumstances for employees.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to a living wage for care workers will help to improve salaries for support workers, however more needs to be done to communicate the very real rewards the work offers, and to encourage more people with the right values and attitudes consider applying for work in the sector.

Employers often say that they know who will make a good support worker very soon after meeting them. This is regardless of any training or previous experience they have. In social care, a person’s inherent values and attitude matter most. It is generally accepted that these values include the ability to listen to and respect other people, a commitment to help others to achieve the things that are important to them, coupled with a willingness to reflect on what they do and learn from mistakes.

Fresh approaches to recruitment are beginning to emerge. This can be seen through the increasing involvement of supported people themselves in the recruitment process, including people employing their own staff through self-directed support.

Good employers will seek to match the skills and interests of their staff with those of the people they support, like gardening, DIY, cooking and art. Many employers now wish to attract older people with life experience who are looking for a change to a more meaningful work, are returning to the job market or are retired and looking to work only a few hours a week. Good social care organisations will welcome inquiries from people of all ages and backgrounds who have a commitment to making a difference to people’s lives.

So, as we raise further awareness this week of Self-directed Support and the opportunities for improved choice and control it offers supported people, I would like to encourage anybody who feel they have the right values and think they would benefit from the rewards, whatever their age or experience, to consider a new career in social care.

A version of this blog first appeared as a Friends of the Scotsman 

It’s been take out the trash week (and month) in Edinburgh

This blog first appeared on PubAffairs

Orbit Communications - Graeme Downie 03
Graeme Downie @GraemeDownie

Immediately after elections, winning parties, even one returning for another term, are meant to be riding on a wave, issuing positive announcement after positive announcement showing how they are turning their manifesto pledges in to actions.

For the SNP that was certainly the case in 2007, the last time they formed a minority government, when they went so far as to take a leaf out of US President FDR’s book and make a big show of progress after their first 100 days in office.  This time, however, things seem different.  Rather than positive announcements, the SNP seems to have been fire-fighting and playing defence.

Just this week we’ve had (you might want to take a breath): Minister defending delays of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to Scottish Farmers; education statistics showing a reduction in those from the poorest backgrounds going to university as well as a decline in standards of literacy and numeracy standards; an acknowledgement of the need to “refresh” guidance on the controversial “Named Person” legislation aimed at protecting vulnerable children; a review of NHS targets and, just yesterday, confirmation that the new Forth Road crossing will not be open in December as initially thought.

This is in addition to last week’s controversial debate when the Scottish Government lost a vote on an opposition motion to ban fracking after SNP MSPs abstained despite many candidates being elected on a platform supporting a ban only a few weeks before.

So, have the SNP suddenly imploded, are we seeing the quickest post-election collapse of a government in history?  Well, of course not.  This is a government and party that remains hugely popular and united, has just been returned as by far the biggest party at Holyrood and is on course to enjoy yet another election victory in the council elections in May 2017.  So what is going on?

Well, a lot of the information published this week is on issues extensively debated during the election.  There have been accusations announcements were delayed before the election for political reasons, accusations which now appear to have some credence.  However, no governing party in its right mind would put out bad news immediately before an election if it didn’t have to so you could argue the SNP were quite sensible to sit on their comfortable lead for the 6 months before polling day.

Instead I suspect the reason this information is no coming out in what seems like a near constant steam is an  elongated version of “Take out the Trash Day”, well known to us West Wing geeks.  By getting all of the bad news out the way now, immediately after the election when, frankly, voters aren’t watching, it is unlikely they will remember it the next time polling day comes around in less than 12 months.

However, that strategy works if the government takes the summer to start to fix some of these problems, otherwise the bad news drags on and on and could become more embedded in the minds of voters.  So, I would expect announcements over the summer break and immediately after about remedial action being taken.  Equally, I suspect a few extra Bills are being hurriedly added to the first Legislative Statement which will take place shortly after recess.

If that doesn’t happen then maybe, just maybe, someone can write an article about stalled agendas, appearing cracks and incompetence growing but I wouldn’t get those metaphors dusted off just yet.