Milan AGM

Milan members visiting the Scottish Parliament in February 2013On Tuesday I chaired the AGM of Milan, a charity set up 22 years ago to support the welfare needs for senior citizens from our ethnic minority communities.

The main issue at the AGM was funding and support for older people from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi communities in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Since a visit of Milan carers to the parliament earlier this year (see my February E-News) I have been pursuing the issue of care for older people from our ethnic minorities.

I’ve talked to housing associations and members of a variety of ethnic minority communities about the issue of services for older people.

It’s not an issue for the future – it’s an issue for now.  In my role as Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Local Government I’m only too aware of the impact of the underfunding of the Scottish Government’s Council tax Freeze, with huge pressures  being placed on our health and social care services locally.   Then there’s the increasing demand for support from voluntary and charitable services.

Unusually for an AGM there were lots of issues raised from the floor such as the problem of rationing of transport so that people only get a day centre visit fortnightly not weekly. You can see my submission to the Council’s consultation on Day Centre support for older People from Ethnic Minority communities.

The testimony from one of the service users was powerful.  She highlighted the benefits of Milan services socially, emotionally and physically.  She described how motivating it is for her to be able to meet up with other senior citizens to get advice on benefits and fuel advice, to access yoga classes, celebrate birthdays and share sorrows.

Surveys of older people from our ethnic minorities using services show that there’s many more people who need more support.

The meeting was also significant as Mrs Shaheen Unis, Milan’s long standing Chair, stood down.  She finished by leaving a big challenge to all of us: how to deliver the resource to enable Milan to expand, to meet the needs of our older communities in terms of day care, support at home and sheltered and care home provision.