Shetland Times Column 11 June 2021

This is Carers Week. For many carers, the pandemic has been ​a more intense and challenging time than usual. They have pressed on in extremely difficult circumstances.

Carers Week is an opportunity to thank all of the hardworking carers out there. It is also a chance to recognise the work of charities and organisations that assist carers.

The reopening of respite services has often been slow, and even at Level 0 there continue to be barriers to support. Many carers feel like they have been forgotten about, that is not acceptable.

We should be finding every means to ease the pressures carers face. Whether that's assisting with finances, building respite, providing support for mental health or just shining a light on all that carers do, they need our support.

As I drove down to Sumburgh on Tuesday morning there was a feeling of déjà vu. Last week I had several attempts at getting South but fog defeated me each time. Somehow, I knew that the glorious weather we had enjoyed in recent days, the highlight of which was a family picnic lunch on the banks at Westerwick, was gone, leaving fog to defeat travel plans again.

While Covid has disrupted so many lives and changed the way many of us work, being able to work and contribute to Parliament online is one benefit when the weather decides to rearrange my location. Remotely, I was able to take part in Tuesday evening’s Members’ Debate on the impact of tariff-free trade deals on Scottish agriculture, this was followed by a meeting with a parent council.

Tuesday was also World Oceans Day and I tuned in to some of Sea Scotland’s conference which this year had a theme of ‘Our Ocean and Society’. The Just Transition presentation referenced a recent report which suggests that by 2030 the oil and gas workforce will be half its current numbers while the offshore wind workforce will treble.

One of the points made is that many in coastal and island communities pay the highest prices for energy putting many people into fuel poverty. That’s no surprise to those of us who live here. The Scottish Government’s Fuel Poverty Strategy is still on hold, an indication perhaps of other matters taking precedence, but I continue to await a response from the government to my request for an update on the strategy.

Another report this week was on a new research project to investigate the lifelong consequences of domestic violence on brain health. There is growing awareness of traumatic brain injury associated with an increased risk of neurodegenerative disease, including dementia.

We have a better understanding of the long-term impact on children and young people who live in homes with domestic abuse, but there is little research of the long-term effects on women in such homes. Given the estimate that globally 30% of women over the age of 15 years will have been exposed to physical or sexual intimate partner violence, that is as surprising as it is shocking.

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