Last week in Galashiels I met Delia Henry and Alan Dalziel from Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, which represents the 850,000 people who are deaf or have hearing loss in this country.
At approximately one in seven people across Scotland, all of us know somebody affected – so we need to be more sensitive to the issues.
Delia spoke to me about how her organisation is trying to break through the barriers faced by people who are deaf or have hearing loss in accessing services, employment and education opportunities.
We talked specifically about how to promote lip-reading classes, so that people develop their skills in understanding when others are speaking. Lip-reading is very important to people with hearing loss to help support their communication.
Everyone lip-reads to some extent – people who are deaf or have a hearing loss do it more without even realising it.
I have known many who have learned a lot from lip-reading classes over the years and thoroughly recommend finding out more.
We also talked about the Action on Hearing Loss campaign to ensure shops, businesses and services have working induction loops. Induction loops make a huge difference to hearing-aid users because they reduce or even cut out background noise, helping the listener to hear sounds far more clearly.
I also agreed that my constituency office will work towards achieving Action on Hearing Loss’s Louder than Words charter mark accreditation.
Last week I had the opportunity to meet the chief executives of the four local housing associations in the Borders about concerns their tenants have been raising recently.
Some of the issues we discussed included the impact of the UK Government’s welfare reforms on tenants and the work the associations are doing to support tenants through the changes. The meeting was also a chance for me to hear about the community work undertaken by the associations in building and maintaining homes.
The association representatives updated me on how some tenants are affected by the reduction in housing benefit for those who are deemed by the new rules to under-occupy their properties.
As local MP and in my previous role as Scottish Secretary, I have been very aware of the challenges and difficulties of what is now known as the “bedroom tax”. I remain clear that we must do all we can to support the most vulnerable in the Borders and, therefore, I am continuing proactively and regularly to engage with the local housing associations and the council’s senior officials to understand the impact of the welfare changes and seek ways to mitigate them.