MY CONSTITUENCY office has moved this week from Dunfermline Business Centre into Dunfermline High Street. My new office is on Douglas Street, part of the 82 High Street community hub. I hope the more central location and close proximity to public transport links will make my new office more convenient for constituents from right across my constituency, from Kincardine in the west to Duloch in the east. It will be a couple of weeks before everything is fully up and running, as we’re waiting on some refurbishment works being completed and broadband being installed – but hopefully this should all be in place by the end of June.

When I was first elected to Holyrood, one of the first organisations I visited was Homestart Dunfermline and I was therefore really pleased to have the chance to speak about their brilliant work in a Parliamentary debate last week.

Over the past year, Homestart have supported 96 families, including 190 children, in Dunfermline and South West Fife - either through one-to-one volunteer home visiting or through weekly family groups, helping families with one or more children under the age of five and supporting them to achieve happy home environments where both children and parents can thrive.

Homestart can provide a lifeline to new mums and dads who often feel isolated and so these volunteers are doing an absolutely brilliant job in supporting new parents, improving the lives of more vulnerable children and making a real difference in our local communities. But this work on the ground needs to be backed up by political change at local and national level to improve children’s lives and transform their life chances.

Last November, I attended the launch of Homestart’s Scottish manifesto, ‘All our Children’, and the manifesto has three key aims. That all our children should grow up with safe places to live and play, support when their parents suffer from a mental illness and protection from hunger and poor nutrition.

These are basic needs – yet right now they’re not always being met, meaning children can miss out on the support they need. It’s an outrage that children in Fife are going to school with empty bellies and that mums are going without to put food on the table or heat their home.

It’s also unacceptable that so many families are forced to live in overcrowded, damp or unsuitable housing, with nowhere safe to play or run about. This all impacts on children’s opportunities and life chances, both now and in the future.

Right now, too many families in Dunfermline and West Fife are struggling day-to-day and week-to-week and the strains and stresses – whether due to financial problems, benefit sanctions or mental health issues, can mean that children miss out on the support, stability and nurture they need to thrive.

Tackling poverty and the cycle of disadvantage must therefore be at the heart of everything the Scottish Government does. We all want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up and it’s time for political parties to work together with the powers we have at Holyrood already and the new powers on the way soon to ensure this happens, to ensure every family has the support they need and that every child has the best possible start in life.

On another note, it was revealed last week that Fife College is to axe thousands of student places for the upcoming academic year, with part-time courses cut by a staggering 3638 students - almost a third of all part-time students.

We’ve already seen 140,000 college places cut since 2007 and the scale of these latest cuts in Fife is a real worry. The cuts will impact most on single parents, carers and mature students who will now find it even more difficult to get back into learning. Not everyone is able to study full-time and this is especially the case for people with caring responsibilities, either for children or elderly relatives.

There is no doubt that cuts to colleges hit the most disadvantaged students hardest, locking people out of learning. I want Scotland to be a nation where lifelong learning is readily available to us all yet right now, it seems that lifelong learning is out the window.

It’s time for the Scottish Government to reverse their cuts to colleges and give further education the support and funding it deserves and needs.