Thursday 21 March 2013
Glasgow City Council will – today – almost certainly decide to close three of the seven day centres currently used by 520 people with learning needs.
More than 300 angry people who consider the centres vital to the well-being of their families, agreed tactics to persuade the city’s Executive to reverse the expected closures of Berryknowes in Cardonald, and Summerston and Hinshaw Street in Maryhill. Some of them will be at the City Chambers to make their voices heard.
The mass meeting on Sunday elected representatives to continue pressure on the Council. An 11 point action plan was also agreed unanimously.
Dr Christopher Mason, Glasgow’s official Carers’ Champion elected by the Council, admitted his report hadn’t made much impression on the Council decision makers. He had proposed a review of the services for people with learning needs before any decision on closures. ‘There is not enough money to run seven centres. Therefore they need to shut three. But we have to ask the question: ‘After the centres are closed, will the 320 people who attend them, suddenly have got better ?’ The answer, of course, is no.’
SNP Councillor Susan Aitken for Langside Ward said that ‘constructive suggestion, after constructive suggestion’ had been ‘blocked and shouted down’ by the Labour group. ‘They have lost the moral argument and their language has become offensive. It is disgraceful. This decision (to close the centres) was made a long time ago and the administration don’t want to listen. The Labour group are in power and they’ve made it clear they’ll use that power. But their decision on Thursday has no legitimacy. Not one single Labour Councillor is present at this meeting to listen.’
Bob Doris SNP MSP who has presented two motions against the closure of the centres in the Scottish Parliament told the meeting: ‘It is unacceptable that a Glasgow Labour Council is closing these day centres. They are lying when they say they have to do this. They can’t use legislation as an excuse. Other local authorities are doing things better and when the SNP administration in Dundee got it wrong, they had the humility to admit it and start again. Glasgow’s approach is a shambles and an affront. Neither services users nor carers have been asked what they want and that is not acceptable.’
Karin Mc Sherry, a 50-year-old user of one of the centres said: ‘I love my centre. It’s where I see my friends and use the computers.’ Her sister Eileen explained how much the centre meant to her sister. She said: ‘When Karin was five, we were told she’d never learn to read or write. But our mother fought that. The centre has given her a life far beyond what had been mapped out for her. She has friends, goes to college, done drama and computing. The Labour administration does not represent constituents like us. It represents the Labour Party.’
Brian Smith, Secretary of Glasgow branch of UNISON union which helped organise the meeting in the Radisson Blu hotel, said: ‘We are shoulder to shoulder with you in opposing any closures.’
A similar message came from Ian Hood, co-ordinator of the Learning Disability Alliance for Scotland. He gave detailed figures of how spending on learning disabilities in Glasgow was much smaller proportionately than the budget for older people and even less than the rate of inflation. ‘We’re in this for the long haul,’ he said. ‘Glasgow’s action is discriminatory against people with learning disabilities.’
Glasgow City SNP Councillor, Billy McAllister, speaking from the floor of the meeting, said: ‘The people of this city need to waken up. They are being treated with total contempt.’ He recommended that families concerned in the day centre closures should make Councillors’ lives ‘misery.’ He said: ‘Go along to their surgeries. There’s usually no-one there. Talk to them for three or four hours and tell them they were voted in to represent their constituents – not their political party.’
One carer outlined the time when social workers who’d rarely visited her, arrived in force and stayed for three hours. ‘We were exhausted,’ said the carer. ‘But we are still fighting and we won’t go away quietly. We have rights and we can make demands.’
Chairman Tommy Gorman said a carer who was called ‘obstructive’ by social works’ people was actually being ‘protective’ of their family. Later he said: ‘In the short term we’re not going to change the minds of the Councillors but we can vote them out next time round.’
Councillor Matt Kerr, Executive Member for Social Care on Glasgow City Council later said: ‘The way social care is to be delivered will be completely changed by the Scottish Government’s self-directed support legislation and we have to manage that change.
“We believe that a Public Social Partnership offers the best possible way ahead as providers, service users and carers will all be involved in the design of future services.
‘We have also written to the Scottish Government asking for transitional funding to support the Public Social Partnership and to assist with the modernisation of our learning disability day services.
‘The reform of services would be phased in over a 12 month period and no-one will leave their day centre until they have a personal care plan that details exactly how they will be supported in future.’
Carers in Glasgow are banding together to challenge the city’s plan to cut day care services dramatically.
They are making official complaints to the Care Inspectorate – the body in Scotland responsible for overseeing care provision. And some individuals are actively considering legal action.
At a well-attended meeting of carers, care service users and workers and a variety of groups campaigning on care and personalisation issues, everyone was agreed – Glasgow City Council has got it wrong.
Said Brian Smith, Branch Secretary of Glasgow City UNISON trades union branch, who chaired the meeting: ‘These proposed changes have been implemented poorly and are being planned in order to make financial cuts. The people concerned have not got a voice.’
Currently three out of seven day centres used by people with a wide variety of learning difficulties and special needs, are to be closed by Glasgow City Council. They are – Berryknowes, Summerston and Hinshaw Street. Those remaining open will be – Riddrie, Carlton, the Wedge and Southbrae.
The Council estimates that around 200 people with the most complex disabilities would continue to be supported by the four day centres staying open. A further 320 people could be successfully supported within the community suggests the Council.
But people at the meeting said the figures didn’t stack up and that the people attending such day centres would suffer real trauma if their regular place was closed. Said one mother whose adult daughter attended a day centre that has already been closed: ‘The alternative suggested was not suitable for my daughter and the transport wasn’t sensible. She’s stayed at home with me. Now we’re both tearing our hair out. The only place we can go is a church hall one day a week where she has nothing to do and gets sandwiches and crisps for lunch for £5. Is that quality care?.’
Another mother in her pension years said: ‘There is nothing in our community centre to do on a daily basis. We’re left with shopping centres and libraries. But my son’s needs are so complex he can’t read a book. I’d like to invite Councillors to come and share my life for 24 hours to see what it is really like.’
Consultation on the major reforms planned by the Council, is under way with a deadline of 7 January 2013 for the submission of responses. These should go to Linda Gunn, Senior Officer, Adult Services, Centenary House, 100 Morrison Street, Glasgow G5 8 LN. or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Council plans to present the proposals and responses from the consultation to its Executive Committee on 24 January 2013, with the City’s Policy and Development Committee considering the issues the day before – January 23. However, both Committees are likely to be heavily lobbied and a campaign group of carers will also meet on 14 January 2013 at 10.30am in the Adelphi Centre, Gorbals, G5.
All families concerned in the changes were strongly advised to answer the questionnaire that some people have received as part of the consultation. ‘But be warned, the questions are flawed,’ said Ian Hood, Coordinator of the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland.
UNISON’s Brian Smith said the entire process was flawed. ‘The consultation is based on a plan that already predicts 55% of care service jobs will be lost and that the service provided will be based on 200 service users. Right now there are 520 service users.’
Later, a Glasgow City Council spokesman said: ‘We are listening to the view of all stakeholders. People are entitled to comment now. The Council will wait and see what views are expressed before coming to a conclusion.’
In the warm and peaceful setting of the Winter Gardens at the People’s Palace, George Galloway and his Coalition Against Cuts set out their campaign on Wednesday 6 April before an audience of more than 100 people.
‘We are exactly that,’ said George who was a Glasgow MP at Westminster for 18 years, ‘We are fighting against the savage cuts. The SNP and New Labour are all different cheeks of the same backside and I’d be surprised if any Labour Councillor or MSP who walked into this room tonight could be named by anyone here. They are not even legends in their own street!’
Explaining that his Coalition Against cuts had eight people on the Regional list, but three front runners: himself, Angela McCormick a college lecturer and long-time campaigner and Brian Smith a local government worker and trade unionist, he said: ‘We only need 12,000 votes to get one person elected and 30,000 would get all three elected. That is possible out of half a million people eligible to vote. It is more like a Ben Nevis than a Mount Everest of a climb. But we must get people out there and casting their votes.’ He promised: ‘If we get all three of the Coalition into the Scottish Parliament it will never be the same again.’
Angela, who is a member of the national executive of EIS/FELA teachers and lecturers trade union and a member of Solidarity and the Socialist Workers Party, told the attentive audience: ‘I am a single parent and 20 years ago I went to university. I was the last generation to receive the full grant and that is why I’m standing for election. I want the students who come after me to have the same opportunities.’ She instanced the head of a Glasgow college who recently retired receiving a package of £384,000 and compared that to the fact that 1000 college lecturers and support staff are facing redundancy. ‘Those who are left are being told to work harder. These cuts are idealogical. If we – the people in the majority who are suffering the cuts – come together, we can win.’
Turning to big business, she claimed that companies like Boots – registered in Zug – a known low-tax region of Switzerland and Vodaphone – dodged paying millions of pounds of tax. ‘I don’t want my money paying for trident and bombs for Libya,’ said Angela. ‘I want it paying for my son to get the same free university education I had.’
Brian Smith is the branch secretary of the 11,000 strong Glasgow City Unison Branch and co-ordinator of the Defend Glasgow Services Campaign. He is a member of Solidarity and the Socialist Party Scotland. He said that the cuts would take away 10,000 jobs in Glasgow in two years. ‘One in two youngsters will have no work. The reduction in services will be serious as people go out the door. I am surprised that public anger is not greater.’
Advocating a general strike he said: ‘There is a community campaign, an industry campaign and the Coalition is the political campaign against these savage cuts. But we need to get everyone affected by the cuts, actively involved and out, casting their vote.’ To great applause he added: ‘If George Galloway is the only one of us elected to the Scottish Parliament that will shake it up.’
In his turn, George referred to the last time he had been in the People’s Palace. ‘Oliver Tambo, the African National Congress leader in exile during the apartheid years was speaking here. We, the believers that apartheid could be and would be ended in South Africa, were listening. We believed then, that the seemingly impossible would happen and it did. Today, we see how one young man in Tunisia who set himself alight because of his bitter frustration with that country’s secret police, has spread flames which have ignited so many Arab nations. People are standing up to take action in these countries. We in Scotland have never been on our knees before those who appear to be great. We can fight the cuts. And if we believe – we can win!’
Langside Parish Church has organised a hustings on Sunday, April 25 at 7.30 pm in the David Cargill Club on Ledard Road.
Residents and anyone in the Glasgow South Constituency are invited to go along and ask questions of the candidates in the forthcoming General Election.
The candidates who have agreed to appear are: Tom Harris (Labour), Malcolm Fleming (SNP), Davina Rankin ( Conservative), Shabnum Mustapha (LibDem), Marie Campbell (Green Party) and Brian Smith (Trade Union and Socialist Party).
This will be the only opportunity in this constituency to question the candidates on the issues related to the Westminster Government.
Tom Harris has been a Labour MP for nine years, initially in Glasgow Cathcart then in the new Glasgow South constituency.
He has a comfortable majority of 10,832 and was a junior transport minister between 2006 and 2008. Married and living in his constituency, Tom has embraced new media and is a prolific blogger.
He finds MPs’ expenses and immigration are key issues. ‘On expenses, I was cleared at the early stages of the Legg Inquiry and I wasn’t asked to repay any money. I employ my wife. That looks likely to change. I’m not very happy and my wife is even less happy.
‘Immigration is coming up more and more. I have a very strong view that people have a right to express their concerns about immigration without the risk of being called a racist.’
Asked about the ‘cabs for hire’ MPs who were touting their Westminster connections, he said: ‘Where do you start? I thought we would reach a point where we could start re-building people’s trust in politics and government, and then this nonsense happens. It is tremendously depressing.’
Malcolm Fleming is the SNP candidate for Glasgow South. He works in communications for Oxfam, and lives in Shawlands.
Involved with the SNP from 16, Malcolm, now 35, supports the Power 2010 campaign to reform Parliament and protect civil liberties. ‘The group visited Shawlands, and the public clearly support it.
‘Spending cuts are a major concern for people bringing closure of local facilities such as Castlemilk Stress Centre. It had its funding cut at very short notice. It is really bad practice, they had no chance to seek funding elsewhere. With more cuts in the pipeline from London, having more SNP MPs in Westminster would put pressure on the Government to stop cuts. Our basic message is more Nats; less cuts.’
He added: ‘There is an alternative to more of the same from Labour and more of the same from the Tories - a strong group of SNP MPs in the House of Commons who would support the Scottish Parliament and support what’s best for Scotland.’
Marie Campbell is the Green Party candidate for Glasgow South. She has worked for Patrick Harvie for three years and steps into the front line because she believes her party can show ways ‘to do things better.’ She told the LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW: ‘Government should be supporting local business and enterprise rather than propping up failed banks. We need to reduce energy consumption and should focus on renewable energy sources. I’m out to do the best I can and to start conversations with people because masses of people are looking for change.’
Other candidates for Glasgow South are Davina Rankin – Conservative, Shabnum Mustapha – Lib Dem, Brian Smith – STUSC.
A coalition of socialist parties and groups which is preparing to contest the forthcoming general election is to hold an inaugural rally in Langside Halls.
The Scottish Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (STUSC) will announce its slate of candidates at the meeting on March 31 at 7.30pm. The UK-wide organisation includes Bob Crow, General Secretary of railworkers’ union RMT, Jane Godrich, National Secretary of the PCS civil servants’ union, Solidarity, International Socialists and Socialist Workers Party (SWP).
The coalition has a number of candidates in place for the general election. Veteran campaigner and co-convenor of Solidarity, Tommy Sheridan, is standing in Glasgow South-West. Angela McCormack of the SWP will be vying for Glasgow North, while Solidarity’s Graham Campbell will stand for Glasgow North-East on the STUSC ticket.
Brian Smith, Branch Secretary of Glasgow Unison, is standing in Glasgow South.
STUSC says British people face a ‘ruling class offensive’ and offers a ‘clear left-wing alternative to policies of public sector cuts, privatisation, militarism and environmental degradation’.
Philip Stott, STUSC spokesman, said the coalition is standing in 50 seats across the UK, 10 of them in Scotland, to ‘ensure voters have an alternative to the business parties’.
Voters would look at those mainstream parties with a ‘strong mood of lesser evilism in mind’, said Philip, adding that he hoped that not only would STUSC have an impact in May 2010, but ‘would look to deepen its support base and aim for the Scottish parliamentary elections’ in 2011.