Glasgow City Council needs to take a long hard look at itself. Each person elected to serve this great city is duty bound to honour its motto: Let Glasgow Flourish.
Flourish now means ‘What’s in it for me?’ There is no sign of the humanity or humbleness established by St Mungo, the City’s ancient Christian founder.
This lack of humanity was never more obvious than in the historic first ever hearing of a petition by the year-old petitions committee on Tuesday 7 May 2013.
A cogent and eloquent request was put forward by New Fossils Grandparents Support Group in Glasgow’s East quarter. These kinship carers – mostly grandparents looking after their own grandchildren – said that their children had exactly the same legal status as children taken into foster homes but were being treated very differently. They were asking for equality and justice for children and not for themselves.
Glasgow City Council’s Social Work department provides each foster child with a sizeable allowance to buy beds, clothes, food and treats or whatever that child needs. No similar supportive funding is provided for the children taken in by their own grandparents or other family members.
The situation was described by the Kinship Carers as ’apartheid’ One carer who has two of her own kin children in her household as well as two children placed with her as foster children, said it was ‘night and day’ the difference in what she was able to provide for each.
But what happened at the petitions committee, was simply party political posturing – especially from the Labour side. Five SNP councillors were heavily outnumbered by the Labour Group councillors – one of whom was out of the meeting room for most of the meeting- but returned in time to vote.
The kinship carers campaign is only one of several groups of people so concerned about the issues affecting them that they have taken to the streets to highlight the problems they face.
It is clear in Glasgow that more groups are having to take direct action to get attention paid to important inequalities. But even with that, where answers might lie in the hands of Glasgow City Council’s elected representatives, these campaigners are fighting a losing battle because of the party political imbalances within the council chambers.
Voters of this troubled city need to recognise that nothing will change for them until the people elected by them are truly of the mind to ‘Let Glasgow Flourish,’ by working together for the good of EVERY citizen, not just the partisan few.
Kinship Carers will be the first ever group to present a petition to Glasgow City Council’s year-old Petitions Committee. The historic meeting will be on Tuesday 7 May at 1.30pm in the City Chambers when the Carers will claim the children they look after are being discriminated against.
Most Kinship Carers have taken responsibility to raise their own grandchildren when the parents are unable to do so.
Representatives of the New Fossils Grandparents Support Group in Glasgow’s East quarter will put forward their concerns.
They claim that despite having the same legal status under Section 70 of the 1995 Children’s Act, a child placed in foster care by a Children’s Panel receives recognised allowances while a child formally recognised by the Children’s Panel as being cared for by a grandparent or other kincarer, gets nothing.
Said one kincarer: ‘These disadvantaged children are Scotland’s real shame. They walk away with just the clothes they stand in. The other children have a £100 emergency grant for immediate needs, a cheque for up to £500 to buy necessities like beds and an age related allowance from £131 to £231 a week: all paid to their carer.
‘If this kind of discrimination was being made between children of different colour or gender or religious background, there would be a public outcry. But because it is ‘only’ grandparents who are taking care of their grandchildren, the assumption is they don’t deserve or warrant the same help or support that official foster carers receive.
‘I believe this is systematic and institutionalised discrimination just as bad as apartheid. It is no way to treat our most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.’
The petitioners ask Glasgow City Council to give kinship children the same allowances and levels of support as foster children. The Scottish Government agreed unanimously in 2007 that this should be done within three years. Subsequently all Councils in Scotland signed up to a Concordat to do so. But to date, only Highland Council has implemented it.
Earlier this year, Kinship Carers across Scotland launched a new national organisation to be the single campaigning voice for the rights of the children in their care. Said Anne Swartz, Chair of the Alliance and a kinship carer from Dumbarton: ‘We are sick of seeing the children in our care suffer without the basic support from Local Authorities. Our children are routinely written off and discriminated against while foster placement children have access to a wide range of support and services. Enough is enough. We have come together to put a stop to this institutionalised discrimination and to fight for the rights of our children.’
A recent study of kinship carers and the children they cared for was carried out by Buttle UK, a children’s grant-giving charity and the University of Bristol. It showed that each child cared for by an informal kinship carer, saved the taxpayer between £23,500 and £56,000 a year. In Scotland, one child in every 71 was being brought up by a kincarer such as a grandparent, sister or brother or other relative. Most of these family carers were put into severe poverty as a result of taking in the children. And while the children were doing considerably better than children in formal care, they still had unaddressed severe behavioural and emotional difficulties as a result of the traumas they had experienced.
Councillor Billie McAllister of Canal Ward in Glasgow is one of the members of the City’s Petitions Committee.
He told this website: ‘I’ve been on the committee for one year and this will be the first petition we’ve heard. We should be inundated with petitions for the amount of injustice being experienced in our communities. But I don’t think the Council is serious about this. A recent meeting was cancelled because we were told there was ‘nothing on the agenda!’ I couldn’t accept that and pushed to get some action. This petition is, I believe, the result of that. I’m not at all happy with how things are run. There is talk of democracy and community empowerment but no-one can open their mouth to say anything other than to agree with the powers that be.’
The other items to be considered by the Petitions and General Purposes and Policy Development committee on Tuesday will be (a) an update on the progress of the City Centre Service Desk which went live in August 2012 and (b) Glasgow’s Draft Single Outcome Agreement 2013. This was submitted by the Community Planning Partnership to the Scottish Government on 2 April 2013 and is a ten year plan for priorities and ‘better outcomes for residents.’ After consultation with the Community Planning Partnership partners, the plan will be submitted to the Scottish Government for final agreement by 28 June 2013.
Well it’s happened! The date for the Referendum is set – Thursday 18 September 2014. Glasgow City Council has entered a Social Partnership with Enable to chart the future of day centres now that it has been decided three of the seven will be closed. And spring is on its way with hosts of groups and organisations launching new programmes and events.
So everything is ok? OK?
No. Not really. With a date set, can we get on with proper DISCUSSION and considered arguments about the details instead of the shouting matches we’re witnessing. What is best for the people of Scotland is what is at stake – not the public persona of any one politician or political party.
With the die cast for closure of the day centres which are currently used by more than 500 people with complex learning disabilities – Glasgow as a city needs to decide what it is doing. Are our elected representatives really working for the benefit for all their constituents and the well being of the entire community? Or maybe they are blindly following party policy and stoking up the vested interests of organisations.
Those volunteer groups and organisations which are addressing the needs and the interests of real people and fostering a spirit of true community are still alive, thankfully!
When groups such as the South Glasgow Heritage and Environmental Trust (SGHET) can run an all -day conference on Saturday 23 March in Gorbals on the Music, mirth and magic of the Southside; when the campaigners of the Kelvin Meadow can organise an Easter Egg Hunt on Sunday 24 March with Anna Lehr reading Peter Rabbit stories too. Then something is working the way it should.
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.’
Wednesday 20 March 2013
More than 800 primary school children danced their trainers off today at Kelvin Hall Sports Arena. To the music of the John Renton Scottish Dance Band, they enjoyed a ceilidh at Flying Scotsman pace.
For the eighth year, the Festival of Dance has given them ‘skills for life’ said the Lord Provost, Sadie Docherty, when she officially welcomed everyone. ‘Once you’ve learned these dances you’ll use them and enjoy them for the rest of your life.’
The collaboration between the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (RSCDS) and Glasgow City Council’s Education Department encourages the young folk to keep fit, keep healthy and socialise through dancing. It also allows a thread of Scottish culture to be woven, naturally, into their education.
Wheelchair dancing was demonstrated and schools, including Barmulloch Primary, successfully integrated children with special needs in the activity.
Since January, more than 26 schools have been practising The Dashing White Sergeant, Antarctica Bound, and the Round Reel of Eight among other dances. Teachers and other school staff alongside trainers from the RSCDS have been doing the coaching, often as after-school activities. Their efforts were praised by Andrea Crawford who is responsible for the City’s Primary School, Physical Education strategies. She said: ‘It is absolutely phenomenal the amount of work that’s gone into today.’ Alan Munro, Chairman of the Glasgow Branch of RSCDS, who was Master of Ceremonies, said: ‘It is really enjoyable seeing so many children having fun. We are really looking forward to having the continued support of Glasgow City Council for this dance Festival. ‘
As Moira Sweeney of Avenue End Primary in Ruchazie, said: ‘The children meet new people. It boosts their self-esteem and they just love to dance. It is a real privilege to be a part of this.’
Commented one 10-year-old: ‘This is hard work but it’s great fun.’
As a spring-like March begins, the rumblings of a winter of discontent get louder.
Glasgow City Council’s planned closure of three day care centres used by people with complex learning and physical needs, is generating great anxiety among users and their families. A major meeting is fixed for Sunday 17 March at 2pm in the Radisson Bleu hotel on Argyle Street at Oswald Street.
The arrest of two people making a peaceful protest against Atos – a sponsor company for Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games – is of great concern to those who believe in freedom to speak in a public place.
The problems forseen with the imposition of a ‘bedroom’ tax has flooded every Citizens’ Advice Bureaux offices in the city with people sick with worry at the outcome for them. Some have said they are suicidal.
Is this really Glasgow, the Caring City, many residents believe we live in?
Hardened campaigners are concerned at the downward spiral towards great hardship expected by many and designed by the few.
Will action speak louder than words? Will unions, community groups and campaigns mobilise to defend the weak and the vulnerable? Time will tell.
But no bright sun is expected this summer.
Tuesday 26 February 2013
The race to find £2.7 million to create a Mountain Bike and Activity Centre at Cathkin Braes was launched today.
‘We already have £50,000 promised,’ said Anne McChlery, Director of Glasgow Building Preservation Trust which is behind the project. ‘It’s a big ask so late in the day, but we are confident this Centre will be ready for the Commonwealth Games next year.’
She praised the ‘synergies’ of an already popular mountain bike track being created at Cathkin Braes by Glasgow City Council and the willingness of Glasgow Archdiocese to allow a redundant, B-listed, church building to be adapted as a centre for the mountain bike activities and for local community use.
Architects responsible for the proposed transformation of St Martin’s Church are award winning Elder and Cannon who are based in Glasgow. Their feasibility study and appraisal plans were commissioned by Ardenglen Housing Association Ltd in Castlemilk.
Said architect Alison Hesketh who with colleagues Stephen Hoey and Tom Connolly has devised the plan: ‘The main challenge is to get this open for the Commonwealth Games and to accommodate a wide range of facilities. There will be a community cafe, performance space and education activities as well as mountain bike changing facilities and a bike repair workshop all contained in the church building on Cathkin Braes and all easily accessible.’
Lord Provost Sadie Docherty: ‘This is very much a community led project. I’m delighted to see this proposed Commonwealth Legacy project emerging to support the Cathkin Braes Mountain Bike Track.’ She said the iconic church building had fantastic memories for many Castlemilk people who attended the Sunday discos run by the church. ‘They led to a lot of marriages…’ she added.
Councillor Archie Graham, who has Executive responsibility for the 2014 Commonwealth Games said: ‘This is a fantastic project. It builds on the challenging mountain bike course which is already well used. It promotes cycling, puts a derelict building to good community use and encourages a healthier lifestyle. We should celebrate all of that. And it comes with a panoramic view of Glasgow!’ He added: ‘Once the elite athletes have gone, there will be something tangible for everyone. I forecast that when 2019 comes and the Games are reviewed, the Cathkin Braes Mountain Bike and Activity Centre will still be up there among the best legacy projects.’
Local cyclist Colin Hyslop, a member of the very active Mitchelhill Community Group which is one of the key partners driving the idea said: ‘We are getting positive feedback all the time. On Sunday, out on the Track, I could hardly get cycling for people asking me when would the Centre be ready to use? My only concern is that it won’t be big enough!’ The facebook page has already got 687 ‘likes’ and more than 2000 people use it each week to get information on cycling activities at Cathkin Braes.
On behalf of the Archdiocese, surveyor Kenneth Crilley said: ‘The church building is an architectural jewel in Castlemilk. This project will bring it back to life and allow it to be used by the wider Glasgow community. We are all delighted at the prospect.’
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.’
Skaters have from now till 6 January 2013 to enjoy Glasgow on Ice, the stunning centre piece of the Glasgow Loves Christmas festival.
Around 210,000 litres of water were used to form the six inches of ice. It took 90 hours to freeze it completely to form the 736 square metres to skate on.
Last year more than 50,000 people used the outdoor rink around the Scott Monument in the centre of George Square and even more are expected this year.
For the first time students get half price on Mondays. Parents with children up to the age of seven, can use the Penguin Sessions which allows them to skate while pushing their youngsters in specially designed pods like penguins. Prices range from £4 for Young Scot card holders to £10 for adults at peak times.
The Magical Entertainment Marquee will have a free programme every night ranging from festive films and Christmas choirs to big band concerts and comedy spots as well as quizzes.
Free family fun days will be on offer each weekend. So far the entertainment line up has included – Cami followed by Jake Beveridge, Irrational Fever, Michael Cassidy and A Band Called Quinn. But there are musical treats most nights so check the website.
Said Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council: ‘The city simply buzzes with excitement thanks to all the attractions, events and family entertainment. And, of course, there is the chance to skate under the stars in George Square. I invite everyone to come and join us for some Festive Cheer.’
Clyde 1 In: Demand presenter Romeo said: ‘I love Glasgow on Ice. It’s such a good laugh and the Square looks beautiful. I feel like I’m on a movie set in New York.’ He was put through his paces by Scottish figure skating champion, Simone Golumb
For more info on Glasgow Loves Christmas consult the website: “http://www.glasgowloveschristmas.com” or www.glasgowloveschristmas.com or Facebook
Mildred Black at 76 remembers past skaing times as she glides along.
A new era has started for Community Central Hall (CCH) in Maryhill Road. The Trust which runs it has been gifted the building by Glasgow City Council.
City Treasurer, Councillor Paul Rooney made the announcement today (Thursday 27 September 2012) during 35rd anniversary celebrations of the popular venue. He said: ‘I’m delighted to be part of the decision to transfer the premises to CCH. The City Council will only do this where best practice is clearly seen and good management has an identifiable track record.’
He added: ‘This place is well known for the public inquiries – such as Stockline – held here. But it has an amazing level of users, workers and volunteers.’
Anna Dyer, Chairperson of the Trust Board which runs CCH, thanked Treasurer Rooney and said: ‘We have a new future to look forward to now because we can access more funding. This will keep the building in community use for future generations.’ She paid tribute to John Gray who, as a Strathclyde Regional Councillor more than 35 years ago, fought to retain the former church for the community.
At an evening reception for members and supporters of CCH Anna presented John with a silver salver to recognise his foresight and his fight.
A clearly delighted John told this website: ‘We were ecstatic 35 years ago when we got possession of the halls. There was a lot of support and a good committee. When the caretaker Jimmy Gordon handed over the big bunch of keys he said all the furniture had been taken away. I discovered the Council had a store full of furniture and got permission to take what we needed. With the Boys’ Brigade, the committee and a whole team of helpers, we made a lot to trips back and forward with two vans till we furnished the place.’ He said the first thing the committee did was double the wages of the caretaker.
An exhibition of past times and community activities is on display in the CCH. Built by subscription in the 1920s, it was used as a church until it became a Community Trust and registered charity 35 years ago.
The anniversary celebrations included a pacey variety concert hosted by Dave Anderson. ‘This is a fantastic facility,’ he told the audience in the Reid Hall. ‘I’ve been using it since I was a boy.’ Entertainment included a toe-tapping routine by pupils of LA Stage School which is one of the newest groups to make CCH their home. Maryhill Integration Network (MIN) provided two splendid sets. First up was a dance and music piece with adults and children singing lullabies from around the world. Later they gave a fashion show with the models dressed in beautiful outfits reflecting ethnic and antique costumes from a wide variety of countries sometimes re-interpreted to show the fusion of cultures.
The world’s longest running Scouts’ Gang Show – the Glasgow Gang Show – gave a harmonious preview of their own show which takes place in November. ‘We’ve been rehearsing in the CCH for 15 years because the facilities are so good,’ said their spokesman.
A seven strong Gospel choir with accompanying drummer from the Redeemed Christian Church of God which worships in the CCH, gave a non-stop praise session which had the power and the conviction of ten times their number.
Commented Dave Anderson at the end of their set: ‘That’s a far cry from the joyless Presbyterian church style I grew up in!’
As the night wore on and the audience decreased, the second half of the show moved to the CCH cafe. The stalwarts who remained had a brilliant treat from Dave Anderson himself. He played keyboard and sang to give a humorous insight into his own musical upbringing. ‘A song I wrote years ago is currently included in ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ thanks to Elaine C Smith remembering it,’ he told the appreciative audience as he sang it for them. With wit and humour, he brought the anniversary event to a happy close.
Friday 28 September was day two of the 35th anniversary celebrations with a children’s fun day complete with a real fire engine and a play bus, a community exhibition in the CCH and dancing to the Black Havana Diamond Band in the evening.