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.’
The first cheques from the Health Lottery for Scottish charities were presented by tv’s Gail Porter at Kennyhill community allotments in Riddrie this week.
Launched only this month, the Health Lottery will have £5 million a year to give out. The initial lucky recipients were: BTCV’s Green Gym programme (£27,932) Enable Gateway Centre, South Scotland ( £39,977) WRVS transport and shopping services in the Borders (£22,548) and North and South Ayrshire Carers Centre (£46,801).
This first allocation of money is set to reduce isolation, support informal carers – particularly young adults – and encourage local projects that create healthier environments in communities. Said Gail: ‘I’m particularly pleased to help the young carers – my brother was one. But I’m really happy to make sure that the first lot of money raised from Health Lottery ticket sales has gone directly and immediately into the hands of people who can really benefit.’
The BTCV’s Green Gym promotes improved physical and mental health by helping people access green space. The Ayrshire Carers’ Centre is run by Unity Enterprise and the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and provides a place for carers to drop in and find help and company. The WRVS group in the Borders provides services and support to isolated residents. And Enable Gateway promotes the health and well-being of people with a learning disability through developing new skills.
In a lengthy statement from Glasgow City Council, some of the information given out at the Accord centre by users’ families to Alex Salmond, was disputed.
Following dicussions and consultations from October 2007, a sub group to examine how to reform Learning Disability Day Service provision was set-up in May 2008.
At that time, around 850 people with a learning disability were signed up for day support at 11 day centres across the city. Two areas were highlighted – building -based activity to help to encourage therapeutic interventioins for those who need and benefit from them. And encouragement of participation in community based activities and opportunities.
Among the reforms noted was: To provide a balanced service with less emphasis on specialist buildings and greater emphasis on community focused/ connected care.
By 2010 the 850 service users of 2008 had been reduced to 693 service users.
At least 90 events were held between October 2007 and April 2008 as part of the consultation process. And Service users and carers were ‘directly involved ‘ in a number of strategic workstreams.
The City Council’s Executive Committee agreed in October 2010 to implement Self Directed Support. This meant that every person registered with a learning disability and funded by GCC would complete a Self Evaluation Questionnaire and be responsible for deciding how to spend their funding allowance.
The day before he was elected First Minister for a second term, Alex Salmond sat with Glasgow families in the Accord Centre in Dalmarnock to hear, first hand, their concerns about its demolition. In an easy and interested manner, he talked to many of the 50-60 people there. And he listened closely to what they were saying.
The uninspiring building was to be flattened and used as a bus park for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. But those who use the place – people with conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, autism and other special needs and their families – have protested loudly and brought a temporary halt to the proceedings. They had understood the facility would be replaced ‘like for like’. Instead they had been offered space in an existing community centre which was not suitable for the special needs of the folk who used the Accord Centre on a daily basis.
Said Grace Harrigan, whose 25-year-old son Craig Anderson has Down’s Syndrome: ‘I believe Glasgow City Council thought we would not put up a fight. They thought we were young mums they could bully. But 120 people use the Accord Centre and we are part of a citywide carers network.’ She said the carers had made many approaches to their local Councillors. ‘They did not even phone back or email us back. The two MSPs stopped answering our emails.’ Explaining that the area has been, traditionally, a Labour stronghold, the local centre users and carers were very disappointed by this lack of response from elected representatives. ‘After all, these were the people we voted for,’ she commented.
Having once met Billy McAllister, an SNP Councillor for a different part of the city, she contacted him in desperation. ‘At last, someone seemed to be listening,’ said Grace.
About the same time, one of their supporting groups – Citizens United – which had challenged Iain Gray on such cuts and caused him to run out of Central Station – took up their cause in a face-to-face meeting they were given with Alex Salmon during the election campaign. ‘He told us that he, personally, would look into the situation as soon as the election was over,’ said Citizens United leader Sean Clerkin. ‘And he’s kept his word. I think the Labour-led Glasgow City Council will have to giveway to these demands and give these families a ‘like for like’ centre. If they don’t they will be breaking up a community of the most vulnerable people.’
Carers from Riddrie who were part of the support network for the Accord Centre told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘We know we’ve got to stick together or we’d get nowhere.’ Ina Ross and her son Graham look after another son, Stephen who is 37 and has Down’s Syndrome. ‘The Accord Centre is a life-saver for us. He considers coming here is going to his work. With all the talk of closing it, he’s frightened he won’t get back to his work,’ said Ina.
Another family whose 32-year-old son, Paul, has been attending the Accord Centre since he was 19, said the knock-on effect of the proposed closure had been noticeable in his behaviour. ‘It has been shocking. He’s swearing and behaving badly. He is clearly very upset,’ said dad Andrew.
Helen McCourt explained that the community centre she’d been told her 28 year old daughter Laura would attend was in Easterhouse. ‘I don’t drive so it would take me two buses to get there. She would be taken there, given tea and toast and then have nowhere to go and nothing to do. She has Down’s Syndrome. I need to know she’ll be safe and she wouldn’t be in that environment. In the Accord Centre she has lots of things to do and friends and people she knows.’
When Alex Salmond arrived he was shown round the Centre by manager Vivienne Ferguson. Then he met the families. One of the first people he spoke to was wheelchair bound Joseph Loughran who is 24. ‘Did you vote SNP,’ questioned the soon-to-be First Minister. ‘Yes!’ was the resounding reply. Joseph’s parents Helen and Joe said that a community centre was not a suitable place for Joseph to go to because it was open to the public and that made him vulnerable. ‘He has many complex needs. They can be met in the Accord Centre. He knows the place and feels confident here. We know he’s safe here in a caring community,’ said Joe.
Several of the regular users of the Accord Centre spoke up for themselves directly to Alex Salmond. Cheryl McArthur (32) told him: ‘I don’t want to go to a community centre. All my friends are here. And I’d love to come here five days a week.’
Laura McLauchlan (27) said: ‘I come here three days a week and would like to come five days.’
When the conversation turned to establishing what, exactly, the Accord Centre families had been promised, Alex Salmond asked for minutes of meetings. Quickly scanning them he pointed out that a ‘like for like’ centre was described ‘if possible.’ Said Mr Salmond: ‘Those are weasel words. The intention is clear.’
Promising to follow up the meeting, he left after almost two hours of discussion.
Later his office issued a formal statement: ‘During the election campaign I met many people who benefit from the Accord Centre. They put a good case to me for the future of the facility. They told me that a commitment had been made to them by Glasgow City Council some years ago, that if the centre had to go to make way for the Commonwealth Games as part of the local authority’s programme of modernisation, then they would be offered a like-for-like replacement. I was asked to come and see the centre so that I could understand why those who benefit from the services it provides believe that the alternative they are being offered is not appropriate. Today I was proud to meet staff, carers and service users as well as local people campaigning to save the centre. I think it is an important service for the community and I will continue to urge Glasgow City Council to ensure it is re-housed in suitable premises.’
Glasgow City Council is preparing a detailed response to the issues raised by the families who are fighting for the Accord Centre for publication on this website. Their spokesman said that 22 of the registered users of the Accord Centre had agreed to move to a Centre in Riddrie and were due to start on Monday 23 May.