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Carers hit out at 'heartless' council day centre closures

Carers hit back at Glasgow City Council decision to close three learning disability day centres.

Learning disability cuts - carers
© STV

A group of Glasgow carers have hit out following the city council’s decision to close three learning disability day centres.

Carers called the decision ‘heartless’ and ‘shameful’ and are now seeking legal advice on how best to move forward.

At the local authority's executive committee meeting on Thursday (March 21), a proposal was passed to reduce the number of day centres in the city from seven to three.

This means the closure of Berryknowes in Cardonald, Hinshaw Street in Maryhill and Summerston day centres.

Tommy Gorman attended the meeting at the City Chambers. His 23-year-old daughter Patsy attends the Summerston facility.

He said: “It was expected. We didn’t expect anything better of Councillor Kerr or Councillor Matheson given their activities in the bogus consultation period.

“So although we’re very disappointed and upset, the campaign will continue.

“We’re taking serious legal advice; we have a meeting with our solicitor on Monday. Tomorrow we will send a petition to the public petitions committee of the Scottish Parliament asking for an enquiry into the conduct of the council during this sham consultation process.

“There are many issues with the consultation process, the main being that the council communicated with less than ten of the families involved. The biggest consultation held was the meeting organised by carers and families, at which 350 families were represented.

“Some of the carers were very clear. If the councils proposals go ahead they will have to give up work.

“Other carers said that they would need to consider putting their family member into care. Apart from the heartlessness of it all, it’ll have a greater impact on the public purse in the long run.”

The social work department currently provide day centre services for 520 adults with learning disabilities.

A study by social work services found that currently 30 non-council providers supported approximately 75% of the city’s adults with learning disabilities.

With the introduction of the personalisation process – a form of social care tailored to the needs of individuals, allowing more choice and control – it is envisaged this number will be reduced to 200.

Four day centres across the city – Riddrie, Carlton, The Wedge and Southbrae – will be retained for those with the most complex needs.

The council has given an undertaking that the closures will be carefully managed and noone will leave their day centre until they have their own personal care plan detailing how they will be supported in future.

Councillor Matt Kerr, executive member for Social Care, presented the report.

He said: “We have looked at the consultation responses very carefully and I am convinced that what we have planned is the right way ahead.

“These plans will put service users and carers at the very heart of the effort to modernise our learning disability day services.

“Through a partnership, service users, service providers, and carers now have the opportunity tailor support to their own needs.

“I fully understand that the effort to modernise our day service represent a big change and that people can feel nervous.

“But service users who have already moved on from day centres make it clear they do not want to go back. With the right support in place, they have relished having more control over their lives.”

The proposals will not see a reduction in the total amount spent on care budgets for service users.

More than ten anti-closure campaigners were in attendance at the council meeting with Councillor Billy McAllister and Councillor Susan Aitken representing their views on the committee.

Both of the SNP councillors were in attendance at a meeting on Sunday with 350 carers, service users and union members to discuss the possible closures.

Councillor McAllister said: “Nobody from this administration went to the meeting on Sunday. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

The councillor, who represents Canal, went on to read a letter to the committee from a 77-year-old carer whose 47-year-old severely disabled daughter has attend day services for 30 years.

Councillor Aitken then proposed an amendment to the report, which would remove the proposals to close the three day centres.

She said: “The core flaw of this report is that it's putting the cart before the horse by starting with closures.

“You can't impose empowerment without consent.”

Leader of the council, Gordon Matheson, moved to pass the original report. The motion went through and the amendment was not passed.

In January carers, disability activists and unionists protested against the cuts in George Square.

Some who attended the protest were at the March executive committee meeting and could not contain their anger as they left.

Laura

Laura McCourt

Laura McCourt, 30, was in attendance outside the City Chambers on Thursday (March 21).

Laura's mother Helen said: “There is always going to be a need for day centres, I think they should keep them and modernise them.

“What they’ve done today is shameful. They’re saying it is about choice – there is no choice in it.

“It is heartbreaking. I’m going to keep fighting this. It is about their human rights and they can’t be ignored by our council.

“We vote these people in and they’ve shut three day centres today. There is no way they’re getting away with that, it’s not right. These people are the most vulnerable in Glasgow and we need to look after them."

Brian Smith, branch secretary of Glasgow UNISON, echoed the carers’ anger.

He said: “We’re angry, disappointed and probably not surprised at the decision today.

“UNISON agrees with the points made by the carers at Sunday’s meeting that there was inadequate consultation.

“Regardless of what happens with our members of the workforce, we’ll continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the carers in their campaign.

“There are 250 members of staff in the learning disability service and the council want to cut that down to 150. Those in the 100 jobs will be deployed to other areas in social care where their experience will be lost.

“Around 50 have chosen instead to take early retirement because they can see that there is no future in their role.”

Carer Tommy Gorman also suggested that Councillor Gordon Matheson step down as leader of Glasgow City Council.

He said: “Councillor Matheson is in the press today saying that there was no public appetite for the alterations to George Square, so the council decided not to go ahead with the proposals.

“Of the 520 families involved in the day centre closures, we haven’t come across anyone who supports the council’s position so it would be logical that Councillor Matheson should reverse the decision on the closure of the day centres.

“It leaves us in a position to question the political integrity of Gordon Matheson and from the meeting today, seeing the decision that they’ve made in the face of the democratic wish of the people affected, he should support the learning disability community of Glasgow and resign office today.”

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