Staff rebel to save disability centre

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In a direct appeal to the First Minister, a council-run learning disability centre in Argyll fought back against plans to close it, claiming it would be ‘completely abhorrent and irresponsible’ for its managers to shut the ‘highest scoring’ service ‘without consultation’.

Staff at Lochgilphead Resource Centre, as employees of Argyll and Bute Council, couldn’t form a protest group, but still joined 40 parents, carers and volunteers at an emergency meeting to oppose closure planned by the Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP).

HSCP officials proposed more than 400 job cuts and closing council-run care homes, day care and disability centres to save £13 million to balance this year’s budget.

The governing Integrated Joint Board met yesterday (Wednesday March 28) to decide which cuts to adopt. But some of the deepest, such as risking 275 redundancies by shutting council-run care homes like Eader Glynn, Gortanvogie, and Tigh a Rhuda, were to be decided in private.

The health minister has criticised the HSCP for its lack of transparency, and urged it to reconsider (see page three).

The centre’s staff compiled views from disabled people. ‘I can’t live without it,’ one commented. ‘My confidence is growing by the day,’ said another. ‘I don’t know what I’d do without this place,’ another added. ‘I don’t know what I would do at home. I’d feel depressed.’

Care Inspectorate reports ‘consistently’ gave the centre its ‘highest grade’ since 2008, the letter continued, and ‘clearly demonstrate outcomes are being met in all areas’. ‘It is therefore of great concern that the HSCP potentially does not agree, despite the fact that since the inception of the HSCP there has been little in the way of support or even a cursory visit.’

One staff member said: ‘This appears to be a done deal waiting to be rubber-stamped which is already having an adverse emotional impact on staff.’ Another asked: ‘If this is at the proposal stage, then why is [staff redeployment] to commence prior to the meeting of the IJB?’

They were also anxious about how private providers could match the centre’s services, arguing: ‘Private providers have in the past and likely will in the future pull out of obligations. Who will be there to bail these services out? How can private providers realistically provide these services when they already struggle to recruit?’

The HSCP told The Oban Times: ‘We are aware that speculation over the proposals has been unsettling and we will make sure that staff, our local communities and other interested parties are promptly informed of the outcome from the meeting and that appropriate engagement/consultation processes are carried out as required.’