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Talks are on-going about possible future changes at two resource and day cafe centres in Oban.
Service users, families and staff from the Lorne Resource Centre (LRC) and Lynnside Day Centre in Soroba Road have met twice with health and social care officials for official partnership discussions.
There was outrage in July when officials failed to attend organised ‘have your say’ sessions at the centres which resulted in a working group being set up involving both sides to look at planned changes.
Rooms in the centres could be reclaimed by Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) which says it needs the space to relocate social work staff who are losing their current base at Willowview Community Centre because it is being turned into a new nursery for the town in 2020.
But former MSP Mike Mackenzie, who is championing the side of service users, has posted an open letter online to Integrated Joint Board (IJB) chairman Councillor Kieron Green questioning the competency of the IJB which he says has a cumulative deficit of around £20 million.
In response, Councillor Green says ‘no final decisions’ have been taken on the details making up proposals for changes at LRC and Lynnside.
In his letter, Mr Mackenzie asked if the proposed changes were ‘purely an attempt to save money’ and asked whether the budget overrun was the ‘result of incompetence’ on the part of the IJB or because of inadequate financial contributions from Highland Health Board and Argyll and Bute Council.
Mr Mackenzie said the way in which the reorganisation of services was approached also suggested ‘a degree of incompetency’ from the IJB, with service users only becoming aware in late July of the changes that were supposed to have been completed by the end of August.
‘The builders were metaphorically waiting at the door to carry out the alterations to the building before the consultation meetings were scheduled,’ he said and added: ‘An organisation can only be judged by its actions and you will forgive me if I feel the only conclusion I can draw from all this is that the IJB lack the requisite experience and skill to carry forward the reorganisation of services being contemplated.’
In response to Mr Mackenzie’s letter, Councillor Green pointed out the distinction between the HSCP providing services within Argyll and Bute and the IJB that provides governance over the HSCP.
He also said he welcomed the balanced IJB budget approved this year, which included £6.8m of savings but acknowledged with such a large budget gap it was inevitable there would be impacts on front line services despite the best efforts of officers and the IJB to minimise these.
‘We have, of course, recognised the value of public and staff engagement as part of any planned service changes.
‘We would not, as you insinuate, attempt to proceed regardless of the effect on vulnerable members of the community. However, neither can we ignore the financial situation being faced.
‘More funding would, of course, be welcome, however as demonstrated above, I do not feel there is any evidence NHS Highland or Argyll and Bute Council would be in a position to contribute this without increases in funding from the Scottish Government,’ he said.