AS a member of one of the 520 families who will be affected by the closure of the three learning disability day centres I am confused as to how your correspondent Stephen Naysmith can describe the Glasgow City Council proposal confirming that three day centres will be closed, leaving just four day-care facilities for the whole of the city, as an olive branch to protesters ("Council modifies proposals for care changes", The Herald February 22).
In the article Councillor Susan Aitken, SNP social care spokeswoman, is wrong to say that these rehashed proposals are close to what "protesters" have asked for from the start. The main focus of discontent was and remains the loss of the three day centres which will affect people using all of the existing seven Glasgow day centres. All the council has done is to confirm that its cuts will indeed take place.
To say that the new plans offer significant concessions to work with people affected and develop alternative ways of offering support would have some credibility if not for Glasgow City Council's performance during its recent anti-consultation process which has witnessed a questionnaire that was criticised by senior academics in The Herald. We have also had the political interference of senior council officers who undermined an opportunity for carers to meet with elected members in a day centre and most recently the refusal of a request to the leader of the council, Gordon Matheson, to organise a city-wide meeting to listen to the concerns of the 520 families actually affected by the day centre closures. So much for giving those affected a say in how services are developed.
The council has met only a tiny fraction of the people hit by their closures. One of the only groups to have been fully consulted by Glasgow City Council is service providers, who have a significant commercial interest in the day centre closures which will provide access to the individual budgets of current day centre users. The council says that giving people their own budgets will allow hundreds of people with learning disabilities to participate in a range of activities that interest them. Based on their personal experience many families who currently use the service consider this could better be achieved from the safe and secure base of the day centres. However, what the council do not say is that many individual budgets will be cut, therefore greatly restricting the life chances of people with learning disabilities in Glasgow. In reality those with reduced budgets will not be able to afford the services of their choice. For the 200 or so profoundly disabled centre users the council proposal means social segregation, a negative outcome that is conveniently ignored.
The fact that the day centres will be gradually phased out over a 12-month period is little comfort to people like my daughter who depends on this lifeline service and enjoys the friendships of her peers and the highly skilled staff members in the centre she attends. Like her friends, she is given little choice in these issues that greatly affect her future.
The lack of consultation makes Councillor Matt Kerr's statement about "modernisation" of learning disability services sound ridiculous when it really means reduction or withdrawal of service for many of the 520 families hit by these closures. Despite this recent window dressing the victimisation of Glasgow's learning disability community continues.
17 Crosbie Street,
YOUR article about Glasgow City Council's modified proposals for the future of the city's day services for people with learning disabilities omitted the vital "but" from my comments as social care spokeswoman for Glasgow SNP. While it is true that the Labour administration's proposed partnership between the council, carers and service-users is a step forward – and far closer to what it should have done from the start – the fundamental problem remains.
The closure of three day centres is still presented as a fait accompli at the outset of the process, removing that choice for over 300 service users and their carers. In fact the new proposal simply confirms the administration's decision to go ahead with the closures, regardless of the outcome of any discussion with stakeholders.
That fatally undermines the proposed partnership before it has even begun and will leave carers and service users feeling even more let down by the political leadership of Glasgow City Council.
Councillor Susan Aitken,
Glasgow SNP social work spokeswoman, City Chambers, Glasgow.
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