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We need more people with resilience and courage to oppose any attack on services for the learning disabled

IT has been heartening to see the range of writers, artists, politicians and academics coming out in support of people with learning disabilities and their families who are campaigning to keep open their day centres in Glasgow ("Kelman: Centre closures are attack on vulnerable", The Herald, December 17, and Letters, December 17, 18 & 19).

Day centres remain important places for many people with learning disabilities who value the skills they learn, the friends they make and the opportunities they get to know more about the world. The Glasgow day centres have continued to develop connections to the communities. Now only half the people attending Glasgow centres do so for five days a week. The rest have active alternative opportunities in the community supported by day centre staff. But rather than let this develop at the pace of people who have a learning disability, the council wants to shut these centres in a rush to save money by extending its personalisation process.

The alternative for those who lose their place will rarely be the full and active participation in the community that council staff promise. Instead the reality is likely to be, as Mencap, the learning disability charity ,found earlier this year in its Stuck at Home report: "Cuts to day services for people with a learning disability have been extensive. As a result, many people with a learning disability are finding themselves stuck at home with nothing to do, isolated and scared about the future"

When the council first announced that it would close the three day centres many people thought it was a done deal and there was little that could be done to stop it. But the resilience and courage of the people of Glasgow have shone through. Families have supported each other, phoned, written and met with their politicians and done what they could to encourage Glasgow City Council to change their mind.

However we are a long way from winning that change yet. In Dundee, day centres are also threatened with closure. In Aberdeen, the council plans more than £3m in savings to learning disability services. In Dumfries and Galloway, personalisation is under review by councillors because it hasn't saved enough money. Are we beginning to see an institutional attack on services and support for people with learning disabilities in Scotland?

Ian Hood,

Co-ordinator,

Learning Disability Alliance Scotland,

5 Rose Street, Edinburgh.

ONE of the biggest factors contributing to the reduction in support to disabled people in Glasgow is the individual needs assessment and resource allocation system which is used to calculate a person's individual care budget. Members of our trade union whose job it is to undertake these assessments have repeatedly told Unison that the system is primarily geared to ensure a budget which provides only a basic level of support. Self-Directed Support (SDS) and personalisation should of course be about much more and include notions of full social participation, active citizenship and maximising employment and education opportunities.

The fact that Glasgow City Council's current position is to cut 11% from the city's £90m adult social care budget through personalisation, including a 53% cut in the learning disability day service workforce, is perhaps the reason why so many people don't believe council officials when they talk about promoting independence and choice through the current proposals. Genuine SDS and personalisation costs money and should not be seen as a cheap alternative.

Those who oppose the cuts to the council's learning disability services should strongly argue that the individual needs assessment and resource allocation system is radically improved to reflect a genuine personalised approach. Our politicians should also be campaigning for more money overall for the city's vital services rather than just passing on the Coalition Government's cuts.

Secondly, the characterisation by some senior council officials of the current services as "exclusive and institutionalised" is a misrepresentation of what actually happens on the ground. Many individuals are currently supported by the council's day service workforce to access community-based leisure, social and educational opportunities.

Could this be better funded and managed? Of course. However the setting-up of "straw men" who can then be publicly knocked down is not a helpful contribution to the debate on how best to organise social work services in Glasgow.

Brian Smith,

Branch secretary,

Unison Glasgow City,

84 Bell Street, Glasgow.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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