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Fairness and honesty needed more than slogan

When a council appears to place more value on high-profile projects like refurbishing George Square or the Commonwealth Games,than it does on vulnerable people with learning disabilities and mental health issues, the last thing it needs is more gimmicks.

So, to suggest that Glasgow City Council's unloved Public Social Partnership (PSP) may not be helped by its name, and to replace the unwieldy jargon with the more friendly badge "The Life I Want" is worrying. It is a clear indication of the lack of leadership, strategy and direction from the people currently leading the public social partnership in Glasgow.

The PSP is said to be designed to provide replacements for day centres in the city people have decided to close. But as a member of the "vocal and very angry carers lobby" referenced in a Herald Society article last month - that is the families directly affected - I'd like to point out that day centre closures have already been implemented and there are no signs of any new, innovative services.

The new reality for many disabled people is moving from a safe, warm and adequately staffed day centre to spending much of their time in garden centres, shopping malls and other public places.

That is why many people affected are insulted by the suggestion that "the partnership will devise new services replacing the old day centre model, services requested, chosen and built by disabled people themselves".

Hinshaw Street closed in September and Berryknowes shut its doors four days after the article appeared. The majority of day centre users who have left Hinshaw Street, Summerston and other day centres have been directed to an existing building-based day centre in Drumchapel run by Enable Glasgow.

A number of families who no longer have access to a day centre have been badly affected by a callous process. The brother of a service user who left Hinshaw Street has been forced to leave his job in the NHS to become his 42-year-old sibling's full-time carer.

Other families who are reaching crisis point complain about being forced through an assessment process despite the fact some of them have legal guardianship status.

PSP members repeating a myth about buses being hired "to take people around in huge groups of up to 40" does not help the discussion.

Meanwhile, the argument that replacing day centres for people with disabilities in Glasgow is supported by research and by many charities omitted one fact: the big charities supporting the closure of the day centres in the city are themselves major service providers with significant economic interests and potentially stand to benefit from the removal of council services.

The PSP is largely a deal between these commercial organisations with carers and service users included as an afterthought. These are firms working in a market to sell services and our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters are reduced to commodities to be bought and sold to preferred bidders.

All the meetings and protests that have taken place since November 2012 show the lack of support among hundreds of affected families for the PSP.

In all of these events day centre users were not only well represented but many of them spoke up to say why they did not want to lose their day centre community and the contact with their friends and well-trained support staff. There is no support for the closures from centre users who have the capacity to understand what is happening.

While some disabled people are in the fortunate position of being able to accurately articulate their wishes and take advantage of personalisation, most users of the day centres are not in this position. Their needs should not be confused with those of the more capable.

To think that Glasgow is leading the country on the personalisation of learning disability day care services in Scotland is worrying - many of the families affected by the day centre closure are concerned the social work department is leading a race to the bottom as far as care for vulnerable people and their families are concerned.

The recent closure of the Charlie Reid Centre, which offers support for adults with mental health problems, is another indication of the road many vulnerable adults are being forced down.

This New Year, there is a real need for independent and adequately funded research that scrutinises every aspect of learning disability service in Glasgow including the quality of service and financial management.

Such research carried out by recognised academic experts must be a priority for all who are genuinely concerned to move on from the current lack of trust.

Let Glasgow flourish - by telling the full story.

Tommy Gorman is leading the carers' campaign against learning disability day centre closures which affect his 21-year-old daughter Patsy.

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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