East Carers Open Letter to Gordon Matheson
Dear Mr. Matheson,
We are writing this open letter to you because a suitable Day Care replacement Centre has still not been found since the Accord Centre was demolished for a Commonwealth Games bus park. This means there is now no purpose-built day centre in the whole East End of Glasgow. That the Accord centre was closed down by the City Council because of the Games is indisputable, as letters to carers from Labour Party Councillor, Euan MacLeod (08.03.2011), and SNP Social Care spokesperson, David McDonald (17.03.2011), confirm.
The relocation of users and carers from the Accord Centre to the Bambury centre in Barrowfield is unsuitable and inappropriate as we have expressed many times and as the First Minister, Alex Salmond agrees. The Accord Centre provided a vital sense of community and ‘home’ to service-users with highly specialised needs, because of the availability of specialist equipment for the learning disabled and because of the exclusive use of the building during the day. The Bambury Community Centre, for the many reasons outlined in the East Carers response to the Joint Improvement Team (JIT) report on Accord Centre re-provisioning, does not provide a substitute for the security and comfort to service-users that a purpose-built learning disability centre, such as the Accord centre, can bring.
What must be emphasized again and again is that East Carers were offered a “new centre” to replace the Accord Centre – not an inadequate room in a community facility. This is evidenced by meeting minutes from an East Glasgow Community Health Care Partnership meeting (ECHCP) on 30th May, 2008. At this meeting Labour Councillor, Jim Coleman and Mark Feinmann, then East Glasgow CHCP Director, acknowledged the need for either a “new centre” or “new build centre” several times, with Mr. Coleman also making a “guarantee” that if the carers need a new centre then service will continue.
Users and carers of the Accord Centre had every reason to take this “guarantee” in good faith, even becoming involved in design and planning for the new build centre, as suggested by Mark Feinmann at the meeting on 30th May 2008. In a letter to Labour Councillor George Redmond, David Crawford, former Executive Director of Social Care Services, accepted that Councillor Coleman and Mark Feinmann had given a “strong message” to the East End Carers group “that a legacy development was possible”. He further stated that Raymond Bell, head of Mental Health, had confirmed Councillor Coleman and Mark Feinmann’s “commitment” to the carers was “genuine”.
In the same letter, however, David Crawford outlined a contrary position that Glasgow City Council have more recently adopted, arguing that events have changed “given the financial crisis” and thus there is “no prospect of the Council having capital to build a new centre”. We do not accept this position. We ask the City Council to make good on its guarantee to people with severe learning disabilities as a matter of urgency. We further note that a lack of money did not prevent David Crawford himself receiving an exorbitant severance package of nearly £600,000 from his job as Director of Social Work in Glasgow, while Social Work budget cuts decimate social services for the rest of us.
A further open letter has been sent to First Minister Alex Salmond, who recently re-affirmed a funding commitment to East Carers of £150,000 as part of the 2014 Games legacy for a “modern, fit for purpose facility” within the Tollcross International Swimming Centre after the Games have finished. We have no interest in a ‘political football’ game between the Labour Party and the SNP over this issue. We simply ask that a proper solution is found for the needs of people with severe learning disabilities in the East End as promised. We assure you that the ‘legacy’ ideal of the Games will forever be tainted if commitments made by both the City Council and Scottish Government are not ensured.