No ‘Legacy’ For Learning Disabilities in Dalmarnock
Mary McArthur, Grace Harrigan and Helen McCourt are part of EAST Carers Group, an independent group of parents and carers of adults between 18 to 70 years of age with severe learning disabilities.
Two weeks ago on Monday 7th March they were given the news – with only three weeks notice – that the day-centre their sons and daughters use, The Accord Centre on Springfield Road, will be closing down on March 31st, depriving them of a vital service in their area without any idea of what will take its place.
The group have been informed that the Social Work department have looked at 14 different community centres to find a replacement space, but the parents insist that communty centres are woefully inadequate to deal with the problems associated with severe learning difficulties, and that a purpose-built space is vital to their children’s well-being, as well as the well-being of carers and parents.
The lack of social services facilities currently on offer led Grace Harrigan to comment: “Shopping Centres are the new day care centres – there is nowhere else to go“.
The women related how as soon as the Commonwealth Games was ‘won’ for Glasgow, they immediately arranged a meeting with Mark Fineman (Social Work department) and local Labour Councillor Jim Coleman as they knew the development would impact on The Accord Centre. They were told that the Games Legacy Board would ensure that they would be beneficiaries of the Games Legacy.
When Helen McCourt sent a letter to Councillor Euan McLeod, Vice-Convener of the Planning Committee, reminding him of this assurance, the reply she received indicates the disdain with which ‘Legacy’ promises are treated within the Council. Below is an excerpt:
“In relation to the comment made about the ‘promise’ made in relation to funding a purpose-built day service and the funds of £250,000 being made available. I can only advise that whilst these comments may well have been made in the past, this was obviously prior to the current economic climate and the policy direction agreed by the Council in respect of the modernisation of learning difficulty services“.
Of course we all know now that ‘modernisation’ equals privatisation and the gutting of social services for private providers; that the Council’s ‘policy direction’ is geared towards achieving these goals at the expense of the unemployed and working poor; and that the ‘current economic climate’ hasn’t prevented the City Council handing huge sums of money to speculative property developers like Charles Price just across the road.
“Shame on Glasgow City Council” was Grace Harrigan’s response, adding that they weren’t asking for high-tech, high-spec facilities, just the purpose-built facilities that are a necessity for dealing with severe learning difficulties. Helen McCourt said it was “like going back to the days when the Church had to take care of the poor“, while Mary McArthur commented, “things are getting worse, i don’t want my daughters to go through what i’ve been through“.
They all told personal histories of being affected by cuts to social services over many years, making a mockery of the notion that the latest batch of cuts are stand alone measures brought on by the current economic conditions.
Given this context, and the severity of the new round of cuts, they will be campaigning hard with EAST Carers Group to make sure that purpose-built facilities are made available for those with severe learning difficulties. They came out today to support the Jaconelli family in their eviction battle; they likewise deserve wide support from the local community.