Tuesday, 12 November 2013

East End Carers Abandoned by Labour Council

I spent this morning in the company of carers and service users in a cafe in the Parkhead district of the East End of Glasgow. 

It was an enjoyable morning speaking to strong, campaigning women who clearly cared deeply about their families, and were seething with rage at the lack of support they have received in recent years from Glasgow City Council. 

Obviously I, like most other people in Glasgow, had looked on in horror as the Labour Party callously ordered the demolition of the Accord Centre, a much-loved day centre on the Springfield Road for people with learning disabilities in the East End in order to build a car park. 

Labour promised that the demolished centre would be replaced by a brand new centre locally, but as part of what I learned today was a continued attack on disabled people's services in the city, they reneged on that promise, leaving these often vulnerable people without any day care centre. 

This is in pursuit of personalisation, where the Council want to care for vulnerable people within the community at large. This is an absolutely laudable aim, but it can't be a stand-alone service: it must be backed up with day centres to avoid social exclusion, and by respite care to allow dedicated carers some breathing space. Service users are now being restricted to six hours per week and/or care to the value of £8.000 per annum. This simply isn't good enough.

They have now introduced the most punitive penalties on people with learning difficulties of almost any local authority in the European Union. For instance, I learned today that for providing any service for people with learning disabilities, the Council charges a minimum of £26, which has to be found from their benefits. 

This isn't like charging a 30-year-old man with a broken leg for a nurse to come round and change his cast: this is taking a substantial percentage of benefit every week from people with learning difficulties from the day they leave school until they reach retirement age, to provide a service which is going to be needed every week of every year of their life. 

People with learning disabilities are being used as a cash cow by Glasgow City Council. 

One of the service users with whom I spoke today said that all she wanted was a new centre, as promised. She had gone to the Accord Centre regularly, but now that it is closed, she badly misses the many friends she had made at the Accord, now seeing them only once a week. 

Imagine if you were told you could only interact with your friends once a week? You'd be horrified. So why, then, is it right for the Council to impose that isolation and exclusion on people simply because they have learning disabilities and need a little bit of support? 

Shettleston is a ward which is having war waged on its people by a council run by a party machine and a political class which operates at a complete disconnect from local people. 

It is a ward ill-served by the Labour Party diverting over half a million pounds of money intended for the regeneration of the local area into the pocket of one of their chums, Ronnie Saez, in a deal approved by three Glasgow Labour Party councillors.

And it is a ward which is to host the Commonwealth Games next year, an event which will allow the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council to bask in the reflected glory of athletic achievement, and which will benefit the people of Shettleston not one iota. 

One of the complaints about the contempt with which the Council is treating the residents of the local area which I received today was that the warm pool used by children at Tollcross Swimming Baths has been shut to prepare for the Commonwealth Games. 

I contacted Tollcross Swimming Baths today to confirm when it would reopen, and was told that it wouldn't be until at least 6. January, and that it may not reopen until after the 14-day Commonwealth Games. 

A year-long exclusion for local children and pensioners from their local pool in order to host a two week long sporting extravaganza, from which there will come no significant number of jobs for local people, nor even a free ticket to any event for local people. 

If a mother wants to take her two children swimming, therefore, she will have to do so in Easterhouse or the Gorbals, needing two buses. That's an extra £4 on the bus, plus £1,50 each for the two kids. An extra £7 for a swim before you even get your toes wet (and to get your toes wet, you'll be paying another exorbitant admission fee). 

Why shouldn't local people get free use of the facilities built for the Commonwealth Games? With £600.000.000 of our money spent on the event, surely local people should be rewarded, and not punished, for their hospitality. 

Instead, all that's been done is a bit of tarmac and paving on the London Road Zil lane (with potholes aplenty still engulfing cars and ankles alike on the Shettleston Road, to which few, if any of the visiting dignitaries and athletes will be invited to visit) while local residents get services slashed and withdrawn; victims of an event sponsored by ATOS, the very company which is telling people with terminal cancer that they are perfectly fit for full-time work. 

It seems that everyone is abandoning the East End. Shops are closing in the Forge because they can't pay the going rate for rent, leaving ugly gaps in the local area, which are being filled by pawnshops, pound shops and gambling dens. It's inconceivable that the Council would allow this to happen to St Enoch or Buchanan Galleries, so why should it happen to Shettleston or Govan? 

Labour have had half a century of running this city, and there's still dog shit dotting the streets like landmines. Their "Landscape Design Manager" let slip yesterday that she is charging ratepayers £10.000 per year to have a guy with a big stick knocking a cone off a statue's head. Perhaps that money could be better diverted to an area which has been so abandoned by Glasgow City Council and the world in general over the years that it now doesn't have a single bank, but has just had to open a foodbank.

The people I met today are inspiration people, battling for their families. 

They deserve so much better than what they're getting.

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