Protestors ‘may occupy’ care homes under threat

Kevin and Laura Owens launched Save Our Bield in a bid to keep the care homes open.  Picture: Michael Gillen.
Kevin and Laura Owens launched Save Our Bield in a bid to keep the care homes open. Picture: Michael Gillen.

Protesters fighting to halt the closure of Bield care homes in Bonnybridge and across Scotland could stage an occupation of the firm’s premises.

This possibility was mentioned several times - in one case by UNISON Scottish Organiser John Gallacher - during Saturday’s packed emergency meeting of campaigning group Save Our Bield.

The group was launched by Bonnybridge woman Laura Owens, whose gran is one of 160 Bield care home residents caught up in a closures row.

It is studying ways of forcing the Scottish Government to take a direct interest in homes builder Bield’s plan to ditch its 12-strong care homes portfolio because of losses.

Speaker after speaker at the Glasgow session lambasted the “disgraceful” and “outrageous” lack of response to the crisis from the SNP administration at Holyrood, with claims a 9,000-name petition has been simply ignored.

Two hundred employees are to lose their jobs, and - said UNISON - will on average each receive just £2,500 in redundancy payment.

John Gallacher dismissed Bield’s losses as “paper clip money” - possibly as little as £250,000.

He said the Holyrood regime could easily cover the claimed deficit while trying to figure out how to replace a system which “treats people like pieces of furniture to be moved around”.

High profile MSPs Neil Findlay and Johann Lamont, the only Holyrood representatives to attend, both said they would do their best to get key Holyrood ministers to acknowledge both the protesters and the danger of a wider crisis.

Laura Owens said: “At what point in our history did we decide that ‘care of the elderly’ and ‘profit’ should appear in the same sentence?”

The whole argument brought to light by the Bield debacle should be about people and not cash, she insisted. “My gran is 87 and has two children, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren,” she said.

“She once worked as an Avon Lady, then in Tesco, from where she retired at the age of 74. She is a real person with a past - and also with a future”.

Now, Mrs Owens said, she is one of the 160 residents set to be driven from their homes with “no consultation, no choice and no respect”.

Laura’s husband, Kevin, said that while most people tend to put up with government decisions they don’t agree with some issues that have to be tackled.

“We can win this one”, he said, to loud applause.

Bield’s housing and care director, Charlie Dickson, said: “The decision to close our care homes is very much a last resort option and the result of a number of complex and varied factors.

“The wellbeing of our residents remains of paramount importance to us and we fully understand how stressful this position is for both them and their families.

“Everything is being done to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible and we remain committed to maintaining the current level of care and support in our homes until residents have found alternative arrangements.”