Residents who say they’re being ignored by council demand answers

Neil McHugh and his son Steven, who are anxious about major changes to services for disabled people.
Neil McHugh and his son Steven, who are anxious about major changes to services for disabled people.

A move to shut two Falkirk disability centres has infuriated the parents and carers of some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

Day centres at Bainsford and Camelon were this week confirmed as set for closure, in a decision which will finally take effect by summer next year.

However, Falkirk Council argues its shake-up will deliver an approach to care which is better attuned to the needs of individuals able to cope with a greater degree of independent living.

The possibility of closing some of four local facilities fuelled concern in summer, when service users learned major changes were planned to the service with as yet unknown consequences for some individuals.

For several parents of young people with learning disabilities the process has seemed confusing and uninformative.

However, in summer this year the council said it was following national policy changes, which envisage a move towards seeking “to empower people to have greater choice and control over their support”.

It has also been working on a ten year strategy, Keys to Life (2013), for “delivering improvements” for people with learning disabilities and their carers.

These are to include enhanced opportunities for living independently, with equal access and participation in all aspects of community and society.

But with closures of familiar services threatened, some parents fear their children will become lost in the transition to a new system.

Carronshore mum Mary Walker says the closure of the Bainsford centre will be a devastating blow for her son Derek, who has used the centre since he was 16 – he is now 49.

She is writing to the head of service at Falkirk Council, and to both First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her MP John McNally in a bid to force a rethink on the plan.

She said: “This decision must be overturned. This centre is where their whole life is, where their friends are, and where they go every day.

“We need assurances this centre will not close.”

Neil McHugh, whose disabled son Steven uses the Dundas centre in Grangemouth, says he is sceptical about the real reason for the changes.

“We feel we are not being treated seriously, or as individuals,” he said.

“Some people left a supposed consultation meeting in disgust because we just weren’t getting answers to any of the obvious questions – it seemed the council had made their minds up and were just going through the motions.”

Meanwhile, Pamela and Ralph Young of Shieldhill say their son Neale - who attends the Bainsford centre – could be left socially isolated in an area where there is no opportunity for someone with his learning disability to make friends.

“There are problems with the Bainsford centre that would cost a great deal to put right, and we all know costs have to be cut,” he said.

“But a lot of people have no idea what will happen to them or how they are going to cope.”

Service users have been kept informed about the major shake-up of disability services, stressed a spokesperson for Falkirk’s Integrated Joint Board.

They confirmed the Bainsford Centre in Waverley Street and the centre in Glasgow Road, Camelon would definitely close by the autumn of next year.

But they gave an assurance the Oswald Avenue Centre and Dundas Resource Centre, both in Grangemouth, will remain open.

It is expected that annual 
savings of £460,000 will come from the two closures.

However, with the cost of repairing the dilapidated roof of the Bainsford centre estimated at around £1.6 millon not having to carry out this work will be a massive saving on the already stretched budget.

The spokesperson said: “We are working with service users to help them with the changes to the service and have kept them informed along with their carers, parents and other providers throughout the process.

“Regular meetings/consultations have taken place since February (14 in total) and staff have been updated via regular meetings.

“We have also kept the Care Inspectorate informed of our approach.

”Our staff will continue to develop other community based activities and other alternative opportunities, enabling service users to access support appropriate to their need.”

The council’s draft savings proposals said: “Transformational savings will be delivered through managing demand getting prevention right, diverting more people away from formal paid service, through reablement.

“The approach to savings will be enabled and supported by implementation of revised eligibility framework, operating tighter criteria and offering lower cost packages of care to meet need where that is appropriate.”