A group which supports people with learning difficulties has pledged to fight for their future in the face of potential Falkirk Council funding cuts.
Falkirk Equal People Group, which meets in Grangemouth’s Community Education Unit, encourages those with either physical or learning difficulties or mental health problems to become more independent. It also acts as an advocate for social justice and equal opportunities to improve social educational and recreational opportunities for the 60 group members.
The council currently gives the group a free let all year round, which works out at between £12 and £17 per week. However, budget proposals could see this help withdrawn and the group, which is self funding, would be forced to rethink its accommodation and maybe even stop operating altogether.
Group members themselves worked hard over a matter of months to organise a special meeting at the Education Unit last week, inviting elected representatives of Falkirk Council to come along and hear members’ presentations on why the group is so important in the community.
Steven, a carer who attends the group, said: “My youngest child is five and has cerebral palsy and is on the autistic spectrum. This group has really helped me and it needs to be here in the future to support people like my son.”
Sadly, the meeting fell on the same evening as a Holocaust remembrance event and only one of the invited guests, Councillor Robert Spears, attended.
Undeterred by the no-shows and the fact their meeting had not had the impact they had hoped for, the group agreed to take the fight, and their 400-signature petition against funding cuts, to the council and decided to send a delegation of members to the local authority’s vitally important budget meeting on Wednesday, February 17.
Councillor Spears said: “It’s very important to know the effects cuts could make. It’s good to see so many of you here tonight to stand up for this.”
Ian Hood, co-ordinator of the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, said: “This would be an example of an extremely short-sighted cut. If this group goes then you are going to see more people demanding support from health services and social services and this will end up costing a lot more money.
“The potential cuts to this group are not the only ones that could be made, but Falkirk Equal People Group is just as important as other local services. We are going to ask for a delegation to go to Falkirk Council.
“If the mountain won’t come to you, then you must go to the mountain.”
Netta Cummings, who leads the group, added: “I want the council to know the hard work that has gone into this. We have been working on this for a long time.”
During the meeting members stood up and gave short speeches on why the group was important to them.
John Hepburn said: “Netta makes us work hard – but it’s worthwhile. We don’t just sit down on our bums and drink tea and coffee here.
“It’s good to see everyone here supporting one another. We have a voice too and it’s important. We’ve got to do something about it.”
Another member said: “If I didn’t have this I would be at home with no outside contact.”