MSP calls on council to ditch cuts for vulnerable adults following damning criticism from Care Commission


Labour's Highlands and Islands MSP, Peter Peacock, wants the new administration on Highland Council to ditch cuts in services for Adults with Learning Disabilities following damming criticism by the Care Commission of the resources made available by the Council to the Corbett Centre in Inverness.

The Care Commission carried out an investigation into the level of staffing the Council made available to the Corbett Centre after a complaint from a family which uses the facility was not addressed to their satisfaction by the Council.

The Commission upheld the complaint and in what Peter Peacock described as a "devastating critique" told the Council its service to centre users "is not able to meet the health and welfare needs of all the service users" and the Council was "operating in breach of regulations".

The Care Commission also found the service was "short of staff", that activities for centre users had been "cancelled regularly" and that "staff morale was found to be very low".

The Council was told it must take action to remedy matters.

As soon as he became aware of the damning findings of the Care Commission, Peter Peacock wrote to Director of Social Work, Harriet Dempster seeking answers to a series of questions.

Peacock has been campaigning for clarity from the Social Work Department about proposed changes to care services which he describes in a further letter to the Director of Social Work as having a "continuing lack of clarity at what, precisely, the implications are for adults with learning disabilities of the move to an `in control' approach to service delivery."

Mr Peacock who, as part of a previously scheduled visit was at the Corbett Centre last week with local Councillor Bet McAllister, said that staff morale at the Centre seemed low and he had concerns over the lack of communication with staff from the Social Work Department on what was going on.

Peter Peacock has now written to new Council leader Michael Foxley urging him to ditch planned cuts in the budget for adults with learning disabilities.

Peter Peacock said:

"The findings of the Care Commission are damning.

" It is absolutely clear to me the Council cannot make the savings forced on the Social Work Department by the last administration and meet the Care Commission requirements.

"I am urging the new administration to ditch the cuts and sort out their future plans."

He went on to raise serious questions about the action plan the Council had been forced to produce by the Care Commission, part of which authorises staff to cancel the attendance of users when staff absence occurs.

He has asked the Director of Social Work for assurances that such cancellations will only be wholly exceptional and not become the norm.

He said,

"From the outside you could be forgiven for forming the view that the Department has started the process of deliberately running down the day care centres before the alternative strategy they are talking about is fully understood, costed, or in place.

"In light of the findings of the Care Commission, Highland Council need to take immediate steps to resolve the staffing shortages at the Corbett Centre and ensure there are adequate arrangements to cover staff absence.

"It cannot be right that service users are deprived their opportunity to attend the centre as the Council can't secure absence cover.

"To try and make huge cuts in this budget while not yet meeting the existing needs of users is not a sustainable strategy.

"Despite the best efforts of the staff who are at the Centre, the care of the users is being compromised because they do not have the staff they need.

"I saw and heard from users the benefits that are enjoyed by coming to the Corbett Centre and visiting other services for them in Brora, for example.

"Users are supported in a whole range of activities and outreach services, some of which have been cancelled due to staff vacancies not being filled or there being inadequate cover for sickness.

"The ability to offer a quality service is dictated by the staffing.

"The Centre is working with more people with high dependencies and it is vital that staffing reflects these needs.

"Users requiring one to one care should have that without reducing the availability of staff qualified to provide a quality service to other users.

"I have already been campaigning against cuts in the Councilís budget of £700,000 to re-organise the services in centres for those with learning disabilities in the Highlands.

"The new administration has the opportunity to rectify the matter by removing the threat of cuts, which there is no chance will be delivered anyway, even if that requires using some of the £17 million of reserves they hold.

"I am more determined than ever to ensure that the plans to "modernise" learning disability centres in the Highlands does not mean cutting budgets for trained staff and running down facilities that provide lifelines for those using the centres and their families, in advance of possible future service changes."

Local Labour Councillor Bet McAllister who visited the Corbett Centre last week with Peter Peacock said,

"I was horrified to learn of the Care Commissions findings.

"I immediately raised the matter with the Chair of the Social Work Committee and I have had a number of discussions with her and the Director since. I want to see the current problems sorted out quickly and never recur.

"We cannot make cuts in services for the most vulnerable in our society when we are not even meeting their current needs.

"The last administration were wrong to try and do so and we now have a chance to put that right.

"I will support any moves review the budget to ensure we provide the services we want and the Care Commission are demanding."

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Download background files : Care Commission report   Correspondence  Council Action Plan


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