Parents’ reaction to council award

Children, carers and parents were out in force on Saturday to gain support  for Achievement Bute at a rally in Guildford Square.
Children, carers and parents were out in force on Saturday to gain support for Achievement Bute at a rally in Guildford Square.

Two Bute parents have given a less-than-favourable reaction to news that Argyll and Bute Council’s Children and Families Service has received an award.

The department won a gold award at the annual CoSLA Excellence Awards ceremony, in the category ‘securing a workforce for the future’.

A council news release stated: “The redesign of children and families social work included listening to the views of staff who provide the service and to those of the young people who receive it, giving them confidence in knowing that their opinions are valued and lead to changes which put young people at the heart of the service.”

Local parent Raemarie Lilley, said in response to the news: “I would like to congratulate the frontline staff on winning the gold award for ‘Securing a workforce for the future’ for Argyll and Bute Council’s Children and Families Service.

“However, I would like to ask the council a couple of questions.

“Firstly, Mark Lines on the CoSLA YouTube clip suggests ‘listening to our young people, listening to our clients, what became absolutely clear was that our service is our staff’.

“My first question is who did the council actually talk to before making the decision to get rid of the children affected with disability teams? Did the council consult with families on this decision? I don’t think so.

“In the CoSLA statement on their website it says ‘The project took a bottom-up approach to service delivery, maximising frontline professional social works, ensuring they were effectively deployed and building effective supports through professional development’.

“Well I don’t see this in my local community. SDS - self-directed support - became live in April 2014, and now in March 2015 (a year late), because of the way the council is implementing SDS on a rigid hourly rate, we see local charity Achievement Bute having no choice but to stop their care at home service.

“Very few families have had SDS assessments carried out by the council’s ‘effectively deployed’ staff, leaving local families feeling anxious and vulnerable.

“That it ‘created independent reviewing of all children’, I find very concerning as never mind the reviews - you’ve got to be assessed in the first place!

“The statement also says ‘The project delivered £480,000 of savings’ and ‘The learning from this process is now being extended into other service redesign and embedded into approaches to the management and leadership of change across the council’.

“This statement, on top of my understanding that in the financial year 2016/17 the council is making another approximate £32 million of cuts, would suggest to other local vulnerable groups and organisations - be aware, be very aware.”

Another Bute parent, Sara Goss, spoke of her concerns that the island is ‘being forgotten’ in an open letter addressed to Mr Clelland Sneddon, Executive Director of Community Services within Argyll and Bute Council, and Mr Mark Lines, Service Manager of Operations in the council’s Children and Families Service.

Ms Goss said: “I think it was the part in the 2015 COSLA Awards video when you Mr Lines, as a GOLD award winner, discussing ‘transformational change of the services required for vulnerable children’ you succinctly highlighted the need to put children and your workforce at the centre of the review - that I finally and officially lost it.

“I have now morphed into a placard-waving, meeting-going, email writing parent with a disabled child. I now see my own council as a force of opposition rather than assistance.

“I have been aware that the services provided to my child through Achievement Bute have been under threat since November 2014.

“I contacted your department then to ask what will happen to our family if you do not find a workable way to fund Achievement Bute, the only charity managing statutory care services for vulnerable and disabled children on the isle of Bute.

“You sat in my living room and promised to find a way and yet since then you have not delivered that outcome. Mr Sneddon and Mr Lines, you both have failed this island, and you have failed at least17 families that I know of on this island in providing basic, frontline services to our children with disabilities, their siblings and their families.

“I need you both to know, Mr Sneddon and Mr Lines, that your lack of organisational and financial foresight in disabled children’s care provision on the isle of Bute has led me to write this letter. And has led me to frankly lose my valuable family time on issues your department should have handled a whole lot better a long time ago.

“So, furiously typing at my computer in the last two weeks, I have written to both you, Mr Sneddon, and Mr Lines, requesting an answer as to who is to continue the diabetic care I receive from Achievement Bute after March 31.

“I received a reply, but no answer. I visited our local social work department to ask them when the dreaded Self Directed Support assessment will commence for my daughter to ensure she will continue to receive her care. I received two replies, but no answers.

“I stayed in touch with the other families that are about to lose their help, I signed a petition, and yes, at the very end, on Saturday, March 14 in Guildford Square, I held a placard, and asked people to sign a petition to ‘Save Achievement Bute’s’ funding.

“I can tell you, Mr Sneddon and Mr Lines, it was really cold on Saturday. We met with our local paper, met with our wider community, and met with one of our local supportive councillors, Councillor Robert Macintyre. We have already been given support from Councillor Isobel Strong and MSP Mike Russell.

“And the irony was, both my kids were at an Achievement Bute playday, so I could manage two hours of standing in the cold asking for people to support our only charity that supports vulnerable and disabled children on Bute.

“Please, Mr Lines, when you accepted your CoSLA gold award that celebrates the best in Scottish Local Government practices, did you just forget us? Did the ‘Bute’ part of Argyll and Bute Council just get lost again?

“Is this island to be forgotten also for children’s frontline services?

“I need answers, and I need one within two weeks. I need to know who is coming to my house on April 2 at 3.45pm to take my daughter to Highland Dancing. If not Achievement Bute, then who?”