Expert fears office move will leave kids at risk
Ex-social work chief: Closing local base is‘nonsense’
The former manager of a social work department which deals with vulnerable people in Dumbarton and Alexandria believes staff will struggle to get to children in need in time once the service moves to Clydebank.
James O’Neill, who was team leader at the children and families section for five years until 2015, has branded the decision by West Dunbartonshire Council to close the local office as “utter nonsense”.
And he slammed the “efficiency” measure as he believes it could let those causing harm to kids off the hook because trained staff won’t be able to get to at risk youngsters quickly enough.
Angry James, who previously stayed in the Vale, told the Lennox Herald: “There’s a structure to interview a child under child protection procedures.
“There are too many characters who have got away with molesting children because the child wasn’t interviewed correctly.
“Within any school within Alexandria and Dumbarton, when I was there, we would respond within a maximum of 15 minutes so nobody was talking to the child that shouldn’t have been.
“That was the longest it took us to get out. It has to be an immediate response.
“They have got to get a duty social worker out who then has to make an assessment that has to be dealt with by a manager.
“If they are coming from Clydebank it’s going to take more than an hour by the time the decision’s made to getting someone down to deal with that.”
The Lennox Herald revealed last week that the Church Street office will shut with staff moving to Clydebank. However, the council reassured that “there will be no impact to vulnerable families in any part of West Dunbartonshire” as families will be able to be visited at home or at other local authority premises such as the Alexandria One Stop Shop.
However, James was left in shock having read the article on our Facebook page and admits he is sceptical about the decision which he believes goes against a national strategy stressing the importance of social work services remaining in communities.
He added: “It horrified me to say the least. It’s poorly thought out. The chief officers aren’t taking in the inferences contained in the review of social work that they should be sustained within community settings to support the most vulnerable.
“The one-stop shop seems to be the council’s answer for everything. The council may put a social worker in the one-stop shop however, there’s still going to be a time delay before the duty social worker is contacted. It’s utter nonsense.”
This week we posed a number of questions to West Dunbartonshire Council concerning the closure of the department, which deals with unborn children to those aged 18 and pregnant women with addiction issues.
Replying to why the move has been deemed as the most “efficient and coordinated way to run the service”, a spokeswoman said: “The number and location of council buildings has been reviewed to ensure we deliver services in the most effective and cost-efficient ways for our residents.”
She also reiterated that there will be “no impact” to those using the service.
The spokeswoman confirmed the closure will “contribute towards a £400,000 saving being realised through a review of the council’s estate”. She added: “Staff will continue to visit families at home or at other offices in Alexandria and therefore will continue to be available in the local community to respond immediately should an emergency occur.”
Concerns James O’Neill