Ex­pert fears of­fice move will leave kids at risk

Ex-so­cial work chief: Clos­ing lo­cal base is‘non­sense’

Lennox Herald - - NEWS - Lor­raine Weir

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

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