Cllr Jim Bollan
The fate of Alexandria’s social work office has fi nally been sealed — with the children’s and families unit now definitely set to shut.
Despite concerned calls from unions, residents and staff, the Church Street office will close — with workers transferred to Aurora House in Clydebank.
The SNP administration voted to close the unit at a full council meeting last week, following a public consultation exercise.
The j oint trade unions spoke out during t he consultation saying relocating the ser vice to Clydebank w o u l d b e “d e t r i m e n t a l ” t o its functioning.
The Lennox Herald has previously told how this year saw a rethink over the decision to close the office in 2014.
Chief officers at West Dunbartonshire Council’s social work department have been pushing for the closure, saying the relocation of staff to one building would save money and ensure better service delivery.
The former team leader of the children and families section based at the site, James O’Neill, has previously slammed the plans, saying staff will struggle to get to children in need in time.
Renton woman Helen Short also set up a petition in opposition to the scheme.
But speaking at the meeting last week SNP leader Jonathan McColl said every “sensible headed” councillor should support the closure.
Labour opposed the move and tried to save the Church Street from closure but their bid failed to receive enough votes.
The two Conservative councillors were split on the issue, with Councillor Sally Page siding with t he SNP and Councillor Brian Walker voting with Labour.
Councillor McColl said: “The issues have been addressed by officers. The service remains in the Vale of Leven. HSCP have allocated dedicated rooms for families in the Vale of Leven Health Centre and that means the service is being kept local.
“The amendment we have from the Labour party takes almost £500,000 away from other things.
“That money has to be found from somewhere. I would urge every sensible headed person to support the motion.”
He also made reassurances that the service would still be kept in the town, with family-friendly space being made available in the Vale of Leven Health Centre.
Officers said five additional social workers would need to be hired if the Church Street office was to be retained — at a cost of £237,000.
They also said the office would need £348,000 of refurbishment to bring it up to standard.
Speaking at the meeting, chief social work of f i cer Ja ckie I r vi ne s ai d s he wanted the social work team to all be based in the same building.
She said staff would be working out in Dumbarton and the Vale and that there would therefore always be someone readily available to meet with those in emergency crisis.
A report she brought to the meeting reads : “A key factor in strengthening service quality is to ensure that social work staff, who carry out some of the most complex work within the council area, are well supported and provided with t he appropriate direction and development in making some of the most difficult decisions in the lives of children and their families.
“I n order t o address al l of t hese requirements, reduce risk and ensure efficiency and effectiveness, facilitating service improvement at a time of high demand bringing teams together will create greater access to management s upport, s uper vi s i on, ref l ecti on i n respect of decision making, quality assurance and re duce i s ol at i on of practice and staff.”
Labour leader Martin Rooney said: “I move that we retain the Alexandria social work office, recruit the additional f i v e s t a f f a nd make t he necessar y improvements required to the building.
“The fact is that we have been working out of it happily for the last 20 years but suddenly it’s unfit for staff to work in.”
West Dunbartonshire Community Party councillor Jim Bollan seconded Labour’s bid, saying: “It’s all about saving money — there’s no remit of enhancing services.
“The lives of the clients we are talking about are often in chaos and they need their services close to them, not further away.
“The staff are too afraid to speak out. A woman phoned me today with her concerns but didn’t want to give me her name because she was afraid she would be penalised in the workplace.
“The Vale of Leven has s een t he closure of t he police station, we’ve seen services taken out the rent office, we’ve seen the health centre move to the outskirts.
“I f we close Church Street, t hat’s another public service in the heart of Alexandria which will no l onger be accessible.”
The lives of the clients we are talking about are often in chaos and they need their services close to them not further away