Cllr Jim Bol­lan

Lennox Herald - - NEWS -

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

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