Feb 022017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Camphill Wellbeing Trust at Bieldside, Aberdeen.

An Aberdeen charity’s consulting rooms are all set for a spring makeover – with the help of a donation from Aberdeen Asset Management. Camphill Wellbeing Trust will be refurbishing rooms at its centre in Bieldside where it provides therapeutic services, known as AnthroHealth , to around 600 patients, including those with cancer, learning disabilities and chronic conditions.

Dr Aileen Primrose, manager of Camphill Wellbeing Trust said:

“Aberdeen Asset Management’s donation is a boost to our fundraising appeal to refurbish three consulting rooms at our centre in Bieldside.

“The upgraded rooms will be inviting spaces where patients can feel comfortable, secure and relaxed. This project is vital to enable us to respond to the increasing number of people who are asking for our help.

“We are very grateful to the Aberdeen committee for supporting our project with a £1,000 donation to help more local people with health conditions.”

The Camphill centre provides AnthroHealth services to help people find new ways to address illness, build resilience and maintain wellbeing. Based on conventional medicine but extended with a holistic understanding of the patient, AnthroHealth programmes include natural-based medicines, therapies and lifestyle advice.

The charity is part of Camphill independent charities whose shared ethos is to enable people with learning disabilities and other support needs to fulfil their potential.  Six independent Camphill charities are based in Aberdeen providing different services to meet the needs of children, adults and older people primarily with learning disabilities.

Dominic Kite of Aberdeen Asset Management’s Aberdeen charity committee said:

“This donation will go towards the enhancement of treatment rooms which will ensure Camphill Wellbeing Trust can work with the increasing numbers of patients seeking its individualised programmes.”

The Aberdeen Asset Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally. The Foundation seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects.

The main focus of the Foundation is around emerging markets and local communities, reflecting the desire to give back to those areas which are a key strategic focus of the business and to build on the historic pattern of giving to communities in which Aberdeen employees live and work.

For more information visit http://www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

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May 162016
 

Langstane picWith thanks to Susan Wood.

Langstane Press Ltd, Scotland’s largest independent office products company have chosen Aberlour Children’s Charity as their charity of the year.
Langstane have regional offices located close to a number of Aberlour services and are keen to help the local communities in which Aberlour works.

To launch their partnership, Langstane began collecting books and Easter eggs.

The staff had a huge uptake and delivered many boxes of books to Aberlour Family Service in Old Aberdeen.

The local service supports children and their families where parents may have learning difficulties or be socially isolated as well as supporting families affected by parental drug and alcohol use. Enough books and eggs were collected to be spread across services in Aberdeen, Dundee and Moray.

Colin Campbell Managing Director at Langstane Press said:

“We are proud to be supporting Aberlour this year and being able to help, not just the local services within the Aberdeen area, but also the services that support the communities close to our regional offices in Dundee and Livingston”

As well as donations like the books and eggs Langstane will be supporting Aberlour throughout the year, through in-house fundraising activities, taking part in events and volunteering.

Lydia Fyall, Regional Fundraiser said:

“I am looking forward to working with Langstane this year, the staff all really care about the work that we do. A number of brave employees have put themselves forward for individual events already and staff across all sites have lots of great fundraising ideas.”

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Sep 152011
 

The curtain falls on the sixth and final act of Jonathan Russell’s assessment of the tragi-comedy that is services for the disabled in Aberdeen – but what will be the last word? Is there a way forward for services for people with Disabilities in Aberdeen?

We are now faced as a city with considerable challenges due to both the wider financial and economic situation in the UK and the bleak financial situation that Aberdeen City Council has got itself into.
The situation with the SNP refusing to let councils increase the community tax has to be challenged and this is particularly relevant to oil rich Aberdeen where the majority of people could afford an increase.

Other possibilities would be to re introduce the SNP’S idea of taxing large retailers but it would have to be clear were the money collected was going. The Oil related companies have given very little back to Aberdeen or the wider Scottish/UK despite their huge profits.

ACVO  (Aberdeen Council  of Voluntary Organisations) have been working hard to get the private sector more involved in supporting the struggling voluntary sector and this should be encouraged. We have to make decisions on how best in difficult circumstances money is to be spent. We also have to make sure that the money spent is at best value for the needs of its citizens and end the prevailing culture of waste.

As a city we have to make bleak choices as to what is important to us as citizens.

Do we want to support the more vulnerable in our city including the disabled, the elderly, vulnerable children and the homeless or are our priorities more about grand projects like the replacement of Union Terrace Gardens, the Bridge over the Don crossing, the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, money once more to bail out the Aberdeen Exhibition Centre or a new Olympic Swimming Pool?

All these projects have to be paid for and as with most capital projects, costs are likely to escalate and eat into other budgets.  At present it is the vulnerable people in our communities who are taking the biggest hit.

Is this what the citizens of Aberdeen really want?

As well as making these decisions we have to make sure that we are spending our money to its best effect. This means putting a priority on cutting management costs and the inappropriate cost of consultants and not on the cutting of front line services. Over the last year £29,500 was spent on an outside grouping ‘Moveable Feast’ finding out what services people with learning disabilities want. This is a scandal when the resources to actually run services are so low.

My experiences of management in Aberdeen City Council left me with major concerns about the organisation. At present there is a rift between frontline staff and management. The roles of both managers/strategists and councilors need to be urgently reviewed.

encouragement and support of front line staff has to take priority if we are not to have an increasingly failing organisation

In particular councilors and managers have to become much more visible and supportive to front line staff. Strategists have to engage with the front line and get away from their ivory towers and be expected to carry out work themselves rather than relying on consultants. The ethos has to be one of Public Service and not one of career moves and covering ones back which is sadly the prevailing culture.

The encouragement and support of front line staff has to take priority if we are not to have an increasingly failing organisation with an increasingly demoralised staff group. Finance and how to provide the optimum amount of service to the public needs to be at the centre of any service delivery.

The ideas in the disability area presently being mooted is the idea of providing individual budgets. The idea of individual clients having their own budgets to purchase services has been on and off the agenda for several years. Individual budgets have the potential to empower individuals to get the types of services that they themselves want.

However, from the experience of Direct Payments, a similar scheme that has operated for at least eight years, it is only families who are more able who have been interested in being involved.

For many the whole process just brings more stress onto already overburdened families. One of he main problems with the idea is that at present there is little choice as to what to purchase and to complement this people will only get services if they are seen as fitting the Eligibility Criteria as agreed by management.

This has led unsurprisingly to the unit costs of services going up. So that the cuts in services are greater than the money that is being saved.

Care Management is the process which operates across the UK in the management, finance and support of care packages. The original idea of Care Management was two-fold, firstly to co-ordinate individual packages, but secondly to develop needs led services at less cost.

What has happened in reality, in Aberdeen at least, to my knowledge is that no needs led services have ever been set up but what we have in its place is a highly bureaucratic system with much of the same information going onto different forms that is only about the seeking of funding for individual clients to go to already existing services.

One of the crazy things that happened was Single Status

As stated earlier this stops them thinking of services such as those at Aberdeen College that do not cost the council money being used. We have moved into a highly bureaucratic and risk adverse culture where the emphasis is on covering back rather than service delivery.

The danger is that the new system of individual payments ends up going down the same route as care management and direct payments with individuals spending their money on individual support workers  rather than sharing resources with others which would be more cost effective. This will prove expensive and restrict support to fewer individuals also with further cuts coming down the line resources are going to become increasingly short.

The days of Thatcherite individualism are surely over, even David Cameron has moved on to ideas about the Big Society.

The other process that is happening is in the name of saving costs and getting better outcomes services are being re-provisioned away from the statutory sector to the voluntary and private sectors.

One of the crazy things that happened was Single Status (which was meant to be about equal opportunities and more equality). Salaries did go up for most levels and some went down. Many of those that went down re – did their job descriptions and their salaries went back up.

The low paid  staff  in many services had their salaries increased. The services they worked for like Home Care, Home Support and the Community Placement Team were then closed down and/or some form of re-provision took place. Of course the managers and strategists at the top have not been re-provisioned. They still have their increased high salaries.

public services that could be flexible to individual need and crises have been replaced by rigid contracts in the private sector for individual users

It is only staff on the front line and the services that have been primarily affected. Further in the 2009 round of Aberdeen City Council Social Work and Wellbeing cuts it was agreed to cut management and Strategic posts to be seen as being more balanced. Yet many of these posts were in reality never cut as this would affect the amount of work being undertaken by ‘low paid’!? management.

Whether putting services out to the voluntary and private sector leads to better outcomes is debatable and needs to be monitored. No doubt at times it does and at others it does not.  What we do not know is whether costs have really been saved, as the costs of commissioning, pensions and redundancy payments are part of the costs of this process.

Also, many experienced and committed staff are no longer involved in the process of providing services.

What we also know is that public services that could be flexible to individual need and crises have been replaced by rigid contracts in the private sector for individual users. This means that in situations when clients need less or more of a service; they still get the same service. This stops the empowerment of clients when they could be doing more on their own, and also restricts services from providing more support when it is needed rather than having to go through the whole process of re-assessment.

We need to provide services that are good value both in terms of cost and in terms of providing the optimum service provision within the limited resources that we have. The Community Placement Team was a good example of this, actually bringing in resources and working effectively — it was closed.

Create,  Inspire ‘s Local area co-ordination and Hub, Reach Out,  Access to Training and Employment and Cornerstone employment service have the potential to start building up of services but my concern is that Aberdeen City Council will continue to waste money rather than putting emphasis on the delivery of services.

The main end point of the Community Placement Team was to get people with Disabilities into some form of work. As well as giving to individuals concerned the opportunity of having what most other people experience in being able to work this form of support is cost effective as most of the support is provided by employers.

Cornerstone Community Care have continued to continue to provide an employment service and this should be supported and encouraged.

We need to be doing the following to make the most of the resources we have.

  • Get back to partnership working and making use of resources which are of minimal cost to Aberdeen Council.
    This would mean more joined up working between and with Schools,AberdeenCollegeand resources like the Workers Educational Associations ‘Reach Out’ Project
  • Work more effectively with carers, clients and their friends
  • Start working more again with employers to provide work opportunities
  • Get back to thinking in relation to groups rather than individuals and integrate these groups as much as possible into the wider community. What most people with learning disabilities want is social contact
  • Concentrate resources on service provision such as that provided by Create, Inspire, Cornerstone, Reach Out and Access to Training and Employment with an emphasis on Best Value
  • Focus management on supporting front line services
  • Have clearer roles and expectations of both management and frontline staff and concentrate on improving morale of all staff in Aberdeen City Council
  • Cut back on Strategists (many who were appointed in a spending frenzy around 2007) and spending on outside bodies such as Movable feast and other Consultants.
  • Start thinking about how to bring money in by working more closely with the private sector and investigate and go for any potential funding streams. This should be the responsibility of management/ strategy. An excellent example of where this has been done is Aberdeen Foyer.

 As a city we also have to decide how we spend what will be increasingly limited resources following the impact of national cutbacks.  I would suggest that people with disabilities should be a priority and to do otherwise would be a sign of a city that has forgotten to care.

Sep 082011
 

Aberdeen Voice presents the fifth installment of a six-part tragedy by Jonathan Russell describing the shocking process of service closure for disabled people in Aberdeen – and asks what we can do to reverse the destruction.

A Comedy of Errors Meets MacBeth: Act III

The next stage of the Community Placement Team fiasco was in November 2009 when we learnt firstly that as a team we were going to be stopped supporting staff at Glencraft ( just when Glencraft was in crises and potentially closing down ) and then the news came, not from our management but by someone leaving the information in a photocopier, that the whole team was to be closed.

This led to an outburst of public concern. Parents e-mailed councillors and officials, a highly successful public meeting took place which, despite high snow falls, was so well attended that not everyone could get in to the venue at the Belmont cinema. Council officials refused to attend.

The Director of Social Work put out an e-mail to Councillors telling them not to attend the meeting. This was a total affront to democracy and is an example of how the administration councilors have often lost control of our council. 

At the public meeting which was highly supportive of the need to keep the Team operating there was an apology for attendance from the SNP Convener of the Social Work Committee who was on holiday but only Labour Councillors actually attended the meeting. Concerns were raised in the media and STV news ran several news items, one being shown on the national news. 

Despite this public protest the council administration backed the recommendation to council by the officials. 

The Councillors had been told again that employment services would be re-provisioned but no services to date have been established though some clients have been supported by the Cornerstone Employment Team. This means that many people with disabilities have been left in employment with no back up support to employers or for themselves and the opportunity to run a modern cost effective service lost.

In 2009 there was a temporary consultant employed to be the lead officer in Social Work Services.

Once more scarce public money was being wasted

One of his colleagues also a consultant ran some excellent workshops, which were organized to run, following concerns from parents about the proposed closure of Learning Disability Day Centres.

Sadly parents of clients already receiving services in the community were not asked to be involved. A number of actions and targets were set. However following the workshops none of the actions were acted upon. The Head of Service at the time refused to meet with me concerning an action we were expected to work on together in relation to employing more people with disabilities in the council. Once more scarce public money was being wasted.

What did happen however was that one of the Team Managers, who did have considerable interest and commitment in the disability field, was given the responsibility and unrealistic targets of putting together a number of proposals for future day services.

Along with a number of agencies I had been working on a proposal called Aberdeen Inclusive Horticulture our aim had been to bring in lottery funding to support the horticultural projects we had been running and extend this to an allotment in Garthdee.

My team at that point thought the world had gone mad and, of course, it had

This proposal was then taken over by management in the council and rather than looking into getting extra funding, the emphasis went onto paying a consultant to carry out a feasibility study. Of course nothing  materialised out of this exercise and yet more public money was wasted.

With other agencies, I was also looking into funding opportunities to finance a pilot with the hospitality industry. Again this was taken over and lots of agencies were invited to meetings with the aim of them taking on the employment work that had been carried out by the Community Placement Team.

Again, nothing came out of these meetings other than more time and money wasted.

Even more bizarrely,  in 2008 due to new criteria that were introduced, we had  to cut all our leisure services. Yet suddenly in 2010 there was a Principal Planner getting involved in  organizing taster leisure events. This was crazy on two levels, firstly that while cutting low paid staff who had been running leisure groups, we now had a Principal Planner on a high salary organising such activities surely not part of their job remit, and doing work that should not have been happening if the eligibility criteria was being followed.

There was also failure to understand that it took time and at least a period of support for people with people with learning disabilities until they were able to attend events independently and those with a more profound disability need continued support. My team at that point thought the world had gone mad and, of course, it had.

There was also a proposal to develop the Skyline Café which was to be above the Bon Accord Centre. This was often heralded as the solution that would handle all the needs of people with learning disabilities. With a café and lots of activities it was also meant to have taken over Inclusion for All – coordinating classes in community centres.

In the end, The Skyline failed to materialise.

More recently Inspire funded by the council and put together by their excellent Development Manager and other staff has opened up what is called a Hub in Aberdeen market which is a very similar project. This project needs to be supported and hopefully it can lead to more opportunities for people with disabilities in the city. 

In reality however they filled the Seniors post which of course cost more money

Access to Training and Employment did carry on with ‘Inclusion for All’ until December 2010 but did this on a voluntary basis as a half promised payment was never received from Aberdeen City Council.  

Inclusion for All has never been picked up and, with the present proposals to cut Community Learning and cuts at Aberdeen College, will have less opportunity to do so in the future.

One very positive development is that three staff who had been employed in the day centres one of which Burnside has been closed have formed themselves into a voluntary organisation Create and have been providing good creative services this has included taking on the Va-va-voom theatre group. Individuals attending pay for their attendance and money has been raised from trusts etc.

The question has to be raised however as to whether such developments will be sustainable in the long term given that individuals have to make their own payment to attend and their savings could eventually run dry.

As part of the cuts there was going to be savings made by the Senior of the Learning Disability Team taking early retirement.  In reality however they filled the Seniors post which of course cost more money and was not a saving as said to the Social Work and Wellbeing Committee, but an extra cost to the Council.

In fieldwork, we had moved from two seniors with twenty one staff to two seniors and eleven staff.

Also as part of the cuts that were passed by Aberdeen City Council in 2009, four strategy posts were to go. To my knowledge all these posts are still in place.

The whole process has been strategically and managerially floored and has led to a significant loss of services that were being provided at best value, and instead money was wasted on consultants, extra management and strategist’s time.

  • In the final installment, Jonathan Russell concludes this six part tragedy and examines whether  there is a way forward for services for people with Disabilities in Aberdeen? Read his conclusions in Aberdeen Voice next week. 
Sep 012011
 

Aberdeen Voice presents the fourth of a six-part tragedy by Jonathan Russell describing the shocking process of service closure for disabled people in Aberdeen – and asks what we can do to reverse the destruction.

A Comedy of Errors Meets MacBeth: Act II 

At the end of 2009 the axe fell on the Community Placement Team in two ways.

Firstly, a report had gone to Council, which agreed to the cutting of five staff from our team. (If you remember from the first article – the Social Work Inspection Report – the team actually had much better outcomes than the norm in Scotland in relation to employment). Yet the report said they would re-provision services for better outcomes.

Our concerns were not only about the actual cuts, but also about how management implemented the cuts. There were no attempts to help us through this process and (as touched upon in the Social Work Inspection report) the perceived culture was ‘macho’, ‘punitive’, ‘autocratic’ and ‘hectoring’. This culture created low morale and a feeling of hopelessness.

What followed was a series of meetings with the voluntary sector with the aim of setting up this ‘high outcome service’. However nothing came out of this process except wasted time and money, with the net result of no new services being developed or delivered as agreed by Council.

Once more public money was being wasted, and no new services – as were promised to the Council and by officials – were actually created. So rather than better outcomes, no outcomes were achieved at all. Time and money was wasted and this further demoralized staff on the front line. We also lost good committed staff through this process.

What should be of concern to the public is that the Council failed to hold the officials to account for their failures, which evidences an administration which can often be out of touch with what actually goes on at service level.

This resource was providing services at very little cost to the council

Secondly, the decision was made to move the Community Placement Team away from the Choices building. The Choices building had been especially built for disabled people and was a venue that people with disabilities saw as their own.

The other service that had been based in the Choices building was the Choices Respite Service; and clients became involved in a high profile campaign to re-instate the centre.

Management was not happy with being questioned in this way and wanted the whole disability service based in the building closed down.

Along with partners in the voluntary sector, we had put a proposal together which would have more than covered the costs of keeping Choices open. Higher management refused to discuss this, and the proposal was turned down.

These services could also have been used by the Physical Disability clients who had already lost services due to the closure of Choices Day Service: also for the Learning Disability clients who were going to lose their service through the closure of Burnside Day Centre.

As has often been the case, no logical thinking by officials within Aberdeen City Council was in evidence. The administration appeared out of contact and led by the officials.

The team was moved into an anonymous open plan office in the centre of town. This had major ramifications for the services we had developed with Access to Training and Employment, because we lost our especially adapted garden, which included especially designed and created raised beds and poly-tunnels.

The cost of the parking permits itself would have covered the cost of keeping Choices open.

Much of the work done in creating this horticultural complex was on a voluntary basis.  Over £100,000 worth of resources from oil firms and trusts was gathered at no cost to Social Work Services within Aberdeen City Council in the building of this gardening complex.

We had also planned to base Crafty Things at Choices, following the loss of premises due to the re-development of Beechwood School. This resource was providing services at very little cost to the council. But rather than saving money, the council was intent in purchasing more expensive services by spot purchasing service from the voluntary and private sectors.

As stated previously the Community Placement Team was moved into Kirkgate House – a large anonymous open plan office, which had restricted access for clients. Precious time and money was wasted, with staff having to go back and forward to car parks.  The cost of the parking permits itself would have covered the cost of keeping Choices open.

To deal with concerns raised in the Social Work inspectorate report a new Transitions team was set up.

This entailed taking on an extra Senior Social Worker. As well as the Senior, the team consisted of four social workers – only two of whom actually carried out work with transitions. The other two staff were involved in carrying out service reviews. In reality half the transitions work was still being carried out by the Community Placement Team.

To try and compensate for this we set up joint meetings between transitions staff in both teams. There was no interest in this from management; probably because they knew what was going to happen next.

  • Read what happened  next in the fifth part of this 6 part tragedy,  subtitled ‘A Comedy Of Errors Meets MacBeth: ActIII’ in Aberdeen Voice next week. 

 

 

Aug 242011
 

Aberdeen Voice presents the third of a six-part tragedy by Jonathan Russell concerning the decimation of services for disabled people in Aberdeen – and asks what we can do to reverse the destruction.

A Comedy of Errors Meets MacBeth: Act I.

In last week’s article the work of the Community Placement Team was described and the challenges it faced outlined.

The Community Placement Team’s good practice had been highlighted in the Social Work Inspectorate Report as one of the few areas of good practice in Social Work Services within Aberdeen City Council.

What follows is the story of how managers, criticised in the Social Work Inspectorate Report (for amongst other things their lack of engagement with the front line) then went on to close the team down.

Two weeks after the publication of the Social Work Inspection Report the then management of Learning Disability Services informed me as Team Leader that the team was to have a budget of £200,000. Management had no idea what the actual budget allocated was: but this would have meant a halving of the team’s budget.

Staff had just received a re-grading as part of the Single Status agreement, so in terms of service delivery, the cuts were even potentially more than fifty percent.

Following the Council meeting to agree cuts to budgets, we met with the Head of Service. He informed us that a cut had been made in the Supported Employment budget, which he said included our team. I questioned whether they had actually cut the right budget, as this was not the Community Placement Team Budget. The Head of Service said he would investigate and reply to us.

As usual in such situations we received no reply. However what we ourselves discovered was they had cut (with council approval) a grant from the Department of Work and Pensions. This was not in their jurisdiction to cut, and could not possibly make any savings to the council.

The budget they cut was Workstep, which supported people with disabilities find and retain jobs in the open market. The Community Placement Team operated this service, but had no control of the budget. We had challenged management on a number of occasions that the budget received from the Department of Work and Pensions was not being fully utilized or used appropriately.  The Workstep scheme supported clients in full time work – including those employed by Glencraft, the well-known social business in the city for people with visual and other disabilities.

In reality this budget cut made no savings, and the Community Placement Team at this stage was still intact.

We did however lose two excellent staff members who left for other work due to the obvious insecurity of the situation. The Head of Service also ended the partnership we had had with Cornerstone, telling us that Cornerstone were ‘rubbish’ (at a later stage he told us that Cornerstone were ‘much better’ than us). We lost from this process another excellent team member who moved – like many other staff in the council – to Aberdeenshire Council.

On top of this there had been a whole series of meetings of top officials within the council about disability services. These meetings did not involve front-line staff.

Clients with a physical disability were particularly affected by these cuts

What happened as a result was the closure of Aye Can – a social business aimed at those with more complex needs – and as the name suggests, re-cycling. Aye Can received much of its operating costs through the landfill levy at no cost to the council, but this was not taken into account when making the cut.

Inspire – with support from the Scottish Government and Sir Ian Wood – heralded that they would take over and improve on Aye Can.

The type of clients they were looking for were the more able ones. These would often have been clients who would have been able enough to be in more inclusive work settings in the community. Of course in the end, money having been spent on new premises and it being heralded as the way forward (with clients being paid proper wages) it never re-opened, and was lost as a service. More recently Garden Crafts, a similar social business, has been closed.

The next development was the introduction of Eligibility Criteria: which was a way for the council to say no to providing services to the community, and restricting what as a council it would provide.

Management said that this would mean that we could no longer provide any of our leisure activities, as they did not fit the criteria, and all leisure groups were closed down. Clients with a physical disability were particularly affected by these cuts, but so were those with a learning disability.

Supports to many in employment ended. Of course management would later deny having cut leisure services.

  • In the coming weeks,  further articles will be published, written by the ex-Team Leader of the then Community Placement Team, documenting what happened, and making suggestions for the future of services for people with disabilities in Aberdeen City. Read the fourth part of this six part tragedy, subtitledA Comedy of Errors Meets MacBeth: Act II’ in Aberdeen Voice next week.

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 182011
 

Last week we brought you the first installment of a six part tragedy by Jonathan Russell concerning the decimation of services for disabled people in Aberdeen and what we can do to reverse the destruction.  This week we look at the excellent things that existed – and have been snuffed out. By Jonathan Russell.

The Growth Of  Community – ‘Aberdeen Social Work  Team Praised For Good Practice’

The Community Placement Team was set up to provide alternatives to day centre provision for people with learning and/or physical disabilities. The workings of the team were progressed through the development and operation of a business plan well ahead of such developments in other services.
The evolution of this plan involved staff, clients, council sections, and all relevant outside agencies. 

It set forward a vision with targets on a whole variety of areas including work opportunities, training, leisure, finance, fundraising, client involvement, promotion through the media and training of staff. There were also service developments requested by clients including a craft business, a cafe and horticultural opportunities.

A voluntary organization ‘Access to Training and Employment’ was set up by our clients to help progress these client-led resources. The response from management at the time in Social Work was that the objectives in the plan were unrealistic and would not happen.

In reality over a ten year period we achieved all our objectives and went on to improve and expand further opportunities for people with disabilities. Staff and clients were empowered to take on responsibility within clearly structured areas of responsibility. Each member of staff was given responsibility for particular areas of work. At the height of our work we were providing services for 480 clients.

Achievements included:-

  • Receiving the highest possible quality assurance marks for our Department of Work and Pensions scheme, supporting people with disabilities into real, fully-paid jobs.
  • Rapid increase in permitted work and voluntary placements. Work involved seeking out work placements and then supporting and reviewing the placements. People in the main were however supported by employers and their staff at no cost to the council. To resource this expansion as well as the hard and creative work of staff and supporting employers, we received funding for three European funded projects and one from the Scottish Executive, particularly aimed at young people.  A joint project was set up with Cornerstone Community Care which allowed this agency to get further European funding as well as funding from the private sector, which could not be applied for by a local authority. The Cornerstone Employment team was managed by a worker from the Community Placement Team which had an outstanding track record of finding work placements
  • We had an excellent partnership with Aberdeen College who provided pre-employment training courses.  The College was receptive to providing new courses dependent on need. The courses had no cost to Aberdeen City Council except referral and review work. The College also provided lecturers for Community Outreach classes in community settings

Services set up and developed included:-

  •  Crafty Things – making wooden, textile and art goods this grew and grew and was awarded the first Scot Rail award for Social Enterprise
  • Choices Therapeutic Gardening  – a special garden was set up for the physically disabled; allotments were run, and we helped with the
    setting up of the Manor Park Garden. Choices Therapeutic Gardening was awarded the Grampian Television Overall Adult Learners Award
  • ‘Inclusion for All, – a project aimed at including people with disabilities in Community Centres. As well as integrating individuals into the wider activities of Centres, we also became involved in coordinating 12 Aberdeen College Community Outreach classes from computing to job clubs
  • Café Cairncry– a café run by young people with disabilities for a group of Senior Citizens in the local community
  • ADAPT – a project aimed at providing training in disability awareness for employers
  • Va –va -vroom – a highly successful drama group run with the Lemon Tree and putting on a whole
    host of successful stage productions

Access to Training and Employment, along with the Community Placement Team, were also involved in organizing two major conferences.  Out of the first conference a business breakfast was organized with the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce and Scottish Enterprise.

All of these exercises aimed at promoting employment for people with disabilities in Aberdeen. They were well supported by politicians and local representatives of business. As was so often the case, Social Work Management at the time showed no interest and would not get involved.

Leisure and Social activity groups were set up for people with physical and learning disabilities including:

  • Two leisure groups where people progressed from one group to another depending on ability, and were given the opportunity to try out a number of activities. Those involved were actively involved in putting together new programmes. Wherever these groups went they were welcomed by the organizations who owned the facilities.
  • An Independent leisure group run by clients but with back-up support from the team
  • An evening social group
  • Two bowling groups
  • A swimming group

All of these groups were well attended  and operated on a philosophy of fostering independence and progression. Groups were developed based on the demand of clients. The team made good use of volunteers and worked with other agencies where appropriate in operating these services making the services of good value.

The Community Placement Team also worked closely with Adult learning which (until re-organized into three Neighbourhoods and then was dramatically cut), ran group learning and provided individual tuition.   We also worked closely with the Workers Educational Association Reach Out project which ran more informal educational groups ideal for those who found it a challenge to fit into more conventional educational situations and Inspires Local Area Co-ordination which worked primarily in Northfield and the Bridge of Don.

The team identified a gap in services for those with disabilities moving from children’s to adult services. This concern was ignored by social work management until the report by the Social Work Inspectorate in 2008 which raised major concerns.   The Council’s Education Department did employ a consultant, but after a number of (costly) meetings as sadly so often the case, nothing ever materialised — wasting even more valuable, scarce resources and time.

We worked closely with Schools, Skills Development Scotland and Aberdeen College to try and progress the situation for young people in transition. We managed to get some funding via Scottish Enterprise, European funding and from trusts, and developed a structure with Skills

Development Scotland so that duplication of responsibilities for individuals between the agencies involved did not take place. Hazlewood School organised a conference ‘Moving On’ with which a whole variety of agencies were involved: yet again management at the time in Social Work and Wellbeing showed no interest.

Crucially there was no financial analysis in the Aberdeen Strategy of what money was available

On top of this the team also provided a considerable Social Work and Care management role.  This included supporting clients and their career, helping with housing and welfare rights, finding, supporting and reviewing paid for placements with Social Businesses; and attending a whole array of multi-disciplinary meetings.

Like all working situations the Community Placement Team faced its challenges.  It did however have high morale and staff were supported by weekly team meetings, regular supervision and yearly appraisals. Appraisals and informal supervision were also given to part-time staff employed through Access to Training and Employment and Aberdeen College.

All client services were reviewed and this included active involvement of clients with this process. We also worked closely with carer’s and parents and tried to create an ethos that was one of where all concerned parties were working together as part of a team.

The Scottish Executive had an excellent strategy called the ‘Same as You,’ which is presently being reviewed throughout Scotland whose aim was to include people with disabilities in the wider community. The Community Placement Team were involved in developing this agenda, there was, however, a distinct lack of support from management at the time.

As the Social Work Inspection pointed out management failed even to mention the ‘Same as You’ strategy in Aberdeen Councils own Learning Disability strategy.

Crucially there was no financial analysis in the Aberdeen Strategy of what money was available, nor how they could best provide services within financial restrictions. Management was out of touch with the developments that were taking place in other council areas across Scotland and were in effect burying their heads in the sand.

The Community Placement Team was well supported by outside agencies, the major challenge that the team faced however was the lack of support and involvement from middle and higher management within Aberdeen City Council.

Considerable effort was put into trying to improve our relationship with management but to little avail.

So what happened next?  Read all about this over the forthcoming three weeks of Aberdeen Voice in a tragedy in three acts called A COMEDY OF ERRORS MEETS MACBETH

Aug 122011
 

Aberdeen Voice presents the first installment of a six part tragedy by  Jonathan Russell concerning the decimation of services for disabled people in Aberdeen and what we can do to reverse the destruction.

Services for people with disabilities have been a particular target in the cuts implemented by Aberdeen City Council. These have included loss of services through changes in eligibility criteria, the cutting of Classroom Assistants and Adult Learning provision, the closure of Day Centres  for the physically disabled and for those with a learning disability, and the closure of Alternative Day Community provision.

Given the over-spend that developed in Aberdeen Council in the last ten years, cuts were inevitable. However, some of these cuts have belied logic.

The development in Classroom Assistant provision had largely followed the cutting back in Special School provision. All across Scotland, in line with the Scottish Executive policy document ‘Same as You’, Day Centres had gradually been replaced by Alternative Day opportunities, with a particular emphasis on employment.

Ironically, now the cuts have come they are affecting the very services which were meant to be part of that alternative provision eg. Adult Literacy and Community Learning.

What follows highlights one crucial part of this target, the closure of the Community Placement Team which provided work, training and leisure activities for people with disabilities in the city.

In a damning report in 2008 into the Social Work Services of Aberdeen City Council one of the few teams that was commended for good social work practice and high outcomes was the Community Placement Team.

The Community Placement Team worked with 480 people with both learning and physical disabilities. In particular the CPT were involved in finding and creating work for disabled people, and training and leisure activities for those people, but importantly also providing a wider Social Work service for clients and their families.

The Social Work inspection evidenced the Community Placement Team as an example of good practice and stated:

“In 2006, 29% of adults with learning disabilities had employment opportunities compared with 16 % nationally. This was a major achievement by the service with the figure increasing from 17% in 2005.

“We met a group of people with learning disabilities who used CPT services. They spoke highly of the opportunities the Community Placement Team provided for employment, training and leisure pursuits.”

Within two years the very managers who had been criticised and asked to take urgent action to improve relations and rebuild trust between staff and managers in the Social Work Inspection report, had – with the agreement of the council administration – closed down the Community Placement Team.  This has left many vulnerable people isolated, and in many cases their families also.

  • In the coming weeks, five further articles will be published, written by the ex-Team Leader of the then Community Placement Team, documenting what happened, and making suggestions for the future of services for people with disabilities in Aberdeen city.
Mar 292011
 

By Cllr. Martin Ford, Aberdeenshire Council.

The reality of the cuts being forced on Scottish councils was all too apparent at Aberdeenshire Council last Thursday (24 March).  Several papers at the Education, Learning and Leisure Committee dealt  with proposed policy changes intended to give effect to budget cuts voted through the Council in November and February.

On the agenda were cuts to secondary teacher numbers, the number of depute heads in some academies, the provision of fruit for primary pupils, and the extension of charging for musical instrument tuition. The Democratic Independent group of councillors, of which I am a member, opposed these cuts at the full council meeting in November 2010 when the Council voted for budget reductions totaling almost £27 million in 2011/12.

See. http://aberdeenvoice.com/?p=3511

The specific proposals at the Education, Learning and Leisure Committee covered only a small proportion of the wide-ranging cuts Aberdeenshire is making in education. The proposals on secondary school staffing will impact directly on classes, including possibly resulting in larger class sizes for S1 and S2 Mathematics and English, and also on school management – at a time of change in the curriculum.

The proposals for additional charging for musical instrument tuition may result in some pupils being prevented from learning for economic reasons. The proposal to end the provision of free fruit to P1 and P2 children three days a week was part of proposals for reducing spending on school catering.

Obviously, none of these service reductions is desirable, and no-one at the Committee pretended they were.

Take the fruit provision for example.

We know we have a considerable problem of poor diet, such as too much fat and salt, and associated health issues such as obesity. So learning about food and healthy eating is an important part of education. Getting young children accustomed to healthy food is crucial as part of setting a pattern for later life.

Given the seriousness of the problem in Scotland, addressing this issue has to be a priority.  Not only does the individual benefit, but there are potentially  significant savings to the public sector, particularly the NHS, from  improvements to people’s diet. We should not therefore be reducing efforts to get young children into good eating habits.

What makes me angry is that these cuts are unnecessary.

It is still wasting money on preparatory work for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, a project that is now simply unaffordable

Firstly, the Council should not have been put in the position it has been by the Scottish Government, having both its grant cut and a Council Tax freeze imposed on it.  Effectively, allowing for inflation, the Council Tax is being cut year after year. That is not financially sustainable and public services are suffering as a result.

Had the Council been allowed to decide on the level of Council Tax next year, some of the cuts to services could have been avoided. Aberdeenshire’s Band D Council Tax is £1141. A one penny in the pound increase, £11.41 per year or 22 pence per week, would bring in around £1.2 million to help pay for public services.

All the cuts included on the Education, Learning and Leisure Committee’s agenda last Thursday and more could have been avoided had the Council been allowed to increase the Council Tax by just a penny in the pound.

Secondly, the Council could have chosen different priorities for spending. It is still wasting money on preparatory work for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, a project that is now simply unaffordable. Schools should come first, not grandiose and unaffordable road schemes.

But, at last Thursday’s Education, Learning and Leisure Committee, all the proposed education cuts were accepted by the Committee.

– Martin Ford is the top candidate on the Scottish Green Party’s list of MSP candidates for the North East Scotland Region at the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election.

Oct 292010
 

With thanks to Alex Constantinides.

A new charity set up to provide activities for adults with learning disabilities aims to put the emphasis on creativity, healthy living and fun!

Create Aberdeen – a new

initiative – was formed in March of last year as a response to Council cutbacks to Day Centres. However, the organisation is  not trying to replicate day services, but  aims to provide community-based activities which encompass the individual’s choices and needs, and also promotes integration and participation within people’s local communities.

Create members realised that people with learning disabilities had long been disadvantaged, discriminated against and segregated, and that Aberdeen services were going to fall far behind the good practices shown elsewhere.  For those losing a day centre place, a life of boredom, isolation and the knock on effects of that (ill health, depression, challenging behaviour) can follow.

Create is made up of staff, management and volunteers who got together to discuss what could be done to ensure people with learning disabilities had the opportunity to participate in meaningful activities that were suitable for their abilities, that enabled development, that were safe and supported, and also promoted the principles of Ordinary Living, and the rights of all to participate within their local communities.

Alex Constantinides of Create Aberdeen described how the group has evolved;

“With the support and encouragement of service users, carers, ACVO and other professionals, Create began the lengthy process of setting up as a constituted organisation, and lately a Company Limited by Guarantee with charitable status.

Run by skilled and experienced staff, with input from volunteers, the activities are tailored to meet the needs of the individuals attending the groups

“This has been a learning experience for all of us involved, and has meant some completely new skills have had to be learned pretty quickly – Previous social care jobs have not given us a grounding in fundraising, accounting or cashflow projections – but we have learned and are continuing towards our goals.

“Initially Create started with the intention of working in partnership with Aberdeen City Council, and other voluntary sector providers, however this has proved to be a difficult task, and the process of providing a co-ordinated cluster of alternative services for people with learning disabilities has not run smoothly, but not for the lack of will.

“Create started by providing monthly social nights and fundraisers, and running taster days to let people know what we were about and what activities we could offer. Currently we are running regular sessions within community centres – Sports and team games, drama, arts and crafts, gentle exercise, music and dance. Run by skilled and experienced staff, with input from volunteers, the activities are tailored to meet the needs of the individuals attending the groups, and the choices they make.  Community Centre managers and Sheddocksley Baptist Church have been more than welcoming to our groups and have given us a great deal of support.’

[ See the website www.createaberdeen.org for updated sessions and social nights.]

“Create are also constantly looking at ways of fundraising and have a firewalk planned for Halloween this year, in the hope of raising over £1,000. Volunteers have been helping in our fundraising, and every donation has been helpful. We were successful in a bid to the Big Lottery – Investing in Ideas, and are currently using that funding to commission a feasibility study. Our evening drama group – Va Va Voom received funding from The Scottish Community Foundation – Make a Splash to enable us to pay for production costs for the performances in 2011.”

Create would be extremely happy to receive support from local businesses and individuals, either with donations, or voluntary work.

Contact alex@createaberdeen.org if you can help.