Confusion reigns as Social Work team leave Vale and clients are left in Limbo
Alexandria Health Centre where Council Social Work team will from Monday conduct interviews with clients.
By Bill Heaney
Confusion, conflict and consternation are never far from council leader Jonathan McColl’s door. The West Dunbartonshire SNP group leader is having to deal with one council cock-up after another.
Things are so bad for Cllr McColl (pictured right) and his SNP colleagues that that one council employee, Susan O’Neill, said: “Either management are intentionally undermining the leader or the leader is deliberately contradicting the message from management. Either way, it’s not looking good for that transparency we were promised.”
Susan spoke out on social media after the Health and Social Care Partnership, which is kind of semi-detached from the Council and chaired by Cllr Marie McNair, sent round a note about new arrangements for Social Work services in Vale of Leven.
Unfortunately, those people it was meant to inform could not make head nor tail of it.
It said that from Monday 18th June the Children & Families Team currently based at 4 Church Street, Alexandria, will be switched to new offices Aurora House in Clydebank.
What it didn’t say was where their clients would be accommodated and where meetings with them and their social workers would be held, which turns out to be the Health Centre in Alexandria.
Complaints from concerned staff started to pour on to social media on Saturday.
Amanda Matthews said: “[I am] so upset about this. The children who need this service were not considered at all.
“It’s not just adults who can travel [to Clydebank] who are put out, it’s children who rely on their social worker for supervised access after school who are left in limbo right now.”
Susan O’Neill raised the matter with Cllr McColl, who told her the post was incomplete and that he would take it up with the officers responsible on Monday.
She said: “I hope no poor soul with an appointment in Alexandria on Monday doesn’t travel all the way to Clydebank due to this incorrect information.”
Janice Ross said that the decision to move to Clydebank was “disgusting … hurting the most vulnerable.”
As is his wont, Cllr McColl failed to apologise for what had happened and the inconvenience and anxiety it would cause.
He said: “This is a dreadfully worded post and it should be taken down and reworded. This is needlessly upsetting people. The office base is moving to Clydebank and the phone number changing, that’s all correct, but actual face to face meetings with people, including family contact time and so on will be delivered in newly kitted out dedicated facilities in the Vale of Leven Health Centre. [There is] no need for folk who need the service to travel to Clydebank.”
Further criticism of the decision followed and Janice Ross added that what clients and staff would receive in reality was a standby service.
She said there would be a negative impact on service users and staff.
Charlie Connolly said: “If this post is so badly worded, I have a number of questions:
1. why was it posted
2. Is it deliberate misinformation
3. Was it politically motivated
4. Why did the SNP councillors FB page share it?
Margaret Reid said: “I don’t think this is badly worded as it says exactly what is happening, the staff will be based in Clydebank office.”
She added that she had been in the Alexandria office “the other week, and at that point staff did not know what was happening.”
Ms Reid said Jonathan McColl’s “mention of the facilities in health centre was the first I had heard” of it.
Susan O’Neill expressed dismay at this. She said: “I would ask another couple of questions. If the leader of the council can’t get to the truth in WDC, what hope do the rest of us have?
“Also can anyone that actually works in the Children and Families section confirm what instructions they have been given by management? It does seem to be contradictory messages are being given.”
Janice Ross said: “The children & family team are moving to Clydebank, make no mistake. What is being offered in the health centre is a duty system.
“That means different members of the children & family SW team will come down every day to respond to emergencies.
“Those people [clients] who have social workers will get visits to their house.
“Start doing the maths, if on a good Day social workers will be up and down from the Vale to Clydebank at 20 minutes each way.
“If that happens five days a week, that means 3.20 hours of a working week [will be] lost to travelling – and that’s only if they have cars.”
Staff expressed further doubts about whether anyone at the Vale Health Centre had been told about the changes.
Ciarán Tomás Ó Néill asked Cllr McColl: “Can anyone from the health centre confirm that there is an agreement on paper that Social Work can use the facility? Can you confirm which rooms in the centre have been “newly kitted out”, and “dedicated” for use by Social Work staff?”
And Susan O’Neill said: “[It] would be good to get confirmation that there is private, well equipped space for family contact or just a couple of desks for a rota of duty workers.”