By Bill Heaney
Ever since it was decided to build the new Council residential home at Crosslet, there have been consistent warnings here and elsewhere of the dangers that might bring with it.
Not to the residents themselves, of course, but to people coming to visit them in their large, supposedly lovely but impersonal residence above the timber houses.
I used to play there as a child. Then it was a children’s home. It was at a time when it was fashionable to make such places remote, a fact repeated in evidence at Lady Smith’s Child Abuse Inquiry in Edinburgh on Monday. See details earlier in this edition of The Democrat.
Fashions changed as fashions do and we moved into a new era where it became fashionable to accommodate old people not in poor houses but in residential homes.
These relatively small residential homes were built across the community in West Dunbartonshire.
The reason for places like Dalreoch Home, Willox Park and other such residences was that our elderly relatives would still feel part of the community in which they had lived for most of their lives.
There was compassion then. Money didn’t take precedence over everything else. That new breed of old folk’s homes was warm, homely and comfortable.
Until the government – and then councils – started talking about things like “economies of scale”, which inevitably involved the loss of jobs for dedicated staff.
And wads of cash saved by cutting the numbers of staff to look after a greater number of residents.
The social care service took one step forward and three steps back.
Faceless bureaucrats decided to save money. Big, ugly buildings, such as Crosslet House is today, are the image of the old Poor House in Townend Road.
Crosslet cost in the region of £10 million and the officials who pushed for it promised savings aplenty for the taxpayers.
They would shut the community homes and sell them or sell the land they stood on and make a profit for the council.
They might even make a small profit on the notoriously badly managed accounts and stop having to make unwelcome budget cuts.
Things went wrong from the start. They sold Langcraigs Home at Gooseholm to a company who paid £250,000 less than the best offer for it.
And although that company promised to move in quickly, the home is still lying empty more than a year later.
The remoteness of Crosslet alone makes it a bad idea, especially in this freezing cold weather of ice and snow.
Many of the old folk who live there suffer from dementia.
They won’t be able to walk out into the community or regularly receive visitors for the next month or so, maybe longer.
Relatives visiting them will have to pay exorbitant taxi fares or take the bus.
If they take the bus, these relatives will be taking their life in their hands crossing the road from the bus stop.
How do we know this?
A 15-year-old girl, Rachel Harvie, was knocked down there and rushed to Vale of Leven Hospital while trying to cross the road – even with the assistance of a lollipop woman.
The police say that crossing at the foot of Argyll Avenue is known as a hot spot for dangerously speeding cars, buses and heavy lorries.
There have been countless near misses, mainly because drivers exceed the speed limit.
If it is difficult for teenage school pupils to cross there, then what must it be like for people visiting elderly relatives in Crosslet House?
Very difficult indeed obviously since if you have friends for visitors and you are in Crosslet House then it’s more than likely that they too will be elderly and not as smart on their feet as they once might have been.
This begs the question: Why did the Council build the new Crosslet House in the first place?
Was it because they want to save money and cut staff, which is what their relatively new Health and Social Care Committee was formed to do? And which is so bound in red tape that even the members of that committee agree it isn’t fit for purpose.
Of course it was. If they really cared for the community and the old people, they would never have built at Crosslet in the first place.
And if the members and officials had read the council minutes, they would have seen that the police were not keen to keep their local HQ there either.
Their entrance is just 100 yards from place where the girl was knocked down.
Why? Because the police estate was dangerous to get in and out of, even with blue lights and sirens wailing on their cars.
When they were asked to respond to questions about this matter, West Dunbartonshire Council declined to answer.
Swiftly passing the buck, the only response they gave to one of the local papers they still talk to was: “This is a police matter.”
- I am told there is a very real possibility that the police headquarters will soon be moved and that new premises will be built for them on the site of the now demolished Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School in Cardross Road. https://wordpress.com/post/democratonline.net/11948