Posted by: John Brace | 15 February 2016

Wirral West Constituency Committee asks Wirral Council’s Cabinet to decide not to close Girtrell Court

Wirral West Constituency Committee asks Wirral Council’s Cabinet to decide not to close Girtrell Court

                                                                 

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Wirral West Constituency Committee 11th February 2016 Part 1 of 6 starting at agenda item 8 (Community Question Time)

The question time item at the last Wirral West Constituency Committee was dominated by questions about Girtrell Court. Girtrell Court is a respite centre run by Wirral Council in Saughall Massie. On the 17th December 2015, Wirral Council’s Cabinet agreed to consult on closing Girtrell Court (the consultation ran from 17th December 2015 to the 29th January 2016).

The Chair (Cllr Jeff Green) took a number of questions from those connected with Girtrell Court. A transcript of some of the questions, followed by the answers Graham Hodkinson (Director of Adult Social Services) gave at the meeting are below.


Cllr Jeff Green (Chair)Is there somebody from errm please the carers and users? Is there someone here? Is there someone who’d like to start off or ask a public question about that? Errm, yes, the young man at the far side there and there’s someone will find you with a microphone.

Member of public asking question at Wirral West Constituency Committee about Girtrell Court 11th February 2016

Member of public asking question at Wirral West Constituency Committee about Girtrell Court 11th February 2016

Young man (pictured above): Hello, good evening, can you hear me? Public: Yes, we can. Young man: Thank you Chair. Errm, really this question is directed to Graham [Hodkinson].

Thanks for coming tonight Graham [Hodkinson]. Errm, as you’re aware, we attended the meeting at the Town Hall, err where you gave a presentation about Girtrell.

I did a four-minute presentation myself where I’ve been given a list on the 13th of December of the alternative proposals for respite, instead of Girtrell Court. I spent a lot of time researching these properties and I found at the end of my investigation that none were suitable for my son Mark, who’s here.

Mark has cerebral palsy, he’s a wheelchair user but that’s dreadful but one of the big factors is wheelchair, wheelchair, wheelchair accessibility, errm, I was told at the meeting by Graham [Hodkinson] and his team that that list was an old list and we would be given a new list at the end of the meeting. By giving it to us at the end of the meeting obviously, we couldn’t look into it, therefore we couldn’t make any challenges.

Since looking through that list, again it’s inappropriate for my son and also there are fifty-one users that use Girtrell who have either mobility problems or are wheelchair users, to add insult to injury this list included fourteen old people’s homes. Now would you really want disabled young men, my son is thirty-three, errm being put in a nursing home with old people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia?

I think it’s totally inappropriate and I feel really insulted that places like that should be offered to us, as an alternative, but to go back a little bit earlier, I believe the capital, err the Cabinet were misled to even make this decision because I don’t believe that the facts that they were given were complete. Whoever, whoever completed the research didn’t complete, do a proper job in my estimation. They didn’t check about availability for wheelchairs and when they said there were vacancies. These vacancies were on the second or third floor of properties with no access. It’s really totally inappropriate and I really am ashamed that the Council could put such a horrendous list forward. Thank you.

*applause*

Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): The gentleman at the back if I may?

David Jones (Wirral UNISON rep) speaking about Girtrell Court at the Wirral West Constituency Committee meeting 11th February 2016

David Jones (Wirral UNISON rep) speaking about Girtrell Court at the Wirral West Constituency Committee meeting 11th February 2016

David Jones (Wirral UNISON representative) (pictured above): Thank you very much Chair. My name’s David Jones, I’m a Wirral UNISON rep within Adult Social Services and I’m very concerned about the proposals to close Girtrell Court.

Not only are the Council proposing to make forty-six staff compulsorily redundant and not just forty-six staff, but staff that are valued, that are skilled, with twenty, thirty plus years experience amongst them. Valued by the people who use that service, that really concerns me and concerns me that a Labour Council is proposing to take that step.

Beyond that though I think it is really concerning about the impact on vulnerable people and their carers that support them and I don’t think that has been fully taken into account in terms of this proposal. The “protecting vulnerable people” is meant to be the top of the list of the priorities of this Council. This proposal doesn’t feel like that.

The impact, you know, will be testified I’m sure throughout the rest of this meeting by many of the carers who are here. It’s an ill thought out and ill-considered proposal in my opinion. That can be evidenced by the fact that in effect the Council have only started to undertake work to find a re-provisioning, alternative provision whatever you call it little more than in the past month.

You know the impact on people is massive and yet the preparations only being handled in the last month. There are real concerns about the availability of alternative provision as Peter’s just elucidated quite well. That’s not going to be found out until after Girtrell Court is closed! By then, it’s too late for the people who are relying upon that service!

We cannot go ahead with the proposals at this time. I think also it’s important to notice that you know the Council are making quite deep cuts in our services and I you know and I know and I fully recognise the cuts that have been made in the budget and are being passed down from the government and I recognise that.

But the figures for these cuts don’t add up! It’s reckoned that it’s going to save, depending on which paper you open, whether it’s £150,000 or £500,000. But the figures don’t add up! There are real holes in the figures, the information we’ve seen so far which is only partial, we still can’t get a breakdown for how the alternative respite is being costed out. The figures don’t add up and how can a Council go ahead with a massive change for some of the most vulnerable people on this peninsula without being sure of the figures? Without even being sure that it’s going to make the savings that they’ve promised?

I’m concerned that we’re putting people’s lives before money, err putting money before people’s lives anyway, but the figures don’t add up! And I would urge the whole of the Panel, but in particular the two Cabinet Members to seriously reflect on that and reject this proposal! It doesn’t make sense and the disruption is unjustified!

Please think again and on the 22nd of February reject this proposal and leave Girtrell Court as the residents want it!

*applause*

Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): The gentleman at the end of this particular row.

Member of public talking about Girtrell Court at Wirral West Constituency Committee meeting 11th February 2016

Member of public talking about Girtrell Court at Wirral West Constituency Committee meeting 11th February 2016

Member of public (pictured above): I don’t need a mic thanks, yeah I’m happy enough.

Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): Well if you could, because there are colleagues in there that..

Member of public: Right, OK. Yeah, that was very good from Dave there and I’m going to come from this from a slightly different angle, but the same as something similar to what Dave said there. I may be explaining one or two things.

My name’s Phil Simpson and I would like to put a question about the proposal, the closure of Girtrell Court respite home but before I come to my question, err I’d like to take a couple of seconds just to inform people here of a few facts about Girtrell Court and the proposed closure.

Wirral Borough Council claims they have to go to save £24 million out of the budget over the next twelve months and over the term of this parliament £126 million and I’ll sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong…

Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): I have to tell you my experience is the figures change quite dramatically.

Member of the public: Well they might, they might well do. They say by closing Girtrell Court this is going to save £155,000 a year. However earlier in this year your own Chief Executive received a 30% pay increase and that’s a fact. They paid over £200,000 in a golden handshake to a Strategic Director when weeks later he was re-employed at the Wirral Chamber of Commerce.

Further, I’ll come back to that, they spend more than £130,000 on agency workers per a week! They spend another £20,000 or more on consultations, consultants per a week. Not a year, per a week!

The Council Leader is so stressed in his job, that he has employed a Labour Party campaigner to assist him on £45,000 a year. The increased amount in your council tax for this year is four percent. Two percent of that is ring fenced for the very thing we are arguing about here, which will keep Girtrell Court open. It’s for social care.

And finally this Council holds £124 million in reserves. One hundred and twenty-four million pounds in reserve, with one million pounds out of that one hundred and twenty-four could be used for Girtrell Court to keep it open for more than ten years and that’s a fact and there’s no reason why that couldn’t happen.

So my question is, why are you discriminating against disabled people in our society when you spend over £240,000 on consultation [consultants] for the Golf Resort and Spa to enrich the lives of the fit and healthy? It is discrimination and it’s a disgrace! And any Labour Council or councillor voting for this place to be closed, you’re an absolute disgrace. You’re a disgrace to the Labour movement and you should stop this now!

(applause)

Cllr Jeff Green (Chair): Far be it for me, because I’m not a Labour councillor, to chide anyone for being political or even attacking colleagues from, fellow Wirral West councillors from the Labour Party. We have always tried to keep this Committee non-partisan and I’d like to try and keep it that way if we possibly can. It’s not really their fault they made some wrong choices, but we’ll pick that up if we get into a discussion. The gentleman that indicates.

Bernard Halley (left) talking about Girtrell Court at the Wirral West Constituency Committee 11th February 2016 L to R (foreground) Bernard Halley, David L to R (background) Graham Hodkinson, Cllr Matthew Patrick

Bernard Halley (left) talking about Girtrell Court at the Wirral West Constituency Committee 11th February 2016 L to R (foreground) Bernard Halley, David L to R (background) Graham Hodkinson, Cllr Matthew Patrick

Bernard Halley (pictured above on the left): Thank you Mr. Chairman, My name’s Bernard Halley, I’d like to introduce you to my son. David, will you stand up please? Stand up, stand up, just come to the front.

This is my David. David is thirty-two. He’s got Down’s Syndrome. He’s often doubly incontinent, he has no sense of danger, he’s been run over twice because he just walks out into the road.

My wife and I have loved and looked after David for the last thirty-two years and God willing we’ll look after him for another thirty years. Can I ask the elected councillors who they think respite is for?

Respite is two-edged, respite is giving David a break from us, but equally it’s giving my wife and I a break from a twenty-four hour day, seven-day a week, three hundred and sixty-five day a year caring responsibility.

We allow David to go to Girtrell because we trust the staff at Girtrell, we trust the regime at Girtrell. We know that when David goes to Girtrell, he goes with friends that he knows, there is a community there that he can join in with and relate to.

The proposal has been made by the Council, in terms of alternative provision, as Peter has quite eloquently said involves a mishmash of old folks homes, places with dementia, where the current service users of Girtrell will be parachuted in for one week occasionally, they will be going in to a totally alien environment.

We as carers will have no confidence that we currently have about the level of care that they will receive in those environments. Girtrell Court is a god send to us. I’d like to ask the assembled audience here for a show of hands. Who of you here are carers? Do you trust Girtrell Court?

Audience: Y