Glasgow & West Scotland

Scottish artists attack learning disability proposals

Bernard MacLaverty, Liz Lochhead, James Kelman and Alasdair Gray
Image caption Bernard MacLaverty, Liz Lochhead, James Kelman and Alasdair Gray attacked the council proposals

Some of Scotland's best known artists have branded proposals to close three day centres for people with learning disabilities as "beneath contempt".

The attack on Glasgow City Council came from Booker Prize-winning author James Kelman in a letter published in The Herald newspaper.

It is also signed by Alasdair Gray, Bernard MacLaverty, Tom Leonard and Scotland's Machar Liz Lochhead.

A public consultation is under way on proposals to close the day centres.

Glasgow currently has seven day centres for people with learning disabilities.

Falling numbers

Last month, the council revealed proposals to close centres at Berryknowes, Summerston and Hinshaw Street.

It said the centres were "often in poor physical condition and only able to offer a limited range of services".

The council said: "One of the major drivers of the proposed reform is that the number of people using council day centres has already dropped significantly in recent times.

"It is anticipated that a further 320 people could be successfully supported within the community as part of the reforms, creating significant spare capacity across the council's day centre estate."

The council said a new approach could be used to help more people.

It said: "By moving away from the standard reliance on day centres, we also see the prospect of a far more flexible and responsive service for those who have the ability to pursue their own interests and preferences.

"By reforming now, we a have a huge opportunity to support more people to integrate more meaningfully into their local communities, which is a key principle of national policy."

The plans, however, have prompted a strongly-worded attack from Mr Kelman, whose letter to The Herald has been supported by other prominent artists.

In the letter, Mr Kelman states: "Glasgow City Council's plan to close three of the city's day centres for people with learning disabilities is shocking and shameful.

'Beneath contempt'

"This cynical disregard for the lives of one of the most disadvantaged sections of our people cannot be tolerated.

"Yet it follows the council's closure and destruction of the Dalmarnock day centre a few months ago. Why? To create a car park for visitors to the Commonwealth Games."

In the letter, Mr Kelman described the proposals as "beneath contempt".

He continues: "Those day centres represent the one place people with learning disabilities have where they are able just to be with friends, and in their own community.

"Here too is the one place where families and carers can meet for respite and share in their mutuality.

"It is the one place where they can see their children and relations laugh, love, learn, and play and talk and listen, and do all those things in the company of fellow human beings who will neither judge nor condemn them."

Council consultation

The author accuses the council of judging, condemning and trying to destroy a vulnerable community of people.

His letter concludes: "It is a brutal assault, the mark not only of the bully but the coward.

"People with learning disabilities need the rest of us to stand alongside them and their carers, and defend their right to this quality of life. It isn't much to ask."

The letter is also signed by national poet Liz Lochhead, poet Tom Leonard, writer and artist Alasdair Gray and Northern Irish writer Bernard MacLaverty, who lives in Glasgow.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "A consultation is now underway and we are working to a detailed plan that aims to bring forward views from the widest possible range of stakeholders.

"We see input from service users, carers, trades unions and others as being is an essential part of the consultation process.

"The results of the consultation exercise will be included in a paper with clear proposals for the way forward on learning disability day services, which it is hoped will go to the Executive Committee in January when a decision will be taken."

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