I thought long and hard about writing on this issue but with the recent decision of the new Integrated Joint Board for Health & Social Care to close Struan Lodge, the time is right.
People in Dunoon will recall Dick Walsh making himself the saviour of Struan Lodge back in 2013. It was the proposal to close the home, based on misleading financial information, that made me resign from the then administration of the council in order to join forces with Dick in trying to reverse the closure decision, which we eventually did.
Readers of this blog will also know that I have written on a number of occasions about the dire pay and conditions of many of the care at home workers, an issue that has still not been resolved.
At the heart of both these issues was a decision made in February 2011 before I was elected. Some time before this the council had set up a special committee for older people’s services. Dick Walsh was on this committee and for a good period of time he chaired it. He was the chair at the meeting in February 2011 when the following was agreed:
1. Agreed that homecare and day care services, within the Older Peoples’ part of
Adult Services be put to a tender process to externalise to multiple providers;
2. Agreed that care home services within the Older Peoples’ part of Adult Services
be put to a tender process to externalise to multiple providers and that Adult
Services give further consideration to withdrawing from direct provision of the
service and produce a detailed implementation plan to the Project Board in that
3. Noted that timescales have been altered to pick up the direction of travel.
The above decisions meant the privatisation, in principle, of all older people’s care provision in Argyll & Bute. That was what Cllr Walsh wanted and, as chair of the committee, he would have been influential in ensuring this happened.
The full minute can be found here: printed-minutes-thursday-03-feb-2011-12-15-special-committee-for-adult-services
The consequences of this decision were and remain far reaching. The decision to privatise the care at home service was taken in June 2012, my first council meeting. I recall clearly being told by the then council leader, Roddy McCuish, that the paper to privatise (deliberately left by the outgoing leader Cllr Walsh) had to be approved due to the costs involved in re-running the tender if we delayed. I bitterly regret that, as a new councillor, I voted for this. I regret even more that the claimed savings were to come straight from the pockets of the care workers.
There was no mention of this in the paper, of course, because had there been, a number of us would have binned it. Officers later told me that they knew then of the employment practices of the care companies. I think we were misled by omission; do you?
For the man who chaired the committee that made this woeful decision in 2011 to then become the saviour of Struan Lodge in 2013 shows just how Cllr Walsh plays both sides, and so far has got away with it. My next post will take this issue further.