Salford Mayor Ian Stewart has been left with egg on his face after publicly accusing parents, trade union Salford City UNISON and Save The Grange campaigners of lying over safeguarding issues for new services, once he has shut The Grange as a short term respite centre for children with disabilities.
Outside Eccles Town Hall on 4th September, Stewart had been confronted by the group, after calling them a `rent-a-crowd' in an official press release, and followed up by angrily telling them they were giving out "misinformation".
The street melee came after parents asked how they were going to manage putting kids over 14 in the currently adult facility at Granville, and a UNISON rep had answered "It will be mixed"…
"Did you just say it will be mixed?" Stewart shouted "I'll tell you what, I shall check that out and if you're right I'll admit it openly but if it's not you're in trouble…"
"It's in your own report" said the rep "It says there will be `a mix of age ranges'"
"All of this is being made harder to deal with by people giving misinformation" Stewart added "The officers better tell me that the allegation that was made before is untrue because I'll be very, very angry if I find out that it's true." (see previous Salford Star article for further info - click here)
In Eccles, Stewart agreed to meet the parents, and that meeting happened this week, at which Stewart heard for himself how safeguarding issues had not been addressed. Last night, as the Salford Mayor postponed his decision on the cut to The Grange, the group put out a press release stating…
"The Campaign would like you to note that at this meeting, the Head of Service for Granville confirmed that it was NOT possible to separate children from adults in Granville. We note that the Mayor had accused the Campaign of lies on this matter. We have been vindicated and the Mayor should be asking who has given him inaccurate information!"
Last week, after a meeting with parents, John Merry, Salford Council's Assistant Mayor for Children and Young People, had recommended that The Grange was closed as a short term respite centre, with a string of conditions, including…
• Further consultation to be carried out in the next couple of weeks on the issue of separation of adults and young people, be it either separate blocks of time or a physical separation of the building
• A further report to be provided on the issue of separation once the consultation is completed
• A further report to be provided in relation to spot purchasing if a young person under 14 years of age needs to have respite in residential provision
• Additional clarification to be provided in relation to how emergency provision would be dealt with
• Details of staff training undertaken in relation to physical restraint of young people
At the time (see previous Salford Star article - click here), parents said they were "flabbergasted" that the decision could go forward with such uncertainty, and last night's press release added "These issues had been raised by parents, staff and other professionals since the beginning of the consultation, three months ago. Objections which the Council can still not answer.
"Surely the Assistant Mayor is putting the cart before the horse" it continued "Surely he has to know the answer to these questions before he can make a recommendation! How can he state that implementation will take place from from `1st October 2013 – 1st January 2014' when he does not know the answer to his conditions!
"The only conclusion to draw from the sharp practice of the Assistant Mayor is that this is about money not about care for them or their children" it added "The stress caused by the Council's action is placing an extra burden on these families and could result in breakdown costing the council even more money!"
Last night, John Merry told the Salford Star that he supported Ian Stewart's postponement of the decision because "more information" was needed.
The statement from the Save The Grange group concluded…
"Ian Stewart was supposed to make the final decision on 23rd September 2013, we have now been told the decision will be postponed…We believe that the postponement needs to be made permanent, and parents and children relieved of the stress caused by this mishandled and inappropriate consultation. The Campaign would like to thank everyone for their fantastic support, without which we would not be getting the Council to think again."
The Save The Grange Campaign is organising a Coffee Morning event for all parents of children with disabilities, to take place on Saturday 19th October from 11am to 1pm. All campaign supporters are also invited. Further details to follow.