Last week, Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, was due to make a decision on whether to close The Grange, the city's only residential care home for disabled children.*
That was postponed after trade union, Salford City UNISON, which represents workers at The Grange, objected that information it had requested had not been provided. The Mayor will now make his decision at the Council Cabinet meeting next Tuesday, 22nd August, amidst growing fury from both the families of children currently at The Grange and Salford UNISON.
While the Council report recommending the closure is exactly the same as previously tabled, both the families and UNISON have submitted counter reports slating the official report that Jeremy Corbyn supporting Dennett will consider.
"The so called lack of demand for The Grange is a lie to justify a cut, and even worse the privatisation of all residential care for disabled children from Salford" states the UNISON report, seen by the Salford Star.
Council officers claim that, as there are only two children at The Grange currently, it could save £300,000 by closing the facility and finding the children "alternative placements" which would be outside of Salford. UNISON counters that this "conveniently hides the fact that Children Services management have refused to place any child at The Grange since last year because the resource is at risk of closure!"
The Council also claims that it held an open day to see if there was demand from other local authorities for beds at The Grange but "Disappointingly, only one representative... attended the open day and no further inquiries have been made to purchase a bed(s) at The Grange".
The UNISON report counters "In contradiction to feedback given by Council Management, a local authority did respond and in recent months have twice tried to refer young people to The Grange and have been refused because the facility 'is to be closed'....
"We are also aware of other children where social workers, parents and other professionals have recommend placement at The Grange, and, again, staff have been told this is not an option as The Grange 'is due to be closed'" it adds.
The UNISON report also states that, from Council figures, there are currently 25 disabled children placed in out of borough private provision, and that the figure is higher if those placed in residential schools are included... "There is a demand for this service..." the report insists.
"So, if there is a demand for residential services for disabled children why does Children Services Management wish to close this resource?" the union asks "It can only leave one conclusion - it is cheaper to place children with disabilities in privatised care."
The UNISON report also warns of a potential ballot for strikes at Salford Council, as, "it is clear from consultations with staff that the closure of The Grange would place a number of staff at risk of compulsory redundancy...As such our members at The Grange, across the residential sector and our wider Council membership, are willing to consider industrial action in defence of their jobs."
UNISON concludes that "The report to be presented to the Mayor is full of inaccuracies and fails to consider powerful arguments why it is in the interests of the children, residential services and the people of Salford that this resource is not lost."
Meanwhile the families of the children at The Grange have also produced their own counter report, challenging the Council's assertion that they have been consulted on the closure... "There has been no consultation with the families of the two residents" they state, adding that "The Council have failed to supply information that has been requested by the families via email."
Of more worry to the families is the affect of the closure on their children, and any children who would need the facility in the future...
"The two residents are doing extremely well, and continue to improve as can be seen from their six monthly review documents" the families state "This facility should remain open to prevent catastrophic effect on these children, their parents and their families.
"To remove the children from their home, school and health professionals will set them back years" they conclude.
There are also numerous questions raised by the families which, they say, the Council has not answered, like how the children's needs would be met in a new placement...
"No new placement has been identified" Lynda Barton, one of the children's grandparents, told the Salford Star "This is extremely worrying as the Mayor is being asked to close The Grange with no knowledge of the future of these vulnerable children.
"The people of Salford are being told that the Mayor and the Labour Council will support and protect the most vulnerable in society" she added "Now is the time to prove it, keep to your word and Save The Grange from closure..."
The Save The Grange campaign has called a lobby of the Mayor and Cabinet members for next Tuesday, 22nd August, from 9am, outside Salford Civic Centre. It is being supported by Salford City UNISON and all those who don't agree with the cuts are urged to attend.
For further details see the Facebook event page Lobby The Council to Save The Grange from Closure – click here
The Cabinet meeting which decides the future of The Grange is open to the public and begins at 10am in the Salford Suite within Salford Civic Centre
* For a full background see previous Salford Star article - Salford Mayor To Decide Whether Disabled Children Kicked out of the City – click here.