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Date: 15 Oct 2004

GCC Management must not wash their hands of Kerelaw - UNISON

Scotland Social Work union, UNISON will today make representations to Glasgow City Council, asking that they reject a management plan to withdraw from the running of Kerelaw School in Ayrshire.

Management in Social Work and Education are proposing to the council that they close the residential school by the end of this financial year, and give notice to the Scottish Executive of their intention to withdraw from the management of the secure unit, whilst working with the Executive to make arrangements for the future.

Glasgow City Branch of UNISON - who represent the UNISON members working in Kerelaw - has produced a statement calling for the much-needed facilities to be retained in public ownership, and for the management to be improved.

Ronnie Stevenson, (Social Work Convenor for Glasgow City Branch) said "There is absolutely no reason for the City Council to wash its hands of Kerelaw in this way. All the evidence suggests that we will need more special placements centres, especially secure units to place children who will benefit from that care. Both facilities were full prior to the bar on placing pupils there. It also comes in the middle of a Scottish Executive commissioned review into secure accommodation for young people in Scotland.

"The Care Commission/HMIE report - although it made criticisms - did not even issue improvement notices - still less call for closure.

"Kerelaw has been poorly managed and there has been an absence of adequate training, supervision and support, but the alternative of placing vulnerable young people in privately-run accommodation will be both more expensive and more bureaucratic. Management should have to face up to their responsibilities and not run away from what should be a valuable resource in and for the public sector.


Note for Editors: UNISON's case is attached.


Kerelaw has been consistently full and often over numbers over the last twenty years until management stopped admissions. Glasgow Childrens' Residential Units are full to overflowing with young people some of whom would benefit from a placement in Kerelaw.

GCC currently has to access expensive specialist residential places which with a more imaginative approach could be provided in-house at Kerelaw. Current Scottish Executive Youth Crime policy and the general increase in the incidence of vulnerable young people indicates that there will be no lessening in the numbers of young people requiring a residential school placement, particularly secure placements.

Many of the community-based alternatives to residential care such as fostering have not proved to be successful for the young people in Kerelaw. Even the figures in the report, which we think require more examination, mean that GCC will require both open and secure residential school places.

The retention of Kerelaw would lessen the dependence on placements in the private sector, many of whom are not ideal because of excessive distances and costs. The management proposals come against a background of an adverse Care Commission/HMIE report.

This same Care Commission has given Kerelaw a clean bill of health in all its earlier reports and highlighted many positive aspects of the care provision at Kerelaw. The as yet unproven allegations of inappropriate childcare practices at Kerelaw have also informed the management's decision. No consideration seems to be have given of the impact of the poor staffing in area teams on Kerelaw which often meant that the young people in Kerelaw had no allocated Social Worker.

The Care Commission have stated they have learned from their two recent inspections of Kerelaw to approach such inspections differently ie more thoroughly and independently. It would be interesting to know what the results of their new 'better' inspections of all the other Residential Schools to which GCC currently sends its young people would be. Our contention would be that Kerelaw has been poorly managed both internally and externally over many years.

Management has placed inappropriate pressures on the staff there, often forcing them to go over their numbers. There has been an absence of adequate training, supervision and support.

It is ironic that some of those involved in managing Kerelaw are now in senior positions in private child care agencies from which GCC commissions services.

Management should not be allowed to deal with their historical responsibilities by washing their hands of Kerelaw. GCC should provide the services for its young people, including residential school placements, both open and secure, in the framework of democratically accountable direct services, rather than outsourcing them to the private sector.

For Further Information Please Contact: Ronnie Stevenson (Social Work Convenor - Glasgow City UNISON) - 07803 952 262(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)




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