Falkirk councillor resigns from board over closure of mental health support centre

By Kirsty Paterson

The closure of a centre offering mental health support has prompted a councillor to resign from the board that oversees health and social care in Falkirk.

Councillor Allyson Black says members of the Integrated Joint Board (IJB) were not told that Caledonian Clubhouse in Etna Road would be shutting its doors for good.

And she fears it will leave very vulnerable people with severe, long-term mental health issues without a safe base to meet other people and take part in group activities.

“I still can’t believe it was done without any consultation or any prior knowledge of any of the councillors or board members – it was just done!” she said.

Allyson Black (Falkirk Council)

Managers stress that activities the Clubhouse hosted are still being provided, but Mrs Black fears that the loss of a building could have a real impact on the 85 service users.

It’s aim is to build confidence through group activities such as arts and crafts, gardening, walking and cycling.

Activities are currently provided in several venues including Dollar Park in Falkirk and the Sensory Centre in Camelon.

“They are going for an hour or two here and there and they are not getting lunch – it is absolutely not a like for like service,” she said.

At a recent IJB meeting, she was told that the decision had to be taken quickly as the lease was about to run out.

Head of Integration, Martin Thom, told members that the change to a more community-based service had begun when the building was closed due to Covid restrictions and that feedback from service users had been very positive.

But Mrs Black says she is not convinced that enough people actually know about the change.

And she felt it was unacceptable to find out from a few paragraphs buried in a report that such an important decision had been made, she said.

Reflecting on the situation after the meeting, she felt she had no choice but to resign from the IJB.

She said: “What’s the point of being on the board if something like this can happen that you don’t even know about and you’re not given a chance to protest or say this isn’t the right way to go?”

Michele McClung, Chair of Falkirk’s Integration Joint Board, said: “I would like to thank Allyson for her contribution to Falkirk’s health and social care services, having provided a wealth of experience for five years on the Board.

“The process to appoint a new council member to the IJB will begin immediately, allowing us to continue our focus on delivering supportive and inclusive services to the people of Falkirk.”

Expanding on the changes to Caledonia Service, Michele added: “The Caledonia Service continues to offer support, having recently begun to scale-up its offering from a new base in Dollar Park.

“As a result of covid restrictions, Caledonia’s Etna Road building was closed to the public in March 2020.

“Throughout the pandemic, people who use this service accessed support by meeting remotely or in small community-based groups and through a range of activities.

“This will continue as the service grows and develops in more community-based settings, a service model which Caledonia has been moving to over the past few years.

“Caledonia’s service users were, and will continue to be closely involved with discussions around improving the future of the service, including the new bases and approaches that are being designed to build stronger links within communities”.

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