Save Our Care Homes

A few days ago the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (EIJB) announced plans to close five publicly run residential care homes: Fords Road, Clovenstone, Jewel House and Ferrylee homes would be shut completely and Drumbrae would have a change the use to medically-led care of the elderly.If these closures go ahead they will have a major negative impact on the provision of residential care in the city, on the care workers who work in the homes and on the lives of the residents who will be uprooted and scattered around the city.

There has been no public consultation and news of the planned closures was released less than two weeks before the scheduled board meeting.

In the wake of the Feeley report, and the clear knowledge that demands for residential care will continue to rise in years to come, the actions of the EIJB are indefensible. Moreover, they show a contempt for local democracy and accountability.The EIJB is a partnership with representatives from Edinburgh City Council and from the NHS.

Another Edinburgh is Possible calls on elected representatives to vote against the plans and for the Board to withdraw its proposals forthwith.

Anger at the decision has already forced a postponement of the decision until the August meeting of the EIJB. To stop the closures we need to build the pressure on the board and on the council.

When the board meets at 10am on Tuesday 22nd June, we will stand in socially distanced solidarity with the residents, the care workers and with the deputations to the EIJB from the Council unions and Edinburgh TUC.Assemble for 10am Tuesday 22nd June at Ferrylee, North Junction Street, Edinburgh EH6 6HR. Bring placards and banners. Save our care homes!

Deputation to the Housing and Homelessness Committee

Hello – I’m Robyn Kane. I’m the chair of the Moredun Multis and Maisonettes Residents Association and a member of the Gilmerton and Inch community council. The resident’s association I represent has 6 high rises and two blocks of Maisonettes totalling over 500 homes. I personally have lived in the high-rises since early 2017 and have had to get in touch with repairs over the years for multiple reasons.  However, when I moved in, I had to ring for several different repairs as the flat was not in a fit state to move into when I first signed the lease.

The overwhelming issue myself and the tenants I represent are having is with the windows in the tenancies, and the surrounding problems because of the windows being in disrepair. This includes mould and condensation on, or inside the double glazing. The issue of mould, damp and condensation is causing damage to people’s physical and mental health. The overwhelming number of the tenants I represent are in fuel poverty, having to choose between food and heat, what makes this even worse is that because the windows are not airtight the cost of keeping the home warm goes up as the hot air escapes. 

Moredun Multis image by Kay Williams CC BY-SA 2.0

Reading the report, I was disappointed to read that a lot of the issues are being blamed on covid-19 as I am aware that issues have been going on longer than the pandemic. For example, paragraph 4.40, we have AOVs that where the wrong fitting in our Landings that are now being held open with a nail and some wiring. Another example is how the City of Edinburgh Council are passing the buck to Changeworks who themselves are over run to the point of non-communication for months as the waiting lists to get help are so long! 

Lastly before my time ends I would like to ask how the City of Edinburgh Council plan on actually bettering the system to help prevent the formation of mould, damp and condensation in tenancies, how the new resolution team are going to affect the complaints procedure and if this will make it even more difficult for someone to file a complaint with either the council or the ombudsman, and lastly I’d like to know how the City of Edinburgh Council plan on making these reports more assessable to the public and associations, as this report as well as the repairs report was passed onto me by a local Councillor and lack of transparency hinders my ability to best help the community I represent.

Our City: Housing and Homelessness

This is a report of the meeting on Housing and Homelessness in Edinburgh, which we held on 22nd April 2021. In our recent survey of how Edinburgh residents feel about councils services just under a half felt that housing services were poor and a similar proportions were unhappy with support for the homeless. In the rest of this post you can find a video record of all the contributions and then the outputs from the discussion groups.

The meeting was introduced and chaired by Robyn Kane

The first speaker was Gary Peden a member of the Unite City of Edinburgh Council Union branch

Gary was followed by Maddie Lou Barink who works for Shelter

Next up was Malcolm Fraser and Edinburgh based architect who talked about how we can build homes fit for people and fit for a sustainable future

Malcolm illustrated his talk with these slides.

Following Malcolm we heard from Willie Black. Willie is a member of Unite and a long-time campaigner in North Edinburgh

We then heard from council tenant Robin Ricci of her experiences of housing in Edinburgh

The final speaker was Pauline Nicol-Bowie from LIFT (low income families together)

We then broke into groups to share experiences and think about next steps. These slides summarise some of the points that were made. They are work in progress not the whole story. Please contact us by email to get involved in developing these ideas and helping take them forward.

We concluded by adopting this statement:

Scottish Parliament Elections 2021

Ask your local candidates to support the ‘Another Scotland is Possible’ pledge

Image by Mary and Angus Hogg / The Scottish Parliament Building / CC BY-SA 2.0

Members of Another Edinburgh is Possible worked with Another Glasgow is Possible and activists around Scotland to produce this statement aimed at individuals standing in the 2021 Scottish Parliament Elections. Email the pledge to your local candidates, raise the questions at hustings events and ask candidates to sign up to the pledge.

If I am elected on May 6th to become a Member of the Scottish Parliament, I pledge to support or if necessary initiate: (please answer YES or NO)

Policies to introduce a fairer funding system for local authorities recognising the need to replace the expense-driven G.E.D funding model adopted by COSLA with a needs-based model that reflects the actual needs of the rural and urban authorities, especially those dealing with significant levels of deprivation.

An anti-austerity investment programme in the public sector to kick-start the post Covid/ Brexit economy, using the relevant economies of scale to create municipally / regionally / locally managed infrastructure which incorporates training, education and employment, to deliver a green recovery in response to the climate emergency.

Awarding Scotland’s 920,000 Key Workers an immediate £2-an-hour pay rise, underpinned by a £12 minimum wage, through existing collective bargaining structures.

Removing food insecurity and fuel poverty by scrapping Universal Credit and replacing it with a benefits system which safeguards against destitution, discrimination and reinforced inequality.

Nationalising our Care Home and Home Care systems, making them accountable and profiteer-proof, and improving conditions for our elderly population and the workforce which deliver services to them.

Deliver the changes needed in de-carbonising transport and energy demands by investing in renewable energy.

Planning and enabling a free, integrated and publicly owned public transport system across Scotland.

Planning and enabling a mass programme of retrofitting all buildings to make them more heat-efficient.

Signing immediately, whether or not I am elected, the Zero Covid Scotland campaign Pledge  to eliminate the virus and end the epidemic in Scotland.


Please email anotherscotlandispossible2@gmail.com with your reply.

The Feeley Report on adult social care

Marlyn Tweedie shares some thoughts on the Feeley report into the provision of Care in Scotland.  The report was published on 3rd Feb 2021 – compiled by Derek Feeley, a former director general for health and Social care within the Scottish Government.

The enquiry raised a degree of hope that perhaps a Care Service – adequately funded and resourced – would be a possibility. Unfortunately, despite the report ‘s remit as being “to recommend improvements to adult social services” and good, researched evidence that highlights the lack of services and the suffering caused to service users, it’s recommendations won’t, in my opinion, deliver.

Firstly, the call is for a national care service not a nationalised one.  It rules out a nationalised service because it would be too expensive. It usess the example of the case of the care home for the elderly in Skye  – Home Farm – where 10 residents died of Covid, saying it would cost £900,000 to nationalise. And that is unaffordable. They argue it would be more productive to try to get the service providers to improve.

There is no acknowledgement that the priority of the Private sector is to their shareholders not to meeting the needs of the residents.

Also, the report recommends centralising responsibility for the care service within the Scottish Government and appointing a Minister for Social Care. This would take it away from the control and accountability of Local Authorities. Not a move in the right direction, in my view.

Throughout, there is as a “given” the idea that integrating the Social Care Service with the Health Service is logical and would lead to efficiency and improvement. But it doesn’t say how this would automatically happen. I think we should be wary. When it was first mooted – 10? Years ago, saving money was an explicit goal. And “bed blocking” was seen as an expensive cost. There is nothing to say that staff or service users will benefit. We love our NHS – especially now – but many staff are underpaid.  And, in any case, the report talks of procuring services; continuing commission which means the staff employed will be employed by the outsourced companies rather than the NHS.

By contrast, the care staff employed by the Local Authority have secure conditions – sick pay, holiday pay etc and a wage £18,000 – £21,000 annually and they have overtime rates for unsocial hours. It’s not great but much, much better than the Private Sector.

The report is full of talk of Human Rights; allowing everyone to develop their potential etc. It acknowledges that this can’t happen when care is restricted and when it’s paid for as opposed to being free at the point of need. It does, to its credit, recommend that all care is free. At the moment it’s only free for over 65’s.

But it doesn’t commit to a set sum per hour. Campaigning groups argue for £15.00 an hour. Nick Kempe argues for parity with Local Authority wages. The report talks of a national job evaluation.  There is no guarantee that this would give a reasonable wage to Care / Support workers. 

In line with ruling out nationalisation, the report talks of “ethical procurement”. We have that at the moment. Bidders promise the earth to get the contracts  – then, as we know, it unravels.

All in all, the report has good evidence and could make a great case for nationalisation delivered by a workforce which has decent pay and conditions.

It, at least, acknowledges the problem – but falls far short of providing a solution.

Nick Kempe has written very astute articles on this issue (see below). I’d highly urge reading his views on it.

Marlyn Tweedie     18th March ‘21   

Nick Kempe talking about Social Care at a meeting of the Edinburgh TUC Covid subcommittee    

An article by Nick Kempe on Care and the Pandemic

and an article on the case for a national care service

Our City

‘Our City’ – the full report of ‘Another Edinburgh is Possible’s’ survey of the views of Edinburgh residents is published today. You can read the report online or download it via this link.

The cover page of the report

Here’s the report forward written by Mary Alexander

I am delighted to have been asked to write the foreword to this excellent report reflecting the views of Edinburgh residents on council services both current and future.

The report highlights significant public concerns over the state of local services and the focus and priorities of the City of Edinburgh Council which are ‘out of kilter’ with residents’ views.  The findings show residents have some sympathy with the council over the financial restrictions imposed by the Scottish and UK Governments and praises council workers who strive to do their best against the odds.  It also makes some notable points and recommendations over how and what local services should be delivered.

We believe this report should be a ‘wake up’ call to Edinburgh’s politicians and service delivery leaders committed to tackling poverty and inequality and delivering a decent public service to all in the community.  The strategic recommendations over Housing, Transport, Tourism and the In-Housing of Edinburgh’s Public Services are sensible ones that cannot be ignored in any serious attempt to end poverty in this wealthy city. Alongside the recommendations of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission to promote “A Just Capital” and End Poverty in Edinburgh by 2030, we lay down a serious challenge to the Council to listen to its residents and communities and respond by using the budget process to reverse the decline in services; build more social housing and tackle the increasing inequality and poverty made worse by the pandemic.  More secure and better paid jobs are key, particularly in the utilisation of public funds through commissioning and procuring services which too often do not reflect the ‘Fair Work’ principles  

Another Edinburgh is Possible is an amalgamation of various community activist groups across Edinburgh who have come together to express their concerns and campaign for better local services.  They are committed to shifting the paradigm of community activism and local democracy and this report is a promising start.  The collective has commissioned, designed and delivered a credible research project which provides a valuable insight for local decision makers.  Edinburgh’s political leaders must pay heed to this report, those who produced it and, importantly, the voices of residents contained within it.

Mary Alexander

Depute Regional Secretary for Scotland, Unite the Union.                                   

Edinburgh Poverty Commission member

Fair Work Convention member 

An Edinburgh Without Homelessness Is Possible

Leslie Cunningham writes

I got to know Rob, a homeless man, about a year ago. On 15th February 2021, he kindly allowed me to interview him. This article attempts to convey what he most eloquently expressed in no more than about fifteen minutes. (!) 

Rob just wants a roof over his head – a hostel is better than nothing – but a bedsit or, ideally, a one-bedroom flat is what he dreams of. He thinks that a monthly rent of about £350 for a one-bedroom flat is reasonable, but we both agreed that £350 would probably pay for a month’s rent of a room in a shared flat in our part of Edinburgh.

He then made the very good point that not nearly enough affordable housing is available in Edinburgh, and that the Council hands over responsibility for building new houses to private developers, who are primarily interested in making as big a profit as possible.

Photograph by Graham Checkley

Rob expressed particular concern about younger people, who are likely to be in precarious, low paid employment. If they are made redundant – as many are during Covid-19 – they may well be unable to pay their rent, and, after the temporary ban on evictions comes to an end, end up out on the streets like Rob.

We discussed what the Council does to support homeless people and agreed that there was a great deal of room for improvement.

Contacting the Council can only be done online or on the phone. Phone calls receive an automated response, which means a lot of time and money is used trying to leave a message. Worryingly, in many cases the Council does not phone back. (2)

When the Niddrie Mains Housing Office reopened temporarily last year, the queues were long, and it was not guaranteed that a client would see their own Housing Officer, as their shifts were randomly allocated. 

People in crisis who arrived at the Housing Office without an appointment often queued all day, only to be turned away at closing time. (3)

So, what did they do? Rob didn’t know.

On one occasion, the Council got Rob one night’s emergency accommodation at the Old Waverley Hotel, where he claims he was robbed.

If he can raise £15, Rob can pay for one night’s accommodation in Bobby’s Bunkhouse, sleeping in a dorm with eight beds (and no screens). The washing and toilet facilities are not clean, and there are no laundry or cooking facilities. And, as Rob remarked, “You don’t know who you’re sharing with.”

It is well known that homeless people, for a number of reasons, are particularly at risk of contracting Covid-19. However, conditions such as those at Bobby’s Bunkhouse are an ideal breeding ground for the virus and its spread, making not only homeless people but also the wider population more vulnerable to its effects. So, there is an epidemiological as well as an ethical reason for taking homeless people off the streets and finding them decent, affordable, safe housing. What about making use of the thousands of unoccupied Air BnBs in Edinburgh? 

It was heartening that, during our short conversation, nearly a dozen people gave Rob money or food. However, we agreed that this article should end like this:

RIGHTS, NOT CHARITY! END HOMELESSNESS IN EDINBURGH NOW!

References

(1) Rob gave permission for his name to be used, and for this article to be published on the Another Edinburgh Is Possible website and elsewhere. He was paid the standard amount of money paid by a researcher for an interview of up to an hour (£20).

Reference (2) is taken from the Interim Report on the AEIP Survey of City of Edinburgh Council services.

https://tinyurl.com/1rain9ts

(2)  The relationship between the council and service users

The largest number of negative comments (around 21% of the total) related to the council’s attitude towards Edinburgh citizens, difficulties in making contact with relevant services and inadequate or uncompleted responses to requests. In some of the responses there was an explicit reference to feeling forgotten by a council that is perceived to be focused on the needs of students and tourists. Communication very difficult expected [you are] expected to have internet access. …inaccessibility and difficulty in speaking to a “real” person. I find it irritating to have the phone answered (thereby incur a charge) and then be left listening to a pre-recorded message for quite a few minutes. Others may find it more than irritating as it eats up phone credit etc.

Very difficult to get through to anyone in the council who seems to know how to get anything appropriately dealt with. 

(3) Council homeless KPI for public 2020 2021 to Nov 2020 (PDF).  An update has been requested.

Democratic Deficit

On 18th February Edinburgh City Council met to discuss its budget for 2021/22.  It’s not a normal year because neither Westminster nor Holyrood have yet set their budgets and these budgets set the parameters for the Council’s decision.

The budget motion set before councillors seemed to have been written in a parallel universe.  It acknowledged the challenge of Covid but made no reference to the cuts in services agreed at previous meetings that are built into its planning assumptions.  There was no consideration of the impact of cuts over the last decade, nor any assessment of the harsh reality of life for tens of thousands of Edinburgh residents – unemployment, increasing child poverty, illness and mental health issues, public transport and homelessness.   It simply asserted that the council is on track to meet 2030 targets for reducing poverty and carbon emissions.

Six organisations, including Another Edinburgh is Possible submitted deputations to the council in an attempt to shift the focus towards the real world.  Pre-Covid there would have been an opportunity for those who made the submissions to speak to councillors about their deputations.  This year the written submissions occupied less than a minute of the council’s time.  Councillors were encouraged to read them!

The video shows that section of the meeting.

There is a huge democratic deficit when the voice of council workers and Edinburgh residents is stifled.  Get in touch with your councillor and ask them if they have read the Another Edinburgh is Possible report, why the council’s picture of life in the city is so at odds with reality and why there was such an absence of critical examination of the budget motion.

Survey – interim report

Another Edinburgh is Possible – Interim report on the results of a survey of how Edinburgh residents experience council services

Since 2012/13, Edinburgh City Council budget cuts have amounted to £320 million.  Year on year of so-called ‘savings’ have resulted in a hollowing out of jobs and services to Edinburgh residents. 

Over the last 12 months, Covid-19 has been devastating communities across Scotland.  It has also shone a light on the destruction to public services brought about by a decade of austerity. 

Many people agree that things cannot simply go back to the way they were before. However, Another Edinburgh is Possible believes that if we don’t fight for them to be better, it is more than possible they will be worse. We are concerned that the UK and Scottish governments will attempt to use Covid-19 as a pretext for cutting back local government budgets yet further. Edinburgh Council has already identified over £80m of savings and funding in 2020/21 but has to find at least £5.1m more because of the extra costs and lower income resulting from the pandemic. Over the next three years, the Council has already identified £40m of ‘savings’ but needs to find at least a further £47.5m. 

Another Edinburgh is Possible not only believes this is unnecessary; it is unsustainable. Year after year of cuts has pushed services to the edge and the people of Edinburgh are paying the price. We also believe more cuts will further weaken local democracy and accelerate the centralisation of power over local issues in the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments.

We believe that the citizens of Edinburgh deserve far better than this.  It is in this light that Another Edinburgh is Possible decided to carry out a survey amongst Edinburgh residents and service users to ask them directly about their experiences of current Council service provision and the services they would like to see in the future. 

This preliminary report summarises the main findings from the first 483 responses and outlines recommendations we are asking the Council to consider.   The survey closes on the 21st February.  We will then produce a more detailed and comprehensive report based on all the responses that have then been received.

Read the report here: https://tinyurl.com/1rain9ts

front cover of the interim report

Key Findings

Edinburgh residents think services are deteriorating.

Only four per cent of respondents think that council services are better than three years ago fifty five percent think they are worse.

  • There are high levels of dissatisfaction with many council services.

Of all the services provided by the council public toilets attracted the most adverse comments.  Housing, homelessness services, social work, social care, community centres and community education were also considered to be poor. Many respondents backed up their ratings with detailed open comments.  Roads and pavements are considered to be poorly maintained and dangerous to users.

  • Some services received high levels of satisfaction.

Museums and galleries, transport and parks rated highly.

  • The council has a serious problem with communication. 

Many people reported difficulties in making contact, lack of response and failure to deliver on commitments made.

  • Bins and litter provoked a large number of angry written responses

Thirty six percent ranked refuse services as good, twenty six percent poor.  Yet at the same time large numbers provided eloquent and angry testimony to failures in the service.  There is a perception that different areas of the city are not served equally.

  • Respondents dissent from the council’s policy priorities

Spaces for people attracted a lot of negative comments.  On the other hand, cycling is a priority for many.  Written comments expressed the view that the council’s priorities are tourism, business and the city centre with Edinburgh residents and the periphery of the city coming a poor second.

  • Edinburgh residents think that local services should be publicly provided and democratically controlled.
  • Edinburgh residents believe that public transport should be integrated, publicly owned and free.

Recommendations

On the basis of an analysis of responses to date we make the following recommendations.

  1. The in-housing of Edinburgh’s public services: our survey confirmed a widespread frustration at a perceived lack of accountability from service-providers. One conclusion is that services be delivered in-house. That would immediately clarify lines of responsibility, leaving residents clear on who is accountable for quality of delivery. As things stand, a mosaic of providers means service users are often unsure of who to contact should they have questions or queries regarding any one service. Councilors would also be in a stronger position to make a case for additional funding if they are directly responsible for services that they are democratically accountable for. The incentive to improve would be re-directed towards elected politicians as opposed to distant corporations with little connection to the city or its people.
  • Improved Council communications with Edinburgh residents: Residents expect direct and unmediated contact with Council officials. Internet access should not be a prerequisite for residents looking to speak to those responsible for delivering key amenities. Dedicated phone-lines employing trained advisors familiar with Edinburgh services would make a significant contribution to Council/resident relationships. Mobile advice centres, Council officer as well as Councilors’ surgeries and improved public access to Council Chambers might also build confidence in a Council which to many feels remote and unaccountable.
  • A re-ordering of Council priorities: the commodification of public space is not referred to in our report. However, this is an issue many residents have repeatedly raised over the years, and it is reasonable to infer that many of the frustrations expressed by respondents imply an expectation that a city as beautiful as Edinburgh should be accessible to all, and not only tourists and the cultures industries which too often price people out of their own streets. For instance, cultural facilities which are accessible – galleries, museums and parks – score highly in satisfaction ratings. In contrast, 36% of respondents are unhappy with the quality of their community centres, and only 20% are content with housing, a perennial and growing concern amplified by Uber and student accommodation which reflect Edinburgh’s globally recognized social capital. Consequently, a delegating downwards of cultural centres and activity and the resourcing of local creative initiatives could contribute to a year-long re-imagining of how art and culture can take root outside of the City centre. 
  • Edinburgh transport should be integrated, publicly owned and resourced: Comments on transport were limited, perhaps reflecting a general contentment with the quality of service provided by Lothian buses. However even here, the survey recorded complaints regarding how busy buses can become, their cost and the quality of Edinburgh’s roads. An integrated transport service could knit together the varied concerns that an otherwise popular service still attracts. A joined-up, publicly owned matrix of services would be better equipped to incorporate a sustainable network in one of the busiest cities in Europe, particularly during the Festival.