Cutbacks threaten scores more social work jobs in Aberdeen

Almost 100 more jobs could be axed from Aberdeen’s social work service as the local authority prepares for its next wave of multimillion-pound cutbacks, it emerged last night.

Fears are growing that care homes for elderly people in the city could be put forward for closure in next month’s council budget, which is expected to slash a further £27million from spending.

Opposition Labour councillors revealed last night that they had obtained information that appeared to show Balnagask residential home and Glamis Cottage care home in Merkland Road had been earmarked for closure.

The jobs of all 39 staff at the two facilities were marked “at risk” in a confidential document, which has been seen by the Press and Journal.

A total of 98 posts in the social work team are said to be “at risk” in the report, although 28 of those are currently vacant.

Labour councillor Len Ironside, the group’s social work spokesman, was “furious” at the move.

“They all seem to be determined to attack those that cannot fight back and destroy jobs in the process,” he said.

“Now it seems to be the turn of mental health and the elderly.

“To close this facility, Glamis Cottage, and pay off staff at Balnagask residential home would leave some very vulnerable people cut adrift from society and without any support.”

George Thomson, the 74-year-old chairman of Grampian Senior Citizens Forum, said: “If they are closing care homes, I would think that is a good thing provided they are closing homes because more people are living in their own homes.

“We want more older people living in their own homes, but if they are closing care homes to the detriment of people living there, disturbing them and moving them to other homes, then that is a different matter.

“If they were being moved against their wishes, I would be very upset about that.”

Balnagask House residential home, in North Balnagask Road, is a purpose-built facility that opened in 1991 and offers care for 30 permanent residents.

It is in the Torry ward of the Liberal Democrat-SNP administration’s social work convener, Jim Kiddie, who would not comment last night.

Glamis Cottage is a residential care home for 15 people. It opened in 1985 to cater for over-40s requiring a high-level of support.

Deputy council leader Kevin Stewart, finance convener at the local authority, said: “Councillors are looking at proposed savings that have been put forward by officers, but we are at the very early stages of looking at these proposals.

“No decisions have been taken at this moment in time.”

Next month’s budget follows spending cuts of close to £60million in the city over the last two years. These have included changes to the eligibility criteria for the social work service and high-profile closures of facilities such as the Choices centre for disabled adults in Westburn Road.

The Press and Journal revealed this month that 38.5% fewer staff worked in the social work team in June this year than in the same month in 2007. The cuts come at a time when the department is attempting to turn itself around after two highly critical government inspection reports last year.

A follow-up report this year highlighted “improvements” in the service.

Council chief executive Sue Bruce has asked all departments to put forward measures to achieve 5% savings and trade unions are being consulted on up to 600 job losses.

A council spokeswoman said last night: “No decisions have been taken on potential job reductions or on the future shape of social work service provision at Aberdeen City Council.”