Bid to protect Cumbernauld disabled group from funding cuts

A project which offers support to disabled people is in danger of closure as part of massive council cuts.

The Alpha Project, in Cumbernauld, which provides essential services to adults who are either physically disabled or who have long-term health conditions, is considered a vital resource by its 40 service users.

But as North Lanarkshire Council seeks to make cuts of £55 million in the next two years, the Alpha Project could be forced to close or make do with reduced funding.

The project is bankrolled through the council’s Social Work Fund, from which £14m must be cut by the end of the 2012/2013 financial year.

Following a public consultation, the council has until the end of this month to decide where savings will be made.

Brian O’Neill, the project’s manager, said: “Our situation is that there is a potential for reduced funding or no funding at all, depending on the decisions taken by the council.

“We’re in the same position as everyone else who could be affected by the cuts in that we can only wait and see. We hope that we are still able to provide our service.”

Central Scotland MSP Jamie Hepburn wrote to the council, appealing for the Alpha Project to be immune from the proposed cutbacks.

He said: “Given the level of support that the project provides for people with disabilities in Cumbernauld, it is of obvious concern that its funding is under threat.

“Through the promotion of social inclusion, the Alpha Project allows those who may otherwise be isolated within community to become more active and take part in a range of activities.

“I have written to the council requesting that other avenues, which would allow the continued operation of the Alpha Project, are explored.”

The council’s social work chief, Duncan Mackay, admitted in his response to Jamie Hepburn that no guarantees could be made over the future of the Alpha Project.

He said: “Whilst it is not possible – in the context of the economic position faced by the council – to provide guarantees about future funding, you can be reassured that there is no preconceived outcome to these discussions and that the needs of service users will be uppermost in these considerations.”

Of the £14m to be cut from the social work budget, around 35% is spent on disabled people.

Mr Mackay’s response said that a reduction in that spending was therefore “inevitable”.