Beachview’s role will change, says social work boss

The north’s top social work official has left local people in no doubt that while the Beachview Unit in Brora, which provides day care services for adults with learning disabilities, may not be in line for closure, its role WILL definitely change.

But Highland Council social work director Bill Alexander was unable to say what would be put in its place or what other services would be made available.

Mr Alexander, along with area social work manager Bob Silverwood and other social work officials, attended a meeting of East Sutherland and Edderton Ward Forum, held in the Scout and Guide Hall, on Tuesday evening.

Fears over the future of the Beachview Centre have been growing because of an ongoing sea-change in the way social work services for vulnerable adults are provided in Scotland.

The government want families requiring support to move to “Self Directed Support” (SDS) whereby they would be given a sum of money to employ a support worker, pay for further education or help with supported employment.

But local families say they are happy with the situation as it is at present and are worried about the lack of alternatives to day-care in Sutherland. They point out that courses for the learning disabled in the county have been withdrawn and the opportunities for supported employment are virtually non-existent.

The SDS bill is due to start its passage through the Scottish Parliament and will most likely become an Act next year.

Mr Alexander made it plain that the traditional model of service – day care centres – was no longer considered the way forward for vulnerable people.

He said: “SDS is happening. It is happening because the government wants it to happen and families are demanding it.”

He held up Fort William as an example. He said the town formerly had a day care centre catering for 40 vulnerable adults. That centre closed and its clients had been placed in “community settings.”

Asked what other use Beachview could be put to, Mr Alexander said: “There is not an immediate answer to your question, but it has to be answered – we have got to work that out.

“I know some people feel there is a hidden plan in the bottom drawer of the desk to close Beachview and a date when that happen.

“That is not true. We do not yet know the end story or where we will get to. In a sense that is more challenging, but in another sense it means there is much more opportunity.

“What we have to do is change Beachview – in part because we want to and in part because other people are making decisions that will force that.

“There are opportunities there and it might mean Beachview, at a future date, is not there in the same way it is now. It is an excellent resource and we need to develop more long-term opportunities.”

Area social work manager Bob Silverwood told Tuesday’s meeting: “I don’t wand to see kids coming from schools and going straight into a day care centre. We can do better than that.”

Archie Paterson, one of the managers at Beachview, commented: “I see it as quite a positive time just now. We can develop services through working with others.”