Larkhall care home closure debated in Parliament but local SNP MSP avoids it

In a lively debate in the Scottish Parliament, Labour MSP Monica Lennon calls for South Lanarkshire care home closures to be halted.

Monica Lennon MSP

Monica Lennon called the debate on the future of South Lanarkshire’s care homes

Monica Lennon, Labour MSP for Central Scotland and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, introduced a parliamentary debate today (8th November) on the future of council-run care homes in South Lanarkshire.

South Lanarkshire Council, which is currently SNP run, has published plans to close Larkhall’s McWhirter House care home and Kirkton House in Blantyre. 

The closures are part of a Council strategy to allow more people to remain in their own homes rather than moving into residential care and, as part of the plans, a new facility will be built in Blantyre.

While supportive of the strategy to allow people to remain in their own homes, Labour has criticised the SNP ruling group for cutting care-home provision and in today’s debate Ms Lennon accused the council of making a “deliberate choice to disinvest in long-term, council-run care” and not having the “courage to be straight with the public.”

“the SNP in South Lanarkshire must start listening to the people and act immediately to save our care homes”

Monica Lennon MSP

Ms Lennon called for an increase in “the availability of council-run, publicly owned and publicly accountable care” and pointed out that “the previous Labour administration had set aside £18 million to invest in our care homes rather than close them”.

It was further highlighted by Ms Lennon that demand for care homes in the UK was forecast to increase by a third by 2035 and she accused South Lanarkshire Council of “making a dreadful mistake by reducing the availability of long-term, council-run residential care beds.”

GMB and Supporters

Representatives of the GMB travelled to the Parliament along with staff, relatives, councillors and Rutherglen MP Ged Killen.

Ms Lennon’s closing remark, saying that “the SNP in South Lanarkshire must start listening to the people and act immediately to save our care homes” was met with applause from the gallery which contained members of the GMB union, relatives of residents, care home staff, local councillors – including Labour Group Leader Joe Fagan and Clydesdale councillor Lynsey Hamilton – and Rutherglen MP Ged Killen.

Concern for other South Lanarkshire care homes, particularly McClymont House in Lanark, was raised by Labour’s Claudia Beamish who was dissatisfied with the consultation that had taken place saying: “A proposal was put to people and that was it; there was no choice or discussion.”

Claudia Beamish MSP

Claudia Beamish questioned the quality of the consultation

A failure to communicate with residents and their families was echoed by Monica Lennon who said that some of the staff and families of residents found out about the plans when they read of them in The Hamilton Advertiser.

Several MSPs also enquired why the local MSP and Minister for Older People, Christina McKelvie, did not participate in the debate, particularly as local constituents had made the effort to attend, with Monica Lennon asking: “what good a minister for older people is if she cannot even stand up for the older people in her own constituency”.

James Kelly MSP

Labour MSP James Kelly blasted the SNP’s Christina McKelvie and Clare Haughey for failing to attend the debate

Labour MSP James Kelly also blasted McKelvie and Rutherglen MSP Clare Haughey for missing the debate and failing to stand up for local constituents, or even attempt to defend the decision to close the care homes.

McKelvie did arrive for the end of the debate but did not contribute, merely applauding her SNP colleague Graeme Dey who had spoken in support of the closures.

However, Ms McKelvie did arrive for the end of the debate but did not contribute, merely applauding her SNP colleague Graeme Dey who had spoken in support of the closures.

Earlier in the debate, Tory Graham Simpson also defended the decision to close the care homes reflecting the agreement between SNP and Tory councillors who voted in favour of closure at the council’s Social Work Committee in June.

In the summer, the Labour Group of councillors on South Lanarkshire Council launched a campaign to save the care homes and have been collecting signatures from people in Larkhall and Blantyre.

Public Meeting to save McWhirter House

Larkhall councillor Andy Carmichael called a public meeting to camapaign for McWhirter House in Larkhall

The issue has been particularly sensitive in Larkhall where Councillor Andy Carmichael hosted a public meeting where the relatives of many residents expressed their concern about the lack of consultation and uncertainty over their loved ones future care provision.

Many people also expressed the view that if they did need to go into residential care they would prefer a council-run care home and closing McWhirter House, the only council-run care home in Larkhall, would make it impossible for them to remain in the community and near family and friends.

Indeed, claims by the Council that Larkhall and Blantyre were the same community were met with derision and it was suggested that the plans were clearly putting cost before community.

Further concerns have been raised that the plans were just another example of privatisation by stealth as the private sector would end up profiting from any increased demand for residential care.

Posted by HLSLabour

1 comment

[…] November of last year, the campaign was taken to the Scottish Parliament when Monica Lennon MSP secured a debate on the future of council-run care home provision in South […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.