Making it happen

(see also the section on ELCAP)

I. Accommodation

By January 1987, a joint agency approach had been re- established in East Lothian that included in its objectives, the establishment of a joint project team to develop local accommodation projects in the main centres of population in East Lothian. This was the birth of the organisation ELCAP which was formally constituted in 1989. The ground-work had however been done in the years since 1977 in partnership with key people from the local voluntary association and in consultation with carers. Workshops had been held in 1986 and 1987 to look at experience in other parts of Scotland and separate action had been taken to have the Social Work Committee call for proposals to close the residential hostel at Prestonkirk, East Linton. The key role of convening the different planning groups and wider consultation process was given my personal attention but the concept would never have developed without the support of key people in health, housing, two temporary staff and the local Joint Links Committee on Health and Social Work.

Ever since 1985, there had been friction with the Regional Planning group over the top-down direction versus the East Lothian community development process. However, by September 1988, the Director of Social Work was writing to confirm that the full Regional Council supported the philosophy and the initial proposals for the establishment of ELCAP (a jointly-managed consortium) which would hereafter be the main vehicle for service delivery for people with a learning disability in East Lothian. His written memo of 23 September 1988 went on to predict the possibility of the transfer of Health Service functions to this body and the development of additional services.

By 1995, ELCAP had managed to:

  • Close Prestonkirk and Wedderburn hostels and resettled 31 residents;
  • Start the process of resettling people from the Hopetoun unit of Herdmanflat hospital;
  • Develop a short stay-service used by 112 people a year with an occupancy level of 90-95% a year.

II. Day Services

Reference has already been made to the initial fight parents had with the East Lothian County Council before 1969, for the provision of a day centre to provide care, training and activity. Use of the discredited Peters Report and its recommended service levels identified a shortfall of 13 places in 1986 or a more realistic shortfall using revised ADSW service guidelines of 84, especially in the aspect of special care. But 1986 also saw a group of parents in Edinburgh seeking an alternative approach to the provision of adult training centres. Further research on levels of day services within the Region was commissioned. For example, in June 1983, the manager of the ATC at Haddington had identified the need for urgent action to improve the special care facilities and suggested the short-term answer of creating one or two portakabins with special toilet/shower facilities. However Regional statistics regularly suggested overprovision in East Lothian mainly by counting places against the geographic area without taking into account use by people outwith the area (eg ADSW recommended 226 day places while the actual number was 165 places).

The only agreement from this review was to cease using the Wedderburn building and to reallocate the capital receipt from sale of the building and land. In addition, there was the need to plan for the potential service needs of people likely to be discharged from closing hospital wards and for future demand. Within the joint planning process for the Region, work had been done on a ten-year plan for day service development:

Cost of Projected Additional Daytime Places

Lothian Region
Moving from hospital 470 estimated
In Community 580
TOTAL 1050
Projected cost of additional provision £3,940,000

While the Regional Joint Planning Committee continued to meet and prepare papers and struggled with the challenge of financing its proposals, an approach to the Social Work Chairman was made in February 1991 by East Lothian District Council. They were considering the provision of a new community centre in Port Seton and proposed a partnership approach with the Regional Council to incorporate facilities in the new centre for the care of people with a profound learning disability. Staff at Social Work Department Headquarters still preferred to undertake a Regional review and were also struggling with shifting the balance to care needs from centres concentrating on the more able. However, the time scale for a reply to the District Council was tight, (by March 1991) and I was asked to check on the feasibility of the proposal and given a political message ‘to deliver’. As the exploratory discussions progressed, John Chant, the Director of Social Work, noted that promises were made of money that we did not have and that there was already bias on spending in East Lothian. Old arguments from the 1970s were again revived – it was cheaper to build an industrial type unit, annual unit costs for 25 people would be £20,000 per person, could integration work, was Port Seton the right place and if it was not a full replacement for the Wedderburn centre, what was to happen there?

By August 1992, the building contract went out to tender and the new Port Seton Centre eventually opened in August 1994. East Lothian had acquired a first class facility with provision for special needs being supported by appropriate staff ratios. In addition, there could be outreach work and a better balance between attending a centre and taking part in other leisure and recreational activities. The next challenge was to repeat the model in Musselburgh as part of the Wedderburn replacement. In October 1995, the transfer from the poorhouse building managed to take place mainly on an agenda driven by John Chant but in conflict with the local strategic objectives; these now emphasised provision of special care in centres and outreach programmes for leisure, education and employment for the more able. On the positive side, the three centres, at Haddington, Port Seton and Musselburgh, for care and outreach work had been put in place.

III. Housing

Critical to the whole resettlement and accommodation plan was the provision of housing. Work had been done in East Lothian from the early 1980s to develop the planning requirement for people with special needs in relation to housing provision. By 1978, the absence of any reference in the Housing Plan at that time had been taken up with the Director of Housing by Willie Hands and the local voluntary organisation. Two initiatives had subsequently been taken forward with the newly established Ark Housing Association of Edinburgh, which had been set up in response to the gap in alternatives to hospital admission. The Ark House at East Linton and a second house at Musselburgh were both in operation by 1984. However, the overall provision of Council Housing was experiencing major change following the new arrangements for the right to buy.

East Lothian Housing Stock 1980 16300 1986 14900 Recorded Waiting List 1980 2800 1986 5500

In 1985/86 there was:

  • a 77% increase in applications relating to marital dispute;
  • a 24% increase in applications from owner-occupiers;
  • a total of 61 requests from people aged 16 to 26 under the Homeless Persons Act of whom 50% were re-housed.

Despite these pressures, the Housing Committee of the District Council responded with a priority policy and enabled ELCAP to house 37 former hostel residents into mainstream housing stock. The commitment to joint ownership of the planning task and the work of the Joint Links Committee structure was beginning to pay off.