© St Ninians Episcopal Church, Glasgow which is a charity registered under no.SC010966
Rector writes In St Andrew’s Drive there is a Home (Overbridge) run by the private sector for the profoundly disabled. Overbridge is unique because it caters for nine residents with very complex needs that no other establishment in Scotland can offer. I came to know this establishment very well as a number of years ago a Lay Reader friend from the Diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane was obliged to have her adult son admitted to Overbridge as there was no facility in Perth & Kinross that could meet his needs. I, then, began to visit this young man on a regular basis together with his mother who would travel from Perthshire for the occasion. You may imagine my dismay to learn that the private sector company running the Home is closing the facility effective from the end of February. The company concerned feels, amongst other issues, that they can no longer cope with the massively increased bureaucracy concerning the reporting of “incidents” to the Social Work Department. The increase in paperwork is a direct result of the Winterbourne Stoke Care Home scandal. Under the new regime “incidents” do not mean, as the average person might expect, solely inappropriate behaviour between carer and resident (and no one would argue with that), but encompass any incident between resident and resident. Now, a moment’s thought will lead to the conclusion that this is, in a sense, to be expected as the residents all have challenging behaviour patterns as a direct result of their disabilities and not out of any moral choice of theirs to be “naughty”. The result of the decision to close has profound implications for the current residents. The view is that each resident ought to return to their “home” local authority. The problem is that for the young man concerned, Perth & Kinross do not have specialist services that could meet his needs and he ended up in Pollokshields precisely because they could not meet his needs! Quite shockingly, it is being suggested that he could be sectioned to a locked ward in Ninewells Hospital Dundee. The young man’s doctor is firmly of the view that it is not in his best interests. All of this raises some profound questions for society. Have we reached an appropriate balance between bureaucratic regulation and putting the disabled person first? Why is it that, in a civilised society, we cannot offer reasonable facilities to those who need us the most? Why has the state managed, over a period of decades, to distance itself from being the “safety net” for the needy and ceding the job to the private sector which is driven by very different priorities? A study of the New Testament leads to the conclusion that the focus of the attention of Jesus was a deep empathy for the suffering. Surely, it cannot be any different for us. I appreciate that we cannot step in and run Overbridge Home and meet the needs of those residents. However, that is no excuse for dismissing the whole episode from mind. If the whole affair has reminded you that the profoundly disabled need your care and support, however you choose to interpret those two concepts, then the telling of this story will have been more than worthwhile. Of course, you can always make their plight the focus for special prayer during this period of Lent.       The Rector
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