‘No loss to services’ if disability forum votes for closure

Disabled Borderers are being reassured there will be no cuts to their local services if the Borders Disability Forum (BDF) votes to disband as expected next week.

The BDF in Galashiels “exists to improve the lives of people with disabilities and sensory impairments” its website says, and “works with individuals, groups, statutory and voluntary agencies to promote the interests of disabled people, and to tackle disability issues.”

The BDF’s drop-in centre, open three day a week from 10am to 1pm at Roxburgh House Court, Roxburgh Street, offers advice and information for disabled people. The forum’s office acts as a hub for its member services, including Gala Wheels (which offers accessible transport to wheelchair users), the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Network and the Blind and Visually Impaired Network.

All of these, according to an anonymous letter to TheSouthern from “a very concerned disabled person”, have been asked to vacate BDF’s premises.

“BDF have already given up their accommodation and must be out by May 31,” the correspondent writes; “All this before calling a meeting to disband? Something is not right...”

The letter also claims members were given no chance to save the service, before the BDF meets to propose closure on Monday next week.

“They have not notified their members that there was a serious situation,” it continues. “No information was given to members giving them the chance to rescue the situation. Some members have been told that it will all be explained at the meeting – explanation, responses, etc – this can’t be done effectively on the day.”

The BDF confirmed the news in its statement to TheSouthern: “It is with deep regret that the management committee of the Borders Disability Forum will advise an extraordinary general meeting that the forum should cease to exist as of 
May 31.

This meeting, for members of the forum only, will be held on February 11, and, with the meeting’s agreement the necessary steps will be taken to initiate the forum’s closure and suitable apportionment of any residual resources in accordance with the objectives of the forum.

“The reasons for the committee having to give this advice are complex, and their decision was reached after much discussion and soul-searching. Even with the best will in the world, the committee could not realistically see how the ongoing existence of the forum would further the aspirations of the disabled people of the 
Borders.

“The forum, like all community groups, relies on its membership for innovative ideas and active support. Innovative ideas are never in short supply, but active support has been sadly lacking. The committee cannot justify the further expenditure of public money supporting an organisation which is fast running out of steam.”

The letter from the “very concerned disabled person” also claims that the BDF had “stated [the] reason for disbandment was that NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council are no longer able to fund BDF. The funders from NHS Scotland and Scottish Borders Council deny this.”

In its statement to TheSouthern, the BDF committee emphasised: “The initiative to advise closure is its responsibility alone. The Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders – the main funders of the forum – have never flagged in their support. Of course it is hoped that any monies which would have been used in supporting the forum will be redistributed for the benefit disabled community of the Borders.”

A source within BDF also reiterated to TheSouthern that while the forum will cease, money for disabled services will continue to be available from SBC and NHS Borders.

A spokesperson on behalf of SBC and NHS Borders added: “The Borders Disability Forum has provided a service to people with a physical disability and sensory loss for a number of years. The forum is now proposing that the service closes in its current form. SBC and NHS Borders provide funding to support the work of the forum and we would plan to work with local user groups to find an alternative and suitable form of information service to people with a disability, if the proposed closure went ahead.”