Charity in plea for winter help

Galashiels councillor Andy Anderson.
Galashiels councillor Andy Anderson.

A Galashiels councillor is urging the council to help keep a disability charity open during the winter months. 

Councillor Andy Anderson has written to members of Scottish Borders Council’s ruling executive committee to ask them include the road up to the Cornerstone Connects centre in the local authority’s winter maintenance programme.  

The charity, which sits on Langhaugh Lane, provides day services for 35 people with complex needs and learning difficulties, and a disruption to the service can cause distress for service users. 

When Mr Anderson raised the issue last year, he was told that as Langhaugh Lane is not an adopted road, it cannot form part of Scottish Borders Council’s winter maintenance programme. 

Now, councillor Anderson is trying to get the road included in the programme before the winter weather hits. 

He commented: “‘Cornerstone provides day opportunities for 35 people with disabilities and complex needs, and therefore much-needed respite for parents and guardians who continue to provide care for their loved ones (16 of the 35 people supported still live in the family home). 

“Those with more complex needs attend five days per week, others vary. The majority of those supported live in small residential units staffed by Brothers of Charity or ARK.

“Of the people supported, 28 are funded by a contractual agreement with Scottish Borders Council and the remaining are funded through other authorities or self-directed support. 

“If the centre needs to be closed or people cannot get safe access to it this have very distressing consequences for those supported, particularly those with autism who do not adapt well to change.

“For guardians/carers this can mean missing a day’s work, or more, or having no respite in caring for an individual with complex care needs. 

“For services providing residential care it can be very difficult to find staffing at the last minute; funding does not allow for staff to be on standby in the event that someone must stay home for the day. 

“Cornerstone Connects staff come under different legislation from community staff, therefore different registration applies with the Care Inspectorate (and insurance), so they cannot fill in at another unit. There is also the issue of emergency transport: if, for example, an ambulance is needed, it must be able to reach us or the service cannot operate.

“Cornerstone Connects has a 15 seater and a 16 seater bus, transporting up to 16 people to and from the centre, although capacity is dependent on the number of wheelchair users. Buses are also used to take people to and from activities. 

“Everyone else will be brought to the centre by taxi or private transport. The centre does not support anyone who is able to walk for any more than a short distance and only a few can walk unaided.”

The local authority is still maintaining that as the road is unadopted, they are powerless to help, but would intervene in an emergency.

A council spokesperson said: “The council is unable to carry out routine winter maintenance on unadopted roads or car parks, of which there are many across the whole Borders, however, would do all it could to support key community organisations during extended severe weather. 

“We would also encourage the community to play its part to support such organisations in bad weather.

“In a medical emergency the council would absolutely endeavour to do all it can to support emergency services to reach those in need.”