Podcast Episode: Imagining the Future: public debate part two
Category: Social work (general)
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
LR - Lesley Riddoch
JM - Jackie McLeod
AU - Alison Urie
BH - Bob Hamilton
As part of the Iriss, Imagining The Future of Social Services project, led by Robert Rae, a series of creative events were held in Govan over May 2014, to explore aspirations for the future from a locality perspective and to think about the changes that need to be made now and in the coming years. One of the events was a public debate on the subject of Social Justice, Chaired by the Journalist, Lesley Riddoch. This is the second of a three part series covering the debate. This episode features 3 guest speakers - Jackie McLeod who speaks about the importance of memory - linking past, present and future; Alison Urie who tells us more about the Distant Voices project; and Bob Hamilton who speaks about the Common Good Awareness project focused on preventing health inequalities and social isolation. The debate includes audience comments, questions and viewpoints.
LR We are going to have three, 3-minute stories. The three sitting before you now are Jackie McLeod who is going to talk about the importance of memory - linking past, present and future, and she is talking mostly about the work of the Govan Reminiscence Group. We have Alison Urie, Distant Voices and Creative Song is the process she has been involved in - Creative Song, writing by prisoners for self-understanding and communication of their stories to wider society, and Bob Hamilton, working Urban Land in Govan, as a fight for social justice and an opportunity to prevent health inequalities and social isolation. So that is where they are sort of coming from, but they are going to tell you some stories now, and here we go. First of all I think it’s Jackie.
JM I am Jackie and I have been researching and have an interest in intangible cultural heritage in terms of regeneration. And intangible cultural heritage can be many things - folklore, traditions, music, arts, crafts, and particularly the link between all of those is the tradition of passing them on and of memory, the importance of memory. And in considering memory and place, the built environment is particularly important.
Built environment is the physical map or context through which a person in a place will have their memory jogged and will work in relation with that place. And so the built environment is the elements and the features that together make up a pattern - and that pattern is unique, like a fingerprint is really. It’s unique to each place, and it gives that place its special identity. And Govan is notorious for having a very strong and special identity associated with its place and with its built environment in particular. And this is very important because it facilitates awareness raising, and that awareness raising is the contextual dynamic of change. In other words, where you have good consideration of memory and identity, it’s the foundation on which change can be built. So in recognising the importance of memory and place and the interlinkage between those, it empowers communities to be able to have the capacity to facilitate change in their area. And therefore people working in Planning and Regeneration should really be proactive in encouraging and considering the importance of intangible cultural heritage.
So how is that working in 2014? That is my question really, and that’s what my research is about. So I have been working with the Govan Reminiscence Group and many other groups in Govan too, but clearly the Govan Reminiscence Group, by their very title, consider memory to be particularly important. And what I am interested in is whether those working in Planning and Regeneration and other organisations and agents for change in Glasgow and in the Govan area are connecting with people, with Govanites, with people living in Govan - people like those in the Govan Reminiscence Group. So that’s what I’m hoping to find out from my time here and from my research. So I would be really interested in hearing about, I suppose whether you think or have examples of how that works maybe in your experience.
LR Okay, how many people in the audience would see themselves as professionals? Right, and how many wouldn’t? How many think they are punters? And how many people think they are punters and professionals? Right, so using both halves of those kind of strange brains then. Well can you answer that because it strikes me there is people … how many people live in Govan? Right, are you having a laugh here? There are 7 people - hold it high and proud folks, the Govan folks. Right, okay, fine. And how many people are sort of around Govan? Right, so then in that case there is quite a lot of different places you can bring for this experience with the same idea, which is asking really - if identity and memory are prerequisites for change, do the people who are in charge of change - planners, development people and so on - recognise the importance of establishing identity and caring about memory? Does any of that ring bells with anyone in the audience? Let’s have 4 or 5 quick thoughts on that - but you do need to wait for the microphone - folks?
M Tam McGarvey - I work with various … mainly GalGael Trust - aye, memory to me is about continuity, carrying messages forward and things like that. I think the way a lot of the services are delivered, there is always a constant change of staff and we work within short electoral periods and things like that, and there’s always new ideas coming along and it never catches up with some of the inherent memory within the communities and the good things that the community has got to offer. So they always come in wanting to make a big, flashy development and things like that. So I think when you get groups like the Govan Reminiscence Group - they are a constant and I think there is something we should be tapping into more, their experience - they have seen it all before a bit, you know, but they are not taken seriously, groups like that, or their experience isn’t held in high esteem by maybe politicians who are putting the developments in place and things, so yes, I think it’s a total necessity to regard memory highly.
LR Okay, are there other thoughts?
M I would be interested to know what people think about the cranes coming down - that strikes me as the most visible recent change in the community, and for me they were kind of iconic - they hadn’t been used for 4 or 5 years - on one level they had served their purpose, but the removal of shipbuilding cranes from Govan I think has got an importance. I think that taps into the kind of conversation you are having about the identity of the community, what it looks like, and what do you do with things like cranes when their immediate use is finished?
LR Yes, okay, yourself?
F Hello, Angela Ross from Plantation Productions. We run a group called the Senior’s Film Club, which came actually from a project that we did with the Reminiscence Group. And over the 7 years we have worked with them, we have learned so much, and some of it has been committed to film - especially about the social structures and the physical … you know, how maybe the trade unions worked. Quite a lot of the group were political, and still are old socialists or whatever - and as someone working with the group, I am learning a lot, so I am hoping that these films that we are making will live a long time as well and they will be there for everyone to share. The thing is, trying sometimes to get them out there in the public, get an audience for them, can be challenging.
LR And two folks here?
F I think it’s equally important to ask the question about who is not present, because there were whole sections … I work in an organisation that works with people with learning difficulties and mental health issues, and frequently they weren’t present. So it’s not enough just to speak to those who were - people were transported out of their communities. And I do sometimes worry that those voices aren’t taken cognisance of.
LR And yourself?
M Nicky Paterson - I love the idea Jackie about this fingerprint that you talk about, and this is somehow … the fingerprint, the idea of the fingerprint as a mesh between the intangible and the actual physical built environment. I was along at the Pacitti Community Garden earlier on in Kinning Park, and the guy there, Alex, who I was talking to, talked about a couple who now live in Ireland, but they had been born and brought up in Kinning Park - and they visited after 40 years and the Pacitti Community Garden build behind a wee row of shops and a chippy, and it’s built in between another wee row of shops - so they basically just took the back court. Now that’s obviously a wee area that’s in transition, but the folk that came back there - they remembered that that was more or less just a waste ground, and it seemed to them to be this was an excellent thing, this was actually progress - this was spare ground that was being used otherwise. However, perhaps one of the more pertinent examples of so-called progress that’s happening at the moment is along in Dalmarnock and the Parkhead area with the Commonwealth Games, the Clyde Gateway and so on - and what we have seen there is more or less the complete annihilation of community and so on. And the gentleman at the back mentioned the cranes - well what we tend to see with these sorts of projects is the guys who are planning, the landscape architects or what have you, they will use memory as a device in order to implement something, whether it’s in the landscape … you know, the streetscape or something - they will evoke some memory. So it’s almost like … well it’s not an illusion, but it’s a sort of tokenistic implementation of that fingerprint - but obviously it doesn’t marry anything like the actual memory of whatever that community was. So I would be interested to hear about how … about your thoughts on that and how we can get planners to actually consider folk memory and the folk’s fingerprints - make sure those fingerprints aren’t rubbed away.
LR Whoa horsey, see how well this works? Because this was meant to be the 3 minute - this is the sort of little sorbet moment - we are going to have the big pudding as soon as the 3 of them have finished. So let’s just keep running along our stories just for the moment, and Alison Urie is going to come up with here.
AU Hi there, I was away this weekend and started reading a book and a quote jumped out at me. It said “how a community handles failure - the failure of the group or individual, shortcomings, demonstrates more than anything the strength of that community”. And I started thinking about how do we deal with failure? How do we deal with parents who could be judged as failing their children? How do we cope with the failure of somebody who commits an offence? How do we deal with the failure of a girl who drops out of university with depression? How do we cope with the failure of a public figure that messes up or a football team that loses? I think we either hush it up or we shout very loudly in judgement, and we are very quick to position people either as monsters or angels, and I think we are also very quick to label people as an offender or a service user, a client. And I think that these labels and these positions mean that as a community we are pretty poor at holding responsibility for each other as fellow humans and seeing our fellow humanity in each other. Everyone has got a story - everyone - me, you.
I am going to tell you a story of Regan - Regan was a young lad who I knew in Dundee - he was unemployed, 18 year old. He was in a gang, ran around in the streets. He was involved in quite a lot of antisocial behaviour, he used drugs recreationally. Regan was also the son of a man who killed his mother, and his father committed suicide in prison. Regan is also the grandson of his loving, devout Catholic grandmother who took in him and all his siblings. He is also the sensible one of his peer group who ran with the gang, but actually looked out for his pals. He unfortunately took his life on a tree in Dundee and is labelled then as a suicide victim. He is a mixture of being a victim, a perpetrator, a carer, a cared-for, like all of us. And in Voximinous we are developing … a project developing song-writing and story-telling through song in criminal justice. Taking musicians into prison and helping folk share their own stories - sharing their hopes, their regrets, their doubts, their fears, their love, their imagination - and sharing that with other people. That shared humanity that comes through stories, the shared failures, the shared hopes, the shared dreams, the shared need for second chances. And I think that social services that strip people of their stories, strip our community’s ability to love and to cope with failure, strip out our community’s ability to care. And I would like to imagine a future where stories are shared, because to quote Amrita who is sitting in the front row here - “if you see my struggle as part of your own, then maybe we can work together”.
LR Right, thank you. Very thought provoking. Thoughts? Yes, up the back?
M I have been through the criminal justice system as a child and an adult and it’s been a very long time ago I was last in trouble - and you are held to your past. I done the crime, I done the time, and I should be allowed to move on. But when I go for jobs, in the jobs I want to do, “oh no, we can’t take you”, even although that was 7, 10 years down the line. So you are not allowed to forget your past or better yourself. I want to know what you think.
LR Right, thank you. Yes?
F I really loved everything that you said there, but one word that I had a real struggle with when it came out was the word “failure” - because I just think that has lots of kinds of judgements around it - about who decides when somebody’s life is failing, you know? And it’s people just trying to cope in certain circumstances in the best way they know how that might not be approved by society, but that’s their coping strategy, and who knows what any of us would do if we were placed in certain circumstances. So I am just … I don’t know quite what the word is to get, but that one just kind of rung a wee bell for me.
AU To be fair, it was used kind of provocatively - I completely agree with you.
M Okay, my name is Domucha Musheka (spelt phonetically) and I work with the (… unclear) but I used to live in Govan for 5 years - I have 2 daughters who live in Govan. And I would like to make a contribution from the point of view of minority communities, who, while they live in Govan, they are saying that the outsider whose needs and challenges are never assessed from a point of view of involvement - rather than end users of the services. I think the stereo types and delivering refugees, immigrants from Eastern Europe and all that tend to build more barriers to inclusion, rather than, you know, including people as residents who would like to live in Govan … not necessarily just a roof over their head, but to take part in all of the activities that take place in the area. Thank you.
F Hi there, it was just on the point that you were saying about sharing people’s stories and how that helps the community accept, maybe the feelings of an individual and makes it easier to move on. I did watch a documentary recently about restorative justice and the fact that people found it really difficult to move on after horrendous crimes - it wasn’t just burglaries - we were talking rapes and things like that. And actually the restorative justice process of sitting down with the perpetrators, if you like, actually allowing them to share their story … not that it was ever justified, but just the background of the person involved - really helped the victims actually get a sense of closure and move on and see them more as humans who have maybe made a mistake, rather than monsters and basically living in fear that this could happen again. Knowing the person and their story kind of helped them with some closure. So I think what you are doing is a great project and I think it would make it easier for society to accept individuals when they don’t always adhere to the law.
LR Okay, and is there one more person, perhaps from this side of the room?
M I was at a meeting at the Centre for Human Ecology up the stairs a couple of weeks ago and Lynn Friedley came up from London and we were talking about … I forget the way she put it, but it was basically the pathologisation of every day life - that was the general gist. And she talked about a lexicon …
LR Wait a minute, I didn’t get that at all - you are nodding away like that is hunky-dory … what? The pathologisation of what?
M It’s basically putting everything through a clinical linguistic frame - and she talked about a lexicon of positivity, and so therefore … right, as an aside from labelling, when we talk to folk we say “how are you doing?” And if they don’t say “great” or they just say “okay”, it means something wrong - but it also comes onto like … so we were talking about folk that have offended and folk that suffer from mental illness and so on, and the labels that are attached to them. And the lady there that is talking about … you know, you talk about refugees or immigrants and so on, but she can’t be a Govanite, or these folk can’t be Govanites - and there seems to be a linguistic sort of polarisation between this ultra sort of clinical positivity aspect. And the only other alternative to that is sort of a really negative antithesis, you know, and there doesn’t seem to be very much middle ground where we can normalise human experience, especially mental illness and coming from other cultures and so on.
LR Right, thank you very much. Let’s move on for our third contribution - Bob?
BH I didn’t really know what I was going to talk about when I came here, and then I realised 3 minutes is actually quite long. But it’s just Lesley was talking in her introduction “tools for future”, and I think I’m maybe kind of in that bracket. I am involved just now in the Common Good Awareness project - do people know what the Common Good is? Common Good Fund? Well it’ll take more than 3 minutes to explain the Common Good Fund, but basically it’s a whole pile of assets - it’s all over Scotland, in different places, worth tens of millions of pounds. There is loads of stuff on the internet from Andy Whiteman that can explain this. But we have these assets that are all over the country in small villages and big cities - and I work in a project in Govan, in Elderpark, in the old maintenance department of the park, which is now a community garden, and it’s got an old building in it. And that park is part of the city’s common good, or Scotland’s common good, Govan’s common good. And we are trying to reinstate the building using common good principles, as an independent resource centre that people can come and learn about the things that they don’t get in school, find out information that they need to know about, rather than the information other people think they should know. But I am a great believer in using what we already have - I mean there is nobody in this room put their hand up when I said the Common Good Fund. And I mean basically Glasgow’s Common Good Fund is worth something like £13.5million. A hundred years ago it was worth £9.5million. And it should really be worth something like £350million. And what happens is when these assets like parks and art galleries, and nurseries, schools, buildings, all the stuff that is in the art gallery - it’s in public ownership, we own it, and it’s the Council’s responsibility to look after these assets for the good of the people for future generations, etc. And that’s the whole process in our park. There was going to be a development in the park which would have detached that part of the commons and privatised it basically to create a big sort of community hub thing, which we managed to stop. So we are trying to use a kind of “do it yourself” process of getting people involved and educating people in the building. And it’s interesting what you were talking about architecture - and, you know, people live in buildings most of their life and know very little about them. And they keep knocking down all these old buildings in Govan, and that’s our visual history - you know, you knock the building down, you knock people’s history down. So what we are trying to do with this project in the park is try and educate people about the commons and the common good - because basically, if we lose the commons, you know if we want any kind of decent life for people, we need to maintain the commons. And there is lots of good academic stuff on it, there are lots of people know about the law, but there is very little being done, obviously, when we think about the people in the room, about common good awareness. And to me, that is the most important thing, is how we create common good awareness, so people can start using these resources. I mean it is all over Scotland - there is no reason why we can’t be using them as a networking tool, you know, like a civic network and dealing with some of the problems we have got in wee villages in Aberdeen and problems in Govan - because teenagers have the same problems everywhere. Young people could be using it to develop ideas about claiming the commons and being responsible for them and different things like that. So if you want to know anything about it, look on City Stroll’s website and come along and volunteer.
LR Okay, do you feel you know what the commons are yet though, do you, in a workable way? I mean many of you probably know of Andy Whiteman who wrote “The Poor had no Lawyers”, and “Who Owns Scotland” and so on. And much of Scotland … in fact Alistair could probably explain it better than I. Alistair, could you give us a quick snapshot on the commons - because it was basically land was held in common, across Scotland, until the 1600’s, when it started to be appropriated by all sorts of people. But deep, deep down, beneath all the Title Deeds, quite often it is actually still the case that land that has been claimed by the Council usually, or other people, actually is common good land. But then you have a devil of a job legally to try and prove who is the manifestation now of the common good, and how to kind of reclaim it and get to use it. Alistair is going to give us another working definition.
AM I think you have defined it well enough Lesley. My understanding of common good is that it is common land that over time has come to be assumed to be held by a Council by a democratic representative of the people in an area. And the debate around common good land, commonly owned land, if you like, is whether or not it is then belonging to the Council to sell off for housing development or whatever, or whether it should be held and used in other ways for the benefit on an ongoing basis of the community.
BH One of the problems is, any monies or rents made off the Common Good Fund should be put back into the Common Good Fund. What has happened is when they sell off places, they are putting it into the Council coffers - so it means the Common Good loses out on it. And I mean Glasgow City Council use our common good for junkets and parties down at the Council - it’s not used for any public good.
LR One other example I know, because I did a series of talks with Andy - and he had one example of a patch of ground which was somewhere in South Lanarkshire - a kind of nothingy kind of raised bog area of land, perhaps you wouldn’t have given much of a shout about it - except that it ended up being at the centre of one of the biggest wind farms in Europe - so it became suddenly very important land, and the fact that it was not known to be common good land, it took Andy a very long time to prove that it was - but by then it was too late - it had actually been sold to the developers and it was very hard to argue that anyone other than the Council would recoup the benefit from the land. So it’s a difficult one this, but it’s a fascinating and important one. So land, common good, anyone got thoughts or anything sparked off by what you have heard? Come on, you don’t need to be a kind of land engineer or Andy Whiteman to have an opinion.
M Mike McCarron - it’s just that Bob’s reference to common good, to public commons - I think this is the language of prevention. We are talking about health problems, we are talking about a lot of social care stresses. I think if we are really looking at what might reduce all that very significantly, then these are the things we need to be understanding more about and talking more about and developing policies more about.
LR Okay, I mean can I just ask, for example, when I came here tonight - I have always come to the Pierce Institute in rubbish weather where you just get your head down, you race through the door and you don’t look around too much behind here. But I kind of went down the back here tonight and I had no idea just how very close the Clyde was. And see on a night like tonight, you kind of just imagine, in your dreams, in another world - you imagine Govan full of people just waltzing down the Clyde, you know, like it’s their river, like it’s their land in between here and there. Like “what’s out there?” You know, it’s so close, but it looks like it’s a series of garages or something owns that land. Would it not be fabulous if this building spilled out onto the Clyde, you know, you could do something with it. But it seems like, I don’t know, we don’t even think like that, because that is someone else’s land out there and you just don’t even think about what is beside you.
M I am a Director of the GalGael Trust, and one of the things that we have often had people say with our boating work is “GalGael gave us back our river”, because you are cut off from the river here. I have got a canoe here - there is a floating pier just off Govan here. If you want to use it, goodness knows how you can get to use it - you either jump over the wall, as I sometimes do and hope you don’t get caught, or you have to go over to Partick to the slipway over there. And basically you can’t cycle along here - there is no cycleway running continuously along either side of the Clyde. To the Hilton Hotel gets to have all their fancy guests out on what should be the walkway - and instead those who are walking or cycling have to go round the back by the busy street.
LR Okay, and let’s have 2 people who haven’t spoken … I am not trying to be funny, but just I am trying to encourage everybody else. Right come on, 2 people who haven’t spoken before. Come on, enter into the party spirit.
M My name is James Elder-Woodward - I am on the Board of Iriss, also the Chair of Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living. The present talk about the common good reminded me of Thomas (… unclear) pamphlet on (… unclear) Justice. And he argues in the 18th century that the land originally belonged to everybody. But when farmers began … when the agricultural revolution came about, then farmers and landowners, landlords tried to take ownership of some of the land. And they argued that those landlords should pay non land owning people (… unclear) to keep them in the house and to make them a stakeholder of the society. Now when I came here I thought we were talking about (… unclear) social care, and (… unclear) many of my colleagues is that not only do individual voices (… unclear) but the collective voice also (… unclear). And the collective voice for disabled people in Scotland has been arguing that there is a need for the (… unclear) in social care - for society to discuss and decide what they want the money paid out by social care … how that money should be used. We are arguing that at the present it is used to then gain dependencies, to keep people in poverty, to deny people’s liberties of movement and to deny their equal participation in society. What we want social care to do is to provide the resources people need to be stakeholders in their society and to participate equally within society. At the moment social care is only used to create dependency - we want social care to promote social justice and equality. Thank you.
LR Right, thank you. And last remark at the back?
M Hi, a while ago I was dog sitting and as a result I explored the size of Glasgow and I discovered a wee gem called Ross Hall Park - and I discovered that the building which is for the rich, for private healthcare, once belonged to the people of Glasgow - yet that’s another example of Glasgow City Council selling off common good property. And I was wondering if anyone was aware of it?
LR Right, the fall-back speakers are pointing at you, not us, so perhaps we are not hearing you quite as well as I hope you are hearing one another. But that was Ross Hall Park was common ground land, you think, and it’s been sold off?
M Where Ross Hall Hospital is today, the older part - that belonged to the people of Glasgow until Glasgow, the Corporation, as it was then called, then sold it off for private healthcare for the rich who can afford it.
LR Right, so that became Ross Hall, the hospital then, presumably? Right, okay, does anyone know about that? I think we are spilling into a general discussion, which is fine.
F I was just going to say that a few years ago I was involved in the campaign against Go Ape building in Pollock Park, and my understanding is that the reason the campaign was successful, because it was being argued that actually Pollock Park was common ground, and it wasn’t for the Glasgow City Council to sell it off or to lease it to the private company to have zip wires going over it - and essentially it was a dear green space for the people of Glasgow and not something that should be privatised. So I suspect … I am not sure about Ross Hall, but it seems to me there is perhaps similar things that the Council was attempting to do in Pollock Park as well.
LR Okay, well what I would like to do - we are trying to move into a larger discussion for kind of a wee while about the traditions in Scotland of support, community, whether or not we have lost neighbourly caring. I mean everybody will know about the tenement traditions. You mentioned earlier the book, Robert, there is a whole chapter about tenements in the books that I have written - and it seems to be one of the favourite ones for people. But you know, there was a lot of kind of misery actually in some of the past, and I suppose there is questions about whether we are sort of giving ourselves a falsely rosy picture sometimes of the past, whether we are too attached to it. So it would be good to know what people feel about these kind of themes, because we are trying to move now into talking a bit more about what care really constitutes these day - what we would like it to be - what has gone - what could happen. So these kind of things would be good to hear. And I am just going to start off, because I notice a lot of questions were bounced back during the first session at the panel, and I am just wondering if you can dextrously weave, and I am sure you can, any of the points that you have heard already, with this new theme that we are trying to talk about - about community care, what are the standards that we would like to have, what have we lost. Right, you are nodding as if you know what I am talking about Alison, so you can go first.
AU I am nodding - looking like I might want to appear like I know what you are talking about Lesley.
LR I think deep down you have got something to say, so go for it girl.
AU I think I have got something to say about tenements and not actually answering any of the questions. Is that okay?
LR Go for it.
AU I think we can look back in a rose tinted way, but I think … I live in a tenement with shared garden space, and just having a shared outdoor space which links with some of the thoughts about common land that we share - having shared space that people collectively take responsibility for, makes the tenement where I live a community. I doubt that it would be if the back courts were all divided up into individual bits. But because there is a shared land to grow stuff on, there is shared space to have barbecues together, there is shared space to just spend time together. We do have a community where, you know, people phone each other up if they are sick and ask if you could bring in some milk - and those kinds of things exist in our tenement, and we have dinners together and we spend time together. And that, for me, is social care in that setting.
LR Right, can I just check out - how many folk live in a tenement here? And how many people have that as a kind of normal experience? That is kind of about half. Does that sound like … that sounds like quite a good way to use the tenement. And it struck me as well, when I was looking at the book, we have in common with much of Europe actually, that level of density in our cities. The tenement is standard across Europe - it’s actually, not to be too funny about it, and I keep having to say at this point, I was born in Wolverhampton - it is English styles of housing that are unusual. It’s the Coronation Street is what you don’t find in most of Europe in cities. So actually we have got a normal situation, but because I think we don’t realise what a jewel we have in the tenement, we are not doing much with the back courts - we are not perhaps encouraging what other places have done, like the Nordic countries, which have encourage cooperative ownership of blocks. And once you get a cooperative ownership, you seem to be cooking on gas, because you get lots of repairs done quickly, you get decision making done quickly. There have been lots of attempts at self-factoring of tenements in Scotland, but that seems to have been cumbersome and hasn’t worked too well. So how do we manage to get this kind of micro-community of caring going? I mean how does it work in your block? Does it just sort of happen or do you have to cultivate it, or is someone in charge?
AU I mean there is a history to it - it’s back courts that were made in the early 70’s into one kind of communal space, and at that time there were people who were living in the tenements, who are still living in the tenements, who took on the garden and look after it. And so I think a lot of it rides on that legacy. There was then set up a community … a residents’ association that meet together and do that - we have community gardening days, we have community parties - and then other things spin off that.
LR Just as one thing, before we come in - actually this is another thing that is astonishing - how many people were involved here in the setting up of community led housing associations in Govan? Because you know, when we talked earlier about memory, it’s extraordinary what we have forgotten - not just Govan, but I mean Glasgow is actually the epicentre of community led housing in the UK. So the 70’s are significant, because that is when lots of tenement buildings, lots of housing in Scotland, in Glasgow in particular, was either going to be demolished … and actually lots of women tended to jump in at this point and objected to the demolition, demanded local regeneration, and this was a new concept them. Woodlands was the first, Govan was the second - these communities were the ones that saved the tenements of Scotland, and we have forgotten completely that this happened. So possibly these are the remnants of it, that you have these well-organised places where these tenants’ associations were set up. Yes?
M Hi, I’m John Paul. Just to kind of throw a spanner in the works, to a slight extent - I live in a 6 in a block, sort of ex-local authority, down in Mansewood, and there is big kind of communal area in front of us - really nice, wooded, leafy and stuff - but quite often there is a load of rubbish left there and my wife is always complaining, you know, going out, like rubber gloves … and of course I have to go out and give her a hand. But you get people shouting out from their flats “that’s not your job, that’s the council, that’s the council doing that”. And sometimes I think it leads to a kind of passivity, leading there, somehow it is other people that look after you - you don’t need to take care of your own tenement. And for me, I got burgled recently as well, and I thought that it was sad that it took that for me to get to know the neighbours. And they went through the loft hatch - and I went through and I was knocking, you know, telling people next door - and I went to my neighbour in the next close “oh just to let you know I got burgled last week” - “it wasnae me”. And I was like “no, I am just trying to make you aware of things”. And I think it’s too easy to get kind of rose-tinted, “we’re all a community together” - I still think there are individuals that are passive as well.
LR Okay, does anyone want to respond to that? There are lots of thoughts coming now - especially folk who haven’t spoken. Yes?
F Hi, I was just thinking - the issue, I think, is about continuity. It seems to me that with the introduction of short assured tenancies that only last for 6 months and the boom in absentee landlords, that what you end up with, and certainly in the block that I live in - I have gone from a block where there were 12 houses, 10 were owned, people looked after them, people stayed. Now I pass people on the stair - I have no idea whether they are visitors or whether they live there. And most of the flats are owned by people who never visit them and who just own them speculatively. And it is very difficult to engender a spirt of community in an environment where people are essentially operating for their own personal profit and gain.
LR Okay, lots of point now coming. If you just move the microphone round as you see fit.
F Maureen McPeat - I’m actually employed at the Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living. I think there is a danger we might have a rosy view of the past and forget about the people who were excluded from our communities - disabled people who were living in institutions, who were in segregated schooling. In the area I lived in, we went to school in a blue bus that was called the “dolly bus” - so you are not seen as somebody that other children played with or associated with. I mean even just now, only 10% of new houses have to be accessible - so how are we going to ensure in the future that disabled people can be active members of their local community and actually make a contribution? When people see us, they see us as users of services, needers of support - not as parents, carers ourselves, and people who can make an active contribution. So I would like, at some point tonight, if we can look forward to say “how can we be a really inclusive society that includes everybody and allows them to make a contribution”.
LR Can you keep the microphone for a minute. What would you suggest then? You know, knock it forward yourself - what would be the one … I mean I am sure is a welter, but what one or two structural changes?
LM I would like to see, well more than 10% of new build being accessible - I’d like to see the abolition of the bedroom tax that says that people have to move to smaller houses. Where are all these small adapted houses that we are all going to move to? So I think there is a lot the government can do, there is a lot the council can do, and maybe I know the Commonwealth Games are good for the City of Glasgow, but a lot of that money has been diverted from vital services. So I would like to see more local people included in local decision making process.
LR Right, grand, thank you very much. Where are we going?
M who lives locally and uses local care services. I think the contributions from Maureen and Jim were really, really important and I think there is a parallel between the experience in housing and care provision and access to services for diabled people. Yes, Glasgow Housing Association and the network of other local housing associations is one of the largest in Europe - but the vote to transfer the housing stock very nearly went against all of that. And my memory of that is the key driver was concern that it was privatisation, and that one group of low paid people, or disadvantaged people, the employees in the service, would suffer under the privatisation process. And there is a parallel there with the debate about the reform of care services whose needs are at risk and whose needs are under threat. I would be interested to hear what folk from the Independent Living Movement can say about that, because my concern I suppose, speaking in a personal capacity is that going back to the issue of memory - part of the kind of memory that folk have got is that privatisation or the removal of services from direct local authority or health board control is part of an agenda to disadvantage people, and therefore politically Scotland, as a left country, is against that. But one ofhte consequences of that, I think the culture of dependency, the speaker at the front mentioned in relation to “oh there’s a problem here” - “well that’s the council’s problem - they should fix that” - I hear an echo from that with what Jim was saying earlier on in realtion to access to services for disabled people. Say “well I want a local, small scale service where I can have control myself or along with other local service users we can control the way the service is designed and delivered” - and you simply don’t get that level of responsiveness from multi-billion pound, large public service organisations. Now they might change - they might learn from the magnificent efforts of the Independent Living Movement, but if they don’t I think there has to be … in terms of the debate tonight, that conflict between the very legitimate and very important historical memory that the break-up of organisations puts workers rights at threat - and that would be employees in Govan - that that can sometimes be … I am trying to be diplomatic here - a barrier to the fundamental human rights of care service users in the way that Jim has described earlier on. I think that’s a big debate for us.
LR Yes, that is very big, big point. Can anyone respond directly to Peter there?
MM Can I just say that I fully support the new Self-Directed Support Act that allows people to decide who should deliver their support - because it’s opening the door to someone you have never met who is going to give you a shower in the morning, it’s not an experience most of us would want. So I think the Self-Directed Support Act has been a really good example of coproduction, and I would like to congratulate the Scottish government in that, in the way they have discussed it with the Independent Living Movement.
LR Can I just ask something, because I can remember dealing with this at an event about a year and a bit ago, and one of the problems with it, at that point, was that you couldn’t nominate a partner as the person that would receive the Caring Allowance. Has that been resolved, because it looked like the take-up of this scheme was zilch - and it was bafflingly zilch, and I wondered if that was one of the biggest reasons?
MM Well what they are saying is that you can employ a partner in exceptional circumstances - so you just have to be creative how you interpret exceptional circumstances.
LR Okay, but that, to me, to me that’s shocking. It’s shocking that we have to get … because this is exactly the point we got to a year and a half ago where this was being put through and people were having to, just as you say, were having to be ‘cute’ about how they … or they were having to watch carefully which officer in the council was considering their application - because they knew which ones favoured partners and which ones didn’t. Now I mean, is that democracy? So let’s try and keep it, just for a wee minute.
M Can I make one quick point on the number of people taking up (… unclear) - the right must be the default position in all care (… unclear) if you are assessed for care - you have to either (… unclear) for not getting a direct payment rather than to get one. And that is going to increase the number of people taking a direct payment.
LR Okay, yes, on you go Bob.
BH We always end up back at this place about process - you know, people become assessed with processes, about how we do things, how we don’t do things. I mean people have got things to worry about now that 20 years ago they wouldn’t even have dreamed about. Even people who are unemployed, sitting on the dole, have got worries about this, about that, nobody has got any time to do anything. I have got a project running … it used to be, years ago, people would come back from work and they would go out and volunteer for the Boy Scouts or something like that, or they would take on a project or this. It’s this thing about “who’s driving the bus here? Who’s creating this speed?” We’re all so busy. And to me, you know, I can’t get anybody … you can’t get volunteers on community projects, but you can go on line and find millions of projects, ideas for projects, analysis of projects - there is tons and tons of it. And I think it’s time we started creating like … what’s the guy called? Activist Intellectuals - we need people in the community, sitting down with wee groups of people and explaining to them how to go about things, you know, how to reclaim your common good, how to do this - because their heads are just full of the television. Somebody was saying it was like the experiences people get now in their day to day life - used to be the things you would need to take drugs to experience that sort of stuff. You know, when you look at what people are watching on the television. And if you want to worry about anything, you just put it in YouTube and you will get all the worry - you know, just pick your worries. And we are kind of saturated in all this kind of stuff, and we are saturated in these ideas, these processes, how we are going to get out it. And basically what we need to do is just sit down and speak to our mate, talk to our neighbours, create solidarity, get rid of bubbles and find what we have in common, you know, like critical connections - because we don’t have the time … nobody has the time to do this themselves. We have to do it together. But we have to find the critical connections of how we can work with each other. You know, we can still be autonomous and do our own thing, but we are still working for like social housing, education and two or three controversial ideas, which is … you know, like rent, like cheap rent - the liberation idea about having cheap rent would be incredible. So if we were doing something and we are saying we are trying to create decent rent for people so they can think, so they can sit in their house and have a think about something - without worrying about being made homeless the next week. Unless we can strengthen that social base, people can’t deal with the bigger problems.
LR Okay, well thank you for that - I loved that phrase “get rid of the bubbles” - sounds a bit kind of mean when said on its own actually, because bubbles are generally quite nice things - but I know what you are saying. Let’s thank our 3 that kicked off our discussion. We are now going to shunt around a little bit.
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