Edinburgh community shattered as welfare service to close after funding cuts

Community Ability Network in Craigmillar, which will be closing at the end of February after Edinburgh's Integration Joint Board pulled the plug on funding. Picture: JP
Community Ability Network in Craigmillar, which will be closing at the end of February after Edinburgh's Integration Joint Board pulled the plug on funding. Picture: JP
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Thousands of vulnerable people in one of the most socially deprived areas in Scotland have been left devastated at the imminent closure of a vital welfare service after its funding was axed.

The Community Ability Network (CAN) in Craigmillar is one of around 35 organisations to lose their grant they have been receiving from Edinburgh’s Integration Joint Board which is in charge of health and social care for the
city. The organisation, which has been working in the area for 17 years, helps residents in the south of the Capital with a wide range of topics including employment applications, debt advice, pensions advice from DWP, benefit advice and assisting with DLA applications and appeals.

GP at Craigmillar Medical Group Carey Lunan says the Community Ability Network is "absolutely vital" to residents in the south of the city.

GP at Craigmillar Medical Group Carey Lunan says the Community Ability Network is "absolutely vital" to residents in the south of the city.

Project manager Ron Carthy said the community-run advice shop had supported 2297 individuals in the past year and helped people win over £3m in benefits they were entitled to.

Without the £92,750 from the EIJB the service is being forced to close at the end of February, news that has shattered the community and left three members of staff being given their notice periods.

Ron said: “I really cannot understand the Board’s decision. Up until Christmas we had a three-week waiting list and these clients now need to find somewhere else.

“An average year we see 2500 clients and some of them have been in tears wondering what they’re going to do when we close at the end of February. We give a personal service here and have built up relationships with the community. The Craigmillar and Niddrie area is one of the most deprived areas of Scotland. In the eight years I’ve been here, our case load has doubled.

“We are facing liquidation and possible bankruptcy which will have possible severe financial implications for the directors - who are all volunteers.”

CAN works closely with GP practices including Craigmillar Medical Group. GP Carey Lunan said: “These people need support from someone and we have no idea where they are going to have to go. We help as much as we can but with cuts we are already up against it. Many of our patients are struggling with their mental or physical health and it doesn’t make sense to cut the funding. These people are some of the most disadvantaged people in Edinburgh and they deserve better than this.”

An online petition has been set up in an attempt to persuade the EIJB to reverse its decision and restore the funding.

Service user Ellie Wixon, 40, from Newington, said: “I had a breakdown in 2017 and CAN was a God send, helping me fill out forms so I got the correct benefits. I was absolutely devastated to hear of the closure. It was like being told a relative has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It’s the cruellest blow ever. Every single walk of life can get help in CAN and I think it’s disgusting they can do this to vulnerable and elderly people.”

The EIJB has said it received 152 bids for grants totalling £31m while the funding available was £14m.

EIJB chair Councillor Ricky Henderson said the recommendations on which projects should receive grants had followed “a robust and well thought out application and assessment process” and an independent chair moderating the allocation programme, “ensuring objective and impartial decisions”.

He said: “This is a new process for allocating grants which I strongly believe meets our strategic objectives for providing health and social care services across Edinburgh.

“We are signposting affected organisations to other, potential sources of funding and urging people who use their services to access other sources of support and advice, where we can.”

To sign the petition click here