‘Other public services should follow example’

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lady Gaga concerts and short breaks in Barcelona are among the last things you might expect the council to be funding in these times of austerity.

But the innovative approach to providing respite care to the families of vulnerable adults in the Capital is a model which other public services would do well to follow.

The excellent BreakAway programme has transformed the life of 46-year-old Mark Hyland, who has Down’s Syndrome, and his family, and many others like them.

The crucial change is that Mark and his mother Aileen have been put in charge of the care they receive.

They control the budget which the local authority spends on their respite care, making the choices that suit them.

It is a shining example of public services being properly tailored to suit the needs of the people who use them.

So, the Hylands can choose between Mark spending a weekend away in Barcelona, or perhaps a week’s worth of nights at a council-run home.

Whatever choice they make, it does not cost the council any more or less – once the money is gone, it’s gone.

But the families who desperately need our support get just the help they want. And isn’t that exactly what anyone would wish for in their position?

Pain ahead for Kirk

the widespread changes which the Kirk is about to embark upon in the Capital will be painful for many.

Some will have to leave the churches that have been a part of their lives for decades, the places where they said their wedding vows, baptised their children and mourned their parents or grandparents.

The city’s churches are part of the fabric of our society, but the Kirk cannot stand still if it wants to remain a strong force for good in our communities.

Almost half of us may describe ourselves as Church of Scotland, but the reality is that only around one in ten Scots attends Kirk anything like regularly, and membership has slumped from a peak of 1.3 million in the 1950s to around 460,000 today.

Any organisation in these circumstances must cut its cloth accordingly, but it is heartening to see the Church of Scotland continuing to look outward as it confronts the future.

Outreach work in deprived estates, with the Capital’s international communities and even in leisure centres and just the kind of initiatives that can ensure the church remains relevant to the society beyond its doors.