Library users reassured
The local authority spoke after a letter was sent to the Observer claiming there were serious safeguarding issues having people go into the homes of vulnerable people to deliver books.
The anonymous writer expressed major concern as currently home library staff sometimes have access to coded boxes to get into the properties of housebound and elderly people.
However, Wigan Council has strongly denied claims anyone stepping forward to offer to run the service will not be subject to rigorous background checks to ensure they are suitable.
The letter said: “They [Wigan Council] have designed a model to ensure the future closure of the Library Home Delivery Service by insisting that the delivered books and talking books to the housebound or those unable to facilitate mainstream libraries and stock are by volunteers or not at all.
“Volunteer inclusion seems a way to achieve this however it seems that Wigan Council think the volunteers could just take over the service by saying ‘I’ll do that’.
“They will be entering vulnerable adults’ homes, often using codes for doorkey boxes and entrances.
“I’m writing due to a genuine concern for the safety and wellbeing of my clients.”
The letter also alleged Wigan Council had described the service as self-referring, saying this was not the case.
However, the council has responded to the claims, saying the home library delivery is accessed by a mixture of self-referrals and health care professionals suggesting people become service users.
The local authority also pointed out that numerous town halls across the country already run the model being considered for the borough and stressed that applicants would be checked before approval.
Lesley O’Halloran, Wigan Council’s assistant director for customer services, said: “With a requirement to find £1.4m from the library service budget we clearly needed to look at things differently and have used the principles of The Deal to help enable this. In looking at proposals to realise these savings we undertook public consultation which specifically included the move to a volunteer model for the home delivery library service.
“Overall feedback was in support of the proposals and we have used this to help shape the finalised changes to our borough’s library service.
“Wigan Council’s library service already works with a wide range of volunteers, who receive training and support to enable them to complete their roles.
“We expect volunteers working within this area to receive the appropriate training and checks prior to them starting in the role.”