Archive for September, 2012

Sustained quality in Journalism

September 30, 2012 Leave a comment
Categories: Media Tags:

£1m carve-up: Tories rake in donations from fatcats hoping to cash in on NHS privatisation

September 29, 2012 Leave a comment

The Mirror 29 Sep 2012 00:00

£1m carve-up: Tories rake in donations from fatcats hoping to cash in on NHS privatisation

Shareholders in the company Circle Health – the first private firm to take over an NHS hospital – have given the Conservatives over £1.4m

The Tory Party has raked in more than £1million in donations from City executives set to make a fortune from its plans to privatise large swathes of the NHS.

We can today reveal fatcat shareholders in the company Circle Health – the first private firm to take over an NHS hospital – have given the Conservatives over £1.4million.

Our research also shows that overall David Cameron’s party has been given more than £10million from those with links to private health.

Labour yesterday said the donations, made since 2001, lifted the lid on the cosy relationship.

And it accused the Tories of “carving up” the NHS for their wealthy chums in big business.

The revelations come days after new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt shortlisted Circle Health’s spin chief Christina Linnet to be his new media boss.

She previously worked for former Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley before the Tories came to power.

Official records also show Tory MP Mark Simmonds is paid £50,000 a year by Circle for 10 hours’ work a month.

The links between private health companies and the Conservative Party became a matter of public debate after Circle was last year handed a 10-year contract worth £1.2billion to take over the failing Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire.

Its directors think the contract is the first of many – and have set out business plans to clinch NHS bids worth more than £8billion.

The company’s controversial takeover of the hospital came despite admissions in a document released to the stock exchange that patient care could suffer.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham yesterday attacked the relationship between profit-making private health companies and the Government.He said: “The Great NHS Carve-Up is well under way and it probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that friends of the Tory Party are doing very nicely out of it. But, even so, people will be taken aback by the sheer extent and intimacy of the links between Circle Health and the Conservative Party.

“It doesn’t look or smell at all good given Circle’s success and high profile under this Government.

“It leaves the Prime Minister with serious questions to answer.

“He should publish a list of all contact between his Government and Circle so people can judge whether it is appropriate.”

The donations to the Tories – from those linked to the takeover of Hinchingbrooke hospital – came from four City execs in giant investment companies that have large stakes in Circle.

The firm’s leading shareholders are Lansdowne Partners, Invesco Perpetual, BlueCrest and Odey Asset Management.

Lansdowne Partners holds a 29% stake, Invesco Perpetual 21.9%, Odey Asset Management 21.1% and BlueCrest Capital 7.1%.

The boss of Lansdowne Partners, Sir Paul Ruddock, has donated £630,000.

The CEO of Odey Asset Management Crispin Odey has given £242,000, Sir Martyn Arbib of Invesco Perpetual £413,000 and BlueCrest founder Michael Platt £125,000.

The companies said there was no link between the donations to the Tories – made privately by individuals and not by the firms – and each company’s business investments.

Lansdowne Partners said its chief executive Sir Paul did not decide which companies his firm invested in.

And BlueCrest insisted any donation from Mr Platt had no bearing on its business investments.

The Tories said the original decision to give a private firm the chance to run Hitchingbrooke hospital was made by Labour in March 2010.

A spokesman added: “All donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with Electoral Commission rules.”

Labour calls for review of sickness benefits assessment

September 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Finally some movement from a member of the Shadow cabinet with responsibility for the DWP remit,,,,




The root of Europe’s riots

September 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Throughout the 1980s and 90s, when many developing countries were in crisis and borrowing money from the International Monetary Fund, waves of protests in those countries became known as the “IMF riots”. They were so called because they were sparked by the fund’s structural adjustment programmes, which imposed austerity, privatisation and deregulation.

The IMF complained that calling these riots thus was unfair, as it had not caused the crises and was only prescribing a medicine, but this was largely self-serving. Many of the crises had actually been caused by the asset bubbles built up following IMF-recommended financial deregulation. Moreover, those rioters were not just expressing general discontent but reacting against the austerity measures that directly threatened their livelihoods, such as cuts in subsidies to basic commodities such as food and water, and cuts in already meagre welfare payments.

The IMF programme, in other words, met such resistance because its designers had forgotten that behind the numbers they were crunching were real people. These criticisms, as well as the ineffectiveness of its economic programme, became so damaging that the IMF has made a lot of changes in the past decade or so. It has become more cautious in pushing for financial deregulation and austerity programmes, renamed its structural adjustment programmes as poverty reduction programmes, and has even (marginally) increased the voting shares of the developing countries in its decision-making.

Given these recent changes in the IMF, it is ironic to see the European governments inflicting an old-IMF-style programme on their own populations. It is one thing to tell the citizens of some faraway country to go to hell but it is another to do the same to your own citizens, who are supposedly your ultimate sovereigns. Indeed, the European governments are out-IMF-ing the IMF in its austerity drive so much that now the fund itself frequently issues the warning that Europe is going too far, too fast.

The threat to livelihoods has reached such a dimension that renewed bouts of rioting are now rocking Greece, Spain and even the usually quieter Portugal. In the case of Spain, its national integrity is threatened by the separatist demand made by the Catalan nationalists, who think the austerity policy is unfairly reducing the region’s autonomy.

Even if these and other European countries (for other countries have not been free of protests against austerity programmes, such as Britain’s university fees riot and the protests by Italy’s “recession widows”) survive this social unrest through a mixture of heavy-handed policing and political delaying tactics, recent events raise a very serious question about the nature of European politics.

What has been happening in Europe – and indeed the US in a more muted and dispersed form – is nothing short of a complete rewriting of the implicit social contracts that have existed since the end of the second world war. In these contracts, renewed legitimacy was bestowed on the capitalist system, once totally discredited following the great depression. In return it provided a welfare state that guarantees minimum provision for all those burdens that most citizens have to contend with throughout their lives – childcare, education, health, unemployment, disability and old age.

Of course there is nothing sacrosanct about any of the details of these social contracts. Indeed, the contracts have been modified on the margins all the time. However, the rewriting in many European countries is an unprecedented one. It is not simply that the scope and the speed of the cuts are unusually large. It is more that the rewriting is being done through the back door.

Instead of it being explicitly cast as a rewriting of the social contract, changing people’s entitlements and changing the way the society establishes its legitimacy, the dismembering of the welfare state is presented as a technocratic exercise of “balancing the books”. Democracy is neutered in the process and the protests against the cuts are dismissed. The description of the externally imposed Greek and Italian governments as “technocratic” is the ultimate proof of the attempt to make the radical rewriting of the social contract more acceptable by pretending that it isn’t really a political change.

The danger is not only that these austerity measures are killing the European economies but also that they threaten the very legitimacy of European democracies – not just directly by threatening the livelihoods of so many people and pushing the economy into a downward spiral, but also indirectly by undermining the legitimacy of the political system through this backdoor rewriting of the social contract. Especially if they are going to have to go through long tunnels of economic difficulties in coming years, and in the context of global shifts in economic power balance and of severe environmental challenges, European countries can ill afford to have the legitimacy of their political systems damaged in this way.

Latest Mental Health Foundation Newsletter

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Campaign launched to prevent suicide

Each year in the UK, twice as many people die by suicide than lose their lives in road traffic accidents.

U Can Cope is a film that promotes the messages that anyone can experience suicidal thoughts, there is always hope and there is always somewhere to find help. Please share the film to spread these extremely important messages.

Launched on World Suicide Prevention Day earlier this month, the film was produced in collaboration with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Connecting with People and other professional and voluntary organisations.

Paul Bristow, Head of Communications

Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival
Our sixth annual Mental Health Arts & Film Festival takes place across Scotland from 1-25 October.

This year’s theme ‘walk in my shoes’ celebrates diversity and understanding, reflected in the wide range of events that make up the programme of film, theatre, music, dance, comedy, literature and visual arts.

Now the biggest festival of its kind in Europe with hundreds of events each year, the full programme of events is now available.

Build your resilience to depression
Depression: a Global Crisis is the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day on 10 October.

Depression can affect anyone and is predicted to be the leading cause of global disability burden by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation.

We want everyone to look after their mental wellbeing and increase their resilience to common problems such as depression. You can start now by finding out ten easy ways to look after your mental health or by downloading our free booklet.

Talking is good for you!
Join us to mark World Mental Health Day by holding a Tea & Talk fundraising event.

Spending time with other people and talking about your feelings is good for your mental health.

All you need to do is get together a group of friends, family or colleagues then have a cuppa, a natter and ask them to make a donation.

You can access lots of free resources for your event including a quiz to get you talking about mental health.

How do you feel?
We’ve been working hard for many years to reduce the stigma and discrimination linked to mental health. We believe people are becoming more comfortable talking about common mental health problems such as depression.

But we’d really value your opinion on this and we’d like to know are you comfortable talking about depression? Tell us by replying to this email with Yes or No as the subject line or email us at In return for sharing your view you’ll be entered into a draw to win a copy of The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook.

Your feedback will help us to know what’s important to our supporters and inform our future priorities. We will share the results with you in next month’s newsletter. We won’t share your feedback with any other organisation or use it for any other purpose.

Win great prizes and support mental health
There’s still time to enter our raffle to help raise funds to support our work. 

We’ve got some great prizes up for grabs including a year’s supply of cake and signed Franz Ferdinand albums.

Find out more about how to enter and the prizes you could win or reply to this email for more information.

The draw takes place on 31 October so don’t wait too long to enter!

How to improve access to psychological therapies?
Only a fraction of the millions of people suffering from mental illness have access to treatments, according to a report from the London School of Economics.

Our Head of Policy, Simon Lawton-Smith, has written a blog about current psychological therapy provision and our campaign to increase this.

Tom Greatrix, The Daily Record: Disabled need help but Atos is failing them in the worst way possible

September 28, 2012 1 comment

Disabled need help but Atos is failing them in the worst way possible

TOM GREATREX, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, says Atos is making patients feel punished for being ill.

I AM not surprised that the Daily Record’s exposure of the failings of Atos has had such a strong response from people across Britain.

I have been campaigning about this chaotic process for nearly two years, and know from my own surgeries just how much anger and frustration there is about the assessments.

The principle of checking whether someone is fit for work is a sound one. The benefits of work are clear, not just to the individual’s health, social and family life, but for wider society too.

So people who can work should be helped to work. But those who can’t should not be hounded by a process that is not working properly.

Like many of the cases the Record has reported over the past few days, I have heard from constituents who have found themselves unable to work but trapped in a chaotic system of assessment, appeal and

It is not their fault, but they feel like they are being punished for being ill.

The test as it stands fails to properly take into account the complex circumstances of those with Parkinson’s disease, mental health problems or patients recovering from cancer. People are left concerned, confused
and anxious about their own experience.

When the Labour government introduced an assessment, it was designed to help people get back to work. The Tory-LibDem Government have turned it into a chaotic mess.

They renegotiated the contract, ignored the trials and accelerated people moving from incapacity benefit without fixing the problems.

The resulting chaos of delays in assessment, triple booking appointments, a backlog of appeals and thousands of those decisions being overturned is down to the Government’s failure to get a grip of this mess.

As well as wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, behind every statistic is somebody whose life has been made a misery through no fault of their own.

The system must be changed to work for those who need support at a time in their lives when they are vulnerable, as well as those whose taxes are paying for it.

The process was designed to help, not hound, those unable to work.

At the moment, it is failing the sick and disabled in the most shameful way imaginable.

Sophie Lancaster radio drama adapted for stage

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment
Categories: Stigma Tags:

Ministers missed key evidence of fraud in welfare-to-work scheme

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment


MPs condemn DWP for lax management of A4e and failure to identify malpractice

Ministers have been condemned by a committee of MPs for failing to investigate properly allegations of fraud in the Government’s flagship schemes to get the unemployed back to work.

A £1-billion-a year scheme to help the unemployed into work was so badly madly managed by ministers that vital evidence of potential fraud never picked up, a damming report concludes today.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had missed “vital evidence” of potential fraud at the controversial welfare-to-work provider, A4e.

The department was accused of failing to “exercise sufficient oversight” of the private companies delivering the programme. Cases of alleged fraud were overlooked because officials had not “asked the right questions”.

The committee concluded that the DWP had been remiss in failing to obtain internal audit reports from A4e from 2009 which detailed a “considerable number” of cases of alleged fraud and malpractice. The company has won contracts worth £200million to run welfare-to-work schemes since May 2010 but has been hit by scandal with allegations of fraud and malpractice.

In February, the A4e founder Emma Harrison – who was appointed by David Cameron as the Government’s “family champion” – announced that she was quitting the firm amid claims of widespread problems in the organisation.

The DWP, where the Secretary of State is Iain Duncan Smith, launched an inquiry into the company which resulted in it being stripped of one of its contracts to help the jobless find work in May after ministers concluded that continuing would be “too great a risk”.

However, the company still holds 11 contracts with the Government and the committee accused the DWP of failing to address the wider issue of whether A4e was a “fit and proper” company to continue to carry out such work.

“The department’s arrangements for overseeing and managing its contractors did not pick up vital evidence about potential frauds,” the report said.

“The investigations of alleged fraud that the department has carried out have not been sufficiently thorough.”

The committee had heard evidence from three whistleblowers who told MPs that they had found evidence of widespread fraud but their concerns had been ignored.

Their evidence was heard in private after Conservative members of the committee blocked attempts for them to address a public hearing. The transcript of their testimony was omitted from the final report at the request of the whistleblowers themselves, who included auditors from two of the biggest welfare-to-work providers.One of the whistleblowers was Eddie Hutchinson, an accountant of 30 years standing, who was appointed A4e’s head of audit in 2010. He alleged that an “unethical culture” had led to “systemic fraud” at the company.

Another whistleblower described serious problems at another welfare to work provider, Working Links, which runs three major contracts on the Coalition’s £5 billion jobs scheme and is part-owned by the Government.

A third whistleblower who had worked at A4e told how she had been asked to “fix” files to suggest that people had successfully found work.

Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said that if the Government chose to use private companies to provide public services, it was essential that the proper controls were in place.

“In this instance, the DWP’s arrangements for overseeing and inspecting its contractors were so weak that vital evidence on potential fraud and improper practice was not picked up,” she said.

“The department is still investigating allegations brought to its attention by the committee but was not proactive in setting in place systems which root out fraud and malpractice.

“If it had not been for whistleblowers, a range of systemic issues would not have been identified.

“The department might have identified these issues if it had asked the right questions of providers.”

A DWP spokesperson said that the fraud cases related to previous welfare-to-work schemes under the former Labour government: “We have also put in place the toughest anti-fraud measures ever included in a Government back to work scheme. We have made this clear to the committee on several occasions. The examples of fraud mentioned in the report do not relate to the Work Programme.”

She added that the DWP’s enquiries into the whistleblower’s allegations about Working Links had concluded. “We are satisfied that these cases were investigated thoroughly by Working Links at the time and that appropriate actions were taken. The associated amounts have been repaid.” But she refused to say how much public money had had to be repaid or how many cases it related to.

However the enquiry into A4e is ongoing. She added: “These enquiries are prolonged, reflecting the inevitable challenges in securing evidence from these historic claims. It remains important that we are thorough in reaching a clear and evidence based conclusion in these matters.”

A spokesman for A4e said: “The allegations highlighted in today’s report all relate to historical, paper-based contracts. Where we have made mistakes in the past, we have acknowledged them and ensured that all allegations, where evidence was provided, were fully examined. There are no new allegations in this report.

“The current Work Programme eliminates the opportunity for similar issues to arise because it is computer-based and payment is on results – both of which A4e strongly advocated. However, we fully understand public concerns and are working hard to set new standards of openness and responsiveness.”

September 27, 2012 Leave a comment
Categories: Uncategorized


September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

A review of cases where people with mental illness have died or been seriously hurt in police custody, such as that of musician Sean Rigg, has been launched.

Half of the deaths in police custody in 2011/12 were people who had mental health problems, and Scotland Yard has commissioned a review to look at cases over the past five years involving serious injury or death.

Earlier this year the jury at the inquest into Mr Rigg’s death found police officers used “unsuitable” force after arresting the 40-year-old schizophrenic for attacking passers-by and police officers in Balham, south London, on August 21, 2008.

Physically fit Mr Rigg was being held at Brixton police station when he died of cardiac arrest.

After the inquest, a report by police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said: “Sean Rigg’s death is a symptom of a deeper problem: the linkage between mental illness and deaths in or following police custody.”

Its own original investigation into the death, which found that officers had acted properly, was criticised by Mr Rigg’s family as “extremely poor and ineffective” and is being reviewed by the IPCC.

This information will feed into the commission’s inquiry, which is being led by Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of the care services provider Turning Point. It is expected to be completed in February, when the final report will be presented to the Met and made public.

Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said: “A number of cases have highlighted concerns with how police respond to people with mental health conditions. I want to know that we are doing everything we can to get this right. That is why I’ve commissioned this independent review.

“This is not a matter for the police alone and the roles of partner agencies will be explored by the commission.”

He said he was writing to a number of families about the review, but Scotland Yard would not reveal who had been contacted.

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