Archive for October, 2012

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Pride's Purge

(Not satire – I’m sorry to say)

UPDATE 2 – have a look at this link for the latest on the disability activist who was questioned by two police officers in her home at midnight in relation to comments she’d posted on Facebook critical of government cuts and specifically the Department of Work and Pensions and their attacks on the rights of disability claimants:

PCS trade union sets police on disabled activist for campaigning against the government

Here’s the original article on Pride’s Purge:

Police raid activist’s home for ‘criminal’ posts on Facebook.

UPDATE 1 – She has made a formal complaint to South Wales police and in the letter, she lays out in detail what happened that night.

She has given me permission to share it with you, so here it is, in her own words:

Complaint Against South Wales Police – Harassment and Intimidation of a Vulnerable Disabled Person

 Subject Access…

View original post 1,980 more words

Categories: Uncategorized

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment
Categories: Uncategorized

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment
Categories: Uncategorized

Dilbert does an Iain Duncan Smith management appraisal

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Todays Comic

Shave off the pointy headed hair and this mirrors the Coalition rhetoric on the unemployed, sick and disabled, and now apparently the retired….


The Independent: Thousands wrongly sectioned under mental health act following ‘technical error’

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Thousands wrongly sectioned under mental health act following ‘technical error’

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Parliament that thousands of Britain’s most vulnerable patients have been locked up on the say so of doctors who, despite having the requisite medical knowledge, were not legally allowed to make such a decision.

The error will require immediate retrospective legislation to avoid a deluge of legal complaints whilst a review has been ordered to find out what went wrong.

The Department of Health insists that no patients have been wrongly sectioned in clinical terms and that the doctors behind the decisions had the correct professional qualifications.

Under the Mental Health Act those who are sectioned for their own or society’s safety are done so with the authorisation of a doctor who has to be approved by the Secretary of State. In recent years the Health Secretary has delegated responsibility for approving doctors to the 10 Strategic Health Authorities that cover England.

However four authorities – North East, Yorkshire and Humber, West Midlands and East Midlands – delegated a further step top mental health trusts and then failed to sign off on the decisions they made, meaning they were effectively illegal.

In a statement to the Commons Mr Hunt said: “We believe that all the proper clinical processes were gone through when these patients were detained. They were detained by medically qualified doctors. We believe that no one is in hospital who shouldn’t be and no patients have suffered because of this.

He added: “But for the avoidance of any remaining doubt, and in the interests of the safety of patients themselves, as well as the potential concerns of their families and the staff who care for them, we are introducing emergency legislation to clarify the position.”

Andy Burnham, his opposite in the Labour party, said MPs would work with the Health Secretary in bringing in the emergency legislation but he warned: “There will be concerns about precedent – this the first time that the House has been presented with emergency legislation in this area which affects people’s rights. The public will want to know that it is being used in exceptional circumstances as a last resort, not as a convenient means of correcting administrative failures.”

Mental health charities reacted cautiously to the announcement saying that although the mistake was regrettable, they were assured by promises from the government that no-one had been sectioned falsely in clinical terms.

“Being involuntarily detained via the Mental Health Act is one of the most serious things that can happen to someone in terms of their mental health,” said Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind. “For this reason it is essential that the system works as it should, with safeguards in place to protect the rights of the person being detained. It is therefore regrettable that this mistake has been made and that it went unnoticed for so long.”

Paul Jenkins, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness added: “All of us need to know that if we were ever ill enough to be sectioned, we would be treated according to the proper processes. At this stage, we have no reason to think that anyone has been detained who should not have been, even though the correct procedures have not been followed. We believe that the Department of Health and Strategic Health Authorities are taking swift action and we will continue to monitor the situation.”

Marjorie Wallace chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, added: “It is a matter of some concern that the procedures for something as sensitive as being sectioned have not been followed in so many cases. At the moment we have the Health Secretary’s assurance that no-one has been detained unnecessarily, and must hope that these errors are correctly swiftly so that confidence in the system can be preserved. This is particularly important when an individual is placed in the care and authority of the state.”

* Picture posed by model

Categories: Mental Health Tags:

The new Statesman, Bryan Moore:

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment

The writer and former England rugby international Brian Moore says he isn’t at all surprised the DJ’s victims didn’t speak up earlier. As long as victims live in fear of not being listened to, they won’t talk.

Alt-na-reigh, the cottage owned by Jimmy Savile which police have searched this week. Photograph: Getty Images

“The problem with paedophilia is that you have to go to bed really early.” Hands up if you don’t think that’s funny? Hands up, and be honest now, if you were tempted to laugh but then reminded yourself that child abuse is no laughing matter? You’re right, it is no laughing matter, but then triviality isn’t the main aim of jokes; they don’t mean you don’t take the subject seriously. What is damaging is the failure to take seriously the people who really matter – us, the victims.

I told that joke as an aside to camera at the beginning of an interview with Jeremy Vine for a Panorama programme, Are You a Danger to Your Kids?. The BBC came to me because of the widespread publicity around the revelation in my autobiography Beware of the Dog that, at the age of nine, I had been repeatedly sexually abused by a schoolteacher who was a family friend. To make matters worse, my mother was the school secretary at the time. It was a story I had not told to anyone for nearly 40 years and I had not included it in my first autobiography, which was ghost-written.

It’s about people

The programme discussed the thankfully nowredundant proposal of an Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) scheme. It was an illadvised and probably dangerous initiative yet though it is no more, the lessons highlighted by the fiasco have not been learned. This is amply demonstrated by the developing scandal around Jimmy Savile, and soon to be others of fame.

The issue of child abuse has been hijacked by the press as a way of deflecting from its own nefariousness on phone-hacking and bribing of public officials. Why didn’t the papers act on rumours they now say were very clear and publicly known?

Let me get this straight – anyone who witnessed abuse or failed to investigate a complaint properly must be asked and must answer all questions put. However, you can’t apply today’s more vigilant standards of scrutiny to the 1970s. Nor can you legitimately skewer culprits with circumstantial or hearsay evidence which, with the benefit of hindsight and subsequent revelation, appears to raise suspicion.

What is lost in all this is the victims. The accusations are focused on institutions and authority, with the individual cases lost in a running total of victims that the tabloids seem keen to inflate. There are and will be calls for more procedures and schemes and vetting to ensure this never happens again. But it will happen again, and what is not needed is another raft of process-driven, box-ticking certificates of safety.

A simple national register is all that is needed to bar convicted abusers, but the ISA or Criminal Records Bureau registers would not have caught my abuser or Savile or anyone who has not already been caught. Indeed, they would have given them a document to wave around, offering them further cover and confidence.

You cannot have a situation where children view any adult not in their family or not a family friend with immediate suspicion. Not only will this fracture society, it will also put children in more danger. Seventy per cent of abuse is domestic. If children look to their family for safety and are then abused, they are isolated, betrayed and without anywhere to go.

To catch abusers the first thing you need is a complaint; without that the police or any other body cannot start to investigate anything. To attract complaints, you have to give victims the confidence to complain, and that doesn’t just mean informing them of which line to call or person to tell.

I and many of Savile’s victims did not tell because we did not think we would be believed. What we victims need is not just an immediate person being sympathetic and taking a statement. We need to know that a proper investigation will be made if we make a complaint; to know that the Crown Prosecution Service will be robust and that every effort will be made to secure a conviction. So harrowing is the telling of our stories that we have to have utmost faith that as much as possible will be done to rectify the wrong and to help us bear the extra stress of an investigation and trial.

Give us the facts

We are often tortured by the knowledge that many people will associate us with the awfulness of the crime and that, by extension, we will become damaged and tainted. In the case of male rape and abuse, the assumption is that the victim is gay or a likely abuser.

The failure of the government and the media to inform, educate and disseminate the facts around abuse is damaging and makes complaints less likely. It isn’t true that there is a paedophile round every corner and we don’t want the fear of abuse to become as widespread as the fear of crime has become.

If the public is properly enlightened, we will not have to fear allegations that we are making things up for sympathy or, in my case, to sell books. We might be spared the silences that accompany our entry into conversations about abuse, because it will be an issue that, though uncomfortable, can be talked about openly. Only then might we start to know we are not alone.

Blanket broadcasting of just our names does not help. How much do you know about any of us, beyond our abuse? How many stories have there been about the inadequacy of support for those of us who have developed psychiatric problems, are addicts or are at risk of suicide?

The ongoing failure to help us is as much a scandal as the failures of 30 years ago to catch our abusers. If everyone’s starting point is our welfare and we all work outwards from there, at least things will be going in the right direction.

If you really care about the abused and want to catch their abusers, vicarious outrage is of limited use. Sustained lobbying for the financing of relevant social services will do more than hysterical posturing and calls to “cut their balls off”. Then again, the former isn’t really news and the latter is much easier.

Brian Moore is a former England rugby international and the author of the award-winning “Beware of the Dog” (Simon & Schuster, £7.99)

Categories: Uncategorized

Pob’s education record!

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment

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The News Statesman: Ed Miliband speech on mental health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment


“It is the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband delivered his speech on mental health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Photograph: Getty Images.

It is excellent to be here with you today at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

I spoke a few weeks ago in Manchester about the future of our country.

About the huge challenges Britain faces, as we attempt to rebuild our economy and create a stronger society.

A country where everybody has a stake, where prosperity is fairly shared and where we protect and improve the institutions that bind us together.

I called this approach “One Nation”.

One Nation means nobody is left out, or written off.

Because it is wrong.

And we can’t succeed as a country if that’s what we do.

And today I want to talk about one of the most serious challenges our country faces.

One that writes people off in just that way.


North and south.

Rich and poor.

Old and young.

Those who work and those who can’t.

Disabled and non-disabled people.

A problem that can strike anyone.

It blights millions of lives.

And undermines the welfare of our nation.

And it is also a challenge that affects our competitiveness as a country.

That places a huge strain on our public services.

And that costs our economy tens of billions of pounds a year.

I am talking, of course, about the challenge of mental health.

From the people living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to those fighting bouts of depression and panic attacks.

Now, you would think a widespread and important challenge like this would be something we would all talk about.

That it would be top of the political agenda.

That every leading politician would be obliged to address to it.

That we would be falling over each other, as we do, to prove that we had a solution.

But that doesn’t tend to happen.

For far too long leading politicians from all parties, including my own, have maintained an almost complete silence about mental health.

Only in emergencies and at the extreme end of conditions do we tend to talk about the issue.

Now there will be some people who say that mental health is the kind of subject we can talk about in the good times, but not when the economy is such a priority.

In my view, that is the opposite of the truth.

Because mental health is an economic challenge holding back prosperity.

Because however hard the economic challenges, we cannot forget about people’s quality of life.

And, finally, if we want a politics that talks directly to the challenges that British people face in their everyday lives, we cannot allow the silence to continue.


And it’s not just politics that is too silent.

It is a taboo running across our society which infects both our culture and our politics.

It is a taboo which not only blights the lives of millions but also puts severe strain on the funding of our NHS and threatens Britain’s ability to pay our way in the world.

It is a taboo which must be broken if we are to rebuild Britain as One Nation.

Mental health is subject we all, whoever we are, still instinctively avoid.

At home, in the workplace and in our communities, it tends to be brushed under the carpet.

Teachers and our parents are unlikely to talk to us about mental illness when we are young.

And we all fear the unknown.

Today in 2012, far too many people in this country still feel as if they have to pretend they have something else wrong with them when they are struggling with depression.

People can be scared to tell their boss.

Intimidated by the culture that still surrounds mental illness.

Scared into silence.

And it’s not just their employers.

It’s their family and friends who don’t know how to react either.

As Kevan Jones, a Labour MP who has bravely spoken out about his own depression, said to me recently: if you have a serious physical illness, the get well messages tend to flood in.

But when a friend of his was struggling with depression recently and Kevan sent him a message, his friend told him it was the only one he had received.

Mental ill health can affect anyone, but it is more openly talked about in some sections of society than others.

For people to talk about it and get help, there needs to be a common language and understanding.

If it isn’t recognised, it is as if it doesn’t exist.

People pretend they are OK, family and friends turn a blind eye, nothing happens until it is often too late.

A change of culture has happened with illnesses that have previously been taboo: from cancer to aids to other sexually transmitted diseases.

But it hasn’t yet happened as much as it needs to with mental health.

I’ve seen it in Doncaster, in my own constituency.

Just last Friday, I was at the Depot Community Drugs Project in a town called Mexborough, which does a brilliant job helping with drugs treatment and education, training and rehabilitation.

A man probably in his late forties happened to walk in and told me his story.

About fifteen years ago, his sister died of cancer and his marriage broke down soon after.

He couldn’t sleep.

Because of stress.

The trauma.

Anxiety and depression.

And he didn’t know what to do.

As he leaned on his gatepost one day, someone he knew walked past and said he could provide something to help him sleep.

It was heroin.

Having previously smoked cannabis, he tried it and pretty soon he was hooked.

It took eight years of him being pushed to the brink by drugs for him to seek help.

Now six years later, he had found paid work probably for the first time since his addiction.

I talked to him about what had happened.

And he volunteered that if we lived in a culture where the trauma of bereavement and the need to get help for mental health problems were more clearly recognised, things could have been very different for him.

Think of how much better that would have been for him, and think how much better it would have been for the country.

This is the reality for many people today.

From mothers struggling with post-natal depression, young people in schools, people facing stress and anxiety at the workplace, to some of our ethnic minority communities who face a higher incidence of some conditions.

Mental ill-health is a cradle to grave problem with nothing like a cradle to grave service.

The Scale of the Problem

As I speak here today, one in six people across Britain are affected by a mental illness.

That is one in six people in each town or city, each workplace or community.

Of course, this covers a range of illnesses.

From people facing catastrophic crisis and collapse to those whose condition is less severe.

There is some evidence that mental illness has become far worse in the 21st century.

Growing as a result of unequal societies, a long-hours culture, and from the erosion of social bonds.

But even if that is not the case, and it was always there, and never fully recognized, the scale of the problem is clear.

According to the World Health Organisation, one in four of us will have a mental illness at some point in our lifetime.

And that really means that mental illness affects everyone in some way.

If it is not you yourself who is struggling, it is your mum or dad, son or daughter, nephew or niece, friend or loved one.

The WHO predicts that by 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disease around the world.

Physical or mental.

And people can lose years off their lives as mental illnesses undermine their physical health too.

Increasing their vulnerability in the face of cancer, heart disease and all the other great killers of our new century.

It is the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age.

That means mental health must be at the top of the agenda of the next Labour government.

Fighting the taboo

Fighting the taboo is the first thing we need to do.

People like Marcus Trescothick, Stephen Fry, Fiona Phillips, Labour’s Alastair Campbell and Kevan Jones, and politicians from other parties, like Charles Walker, have all been exceptionally brave in sharing their own painful stories with our country.

And some newspapers from the Sunday Express and Observer have tried to break the taboo and they too are to be congratulated.

But far too often there is scepticism and abuse.

Abuse that reinforces the taboo.

And it’s not just casual name calling in the streets or the school playground.

There are still people who abuse the privilege of their celebrity to insult, demean and belittle others.

Such as when Janet Street-Porter in a shocking article says that depression is “the latest must-have accessory” promoted by the “misery movement”.

And Jeremy Clarkson, who may have at least acknowledged the tragedy of people who end their own lives, goes on to call them “Johnny Suicides” whose bodies should be left on train tracks rather than delay journeys.

It is attitudes like these that reinforce the stigma that blights millions of people’s lives.

And holds our country back.

The fight against racism, against sexism and against homophobia, made the acceptable, unacceptable.

So we should join the fight against this intolerance.

It is wrong.

It costs Britain dear.

And it has to change.

But it is not just open prejudice that we have to overcome.

We have to confront the unspoken discriminations too.

Like the vast inequalities in funding for research.

Like the lack of training in mental health of many NHS staff – whether in GP surgeries, outpatient clinics or A&E. Eight out of ten primary care professionals say they need more training in mental health than they have.

Like the lack of understanding of mental health that seems to characterise parts of the social security system.

And like the willingness of governments to make the first and deepest cuts in services for mental health.

Indeed, it is a very troubling sign that for the first time in a decade we have seen a cut in total spending on mental health.

A reduction of £150million, including cuts in crisis services and out-reach programmes.

Imagine if this had happened in one of the key killer physical diseases.

People would have been up in arms, and rightly so.

The Consequences of our Inaction

The toll of all this neglect is enormous.

In the trouble stored up over the years as minor problems become major ones.

The extra physical healthcare necessitated by mental illness costs the NHS a further £10 billion a year, according to the London School of Economics.

The criminal justice system also picks up the bill.

Seventy percent of those in our prisons have a mental illness.

But it is not just our public services that bear the burden.

British business does too.

In time off work.

In unproductive days at work.

Mental ill health costs Britain’s businesses almost £8.5 billion in sickness absence each year.

The single biggest cause of long-term sickness absence.

It costs almost £2.5 billion in replacing staff who are unable to continue at work.

And it costs £15 billion in reduced productivity.

That’s almost £26 billion a year.

Or £71 million each and every single day.

And think how little we talk about this major burden on business.

Costs our economy cannot afford.

So mental health is an economic as well as a social challenge.

Our failure to act is a national failure.

It’s one we must put right if we are to be a One Nation Britain, where everybody has a stake and we build shared prosperity.

One Nation

So can we do it?

It is often hard for a country to admit that the time has come to confront new problems.

Particularly when economic times are difficult.

But our country has faced these kind of challenges before.

Major unaddressed challenges that affect the whole country.

Challenges that seem to too big to overcome.

It was true in the 19th century.

The speech that Benjamin Disraeli used in 1872 to launch the idea of One Nation was, in fact, about sanitation.

He called upon Britain to rise to the challenge of public health.

To take on the squalor in our towns and cities and to reject “unsanitary living conditions” wherever they were to be found.

Because it was in all of our interests.

It took at least thirty years for British politics to respond fully.

It was only when unfit and unhealthy soldiers were sent to the Boer War and were unable to rise to the demands of the conflict that governments dared properly to act.

In the 20th century, in the Great Depression of the 1930s, it was apparent that the patchwork of private and charitable health services was inadequate.

But it took the Second World War and the great reforming Labour government that followed it, to rise to the task and establish the National Health Service.

The 21st century challenge of mental health is as profound.

Like sanitation, it is a massive public health challenge, affecting millions.

Like the demand for an NHS in the 1930s, our national response is wholly inadequate against the scale of the challenge.

In both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it took war to shock us out of complacency.

This time we can’t wait for greater crisis.

We must act.

It means changing the ways that we do things in this country so that we actually save money.

And improve lives.

But it requires us to break the taboos, to build a consensus for action, to change our NHS and to deploy all the resources of Britain – a truly One Nation solution – to put it right.

One Nation Solutions

So, we need to change the status of mental health in our National Health Service and in our wider society.

I don’t come today with all the solutions but a clear direction of travel.

The last Labour government began to transform mental health provision in our country.

It made well-respected, evidence-based therapies available to more people than ever before.

Taking mental health treatment into communities that had never received them.

We need to do all we can now to protect those programmes.

But even the last Labour government did not do enough to acknowledge the scale of the challenge.

Too often governments have been stuck in a mindset that thought that physical health should always take priority.

That waiting lists for cancer or heart surgery were always going to be more important than those for mental health.

I am proud that Labour peers won the fight to go further than we had in government and ensure that the Health and Social Care Act contained a commitment to “parity of esteem” between mental and physical health.

This was accepted by the Government.

But here is the problem.

Governments are in the habit in this country of passing laws and then forgetting about them.

Think how radical a commitment to parity of esteem between mental and physical health really is.

Waiting times.

Access to treatment.

Professional knowledge.

Patient experience.

Making “parity of esteem” real is a monumental and generational task.

Here’s where we should start.

We should rewrite the Constitution of our National Health Service.

The Constitution is a great thing because it sets out the rights and guarantees patients have.

But it is inadequate in mental health.

For example, the Constitution does give patients the rights to drugs and medical treatments, for mental health problems. Something I suspect that many people don’t know.

But it doesn’t give them the right to therapies.

This seems the wrong approach, particularly given concerns about over-prescription of medication in mental health.

So we should re-write the NHS Constitution and create for citizens a new right – for the first time – to psychological therapies that help people recover from conditions like anxiety and depression.

Currently there is money allocated in the NHS budget for this purpose, but reports suggest it is not always being spent on what it was intended for.

This is a completely false economy.

Wrong for patients.

And wrong for the country.

Talking therapies can help people and can save money, so they must be a NHS priority.

And we need to look right across the board at how we can make parity of esteem real in practice.

And we need to match parity of esteem in the NHS with an end to the artificial divide between physical and mental health services and ensure that they are properly integrated.

As Andy Burnham has said, the commitment to proper integration of mental, physical and social care will run through Labour’s whole approach to health care.

We need to see more mental health specialists working in teams with GPs, nurses and carers.

We need to look at extending personal health budgets that enable patients to select the best combination of services and treatments for themselves.

Both mental and physical.

We also need all health professionals to see promoting good mental health and spotting signs of mental ill-health as part of what they do.

So we should ensure that the training of doctors, nurses and all professional staff who work in the NHS includes mental health.

So a One Nation solution to the challenge of mental health starts with our National Health Service.

Beyond the NHS

But fully to rise to that challenge, we need also to look beyond the NHS itself.

Too often we act as if the answer to our health crises starts and stops with new government programmes.

And we don’t ask enough of others in our society.

Thinking of the service provided by government as the answer on its own misses the point of how we can succeed as a country.

Mobilising the contribution, the talent, the expertise of the patient, the parent, the carer, and changing the way our wider society works, is as important in determining whether any public service can succeed in its intentions.

Good mental health doesn’t start in hospital or the treatment room.

It starts in our workplaces, our schools and our communities.

So the task falls as much to organisations like British business and the CBI as it does to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

In fact, everybody has a part to play.

Only a nation acting together can overcome the challenge we face.

That is what One Nation is about.

There are already some excellent examples of new plans for mental health in Britain today.

Take British business.

A few years ago, British Telecom acknowledged that mental ill-health was costing their firm dear.

Holding them back.

So they implemented a new mental health strategy across the whole firm.

They abandoned pre-employment medical checks that had blocked opportunities for those with mental health conditions.

They saved £400,000 a year in the process.

And instead they said that mental ill-health should be no barrier to working at their company.

And they offered new training to managers so they could help everyone in the firm play their part.

And they found that after four years, sickness absence rates due to mental health problems had not risen, as you might expect, but had fallen by a third.

Despite all the pressures and stresses that people have been facing in recent years.

It is the kind of transformation we need to see across our economy.

One encouraged by the campaign Time to Change, which has done a fantastic job in tackling mental health discrimination at work and the new Mental Health Discrimination Bill currently before Parliament.

And it’s not just business that needs to change.

The same is true in our schools.

The last Labour government placed an emphasis on the mental well-being of their students.

To give them the emotional, psychological resilience that they need.

To help them face the challenges of the twenty-first century.

But David Cameron’s government dismisses these concerns as peripheral and they’ve told the school inspectors to ignore them.

Offering no incentives to innovation.

No encouragement to teachers who know that children who are mentally and emotionally tougher are also better able to pass exams and make their way in the world.

It is a short-sighted, old-fashioned, conservative in the worst sense of the word, way of running British education.

It is as simple as that.

So too we need to tackle mental health issues in criminal justice, which I have already talked about, in the social security system, in families.

So we need a mental health strategy outside as well as inside the National Health Service.

Tackling the culture and changing the way our society treats mental health.

A One Nation solution will bring together people from every walk of life to address this problem.

And that’s what I have asked Stephen O’Brien, chair of Barts NHS Trust and Vice President of Business in the Community, to do as he leads our new Mental Health Taskforce.

We will ask searching questions about the culture of work in Britain, about the impact of inequality, about the way our schools work and relate to their wider communities.

We will learn from the best of the rest of the world.

We will plan what needs to be done.

And when we are in government we will act.


I don’t remember people talking about mental health much when I was growing up.

Times were different.

The taboo was even more intense then than it is now.

The problems hidden even deeper under the surface.

I am proud to live in a country where that taboo has been challenged by some.

To live at a time when some people are beginning to speak out.

But I know that not enough has yet been done.

I know that far too many still suffer in silence.

Too many stay away from their GP.

Or work in offices and factories not set up to help.

Or live in communities with far too few services.

Or feel isolated and alone.

The next Labour government won’t be able to put all this right overnight.

Silences in our culture are hard to break.

Taboos are resistant to being overcome.

But just as Disraeli was right back in the nineteenth century that we could not build One Nation unless we addressed public health, so it is true today we cannot build One Nation unless we all speak out about mental health.

The next Labour government will reform our health service to guarantee that mental health enjoys real equality of status.

The next Labour government will work with British business to improve our workplaces, helping people stay in work and make their contribution.

And the next Labour government will work with our schools to prepare our children for the demands of life.

But most of all the Labour Party I lead will speak out against prejudice.

We can’t prevent all mental ill-health.

There are not cures for all conditions.

But we can help change the culture in our country.

We can insist that everyone counts.

That everyone matters.

And that no-one dealing with any form of illness should ever feel ashamed.

That’s how you bring real change to Britain.

That’s how you build One Nation.

Categories: Disability, Economics, Elections, Funding, Health, Media, Mental Health Tags: , ,

John Harris, The Guardian: Another omnishambles – and this time it threatens me and my autistic son

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Another omnishambles – and this time it threatens me and my autistic son

John Harris
The Guardian, Sunday 28 October 2012

Two threads run through the current government’s rhetoric, just as they defined a lot of what we heard in the Blair and Brown years.

People – and particularly parents – must be empowered, and the supposedly slow hand of the state has to be quickened and made more responsive, or done away with altogether. Now as then, the watchwords are choice, competition, localism, empowerment.

Strange, then, that so much of what this government and the last have done has pointed in the opposite direction, towards centralisation and the emasculation of the citizen. Strange, too, that a particularly egregious example of all this has just been unveiled, and very few people seem to have noticed.

The government’s drastic proposed changes to England’s special educational needs (SEN) system will affect close to 1.7 million children. The plans threaten to chop down parents’ rights, hand power and initiative from families to local authorities and also strengthen the centralised fist of the Department for Education. Moreover, everything is behind schedule. Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem minister who claimed the reforms were something of a personal crusade, was a casualty of September’s reshuffle. Having been up and running for mere months, the department’s hurried “pathfinder” schemes will not report until the reforms hits the Commons, as part of the Children and Families Bill. Omnishambles threatens to strike again.

I first wrote about this six months ago, when the reforms were announced, drawing on my experience of the SEN system, and what it took to get roughly the right provision for my six-year-old son, who’s autistic. As things stand, the most reliable arrangements are founded in statements of special educational needs, which currently apply to around 225,000 children, and usually deal with every aspect of their education – including NHS therapies. If you can stomach the cost and stress involved in getting one, statements represent a pretty solidmeans of holding your local authority to account. The usual route lies in a request made by parents, or a child’s school: some authorities tend to oblige, and others only issue statements after the most grinding of fights.

If a request is made by parents or a headteacher, a local authority has a legal duty to respond within six weeks. If it declines to commence the requisite assessment process, parents can appeal via the SEN tribunal system. The next step, if you’re lucky, is what’s called statutory assessment, which has a legal limit of 12 weeks, and then the finalising of the statement itself, which can take no longer than eight weeks. That’s six months in all: a long time when all you can think about is the urgency of so-called early intervention, but at least the limit is there.

But not for much longer, it seems. The government wants to replace statements with “single plans”, spanning education, health and social care. On the plus side, these will extend from birth to 25, as long as a young person remains in education or training – but that step forward is compromised by the fact that they will be less exacting. Witness one of the most fundamental aspects of what’s being proposed: the government’s draft legislation – belatedly published in early September, and now being looked at by the education select committee – makes no mention of defined rights for parents or schools to request an assessment, nor a prescribed period for a request to be dealt with. To anyone who has been through the special needs process, what that suggests is grim: the black hole of official indifference, now given official licence.

Under the current system, local authorities have a duty to specify the provision that will be made. The word specify is fantastically important: it means you can argue against fuzzy promises of “regular” this or “frequent” that, and push for guarantees of, say, speech therapy or physio for stated periods, at specific intervals (an hour once a week, for example). With echoes of a move that was defeated by parent campaigners back in 2001, the new plans contain only an obligation to “set out” what will be provided: “wildly different”, as one campaigner puts it, and a change that will rub out decades of case law that have hardened parents’ rights.

In the switch from statements of educational needs to the new single plans, there is another glaring problem. Under the current system, all of a child’s therapies and programmes – even if they’re provided by the NHS – come under the umbrella heading of “education”, and thereby fall under the remit of the special educational needs tribunal. If something fails to materialise or is taken away, you can at least take your case to an affordable(ish) forum of appeal. But no more: the government plans to separate everything out into three categories of education, health and social care – but keep only the first one under the tribunal’s authority. What that means for parents like me is obvious enough: the knocking-away of accountability that currently underlies things such as occupational therapy, and help with our children’s speech and language.

All this seems comically antithetical to what habitually comes out of ministers’ mouths: an officially sanctioned power-grab by often unreliable public institutions, at the expense of the few solid rights that parents currently possess. Although the cost of implementing the reforms looks huge, much of this is seemingly driven by the same logic as the cuts that are already impacting on the lives of children with disabilities and learning difficulties: in pushing public bodies further away from accountability, the government seems to be giving them freer rein to hack back provision even more. On occasion, in fact, the DfE has looked only too happy to create exactly that impression: do not forget that last spring, the plans arrived in a flurry of headlines about as many as 450,000 children being taken out of the category of special needs altogether, as if they had been put there thanks to a spasm of profligacy and trendy teaching.

To cap it all, the draft legislation contains at least one burst of power politics at its most brazen. The existing SEN system’s statutory code of practice – the details of how it’s actually meant to work – can only be altered after any changes have gone through both houses of parliament. In the suggested new reality, the secretary of state will be able to change its provisions at will. Once again, it seems, talk of empowerment and accountability masks the usual centralism.

Towards the end of last week, having thought about my own case and pored over the exhaustive analysis of the reforms by the special needs charity Independent Special Education Advice (IPSEA), I contacted the DfE with an itemised list of concerns, expecting at least cosmetic engagement with what thousands of people are increasingly worried about. But it didn’t happen: a spokesperson said ministers “want to hear people’s views” and would consider them, along with what the education select committee has to say, “very carefully”. Their four-sentence statement ended thus: “These reforms will put parents in charge, giving them better information and a comprehensive package of support that meets their needs.”

In fact, unless MPs can work miracles, the whole thing looks dangerous and ill-thought-out. That may sound painfully familiar, but we need to think about the fallout not in terms of political pantomime, but as it will affect children and parents who need government to get things right.

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Categories: Democratic Accountability, Disability, Education Tags: ,

Message from the frontline workers at the DWP: PCS announcement

October 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Courtesy of


The trade union within Jobcentre Plus the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) condemned the Conservative Party led coalition today for bringing in vicious new plans to strip benefit claimants of their benefits for three years if they refused to take the first job offered to them.

Ministers in the Con-Dem coalition said the new rules sent a “clear message” that people receiving benefits had to toe the line to actively seek work to get benefits.

Previously, an unemployed worker who failed to seek employment or voluntarily left a job without good reason had their benefits cut off for just three months.

Last year Jobcentre advisers sanctioned 495,000 claimants including 72,000 who refused an offer of employment.

Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said: “Choosing a life on benefits is not an option.

There will be three levels of sanctions ranging from four weeks for a minor “offence” to three years for serious repeat “offenders.”

A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions
said: “The new regime is tougher.

“Rules will be clearly explained to all claimants from day one so that they are in no doubt that if they do not comply they will not get their benefit.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, who represents Jobcentre workers, said: “Instead of punishing people for being out of work the government should take responsibility for the pain and suffering it is causing with its failed austerity policies that we marched against at the weekend.

“With unemployment still high, there are eight people chasing every job vacancy, and many more trapped in part-time, low-paid work.

“No-one chooses a life on benefits, but some very wealthy individuals and organisations like Starbucks do choose not to pay their taxes and they’re the ones who should be demonised and pursued.”

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