Monday, 21 July 2014
Sunday, 20 July 2014
* morning star - 18/7/2014
Thursday, 17 July 2014
A society that knows the the price of everything and the value of nothing is no place for euthanasia
* published Independent - 18/7/2014
Friday, 11 July 2014
This is because any improvement in the economy does not get passed onto the workers, It goes instead directly to the bosses who ship their money offshore to avoid tax.
The result of this unjust arrangement is a society where a few billionaires corner the mass of wealth while more than a million go to food banks.
Powerful and effective trade unions are one way to rectify this situation. Unions bring greater equality to our society. People working in unionised workplaces are better paid and have better conditions of work. Only by setting trade unions free can the balance be restored in society that will see more of the wealth flowing to the many rather than the few. The idea that further restricting trade union activities has any value might play well in the Tory shires but in terms of creating a working and just economic system it is total bunkum.
Guardian - 14/7/2014
Saturday, 28 June 2014
It is now nearly a year since my mother
died, so there has been some time to reflect. I believe that the system of care
companies which look after older people in their own homes is at breaking
point, and reforms to it are urgently needed.
The need to bring some support first occurred four years ago, when Mum felt she wanted help with getting up and washed. She had too much in savings (that is, more than £23,000) to qualify for Local Authority carers, but social services provide families with information about the various companies that are available. We went for a small family-run operation. This worked well for the next two-and-a-half years, Mum having an excellent rapport with her carer, Marie.
As her requirements grew, however, she was in and out of hospital, and needed more frequent visits. Eventually, there was only one company that could provide the level of cover required: the element of choice had gone. The idea that the client can mix and match from a range of options is a long way from reality. And this was in a part of the south coast of England where there is a large concentration of elderly people.
I met one of Mum’s former carers, Sue (not her real name) recently. She looked exhausted. Working for the care company for the past 14 months, on a zero-hours contract, had taken its toll.
She could have a day packed with back-to-back calls, or the office manager might give her a couple of hours of work in the morning, then a gap of four hours, and later on, calls stacked up into the evening. Often, she said, she wanted to stay longer to get the job done properly, but there was pressure to get in and out as quickly as possible.
Most companies have a system whereby the carers ring their office on arrival at the client’s house, and again before they leave. This gives an accurate record of the time spent with each client. It has to come from the client’s phone, to confirm that the carer is there, and not elsewhere with a mobile phone.
There has been much talk recently about 15-minute calls as not being sufficient for care needs. This can, of course, be the case, but sometimes, 15 minutes could be more than is needed. If you are paying for the call, you want the visit to last as little time as necessary. It is one of the more distressing elements of private care that you have to judge whether genuine compassion is being shown, or whether it is really about the care company’s getting paid.
The company needs to be monitored by the client’s family or a friend. In our case, Mum was loath to lose Marie, with whom she had struck up a friendship. In the case of a company that we used later, however, I was constantly seeking to have one person lead the operation, to ensure that the routine was done the same way; that things were put away when the carer left; and that the team dealing with Mum should consist of a small, stable number of faces. This was not always the case, which caused great distress.
A number of lessons can be drawn from our family’s experiences. The first is the need for the vulnerable person to have someone acting as an advocate, to stand up for him or her when dealing with the care company, and with social and medical services.
A distinction needs to be drawn between people who fund themselves, and those for whom the local authority picks up the bill. The amounts can be horrendous. The final four-visits-a-day bill was £800 per week. Recent recommendations suggesting a cap on care spending by individuals would be welcomed by many.
There should also be more concern for the carers. Relatives often say that they feel unsupported, and overwhelmed by the pressure of looking after a member of their family, particularly, if they are trying to keep a job going at the same time — often, such people have to give up their jobs. Research conducted by YouGov for Carers UK in February 2013 found that 2.3 million people had given up work to care for elderly parent, or a disabled or ill family member. This is said to have cost the exchequer £5.3 billion in lost tax revenues, on top of the additional benefit costs.
One of the problems is that the ability of families to provide voluntary support is taken for granted. The Generation Strain, a report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research in April, argued that soon (by 2017 was the estimate), there will not be enough family members to deal with all those who require support.
Professional care workers do vital, skilled work, which should be valued by society. They should not be on the minimum wage and casual contracts: they should be salaried, with decent pay and conditions of employment, such as holidays and sick pay. This would change the care sector overnight. The present system of bringing in people, giving them a little training, and exploiting them to the point pf burn-out is no way to run a system.
A wider question must be whether care can ever properly be conducted by private-sector companies, whose concern at the end of the day is profit and return to shareholders. The ethos of caring does not sit easily with their bottom-line economics. A state-run system is unlikely to prove popular with the current Government, however, especially against the background of continuing cuts in public spending. More non-profit organisations and charities operating in the sector would help.
As a whole, there needs to be a more accurate assessment of what the care requirements of an ageing population are, and what systems could be put in place to cope with this.
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
*Guardian diary - 24/6/2014
Monday, 23 June 2014
Conlon was one of four people unjustly convicted for the Guildford pub bombings in 1974, which killed five people and injured 65.
In the febrile atmosphere of the time, as the IRA bombing campaign extended to England, the police were on alert for any possible atrocity. Anti-Irish Catholic hostility was at its height.
When the Guildford and later Birmingham pub bombings happened, the police were quick to move, grabbing as it turned out the nearest Irish person.
Conlon was one of those unfortunately convicted. It took 15 years for the four individuals known as the Guildford Four to attain justice.
Many people helped over the years in the justice campaign, not least solicitor Gareth Peirce and the late Sister Sarah Clarke who supported the families.
The families themselves played huge roles in establishing the innocence of their loved ones. Gerry’s father Giuseppe came to London to fight for his son’s innocence, only to get caught up in the whole terrible business himself. He was arrested together with members of the Maguire family and convicted of terrorist offences.
Giuseppe played by Pete Poselthwaite in the film about the Guildford Four, In the Name of the Father, was to die in prison in 1980. The Maguires and Guiseppe (posthumously) were also later cleared of their convictions.
Gerry Conlon’s mother and sisters were to continue to steadfastly support him throughout the long years in prison. Sister Sarah Clarke played a major role in supporting the family and men over this period.
At the time of Gerry’s untimely death, new reports included the clips from that triumphant day back in 1989 when the Guildford Four were finally cleared of murder. The iconic picture of Gerry together with family, arm raised aloft in defiance. What few would realise is that whilst he had won a triumph over the justice system this was just the beginning of another struggle.
The general public believe that once an individual has been cleared of such crimes, they get compensation and life resumes. The reality could not be further from the truth. Innocent prisoners are actually treated worse than those who have actually done the crimes. No preparation for release, accomodation arranged or resettlement courses. Most are just kicked onto the street with a bag for their belongings and a payment of £40 or so to be getting on with. It is as though the justice system is having its final vengeance for having been found at fault for incarcerating innocent people in the first place.
Yet most of these victims of miscarriages of justice need a lot of support. Gerry Conlon had two breakdowns, suffered with drug and alcohol addiction and attempted suicide. He received some treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Nor was Gerry’s situation isolated. Billy Power of the Birmingham Six told of his difficulties in resettling into life outside. A door with a handle that can be turned and opened from the inside. The busy streets and way life had changed over the 16 years away. Billy told how he was used to battling the Home Office and justice system but found it much more difficult to deal with rows in the family. The Birmingham Six were found to have psychological problems.
Few of the high profile miscarriage of justice victims ever work again. Some put a lot of effort into working for the justice of others. Gerry Conlon became involved with several cases over the years and played an important role in the work of the excellent Miscarriage of Justice Organisation (MOJO).
Gerry also notably spoke out over the miscarriages of justice of the present day, with people being put under control orders and detained for years on end without ever being brought before a properly constituted court of law.
Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six is another who has played an active role working for justice. He has been involved in several campaigns and was a founder member of MOJO.
Billy Power of the Birmingham Six campaigned for fellow Irish prisoner Frank Johnson , who was finally cleared of murder in 2002 afteer serving 26 years.
Frank was another turned onto the street with £40. He lived his first few months of freedom at Billy’s house. He died in 2008.
The death of Gerry Conlon should be a time for society to reflect on a justice system that still convicts innocent people. It should also be a time to examine just how these damaged individuals are treated when released. They require support and help, not simply to be chucked on the criminal justice scrap heap.