Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Jake and Luciana - the sequel

Earlier this month I wrote about the Jake and Luciana Show.  Jake Morrison was a Labour councillor in Liverpool who had a public argument with his Labour MP Luciana Berger and yesterday I learned that he is an independent councillor. Jake told us that Luciana made his "life unbearable" but she thought that Jake displayed a "complete lack of teamwork".

The trouble for Jake was that he didn't really explain why he wasn't offering his support to his MP. He complained about being 'smeared' and 'forced out', but said little about why he felt he was being treated that way. The email from Luciana Berger that he published on Facebook spoke about "a comprehensive agreed script and process" which he was accused of failing to adhere to, but he never really addressed that. It was left to others, such as myself in this blog, to point out how alienating such a "comprehensive script" could be to councillors and to ordinary members.

I doubt that Jake reads my blog so he probably got it from somewhere else, but yesterday we learned that he doesn't "need a script to engage with members of the public. And if people come to me with issues, my responses do not need to be appropriately agreed by the MP."  I've already written previously about how Jake should be complaining about Labour's script, but I hadn't read about the need for Luciana to agree Jake's work as a councillor. It sounds like Luciana has been telling Jake what to do.

My main concern was about Labour's need for 'a very comprehensive agreed script and process'. However I did mention Luciana's reply that Jake's allegations were 'completely untrue'. Is that really the case or do we have a Labour cover-up? If Luciana wants to clear her name then she should be telling us that she does not interfere with the work of Labour councillors. The simple denial of any allegation from a young man who appears honest but naive does suggest a Labour cover-up.

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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Labour Cuts Too

Yesterday Ed Miliband told his National Policy Forum in Birmingham that he accepted Coalition spending cuts and would be ruthless on spending. He would not make any promises on changes to the spending plans set out by the Chancellor unless he could be "absolutely crystal clear" where the money would come from, as he set out the "hard reality" facing the party.

"Nobody here should be under any illusions: the next Labour Government will have to plan in 2015 for falling departmental spending. And our starting point for 2015/16 is that we won't be able to reverse the cuts in day to day, current spending unless it is fully funded from savings elsewhere or extra revenue, not from more borrowing."

The reason I am recording Ed's stance in this blog is because local Labour politicians are often seen to criticise the Government savings which are labelled as nasty or awful (or both). Well now they are 'nasty awful' Labour cuts too.

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Thursday, 20 June 2013

I nearly agreed with my Tory MP

You may well have read that there is evidence of a "deliberate suppression" of failings at Furness General Hospital. You may also know that the cover-up was by the Care Quality Commission which is not part of the NHS but a non-departmental public body (NDPB) and ministers are ultimately responsible for these bodies. So I thought I was going to agree with my MP David Morris as the situation is "appalling" but you may have guessed - I can't.

There may have been a scandal going back for some time, but the latest reports are about a cover-up that took place just last year, so obviously there is an ongoing situation. If David Morris had been referring to the problems at the hospital trust, and the ongoing covering up of those problems, then he would have a point and it might be time to agree with him. However this article at Conservative Home makes it clear that he is only interested in political point scoring.

Regardless of whether or not there is still a problem, and regardless of how much the problem involved non-political commissions and trusts, according to David it is all Labour's fault. This really isn't good enough. The families affected will want genuine answers, not point-scoring.

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Sunday, 16 June 2013

Mosaic Law

There are many adverts on television for companies that specialise in achieving the best compensation for you if you have an accident. Sometimes accidents just happen. Sometimes they are preventable. The problem is that on most occasions there is an element of both which means that the person who had the accident will have to fight for the best compensation. Hence the number of lawyers that are ready to help you.

I have previously written about the problems of a compensation culture and about claims that appear to be inappropriate. On Friday I wrote about a claim of abuse by domiciliary care workers. Today I saw an advert for legal aid lawyers who had cut and pasted an article about this news item and based their advert around it. I am not going to link to them but they are no win no fee lawyers so that should attract more claimants who would otherwise not think about employing a lawyer.

A cynic might wonder if the CCTV cameras were used not to monitor Mrs Price's "movements and to provide help should she fall when she was home alone". A cynic could suggest that they were used to support a claim for compensation. A cynic might think that no complaint was made to the care company because this would limit the amount of compensation. A cynic may say that filming a lady with a phone who can't use it was acting, and complaints were fabricated regarding the times that carers arrived.

I could go on but I think you get the point that there are two sides to every claim for compensation. Lawyers act for claimants, and other lawyers act for the defendants. Even if there is no claim for compensation this time the complaint has already affected Mosaic Community Care and that includes all those who work for this company. A compensation culture affects us all.

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Friday, 14 June 2013

Mosaic story: some pieces missing.

Mosaic Community Care is a company that has been suspended today by the UK Home Care Association following yesterday's publication of CCTV footage by the BBC. The lady's grandson had installed two CCTV cameras in order to "monitor her movements and to provide help should she fall when she was home alone". If that is the case then this would have involved regular observation of the footage.

I watched those three clips on yesterday's news and saw a carer touch food to check its temperature. This is what a mother may do for their child but of course it is not acceptable in domiciliary care to offer food that has been touched by a carer. Well life isn't quite that simple because there are many types of food that would need to be touched by the carer in order to prepare them.

We also saw the lady, Mrs Price, in bed complaining and trying to make a phone call to make that complaint. She failed. I presume that she knew about the CCTV cameras so in a sense she had already made her complaint. One view is that if she knew about the cameras then she didn't need to phone anyone. On the other hand if she did not know about the cameras then this could be deemed as abuse by her relatives. She was not able to contact anyone.

Much was made of the fact that Mrs Price had been in bed for "nearly thirteen hours as her carer was nearly one hour late" without anyone apparently noticing the obvious fact that even if the carer had been bang on time, the woman would still have been in bed for twelve whole hours. There is a big question mark over the amount of care that had been arranged when twelve hours is acceptable and thirteen isn't, though we could do with more details. What happened when the carers failed to arrive?

Where was the grandson during the whole of this nearly thirteen hours? If the cameras were installed so he could respond in the case of any problems, why did he not respond when there was a problem? Were the carers, who were apparently only contracted to turn up briefly at fairly long intervals, the only people that Mrs. Price had any contact with? When we say her dissatisfaction at being unable to contact anybody, had she also tried and failed to phone her grandson?

The third clip showed a carer moving an incontinence pad. We were told that the lady had been changed "in full view of the street". There is a simple answer - net curtains, because this means that the lady was in bed at all times "in full view of the street". I am not keen on passersby watching me sleep with my mouth open.

There were not enough facts given to make me have a view about how often and how late the carers were but everyone has been late to work at some point in their life. There were accusations that carers had failed to turn up at all. Again, there was not enough information to let me know how important this was. but if one carer failed to turn up and it was a significant lack in the lady's care then my main concern is that Mosaic " say they were never informed the family had concerns". Why not?

I am usually on the side of the whistleblower, but to get to the stage of blowing a whistle you have to go through normal channels. When Panorama investigated Winterbourne View they exposed violent abuse but complaints had been ignored. When Margaret Haywood was struck off the nursing register (she was later reinstated) for secret filming of abuse, her complaints had been ignored.

I am uneasy about this complaint. Let's hope that the UKHCA investigation does not take too long.

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P.S. If you look at Mosaic's website you discover that "Mrs Price's care contract was ultimately cancelled by Mosaic following acts of aggression and abuse towards Mosaic staff". How did the BBC miss that in their report?

Monday, 10 June 2013

Hospitals Under Pressure

I have written about the possibilities of closing A&Es previously including my local A&E in Lancaster. My MP, David Morris became involved and despite the advice from the NHS Confederation that some A&Es should close David is convinced that there is no local threat. My gut feeling is that there will be no local closure but I have never ruled out the possibility. Earlier in the year we were reassured by the Trust's Chief Executive, Jackie Daniel that there would be no closure at Lancaster, but she couldn't "second guess the future".

Well this is the future and last week we read about where the Trust would make its cuts. They are looking to reduce the number of staff by 230 which includes 170 nurses. I didn't read about any reduction in the number of managers. There would also be a reduction in the number of hospital beds across the Trust including 40 at RLI. This is the point - if there are significant pressures on the A&E at Lancaster then part of that pressure will come from the number of hospital beds available. My gut may have to change its feeling.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (try saying that after a drink) covers a huge area. The main areas of population include Lancaster and Morecambe as well as Kendal and Barrow-in-Furness where there is another A&E. If pressures increase and the Trust decide to close one of their A&Es do they go for Barrow, which would mean a journey of over an hour for their residents to get to Lancaster, or do you close Lancaster where locals would get to travel 40 minutes to get to Preston? More people live in Lancaster and Morecambe which may swing the decision in favour of a Barrow closure.

Last week's report did not mention closure of any A&E, but I was speaking to someone this evening who went to Lancaster, waited for five hours and then was sent home! There is pressure. I wonder if we will get a repeat of the previous reassurances.

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Who is this law-abiding citizen?

Alexander Pope told us that 'to err is human; to forgive divine'. Nobody is perfect and some get caught and gain a criminal record, so maybe power does corrupt. If you don't believe me then see what the hero does in the next book you read as life is full of moral dilemmas. Sometimes you choose to do something that is wrong because of the greater good. I am not advocating unlawful protest but it sometimes happens.

In political or business life, once you have that ability to award a contract then you may have to decide between two equal competitors? Do you toss a coin or do you see if one gives you a brown envelope with used notes (or buys you a drink and becomes a  'friend'? You may also like to consider why businesses support politicians and how the process of lobbying works. Sometimes a gentle nudge like a small free gift turns into a push as incentives extend to holidays (fact-finding missions) in Fiji. Sometimes corruption is evident through the courts.

We all make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes end up sending people to prison. The important point is nobody is perfect and if the authorities want to find something then they will. Maybe your car has a light that isn't working. Maybe a tax form wasn't filled in perfectly correctly. Maybe an insurance claim wasn't an accident. Just watch the news when they are broadcasting from a court. There will be a defence lawyer telling us about innocence or mitigating circumstances. Even black and white cases aren't black and white.

What caught my eye in the news yesterday was William Hague telling us that "law-abiding" citizens (a meaningless phrase) have "nothing to fear" from the British intelligence service. Who is this law-abiding citizen and why do they have nothing to fear? William also told us that "the idea that in GCHQ people are sitting working out how to circumvent a UK law with another agency in another country is fanciful". I am not reassured as there are too many stories of government departments falling foul of the law. If GCHQ wanted to circumvent UK law they wouldn't work on it. They would just ignore the law. They are already a covert operation. Nobody is meant to know what they are doing. Possibly the one reason to make sure that everything is above board in the spying world is to make sure that the Foreign Secretary can reassure us. Telling us that the innocent have nothing to fear doesn't reassure me. Stating that government departments would not circumvent the law isn't reassuring.

The next time you drop a piece of paper in the street, accidentally of course, the next time you send an email that contains a sentence that may be interpreted maliciously, then that is the time to consider if William is reassuring you. Do you have nothing to fear? It may be that your neighbour would have zero tolerance (another meaningless phrase) and throw the book at you.

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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Jake and Luciana show

If you are prepared to join a political party then you should broadly agree with what that party stands for and it would be nice to think that you could assist in the political process by supporting that party whenever possible. This particularly applies to those who are elected under the party banner. So if the MP of the same party wants support from their councillors then it would be nice to think that help would be forthcoming. Life isn't that simple and sometimes people just don't get on, for whatever reason. Still, a councillor can help their party in many ways.

Today a public disagreement has arisen between a Labour councillor in Liverpool, Jake Morrison and his Labour MP, Luciana Berger. Luciana has made a formal complaint to Liverpool's Labour mayor and Jake followed this up by complaining to Ed Miliband. Maybe Jake is at fault because he did not 'engage' with Luciana. Maybe Luciana is at fault for orchestrating a 'smear campaign' against Jake. I hope the Labour Party get to the bottom of these complaints as I am sure they don't help the political situation in Liverpool.

My main concern is that Luciana wrote about the Labour Party now having 'a very comprehensive agreed script and process'. Are the Labour councillors in Liverpool in need of a comprehensive script? Do they have no independent thought at all? Who is making decisions within the Labour Party because it doesn't sound like ordinary members or even elected councillors have any part to play in Labour's decision making process.

I don't think Jake's handled this particularly well as he doesn't make much of a case for being badly treated. Maybe he has a lot more to say and will tell us in the future but he should have made the points that he didn't like working to scripts and that training should be voluntary. Jake's response comes over as naive but honest, so it does make me wonder what is actually happening when Luciana's office tell us that Jake's allegations are 'completely untrue'.

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Monday, 3 June 2013

Are teaching assistants useful?

This sounds like the start of a stand-up comedy sketch. The education minister tells us that learning by rote is the key to success and we need to go back to O levels. Well I took O levels and I'll tell you what I remember about the one I took in history. Bismark had a foreign and domestic policy and I can also remember the year 1870. That's the sum total of my memory of history O level. I have just looked  up 1870 and there was a Franco-Prussian war in 1870 - 1871 but I couldn't tell you anything else about it. With the sole exception of multiplication tables, my rote learning is not a key to success, it is a key to forgetting.

There are some really important things we learn at school but mostly they are by example. Think back to your school days. Do you remember a syllabus that inspired you to further study or which changed your outlook on life, or do you remember teachers who put you on the right path?

This morning I was listening to Radio 5 and they were taking calls on the role of teaching assistants. Are teaching assistants to be phased out or do they serve a useful purpose? I heard that numbers of teaching assistants had tripled since 1992 when Tony Blair became prime minister. I also heard that there is hardly a classroom without a teaching assistant so any study on the effectiveness of teaching assistants would be difficult to carry out but they had been, according to one caller, and phasing out was appropriate.

This caller felt that the money directed towards increasing the number of teaching assistants could be used in better ways and some head teachers were now refusing to employ them. If this is the case then this is a huge scandal. Tony Blair told us that there was nothing more important than education and most of the money goes into salaries. If we have been moving in the wrong direction then it has cost us dearly not just financially but more importantly we have failed our children. Someone should be responsible.

My feeling is that pupils may be inspired by teaching assistants as well as teachers. My memories of the moments when I was inspired at school do not come from a teacher in front of a class but from the times when a teacher had a moment to speak with me as an individual which was not very often. One to one or small group assistance has a much greater possibility of becoming inspirational and teaching assistants have a greater opportunity of fitting that bill.

If I am wrong and money should have been going to pay extra teachers then we really do deserve an apology.

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Sunday, 2 June 2013

A Defence for Bribery and Corruption

I have just heard a Sunday Politics commentator suggesting that if we pay MPs a lot more then a cash for questions type scandal would not occur. Why not? I don't know about Patrick Mercer's bank balance but it is hard to be sympathetic to the idea that MPs are poor. Moreover it is unacceptable to think that a small bank balance is a good reason to break the rules. Rich people can steal too and some would say that rich people steal more.

Bribery and corruption is not acceptable whether you are rich or poor.  

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