Sunday, 28 July 2013

Stupid campaign targets whites

There are articles in the papers today about the billboards being driven around London which are asking illegal immigrants to go home. The newspapers have been reviewed on the Andrew Marr show and one of the reviewers was Trevor Phillips, the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. According to him "it is a stupid campaign". I can't see much wrong with that review It is supposed to be targeting illegal immigrants, and presumably many of these immigrants don't speak (or read) English. The billboards are in English. There is nothing wrong with attempting to uphold the law. The problem is the targeting.

There are many good ways to target illegal immigration but this isn't one. The comment that inspired this blog was that if you took these newspaper articles down to the local pub you would get support for the campaign. This snippet highlights the true target, the white male population in areas of high immigration. Nigel Farage would be proud - except that he sees it as a Tory move against UKIP. Trevor Phillips did not say the campaign was racist but if the target of an immigration campaign is Caucasian then it is hard to see how this is not the case.

I would guess that most Liberal Democrats have strong views on this subject and Vince Cable is one who has been widely quoted.“It's stupid, the whole idea that illegal immigrants have got a sophisticated grasp of English. It is offensive. It is designed apparently to create a sense of fear in the British population that we have a vast problem of illegal immigration. We have a problem, but it's not a vast one and it's got to be dealt with in a measured way."

The other point from the campaign is that the Liberal Democrats were not involved. I'm not sure how the coalition partners got away with that but it is pleasing to know that we can label this as a stupid Tory campaign.

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Monday, 15 July 2013

Does the cap fit?

Iain Duncan Smith tells us that a benefits cap of £26,000 will bring fairness to taxpayers and fairness to those who are out of work. Now this sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but why is it being given in benefits? This is the question that I want answering and it is the question that Iain needs to address if he wishes us to agree with him. Mr Micawber, a character in Charles Dicken's David Copperfield got it right when he said "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery."

£26,000 is figure which has not just been plucked out of the air. It is the average household income. However benefits are given for specific reasons, not because of average needs and if some people receive benefits greater than this amount then they must have needs greater than this amount. This is what I want to hear from Iain - which needs are being neglected, and when I know then I will give you an informed decision as to whether the benefits cap is a good thing.

Liam Byrne, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary speaks for the Labour Party when he tells us that the benefits cap is good in principle. So who are the people that are going to be affected and let down by the coalition and the Labour Party? Well the cap mainly affects people in London. It shouldn't be a question for people in the provinces who can't see a reason to need so much money. They may be able to live like a king on £350 per week but they don't realise that they wouldn't get that amount on benefits. What happens if housing costs are greater in your area? What happens if you have greater medical needs not covered by the medical exemptions? £26,000 may not have been plucked from the air - but it sounds as good a basis for choosing it as any other.

There's a timely article by Sarah Teather, just published, in, 5 hours ago as I type this. "Sarah Teather: Benefit cap is the worst kind of populism".

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Liverpool Care Pathway

The Liverpool Care Pathway is "frequently used as an excuse for poor quality care" according to the BBC news at 10pm. It is fairly obvious that everyone wants dignity in death and that was the aim of the care pathway which was devised in Liverpool. However we are now told that there are shocking reports of poor treatment under this pathway. It was misused and misunderstood. How can this be?

We have protocols for this and policies for that and we have best practice which is carried out throughout the country and the Liverpool Care Pathway was part of this. It seems that junior doctors thought it was alright to put people on this pathway at times when they had no support from more experienced colleagues. Well you don't have to be a doctor to recognise when people are dying and you don't need to have read a protocol in order to provide dignity to those who are dying.

Communication may have been poor at times and we may have professionals who lack compassion but replacing one pathway with another isn't going to remedy the situation. It is well documented that patients died through lack of care in Mid-Staffordshire. The pathway didn't help them but neither did an NHS climate that focused on goals and needed boxes to be ticked. The more boxes and the more documents to be read then the less time to display the compassion that is needed.

Relatives know when things are going wrong. It is fairly obvious when a patient needs a drink but if you have to read notes and follow procedures and then find that the Liverpool Care pathway only allows the patient to receive fluid through a sponge when they could be drinking from a cup then you know everyone knows something is wrong. Unfortunately it is difficult for NHS staff to get bogged down in doing the right thing. They have to follow a certain procedure because they are told it is best practice. What is that best practice? They will have to read up on it and make sure it is carried out to the letter.

The problem wasn't the Liverpool Care Pathway, it was the red tape in the NHS that stops the staff from thinking for themselves. In the 1980s I spent five days in hospital and my biggest concern was that I couldn't speak with anyone apart from my visitors (at very limited times of the day) and the cleaner. The mixed economy in the NHS made it impossible for the cleaner to have any conversations with patients a couple of years later as they didn't have time. They had boxes to tick and managers to answer to if they weren't ticked.

So the Liverpool Care Pathway should be phased out within a year. I presume this means that appropriate training for a new pathway has to be phased in. In the meantime perhaps we could have employees of the NHS thinking how they would like to be treated and then act accordingly. The trouble with this is that it may just need a matron, not a line of managers and a pile of documents.

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Thursday, 11 July 2013

IPSA: It Pays Silly Amounts?

Michael Gove has told the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to "stick" a planned £6,000 MPs' pay rise. He isn't on his own and many people think that MPs should not be receiving a 9.3% wage rise but Michael has managed to raise the insult bar by calling IPSA "silly".

Parliament needs a spending watchdog. If we didn't have "silly" IPSA then we would need something very much like it - and that would be silly. The alternative is to allow MPs to decide their pay and conditions and I can think of a few stronger words than silly for that option.

If MPs refuse to accept a wage rise then this undermines IPSA. It may lead to a Dutch auction of candidates willing to take less pay. There will be those who say that the best candidate is the one who doesn't charge the tax payer for their service but a House of Commons full of multi-millionaires is not a future that I care to envisage.

It is interesting to note that the Coalition has said to IPSA that restraint is necessary. Does this mean it should be called PSA?

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