Month: June 2010

Not our our doorstep! Enfield campaigners succeed in keeping Mental Health out of their sight (and mind).

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Protesters claim victory as mental health charity loses right to stay

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

By Nick Tarver

RESIDENTS have been celebrating a “bittersweet” victory after Enfield Council turned down an application to renew the licence for a home which cared for people suffering from mental illness.

Last Thursday’s decision by the council’s planning committee to not allow disability charity Enfield Clubhouse to carry on using its property in Ridge Avenue as a care home followed a vocal campaign by residents who claimed the area was becoming swamped by homes treating mental illness.

According to campaigners there are three units, including Enfield Clubhouse, within a short walk of each other.

Now the decision has left workers and users of the unit bereft amid genuine fears for the future of the charity and the people that it cares for.

Ayse Hassan was among the campaigners who welcomed the decision, but said she felt sorry for the users.

“It’s a bittersweet victory,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that Enfield Clubhouse didn’t think they needed to look for other premises – during that time I would’ve thought they could have found somewhere else to move.

“Our primary objection is that within ten yards there’s an existing institution and within 25 yards there’s another one.

“Unfortunately there’s already a lot of traffic and noise coming from these places, and this is a residential area.”

David Marsden, chief executive of Enfield Clubhouse, said the planning decision only stated that the property should be returned to a residential dwelling, not because its users were a danger or made too much noise.

“I’m bitterly disappointed,” he said. “We try to help people rebuild their lives in a safe and supportive environment. We do that by allowing them to do work around the house and doing things like growing vegetables.

“We’re not quite sure what to do now. The whole incident highlights the lack of understanding the public has about mental illness.

“You only hear about the terrible tragedies on the news, but people generally develop problems when they are left isolated with no treatment, so we’re providing a service which is vital.”

Would joined up partnership working prevent prison suicides such as the case of Vinnith Kannathasan?

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Mental health issues of hanged prisoner

12:27pm Wednesday 30th June 2010

A TEENAGER with mental health problems, who was awaiting trial, was found hanged at Chelmsford Prison.

Vinnith Kannathasan, originally from Sri Lanka, was found dead in his cell at the prison in February 2008, an inquest heard.

The 18-year-old had been charged with a sexual offence. He had arrived at the prison in early December 2007.

The inquest jury at County Hall, in Chelmsford, heard on the first day of the hearing, on Monday, that Mr Kannathasan, from Manor Park, in East London, had suffered from mental health problems from a young age.

Although he was born in Sri Lanka, he had moved to England with his mother when he was a child.

Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said he was described as “a looked after child” and had been in the care of the local authority in London.

He had experienced problems which had brought him into contact with the child and adolescent services.

He had also been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He arrived at the prison on December 3. The inquest heard he had encountered problems with other prisoners and was closely monitored on an incentives and earned privileges programme.

He was found hanged in his cell at just after 5am on the morning of February 12.

Det Seg Gary McNair told the inquest he attended the prison after Mr Kannathasan’s death.

He said: “He had been given a risk assessment by the prison service and, because of the indication of mental health issues, he had been given a single cell.

“When I arrived he had been cut down. We carried out a search of the cell. There was no note or indication he intended to take his own life.

“The view of Essex Police was that no third party was involved.”

Prison nurse Annie McLaughlin said she was on duty in the reception when the prisoner arrived.

She said Mr Kannathasan told her he suffered from biopolar disorder, a manic depressive illness.

She added: “I did refer him to see a doctor as he needed to be assessed to see if he needed medication or a change in medication.

“You cannot take what a prisoner says at face value, it has to be checked out.”

Kathy Goodchild, a registered mental health nurse at the prison, said they had received no information from police when he was brought to the jail that there was any self harm issues.

Mr Kannathasan had refused to see a psychiatrist on three occasions after appointments were made for him.

On January 5, 2008, a mental health nurse saw him and he was “co-operative”.

“If there was any bad behaviour, the medical team did not know of this,” Ms Goodchild told the inquest.

“There was no history of self harm or attempted suicide available to us.

“If that had been the case, we would have opened up an act document without doubt and he would have been monitored.”

No members of Mr Kannathasan’s family are attending the inquest, which continues.

If Governement Pay Us – Then We Will Employ…! Will firms snatch Graylings cash giving hand off?

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dawn says: Thank  Paul D for spotting this scary little gem…..

Firms may get cash to cut the dole queue.

Jun 30 2010 by William Green, Evening Chronicle

PRIVATE companies will be paid millions of pounds to get unemployed Tynesiders off the dole queue under a benefits crackdown.

Contracts worth up to around £50m-a-year each will be on offer to private, public and voluntary organisations as part of the coalition’s Government-proposed Work Programme.

Firms will be paid by results and out of savings made from getting people off benefit under the scheme, which could cost £3bn a year and is intended to be running from next summer.

 Existing welfare-to-work schemes introduced by the old Labour Government will be phased out.

 Employment Minister Chris Grayling said the reforms would help “break the cycle of benefit dependency that has blighted some communities”.

 He also said there were thousands of people claiming incapacity benefit “able to work” as details of a crackdown were unveiled.

 IB claimants will have to attend new “work capability assessments” from the autumn – starting in Burnley and Aberdeen but with the rest of the country to follow.

 The assessments will determine whether claimants can work, need additional support or “unconditional help”.

 Across Tyneside, more than 20,000 people claim Incapacity Benefit and there are more than 22,000 jobseekers’ allowance claimants. Nationally, 2.6m people claim IB.

 Ian Mearns, Labour MP for Gateshead, said Labour had planned a programme of re-testing for IB claimants when it was in power.

 But he added the coalition appeared “to be going much beyond that and they seem to be on a quest to remove people from whatever benefit they are on at all costs.”

 In a written ministerial statement, Mr Grayling said: “The Government is committed to providing unconditional support for very sick and disabled people within that group.

 “But there are people claiming incapacity benefits that can work, and want to work. With our help they will be able to.”

 In a written ministerial statement, he added: “The coalition Government takes a firm but fair hold of the welfare system.

 “This approach will bring about transformational change in the benefits system, helping people leave benefits and work towards a better quality of life for themselves and their families.”

Work bullying linked to mental health problems. Really? Wouldn’t have guessed!

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Work bullying linked to mental health problems

Published Date: 30 June 2010

By Jeni Harvey

ACADEMICS at Sheffield University have uncovered new evidence of a strong link between workplace bullying and the subsequent psychological ill-health of employees.
The study, which will be presented for the first time at the Institute of Work Psychology’s conference in Sheffield today, found that bullying from colleagues significantly influenced levels of stress reported seven months later. Researchers found 39 per cent of respondents reported frequent – weekly or daily – bullying from workmates in the previous six months.

Christine Sprigg, a psychology lecturer at Sheffield University, who led the research, said: “The evidence of the relationship between employee ill-health and workplace bullying is clearly shown by our data but, more importantly, we find that there might be workplace interventions – for example working to boost employee self-esteem – that can help to lessen the impact of other people’s bad behaviour at work.”

The research team collaborated with nine organisations and more than 5,600 employees in carrying out the study.

Dr Luise Vassie, from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health which funded the study, said: “We’re pleased this research not only adds to the existing body of knowledge on this subject, but also provides us with ideas on how the detrimental impact of bullying on worker health can be reduced.”

Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health: “Mental health sufferers need support to return to work”.

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Mental health sufferers need support to return to work

Employees that suffer from depression and anxiety find that returning to work can actually help with their recovery.

Research from Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, which was published with support from the British Occupational Health Research Foundation, reveals that people with common mental health problems do not need to have completely recovered before they return to the workplace. Despite that, Common Mental Health Problems at Work suggests that those who suffer from depression and anxiety should be offered specialist support along with psychological therapy upon their return to work.

Furthermore, the review finds that the way line managers and supervisors respond when a person initially becomes unwell can have a big impact on their chances of staying at work.

Linda Seymour, Head of Policy, Sainsbury Centre, says: “Existing research has shown that work is good for our health and that too many people lose their jobs as a result of mental ill health. We need to ensure that alongside the new ‘fit note’ that enables GPs to comment on what people can do as well as what they can’t, and the new Government’s continuing commitment to improving access to psychological therapy, good quality employment advice is provided to both employees and employers.” 01/01/1970
EG    29/06/2010

Housing Benefit cuts. Forcing people into the fringes?

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Housing benefit changes will push the poor out of town

When members of a particular race are cleared out of a district we call it ethnic cleansing. There is no similar term to capture what happens when a particular social class is edged out of town, says Tom Clark

Tom Clark, Tuesday 29 June 2010 16.00 BST

When members of a particular race are cleared out of a district we know what to call it: ethnic cleansing. There is no similar term to capture what happens when a particular social class is edged out of town. After last week’s budget, we might need to invent one. Housing benefit cuts will steadily wash the poor away from prosperous places, most particularly inner London.

Some cuts will hit particular groups, such as parents with grown-up children, who will be stung if their kids move out (owing to new restrictions on the size of the house that they would then be entitled to), but also stung if the kids stay at home (as they will be expected to extract an increased contribution from their offspring towards the rent).

Renters with the misfortune to be without work for more than a year will take the sort of welfare reform hit more often associated with Wisconcin than Westminster. The long-term unemployed will be asked to find 10% of their rent from that princely jobseekers’ allowance payment of £65 a week.

More profound changes will steadily bite on poor renters as a whole. Private tenants are already restricted to the bottom half of the market, and will soon be barred from looking beyond the slum sector – the bottom 30%. In defiance of all reason, harsh new rent caps will be pegged to consumer prices that have nothing to do with housing. If baked beans stay cheap, then so will rent support, no matter how much it actually costs to put a roof over your head.

With the supply of housing restricted, it is entirely predictable that the price of homes will rise faster than that of peas. Indeed, the Treasury understands this perfectly well, which is why it is simultaneoulsy stripping rents and mortgages out of the calculations that fix the rates of other benefits, and is banking on billions in savings as a result.

Cheerleaders for the policy, such as the Conservative Philippa Roe of Westminster city council, argue that curbing rent subsidies will lower rent levels, and so hurt landlords rather than tenants. In theory, there might be something in that. In practice, I very much doubt it will happen, since demand looks set to rocket. The social housing budget is one of those areas of public spending that is emphatically outside of the protected ringfence that has been thrown around the NHS. Under permanent squeeze since the 1970s, it is now in line for a chop of at least a quarter. And with fewer social homes, the race for private ones will only intensify.

In the past it was, of course, Westminster city council that sought systematically to prise poor people away from homes in marginal wards, under the infamous Dame Shirley Porter. There is no conspiracy this time around, but the sociological effect could be the same. And not just in Westminster, but also in the London boroughs of Camden, Islington and maybe even Hackney.

A generation ago, flogging off council houses without a parallel building programme began the gentrification of the capital. A squeeze on housing benefit, which also comes unattached to any meaningful building programme, could finally finish the job.

• Tom Clark is the Guardian’s leader writer on social affairs

Justice Secretary to launch a scathing attack on the Victorian “bang ’em up” prison culture.

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Ken Clarke to attack ‘bang ’em up’ prison sentencing

Justice secretary hints at reform of £4bn jail building programme in scathing attack on policies of the last two decades

Alan Travis, home affairs editor

The Guardian, Wednesday 30 June 2010

The justice secretary, Ken Clarke, will today launch a scathing attack on the Victorian “bang ’em up” prison culture of the past 20 years.

His speech to the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in London marks a major assault on the “prison works” orthodoxy launched by former Tory home secretary Michael Howard – and is believed to be causing nervousness in Downing Street.

Clarke will warn that simply “banging up more and more people for longer” is actually making some criminals worse, without protecting the public.

“In our worst prisons it produces tougher criminals. Many a man has gone into prison without a drug problem and come out drug dependent. And petty prisoners can meet up with some new hardened criminal friends,” says advance extracts of his speech.

Clarke faces mounting pressure to halt the £4bn prison building programme – the largest in Europe – and his speech will fuel expectations that he intends to divert thousands of offenders away from short-term prison sentences when the government’s review of sentencing is published in the autumn.

The justice secretary faces a battle if he is to stabilise the growth of the prison population, which is forecast to rise to 94,000 before the next general election.

Clarke was last in charge of prisons when he was home secretary between 1992 and 1993, when the prison population in England and Wales stood at 44,628. He says today that the current population of 85,000 is “an astonishing number which I would have dismissed as an impossible and ridiculous prediction if it had been put to me in a forecast in 1992.”

He says that “for as long as I can remember” the political debate on law and order has been reduced to a competition over whether a government has spent more public money and locked up more people for longer than its predecessor. It now costs more to put someone in prison – £38,000 – than it does to send a boy to Eton.

He said: “The consequence is that more and more offenders have been warehoused in outdated facilities and we spend vast amounts of public money on prison. But no proper thought has been given to whether this is really the best and most effective way of protecting the public against crime.”

Clarke will point out that prison is the necessary punishment for many offenders, but he questions whether “ever more prison for ever more offenders” always produces better results for the public. He provides his own answer by observing that the record prison population and the crime rate in England and Wales are now among the highest in Western Europe.

He says that just locking people up without actively seeking to change them is “what you would expect of Victorian England” and he notes that reoffending rates among the 60,000 prisoners given short sentences has reached 60% and rising.

“This does not surprise me. It is virtually impossible to do anything productive with offenders on short sentences. And many of them end up losing their jobs, their homes and their families during their short time inside,” says Clarke.

The justice secretary’s speech will fuel expectations among prison reform groups that the sentencing review will lead to a drive to divert short-sentence inmates away from prison.

But Clarke himself is careful not to spell out that solution in today’s speech. He says that a “far more constructive approach” is to make prisons places of education, hard work and change, and to provide rigorous enforced community sentences that get offenders off drugs and alcohol and into jobs.

In doing so he puts his weight behind “the most radical” Conservative plans for a “rehabilitation revolution,” involving the voluntary and private sectors in programmes to change offenders inside and outside prison, and paying them by results.

“They would have clear financial incentives to keep offenders away from crime. And success would be measured by whether or not they are reconvicted within the first few years of leaving prison,” he will say.

Howard’s “prison works” approach was outlined in October 1993 and has held sway ever since.

Clarke’s speech marks a return to the language of former home secretary Douglas Hurd’s 1991 white paper, which said that “prison was an expensive way of making bad people worse” – and in those days the prison population stood at only 42,000.

Has reporting of the Cumbria murders stopped mentally ill people seeking help? (What do you think – doh!)

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Has reporting of the Cumbria murders stopped mentally ill people seeking help?

Reports of the murders in Cumbria have led to some local people with mental health problems feeling ‘stigmatised by association’

Mary O’Hara, Tuesday 29 June 2010 16.31 BST

The Sun’s front page of the Cumbria murders Photograph: GuardianThe people gathered in the west Cumbrian living room don’t want to reveal their exact location other than that it is in a part of the region directly affected by the multiple murders in June, when a local man, Derrick Bird, drove around the area shooting people. They fear that being identified could bring negative attention.

All of those present – including a woman with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and another who is a carer for someone with the condition – are involved with a local peer-support mental health group. Until the shootings this month, the group got together regularly – but since then, members have avoided gathering in places known to be used by people with mental health conditions.

“A few of us have met in the pub or people’s living rooms since,” says group member Jane White. “We didn’t want to draw any attention to ourselves.” The reason is partly down to the media speculation about Bird’s mental health status along with newspaper headlines such as “Psycho cabbie’s rampage on CCTV” in the aftermath of the tragedy.

It left some in the group – many of whom travel from across the county to attend – concerned about being stigmatised “by association”, White says. “In the days after [the murders] I’d look at the newspapers and see the headlines speculating about mental illness or calling [Bird] a ‘psycho’, and it made me afraid.”

White says she is anxious the media coverage of Bird has helped foster ignorance around mental illness and, as a result, may be making people with a diagnosis wary of being open about their circumstances. “It’s already difficult in small, tight-knit communities to be open about having a mental health condition,” she says. “I’m worried that people’s fear of being labelled will mean they don’t come forward for the support they need.”

The west Cumbria support group is small – just 10 to 12 people attend regularly – but it is “vital”, says White, to reducing isolation and helping people when they need to talk to others who understand. “I came to think over the years that real progress was being made in de-stigmatising mental illness, but watching how the media reacted to [the murders] and then worrying about how I might be regarded as a result, it feels like we are being set back.”

Sue Dixon, a carer involved with the group, worries that efforts to educate the public about living with a mental health condition could be undermined by “irresponsible” reporting, and that people diagnosed with a mental illness will be regarded as “potential” violent criminals.

A spokesman for the charity MDF, which supports people with bipolar disorder and runs the West Cumbria group, says: “It sounds like careless press reporting of this tragedy has set back the hard work of our members to gain acceptance in the local community by a decade. The stigma of mental illness is bad enough without this. The last thing our members need is to be tainted by some entirely false association with a mass murderer. Research shows there is no link between bipolar disorder and violence, but the media always tends to gives the impression that anyone with mental health problems is a ‘mad axeman’.”

A spokeswoman for the mental health charity Mind, which has made funds available to its Cumbria branches in case extra help is needed, says there is no evidence Bird had ever been in touch with mental health services. “He was branded ‘crazed’, ‘loony’, ‘madman’, derogatory terms so commonly used to describe mental health problems,” she says. “The persistent misuse of mental health language by some media outlets does more than cause offence, it can have serious repercussions for how [people] are treated by society, from trivial name calling to hate crime”.

In a Commons debate on the tragedy last week, local MP Jamie Reed was critical about how the murders were reported. “In such situations, there is no place for the media’s invented exclusives, its prurience and voyeurism, its mawkish brutality and its cold-blooded pursuit of profit at the expense of the families of those most affected,” he said. “One price we pay for a free press is its freedom to write such misleading and opinionated bile.”

 Philip Price, a co-ordinator for the west Cumbria group, agrees the media have a lot to answer for and says more needs to be done to educate not only the public but the people who report the news to them. “I understand that we are in an age of 24-hour news and that, just by definition, it is harder for journalists to put the legwork in that is needed for a story like this. But there is a point at which it’s about decency and using common sense.” News organisations, he suggests, have a responsibility to train staff better on issues around mental illness.

It is a view shared by Reed, who told MPs in last week’s debate that he would be writing to the National Union of Journalists and the Press Complaints Commission to seek meetings, to push for professional codes of practice to be improved significantly.

A PCC spokesman says it has received a “fairly small” number of complaints, which so far did not appear to demonstrate any breach of the “editor’s code”, but “if the commission determines that the press has broken any of the code’s rules, it will of course make that very clear”.

PCC guidance on reporting mental illness has been revised and updated since it was introduced in 1991. Since the Cumbrian shootings took place, the PCC has been in regular contact with local police and health authorities explaining how it might assist, the spokesman says.

Back in west Cumbria, White says the coverage by some of the media in the days after the tragedy have made many people with mental health conditions feel “targeted”. “We will have our next meeting,” she says, sounding defiant. The test, White says, is whether in the months ahead people in the area begin to feel comfortable about seeking the support on offer.

• Some names have been changed.

Sea Sanctuary. ‘Most inspiring Mental Health project of the week!’ (meant to be sung Harry Hill like).

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Dawn says: saw this project on my local TV news and was so inpsired.  Knowing that sailing is quite possibly one of the most relaxing pleasures I (rarely) have I know this project is invaluable. CHECK IT OUT…CLICK THE LINK (above).

About Sea Sanctuary

Sea Sanctuary is an innovative marine based service and is the first of its kind in European waters.
We provide comprehensive mental health care on board a 43ft classic yacht, catering for young people and adults alike.

Sea Sanctuary provides therapy, education/training and respite care and is available to individuals principally within Cornwall, but also the wider UK.

Sea Sanctuary seeks to address the very real issue of mental health well-being for those who most need it.

Sea Sanctuary aims to create the ideal setting for mental health to flourish by offering hope and purpose through therapy, education and training utilising Cornwall’s marine environment.


Sea Sanctuary’s aim is to provide a safe and naturalistic environment as an alternative venue for mental health care working in partnership with statutory and non statutory mental health service providers as an adjunct within the community to their existing and overstretched services.


The ethos behind Sea Sanctuary is based on modern research reflecting the findings of studies based on Wilderness settings and the therapeutic benefits of combining activity and therapy for mental health clients, delivered in a non clinical setting.

The unique setting of Sea Sanctuary as a working sea faring vessel makes the probability of therapeutic change more likely due to the stimulating nature of the boat itself but also the locations to which clients can be transported around their spectacular coastline.

The effect of Sea Sanctuary is to further the destigmatisation of mental health problems in a society that still increasingly marginalises those with difficulties. It also utilises the locality in increasing the well being of those individuals requiring support by reinforcing their connection with Cornwall through spending time absorbing its heritage.

Our assumptions about people using our service

Sea Sanctuary holds the assumption that all service users have the potential to actualise their abilities given the right therapeutic environment and opportunity to progress themselves regardless of their mental health problems.

Sea Sanctuary believes that working as individuals or groups, the boat itself will provide an underpinning framework that represents a common interest for all involved. This will create equal partnerships amongst clients and staff whose shared relationship includes literally, taking care of the Mother Ship. In addition Sea Sanctuary has a fully working Galley which is used in promoting team work and life skills for (e.g. catching and preparing fish).

It is felt that these qualities will encourage even the most isolated to become if only temporarily, a valued part of an ongoing communal resource.

Furthermore the project assumes that the client is the expert with regards to their own therapeutic needs and where possible clients will be encouraged to choose their own interventions from the services on offer.

The “Leopard of Avon” – combining quality, space, a kindly sail and aesthetic appeal. Made in 1959 and built as a Sail Training Craft, she has classical lines that modern plastic yachts can only hope to aspire to.

Dolly Sen (BA), Ascend-ing to Great Heights.

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Welcome to Ascend Mental Health Training and Consultancy

 Ascend Mental Health Training and Consultancy is a social enterprise set up by Dolly Sen, one of the leading and influential figures in Mental Health.

We offer an inspiring, accessible and unique training experience that has already taken us to Oxford University, the Institute of Psychiatry, RCP, SLAM, Mayor of London, University of Westminster, Guys Hospital, The Probation Service and over 100 charity, coporate and statutory organisations.

We can deliver training shaped to your needs and that will have an immediate and positive impact to your organisation, and we can deliver it anywhere in the UK.


Dawn says:  Click on the link  for more and congrats to Dolly Sen who graduated with a First in Film and Video BA – we think you are amazing!


Todays Big TAXING Question! :-D

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Why doesn’t Osbourne attack the Tax Evaders?


By Law Mr Chancellor!



Professional Courtesy!

Makes me wanna puke

If Govt is owed £17 billion in unpaid tax where is the new Osbourne targeting taskforce to enforce payment?

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Government is owed over £17 billion in unpaid taxes (June 2009)

LONDON (Reuters) – The government is owed more than 17 billion pounds in unpaid taxes and nearly a third of all payments were late in one financial year, MPs said in a criticism of tax collection methods on Tuesday.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee condemned Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for the rising number of tax arrears in the 2007/08 tax year, saying it failed to use the latest private-sector debt collection methods.

The cross-party committee said 30 percent of tax payments were late in the year to March 31, 2008, and the total number of tax debts was 22 percent higher than the previous year — taking the sum owed to 17.3 billion pounds.

Community courts can play a role in our criminal justice system

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Community courts can play a role in our criminal justice system

MICHAEL REILLY describes how both numbers of criminal offences and the prison population can be reduced

IF YOU were to ask the ordinary man or woman in the street what they expect from the criminal justice system, you would probably find that their initial response is that anyone who commits a crime should be locked up – and that the sanctions are not nearly tough enough.

Another view might be that there is little consistence in sentencing. There are many other examples of criticisms of the system.

Could our courts be used more efficiently or, in fact, should courts be created that would better address low level crime in our society? Should certain work practices of those who work in the system change?

In this context, everyone must bear in mind that those who work in the system must never allow themselves to be lulled into the view that the system should facilitate them – rather, they should always realise that they are there to operate the system within the law and for the benefit of those who come in contact with the criminal justice system, be they victims or defendants.

There could be greater consistence in sentencing. More guidelines could be given to the judiciary which would not, in my opinion, compromise their independence. Innovative sanctions could form part of the sentencing options available to our courts.

In practical terms, what does prison achieve? The major advantage of prison as far as the ordinary person in the street is concerned is that the offender will be taken out of circulation for a short defined period, and during this time s/he will not be a nuisance to society.

By and large, society will be happy that a person goes to prison, some of the popular press will write positively of the matter and lawmakers could be forgiven for thinking that sanctions which result in people being locked up are for the better good.

I suggest, however, that if you were to ask many victims of low-level crime – such as a person who is kept awake at night by disorderly conduct on the street, a woman whose handbag is stolen while walking on main street, a person whose wall is smeared with graffiti or a person whose windscreen wipers are broken by a drunken youth – what they really wanted the criminal justice system to do, you would find it was that the activity would cease and that they could sleep at night, that they could be reasonably certain that their handbag would be safe, that their wall would not be decorated and that their car would be equipped with wipers in the morning.

They would, of course, all be pleased to hear that the wrongdoer had been apprehended by gardaí. They would take a passing interest in any subsequent court case and would in certain cases take some pleasure in the fact that the wrongdoer had been sent to prison – but would then be disappointed if the offending behaviour restarted when s/he was released from prison.

This is where innovative new sanctions might be relevant. They could only be relevant if work practices were to change and if there was public confidence in such sanctions.

The present range and operation of non- custodial sanctions is very well documented. I suggest that a new range of non-custodial sanctions should be examined with two objectives in mind, namely, to analyse the sanctions per se and to reduce the prison population.

Why would you contemplate additional non-custodial sanctions? I suggest for three reasons: that they could protect society from the perpetrators of crime, reduce the recidivism rate and reduce the prison population.

I am sure that there are very many models that could be utilised to achieve these three aims. The Tallaght Restorative Justice Services and the Nenagh Community Reparation Project are two structured restorative justice projects.

Overcrowding in our prisons is a major problem. What about a new approach which is gathering favour in other parts of the world? I am referring to the concept of problem-solving justice.

Why should a person who, because of mental health issues, drug addiction, poverty, personality disorder or other deficiency, have to wait until they are in the current criminal justice system to get help? They may or may not get the help they require, but one thing is almost certain: they will also end up with a criminal conviction and a possible prison sentence, with all the negativity that that brings with it.

Problem-solving justice uses the main players of the existing criminal justice system to address the underlying problems that have led to low levels of criminality. It can come in many forms. Community courts, drug courts, domestic violence courts and mental health courts are but four examples.

I have seen at first hand a number of these services in operation in the United States and England. They are all judge-led and, because the emphasis is on problem-solving, they bear no relation to our criminal courts. They are non-adversarial and they do not by and large lead to convictions. All evaluations of such services point to a marked decrease in low- level crime in the areas covered by such courts. Large numbers of people can be processed through such facilities.

Problem-solving courts would never replace the existing courts as we know them, but would complement such services. The emphasis is on immediate intervention.

If these type of services were to be introduced into this State, it would require a sea change in practice by judges, lawyers, members of An Garda Síochána, probation officers, the social services, addiction services, educational services and many others who would provide services to such courts.

Experience from other jurisdictions would suggest that if a community court such as is suggested in the report of the National Crime Council were to be established, it could deal with approximately 40 new cases a day, in addition to the regular review of many cases and other issues that would arise.

I do not wish to give the impression that all defendants who would appear before a community court would necessarily face a prison sentence if they appeared in the structured courts that we all know. If in many cases the offending problem is solved, it follows that a certain coterie of would-be wrongdoers would be diverted from crime – thus leading to a reduction in crime and a reduction in the numbers going to prison.

I am satisfied that a community court could operate as a stand-alone court. I feel that other problem-solving courts such as a drugs court, a domestic violence court or a mental health court, while operating in the same general way as a community court, should nonetheless operate under the general umbrella of a community court, not under the umbrella of the court system as we know it.

Judge Michael Reilly is the Inspector of Prisons. This is an excerpt from a speech he gave to the White Paper on Crime Consultation seminar Criminal Sanctions last month in Dublin Castle.

Minister joins backlash against Osborne’s sickness benefit cuts

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Minister joins backlash against Osborne’s sickness benefit cuts

 By Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor

 Tuesday, 29 June 2010

George Osborne faced anger and dismay last night over his plans to cut sickness benefits, with even a government minister joining the backlash.

 Further details of the drive to provide jobs for the long-term unemployed – including those currently claiming incapacity benefit at an annual cost to the Treasury of £12.5bn – will be set out today.

Private companies and charities are expected to be offered extra incentives to help find work for the jobless under the proposals to be set out by Chris Grayling, the employment minister.


The Government believes that an overhaul of the benefits system will eventually reduce by one-fifth the number of people registered as too sick to work.

 Mr Osborne, who has already announced plans to cut the benefits bill by £11bn, disclosed he was seeking further savings from the employment and support allowance, which is replacing incapacity benefit, and from housing benefit payments. The Chancellor indicated that the costs of incapacity benefit were no longer sustainable because they exceeded the budget of some Whitehall departments.

 Further signs that benefit claimants are being targeted for cuts will put greater pressure on the unity of the coalition Government.

 Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat equalities minister, expressed concern that the 2.6 million people on incapacity benefit could soon face more frequent medical assessments. “I would think that everyone wants those who can work but who claim incapacity benefit falsely not to receive that support,” she wrote on her blog.

 “However, the previous Labour government tried to get people off such allowances and my experience as a local MP from surgery is that the ‘reassessment’ of people claiming has been variable at best. We need to be sure that there is no perverse incentive to determine that someone can work when they cannot. We also need to be sure that those carrying out the assessment are good at it.”

 John Pugh, the Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, said it was important any changes were implemented in a manner “properly sensitive” to people’s circumstances. He said: “There are quite genuine concerns about whether people getting this benefit truly deserve it – but we do want to make sure that those who truly deserve it get it.”

 The coalition Government has said all claimants of the benefit would have their cases reassessed to determine their “readiness to work”. Those deemed healthy enough to hold down a job would be transferred to Jobseeker’s Allowance, meaning they would receive less money and be required to seek employment.

 Assessments carried out by the previous government concluded that 39 per cent were “fit for work”, while a further 37 per cent withdrew their claims before the test was complete.

 However, Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said: “The current medical tests used to re reassess people and move them into work are inherently flawed. We fear that simply speeding this process up will mean that corners will be cut, disabled people’s needs will not be met, and the Government will fail to achieve its aims.”

 Yvette Cooper, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said the previous government had, in consultation with doctors and disability groups, designed a new test for gauging fitness for work.

 She said: “We have been urging the new government to complete the implementation of those reforms and hope they will do so. “We would be very concerned if they were to rip up the new test and the medical evidence just to reach an arbitrary target for spending cuts – that would be deeply unfair.”

 Ms Cooper said that Labour’s test – the work capability assessment – would save £1.5bn a year.

 Mr Osborne has argued that further welfare savings are necessary to limit cuts to public services in the spending review in the autumn.

 He warned that without further savings, many government departments will see their spending slashed by an average of 25 per cent over the next four years.

Barry O’Connell, 64, Essex: ‘The Government is hitting out at easy pickings . . .’


“How dare the politicians tell us they care about the disabled, that we have rights and a future, and then show they have no qualms about making our lives miserable like this?


“When you are relying on incapacity benefits, they make-or-break a person. The Government should consult us and ask us how we will be affected. They would never want to be in my position. They should try living in my world.


“These benefits are a lifeline for me and my wife. Having an assistance dog has saved my marriage. My dog’s name is Guy – if budget cuts took him away from me, I don’t know what I would do; he helps me survive and live life.


“The Government is hitting out at those they see as easy pickings – those who find it far harder to speak up for themselves. The disabled are a soft target. There is no way I could work. I used to work for the Royal Mail before I had my accident: I broke my back in three places when I fell off a ladder in 2003.


“I now have four titanium rods going from my neck to my bottom. I have 80 bolts in my back and a metal plate at the top and at the bottom.


“A person’s mental capacity to deal with their disability is already stretched to the limit. To now add to all that anguish the threat of taking the small amount of money I do have is dreadful.


“I understand that in a recession we all have to take the knocks together. But to hit out at the people who need help the most is disgusting.”


Cecilia Weightman, 51, Bristol: ‘We are all asking: what if they get the assessment wrong?’


“I am really concerned about the medical assessments. I have problems the doctor is not going to be as qualified to pick up as my psychiatric consultant, who is familiar with my situation.


“I know other people who claim incapacity benefits are worried about what is going to happen. We are all asking the question: ‘What if they get the assessment wrong?’ But those who cheat the system should be treated severely; they should be made to pay back every penny, and not just be given a token prison sentence or a fine.


“I have ultradian bipolar disorder. If I could work, I would. I used to work in community activism for four to five hours per week, but it would knock me out for days afterwards. Every day I can have up to 12 mood changes – that is absolutely exhausting and terrifying.


“At present, there are already considerable delays in the medical assessments so, unless they increase staffing levels, these assessments will only exacerbate the situation.


“At the moment, because of benefits and other provisions, I can go out for the day and enjoy life rather than being stuck inside the house, unable to go anywhere. That is crucial for people with mental-health problems. But if the Government cuts benefits, I would not be able to do that. Things would seem a lot more bleak.


“Maybe a few politicians should try living with a mental health problem, it is hell. These reforms will not put people back into work. It will be a regression.”


Rebecca Young, 24, Manchester: ‘If I were forced to work, it would be a disaster’


“I am worried that, at the medical assessment, I will be seen on a good day; I am terrified they will jump to the conclusion that I can go out and work, and cut my benefits.


“Some days my speech is fine but others it is not. My disorder means that it varies from day to day. If my benefit were cut, it would cause me massive trouble. I only have enough to get by, as it is. I do not buy luxuries.


“I have a rare degenerative genetic disorder which affects my mobility, my joints, my ability to swallow and also to speak. I also have Asperger’s syndrome. I use a specially-adapted wheelchair and need a high level of support. I also have a specially-adapted van. I need all of this to make life worth living.


“My situation is complicated by the fact that the genetic disorder is so rare – the average medic may not even know it exists. Every morning it takes me four hours to get ready. If I was forced to work, it would be a disaster. I am exhausted by the small things I already have to do. On a good day, it might be possible for me to do a few hours paid work; I would love to. But those days do not come around too often.


“I am studying health and social care at the Open University. I would like to work as an NHS manager and change the system from the inside, but I realise the chances are very slim: I would need properly flexible conditions.


“If I were forced to work, I would be scared that the little energy I do have will not last, making the situation twice as bad. The people falsely claiming incapacity benefit are few and far between.”

‘Go Wild, Stay Well’ in North Somerset.

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Mental health initiative launch.

7:00pm Monday 28th June 2010

MENTAL health charity Mind in Taunton and West Somerset is launching a ‘Go Wild, Stay Well’ project in Vivary Park, Taunton, next Monday between 12noon and 2pm.

It will be attended by mental health professionals and volunteers as well as a couple of media representatives and a grants officer from the national Mind organisation.

Visitors will be able to learn more about the project, sample some tasty organic food and meet a few of the people involved.

The ‘Go Wild, Stay Well’ project is concerned with ecotherapy, a free and natural method of easing mental distress.

Participants will be able to get involved with conservation work on several stunning nature reserves in the Blackdown and Quantock Hills, and will take part in ten-week courses that will hopefully lead to further volunteering opportunities that will help people to feel empowered and to boost their overall well being.

Project manager David Topham, who recently took the first group of participants out to Fyne Court, said: “Go Wild, Stay Well is a wonderful opportunity for participants to experience that healing effect of nature.

“Participants in pilot sessions have been very positive about their experience and are clearly benefiting from this ecotherapy.”

You can find out more calling the office on 01823-334906 or by e-mailing

Philosophy and Mental Health. Helping Doctors with ethical dilemmas.

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Philosophers are helping doctors with dilemmas over life-and-death decisions

People with mental-health problems may in future be allowed to make more decisions for themselves

Louise Tickle

The Guardian, Tuesday 29 June 2010

 Consider the A&E doctor’s dilemma. Someone suffering from severe depression is brought to hospital, having made a serious suicide attempt. Without treatment, they will die. But they insist they want only palliative care and will regard any attempt to prevent their death as assault.

There’s not much time to make a decision. And there are two conflicting pieces of legislation to confuse the issue. The Mental Health Act says intervention is required where a mentally-ill individual is a danger to themselves (or to the public). But the Mental Capacity Act (2007) is organised around a very different legal principle: it says that if someone passes a legal test of their capacity to make a decision, then they cannot be treated without their consent – even if they suffer from a major mental disorder.

This is not a theoretical scenario – it happens. So do various others involving mental-health conditions – anorexia is one, schizophrenia another – that potentially have life or death consequences.

Philosophers are now being asked to help medical and social care professionals to think through the collisions between these different approaches.

This has been prompted because a range of factors are making the need for careful thinking around the issue of autonomy more pressing: the neuroscience that helps us to understand the way decision-making processes happen in the brain is advancing rapidly. Psychiatry as a clinical discipline now operates in a legal environment increasingly shaped by human rights legislation. And decisions regarding the treatment of the mentally ill are regularly contested in the courts.

“Our aim is to develop a conception of autonomy that is philosophically defensible and can be applied in practice,” explains Essex University’s philosophy professor, Wayne Martin, now leading the Essex Autonomy project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

“My initial involvement came about when I was approached by psychiatrists at the Maudsley Institute of Psychiatry who were working on the assessment of mental capacity in the lead-up to the Mental Capacity Act taking effect. They wanted to figure out what it is like for the person actually making a decision. But they also needed a methodology for answering that kind of question.

“The Mental Health Act essentially says ‘We want to protect the public from mad people’,” he explains.

“That test is a public safety test; if you’re a danger to yourself or to others, then the state has a responsibility to minimise the threat to public health. In the old days, that probably meant locking you up; now, it could mean that you are forced to take your medication. Safeguards have been introduced. But the key thing is that there is nothing in that Act that talks about your freedom to make decisions for yourself. It’s all about ‘are you a danger?'”

The Mental Capacity Act, by contrast, codifies ideals that have gradually been emerging in case law, he explains. “These ideals invoke the very grand principle that a person has the absolute right to refuse medical treatment as long as they have the mental capacity to make that decision. So then the question is, how do you decide whether they have that capacity?”

The legal test for mental capacity – that you understand information, have the capacity to use and weigh it, and that you can express your choice – is problematic as it stands, he says, but no matter how much it’s refined, there will still be difficulties.

“Professionally speaking, anorexia patients are fascinating in how they demonstrate this,” he says. “They pass the standard capacity tests with flying colours, they often have real insight into their condition, and yet they make terrible decisions. Interestingly, later on, when they are somewhat recovered, some say that though they had been expressing themselves clearly and passed the test, inside they were crying out for the very treatment they were adamantly refusing.”

Martin has just returned from the first of a series of weekend workshops that will bring together interested colleagues from the worlds of psychiatry, law, social welfare and philosophy. One of the biggest difficulties will be working beyond the usual disciplinary boundaries.

“A big challenge is getting people to talk across their disciplines,” says Martin.

But it is important to get people to question their assumptions. “We think it is obvious that autonomy is worth pursuing. But the word ‘autonomy’ means self-legislation. Historically, it’s actually a very controversial concept that hasn’t always been held up as the ideal. We need to think about whether and why autonomy is the right ideal for beings like us.”

Linked to that is a problem regularly encountered in observing decision-making by people with a mental-health condition – the role played by time. Nowadays, Martin says, “the law tends to fetishise the instant” at which a person makes a decision.

“I call this the ‘no, no, no, no, no, yes’ scenario. A patient may resist a medical recommendation quite insistently. But at the moment when they say ‘yes’, that can constitute consent. When someone is going along with the doctors, nobody ever questions their mental capacity.”

For a philosopher, he says, the element of how time operates in decision-making is a rich and complex topic. But there are other ways to look at decision-making, which take in that person’s history, medical context, their character traits over time and their ability to express themselves with help from others.

“My father-in-law suffers from Alzheimer’s, and we often find ourselves in the situation of having to help him make decisions,” explains Martin. “We may pretend that consent is something that individuals do by themselves, but that’s a myth perpetuated by the law.

“My father-in-law is capable of making a lot of decisions for himself. But when he does, the decision-making involves a division of labour between him, his daughters, me, his psychiatrist and his care workers. If you think about it, making decisions in life is almost always a collective endeavour.”

When the research concludes, Martin’s team will conduct a knowledge transfer master class to be piloted at the Maudsley. “In my experience so far with this, physicians and lawyers and social welfare officers find it an enormous relief to be able to get some of those questions out in the open for discussion,” he says.

Oh M’Lord, peers lose £35.50 from their appearance fees….but still earn £45,000 a year!

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Peers have expenses reduced to £300 a day

By Daniel Bentley, Press Association

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Members of the House of Lords have had their allowances cut for the first time, following the parliamentary expenses scandal. In future, they will be able to claim a maximum of £300 a day, instead of the present £335.50, and will lose a range of perks.

 To combat the notorious practice of Lords leaving their car engines running while they nip into the Palace of Westminster to sign the attendance register, a new half-day rate of £150 is being brought for those who are not in Parliament for a full working day.

 Peers will also lose their right to claim separately for taxis, meals, office costs or hotel bills, all of which will have to come out of their daily allowance. It means the maximum any peer will be paid is £45,000 a year, assuming the House of Lords sits for 150 days. The Senior Salaries Review Board had suggested that the attendance allowance be put up to £340, rather than being reduced.

 The new rates were announced by the Lords leader, Lord Strathclyde, who claimed the new system would be “cheaper to run, less bureaucratic to comply with, simpler to police and far, far harder to abuse”.

 He added: “We would sweep away the controversial rules on so-called ‘second homes’, which in my judgment have no logic in a House that is not elected. There will be no more addresses of convenience. No more juggling of utility bills and claims forms. If you come to Westminster and work in Parliament, you will be able to claim the allowance. If you do not, you will not.

 “The existing expenses regime is discredited. It lacks credibility and the public has no confidence in it. This new plan means the end of the second homes fiasco. It means the end of the old expenses regime. It means a new system that is direct, transparent and accountable. It means we are making a significant step towards winning the public’s confidence again.”

 Until just over 50 years ago, Lords were not paid to be in Parliament but the Conservative government recognised some aristocrats had become so impoverished during the years of post-war austerity that they could barely afford train fares to London. In July 1957, they introduced a daily allowance of three guineas, equivalent to just over £50 today. In 1979, peers were also granted the right to claim secretarial expenses

Mark Allard: “If people do open up about mental illness then things like suicide and self harm can be avoided”

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Understanding is aim of campaign

Published Date:
28 June 2010

IT’S familiar premise for a horror film — and an idea which has become firmly engrained in the terminology of the press: Psycho kills family; Schizo heard voices.
And it’s become a form of shorthand for addressing anyone whose behaviour is considered socially unacceptable or physically threatening: “He was better off out of it — she was a psycho.” Or: “He’s a bit mental.”

But few of us ever consider those within earshot could be suffering from actual mental health issues — something a campaign by Mind and Rethink is hoping to change.

Mark Allard, 23, of Landseer Court, Haverhill, was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder after experiencing changes in his emotional state and behaviour over a long period of time, during which he was not trying to complete a degree.

A housemate prompted the thought perhaps the way he was acting and feeling wasn’t down to his character but could be something which required medical assistance.

While the intricacies of getting a diagnosis was one thing, dealing with prejudices — not only within people in his day-to-day life, but within the NHS — was an added pressure he could have done without.

Bipolar disorder — sometimes still referred to as manic depression — is categorised by two particular poles of behaviour and emotion: depression and ‘mania’, the first being an extreme ‘sadness’ which can be categorised by lethargy, apathy and suicidal feelings, the second sometimes giving sufferers a feeling of ‘invincibility’ which can lead to unpredictability in their behaviour and risk-taking.

With the rapid-cycling version experienced by Mark, the periods between the two extremes became closer together, but an early experience with the NHS while at university put Mark off asking for help: “As soon as I said I’ve got a mental health problem I was told to go home and wait until a crisis care team came around. .”

It wasn’t until Mark returned to Haverhill, he felt he got the treatment he really needed, a referral to a clinical psychologist who was able to accurately pinpoint his condition and prescribe him effective medication.

And although Mark said the majority of people have been ‘alright’ when he has told them about the bipolar disorder, one person physically retreated from him, as if concerned he were about to become violent, while another said he couldn’t have a mental illness as he ‘didn’t seem retarded enough’.

Doctors in Haverhill, he said, had been supportive, but elsewhere in the NHS he had faced GPs who implied physical ailments he was suffering were ‘all in his head’.

Mark said attitudes and knowledge seemed to be beginning to change. He said: “If people do open up about mental illness then things like suicide and self harm can be avoided”

The question is “What caused the defecit?”

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What caused the deficit?

There are three main reasons for Britain’s financial mess

Larry Elliott, Monday 7 June 2010 19.44 BST

Tax receipts during the bubble years were weaker than expected, and worsened during the recession. Photograph: Sarah LeeThe mess in Britain’s finances has three main causes. The first is that the crisis of 2007 arrived when the budget was in relatively poor shape. Tax receipts during the bubble years were weaker than the Treasury expected, which meant that even with the economy booming the deficit stood at close to £40bn.

The second factor was the depth and duration of the recession. Deficits tend to rise during downturns because tax receipts fall and spending on unemployment and other welfare payments rise. In Britain’s case, the economy contracted by more than 6% over six successive quarters from early 2008 to late 2009. By the time growth resumed national output was 10% lower than it would have been had the economy continued to expand at its normal rate of around 2.5% a year. That punched a hole in the public finances.

Finally, the VAT holiday and help for the unemployed, designed to mitigate the effects of the recession, cost around £25bn, or around 1.5% of GDP, much smaller in relation to the size of the UK economy than the packages used to support growth in the United States or China.

Part of the deficit is deemed to be cyclical – it will disappear once the economy grows strongly. The other part, the £70bn structural element, is what the government wants to eliminate during the current parliament.

The bank bailouts have little impact: the Treasury does not count money used to buy bank shares because it assumes it will get it back.

The appalling goverment spin on DLA feeds the ignorance and bigotry of the British Public.

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Why should I again prove my disability to satisfy George Osborne?

  • Rhydian Fôn James
  •, Thursday 24 June 2010 19.00 BST
  • Those who thought David Cameron understood disability because of his late son were very wrong. Anne Wollenberg wrote an excellent article in defence of disability living allowance (DLA) yesterday. It was greeted by comments confusing incapacity benefit (now employment support allowance) with DLA, and a general “nail the benefits cheats” attitude. Most disheartening in the reaction to her article was a lack of appreciation that DLA is there to help disabled people get on with their lives, and often to help them in their work life.

    DLA helps claimants by enabling us to meet the extra costs of our disabilities, enabling people to do what would otherwise be too costly. These extra costs can range from wheelchairs, other care equipment, care services, transport, and dietary needs, to computers and other assistive technology, to more individual needs and unexpected expenses incurred as the result of disability. Many DLA claimants use the benefit to enable them to work and many more want to do so but are hampered by employer attitudes and social negativity.

    Disability in itself does not qualify one for benefits. To qualify for DLA, you must have a disability that mean that you face additional costs for care or mobility, or both, over and above the costs a healthy person would pay. National statistics for November 2009 show that 3,119,010 people claim some amount of DLA. The allowance is paid at various rates, depending on the needs of the individual. DLA is split into mobility and care components, and each of these components is graded for lower, medium, and higher-level needs. If you apply with some mobility problems, you might get £18.95 a week and likewise if you have low-level care needs. To get the full £120 a week, you’d need to require 24-hour assistance and to have serious mobility problems, most likely involving wheelchairs.

    Even if a few “scroungers” claim this benefit, there is no way you can pretend to qualify for anything other than the lowest rate unless you find a devious way to simulate complex symptoms and fooling genetic tests. Data from the DWP itself show that fraudulent claims are estimated at a minuscule 0.5% of the caseload – far lower than any out-of-work benefit. All for the sake of 15,500 fraudsters –who are likely to have been put on the lowest possible rates in any case – the entire caseload will be punished.

    Many people are asking why the “genuinely” disabled are troubled by the idea of medical assessments for DLA, as we will surely qualify for it. First, medical assessments bring their own stress to claimants, and this stress may aggravate underlying conditions. For a simple consideration, is it wise to threaten those with chronic heart diseases when stress may lead to heart failure?

    More importantly, consider the fact that there are only 750,000 wheelchair users in the UK. Yet the wheelchair is the most visible sign of disability. A great number, if not most, DLA claimants will have “hidden” disabilities. And they are in real danger of losing their DLA, despite being genuinelydisabled and often more severely affected than a wheelchair-user. The symptoms of a variable condition could easily be overlooked in a medical assessment, and the assessment of a hidden disability depends on who is assessing. Sense should tell the government that going after a handful of fraudsters is not worth the risk of throwing many claimants with real needs onto the scrapheap.

    Further, the chancellor has announced how much he expects to save by virtue of these assessments, and reducing the caseload by 20% – a sum that does not correspond to the DWP’s estimate of fraudulent claims. This suggests that the criteria for claiming DLA are, clandestinely, going to be tightened, leaving many disabled people without the support that they need. In this case, those who find their DLA taken away will be those without obvious physical impairments.

    But the issue that really sticks in my throat is that I will have to “prove” my disability to satisfy George Osborne, having already gone through the complicated process of claiming DLA taking in evidence from various specialist consultants. This goes beyond a personal nuisance that interferes with my work life. The disabled are already marginalised by society – on the one hand forced to verify their disability, but also having to show their ability to work. The medical assessment just adds one further hurdle, in order to satisfy those few who target the “shirkers” and “scroungers” at all costs.

    Most disabled people will feel angry when these few protest their empathy and charitable tendencies, and their willingness to pay “genuinely” disabled people a lot more. The DLA’s introduction in 1992 was a move away from the marginalisation of disabled people to a world where disabled people were just ordinary people with some additional needs. As a citizen of this country, and a taxpayer, I have the right to DLA because I am disabled – it has nothing to do with charity. I, for one, am not interested in charity, or being vulnerable and in need of benevolent guardians. I am interested in protecting my rights, and the rights of my fellow DLA claimants. I want to get on with my life, and DLA helps me, Anne Wollenberg, and thousands of others, do just that.

    Inclusion London! Promoting equality for Deaf and Disabled people in London.

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    Promoting equality for Deaf and Disabled people in London

    Welcome to the website of Inclusion London. 

    Inclusion London is a pan-London disability equality organisation.

    We provide policy, campaigning and capacity-building support for Deaf and disabled people’s organisations (DDPOs) in London. Here you’ll find information on our work, news and views and details of how to contact us.

    Inclusion London promotes equality for London’s Deaf and disabled people. Our work is rooted in the Social Model of Disability and the Cultural Model of Deafness.

    Inclusion London is a Community Interest Company. We receive funding from London Councils, Big Lottery and Capacity Builders.

    Click the link above and check them out!

    Mental Health Minister Paul Burstow gives his first major interview to All In The Mind.

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    From RETHINK’s East Kent user Forum:

    The Radio 4 program on mental health (called All in the Mind) has an interview this Tuesday with the new mental health minister, and what the new budget will mean to mental health providers and service users:

    Mental Health Minister Paul Burstow gives his first major interview to All In The Mind, and talks to Claudia Hammond about how mental health services are likely to fare in the current climate of financial restraint.

    Radio Broadcasts:

    Tue 29 Jun 2010 21:00
    BBC Radio 4

    Wed 30 Jun 2010 16:30
    BBC Radio 4 (FM only)

    Internet syndication:

    Study reveals financial cost of negative care experiences.

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    Study reveals financial cost of negative care experiences.

    By Lauren Higgs
    Children & Young People Now
    28 June 2010

    Looked-after children who move placement repeatedly and have a negative experience of care can cost councils up to £32,755 more each year than their counterparts in stable homes, a report by Demos and Barnardo’s has found.

    The report, In Loco Parentis, which is based on research with looked-after children, care leavers and foster carers, sets out two hypothetical “care journeys”.

    “Child A” has a positive journey through care, with stability in housing and school arrangements. This reflects the 5-10 per cent of children in care who experience long-term, stable placements and supported transitions.

    “Child B” experiences a poor journey through the care system, with several placement moves and an early departure from the care system. This represents the 5-10 per cent of children who experience instability and disruption in care.

     The report found that a stable experience of the care system over 14 years costs £354,053. But an unstable experience over just half that time years costs £393,579, a difference of £41,526.

    The report also considered the costs associated with adult outcomes after care.”Child A” who leaves care at 18 with good mental health and strong relationships, goes to university and finds a job could cost the state £20,119 between the age of 16 and 30.

    But “Child B” who leaves care at 16, with poor mental health and no qualifications could cost the state £111,923 in the same time.

    Demos is now calling on government to raise the care leaving age to 18, offer “a right to remain” in placements until 21 and a “right to return to care” for all care leavers up to the age of 24.

    The report also urges government to introduce a new statutory duty on councils to offer family group conferencing, as well as better access to short breaks and placement support for foster carers.

    To improve the well-being of children in care, the report suggests there should be mandatory mental health assessments for every child entering care and improved training on child and adolescent mental health for foster carers and residential care workers.

    Julia Margo, acting director of Demos, said the care system must be de-stigmatised and viewed as a positive form of family support.

    “Because we don’t trust the care system, we don’t use it as the effective parallel parent that it could be,” she said.

    Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s, added: “Many believe that care is always second best to the care provided by parents. Contrary to popular belief, and for all its inadequacies, care does make things better and can and does create stable, nurturing environments for children.”

    He urged councils and government to adopt a more proactive and positive use of care, “one where care is used earlier and more effectively so it becomes a means of real cost avoidance”.

    “For many children care does work,” he said. “Yet there is still considerable room for improvement, and more importantly, this improvement is eminently attainable.”

    A link to the report will follow shortly.

    Autistic children prescribed anti-psychotic Risperidone!

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    Autistic children prescribed medicine for mental illness

    Jun 28 2010 by Darren Devine, Western Mail

     RISING numbers of Welsh children are being put on psychiatric medication to treat conditions like autism and hyperactivity, figures obtained by the Western Mail reveal.

     Three of Wales’ seven local health boards, including Cwm Taf, Cardiff & Vale and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, are now treating around 3,000 children with the drugs and the numbers are rising. However, the numbers across Wales are certain to total well in excess of 3,000 as four health boards, including Powys, Betsi Cadwaladr, Aneurin Bevan and Hywel Dda, refused to supply figures.

     The drugs being used include anti-psychotics like Risperidone, anti-depressants such as Prozac and anti-anxiety medications. Other drugs used include the hormone melatonin and stimulants like Ritalin as well as non-stimulant attention deficit hyper-activity disorder (ADHD) medications including Strattera.

     With the exception of the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, there are 627 children aged between six and 10 treated by the three health boards on these drugs. The most serious side effects of psychiatric medication can include depression, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, jaundice and liver problems, suicidal thinking in teenagers and slowed growth in children, psychosis, strokes, violence and addiction.

     And the figures are certain to raise concerns about parents and psychiatrists resorting too quickly to drugs to deal with challenging behaviours presented by disabled children.

     Psychologist professor Judy Hutchings of Bangor Uni- versity said parents struggling to cope and overstretched community adolescent mental health teams are increasingly opting for the quick fix of drugs.

     Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says the first line of intervention for young children should be parenting support rather than drugs.

     Professor Hutchings, who runs the university’s Incredible Years Programme offering behavioural therapy to disabled children, said: “I’m reluctant to comment about the numbers though they do personally concern me.

     “If you’ve got a challenging child obviously you want to find a solution for that child.

     “And if services are under pressure and insufficiently funded maybe they (community and adolescent mental health teams) are going to look for solutions,” he added.

     The professor said children with developmental problems like ADHD and autism are clearly “different and in a way require more skilful parenting to help them to learn”.

     However, some say the medications allow children with severe behavioural and attention problems to function better in school and at home.

     Treating them without medication would do far more harm to their life chances than using the drugs, it’s claimed.

     A spokesperson for Cwm Taf Local Health Board admitted it is clear that “compared to the period five to 10 years ago there has been an increase in the prescription of psychotropic medications for children and young people”.

     The spokesperson for Cwm Taf, which compiled the figures for all three health boards, said the vast majority of those being treated were given stimulant and non-stimulant ADHD drugs like Ritalin and Strattera.

     Up to 1,876 of the 2,904 children aged 16 and under prescribed psychiatric medications by the three health boards are on drugs for ADHD. Most of these need to continue on the drugs into their early to mid-teenage years to progress at schools, it’s claimed.

     The spokesperson added: “Anti-depressant and anti- psychotic medications are used much less frequently in the outpatient settings (371 of the children being treated are on these drugs).

     “But they may be used more frequently for patients seen by the community intensive therapy team and the in-patient unit as they treat patients fewer in numbers but with severe mental health disorders.

     “The clinicians regularly review the need for continuing with the medications…. Medications are never used as the only treatment and are always used as part of a package that includes cognitive behaviour therapy, individual as well as family-based work and working with other professionals in the network.”

    Welfare crackdown begins with drive to reduce incapacity benefit claims.

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    Welfare crackdown begins with drive to reduce incapacity benefit claims

    Coalition’s plans include taking people off higher rate of benefits if tests reveal they are fit to do some work


    Patrick Wintour, Larry Elliott and Andrew Sparrow

    The Guardian, Monday 28 June 2010

    Chris Grayling, the work minister, is to announce measures designed to reduce the benefit levels of those deemed fit to work. are to signal a tougher approach to incapacity benefit this week as the next stage of its welfare reforms, by reducing the benefit levels of those tested if they are found capable of doing some work.

    Details are expected to be announced by the work minister, Chris Grayling, this week. Early pilots suggest half of those assessed are being taken off the higher rate benefit on the basis that tests reveal they are fit to do some work, government sources say.

    Those deemed capable are likely to be required to do more to make themselves available for work if they are to continue receiving benefit.

    Ministers have also looked at whether they can speed up the testing, but denied a suggestion that they could treble the number tested.

    The chancellor, George Osborne, signalled tonight that efforts to take more of those on incapacity benefit off welfare will form a significant part of plans to cut the deficit, saying: “It’s a choice we all face. It is not a choice we can duck.”

    Osborne said the trade-off between cutting the £192bn welfare bill and the level of spending cuts required in other government departments will be a central feature of the first meeting this week of his pivotal cabinet committee on public spending.

    Ministers are looking to see whether existing incapacity benefit claimants can be passed to new private sector welfare-to-work providers.

    Osborne, speaking in Toronto at the G20 summit, said: “Some of these benefits individually are very much larger than most government departments. Housing benefit is one of the largest. In its own right, it would be treated as one of the largest government departments.

    “Incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance is a very large budget. We have got to look at all these things, make sure we do it in a way that protects those with genuine needs, those with disabilities, protects those who can’t work but also encourages those who can work into work”.

    Previous attempts to cut back on the cost of funding incapacity benefit, now claimed by around 2.6 million people, met with major criticism. A new system introduced by the last government to assess whether or not the sick and disabled were capable of working wrongly found seriously ill people ready to work, according to a report in March by the Citizens Advice Bureau. People with advanced Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis, with severe mental illness, or awaiting open heart surgery were registered as fit to work, it said.

    The need to reduce the welfare bill has been intensified by renewed commitments by David Cameron and Osborne this weekend to press ahead with real terms increases in the NHS budget, as well as not cut pensioners’ winter fuel allowance.

    Osborne has said he will need 25% cuts in departmental spending outside the NHS and international aid if he is to eradicate the current structural deficit by the end of the parliament. Osborne said: “We have given some very specific commitments on some benefits, we haven’t given specific commitments on others, and that’s what I want to be part of the spending review over the summer.”

    Faced by renewed calls from the former chancellor Lord Lawson to stop ringfencing the NHS budget, he said: “We have committed to real term increases in the health budget for a good reason. There are very significant demographic pressures on the health service which have to be taken into account.”

    But despite such assurances doctors’ leaders warned tonight that the economic crisis could have “devastating” consequences for the NHS.

    The British Medical Association has warned redundancies, recruitment freezes and service cutbacks are the “early signs of the impact of the economic crisis” on the NHS. The BMA said 72% of 92 doctors surveyed said their health trust had postponed or cancelled clinical service developments because of financial pressures.

    Lawson also defended plans by the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, to cut the housing benefit budget. He said Duncan Smith was dealing with “very legitimate concerns” about “the ability of people to move within the social housing sector”. Duncan Smith had never suggested the unemployed should “get on their bike” to find work, in an echo of the notorious phrase used by Lord Tebbit in the 1980s.

    He also disclosed yesterday that he had “fought long and hard” to prevent benefits being frozen in the budget, and ensure they were uprated.

    But Labour’s Ed Balls accused the government of wanting to force people out of their homes, and the shadow housing minister, John Healey, said the test would be whether the Conservatives build social housing to help council tenants move home, or instead use it as a punitive policy. The Labour government had introduced move-to-work schemes, but their impact was limited by the lack of affordable social housing, he said.

    In an interview in the Sunday Telegraph, Duncan Smith said he wanted to make it easier for the long-term unemployed to move to areas where they could find work by changing the rules relating to council tenancy. “The middle class do this all the time,” he said. “You have a house, if you have to move work, you use that as a portable asset … Why is it that for a group of people on low incomes, we leave them trapped, rather than give them the same portability?” Duncan Smith made it clear he was not talking about forcing people to move to high-employment areas. But he said he wanted to deal with “under-occupation” of council homes, that there were “tons of elderly people living in houses that they cannot run” and that he wanted councils to encourage people in this position to move into smaller properties.

    Balls accused the government of wanting to evict the poor from their homes.

    “[Duncan Smith] is saying to people in high employment areas which are more affluent, if you are living in social housing, he is saying ‘we are going to get you out of your homes to make space’. He goes further than ‘on your bike’. It is actually ‘on your bike and lose your home’.”

    The Department for Work and Pensions was unable to give details of how Duncan Smith’s proposals would be implemented. But Grant Shapps, the housing minister, said he wanted to take forward the plan in the Tory manifesto to allow tenants in social housing to swap with those in other parts of the country.