Month: June 2010
Not our our doorstep! Enfield campaigners succeed in keeping Mental Health out of their sight (and mind).
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?
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.
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
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.”
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
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
guardian.co.uk, 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
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.