The Not So Big Society – Lessons from Greece

As regular readers will now, I’ve been using the title of this blog as an excuse to ponder the kind of social changes we’re going through, and what it will mean for the most vulnerable in society.

I’ve been reading a fascinating article about a Greek island, and how it’s been affected by the economic collapse in that country. I suspect that we’ve got further hardships to come here in the UK, so I was left wondering whether it might have any lessons for us in the near future.

The article describes the island of Samos, and it’s clearly been hit hard.

Evidence of the crisis, the lack of jobs and the absence of money in people’s pockets is everywhere. In the two major towns of the island, Vathi and Karlovassi, approximately a quarter of the shops are now closed. Most of those that remain open are offering such discounts that we assume it is a matter of time before they shut too.

A friend who has a tourist shop in Vathi thinks at least another six shops will close by Christmas, with more to follow soon after. In our village we have two tavernas – and they only survive because their owners take no income. What income can you take from only selling a few Greek coffees and some beer and ouzo in the evening?  Continue reading

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#Suey2y and My Nostradamus-Like Powers of Prediction

Yesterday, in response to Sue Marsh’s shocking and heartless loss of Disability Living Allowance, I made the following prediction.

My guess is that there’ll be a chin-stroking news report from the Guardian, and a deafening silence from the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Times, the Telegraph…Sorry, but to a wide section of the media and the general public, this isn’t the benefits story to get outraged about. The real injustice (apparently) is when somebody manages to scrounge a few quid they’re not entitled to.

So, what does Google News say today?

Sometimes I hate being right.

Policing and Mental Health

[Guest Post by Mental Health Cop]

The police service is key to the delivery of effective community based mental health care. There is an inevitability of police officers being called to incidents involving service-users, carers and professionals because some will occur unpredictably and because a few involve responding to significant risks.

 A fact of law: it is the police who must take certain decisions and exercise certain functions required by the Mental Health Act 1983. It is a matter of ethics and law: that the police should support colleagues in the health & social care professions as they administer the Mental Health Act, in order to keep everyone safe as they do so. Continue reading

@Suey2y and a System that Doesn’t Care

Can there be any more ringing denunciation of the system for assessing DLA than Sue Marsh’s blog post yesterday?

I have severe crohn’s disease. Probably one of the most severe cases in the country.

I have had 7 major life saving operations to remove over 30 obstructions (blockages) from my bowel.

I take chemo-shots every two weeks that suppress my immune system, ensuring that I regularly have to fight infections. Exhaustion, pain and nausea plague every single day of my life.

I have osteoprosis and malnutrition.

I have had major seizures and a stroke.

Nonetheless, I have just heard from my own Disability Living Allowance application, that it has been rejected. Completely. I will receive no support at all from DLA. Despite claiming successfully in the past, despite only getting weaker and more frail and less able to live independently, my reconsideration was rejected.

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Body Count of the Not So Big Society

Here’s a chilling bit of news. For years we’ve been congratulating ourselves on a steady reduction in suicide rates. Not any more.

In 2008, 5,706 people killed themselves in the UK, an average of almost 16 deliberate deaths a day. After close to a decade of annual declines, recession triggered a sharp spike in suicide. Recent figures published in The Lancet show that the UK suicide rate increased 8% between 2007 and 2009. The latest Office for National Statistics figures suggest a similar rise.

The problem is predominantly a male one, with three times as many men killing themselves as women. It is also a trend not confined to the UK. Suicide rates have spiked across Europe since 2008, with Greece, in particular, experiencing staggering increases. 2010 saw a 25% rise in suicide, according to the Greek parliament. In October, the country’s health minister warned that early signs suggest a further 40% jump in 2011.

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Troubleshooting Families

Millionaire Cameron is riding in on his moral high horse to save ‘troubled’ families. So the government agenda of blame and simplistic thinking continues. Yesterday, Cameron announced his programme of rolling out ‘troubleshooters’ to help ‘problem’ families.

I don’t know where to start in picking apart this policy initiative which, on a shallow level, seems to be fine (apart from the language which is shocking and couched in prejudice and blame that this government is becoming quite skilled at). Coordinating approaches across different agencies is all well and good, it is when you look at the details, the costs the figures and the language that this proposal shows Cameron up for the sham that we know  he is and his PR background comes to the fore as he believes the public stupid enough to believe his agenda.

Ironic that his proposal to ‘troubleshoot’ comes on the day that Community Care reports that the government is reneging on Munro’s recommendations to support Early Intervention as a statutory duty of Local Authorities.

But let me take it back to Cameron’s ‘Troubleshooting’ plan to look at.
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The Truth About Adoption Is That There Are Many Truths

Last night’s Panorama documentary ‘The Truth About Adoption’ was a vivid, honest portrayal of the heartbreak and joy of fostering and adoption. As the adults, the social workers, carers, adopters, parents, the court, went about their business, it was impossible not to be profoundly moved as the stories of the children unfolded and their hopes and fears revealed.

Despite the setbacks they have faced in their short lives, all were remarkably optimistic about the future. Undeterred by delays and adoption breakdowns, they hoped for the love, care and security that we professionals call permanence. And why not: it’s the least our society should be able to offer.
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