Lammy and Smacking

David Lammy, the Tottenham MP, spoke yesterday in an interview on LBC about his views on smacking.

Among other things, he said

“There are groups of people in this country who are confused by the law and we need to listen to those people,” he told the Guardian. “There is a divide between professionals and parents who feel quite differently.”

This issue has been covered at length in the media and it relates to issues he wrote about in the Autumn in  his post-riot book ‘Out of the Ashes’. He said that the Children Act 2004 ‘went too far’ in changing the legislation regarding the defence of reasonable punishment from parents who would no longer ‘be masters’ in their own homes. Continue reading

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The Poverty Gene

Once upon a time a group of politicians thought it would be a good idea to give lots of money or funding to research into whether people who are on welfare benefits differ from those who are not. Their hypothesis was that they must be suffering from a faulty gene if they lacked a desire to work. If such a faulty gene could be found it could be repaired and everyone would go back to work.

After many years and money spent on such research a gene was found which they decided to name P45 which was closely linked but probably a mutant genetic transformation of the P60 gene found in people who were already in work. All health and social care staff were encouraged to get people tested for the faulty gene to see if they had said P45. Surprisingly many of their clients and service users did although for some it was very hard to find.

Now all we have to do thought the politicians is to fix the gene, perhaps with drugs which was cheaper than surgery or using or creating more expensive machinery that would blast the gene out of a person’s body and would keep NHS costs down . Once this target was achieved and people no longer possessed the P45 gene then they could all go back to work.

All we have to do then said the politicians is find them some jobs. I know said one politician why don’t we give lots of money to research that will help us create work-like activity for people cured of the Poverty gene! That is a really good idea said another and so they all skipped off together happily ever after.

An Invite to Rod Liddle

Some typical disabled people

Rod Liddle’s Sun column today is repulsive even by his standards.

Also, I am nothing if not a creature of fashion, a cool and with-it hipster, daddio, who is always up to date with the latest trends.

And being disabled is incredibly fashionable. The number of people who claim to be disabled has doubled in the past ten years.

And who can blame them? Not only do you get money from the Government and don’t have to go to work – but if you play your cards right you might get one of those badges that lets you park wherever you want. Right in front of the cashpoint, for example. And you can use those enormous toilets with levers and handgrips and emergency buzzers they have in all public places, without feeling too guilty about it.

You know what, Rod? I think you need to put your money where your mouth is. You want to be disabled? I cordially invite you to disable yourself. Saw your own legs off. Blind yourself with a spork. Binge-drink until your liver and kidneys are comprehensively wrecked…Oh wait, you were probably doing precisely that when you wrote this drivel. Live the dream, enter the fashion set and actually become disabled.

And then you’ll be cool.

 

Fostering Aspirations As The Downturn Bites Hard In Tyneside

Another day, another report on the parlous state of foster care. Media coverage, such as it is, homed in on the shortage of carers, variously estimated at between 8000 and 10,000, and on the poor outcomes for children in care in fundamental areas such as educational achievement, incidence of mental health problems and offending behaviour.

None of this is new – the Fostering Network has rendered impotent the word ‘crisis’, so often have they used it over the years – although there is no harm in it being said once again. However the report itself, Fostering Aspirations by the Policy Exchange  has a wider scope, incorporating the views of foster carers and children in care into their analysis of the quality of care and emerging with radical suggestions for tackling the problem, most notably a salary structure for a professional foster care service and an overhaul of commissioning arrangements that would see local authority fostering departments competing alongside the independent sector in a tendering process for placements or a total outsourcing of fostering.

Continue reading

Suicide and Social Welfare

I came across this paper from the International Journal of Social Welfare titled ‘Role of social welfare in European suicide prevention’ – happily with open access so freely available. I thought it was useful to share as it echoes some of my concerns about the move towards stigmatising those who receive welfare payments that is becoming the norm amongst politicians and journalists in this country (with few, notable, exceptions).

One of the aims of this paper was to

Evaluate attitudes towards the welfare system in 26 European countries and how they are related to suicide mortality, among both men and women.

Continue reading

Benefit Caps and the Politics of Envy

Yesterday the House of Lords debated the government’s flagship policy about imposing a benefits cap of £26,ooo. Iain Duncan-Smith fanfared the populist agenda by rattling on about this being equivalent to a salary (after tax) of £35,ooo and the tired lines about why anyone who doesn’t work should get the equivalent of £35,ooo from ‘state handouts’. While the Lords passed one amendment, the Bill and policy as a whole is flawed.

It’s very easy politics. It appeals to human nature at its most selfish. The simple logical progression.

I work hard. I earn £25,000. Mr Smith next door doesn’t work. He gets £26,000. It’s not fair.

Tying the benefit cap into the national average wage is clever and is nothing to do about economics and everything to do with the psychological weight of envy.

Why should I work, it then follows, if I would get more on ‘benefits’?.

This turns the idea of the welfare state around and but the simplicity of the ‘envy equation’ means that few people look beyond it.

This is crude policy making by people who will never need to bat an eyelid in the direction of subsistence on ‘benefits’ playing their usual ‘divide and rule’ between those who are at the lower and average pay levels in order to distract attention from those at the top end of the ‘haves’ scale including themselves.

So why do I think a benefits cap is unfair? It looks, on the face of it, so obvious.

– It punishes children born into larger families.

Even with the Lords amendment excluding ‘child benefit’ from the capped amount, child benefit rate (£20.30 for first child + £13.40 for subsequent children) doesn’t cover the costs of the child and the particular problem raised is the cost of accommodation and larger families need larger houses.

-Housing

This is one of my chief objections to this policy.  Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allocation (LHA) as it is now known is built into the ‘capped amount’.  The escalation of property prices and the lack of affordable local authority and housing association stock pushes many people into the private sector. The government has already announced plans to increase subsidised rents. Some places (London, for example) cost more to live than other areas.  Houses with more bedrooms cost more to live in than houses with fewer bedrooms. Seems obvious of course but it means for some people the level of the ‘cap’ will be disproportionately spent on rent costs – forcing people and more likely than not, families – and the larger families at that – to poorer (and cheaper – and  more likely Labour..) areas of the country.

Regardless of the exemption of Child Benefit (if that amendment survives) it is the inclusion of LHA which is, in my mind, the really perfidious action of this policy.

I live in London. I work in London. It is expensive to live here. I don’t want my city to be housing only those either who have substantial amounts of money or those in social housing (especially as the stock of social housing is so low).

The obvious thing would be for the government to crack down on landlords who set rental as high as possible for low quality housing in order to benefit from LHA allocations. They are the real scroungers living off the state, in my view. Yes, I feel strongly because I’ve been priced out of many areas of London myself but I don’t play the game the government want me to by blaming the recipients of LHA – rather I blame a spiralling cost of rent and greedy buy-to-let landlords.

Imposing controls on rent would hurt the Tory party faithful. Divide and rule. Divide and rule. See how well the government play the blame game.

Deserving v Undeserving Poor

The game of playing the ‘deserving v undeserving poor’ is one enjoyed by those in politics.  How the politicians love referring to ‘scroungers’ and people who live on benefits in demeaning terms while absolving themselves of any responsibility for an economic malaise which has led to increased job losses and struggles to revive the economy.

It’s all very well imposing sanctions on those who don’t work (actually no it isn’t) but when there isn’t work to be had it’s hard to escape from the vicious cycle. Many people are losing their jobs in this recession and being unable to find other work would force people to claim benefits which they are wholly entitled to but the government wishes to stigmatise everyone who needs to claim a benefit whether due to unemployment, disability or sickness.

Unemployment isn’t a lifestyle choice. It isn’t easy to ‘choose’ employment as even if you desperately want to work, the jobs may not be there.

There are more jobs in the south-east where house prices are higher and fewer jobs in the north where house prices are lower. ‘Getting on your bike’ which is the eternal call of the right-wing is going to be more difficult and potentially create ghettoes of worklessness in the areas of the country with the cheaper housing.

Politics of envy is easy but it is ignoble. By encouraging the population to envy those who have less rather than those who have more (i.e. the class of politicians) they are diverting our attention from the real battles we should be fighting. This isn’t a Conservative (+ LD) v Labour battle as the Labour party has, unfortunately, jumped on the bandwagon to make similar points.

Being popular doesn’t make a policy right. Unfortunately, we get the politicians we elect. And we are seeing the measure of them now. All of them.

Survey on AMHPs and Burnout

Approved Mental Health Professionals practising in England needed to complete a survey about stress and burnout.

The survey aims to determine whether there is a difference in experiences of stress and burnout between the professional groups that perform the AMHP role. The study has been approved by King’s College London Psychiatry, Nursing and Midwifery Research Ethics Subcommittee (REC reference number PNM/11/12-23). It is the first survey of its kind since the AMHP role was introduced and with your help we hope it will yield some useful and valuable data.

It is important that AMHP’s from all professional backgrounds complete the study. However we would particularly like to encourage those from a non-social work background to take part as they are still relatively small in number. An information sheet containing further details about the study is displayed on the first page of the online questionnaire. If you would like to read more about and or complete the survey please click on the link below:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/stressandthestatutoryrole1

Thank you in advance for your time and support.

(This message was posted at the request of Janine Hudson, an Approved Mental Health Practitioner and MSc student in Mental Health Social Work at Kings College London)