Wednesday, September 05, 2007



The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building and improving his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed. The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold


The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he's a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away. Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed.

A social worker finds the shivering grasshopper, calls a press conference and demands to know why the squirrel should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate, like the grasshopper, are cold and starving. The BBC shows up to provide live coverage of the shivering grasshopper; with cuts to a video of the squirrel in his comfortable warm home with a table laden with food. The British press inform people that they should be ashamed that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so, while others have plenty.

The Labour Party, Greenpeace, Animal Rights and The Grasshopper Council of GB demonstrate in front of the squirrel's house. The BBC, interrupting a cultural festival special from Notting Hill with breaking news, broadcasts a multi cultural choir singing "We Shall Overcome". Ken Livingstone rants in an interview with Trevor McDonald that the squirrel got rich off the backs of grasshoppers, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the squirrel to make him pay his "fair share" and increases the charge or squirrels to enter inner London.

In response to pressure from the media, the Government drafts the Economic Equity and Grasshopper Anti Discrimination Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The squirrel's taxes are reassessed. He is taken to court and fined for failing to hire grasshoppers as builders for the work he was doing on his home and an additional fine for contempt when he told the court the grasshopper did not want to work.

The grasshopper is provided with a council house, financial aid to furnish it and an account with a local taxi firm to ensure he can be socially mobile. The squirrel's food is seized and redistributed to the more needy members of society, in this case the grasshopper. Without enough money to buy more food, to pay the fine and his newly imposed retroactive taxes, the squirrel has to downsize and start building a new home.

The local authority takes over his old home and utilises it as a temporary home for asylum seeking cats who had hijacked a plane to get to Britain as they had to share their country of origin with mice. On arrival they tried to blow up the airport because of Britain's apparent love of dogs. The cats had been arrested for the international offence of hijacking and attempted bombing but were immediately released because the police fed them pilchards instead of salmon whilst in custody.

Initial moves to then return them to their own country were abandoned because it was feared they would face death by the mice. The cats devise and start a scam to obtain money from people's credit cards.

A Panorama special shows the grasshopper finishing up the last of the squirrel's food, though spring is still months away, while the council house he is in, crumbles around him because he hasn't bothered to maintain the house. He is shown to be taking drugs. Inadequate government funding is blamed for the grasshopper's drug 'illness'.

The cats seek recompense in the British courts for their treatment since arrival in UK.

The grasshopper gets arrested for stabbing an old dog during a burglary to get money for his drugs habit. He is imprisoned but released immediately because he has been in custody for a few weeks. He is placed in the care of the probation service to monitor and supervise him. Within a few weeks he has killed a guinea pig in a botched robbery. A commission of enquiry, that will eventually cost 10,000,000 and state the obvious, is set up. Additional money is put into funding a drug rehabilitation scheme for grasshoppers and legal aid for lawyers representing asylum seekers is increased.

The asylum-seeking cats are praised by the government for enriching Britain's multicultural diversity and dogs are criticised by the government for failing to befriend the cats. The grasshopper dies of a drug overdose.

The usual sections of the press blame it on the obvious failure of government to address the root causes of despair arising from social inequity and his traumatic experience of prison. They call for the resignation of a minister.

The cats are paid a million pounds each because their rights were infringed when the government failed to inform them there were mice in the United Kingdom. The squirrel, the dogs and the victims of the hijacking, the bombing, the burglaries and robberies have to pay an additional percentage on their credit cards to cover losses, their taxes are increased to pay for law and order and they are told that they will have to work beyond 65 because of a shortfall in government funds.

Another British "social work" horror

Threat by secret court to take new-born. Big Brother knows best

A pregnant woman has been told that her baby will be taken from her at birth because she is deemed capable of "emotional abuse", even though psychiatrists treating her say there is no evidence to suggest that she will harm her child in any way.

Social services' recommendation that the baby should be taken from Fran Lyon, a 22-year-old charity worker who has five A-levels and a degree in neuroscience, was based in part on a letter from a paediatrician she has never met.

Hexham children's services, part of Northumberland County Council, said the decision had been made because Miss Lyon was likely to suffer from Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy, a condition unproven by science in which a mother will make up an illness in her child, or harm it, to draw attention to herself. Under the plan, a doctor will hand the newborn to a social worker, provided there are no medical complications. Social services' request for an emergency protection order - these are usually granted - will be heard in secret in the family court at Hexham magistrates on the same day. From then on, anyone discussing the case, including Miss Lyon, will be deemed to be in contempt of the court.

Miss Lyon, from Hexham, who is five months pregnant, is seeking a judicial review of the decision about Molly, as she calls her baby. She described it as "barbaric and draconian", and said it was "scandalous" that social services had not accepted submissions supporting her case. "The paediatrician has never met me," she said. "He is not a psychiatrist and cannot possibly make assertions about my current or future mental health. Yet his letter was the only one considered in the case conference on August 16 which lasted just 10 minutes." Northumberland County Council insists that two highly experienced doctors - another consultant paediatrician and a medical consultant - attended the case conference.

The case adds to growing concern, highlighted in a series of articles in The Sunday Telegraph, over a huge rise in the number of babies under a year old being taken from parents. The figure was 2,000 last year, three times the number 10 years ago. Critics say councils are taking more babies from parents to help them meet adoption "targets".

John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of the Justice for Families campaign group, said the case showed "exactly what is wrong with public family law". He added: "There is absolutely no evidence that Fran would harm her child. However, a vague letter from a paediatrician who has never met her has been used in a decision to remove her baby at birth, while evidence from professionals treating her, that she would have no problems has been ignored." Mr Hemming was concerned that "vague assertions" of Munchausen's Syndrome by proxy - now known as "fabricated and invented illness" - had been used to remove a number of children from parents in the North-East.

Miss Lyon came under scrutiny because she had a mental health problem when she was 16 after being physically and emotionally abused by her father and raped by a stranger. She suffered eating disorders and self-harm but, after therapy, graduated from Edinburgh University and now works for two mental health charities, Borderline and Personality Plus.

Dr Stella Newrith, a consultant psychiatrist, who treated Miss Lyon for her childhood trauma for a year, wrote to Northumberland social services stating: "There has never been any clinical evidence to suggest that Fran would put herself or others at risk, and there is certainly no evidence to suggest that she would put a child at risk of emotional, physical or sexual harm."

Despite this support, endorsed by other psychiatrists and Miss Lyon's GP, social services based their recommendation partly on a letter from Dr Martin Ward Platt, a consultant paediatrician, who was unable to attend the meeting. He wrote: "Even in the absence of a psychological assessment, if the professionals were concerned on the evidence available that Miss Holton (as Miss Lyon was briefly known), probably does fabricate or induce illness, there would be no option but the precautionary principle of taking the baby into foster care at birth, pending a post-natal forensic psychological assessment."

Miss Lyon said she was determined to fight the decision. "I know I can be a good mother to Molly. I just want the chance to prove it," she said. The council said the recommendation would be subject to further assessment and review. "When making such difficult decisions, safeguarding children is our foremost priority," a spokesman said.

* A recording of social workers threatening to take a newborn into care has been removed from the YouTube website after Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire started legal action, claiming the Data Protection Act was breached. Vanessa Brookes, 34, taped social workers telling her and her husband that they would seek to place the baby, due next month, in care, while admitting there was "no immediate risk to the child."


"Healthier" British school meals 'a failure'

Thousands of pupils have been shunning school meals since the Jamie Oliver inspired crusade to make them healthier, it was claimed. Atotal of 428,000 children rejected food cooked at school in the two years after the campaign was launched in 2005, according to the Liberal Democrats. They said two-thirds of secondary and 60 per cent of primary school pupils do not now eat meals provided by schools. The Government launched the crusade after TV chef Oliver attacked school meals for being junk-food based.

Lib Dem schools spokesman David Laws said: 'These figures show the English school meals service is in meltdown. 'The new standards for healthier school meals have been introduced too quickly, too inflexibly and with too little education of pupils and parents.' He added that prices of school meals 'have been rising too quickly'.

Kevin Brennan, the minister responsible for school meals, defended the scheme. 'It is true there has been a dip in take-up in some secondary schools, but some have actually seen an increase,' he said.


Happiness lessons: What crap

The latest looniness from Britain. Anything that is not objectively assessable they love. After all, they are extraordinarily bad at teaching things that ARE objectively assessable, like the "3Rs"

Feeling down today? OK, let's talk about how you feel and start again. With this touchy-feely approach, the Government is hoping to bring about a revolution in the classroom. Today Ed Balls, the Education Secretary, will announce that lessons in happiness, wellbeing and good manners are to be introduced in all state secondary schools. The initiative follows an extensive pilot of a programme called Seal (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) in primary schools, which has been found to boost both academic performance and discipline by helping children to better understand their emotions.

[Assessed under "double-blind" conditions? Not if it is like most educational "research". So any benefit was probably a "Hawthorne Effect". It now seems generally agreed that there was no Hawthorne effect at the Hawthorne plant but we know something close to it as the placebo effect -- possibly the best documented therapeutic effect in medicine. The basic lesson of the Hawthorne study was that any changes made with enthusiasm had some benefit.]

The adoption of "wellbeing" classes by state schools suggests that emotional intelligence - a term coined in 1995 by psychologists in Britain - has now become entrenched firmly in the educational mainstream. Ministers are convinced that teaching children to express their feelings, manage their anger and empathise with other people makes for a calmer school and boosts concentration and motivation.

It is not just the pupils that benefit. Research published today by the Institute of Education (IoE) into the effect of Seal in primary schools indicates that it is equally beneficial for teachers, reducing their stress levels and boosting their enthusiasm for study. The approach includes wellbeing assemblies and one-to-one sessions in which pupils may, for example, be told a story about a personal conflict that they are then encouraged to discuss.

The wellbeing ethos will be incorporated into all lessons and even into playtime through the use of positive phrases and ideas, such as "OK, let's start again" and "people like me succeed". Susan Hallam, author of the IoE research, suggested that the Seal programme was the perfect antidote to the intense pressure imposed on schools by the testing regime and exam league tables. "Most of the effort in recent years has been on academic work. Seal gives teachers and pupils permission to think about things that are not academic. It allows them to take time to consider how they think about themselves and others," she said.

Professor Hallam evaluated the impact of the Seal in a sample of primary schools from 25 local authorities that used the programme between 2003 and 2005. The programme had seven themes including, "good to be me", "getting on and falling out" and "relationships". Finding that the programme helped them to understand their pupils, teachers noticed that they were shouting less and resolving conflicts more easily. Queues of naughty children outside the head teachers' offices diminished or disappeared entirely. Because the children were more relaxed, their learning, motivation, willing to interact with those from different backgrounds and cultures," Professor Hallam said. Children's behaviour at home also changed: they tidied up without being asked and had fewer confrontations with their siblings.

Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College in Berkshire, who has pioneered wellbeing classes in the independent school sector, said the approach was based on hard evidence. "We know much more about how to teach children to be emotionally resilient and self-reliant and to be able to manage their emotions than we did. Even ten years ago there was no empirical evidence to support this approach, but now there is," he said.

Oli Marjot, 16, who took wellbeing lessons at Wellington last year, said: "The wellbeing lessons were a pool of calm. They don't teach you to be happy all the time. They teach you about how to deal with things when you are not happy." But Seal does have its critics. Frank Furedi, Professor of sociology at Kent University and author of Therapy Culture, has cautioned that children are more likely to develop emotional problems if they are encouraged to become obsessed with their emotions.



A ROW has broken out between leading Conservatives over plans to impose taxes on air travel, gas-guzzling cars and other environmentally damaging forms of transport. The proposals are contained in the party's long-awaited Quality of Life report, which will inform the Conservatives' policies on the environment, transport, food, energy and waste. It is expected to recommend the imposition of VAT [sales tax] on fuel for domestic flights and incentives to persuade air passengers to switch to trains for trips around Britain and northern Europe. It will also promote a big increase in cycling by making local authorities provide more cycle lanes and offering free bikes in cities.

The report, drawn up by Zac Goldsmith and John Gummer, is not due for publication until next week but John Redwood, a leading rightwinger, will launch an opening salvo today against some of its expected proposals, warning Gummer and Goldsmith "they need to steer a very careful course".

In an interview with GMTV, he will warn against a freeze on airport expansion, saying: "Airports are particularly important to Britain's economic growth." He will also attack plans to tax air travel, arguing that such taxes would cause "an economic loss" without "a green gain" since travellers could choose to fly from foreign airports. "You need to accept that there is going to be some airport and air travel growth and if it doesn't happen here, it'll happen elsewhere."

Goldsmith's supporters make it clear that the real differences between them and Redwood go much further than aviation. They are about the party's core beliefs in an era when climate change and quality of life rival the economy in importance. "We need to strike a new balance on these issues," said shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth. "We need a grown-up debate to work out how to reconcile competition with protecting the environment."


NHS fiddles the books

The health service is set to record a surplus of nearly 1 billion pounds this year after desperate measures turned its finances around. David Nicholson, the chief executive of the NHS, has predicted a surplus of 983 million in 2007-08, up from 510 million in 2006-07. It is a rapid turnaround from the 54 million deficit recorded in 2005-06 that blighted Patricia Hewitt’s term as Health Secretary.

The number of NHS organisations in deficit has fallen sharply, with only 22 of 341 expecting not to show a surplus by the end of the year. However, some of these 22 organisations have seen their deficits grow. Leicestershire County and Rutland Primary Care Trust, for example, is expecting a 22.7 million deficit at the end of 2007-08, up from 17.8 million the previous year. A few organisations, including the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and the East of England Strategic Health Authority, are expected to slip into the red for the first time.

The forecast 983 million surplus would be ploughed back into patient care, Mr Nicholson said. The NHS gross deficit - the total deficit of individual organisations - is expected to be £204 million this financial year, down from 911 million in 2006-07. The Prime Minister said that the turnaround meant that the Government could now put money into other areas of the NHS. Gordon Brown said: “We are talking about more access, more money to tackle hospital infections and measures to ensure people get the best personal care. “People know that the health service has 80,000 more nurses and 20,000 more doctors and we are building more hospitals. Some have already been completed. People do understand the health service is getting better but it is going to get even better.” Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, said: “We have to stay within budgets. This means we have got a surplus of 1.3 per cent of the total budget, which is just about where it should be. We can spend that money on additional services. That money belongs to the NHS.”

But critics said that the Government should also count the cost of getting back into balance. Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “In our view, freezing and deleting health workers’ posts, cutting services to patients and raiding training budgets is not the right way to balance the books. “We now have a curious situation where the NHS is forecasting a surplus of nearly 1 billion but is unable to find jobs for thousands of newly qualified nurses desperate to put their skills and commitment to work. “At the same time, nurses already working on hospital wards and in the community have seen their workloads increase as they are expected to do ever more with even fewer resources. “If there is taxpayers’ money lying idle in NHS banks accounts, let us put it to good use by investing it in front-line staff and getting thousands of newly qualified nurses into work.”

Stephen O’Brien, the Shadow Health Minister, said: “How can it be right for strategic health authorities to hold back money from local hospitals when they are fighting to keep services open?” Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: “The question now is, what is going to be done with the surplus? We would like crucial budgets to be restored, and longer-term, cost-effective policies to be adopted. In future, it’s important that we don’t go through a further turmoil of boom and bust.”


No comments: