Friday, November 23, 2007

Fascistic British social workers again

Mother-to-be flees as social workers warn her they will take her baby away at birth

A mother-to-be has fled her home after social workers threatened to take her baby within minutes of the birth. Fran Lyon, 22, hopes a new local authority will take a different approach. She insists that the mental health problems she had as a teenager - she started self-harming at 15 and has been treated at psychiatric hospitals for borderline personality disorder - are now behind her and there is no evidence she will harm her child.

Miss Lyon moved out of Hexham after receiving a copy of her "birth plan" from social services at Northumberland County Council. It says she will be given a maximum of 15 minutes with her baby - who she has already named Molly - before she is taken into care. She is now in the Birmingham Yardley constituency of Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who has taken up her case and is campaigning to overturn the decision. Miss Lyon said she had been hounded out of her home by a "barbaric" decision and felt she had no choice but to move if she is to have any chance of keeping her baby.

She added: "It is a sad indictment of a local authority in the way they have dealt with an expectant mother who has tried to co-operate with some of the most extreme measures imaginable."

Miss Lyon said social workers fear she is likely to develop Munchausen's syndrome by proxy. The controversial condition is said to lead mothers to seek attention by harming their child or claiming it is ill. "I have been told that I am not even to breastfeed my child in case I try to poison her," she said. "As far as I am concerned, the birth plan is abusive and I will just not stand for it. It would leave Molly isolated from anybody who loves her from the first few minutes of her life. It is barbaric and it deprives her of a basic right." She hopes Birmingham City Council will review the case, but admitted: "I don't know what's going to happen. It's a waiting game at the moment."

Miss Lyon became involved with social services in July after a domestic incident involving her former partner. At a subsequent meeting, she revealed her history of mental health problems and was told they would be taking action to remove her child once she is born in January.

Munchausen's - first identified by Sir Roy Meadow during the 1970s - has been at the heart of a series of miscarriages of justice. Sir Roy was responsible for evidence that led to the wrongful convictions of Angela Cannings and Sally Clark for murdering their children. Mrs Clark died earlier this year.

Miss Lyon has appealed for a place in a mother and baby unit so she can look after her child under supervision. Northumberland County Council said last night: "Where a child or unborn baby is subject to a child protection plan and they move to another local authority area, responsibility would normally pass to the new authority. "A transfer conference is arranged as soon as possible and the family and their support are usually invited to attend. The existing plan is discussed, but the new authority makes its own decisions about how to proceed. "Northumberland County Council would make sure the new authority has all the relevant information it needs to make informed decisions."

Mr Hemming is chairman of the Justice for Families organisation and believes councils are now taking more babies to meet Government adoption targets. He said of Miss Lyon's case: "What could be more traumatic than for a mother to have her baby taken away at birth? It's monstrous. "That, in itself, can cause mental health problems which are then used by social services against the mother as a reason not to return the baby. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. "There has been a massive increase in younger babies being taken into care before there is even any evidence of harm."


Gordon Brown's state of terror

The UK prime minister's vision for counterterrorism would involve reorganising the whole of society around precaution and fear

The British prime minister's announcement of new security measures, and his promotion of wide-ranging new partnerships to root out extremism in the United Kingdom, confirms that counterterrorism is fast becoming one of the main organising principles of society in the twenty-first century.

Gordon Brown used the annual security statement to parliament to announce a wide range of new proposals for combating terrorism. In a packed House of Commons, he presented both hard measures - increased surveillance, checks, barriers and monitoring - as well as softer ones designed to win the hearts and minds of those who might be tempted by terror.

On the same day, a related article by him in the tabloid Sun newspaper, entitled `I need YOUR help to beat terrorists', sought to drive the message home. This was, he proposed, `a generation-long challenge', that would require a partnership `with everyone'. He concluded, for those who had still not absorbed the breadth or gravity of the situation, with a piece of over-inflated, pseudo-Churchillian prose exhorting us to `fight street by street, community by community and year by year'.

But his actual proposals look anything but brave or combative. Rather, they are a concession and a gift to the handful of nihilistic, self-styled, radical Islamists, fantasists and wannabe terrorists whose actual impact on British life, were it not for such grandiose and vacuous security responses, remains largely marginal. In fact, Brown's mantra on the need for `physical barriers' is the perfect metaphor for the authorities' inability to tackle this limited threat either intellectually or emotionally. Unwilling to believe that the nation is not about to crumble in a heap of cowering vulnerability, and unable to provide any grand vision of why British society is worth defending, Brown hides behind steel doors and blast-proof windows.

Last summer, after failed attempts by alleged al-Qaeda sympathisers to detonate gas canisters at a London nightclub and Glasgow Airport, the new prime minister, less than 24 hours in the post, asked the former head of defence intelligence and the Navy, Sir Alan West, to conduct a review of security in public places. Sir Alan's report back, now in his new capacity as Labour minister for security, formed a key part of these proposals, arguing, amongst other things, for the designing, or redesigning, of public spaces and buildings - specifically airports, major railway stations, shopping centres and sports facilities - to deter future terrorists, or to mitigate their possible impact.

As I have argued on spiked before, this focus on managing risks, rather than projecting a sense of positive purpose, reflects a defeatist attitude that can only encourage those who would want to have a go. This outlook deflects society from clarifying and pursuing any grand broader aims and objectives (see Britain's bunker mentality, by Bill Durodi,). Turning ourselves into some kind of Fortress Britain offers an easy win to the small number of cack-handed idiots we truly confront. Bombing civilisation out of existence is an impossible task, but turning society in on itself has been achieved far too easily.

Now, according to the new proposals, planners and architects will be required to consider their designs from a counterterrorist perspective, relocating windows to reduce the risk should they shatter, placing obstacles on pavements to prevent vehicle-borne devices and not building underground car parks - a restriction guaranteed to warm the heart of many environmentalists. In fact, such buildings have successfully been designed previously. They were called castles. But whilst functional, they were never the emblems of a free and open society such as ours.

Such measures have not been forced upon us through the activities of hardened terrorists - the prime minister noted in his speech that `no major failures in our protective security have been identified'. It is the new ethos of precaution that has been adopted throughout government that is driving these proposals. In effect, this argues that in all instances of uncertainty or doubt, society should be reorganised along the lines of the worst that might happen, applying an `act first, find the evidence later' principle of organisation.

Far from suffering from `a failure of imagination', the criticism levelled at the US security services by the 9/11 Commission report, it would seem now that officials and politicians seem keen to imagine rather too much. `Terrorism can hit us anywhere from any place', argued Brown in the Sun. As such limitless possibilities might mean attacks beyond the major public buildings and places his security minister's report addressed, the prime minister, in his speech to the Commons, also offered `updates', `more detailed advice' and `greater vigilance' for other, less prominent places, such as shops, schools, hospitals and places of religious worship.

This support will be backed up by guidance and training from 160 counter-terrorism advisers who will clearly have very busy jobs. To help them in their thankless task of spreading the Gospel of Doom across the entire nation, local authorities will also now be mandated, as part of their performance framework, to assess the measures they have taken to counter terrorism. Judging by the way such targets tend to be usurped by those who are called upon to enact them, it is likely that any minor act, such as watering the hanging flower baskets that adorn many city centres, will now be counted as a possible opportunity for deterring terror.

More insidiously, Brown hopes to engage young people in opposing so-called `extremist influences' not just in schools and colleges - which, over recent years, have already been turned into social engineering outlets - but also `through the media, culture, sport and arts'. The British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sport England, Tate Britain and Arts Council England have already signed up to such initiatives.

Once upon a time, it was just the former education secretary, Charles Clarke, who thought that `education for its own sake is a bit dodgy'. Now, it appears, Gordon Brown and others are proposing we all go much further than that. Culture for its own sake, sport for its own sake and the arts for their own sake, without a good dose of anti-radicalisation thrown in for good measure, are all a bit dodgy, too, it would seem.

In short, British society is to be reorganised around precaution and the fear of terrorism. Everything we do, from the buildings we use to the ideas that are taught, will be informed by the risk of a handful of nihilistic nutters blowing us all to smithereens. Society will be built - often literally - in fear of the uncommon enemy rather than to further the common good.

A youth panel to advise the government was also announced. By this logic, it is the government that is in need of support. That may not be too far from the truth. Lord West has already had to make an embarrassing U-turn regarding his endorsement, or not, for longer periods of detention without trial. West explained away his unfortunate public disagreement with the prime minister as the act of a `simple sailor'.

While the UK government is keen on advising President Musharraf of Pakistan as to the need to end his state of emergency, the British authorities will nevertheless seek to use their own set of emergency powers to achieve the goal of holding suspects without charge for longer than is currently allowed. Without some kind of permanent emergency in Britain today, there would be little to talk about.


New wave of immigration blamed for doubling of hepatitis B cases

Soaring rates of infection by hepatitis B, fuelled by large-scale immigration, pose a serious health threat that is not being addressed properly, a report has said. The Hepatitis B Foundation estimates that the numbers infected by the disease in Britain have almost doubled in the past five years, to 326,000. More than half of these people are immigrants from Africa, Asia, Russia and the new EU nations. Hepatitis B has few symptoms. If untreated it can lead to serious liver disease including liver cancer, and death, decades after infection. World-wide, 500,000 to 700,000 people die every year as a result of infection by the virus.

Britain, unlike 85 per cent of countries, does not have the universal vaccination against hepatitis B that is recommended by the World Health Organisation. Instead, the policy is to vaccinate selectively, attempting to prevent the spread of the disease from mothers to children, for example.

The report cautions that growing levels of undetected infections are a health time bomb that needs to be defused urgently. It calls on the Government to develop a strategy for dealing with the problem. "Much more needs to be done," the report says. "There is a serious risk that in the future, while chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection declines in countries which have implemented universal vaccination, the UK - that great pioneer of public health - will continue to harbour an ever-increas-ing pool of chronic HBV infection."

Damian Green, the Conservative immigration spokesman, said: "This is an alarming report and it is reasonable to expect from the Government an urgent response about testing those people coming into the country."

Hepatitis B is transmitted in many of the same ways as HIV - through sex, shared needles, blood, from mother to baby at birth, or from person to person by contact with skin grazes. The difference is that hepatitis B is ten times as easy to transmit as HIV.

David Mutimer, a reader in medicine at the University of Birmingham, who treats liver disease at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the city, said: "It's pretty obvious that the number of patients is increasing exponentially year on year and it is quite clear the effect that migration is having on the numbers. The report doesn't come to definite conclusions about what needs to be done, but my opinion is that universal vaccination is the best answer."

Since most cases of infection are unknown, even to the individuals concerned, the report by the Hepatitis B Foundation, a charity that raises awareness of the disease, estimates the numbers by using the prevalence rate in each country and multiplying that by the numbers of people from that country now living in Britain. By working through all the national groups, the report comes up with a total of 326,000 cases in Britain, almost double the 180,000 estimated by Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, in his 2002 report Getting Ahead of the Curve.

The 326,000 figure is almost certainly an underestimate because only countries that have contributed more than 60,000 people to the population were included. The numbers originating from each country came from the Labour Force Survey and are themselves probably underestimates.

Eddie Chan, the director of the Chinese National Healthy Living Centre, said: "With a surge of migration from countries with a high HBV prevalence rate we are not surprised by these figures. Britain needs migrant workers and in return Britain must set in place the infrastructure to deal with the changing health demographics."

The report calls for a public education campaign, a reappraisal of the vaccination policy, action to identify and treat those who are infected and a mapping exercise to find how services for HBV infection are distributed across the country.

The Department of Health responded to the report by saying that Britain had one of the lowest prevalence rates of hepatitis B in the world and that the incidence of acute infection remained relatively stable and low. A range of measures was in place to control it. - A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported last month that since immunisation against HBV was introduced in the US in the 1980s, cases had fallen by 80.1 per cent and deaths by 80.2 per cent.


You may need to go to the High Court to collect on your health insurance in Britain

A dementia sufferer has won a landmark High Court battle to force the NHS to pay her nursing home fees. Hilda Atkinson’s family wanted health chiefs to recognise that she needed 24-hour nursing care, free on the NHS, rather than “social care”, for which local authorities can charge.

Mrs Atkinson, 94, with the backing of her daughter, finally won her case against Plymouth Teaching Primary Care Trust. In a settlement approved by Mr Justice Wilkie, the trust agreed to pay 43,000 pounds to cover nursing care between 2004 and July this year, and to pay future nursing home fees.

Mrs Atkinson – whose other ailments were Parkinson’s disease, angina, osteoporosis and deafness – left her home in 1998 after her husband died. By August 2000 her family, of Downderry, Cornwall, could not care for her any more. She has lived at Consort Village Care Centre in Plymouth since November 2002.

Many people have had to use savings or equity in their homes to finance social care. Nicola Martin, a solicitor with Hugh James, which has 400 similar cases,said: “This case has implications for hundreds of people throughout England and Wales. The issue is to do with whether someone is paying nursing fees because of a health need.”


British bureaucrats lose even MORE files: "At least two more CDs that could leave thousands of people open to identity fraud have been reported missing by staff at HM Revenue & Customs this week, The Times has been told. Police have started an investigation into the loss of the unencrypted files, which went missing in transit from tax offices in Washington, Tyne & Wear, and contain "sensitive information" including national insurance numbers and dates of birth. They were sent to offices in London and are yet to be accounted for. The loss of these files are in addition to a series of recent blunders by HMRC, including the announcement this month that a CD-Rom that contained information on 15,000 Standard Life customers had been lost.... Further questions about the standards of data protection at HMRC were raised yesterday by a solicitor who works routinely with the prosecution arm of the HMRC. Shawn Williams, of Rose, Williams & Partners, a legal firm in Wolverhampton that deals with tax fraud cases, said that his firm frequently received discs that contained personal data from the HMRC with the password included"

Britain's latest prohibition: Baby milk: "The advertising of powdered milk for babies on television, in the national press and through a NHS leaflet given to mothers will be banned from January, as part of a new EU directive on infant formula. The ban supports the Government's policy to encourage breast-feeding."

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