Thursday, November 13, 2008

An abject and ghastly failure of bureaucratic Britain

Baby 'used as punchbag' died despite 60 visits from social services. If the parents had been decent people, the kid would have been removed immediately, of course. Displays of power are all that bureaucratic Britain cares about. Everything else is just a bother

A 17-month-old boy, who was seen by social services 60 times in eight months, died after repeatedly being used "as a punchbag" and having his back broken. The toddler - known as Baby P - suffered more than 50 injuries and was on the child protection register but was allowed to stay in the care of his mother, her boyfriend and their lodger. Today, his 32-year-old "step-father" and lodger Jason Owen, 36, were convicted of causing or allowing Baby P's death, a charge already admitted by the child's 27-year-old mother.

The trial at the Old Bailey heard about a catalogue of failings on the part of social workers, health visitors and police. One consultant paediatrician failed to spot Baby P's broken back or ribs in August last year - just 48 hours before his death - while police told the mother she would not be prosecuted after being arrested twice for suspected child cruelty. The court heard how she had been able to manipulate the situation with lies and even got away with smearing Baby P with chocolate to hide bruises. By the end, he was unrecognisable, his curly, golden locks shaved off, his cheeks hollow and his eyes dead to the world.

The family, from Haringey, north London, cannot be named for legal reasons. But they were under the care of the same social services responsible for Victoria Climbie, who was tortured to death by her great aunt and her boyfriend in 2000. Mor Dioum, director of the Victoria Climbie Foundation, set up to improve child protection, said: "This case is worse than Climbie. The signs were there but were not followed." There were "systematic and operational failures that led to the tragic and sad death of such a beautiful child".

Gillie Christou, in charge of social workers looking after children on the register in Haringey [She should be burnt at the stake], told the court she had agreed to keep the baby with his mother. She said: "I made the decision at the time based on the material in front of me and based on the background to the case."

A detective in the case said the boy had more than 50 injuries, 15 of them to the mouth. He described the boyfriend as "sadistic - fascinated with pain". He had Nazi memorabilia in the house. The mother was "a slob, completely divorced from reality. She was living in a dream world and put her lover before her child. She closed her eyes to what was going on".

After the case, police said they had complied with a multi-agency long-term care plan for the family. But procedures have now been toughened up to give police more confidence in challenging decisions. Detective Superintendent Caroline Bates said police errors were made which caused a delay at the start of the abuse inquiry, but these had not been significant to the outcome. She said: "With hindsight, having the benefit of a major investigation, we know quite clearly that the mother was lying and trying to subvert agencies involved with the family." The mother had appeared to be co-operating with agencies but "she constantly conspired to prevent us knowing what was going on".

In June "police officers felt very strongly that he should not be returned" to his mother. A police inspector asked twice if the threshold had been reached to start care proceedings. "This was a huge tragedy which should have been avoided. If we had only known the truth about the adults in the house," said Ms Bates. Great Ormond Street Hospital, which provides paediatric services to children from Haringey, said Dr Sabah Al-Zayyat, who was involved in the failed clinic check, is no longer working there.


Britain: Single mother on welfare is moved into $2m five-bedroom house - funded by the taxpayer

ALL Nigerians should move to Britain. It's so much nicer there

A mother-of-five claiming benefits is living in a detached home worth $2million - with taxpayers helping fund her $50,000 annual rent. The luxury five-bedroom home with two sitting rooms, a conservatory and a double garage is being paid for with housing benefits handed out by her local council. Situated in a smart north London street, the $2million home is out of the price range of most families in the UK. The average house price in Britain is $450,000.

Nigerian single mother Omowunmi Odia moved her family into the home two weeks ago and last night said she was pleased to be living there - although she criticised the large house for having a small bedrooms. The family had been living in a cramped flat before the move. 'I was living in a two-bedroom apartment with my five children and only moved in here two weeks ago,' said Mrs Odia, who is in her thirties. 'They didn't have any council houses big enough for me so I found this one. I like it; the children like it,' she added.

Mrs Odia has been living in the UK for 10 years and is entitled to the home under government rules. It has recently been revealed that taxpayers have paid out $15billion for housing benefits in Britain in 2006-7.

Mrs Odia, who drives a six-year-old family car, had been threatened with homelessness when she was forced out of her flat when a court order was obtained against her. She was rehoused by Barnet council in the spacious property in Edgware, bought by its owners in 2005 for $1,300,00 but valued at $2million at the height of the property boom.

Mrs Odia said the council had tried to rehouse her in Enfield, north London, but she had held out for Edgware, close to her children's schools. One of the bedrooms, she said, was 'no bigger than a shoebox'. She lives off state handouts and has not been in contact with her husband, who remains in Nigeria, for at least three years. The property is unfurnished and most of the rooms are empty bar a leather sofa and armchairs in one of the sitting rooms.

More than $8 billion of taxpayers' money is being spent on housing benefit across London - an increase of more than 40 per cent in five years. 'Too little is being done to reduce the bill by helping people become self-reliant,' said Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance.


A big backflip: Infertile couples to be priority for NHS IVF treatment

I guess the politicians have realized that IVF children are future taxpayers

Infertile couples could soon be offered wider and more consistent treatment on the NHS under the first proposals from the government panel that has the task of ending the IVF postcode lottery. NHS trusts should give IVF a much higher importance when drawing up spending plans, by taking into account the effects of infertility on mental health and general wellbeing, the influential group will say today.

The advice from the Expert Group on Commissioning NHS Infertility Provision, which was convened by health ministers this year, will put fresh pressure on the 95 per cent of primary care trusts (PCTs) that do not offer the three cycles of IVF recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Its interim report, which suggests several measures designed to improve access to IVF, comes as an NHS regional health authority has agreed for the first time to implement the NICE guidelines across all 14 of its trusts. The decision by NHS East of England means that infertile couples in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire will be entitled to three cycles of treatment from next April, provided that they meet eligibility criteria.

Infertility is a problem for between one in six and one in seven couples. Almost 45,000 cycles of IVF are performed in Britain each year, but limited NHS provision means that about 75 per cent of these are conducted privately, at an average cost of $4,000 per cycle. NICE, the value-for-money watchdog, recommended in 2004 that PCTs should provide three cycles to infertile couples in which the woman is aged between 23 and 39. It added that these should be full cycles, including the replacement of frozen embryos, should a couple fail to conceive with fresh ones. A Department of Health survey published in June found, however, that just 9 out of 151 PCTs in England meet this standard. About two thirds offer only one cycle, and half of these do not replace frozen embryos. Three trusts offer no IVF at all.

In March, Dawn Primarolo, the Health Minister, asked an expert group to recommend ways of encouraging more trusts to implement the NICE guidance in full. Its first advice, seen by The Times, will be published today. It found that the main barrier to wider provision was the low priority that many trusts give to IVF. This needed to be reassessed in the light of evidence about links between infertility and depression, stress, relationship breakdown and quality of life. "The provision of infertility treatment has not been seen as a traditional NHS service and, therefore, is often viewed as a relatively low priority compared to more visible conditions whose impact is well established," the report will say.

"The group's final report will seek to consider the often unseen consequences of infertility, including the impact on mental health and general wellbeing, which may draw on other NHS services for treatment, as well as the positive benefits of IVF." The group has also identified a "lack of knowledge and understanding of infertility and its treatment" among commissioning managers, and a poor grasp of what the NICE guidelines actually mean.

In the light of the group's advice, Ms Primarolo will write today to all PCTs to clarify that NHS IVF cycles should include the replacement of frozen embryos as well as fresh ones. If trusts acted on this, it would significantly improve some infertile couples' chances of a baby. Ms Primarolo's letter will also confirm that NICE will not review its guidance until 2010-11. Many trusts had been holding off from offering three cycles, as NICE had been due to reassess its policy as early as this year.

The expert group, made up of five NHS commissioning experts and a patient representative, will also recommend that the NHS set a fixed price that PCTs would pay for IVF. Such national tariffs already exist for dozens of medical procedures, such as heart bypasses, and help managers to plan their spending. A spokesman for the Department of Health said that it was receptive to this idea. "It is appropriate for IVF to be considered carefully for inclusion on the national tariff," he said.

Mark Hamilton, chairman of the British Fertility Society, which represents medical professionals in the field, said that it was right for PCTs to consider the wider health impact of infertility. "This is a positive development," he said. "Clinicians and practitioners involved in infertility services are all aware that we are not just dealing with a physical pathology. "Infertility is a disease, but it also has fallout beyond that for a significant proportion of couples, causing mental health problems, depression, stress-related illnesses and so on."

Dr Hamilton welcomed the East of England decision, though he questioned whether other parts of the country would match it unless the Department of Health provided more dedicated funds. "It is a tremendous step forward that a region has seen the value of doing this, and I would hope that others will do the same. But there is certainly a view in the sector that central funding would solve an awful lot of problems."


Obama portrays failed traffic scheme as "innovative"

If the Lightbringer likes it, it must be innovative, of course. London was the pioneer of such schemes and the scheme seemed to work there for a while but it is now back to the congestion of old

BARACK Obama's transport advisers are studying Greater Manchester's congestion-charge plans - to see if they could work in the US. The President-elect's team have asked an American consultant who helped draw up the proposed charge to provide information about this scheme and similar systems around the world. Jack Opiola - who previously worked on congestion charging in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Italy and the US - said the move proved `the eyes of the world' were on Manchester. He said: "In the US, Greater Manchester is being held up as a shining example of dynamic new thinking."

Mr Obama, who takes over at the White House on January 20 after his historic election victory last week, stood on a manifesto that included pledges to cut traffic and boost public transport. He recently praised plans - which were later scrapped - to charge motorists to enter Manhattan in New York as 'thoughtful and innovative'.

Mr Opiola said: "I was 'noticed' by key people in the Obama campaign and I have been providing input to his strategy team in Chicago, including information about Greater Manchester's bid. "Manchester's approach is being highlighted as the latest thinking and conceptual approach that is beyond the earlier concepts used in Milan, Stockholm, London and Singapore, which are previous generations of congestion-charge systems."

Greater Manchester is bidding for more than 2.75bn pounds of investment from the government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF), including 318m pounds to set up a peak hour, weekday-only congestion charge. Of the total, 1.2bn would be in the form of a loan, paid back over 30 years out of profits from the charge


So just one city is prepared to squander billions of taxpayer money on something of at best marginal benefit -- and that is "a shining example of dynamic new thinking"!

Britain Cuts Skilled Work Permits by 20% as Unemployment Rises

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government said it will cut by 20 percent the number of visas it issues for skilled workers to enter Britain as unemployment gains the most since the end of the last recession. The Home Office said it will issue 800,000 work permits under a section of its new Australian-style visa system that begins on Nov. 27 for skilled workers. That's down from 1 million spots open under the old system being phased out to clamp down on migrant flows. [That's still a rather amazing number per year for a nation of 60 million]

Brown's Labour government is under pressure to crack down on immigration after record inflows since 2004. Today's decision comes on the eve of a report likely to show the number of people receiving unemployment benefits probably rose 40,000 last month, the most since 1992. ``Had the points-system been in place last year, there would have been 12 percent fewer people coming to work through the equivalent route,'' said Immigration Minister Phil Woolas.

The government also said it was trimming the list of jobs that Britain doesn't have enough skilled workers to fill. Workers outside the European Union must show either that they have skills to perform those jobs or that they have sponsorship from an employer who can show a British resident can't be found. Mangers of big construction projects, civil engineers, physicists, geologists, meteorologists, chemical engineers, doctors and dentists are among the groups where labor is short, according to the government's list.

The U.K. is trying to reduce the inflow of immigrants after the arrival of more than 500,000 annually for the past five years. The record numbers since the Labour government took office 11 years ago have put a strain on schools, police and hospitals.

Today's changes are part of the biggest revamp of immigration rules in Britain since the 1950s, when the nation opened its doors to attract low-skilled workers needed to fuel the post-World War II economy. Britain also needs biological scientists, therapists, high school teachers of math and science, quantity surveyors, nurses, skilled ballet dancers, skilled sheep shearers, jockeys and social workers. [They need jockeys??] Employers seeking to hire a migrant worker who is not on the government's list of shortage occupations must meet the so- called resident labor market test. They must show that no suitably qualified settled worker can fill the job by advertising the vacancy before it is filled.

The U.K. is replacing a labyrinth of 80 separate categories under which immigrants could apply for a visa with a five-tier, points-based system. It gives credit for education and previous wages, not for accomplishment in life or potential. Tier 1, which opened in February, is aimed at doctors, academics, computer experts and bankers. Today's list refers to Tier 2 workers, covering employees with job offers and temporary workers. Tier 4 for students begins in March 2009 and Tier 3, for low skilled workers, possibly after that. Tier 5, for temporary workers, begins later this year.

Responding to concerns about a shortages of specialist cooks, the U.K. said today it will allow in chefs from outside the EU, provided they earn more than 8.10 pounds ($12.61) per hour. Care assistants from outside the EEA must earn more than 8.80 pounds per hour to qualify for a visa.


British city bans term 'British'

We read:
"The word `British' can be as offensive as `negro' and `half-caste', according to a race relations body. The publicly-funded organisation's views have been adopted by Caerphilly council in South Wales for a leaflet advising staff on how to deal with the public.

In a section on what words or phrases not to use to avoid causing offence, the leaflet solemnly informs the council's 9,000 workers: `The idea of "British" implies a false sense of unity - many Scots, Welsh and Irish resist being called British and the land denoted by the term contains a wide variety of cultures, languages and religions.'

The suggestion the word `British' should be avoided appears alongside similar sections which warn that `half-caste' implies `a person is not whole and so should be avoided' and that `negro' has `racist overtones and is linked with the slave trade'.

But Tory MP David Davies, MP for Monmouth said: `There's absolutely nothing offensive about describing people as British.


No comments: