Saturday, May 02, 2009

British social workers take baby away even though mother ‘posed no risk’

A baby was placed into care and is facing adoption after a psychologist misdiagnosed the mother’s mental state. The child has been in foster care for six months even though experts have said that the mother posed no immediate risk. A psychologist told Ipswich County Court this week that she had inaccurately assessed the mother as having factitious illness, formerly known as Munchausen’s by proxy. That assessment resulted in Suffolk County Council putting the baby on the childcare protection register.

The diagnosis was based on accusations that the mother had made up illnesses for her son from another relationship, which she denied. The diagnosis was changed after a psychiatrist said that there was no evidence that the mother had fabricated anything about her son. The psychologist said that she had since concluded that the mother had narcissistic personality disorder, where sufferers can believe they are special and have difficulty showing empathy. This disorder was not a barrier to successful parenting, the psychologist said.

The opening up of the family courts to the media means that the details of the case can be published.

Once the baby was born, the mother and father were subjected to regular visits by social workers. The mother told one that her partner would feel like killing them all if the baby was taken away. A few days later the baby was taken into care.

The psychologist said that the baby was removed despite there being no immediate concerns about its treatment. “I understand that there were never any concerns about [its] practical care. There were risks in the long term . . . in terms of consistency of parenting,” she said. She added that the mother craved attention, regardless of the welfare of her baby. The mother would find it difficult “to put the baby’s needs before her own, she said, although there was no evidence she had done this while caring for the baby.

Experts also expressed concern about risks posed by the father.

The court was given insight into the numerous difficulties faced by social services in dealing with the case. All three experts who gave evidence agreed that the parents were evasive and that the father had told substantial untruths on several occasions. When the mother told the father on Saturday that she wanted to leave him, he had taken a knife and gone into another room — with the implication that he would harm himself if they were apart.

Two experts complained that they had not been given enough information about the case — only one of the three had observed the mother, the father and the baby. They emphasised that both parents would need significant therapy to overcome their problems. One of the experts said that the mother had suffered from depression and although she responded well to medication, she did not always take it.

The local authority took a measured approach to the circumstances. While it could have moved immediately to a care plan recommending adoption, it agreed to further assessment of the couple. The baby will be kept in foster care in the meantime, with a further hearing scheduled for July. If assessments are not positive, the child is likely to be adopted.


British Schools producing a generation of illiterates, says historian

The television historian David Starkey said that head teachers should bring back debating competitions and elocution lessons because schools were producing a generation that was illiterate and could not communicate properly.

Narrow-minded bean-counters and the internet had taken over education, he added, suggesting that Britons in the time of Henry VIII had a more rounded schooling and more competent government. “We are dangerously devaluing knowledge and learning. In much of the national curriculum there is no requirement to remember anything at all. The notion that you need to hold knowledge in your head seems to have been forgotten,” he told head teachers at a conference in Brighton.

He said that pupils “were being fed on a diet of sub-A-level accountancy” and that too many school-leavers were taking “narrow professional degrees such as law or finance”. “In the United States, anyone going to the top would not dream of doing something so narrow as a first degree — you would do a broad liberal arts degree, then specialise,” he said.

His comments were seen as a swipe at the Government’s decision to withdraw funding for courses taken by anyone who already holds an equivalent or higher-level qualification.

Dr Starkey, whose recent series, Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant, looked at the King’s early life, said: “It’s not good enough to say you can look things up on the web. You can produce connections only if you know facts.” He criticised schools for not stretching the brightest pupils and pitting them against each other. The system was less likely to identify and nurture clever children from poor backgrounds, he said.

“We are producing a generation that is not only illiterate but practically uncommunicative. Elocution competitions should be reintroduced. It is terrific training, along with acting in plays. “There was a generosity in Henry’s curriculum with music, poetry, physical education and the proper speaking of modern languages.”



Some "green jobs" may well be created but most of them will be in China

International wind-turbine maker Vestas has announced that it will lay off 1900 employees including 600 in the UK. The news was well received by markets, with Vestas raising £700m in a Danish share issue the next day and announcing investments in Chinese plants.

The job cuts will be a blow to the British government, which has recently announced plans to boost investment in UK offshore wind by tinkering with the Renewables Obligation Scheme. This would have the effect of raising electricity prices, and directing the extra revenue to offshore British windfarm projects.

Treasury estimates suggest that as much as £525m of new private investment might result: and the government is known to hope for many new British "green-collar" jobs to appear on the back of this. It's felt by the government that Blighty might surge to prosperity manufacturing green tech such as wind turbines, and selling them around the world for big payola.

Unfortunately Mr Engel makes it very clear that it's only worth making wind turbines using well-paid, highly regulated British workers for sale in the British market. (The same seems to be true of Danes.)

In other words it's a hell of a lot cheaper to make wind turbines in India or China, just like most manufactured goods (no surprise, wind turbines are quite simple equipment). So forget about a glorious future of British windmill makers winning orders from around the globe. The only place British factories can sell turbines is in Britain, it seems, and even this will require massive further subsidy.


Fabulous! NHS Hospitals must publish details of every complaint against them

All hospitals in England will have to publish the number and details of complaints that they receive. The Department of Health said that this was necessary to prevent a repeat of lapses that occurred at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. Between 400 and 1,200 more people died at the trust than would have been expected in a three-year period because of a “lamentable failure of clinical leadership”, two official reviews concluded yesterday. A change of culture was needed at the trust and across the wider NHS to place more emphasis on “patient and public power”, they said.

The Department of Health said that complaints received by each trust in England would be published on the NHS website.

An investigation this year by the Healthcare Commission uncovered the unusually high death rates reported by the Mid Staffordshire trust between 2005 and 2008, in particular at Stafford Hospital’s accident and emergency department. Follow-up reviews found that patients’ views were not taken seriously enough and local and regional health authorities failed to check properly on standards of care. The commission report, published in March, concluded that care and management at the hospital were so poor that receptionists were carrying out initial checks at A&E.

Ministers responded by ordering two reports — one covering the current standard of care at the hospital and the other by David Colin-Thomé, the national director for primary care. Dr Colin-Thomé said: “The events of Mid Staffordshire trust have disturbed us all. What has particularly shocked and disappointed me is that no NHS organisations, staff or representatives of the public reported any serious concerns about emergency services in the hospital.”

The other report, by Sir George Alberti, the national director for emergency care, said that while £3.8 million had been invested in new staff, recruitment and training in the past 12 months, there were still shortages of surgeons and nurses.


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