Saturday, 31 March 2012

Who donated £2M ?

A week or so ago, BFTF was walking out of the local ASDA when it caught sight of a sign saying that ASDA had donated £2million to the UK’s first national breast cancer tissue bank.

This is clearly a GOOD THING.

But BFTF wondered whether the money was from ASDA (i.e. from their turnover) or from ASDA's customers (buckets at checkouts, sponsored events etc)

So sent an email to ask them.

UPDATE: 04 APR 12
Received a call from ASDA saying that the money was from ASDA's fundraising efforts (buckets at checkouts, merchandise sales etc) and that ASDA had received awards for their "Pink Ribbon" campaign. BFTF suggested that perhaps there should have been some acknowledgement of the fact that the £2million had come from customers, not ASDA's pockets - but the ASDA did not accept this.

Mr Kiplings exceedingly free range cakes

BFTF was idly looking at a packet of Mr Kiplings Exceedingly Good Raspberry Slices (which are rather delicious by the way) when a banner in the top corner of the box caught BFTF's eye. It said "baked with Free Range Eggs".

How wonderful !!

BFTF has a little trouble understanding who anyone (other than those in dire economic straits) can buy eggs from caged hens when the alternative is so readily avaialable. It's true that Free Range eggs cost a little more, but eggs are only a small small part of the overall grocery budget and the moral case for buying free range is so clear.




Perhaps unsurprisingly, this resulted in a couple of emails being sent out.

One to Mr Kipling to say well done on using Free Range Eggs.

And one to ASDA asking why they couldn't do the same in their own brand products.

UPDATE:04APR 2012
Received a response from Mrs Kipling(?!)saying thanks for the message.

Received a call from ASDA saying that they were actively looking into the possibility of using free range eggs in their own label products and that my comments would be passed onto the relvant team. Which is rather encouraging!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Questions to ask the Far Right

BFTF often gets frustrated when listening to people interview the EDL or the BNP because they don't ask the really tough questions that would challenge their mindset. So, BFTF thought it might be helpful to put some "starters for 10" in a short blog post to help prospective interviewers along. .

The BNP and EDL are very different beasts, so questions are broken down for each group :

Questions for the BNP
1) Should British born black sportsmen and women be banned from national teams?
2) Should British born black people be repatriated to their countries of ancestry?
3) Why do veterans organisations and churches refuse to work with the BNP?
4) Will the BNP work to ensure that the Poppy Appeal supports those who fought for the UK from the commonwealth countries?


Questions for the EDL
1) Can the EDL name any Muslims who have contributed significantly to the UK?
2) Can the EDL name any Muslim groups who are active in projects that work for the common good of the whole society?
2) Why do veterans organisations and churches refuse to work with the EDL?

NB: Readers may also be interested in this post on framing a debate

NB: And the Muslim News Awards Page might be of interest too.

Notes from a Police Public Meeting regarding the EDL March in Nottingham in November 2009

The message from the Police:
a) Nottinghamshire Police have a duty to facilitate a peaceful protest.
b) The Police will support and protect all local communities, while facilitating the peaceful protest.
c) Notingham will be open as usual. Visitors, shoppers and workers will be allowed to go about their business without fear or threat.
d) The Police will engage with any local communities and businesses to provide reassurance and understand their concerns.
e) The Police will operate a substantial and visible policing operation to ensure a peaceful assembly.
f) Criminal and anti-social behaviour on the day will be dealt with quickly and appropriately.Any offenders will be identified and prosecuted .
g) The Police can't do this alone -they need the help of the community.

"As in any community, a significant concern is that young people may get caught up in a confrontation. As a number of people at the meeting pointed out, this only plays into the hands of the EDL by giving them publicity and portraying the Muslim community in a bad light."

IMPORTANT : What advice the community can give to young people:
a) Give guidance and support and re-affirm the message of obligation to promote peace and avoid confrontation.
b) Encourage young people to have a dignified approach and to provide a positive image of their beliefs, community and culture.
c) Our Imans can talk about this issue at Friday and Eid prayers.

Background on the EDL
a) Formed in response to the "Call to submission" / "Al Muhajiroun" protest against returning soldiers in Luton (Mar 09)
b) Describe themselves as being non-racist, non-political, peaceful organisation who are protesting against extremist/militant Islam.
c) They have attracted a number of right wing and football "hooligans"
d) Strongly deny any link to the BNP (and the BNP strongly deny any link to the EDL). BNP not present at any previous EDL assembly.
e) The EDL have not targeted places of worship in previous assemblies
f) There have been 9 EDL rallies so far,
g) After Birmingham the Police adopted a police of communicating with and reassuring the community. This has resulted in much reduced levels of arrests.
h) Banning the EDL is a matter for government, banning marches is an option for the Police, banning assembly can only be done in special circumstances

BFTF noted that, whilst many masjids had been contacted about the Public meting, only a few had actually bothered turning up

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Tips on Community Organising

Following on from a previous post on community organising, thought it might be nice to list a few key points of community activism, garnered from a variety of sources:


Be SPECIFIC about the action or change you want.
What specific change do you want to make? If you don’t know what you really want, how can the other party know what they are supposed to be agreeing to?

Demonstrations know what they are against - but sometime not what they really want.

Make it SIMPLE
This applies to pretty much everything in life, and community organising is no exception. It is better to aim for a simple, clearly understandably change than to try and achive complicated changes all in one go.

If your plan for sorting out local parking issues looks like this, you are making it too complex.

Aim to achieve a target that is actually WINNABLE
Take what you can get, live to fight another day.

World Peace is a nice idea, but perhaps not the best target
if you are a grasshoots organisation in Hitchin

Aim for a COMMON GOOD solution
The strength of organisations like CitizensUK lies in their broad make-up and the number of people they represent. Campaigns need to be on issues that matter to many groups, not just one.

Solutions that work for the whole commuity are the best ones.

PERSONALISE the argument - organisations make bad targets.
Find out who has the power in the company / state body to make the change you seek? Then email / phone / meet with that person. Find out what is important to them and where common ground might lie. Use power mapping to see where the power lies in the organisation you wish to engage with.

If your group has an issue with justice, you need to see this man.

Personal TESTIMONY is very important
The testimony of people who are at the receiving end of unfair practices (e.g Abdul Durrant) is a powerful way to demonstrate the real world effect that those policies are having.

Make sure you don't get confused between testimony and testimonial

Consider the SELF-INTEREST of the other party.
What is in it for them? Sustainable solutions only come about when both parties feel they have achieved something. Don't be unprepared like the charity collector in the clip below.


Don’t spend too long talking, instead of DOING.
When having internal meetings, it is easy to spend all your time complaining about what is wrong or talking about what ought to be done without being specific. Make sure meetings end with clear actions to move things forward.

Big meetings are less likely to have useful actions

Sometimes it is better to TAKE WHAT YOU CAN GET, rather than what you would like to get.
One of the London Citizens groups had jumped through a number of hoops to get a meeting with one of the borough mayors. Then, the day before the meeting, the mayor’s office called to say that the time allocated for the meeting had been reduced from one hour to just thirty minutes, and the number of people that Citizens were allowed to bring was halved. The Citizens group attended the meeting and, instead of presenting a shortened and pressurized argument, used the time to build a relationship with the Mayor and arrange a meeting a few months down the line so that the dialogue could continue later

A bird in the hand. . . .

Be aware of people who can MAKE CONNECTIONS
Some time ago, a very interesting article was published by the New Yorker magazine entitled
“Six degrees of Lois Weisberg” which described how people who move in many circles and have loose connections with many different groups, can be powerful agents of change. With the advent of social media, this has become an area that has received a lot of research coverage (see here)

Lois and Kevin : well connected people


Be IMAGINATIVE In your campaigns
One example of this concerns a campaign that one of the London Citizens groups undertook against a government agency that was not giving a good service to some of the people using it. After being repeatedly rebuffed by the centre management, Citizens decided to get their information in a different way. Winningly, they obtained testimonies from many people by the simple expedient of stationing a burger van in the Car Park and talking to the people who used it.

Now any ordinary burger van would have been removed promptly by security.

But this was no ordinary burger van.

It was staffed by Nuns.

The security team simply could not take the chance of being seen to manhandle nuns off the premises. Let’s just pause for a moment to think about the conversations that were happening in the security department during this time.. . .

And the end result? Hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent in improving the service the centre offered.

A burger van can be a force for social change. . . when staffed by nuns

Links
CitizensUK
Change Agency(Australia) - lots of good stuff here
History of Community Organising in the UK
A list of Community organising resources
The Citizens Handbook

Image Sources
Earth, March, Complexity, Ken Clarke, Map, Wembley, Table, Kevin Bacon, Van

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Bigging up Rushcliffe Country Park

Easily the best country park in the East Midlands, Rushciffe Country Park, easily the best in the East Midlands, has been the playground of choice for the BFTF kids for many years. They affectionately call it the "Choo-Choo Train Park" due to its location next to the Heritage Railway Centre and have spent hundreds of child-hours in the playground, playing football in its green spaces and walking around the beautiful and wildlife-rich lake with Mr and Mrs BFTF.


The Lake, yesterday

Constantly evolving, recent years have seen the introduction of an outstanding BMX track, improved play equipment and, most recently, a labyrinth.

A labyrinth only has one path, think of it as Maze-lite

Regarding this latest addition to the parks long list of features, it is interesting to see how a simple (if rather elegant) circular arrangement of packed sand and bricks has on passers by. They seem drawn towards it like nails to a magnet. And for many (including the BFTF crew), simply walking around it is not enough. It gets competitive. A race begins, parents vs children, Mum vs Dad.

Who will win?

Somewhat surprisingly, Mum!

The labyrinth, Minotaur currently off sick with flu

Another aspect of the park that has particularly impressed BFTF is the cleanliness of the green spaces, which means that a game of football can be played without worry about what one might tread in (a far cry from the state of parks in BFTF's own youth)

The park has an interesting history as a WW2 bomb factory and then as a military surplus auction site, before being converted to the park that it is today. Incidentally, it's worth noting that consideration was given to the lant being used for housing instead of as a park - what a loss to the East midlands it would have been if that course of action had been taken.

You can read more about these aspects of the parks history at its Wikipedia entry, at the Friends of Rushcliffe Country Park and also the Ruddington History website.

BFTF is always keen to say "well done" when the opportunity arises, as it is so easy to fall into the habit of only communicating with organisations when one wants to complain.

So a wee email has been sent to the park management and the Friends of the Park to say thank you for all their efforts.

The Friends website is certainly worth a look as it shows just how much they have managed to get done over the years - and how they have consulted with local people about what the park needed. The organisation looks like a great one to volunteer for and should certainly be on the shortlist of any DoE youngsters!

He might look cute, but he can break you arm

Friday, 23 March 2012

Spiders need better PR

BFTF was on holiday from work today, and took the opportunity to spend some time in the garden - which proved to be surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable.

In fact, the sights and sounds of the wildlife all around were a significant distraction that kept diverting BFTF's attention.

For example, there was a robin who spent a lot of time at the top of a neighbours tree singing away. When not singing, he seemed to have a circuit of gardens to visit and would periodically pop by to snap up a creepy crawly before continuing on his way.



Robin in a tree giving it a bit of Tom Jones

The same Robin, about to take something out in clinical, Leon stylee


In fact, by the end of the day, BFTF was so attuned to the sounds of the different birds that it could tell the difference between a Robin and, say, the electric drill being used by the builders up the road. Impressive, no?

This Sparrow was taking on all comers, he was well 'ard


One of the tasks that needed doing was to give the lawn its first-cut-of-the-year, which proved harder than expected due to the need to keep stopping so that Ladybirds in the lawn could be picked up and relocated them somewhere safer where they were not in danger of getting Flymo'ed (as BFTF is rather fond of these wee creatures).

Lots of Ladybirds in the grass. . .


But why do Ladybirds have such a soft spot in peoples hearts? Why will people happily let a ladybird crawl over their hand, but would not be happy to have a spider do the same thing.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that Ladybirds are slow so that there is no danger of them suddenly racing up your sleeve,

And of course Ladybirds do not bite. As a general rule, biting people will not get you into their good books (although BFTF did once share ownership of a Giant African Land Snail, which would gnaw on peoples fingers in a gentle can't-really-do-any-damage kind of way). The snail was called Sammy, by the way, because that works for both males and females, and snails are notoriously sexually ambiguous.

Sammy as a baby, on a slice of cucumber


Sammy a few months later, trying to give someone a manicure


Another factor that works in Ladybirds favour is the supportive press that they get. Having a range of childrens clothing named after you, or being the logo for one of the most famous childrens book titles is a PR coup that money simply can't buy.

So, bearing all that in mind, what advice can be given to spiders, for example, to improve their image so that peoples first reaction to seeing them is not to reach for the nearest newspaper. . .

Advice to Spiders
1) Move slowly
2) Don't bite people and cause them extreme pain. Seriously, the spider community needs to have a word with Black Widows because they are really giving spiders as a whole a bad name, and have been doing so for some time.
3) Spiders need to work on their PR. Here are some ideas to get you started:
i) Form a novely spider team that can spin webs that spell out public safety information messages like "Clunk Click Every Trip".
ii) Maybe get more involved in the community, volunteer to help at charity shops, old peoples homes. Become lollipop ladies, stuff like that.
iii) Get on telly. A spider as host of a chat show would do wonders for your image collectively.
iv) Get a new look. Ladybirds have that cool red-and-black thing going, but spiders are mostly black and a bit hairy. It's not helping. As a suggestion maybe spiders should take advantage of all those legs and go for for the urban Adidas look. Or alternatively they could work with Specsavers and develop an Uncle Spider image, it worked wonders for Worther's Originals.

A jumping Spider. Cute he ain't.



Image Sources
All BFTF's own except Jumping Spider


Postscript
On re-reading this post, BFTF notes that it could be read in an allegorical way. That wasn't the intention, but does show just how powerful the forces of imagination and framing can be.


Thursday, 22 March 2012

A short post about Cultural References

An episode of Eastenders this week had one of characters, Shirl, saying "I hate George Michael. Pepsi and Shirley should have drowned him when they had the chance in that pool."

This caused such mirth to science journalist and broadcaster Marcus Chown that he was moved to mention it on Twitter, as you can see below:


A picture of a tweet, earlier today

BFTF absolutely see where Marcus is coming from here, but what was really thought provoking was the fact that the quote was referring to one second clip in a pop video from 1983 - that's nearly 30 years ago. And the track didn't even reach number 1 in the charts, peaking at number 4.

And yet, despite superficially being so obscure, there are probably tens of millions of people in the UK who instantly got the reference.

BFTF wonders how many such common reference points the UK population shares, 100's? 1000's? more?

And what effect has the media fragmentation that has occurred since thre 80's had on the way society absorbs these references?

BFTF also wonders what references are being embedded in our collective memories now? Lord Sugars "You're a lightweight, you're fired" is probably a good candidate, but what else?

What would your nomination be?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Homelessness and Hope Commission


Nottingham Citizens for Sanctuary have launched a commission into the accommodation needs of people seeking sanctuary in Nottingham. The project, called “Homelessness and Hope”, was outlined at Friends Meeting House this week in an event attended by representatives from a number of organisations including local government, the UK borders agency (UKBA) and charities working in this field.

In addition to Nottingham Citizens for Sanctuary, the other driving forces behind the project are the Nottingham and Nottingham Refugee Forum, British Red Cross, Himmah, Faith Action on Poverty and Homelessness and the Church of England.

The commission will focus on the situation faced by asylum seekers and refugees, particularly those who have no recourse to public funds and aims to report by the end of June, with “comprehensive and practical recommendations” to the City Council, UKBA and G4S (who have the contract for asylum seeker accommodation in the Midlands).

The need for the commission was amply illustrated by the testimonies of a number of people who had spent time in the UKBA system. In particular it was hard to hear the stories of parents whose children had never had a bed they could call their own, or had slept on the floor of a caravan so that they could stay in Nottingham to sit their exams.

The Rev Karen Rooms who began the proceedings, recognised that, economically, these were “tough times” and emphasised that the project wanted to get “value for money for taxpayers” and also “common sense solutions that will work for everyone”.

Liz McGuirk, from Citizens for Sanctuary talked of the need to ensure that the commission took advantage of best practice that had been developed elsewhere in the country, in particular mentioning projects in Manchester and Leeds that were worth studying. She also described how the team wished to work with other organisations, including the G4S and UKBA in developing the final report.

Sajid Muhammed, from Himmah, related the story of an elderly gentleman called Ahmed who had been tortured in his country of origin and was seeking sanctuary in Nottingham. Ahmed had not been able to provide the correct documentation so the Home Office had rejected his application and he had since been living rough (at the time he was staying in a shed). Sajid wondered “how this could happen in our city”.

A number of speakers, including the YMCA and UKBA recognised that the sudden removal of much welfare support when a person takes up paid work, even at the minimum wage, makes this change very difficult for people and that some kind of phased transition would be a helpful step forward.

Gail Adams, from UKBA expressed support for the project and commented that the UKBA had “moved a long way in the last three to four years”, pointing out that the long backlogs of cases that were usual have now largely been eliminated. She committed to providing information to the project and to meeting with the project organisers to discuss its findings after its publication and urged the commission to “be specific about what is wrong” so that problems can be fixed.

Andrew Hall, who works in the field of social health, described how substandard accommodation has a significant adverse effect on health, with resulting illnesses such as respiratory complaints costing the NHS some £1.5 - £2.5billion per year. He also commented on the strong correlation between poverty and the prevalence of ailments associated with poor accommodation.

Jon Collins, leader of the city council, pointed out that the council had to work within a legal framework but added that “some aspects of it that are degrading and sometimes gratuitously so”. He also pointed out that homelessness is an issue for a number of communities in the city and that, currently, there simply was not enough social housing available to meet demand.


UPDATE : 12 June 12
BFTF has recently received permission to add one of the, very moving, accounts given by the asylum seekers. The first accounr is from Yusuf, who is a refugee from Dafur in Sudan. The second if from Amina and Saleem, a couple from North Africa. All names have been changed.

Yusuf's testimony
My name is Yusuf and I come from Darfur in the Sudan.

When I was given status in 2010 I had to leave my NASS accommodation 3 weeks later. I had lived in NASS accommodation for 6 years and had a TV, small fridge, DVDs and my computer which I had to throw away because I had nowhere to store them.

Housing Aid told me that they only give accommodation to people who are sick or disabled. For one month I was homeless. With no support I had to sleep outside: I tried to sleep in the mosque and was refused, I slept in a park, under a bridge outside the Broadmarsh Centre or spent all night sitting in the bus station.There was nowhere for me to wash my face and I had to wait till the shops opened before I could go to the toilet. There was nowhere for me to take a shower for the first two weeks, so that my clothes began to smell.

I didn't know where I could get any money. All I had was the money I borrowed from a friend, so for the whole month all I had to eat was dry bread and chips, except for the few days when the Refugee Forum fed me.

What I missed most was not being warm. I was lucky that it did not rain a lot.

Why, I asked myself, having finally got status, am I on the streets?

I often felt degraded and that I was nothing. I also suffered from nightmares.

Amina and Saleem's testimony
AMINA: "Good evening, my name is Amina and this is my husband Saleem and our two twin daughters. They're two and a half. In 2001 my husband and I were living in (a North African country), he was working as a security guard. One evening he caught a gang of thieves stealing from the warehouse. He caught them and called the police. To his relief they arrived quickly. They got out their cars and came over to my husband who they put in handcuffs and bundled into the back of the van.

The criminals had connections that hard working families like ours didn't. My husband was taken away and thrown in a cell while the criminals went free. Needless to say that night my husband didn't come home. I stayed up all night, I stayed up for the following four nights while my husband rotted in a cell. He was released on bail and we fled. He'd made enemies and was wanted. In 2002 we arrived, terrified of being sent back and not knowing the law we didn't claim asylum. We came to Nottingham and moved into a one bedroom apartment rented by Saleem's brother and his wife.

In 2004 my husband was caught without a visa and detained. He was released and on the advice of his solicitor went to claim asylum."

SALEEEM: "I will never forget that interview. I sat down opposite a man who went on to abuse me, call me a liar, aggressively tell me that I was a cheat and had come here to get my hands on benefits. I've worked my whole life, I'm an honest man. It's because I'm honest that I was forced to flee my country. With all this intimidation I left the office, without having completed an asylum claim. I returned to Nottingham and began regularly reporting.

Again I was detained, this time I made an asylum application only for it to be rejected within 72 hours. 72 hours? They made this decision about me, about my life, about the fear I live in of returning to (North African country) in 72 hours. I appealed and was released and once again returned to Nottingham."

AMINA: "Two years went by. By this time we had been living in Britain with my husband's brother for seven long years. I was getting older and with no idea how many more years the Home Office would make us wait for a decision on the appeal. I got pregnant and in 2009 our two twin girls were born. They are my joy and my whole world. Together with our two twins we returned to my brother in law's one bedroom apartment where he, his wife, and their daughter were also living. There were now 7 of us in a one bedroom apartment. It was then, that through the post we learned that our appeal had been rejected. We were considering what to do when we received another letter from the Home Office inviting us to claim legacy and so we did in June 2010 and lodged an application for NASS support. Twelve months went by. My daughters took their first steps. They spoke their first words. All in a run down one bedroom apartment together with 5 other people.

By May 2011 my brother in law had to move. He'd supported us for 9 years in that terribly overcrowded one bed apartment. He'd fed, clothed, supported and sheltered us but he had to leave the city. We received notice that our legacy claim had somehow been refused the same week we were turned out onto the street, homeless. Can you imagine what it's like to take your two twins into the street while your husband runs down streets looking for someone he knows to ask for shelter? Social services had been to see us the week before. She knew we were about to be left on the street and refused to help us.

Fortunately a friend was able to shelter us for a time. A lawyer in London suggested we make a Human Rights claim and filed it in October. Having now had several other opinions it turns this was a total waste of time. New evidence of the consequences we face in (North African Country) had emerged and we should have been helped to make a fresh claim, instead this cowboy lawyer led us down the wrong path. I am relieved to say we have now, finally after 9 years in this country, been given access to legal aid with a reputable solicitor who is helping us prepare a fresh claim.

I you all to understand what we have been through, particularly in the last year. Since May 2011 we have moved ten times. Always on the edge of homelessness. A single phone call away. We spent two months living in a friend's place, we had four hours notice when we had to leave. I was at the refugee forum in the city centre when I got the call from my husband. I had no money for the bus and I remember running home crying and screaming because I had no place to take my daughters. One of my girls came down with a fever, she was so distressed we thought she'd stopped breathing. When the ambulance came to collect her I had to give my other daughter to a friend for the night as we had no place to go. Imagine that. Imagine having to give one of your children to someone else's care. We have had to beg everyone we know, one time after we'd been made homeless our solicitor's friend sheltered us for the night. Only on one occasion, having already been made homeless 6 times with two young girls did Social Services help us. They gave us 7 nights in a Bed and Breakfast. I can tell you, we were grateful for the bed but we got no breakfast. At the end of that stay we were turned out on the street, I waited in the cold with my daughters while once again my husband ran around the streets of Nottingham asking anyone he could find to shelter us for the night. For two years we have been in this state, while the border agency holds our applications, with no support whatsoever except for those seven days and nights. My twins have never slept in their own beds. Their whole lives all four of us have had to share a bed. Sometimes a single."

One of the team at Notts Refugee Forum mentioned a more positive incident relating to Amina:

"I recently met up with Amina and was horrified to see that, only having a single push chair, she had carried the other 2.5 year old twin across town. I remembered a woman who came to the Launch offering to help and so I rang her and asked her to try and locate a twin pushchair. She offered to pay for it if she found one. She did find one a day or so later and with money from another source Amina was able to purchase the twin pushchair."

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Scouts visit to Notts Jewish Progressive Synagogue


BFTF had the opportunity to tag along with Cubs from the 92nd Nottingham Scout Group today as they visited the Nottingham’s Progressive Synagogue.

The group was shown around the Synagogue by guide Tanya, who gave a really clear and interesting explanation of Jewish worship, what happens on the Sabbath and how the Torah is read.

It was also great to see the Cubs taking such an interest and asking so many questions.

One of the highpoints for BFTF were seeing the four Torah Scrolls and learning a little about the sad history of one of these, the Austerlitz scroll.

Another aspect of the event that touched BFTF was when Tanya read the Torah, which she did in a very beautiful, melodic way and sang some of the traditional Jewish religious songs (which the children could join in by clapping at the right points.

The architecture of the synagogue was also very beautiful, as can be seen (just) in the picture here.

BFTF certainly also appreciated that Tanya took the time and interest to ask, when covering a topic, to ask about the corresponding Muslims practice.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

This is what is wrong with the NHS Bill

BFTF has been watching the recent media coverage of the Health and Social Care Bill with mounting concern that so many organisations were against it - but BFTF also didn’t quite understand what specific clauses were causing the furore.

Until now.

A Tweet pointed BFTF towards the site of Prof Allyson Pollock (professor of public health research and policy at Queen Mary, University of London). Allyson, with the help of others, has compiled a series of briefing papers on the Bill, each dealing with a few of the clauses of the bill.

One of these, which briefs on Clauses 1,10,11 and 172, contains a very clear, concise and frightening summary of some of the key problems with the bill :


"Whereas primary care trusts (PCTs) act on behalf of the Secretary of State, clinical commission groups (CCGs) will exercise functions in place of the Secretary of State but without a clear primary legislative framework . . The Government deliberately avoids legislating for Commissioning Groups duties with respect to the services that must be provided and the groups to whom they must be provided . . .CCGs are only required to have “a sufficient geographic focus” but the term is not defined.


It really is very frightening stuff.

Oh and by the way, the bill's proposals were not discussed during the 2010 general election campaign, nor were they contained in the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition agreement.

You can out more from those who oppose the bill here:

Nice summary of many of the key points. A lot better than the BFTF post you are reading, to be honest.

A post at Falseeconomy.org.uk giving more details on some of the dangers in the legislation.

And a briefing paper covering similar ground

Also, a moving article against the NHS bill in the Telegraph.

An article by Eoin Clarke on some lobyyists urging that the NHS be dismantled.

In the interests of balance, BFTF should provide some resources in favour of the bill, so here is an article by Baroness Warsi, outlining the Conservative perspective.

And here is a blog post that tries hard to be as even handed as possible.

Letters and Emails
BFTF has challenged the local Conservative Party on a number of these issues via email. They have, it has to be said, responded directly to every point raised. They key points of their responses are shown below :

Regarding Prof Pollock
. . .With regards to your questions about Prof Pollock’s report, it is important to remember that she is a long-time opponent of the introduction of competition into the NHS, and that other academics have taken very different views of the proposals. . .

Regarding providing links to academics supporting the reforms, Notts Conservatives suggested reading the following:
Regards academic reports that support competition in health care, can I suggest the following: Dr Zack Cooper et al , The Economic Journal, Volume 121, Issue 554
Carol Propper, Imperial College London, Healthcare competition saves lives & On the benefits of competition in healthcare
Bloomer, Propper, Seiler and Van Reenen, Stanford The Impact of Competition on Management Quality
Richard Cookson, York University, Impact of reintroducing competition in the English NHS
Regarding Ministerial responsibility
. . There is no alteration to Ministers’ responsibility, only the way in which they are responsible. The Secretary of State’s overarching duty to promote a comprehensive health service does not change, and they will retain ultimate accountability for securing the provision of services with an extensive set of powers to set objectives for and oversee the NHS and ensure that services are being provided effectively. . .
Regarding Geographical areas
. . . CCGs will of course have a geographical area; however these will be of their own defining. CCGs will need to pass a rigorous authorisation test before being given freedom to manage local NHS budgets, and the NHS Commissioning Board’s role in this is to ensure that CCGs are set up in such a way that all GP practices are members of a commissioning group and that there is comprehensive geographic coverage. . .
Regarding increasing the amount of private work allowed in NHS hospitals from 3% to 49%?
. . . The bill looks to enshrine in law the fact that the absolute maximum of their income that can come from private funds is 49%. This ensures that hospitals remain predominantly public funded. The 49% is a maximum, not a target, and indeed many foundation trusts will likely remain at their current 2-4% income from private sources. Ultimately the NHS has been generating private income since 1948. Currently profits from specialised services that are largely delivered privately go to shareholders of those private companies. The coalition partners would rather see that money benefiting the NHS. Hospitals such as Great Ormand Street , which provide special services, can reinvest funding from private sources to the benefit of the NHS. Indeed, GOH already receives something like 10% of its income from private funding.. . .

Other pro-reform / neutral articles (dug out by BFTF)
An article by Baroness Warsi, outlining the Conservative perspective.

And here is a blog post that tries hard to be as even handed as possible.

The "Block the Bridge" protest event against the bill.


Petitions (probably a bit late now, but left on post for refernce)
You may wish to sign one or more of the petitions calling for the government to halt this bill:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/last_chance_to_save_the_nhs/

http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/Protect_our_NHS_Petition

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/22670

Image Source : Wikipedia

Specific examples of problems with the NHS Bill


Sorry, I've moved this post to here