Tag Archives: BIG SOCIETY

IS THIS OUR CIVIL SOCIETY?


The ramblings of a disconcerted citizen

In uncertain times the ideas of a civilised society are tested almost to breaking point, but the point of a real civilised society is that it is able to protect the most vulnerable in society at the times they are most in need.

Over the past few years it appears to me that our civil society structure is being tested possibly beyond breaking point.

We are told by our politicians that we are “all in this together”, while at the same time advocating damaging policies that seem to be aimed at the most vulnerable in our society.  This is not party political, but a general observation.

It has been revealed in a recent study that with care for the elderly, 20% of our hospitals do not even provide care that would be adequate in law, and over half of the hospitals failed to meet basic standards.  Can this be justified in any society?

Councils up and down the country are closing libraries as they are seen as a “soft” target to cut costs.  The argument is that everyone can use the internet, conveniently forgetting that 20% of households do not have access to the internet, and that certain sections of our society can only access reading material and the internet via libraries.

Of course these sections of our communities tend to be the old; young; unemployed; disabled; single parents and those in poverty.  In other words, those at the margins of our society and the most vulnerable.

Assessment’s for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the general stigmatisation of anyone with a disability who claims benefits in the national press is yet another cause for concern.  The many stories that are told by those with physical and mental disabilities about how they have been treated in their assessments for benefits are quite horrific.  Indeed so horrific, that the process itself quite often exacerbates any illness the applicant has.

Mental illness has been at the forefront of this injustice.  It appears to be the case, that it is acceptable to refuse people ESA on the most flimsy of grounds and to provide an assessment in a short period of time with a tick sheet mentality.

We all know that the diagnosis of a mental illness can take a long time, even years, and many mental illnesses can change on a day by day or even hour by hour basis.  So how can an assessment be made so quickly that will affect the living standards and quality of life of an individual and their family?

I could give many examples, whether from those suffering from Bipolar; depression; social anxiety; personality disorders and so on.  One day that person could be fit for work, the next they may be completely incapacitated.  Yet the criteria for those making decisions that will affect the wellbeing and health of a human being is being stripped down to a tick sheet and the need to cut costs.  It appears that no consideration is being given to the consequences of these decisions, even if it means in a minority of cases, death.

Mental health services are also being stretched to breaking point with the need to make space for the next patient in a crisis being paramount.

It strikes me that those with mental illnesses are the easy targets for the powers that be.  Our society is becoming a case of “WHO SHOUTS LOUDEST”. Whether it is the young; the elderly; those in social need or the ill, they have become the easy targets. The question is, why should people have to fight to be treated with respect?  It is clear that many in mental distress will find it most difficult to fight against an unjust decision by benefit agencies, which must be known by those implementing the policies.

It now appears from the evidence of real people at the sharp end that the safety net is no longer catching all those it was set up to help.

I have to ask, IS THIS REALLY OUR CIVIL SOCIETY?

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What are the causes of the riots? : An impossible question but one we have to ask

Later today the great and the good in the House of Commons will discuss the riots the country has been subject to for the past 5 days.  In some ways my heart sinks at the thought.  The temptation to sink into the comfort of party politics and ideological prejudices I fear will be too difficult to resist.

That is not to say I have not heard some level headed comments by MP’s, but it does not take long before the ugliness creeps in as it could be seen with Baroness Warsi and Diane Abbott on Newsnight yesterday.  The temptations to blame the Labour Government or to point out that riots seem to happen under the watch of the Conservative Party could not be resisted.

Then we have the likes of David Davies who was blaming the lack of control on the streets of Britain on the criticisms of the Police in the past.  We apparently are not allowed to criticise the Police when they use Kettling, or when police officers accept money for information, or contribute to the deaths of innocent people like Mr Tomlinson.  he obviously perceives this on the agenda of “its the fault of the left”.

What will undoubtedly come out of the commons debate will be the universal condemnation of the violence which I am sure we would all agree with.  The feeling in the country that the people causing the mayhem, violence and looting need to be caught and severely punished.  Law and Order and confidence in the Police needs to be restored.

It is also the case that we should support the Police in the way they have dealt with a situation that was unforeseen and difficult.  I have no criticism in the way the riots were dealt with with the resources they have in a society where they police on the basis of consent and not coercion.

There are clearly 2 issues we need to address. One is to restore Law and Order and severely punish those who have acted in such a disgraceful manner bringing our communities to the brink of anarchy – The Second Issue however is far more complex and that is, what is the cause of the rioting and the fostering of values in a section of society that is abhorent to most people.  However this is actually the wrong question. The real question is

What are the causes

I have already heard people come up with the simplistic “cause” approach – its poverty, or its the family, or its inequality, or most ridiculously its the cuts.  These explanations are as simple as they are stupid.

Lets also be clear – looking for the deep rooted long term causes does NOT excuse the acts of violence and looting, but as Tony Blair eloquently put it, we need to deal with “crime and the causes of crime”. Unfortunately, as with so much Tony Blair said, he was great on rhetoric, and very poor on substance, he never did deal with the causes.

In my view the only way to come to a conclusion in what is happening to our society and why these values pervade a section of our society is for us all to step back and analyse deep seated traits of our society, to speak to people who actually engage with the people engaging in this behaviour and to throw off the shackles of our political prejudices and ideologies.

A full public enquiry needs to be undertaken and nothing should be off the table for discussion, this is the only way to come to a conclusion and to begin to address the causal issues in order to make our society as a whole a better place to live and to prevent this descent into sickening acts of depravity.

I have been racking my brain over the last few days to come up with reasons why people can act in the way they have in the rioting.  Sometimes I can only come up with the questions and not the answers – other times I feel I have an understanding of how we have got to where we are – at others I am simply at a loss.

For what it is worth – these are my thoughts:

1) Looking at society and the way it has developed over the past 35 years, there is no doubt in my mind that we have become a more selfish and materialistic society.  Money and materialism is the mantra of our society, it is our new religion.  As a pithy remark – perhaps we could engage people to vote in the political process if we told them they would get a new pair of Adidas trainers at the polling station!

The instant gratification society we now live in is likely to cause problems in a time of austerity due to the way we encourage the idea that we can all have what we want when we want it.

When I was a child in the 1970’s, I was taught that you saved your money and bought items when you could afford them.  Buying items “on the knock” or what we now refer to as “buying on credit” was frowned upon.  You live within your means.

Our financial system however is built on credit, creating money that does not exist until it is paid back.  We previously trusted financial institutions when they leant us money, but those very same institutions changed the rules and told people they could borrow far more than they could afford; that it was ok to have whatever we want NOW, and to worry about it later.  This aided economic growth for 30 years, but has now thrown us into a stagnating state of austerity that we will probably endure for a decade or more.

This is what happens when you “live for today” and don’t care about tomorrow. Is it any wonder that those who are on the fringes of our society think they are entitled to whatever they want when they want it?

2) Are some of the rioters doing just what other so called “responsible” members of our society have been doing for years.  Do we have any so called role models left?

We see MP’s who rip off the country’s tax payers on mass effectively steeling millions of pounds in expenses while telling the country they are subjecting themselves to wage restraint and building property empires while a housing crisis ensues in our communities.

Bankers who have brought the country’s finances to its knees, who are bailed out and effectively nationalised, where the risk is taken away – and yet they award themselves enormous bonuses for taking risks that do not exist.

Journalists and newspapers break the law at will and are not held to account for years even though it is openly admitted – all to obtain more money for their publications.

A celebrity culture that says you can earn money for notoriety and not for achieving something constructive.

Time and again those at the upper echelons of our society do not get what they deserve proving we do not live in a meritocracy but a nepotistic one, awarding failure and cutting off opportunities for others.

3) Family life – It is clear that the behaviour of a section of our society do not know the difference between right and wrong.  Boundaries have been taken away and some families are completely dysfunctional. We need to be brave and ask why? Frank Field investigated this and wrote a paper handed to the government 8 months ago.  It was kicked into the long grass by the government, but we need to investigate this further and not simply give a tax break to married couples which is as useless as handing them a chocolate tea pot.

4) Education – How can we as a society accept that 17% of 15 year olds are affectively illiterate.  How can we not see the correlation between illiteracy and crime when 70% to 80% of those in prison cannot read and write.  How can we accept a post code lottery on whether children go to a good or bad school. Giving people poor education is the equivalent of shutting the door of aspiration in their faces.

Why is it that teachers have their hands tied behind their backs in preparing the boundaries of behaviour for our young people and why are they not backed up by some of the parents?  How can we change this culture?

5) Social mobility – Our society today has not been as unequal as it is today since the 1920’s.  After WWII our society became more integrated, more equal in terms of wealth, wealthier and social mobility increased. In the past 30 years this trend has been reversed, is this a coincidence?

6) Law and Order – Michael Howard said “Prison Works” – 20 years later we have been told by Kenneth Clarke that “prison does not work”.  In truth they are both wrong.  Prison works when it protects the public from dangerous people.  The public would like our justice system to provide sentencing that is equitable with their crimes.

When you have dangerous violent crimes being given light sentences; when you get people convicted of knife crime getting a few months in jail and serving less than a third of their sentence; when you get MP’s like Jim Devine sentenced to 16 months in prison for ripping off the tax payer and abusing the highest office in the land and yet is released after serving only a quarter of the sentence, is it any wonder people do not believe they will be either caught or punished?

I am all for more community sentencing and alternative forms of punishment and a focus on rehabilitation, BUT people need to know that people convicted of serious crimes are severely punished and that there are the prison places available for them.

7) Lack of Community – Our overwhelming pre-occupation with the individual and the lack of “belonging” seems to run throughout our society.  I do not wish to make a political point, just a fact that we need to face up to, and that is that we devastated communities in the 1980’s, most of which have never recovered.  I have lived in various areas of the country and until recently, I had not lived in a real “community” since I was a child in Birmingham.  Political leaders like to give lip service to community, but I doubt if many actually know what it really means.

8)  We accept unemployment is acceptable in our society – I am well aware of the poverty trap and welfare dependency, but we have a systemic problem that unemployment is accepted as a part of our system.  Indeed it is a necessity in order to suppress wages and to encourage people to do the jobs the rest of us do not want to do.  Should we now question this approach?

None of these possible causes on their own is a reason for an anti-culture in our society, but they all need to be investigated and considered.  It is the combination of many factors that creates the society in which we live and if we want to prevent this “underclass” from growing larger in numbers and for this complete disregard for civilised values to stop, we need to have a good look at ourselves and how we can break this cycle.

PROUD TO BE BRITISH: The Aftermath of the Royal Wedding

Guest Author: Jonathan Pims

So it is the morning after the day before.  I really feel wonderful today, the sun is shining, the streets are gleaming and the birds are singing like never before.  Just as the Prime Minister, David Cameron said many months ago, this was just what the country needed to lift it’s spirits in these uncertain times.

As the Royal couple look to the Gods thanking them for the wonderful weather, they contemplate their rightful position at the head of our countries hopes and dream, while the people look up admiringly.

What a wonderful scene.

The World looked on yesterday in awe at the way our society is organised, and how well we celebrate a wonderful day for the great and the good.

In true British tradition, all was forgotten for a day, as we opened the bubbly before 11 am draped in the Union Flag.

But this was not about a day, but about the country as a whole.  We can now look forward and not back, no more thoughts of austerity or recession; job losses or cuts.  No more worries about the NHS or our meritocracy, why should we worry when the context has finally been put into it’s rightful place.

There were jokes on twitter about the crowds being the start of the queue for the AV referendum!  Of course now, after yesterday, no referendum is needed.  Why would anyone want to vote to change the system we have.  If an event could sum up our true beliefs as British people, it was the Royal Wedding.  Lets celebrate the hereditary principle.

The House of Lords has worked fantastically well for the last 100 years so why change it?  The Blairite attacks on our representative democracy by getting rid of the majority of our hereditary peers was simply an act of vandalism, an attack on the people, an attack on our constitution.  It was no wonder he stopped reform when he did.

We need a system for stability, not change. A system that can bring strong government that we can be proud of, where a minority can rule over the majority, imposing their will on people that never voted for them.  Only First Past the Post can do this.  It is so important we keep this system, where the constitution ensures that our political system goes from the top down and not from the bottom up.

Socialism and its ideals nearly destroyed this country over the last 60 years.  The so called “democratic movement” and those calling for “constitutional change” are simply socialists by any other name.

People don’t want more power, more accountability, or more say in their affairs.  By all means let them sort out their own communities social problems in the Big Society as we withdraw support from the councils, after all they have also been infiltrated by these socialists.  But when it comes to democracy, people know where they stand.  As the picture above shows, the people look up to their betters and they look down knowingly.  This is how it was always meant to be, its the best way, the only way.

Those campaigning for the yes to AV vote in the referendum just don’t get what is great about the British and the British constitution.  Up until a few years ago, and disgracefully changed without even a debate, we were subjects and not citizens.  In my view it should have stayed this way.

A society can move forward and be at peace with itself when we know where we stand.  The monarchy, House of Lords, Disproportionate amount of power for a few politicians  in the House of Commons, a Police force that will uphold the rule of law and take out newspaper sellers who defy the authorities, this is how it is meant to be.

We were born to be ruled by the elite, a small group of people who were born to rule, and educated to carry out their order, without interference by the ill educated masses or ethnic minorities.

Many attempts have been made to encroach  on our freedoms.  Health and Safety Fascists; Environmental socialists; and a Human Rights act that actually takes away our freedoms telling us how we should treat our own people.  What right do they have to put limits on our rulers?

The church has shown itself exactly why it is at the heart of our constitution. Rightly attached and embedded into our constitution with our head of state.  In a secular society this is just what we need.

Thank God, AV has been buried by this show of Britishness.  The Royal Wedding has taken away the recession blues and the threat to our constitution.  There is no need to be depressed at economic meltdown or the rise in homelessness.  This is the way it should be.  No need to reduce the amount of safe seats in parliament or increasing accountability, it is the way it is supposed to be.

Those that still, after all we have seen over the last few days, vote for AV should be ashamed of themselves.  The fact that the BNP are campaigning against AV is just a double bluff of extremism.  AV is an attack on the very nature of our Britishness, trying to assert the extremism of meritocracy on an unsuspecting nation.

I am so proud to be British, to be where I am in society.  I doff my cloth cap with the rest of the nation to the Royals, Lords and MP’s, and to the way things are and have always been.

I love my country for the way it is. I am proud to be British.

cc

MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS INCREASE IN THE UK: 40% rise in anti-depressant prescriptions

The health news of the day is that there has been a 40% increase in prescriptions of anti-depressants .  The news bulletins are linking this to the worries about money now the economy has nose dived and unemployment is on the rise.

This however, should not be a surprise to anybody.  It is well known that when the economy falters and a recession ensues the rates of suicides increase and with it the rates of mental health problems, depression and anxiety.

Mental Health organisations like Mind, Samaritans, and  smaller mental health charities like Changes find an increase in enquiries when a recession hits.

Health services in the UK are being stretched, in the last year alone referrals for talking therapies rose four-fold to nearly 600,000, Department of Health figures show.

Suicide rates have been on the rise for some time and are approaching the 6,000 mark.  Three times the amount of people killed on the roads and nearly six times the amount of homicides in the UK, more details on these figures can be seen here.

At a time when mental health services, as inadequate as they are, are being squeezed by the cuts, as they are perceived to be the harder outcomes to definitively prove successful.

Mental Health, unlike many other illnesses is not a one stop shop.  CBT for some and anti-depressants for others, is not the way it is treated.

Early intervention is key to prevent people being sucked into a life of dysfunctionality, yet the way society and companies in our fragile economy stigmatise the mentally ill, many will not seek help until the illness is well advanced.  This is even more worrying considering the extent of the increase in anti-depressant prescriptions just over the last 4 years.

I would expect the prescription rate to rapidly increase further as the economic crisis deepens, unemployment rises and the costs of other remedies other than drugs are cut.

Sadly, none of this should be a surprise to anyone.

OTHER MENTAL HEALTH POSTS

The weak shall inherit the earth
IAPToo good to be true
Changes Bristol
Madness What Madness?

MEDIA DESPAIR: Why the March for an Alternative has been hijacked by the government

The past few days have been exceedingly depressing.  The media has seemingly done the coalition’s job for it and taken their side hook, line and sinker.

The media’s thirst for the sensational has now had the drip, drip, drip affect into the public’s conscience.  Lets forget about why people were marching look there are people with balaclava’s on.  “Oh those nasty anarchists” the BBC and SKY news pundits cry.

The newspapers all lead with the violence except for the Guardian who put it into it’s proper perspective.  Even the independent went down the classic editors route of putting burning flames on the cover to sell more copies.  All quite pathetic.

Half a million protesters, a carnival atmosphere, working class, middle class, upper class – marching together with their families through the streets of London to show the government the masses disapproval. What do we get at the end of it??  The Home Secretary Theresa May saying they are looking into banning face masks.  How ridiculous.

The media has to take a massive hit here, not in blaming the messanger, but in massively creating a story far larger than it warrantied ahead of the real main story.

I have never seen so many column inches and television broadcasts over a few hundred idiots who decided to cause trouble over half a million – yes I will say that again HALF A MILLION  people demonstrating against a regime of economics that could plunge our country into despair.

I have no problem in the media covering the violence, just on the amplification ahead of what was a peaceful and dramatic expression of ordinary hard working peoples will in our country.

As for Theresa May, whatever next? Lets just ban all demonstrations that should sort out the problem.  Lets stop people from wearing a scarf in winter, or the Burqa, all these nasty people, just so sinister.

What we should be concentrating on is not the head dress worn by a few idiots but the policies being inflicted on the country.

UK uncut have done many things that are excellent in bringing awareness to the hypocrisy of corporations and Bankers, and their occupations of some buildings turning them into useful public areas has been excellent to see.  This is thoughtful and off the wall direct action that adds to the mix.

Smashing a few windows and bringing objects to throw at the police and causing violence is ridiculous and splits the public.  The 2 things are not the same and the idiots who use these tactics only serve to do what they always do and that is split the left, or turn a sizeable section of the masses against the demonstrators.

This couldn’t have been hijacked any better if David Cameron had hired a bunch of hooligans to discredit the no to cuts campaign.

The media need to take a large proportion of the blame for this, but so do the small amount of people who left their brains behind on Saturday.

300,000 + PROTESTERS MARCH IN LONDON: David Cameron would be a fool to ignore the masses

What a day, Up to half a million people marching through the capital on a sunny spring day.  Men. women and children of all classes, races and backgrounds marching against the cuts but more importantly FOR an alternative.

The day went brilliantly with a carnival atmosphere and far more people than were anticipated either by the unions or the Police.

The numbers as ever are disputed as to exactly how many were marching.  It was initially reported 100,000 were marching, this based on TUC estimated numbers who would turn up.  This went up to around 250,000 by 2pm.  In the evening the BBC reported half a million marching through London, but by the late night news this had returned to the 250,000 + figure and the Police “would not comment”.

So why were they marching?? The following videos give just a brief window on how the cuts will affect our society.

The news coverage was interesting to see.  The Miliband speech was shown for some of the time by the BBC on a split screen showing a balaclava clad group who had split from the main demonstration intent on causing trouble.  Not quite what Mr Miliband would have liked!

The very sad but inevitable consequence of the media coverage was the over emphasis on the break away group some of whom (in their tens) caused trouble trying to commit violence.

I noticed on Twitter the usual suspects pouncing on the sight of people in balaclava’s and trying to smear the entire demonstration, notably the fairly despicable Tim Montgomerie. Last week trying to gain political capital out of the Libyan conflict and today trying to discredit half a million peaceful and concerned protesters fighting for their own communities.

Nevertheless, the majority of the coverage was on the good natured aspect of the demonstration.

The right wing and coalition commentators in the media were trying to portray this as a fringe extreme movement of unions.  The stereotypical way in which the coalition sees our society is quite bizare. Unions who are democratic organisations, representing ordinary (hard working) individuals who would be classed as the ever talked about hard working families in political speak.

Of course far fewer of them will be “hard working”, when they have been made unemployed.  Many of course were anything but union members.  Whole families of people from students to pensioners marched to show their discontent with the status quo of politics and the lack of fairness in our society.

The whole of our “Big” society is being attacked by the short term interests of a few while being cloaked in the faltering BIG SOCIETY by FLASHMAN DAVE.

Ed Miliband finally decided to speak at the demonstration.  Sadly, he does not represent the “alternative”.  As yet the Labour party does not have a coherent alternative to the failures of the past, clinging on to the old economic orthodoxy that got us into this mess.

The real message from today’s overwhelming showing of support for an alternative is that any government who simply dismisses the concerns of the public will be dealt a dramatic blow at the ballot box.

This is one alternative put forward:

The Blair administration did not realise what happens if you ignore the masses.  The 1 million that turned out against the Iraq war were resoundingly ignored not by one party but by Parliament. The coalition risk major political fallout if they ignore another mass show of discontent with a path taken by the government.

Labour lost 4 million votes on the back of the disaster that was Iraq.  This coalition cannot afford to lose even half that.

To ignore the masses would be folly but I believe that is exactly what the coalition will do.  They have chosen a course, both LibDems and Conservatives, together the CONDEMS will pursue an agenda with the overriding objective to get to the next general election in tact and hope for an economic recovery.  At the expense of the many while the few get away with tax avoidance, squireling away money to UK encouraged tax havens and Banks carry on business as usual.

I heard a Tory commentator today stating that this is an unusual situation and they have “no choice” but to enact the cuts as described so that in future we do not have to cut public services again in the future.  The strange thing is that every time the conservative party get into power they always do the same thing.

In the early 80’s they blamed Labour, in the 1990’s they did it again while still talking about the “winter of discontent”!, which is why they so resoundingly wiped out at bthe election in 1997.  They couldn’t blame Labour that time.

Now they are doing it again.  The agenda is always the same, mass privatisations and public service cuts while demonising sectors of society.  Is this a trend or am I just believing this evil deficit denying lefty rhetoric??

The course is set and it is one we have seen many times before over the past 30 years.  Lets hope that communities that exist today still do so after the next 4 years, unlike in the 1980’s.

MARCH FOR THE ALTERNATIVE: March 26 London 2011

The time has come for an alternative to be put forward.  Labour has failed to make the case, impotent Balls and Miliband have left it to the rest of us to shout loudest and make a case.

Sadly I cannot be with the marching thousands today in London, I feel very guilty about this, however I am certainly there in spirit and thinking of the ways we can oppose the devastating cuts we are about to endure and how we can challenge the economic orthodoxy we have endured for the last 30 years which marches on in all the political parties.

The Virtual Protest site gives an opportunity to be involved which is an excellent idea.  have a look if you have not seen it.  The images are very creative.

I sincerely hope that there will be a big following at the march so that the government realises what it is up against.  This will probably be the only time society can show just how against the course this government has taken we are, and how the lies it has espoused and the lack of mandate it has, de-legitimises it’s actions.

A big turn out today, without violence will show the coalition it has tough times ahead.

May the 5th will also be a key date in the diary.  But with such few alternatives to vote for, it will be difficult other than a protest vote to make a dent in the arrogance of the coalition.

Good luck with the March.