Greater Manchester IS the starting point of the EU Regions Development Strategy

Last week Mr George Gideon Osborne went to Manchester to provide the people with a new Mayor & promises of a New Northern Powerhouse to rival London.

Proceed With Extreme caution Mancunians

This is not some deal just put together to make the North-v-South divide disappear. This is part of regional development strategy that will see the
British Isles sliced up into regions. Yes the very regions you vote in for in the EU elections. I’m not joking about this. These plans have been slowly coming to fruition over the past few EU Parliamentary Terms.

It is assumed that we will all sit back & meekly allow not only our country but even parts of our geographical sense of who we are. For example Greater Manchester also covers Bury, Ramsbottom & Heywood. However, when I was growing up these old Mill towns were in the County of Lancashire. In fact since the change to Greater Manchester, that “new label” has never been used by the vast majority of native Lancastrians. We always have & always will refer to ourselves as being Lancashire folk because we are proud Lancastrians!

Only 2 years ago the good people of Manchester voted against having an elected mayor! Here we are 2 years later and not only has the Localism Bill fallen by the wayside but so to has the will of the people!

This has been coming for a long time yet the people have not been given a say, many most likely had no idea this announcement was going to happen let alone that they were going to be the guinea pigs of this great EU Venture.

We have heard that there is a Greater Birmingham proposal which is in the very near offing. To quote Dudley Labour Council Leader, Cllr David Sparks, “a greater Birmingham is Not Only DESIRABLE BUT is INEVITABLE!”

Wait just one cotton picking minute Mr Sparks what about what the people want? The residents of Dudley are proud of their Black Country roots, do you really believe that they will want to be part of a Greater Birmingham? I jolly well doubt it! Will they get a say? Is it too late to save them from this desirable & inevitable state of their Region?

Since the first draft of this blog it has happened! The discussions have been had and 5 authorities have now come together to form some sort of “alliance”! This is not the end of the scheme as soon as Coventry, Solihull & the Shires get on board that will bring about the EU Region as designed by the EU! You may think blimey she’s lost the plot. I can assure you I lost my plot years ago! I do not want my native Lancashire nor the Black Country, Cornwall, Kent or Essex, Middlesborough or Edinburgh becoming the big cities who feed down to the small town councils the crumbs they have left! I know Birmingham Council have to make £300 million of cuts! So if the proposals go ahead how much will these cities take from the budget? You have a think about it, sit and just ask yourself what is the most likely way these cuts will be met?

Sadly, I know of a door, deep inside the EU Parliament (Brussels Annexe) which has on its front not just a number BUT also has the name plate “Greater Birmingham Development Office” (Yes it’s over a few rows to fit on the door!).

Behind this door the Regional Development process for Greater Birmingham is being worked on as you read this! As Cllr Sparks is chairman of Local Government Association (or some such grandiose title which likely commands a hefty allowance too) he will be all to familiar and up to date with this yet he’s not provided the people he serves with full and frank disclosure on this matter.

It would seem to me that they will keep these secrets from us all until it is too late for any of us to change it! So I don’t expect any announcements relating to any of this until after the 2015 elections!

When you hear the plans in June 2015 or just after please remember this blog because you may find your local area being simply known as Region 3 or Region 4 etc!

http://www.agma.gov.uk/

http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/eia

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Anybody’s Child – ChatBack Production

Very busy evening last night. Two important functions attended. First of all the Premier of the latest Chatback Production.

This film group is made up of kids in care. The latest film “Anybody’s Child” was written & performed by kids from the group. A very emotive film about how easy, how fast & how kids can easily become embroiled in Child Sexual Exploitation.

The kids as ever did a fabulous job. The DVD will be no doubt for sale & it is something every family should be aware of. As soon as the DVD is out on sale I will let people know.

A close family friend is involved with the film so I will be quite happy to send people their way to get a copy. I really hope every school will be buying a copy to show to each year group.

I was very proud to be invited & to see the kids doing something very poignant. I’ve had the pleasure of attending the last 2 premiers. By the way Josie Lawrence has again given her time to be in the film. She is such a great supporter of the things the kids have done she’s been in every film I think

Then we were off to UKIP Stourbridge branch event at the Hare & Hounds. The ever lovely & thoughtful Margot Parker MEP gave up her time to speak at the event.

She told people about how she became involved in politics, the hardship endured by those who don’t have private means to fall back on however sheer determination can see you through on relatively little because you invariably still have more than those who come to you for help.

It was a message of hope. That no matter how financially poor you are, in UKIP you must graft, work with the intention of helping make life better for those locally, get involved nationally etc. The key message being that UKIP is an extended family whereby we all look out for each other.

We help people in all regions in every practical way possible whether it be sorting out ASB or the ever glamourous litter picks. There is always a way to help & help people a few at a time.

I’m with Margot & am fully on board with the UKiP family. It’s how we work, it’s how we can support each other to do what we do.

Ps; pain meds worn off so I’m awake waiting for time when I can take my next does. Must remember to get to the chemist later, I’ve run out out of a few of my meds so need to get them or I will be bonkers barmy with pain later!

Diabolical situation in Social Housing/Private rental properties

Over the past year or so I have helped a number of families and residents. I will not reveal any details of the people as that is a breach of their confidentiality, so I will give basic details so that I can show how they and countless others no doubt are living in conditions that quite frankly are no better than the old slums of the 1890’s!

Family number One

This family had been on the waiting list for over 8 years. They had a notice to quit their current accommodation yet they were put on the lowest band so no matter how often they bid on homes they liked and would like to live in they were never considered. It was apparent that the band was incorrect and they should be actually in Band 2 rather than Band 6.

With a few e-mails, a few weeks, a bit of investigation and some legalese contained in the letters this family were eventually offered a suitable property and moved in on the day they would have been made homeless.

Family number Two

This family lived in a completely unsuitable property. Due to disabilities and illness the property was simply not fit for purpose. One family member was unable to use climb any stairs at all. They were reduced to descending the out stairwell on their bottom and crawling back up on their hands and knees. This was not only undignified but was also extremely painful. Inside the property the family member could not access the upper floor, they had no option but to sleep on the couch in the living room. They also had to have a commode brought so that they had some sort of toilet facilities, as they couldn’t access their bathroom! It was a very dire state of affairs. Again rules stated were that one had to be a resident of good standing for two years before an application could be made for a property exchange.

I don’t know about you but I knew how different life can change in two years and this seemed like a rather arbitrary period of time. This family had been contacting the relevant people and departments but each time they met the same barriers. After a good few months of trying and getting nowhere they contacted me.

I started the ball rolling, had to get other agencies involved but I am happy to say the family have now got the keys for a disabled adapted property and move in very soon. The family member will now have access to a bed, toilet and washing facilities etc.

UPDATE

This family have now moved into the new property, they are very happy despite a few odd remedial repairs to be undertaken but they have now got access to a bathroom with the adaptions required so things are looking up for them.

Family Number Three

This a particularly harrowing situation for anyone to find themselves in. The family have been in private rented properties for a number of years. Sadly having to move every now and then due to the Landlord’s property being required for use by the owner or in some situations the property being repossessed.

The Landlord of their latest property, despite being aware of the problems and being present at the Pest Control Officers inspection, allowed the family to live in a house that was infested with rats. The family had become severely ill on a number of occasions, they had put it down to various possibilities like a bug picked up from school, work or a dodgy burger/take away the things we would all think of first. None of us would think any different.

The family had been taking medication and doing all they could to keep the infestation under control but it was like trying to turn back the tide (think King Canute) they and their young children were suffering to such a degree that the Landlord should in my humble opinion be prosecuted.

I remained hopeful that this family would be soon found a home, free from non-contributing unwanted guests RATS. They needed a home to start to live normally together and to enjoy a real family life, without moving so often. Alas before the family could think about their future things in the here and now got worse! I had previously suggested that the family contact environmental health and to make an emergency appointment with their GP. I was concerned about health issues, namely Wiels Disease which is a killer.

A member of the Environmental Health team came out and raised worries on a number of issues regarding the property. The rats were one issue but even more worrying was the boiler. Transco were called and within an hour or so the Boiler was condemned. So the family were facing the prospect of not only being infested with rats but also being cold and having no access to hot water to wash in or to clean with.

This was now a matter of life and death there was a boiler that was condemned but due to its position and some faults with its installation it was highly likely the family had been suffering the effects of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

This did escalate the matter somewhat and the council did get the family booked into a hotel as there was category 1 breach. The council where actually on the ball when it came to ensuring the health and safety of the family. This is one time when I can see that Health and Safety laws really do help.

Update

I have fantastic news, the family have now been successful in the bidding process. They have been to view their new home and they accepted it immediately. The family are ecstatic and are looking forward to a more secure future in to their “forever” home.

It has been a slog but must say the council staff have been very helpful and accommodating. The family now have the keys to their new home and are moving in.

There are so many families on Council Housing waiting lists, some living in conditions such as this family or indeed even worse. Most families are forced into private rented properties because there simply are not enough Social Housing properties available for those who need them. Families are being charged rents by these slum landlords that aren’t cheap by any means. Many rents are more than it would cost per month to pay a repayment mortgage on the property, most places in my local area are at least £475 a month! This is for the cheapest properties in the area, rents on average are around £650 for a 2 bedroom house.

Working families find the rents crippling, they can’t save to get a deposit to buy their own home which would cost less per month than the rent. Obviously things a different in the South or in very sought after areas.

Families like those above and many others who find themselves in this situation must fill out countless forms, they often have made request for help from their Councillors and MP but their pleas did not produce any sort of help or assistance. What are these people doing? They are paid to help, support and take up such issues but all to often I hear that despite contacting the elected officials the help is not forthcoming and I suppose that is why people search me out and ask for my help. I am helping people all over the country not just my local area.

Obviously this is just a snapshot of the issues people are facing and in fairness to those involved I have diluted their stories and given scant information. It would be wholly unfair to them, the council area they live in and a breach of confidence.

What is the solution to the housing shortage and slum landlords?

I firmly believe that on the brown field sites in every town and city it would be the best course of action for councils to build houses and to retain them as a real asset. Ok the initial capital outlay could be high but it will give the council assets that could be mortgaged if need be. It will put more social housing in to the system which will save more families from slum style landlords.

Why should the taxpayer fund the pension plans of Slum Landlords
The people who are the usual inhabitants of the slum properties are those on low incomes and those on housing benefit. Why should they be forced to live in such disgusting properties that are full of mould, damp, rats, faulty boilers etc.

Sadly many of these landlords do not even perform the basic checks undertaken such as gas safety! How can they allow people to live in a home that could be killing them? So many people die in winter due to Carbon Monoxide poisoning, they need to put the heating on more often
in cold weather and the results can be disastrous for the inhabitants and others who are close by. It is criminal that families who aren’t well off must suffer at the hands of unscrupulous, uncaring, money grabbing, slum landlords.

No matter how we may wish for a smaller state there are some things in a civilised society that must be controlled by the state. The rise of slum Landlord’s in the past 20 years or so has been exponential. The councils have sold many properties off to residents or Housing Associations. Instead of replenishing stock the councils didn’t, the Government didn’t push that agenda either, it seems they were more interested in collecting the massive revenues from stamp duty on the ever increasing values of houses.

At least there are now 3 families with a secure and stable home, I wish I could help more people and families but I am just one person. I will continue to help all who ask, sadly I cannot ever guarantee outcomes that would be unfair and wrong.

I will always try my best to help those in need. Maybe one day the families will reveal the full details but that is for them to do!

If you need help please contact me I will try my best to give you the help, support or best agency to assist you.

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Hospitals to Charge Foreign Patients but they don’t ask & neither do they record a patients Nationality!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25529636

I read the above with caution. The reason for this is that during the past few months I have written to many local hospitals. I used the freedom of information requests to find out the true cost of Healthcare Holidayers!

I’ve not had all of the replies back, it is well over the date in which they’re meant to respond but I can let that go.

The overwhelming response to the question of “How many non UK or EU (covered by EHIC) patients have you treated in the past 3 financial years” was We Do Not Request, Record Or Ask For This Information !!!!

So the true cost of Health Tourism is realistically a guess. Only a few people gave voluntarily (I assume) details of their insurers and invoices sent were paid.

A few others were sent invoices but did not pay the funds requested. Why & how the Department of Health can now give these figures perplexes me.

A) Do the hospitals ask for the information but it is so confidential only the Government is privy to it;
OR
B) It is a completely made up figure used in an attempt to con the British Taxpayer into thinking they are clamping down on those from others Countries using our NHS resources.

I personally feel it is the latter and this yet another ploy to hoodwink people. Obviously in a genuine accident or totally unexpected emergency (such as appendicitis) the person would be treated for their illness without having to show their insurance details, well not at the booking in stage because it would go against every ethic a Dr or Nurse upholds. We as decent human beings would not want someone to be left without medical care in a life or death situation.

I won’t hold my breath on this latest missive from the jokers on the Green Benches because it’s not likely to happen.

Politicians are so unlikely to sort this out anytime soon as they will have to squander a few billion or so on failed computer systems to manage this one change.

So think on folks it is yet another “Des Lynam Announcement” by that I mean the talk is all good but can they play the game to the level they speak of?

Watch out for the Usual Suspects over the next 18months and beware of the snake oil they sell because it never ever does what they say it will!

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What Is Wrong With WCA

The WCA has been a disaster. Having been through the test myself I cannot see how it can ever be used to judge if a person is fit for work. The questions on the ESA50 equally have nothing to do with being capable of any work.

The most appalling questions are those which ask the following;

1). Can you reach with one hand to put a pen in your top pocket?

2). Can you lift some light such as an empty cardboard box?

3). Can you lift a 1 litre carton of liquid?

A person may be able to do any of these or indeed all of them but whether they can do them repeatedly, regularly and reliably is another matter. The next question that springs to mind is there a job our there where a person would be required to do such tasks all day every day? I have yet to see such a job specification.

The WCA needs to be a real world test with questions relating to safely traveling to work, if the person needs and special equipment if they were to be offered a job, can the person attend work every day, can they do all of the tasks that may be asked of them in the workplace, what sort of workplace would be best for them, what are their own qualifications, are they well enough to attend a training course to get new skills because their illness or disability would make it impossible to return to their previous type of employment.

It must be remembered that no matter how much we all want there to be equality for disabled people there are jobs that no matter their determination they simply cannot do. A blind person could be no more a heart surgeon than a person who loses a hand can be a bricklayer. It’s not what we all wish to hear but there are harsh realities that must be considered. No amount of laws can make a person suitable for a job which requires a certain level of skill, ability and knowledge when the person due to no fault of their own becomes sick or disabled is completely unsuitable to undertake.

The WCA needs to concern itself whether or not a person can attend and do a range of jobs. Narrowing the job range will be very upsetting for a person with a chronic illness or disbility; indeed being told you are fit for work but there is only one job you may be able to actually do is so rare that there is absolutely no chance of a person being able to take up such employment.

The rule regarding the time of being able to claim contribution based ESA is also very unfair and a person in their 50’s may become I’ll or disabled with 30+ years of contributions paid in good faith that should they fall on hard time then they will have their contributions as their safety net. To limit this to 365 days is a sin. The thing is a person is either sick or they are well, if they are sick then they are unfit to work if they are well then they should be looking for work. There is no halfway measure, the person would much rather be in work believe me.

The system is a basic start point but to ensure the reduction of appeals, which over 40% are won by the claimant, the number of people who die within weeks of being told they are fit for work, all of these things scream out that there is something by wrong with the way this WCA is undertaken, implemented, used, misused and with the various undercover investigations showing there is a quota system then it is easy to see the problems and the obvious solutions. As outlined above.

How much lower will ATOS go?

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/mentally-ill-woman-sheila-holt-rochdale-6553258

I honestly thought the system in place regarding the Work Capability Assessments undertaken by ATOS could not get any worse. I was wrong! Sadly a mentally ill lady who is in a coma and has suffered a heart attack since her benefits were withdrawn last year.

This lady has a long standing illness, her Bipolar disorder has meant she has been unable to work since leaving school. Her medication will have helped to keep her at a level of equilibrium but it cannot and and would not cure her condition,

Sheila was pushed to the limit by the worry over the changes to the benefit system, she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after her benefits where withdrawn. The worry of her benefits being withdrawn, the impersonal nature of how the assessments are carried out, the dismissive letters that are “standard” are written in DWP Jargon and are quite frankly difficult to understand. I have trouble with them and have to read them a number of times. I admit that I have had to phone up to try to get the letters explained. It’s very frightening, you feel like you have done something wrong, there is no humanity involved. You know to the people in the departments see you only as a number, a file on the computer, a list of DWP regulations and you feel terrible.

Quite honestly you feel like you are on trial. It is such a scary and frightening process, you know yourself that you are too sick to work. You feel that the assessors don’t listen to what you say. They barely look at you as they are too busy typing on the computer.

Sheila was likely asked to fill out her form, it was possibly done by someone in her family and someone who cares for her. They will have answered to questions honestly and to the best of their ability. Before Sheila was pushed over the edge, she possibly could have done the majority of the physical tests. Sheila would likely be able to pick up an empty box, pour herself a drink from a 1 or 2 litre carton, she may also have been able to walk more than 50mts. Sheila was not physically disabled she had longstanding mental health issues.

In October 2013 the DWP were told they must contact all of the people involved with the care of patients with Mental Heath issues so that all of the evidence required to assess the person in relation to their capability for work. Some people with mental health issues can and do work, however there comes a time when all they will sadly have a breakdown and need time off or need to be and in patient.

Mental health issues are just as dibilitating as physical disabilities. Surely the DWP know this, you would expect they would have devised a form that will not be oppressive, will be open questions so people can explain their individual physical and or mental issues, the questions are not helpful and so many appear to be asking the same question just in a slightly different way. The forms are like a mini novel, it can take people a few days to fill in. There really has to be a better way.

Sheila is now in hospital, in a coma and ATOS are demanding that she be available and must attend a further assessment. Sheila is too ill to send a reply, she is too ill to attend any assessment centre. What will the DWP do when they do not hear from her? Will they send a letter saying they are sanctioning her?

I hope that the local JCP will read this and see how Sheila is currently,

1) can she move an empty box? NO.
2) can she feed herself? NO.
3) can she put a pen in her top pocket? NO.
4) can she walk without any help or aids? NO.

Sheila cannot do anything for herself, she needs 24 hour care and why is that DWP/ATOS? It is because you have scared a very vulnerable lady, you made her feel so scared that the fear caused her to have a total breakdown and her Biopolar was not under control. On top of the break down which will also have exacerbated her physical health she suffered a heart attack. she now has little chance of having any form of life, it is highly unlikely she will ever be anywhere near as well as she was before.

Her life is effectively in the balance all due to an uncaring Government who are happy to see the super wealthy avoid tax but if you’re a person who has health problems then you will be vilified, made to feel like you’re a fraud and that you are cheating the system. We can only say well done to the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration who have been instrumental in these reforms, maybe their intention was to cut fraud but as only 0.3% of all claims involving sickness or disability then they seek to go after the most vulnerable in order to weed out the scammers.

I hope David Cameron, Nick Clegg and all the ministers in the DWP and their staff, the ATOS assessors read about Sheila and then look in the mirror. Are you proud of this? Are you proud of the numbers of people who are taken off the ESA benefit? How can any compassionate human being see the reports daily where people like Sheila, like you, like me, have become seriously ill or in an increasing number or examples the person has died!

Whilst assessments are a good idea, they need to be conducted in a better, more human way. Full patient history should be examined by a qualified GP or even a specialist in the area the persons illness falls into.

Sorry but for people like Sheila your current system is a disgrace and you should hang your heads I shame. Maybe you should look at the real scammers oh you do they are around you I the Commons! How many of you put paper clips on your expenses, the odd tv, maybe a stereo, a couch, a porn film, stamp duty costs because you decided to cash in on the property boom in London, the tax pays funded that home but did one penny of the profit go back into the coffers……..did it heck as like.

This administration is a much of a joke as its predecessors. Yes everyone the MP’s who are whipped to vote how they are told are no better because they aren’t acting in the best interests of their constituents.

I hope Sheila will come out of the coma, I hope she will get well enough to leave hospital. I hope she never has to undergo an ATOS or Capita assessment ever again.

Get well soon Sheila.

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Young Carers – The Invisible Care Givers

Young carers carry a heavy burden which many may not even be aware of especially teachers & other health professionals. This is because they and their parents unusually worry that the Social Services will break up the family.

Many youngsters care for their disabled/chronically sick parents in many ways.
They often have to care not only for the parent but also for younger siblings. There is a lot of work that goes into running a home and many school age children are running homes, caring for their family and still trying to keep up with school work

The strain this can cause to the young carer isn’t always evident. It can cause other problems for them especially with regard to their education. Many young carers miss school to take a family member to the doctors, hospital appointments, to collect medicines and a lot of the time it is to ensure their parent is cared for all day because there may not be anyone else to do it whilst the young carer attends school. I think it would be a good idea to make it safe for young carers to discuss the extent of the care they give without fear of family break up and so that they can get time off from caring. Time to be the young person they are.

It is essential to give young carers support & understanding. It is vital that young carers are identified early so they can be given this support. If there were a registration system which would reward the young carer & the parent; it may influence more families to come forward & register. Some carers are even of preschool age obviously they may simply help their parent or sibling by picking things up and carrying them. They will see it as a game when so young and in many instances there will be other adults around to care for them. The problem really start to be evident when the young carer gets to high school, they have the brain of the child but the responsibility of an adult. Everything to them is simply black or white, they will think that if they confide in someone that they will get taken away. If you read the newspapers or watch the TV news you hear of cases where kids have gone into care for a myriad of reasons. Many reasons may not even be about the child or children being a young carer but in their heads they will think and you can see the logic – parent can’t take care of children so children taken into foster care.. Be honest you would make a similar link.

Young carers do not get any reward or recognition for their vital role. Especially as they are essentially the hidden carers because they are too young to claim carers allowance so numbers are very sketchy. Lots of local authorities do operate a carers forum & try to assist young carers if they find out about them. If a registration process was put in place this could ensure the young carers are helped so they do not miss too much education. There are ways of ensuring the young carers are supported, there are ways of keeping the family together, there is a way of getting time off for young carers as they need respite as much as the disabled family member does.

We must help to encourage and promote the positive and vital work these youngsters do. We must praise them and slowly win the trust by helping one child at a time if need be, going to one school at a time and discussing the approach that may help the Head of Pastoral care to get an estimate of the numbers if youngsters who need help. Maybe a few weeks of short messages.

This is obviously a stream of consciousness and will require more detail or input from people who already help young carers and lord knows who else. The main thing is that somebody may read this and a light bulb clicks on so that they will give some ideas, proposals, approaches, rewards, target homework to suit the situation and to help devise something that will recognise the input that young carers give.

Each Council does usually have a Young Carers group and there are lots of charities out there to help BUT if the young carer doesn’t admit they are a carer then they go unnoticed, hidden, alone and can suffer with mental health issues. There are plenty of links and groups on the Internet but of we don’t know who is caring or why they are a persistent truant. Maybe it needs a change in the approach used so more youngsters feel comfortable in coming forward to tell their stories.

Oh well that’s all please leave comments on what you think would help, your personal experience of being a young carer and what you think will help others. So it’s over to you guys out there in the blogger/twitter sphere or wherever else to help develop this and maybe to tell me I’m bonkers whatever. Just think about the type of care some youngsters may need to give……could you do it???

The first photo is of me with one of my children, I’m very blessed that I have 3 children, fantastic family, a loving husband not all are as lucky as I am. I can’t thank my family enough for the care they give to me and I’m always trying to come up with ways to show them how grateful I am.

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