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Showing posts from February, 2007

Social Capital

Social Capital is in the news again with suggestions that potential migrants should do voluntary work.

There probably is some feedback both ways. However, Social Capital is measured by the extent to which people trust strangers. Robert Putnam's book "Bowling Alone" deals with this. The link gives some reference to this.

I would think, however, that the approach and arguments used by government also have some effects on attitudes.

Proposed cuts in RCI Labs

One of the aspects of the proposed changes to the Blood Service is a reduction from 10 Red Cell Immunohaematology labs to 5. This will be a particular problem in Birmingham.

Although most testing is done in local labs from time to time there can be serology required in a central lab. That is partially because the local labs are being deskilled and partially because it always requires additional skills.

The timing here could be key. I am trying to find out what proportion of blood samples need central serology, but haven't got the details yet. This, however, could be another false economy for the NHS which reduces the NBS costs (National Blood Service), but increases those of the Trusts - and damages patients' health.

Written Parliamentary Questions: 23rd February 2007

Children in Care

Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills

(1) how many children under the age of five were taken into care in each year ended 31 March since1990, broken down by (a) ethnic origin and (b) age;

(2) how many children under five years of age were adopted from care in each year ending 31 March since 1990, broken down by (a) ethnic origin and (b) the age at which they entered care .

A:The available information on (i) the number of children under the age of five who were taken into care broken down by ethnic group and broken down by age on starting their first period of care in the year is presented in Table 1; and (ii) the number of children under five years of age who were adopted from care broken down by ethnic group and broken down by age on starting their final period of care in the year is shown in Table 2.

Tables 1 and 2 are not comparable partly because the ages shown are calculated on different periods of care.


(Parmjit Dhanda, Parliamentary Under-Secretar…

Written Parliamentary Questions: 21st February 2007

Foster Care: Safety

Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will review the guidance on how many babies each foster (a) carer and (b) household is permitted to look after with a view to making an assessment of whether the safety of such infants is at increased risk in foster households caring for multiple infants and babies.

A:The Children Act 1989 does not allow a carer to foster more than three children unless the children concerned are siblings or an exemption has been made by the local authority in whose area the carer lives. This "usual fostering limit" applies regardless of the child's age. Volume 3 of the statutory guidance which accompanies the Act highlights the number of children who may be placed as an important factor in placement decisions. The guidance stresses the importance of considering the interests of each child, in cases where more than one child is to be placed, as well as the needs of the carer's own children.

The Government…

That referendum question

During the Prime Minister's statement about Iraq today I asked a question as to when he is holding a referendum as to whether the occupying troops would stay.

The PM's response was that there was an elected government the view of which they were using. The fact is that only by holding a democratic referendum with a secret ballot would it be possible to determine the viewpoint of the Iraqi people on that specific issue. There is always a tension with occupations. One viewpoint is that any elected government is compromised by the occupation and as a consequence that elected government's view is unreliable.

In fact the only recent TV interview with a member of the Iraqi government, I think the PM, had the individual concerned dissembling massively on the question as to whether the occupation should continue.

Clearly when you are pointing a gun at someone and asking if they are happy that you do this you should not be surprised if people say yes when they are actually unhappy.

Attorney General responds to John Hemming's Concerns

The Attorney General has decided to act on John Hemming's concerns about criminal proceedings in which Dr. David Southall did not reveal to a court that secret medical files existed on suspects. The link above is to his letter to John Hemming sent by fax this morning.

In a written ministerial statement to the House of Lords today, the Attorney
General, Lord Goldsmith, said:

"It is said that Professor Southall kept so-called 'special case' files containing original medical records relating to his patients that were not also kept on the child's proper hospital file. Concerns have been raised that in some of those cases criminal proceedings may have been taken but the existence of the files not revealed, resulting in their not being disclosed as part of the prosecution process. I share those concerns.

"What is not clear at this stage is the nature and extent of the failure of disclosure, if such it be. I have therefore decided that I will conduct an assessment of …

Down to an inch

Having returned from holiday I find about 6 inches of paperwork. Most is standard circulars that go straight into the circular recycling machine. This brings me down to an inch of backlog that needs review.

It is useful to have internet access whilst on holiday. That means that urgent issues get resolved via email. However, going away for any more than a week would worry me as to the size of the backlog.

The feeling in parliament is that the government are getting deeper into a disorganised mess. Tony Blair's legacy seems all rather tarnished.

Mike Oborski

It is sad to hear of the death of Mike Oborski. I first met Mike when I delivered leaflets for him and Fran in 1977. He had a long track record in representing the people of Offmore and Comberton and it was not surprising that they continued to support him (and Fran) when the Lib Dems in Kidderminster split into "Liberals" and "Lib Dems".

He also brought Polish issues to public attention in the UK long before the fall of the iron curtain.

I am currently on holiday and as such unlikely to post much on my web log. I was aware that Mike was not well. However, it is a loss to politics as a whole to hear of his death.

Individual Utility vs Communal Utility

There was a sad opinion poll this week that showed that now a majority of people think that it is better for people to show pure self-interest rather than enlightened self-interest (whereby people work in part for the common good because that creates a better society)

A good example of how this selfish approach goes wrong was in Birmingham's gridlock tonight. My vegetable oil powered vehicle is also good in the snow. I actually only ended up towing one driver up Mary St in Balsall Heath, but where other cars were stuck I was not.

However, it was not the few cars that got stuck that blocked the traffic generally. It was in fact the failure to allow traffic to flow at traffic lights. Individuals were in such a rush to get home that they blocked the traffic flow from the other side. This was not all drivers, but possibly a good third. That meant that traffic did not flow when the lights changed. This blocked back down to the previous traffic lights (in whichever direction) and g…

New Surgery on Richmond Site

Progress is being made on the new health centre with a planning application in for The site of the old Richmond Pub.

I had been worried about the lack of progress on this. The Local Labour Party have tried to get the site moved away from Yardley. We do think it is important to continue to serve the same patient list, however. Moving the surgery substantially northwards would be wrong.

In any event progress is now being made.

Camilla Cavendish's article on Maternity Care

Camilla Cavendish has written a well argued article on Maternity Care. What is not clear, however, is what the government are actually proposing.

Camilla's view (which is my view) is that to minimise risk we need to have doctors available for the more difficult births. That requires units of a given size. Exactly what the size is, however, is not that clear.

Trial by Media is wrong

I have written to the Home Secretary recently asking him to both investigate the source of briefings about the reasons for the recent arrests in Birmingham and also to bring this trend to a halt.

There have been three occasions recently where the police and courts have been badly undermined by bad briefing. One was the Ipswich murders, another was the loans for peerages and the third was the arrests in Birmingham.

If there are allegations to be considered then they should be considered in court. The police are being undermined by those people who start these particular hares running.

It is important that justice be seen to be done as well as justice being done. At the moment the national trends on criminal justice undermine the rule of law.

Written Parlaimentary Question: 7th February 2007

Court of Appeal

Q:To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many appeals were filed with the Court of Appeal in relation to family law cases where the local authority was a party to the case in each year since 1990; and how many of the appellants were (a) the local authority, (b) the guardian, (c) the mother, (d) the father and (e) another party in each year.



A:The number of family law cases filed annually since 2000 is set out in the following table. Information before 2000 is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

To break this information down into the requested format would also incur disproportionate cost.

Appeals filed 2000 - 95
Appeals filed 2001 - 91
Appeals filed 2002 - 105
Appeals filed 2003 - 86
Appeals filed 2004 - 91
Appeals filed 2005 - 106
Appeals filed 2006 - 901
(Vera Baird, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs)

Problems with the Family Courts - write down the judgment

If you are going to the Family Court for a case and might wish to appeal it is very important to write down the Judgment as the judge says it. Otherwise it takes some time to get transcripts from the court.

You will notice the Local Authority's solicitors writing down the judgment. You need to do this as well. The Local Authority might give you a copy of their notes, but you cannot trust them.

Write it down

Since this post I have been asked to add the following comment (by someone else)
Indeed the judge often asks the barrister, employed by any party legally represented at the hearing, to write out the Order for the clerks to type. Sometimes the barrister gets it right; sometimes he or she makes a little mistake which the judge misses and, surprisingly, never favours anyone else but his/her own client. Then, if you're alert, you have to apply to the Judge again for a correction to be made in the Order. Been there, got the T-shirt.

Maternity Services - Full Speed Astern

Over the past 20 or so years the "local midwife-led unit, based in a hospital or community clinic promoting natural births" have been closed down simply because there are complications during some pregancies that arise during the pregnancy.

With the larger units it is possible to ensure that the skills necessary to deal with the very rare situations are on hand. There is not the time to move people around the country and hence this way babies are born healthily and mothers remain healthy.

I have not taken part in the campaigns to protect the smaller units (such as the Sorrento in Birmingham) because I felt that the policy was right even if unpopular. That does not mean that mother are forced to have "unnatural births". What it means that if something goes wrong - which has always been the case for a small number - then it does not cause lasting problems for mum and/or baby.

I don't personally recommend birth at home (although it is an option for those people w…

CPA - Comprehensive Performance Assessment

The CPA report for Birmingham is now out. These are the pinnacle of the theory of management by targets. The public sector is now entirely dominated by targets.

The problem with this approach is that it goes through phases. It starts with the targets being part of the management process, then gradually issues that don't appear in targets are considered not to matter. Finally, issues that don't appear in targets are thought no to exist.

It saddens me how much time is wasted by senior management (and by politicians) on things such as the CPA. This time should be spent managing the authority.

It is the Heisenberg's uncertainty principle of management. The time wasted on measuring management in itself undermines management.

System fails again in Westminster

The linked story is about a 4 year old disabled girl returned to her parents who then physically abused her over a period of 7 weeks notwithstanding visits from the Social Services - who were told she was away.

Why does this happen?
1. The system relies upon "experts reports" and opinion as to what might happen.
2. The system does not respond efficiently and/or quickly to real reports of problems.
3. The system is arrogant assuming that the "procedures" are the solution to all problems and ignoring information that conflicts with the plan.
4. This particular child was disabled and hence less likely to be adopted so social services are under target pressure to return this type of child to the parents.

In a sense this is a good example arguing that the system is incapable of judging risk and needs instead to judge facts.

The "Appalling Vista" of the injustices of the Family Courts

The "appalling vista" of the Family Courts, in comparison to Lord Denning's statements in respect of the Birmingham Six, is that totally innocent families where no-one has done anything wrong are torn apart by a system that is dominated by interests other than the public interest.

It is said that the standard of proof in the family courts is "on the balance of probabilities". Actually in many cases parents need to prove their innocence.

There are symptoms such as CMLs and SBS where a proportion of the parents are entirely innocent. However, the system still works to remove their children (and any future babies) into care. Pleading innocence actually works against the parents as they are deemed to be "in denial". The fact that the system punishes honesty is another of its more malign aspects.

Mothers are actually treated like slaves of the state whose children are owned by the state (the state holds parental responsibility) and are allocated to other …

"The State stole our children" - more forged documents

The linked story in the "Daily Mail" is good news in that the family were reunited. However, it includes the following:

Some of Marianne's records, and those of the children, were falsified to make the case against her, according to a report prepared on the family by their London medical negligence lawyers, Leigh Day & Co.

These allegations are also being investigated by the police.

On dozens of pages, the dates were changed, with extra information written between lines or added which completely altered the sense of what was being said.

Some of Nickolas's development checks even had the letters P for Pass altered to F for Fail.

Significantly, the entire sense of a report saying that Marianne had comforted her eldest son after a fall was changed.

The word "not" was added in different writing at a later date so that it appeared she had ignored her son when he hurt himself.


Declaration for breach of human rights does not justify damages?
http://www.timesonline.co…