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Tuesday, February 27, 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.
 
Monday, February 26, 2007
  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.
 
Saturday, February 24, 2007
  Nailing Jelly to a Wall
Although the research is not peer reviewed someone has now reported on attempts to nail jelly to a wall (see link). The results are as expected.
 
Friday, February 23, 2007
  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-Secretary, Department for Education and Skills)
Please follow link for tables - ed.

Medical Records

Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Health who is responsible for the incorporation of special case files into medical records at North Staffordshire NHS trust and the Royal Brompton hospital; and if she will take steps to ensure full integration of the records.


A:Information from special case files should not be included in medical records without the consent of the individual patient concerned. The patient should also agree the person to whom information should be disclosed, and this should normally be a clinician who is actively involved in providing care to the patient. A clinician in receipt of such information must determine whether to record it within the patient's record and should do so where the information is relevant to the ongoing care of the patient concerned. (Caroline Flint, Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health)
 
  Massive increase in appeals
The earlier written answer demonstrates an increase by about 800% of Civil Appeals in the Family Division filed. That does not mean that the appeals were given permission to be heard.

This shows the trends.
 
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
  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 are committed to reviewing the statutory guidance and this review will need to take account of issues arising from the recent Care Matters Green Paper. However, detailed decisions about the content of the revised guidance have not yet been taken.
(Parmjit Dhanda, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Skills)

Child Protection

Q:To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will ask local authorities to take steps to identify child protection cases to which they have been party since 1997 where requests for medical records were made by any party to the case of Gene Morrison, and to report to him any such cases.


A:Child protection cases are the responsibility of local authorities and the Government would not usually intervene in these matters. (Parmjit Dhanda, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Skills)
 
  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.

The reality about Iraq is that a referendum on the occupation would almost certainly result in a call for the occupation to end. The government's refusal to hold this shows that they know there is not real popular support in Iraq for the occupation.
 
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
  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 the cases where Professor Southall was instructed as a prosecution witness to determine if any 'special case' files existed in any cases involving criminal proceedings. Once that assessment has been completed, I will decide what, if any, further review is required."


The Attorney General hasn't seen fit to extend his assessment to civil proceedings in the family courts in which these secret 'Special Case Files' were not disclosed, and John Hemming has written to him asking why this is the case.
 
Monday, February 19, 2007
  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.
 
Monday, February 12, 2007
  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.
 
Friday, February 09, 2007
  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 gridlock developed.

The road surfaces were actually well gritted and not that slippery although there were isolated problems, but the selfish behaviour of a minority of drivers caused gridlock.

I should really have taken photographs to prove this as we need a different attitude to traffic lights if we are not going to have this recur.
 
  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.
 
Thursday, February 08, 2007
  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.
 
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
  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.
 
  First Post looks at Childrens Services
The First Post has written about the Adoptions EDM. (see link).
 
  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)
 
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
  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 who want it) for exactly the same reasons.

This new government policy, reversing the policy of the last 20 years, seems to ignore the fact that the objective of the health service is to try to deal with all of the cases and save lives which otherwise would be lost.
 
  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.
 
Monday, February 05, 2007
  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.
 
Sunday, February 04, 2007
  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 "more deserving" families by the state. Particularly mothers who have been in care themselves are treated as the state's slaves. They are imprisoned in hospital when they go to give birth and their babies removed by secret courts whilst they are still recovering from the process of giving birth.

It will be interesting to see how the courts respond to an Article 4 challenge on this point.
 
Saturday, February 03, 2007
  Graffiti working party meeting
We have now planned the next meeting of the Graffiti working party. The objective has to be simple. To catch the people who perform this type of vandalism and ensure that they are punished for the consequences of the damage that they do.
 
Thursday, February 01, 2007
  "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.uk/article/0,,30589-2578441,00.html
The above is a case where procedures were not properly followed. It pales into insignificance compared to the more frequent abuses of procedure.

Dad who asked for childcare advice reported to social services
http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/localnews/
This is in Horsham.
When Nick Windrum asked a teacher how old his child should be before he allowed him to play out unsupervised, he expected some friendly advice on childcare.
Instead he found himself having to defend his credentials as a single parent after being reported to social services.
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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