The Meandering Social Worker

wandering : wondering : learning

Malnutrition, austerity and eugenics.

Heart rending news on the rise of malnutrition in modern Britain is put into context by blogger Kitty Jones.

Politics and Insights

MinnesEarlier this year, I reported that figures released by The Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed 391 people died from malnutrition in 2015. There were 746 hospital admissions for malnutrition in just 12 months. The statistics also showed two people in the UK are admitted to hospital with the condition every day in what campaigners have called a “national scandal.” 

Official figures more recently from the Department of Health reveal that people with malnutrition accounted for 184,528 of days in hospital beds taken up in England taken up last year, a huge rise on 65,048 in 2006-07. The sharp increase is adding to the pressures on hospitals, which are already struggling with record levels of overcrowding and limited resources because of underfunding.

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Critics and campaigners have said the upward trend is a result of austerity and rising absolute poverty, deep cutbacks in recent years to meals on wheels services for the elderly and inadequate…

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Man with diabetes had to have his leg amputated because of benefit sanctions

Politics and Insights

David Boyce had to have his leg amputated when his diabetes spiralled out of control because he couldn’t afford to eat after having his benefits sanctioned                                                      David Boyce 

Photo courtesy of the Manchester Evening News.

David Boyce has diabetes. He was sanctioned for five months by the Department for Work and Pensions, which meant he had no money whatsoever to meet his basic needs. As a result, he had to sell his belongings, but couldn’t afford to eat properly and subsequently had to have his leg amputated, as his medical condition spiralled out of control. A healthy diet is essential as part of the management and treatment for diabetes.

David was a photographer who used to own a business, but was forced to give up his work because of ill-health. A dispute with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about his jobseeker’s agreement and was he sanctioned numerous times.

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A Tory Bill of Rights? We should be asking what could possibly go right?

I remember when the Human Rights Act was brought in, in 2000. It was a landmark piece of legislation, and one that caused quite a lot of excitement in the world of social work. This is no at risk. This article by Kitty Jones raises some issues about how the abolition of the HRA will not only affect the vulnerable but could have wider national and international implications for the UK.

Politics and Insights

cce1c37e7556eac34d5a5f5b35c181bdLast year I wrote about how the government has quietly edited the ministerial code, which was updated on October 15  without any announcement at all. The code sets out the standard of conduct expected of ministers. The latest version of the code is missing a key element regarding complicity with international law. 

The previous code, issued in 2010, said there was an “overarching duty on ministers to comply with the law including international law and treaty obligations and to uphold the administration of justice and to protect the integrity of public life”.

The new version of the code has been edited to say only that there is an“overarching duty on ministers to comply with the law and to protect the integrity of public life”.

Conservative party policy document had revealed that the ministerial code will be rewritten in the context of the UK withdrawing from the European…

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Poor white kids fail to get the most out of school

There has been enough anecdotal evidence that children from certain ethnic minorities do better in our education system than poor white kids (and good for them too).  Now we have the evidence.  And it might be worse than we thought.

The Centre Forum opportunity think tank has published it’s first annual report, “Education in England Annual Report 2016” showing that poor white kids who start school above average and with good achievements still leave 11+ years later with below average attainments.  By comparison, pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) make significant progress during their school years.  Three groups do worse than white poor kids – they are White Irish travellers, White Roma and mixed-heritage Caribbean children.  Four groups do better: Black Caribbean, White Irish, Chinese and Indian children.  Two other features also leap out of the report: there is a north/south divide with pupils in the north generally achieving lower standards and pupils in coastal areas are also similarly disadvantaged.

But why?

Paul Mason, writing in the Guardian, makes some very relevant observations as he tries to make sense of the causes of this trend.  Referring back to the messages of the 1969 film Kes, about a working class boy learning to love and train a Kestrel, and the purpose that gave to his life, Paul Mason describes the annihilation of the ‘life story’ of the working classes in British society that started with Thatcherism and continues today.  Mason writes:

“It was not always the case that ethnic-minority children did better than white English ones, but the reason why some of them do now is pretty obvious: their problem – racism – is defined; their language skills tend to be well-developed; their culture is one of aspiration; they have social and religious institutions that promote cohesion.

By contrast, the problem of poor white kids cannot be properly defined: not in the language of freemarket capitalism, at least. It has nothing to do with being “overtaken” – still less with any reverse discrimination against them.

It is simply that a specific part of their culture has been destroyed. A culture based on work, rising wages, strict unspoken rules against disorder, obligatory collaboration and mutual aid. It all had to go, and the means of destroying it was the long-term unemployment millions of people had to suffer in the 1980s.

Thatcherite culture celebrated the chancers and the semi-crooks: people who had been shunned in the solidaristic working-class towns became the economic heroes of the new model – the security-firm operators, the contract-cleaning slave drivers; the outright hoodlums operating in plain sight as the cops concentrated on breaking strikes.”

As I look back over my memories of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and since, I recognise the changes Mason is describing.

But what is the answer?  If you agree with Mason then it’s not entirely in the education system.  The education system has been tinkered with in so many ways over the years, and the debate between selection and non-selection continues in some parts of the country.  Academisation (or privatisation) has been declared as the way forward, even though many academies continue to ‘fail’.  University education for all has been heralded as the answer, even though clearly that cannot be achievable.  The raising of school leaving ages to the point of legal adulthood is considered by some to merely infantalise our young people and delay emotional and experiential adulthood. Our children have been ‘tested’ beyond endurance over recent years, resulting in league tables and a different kind of segregation.  Our education system has had so much attention lavished on it, yet still the ‘problems’ are not going away.

Mason concludes his piece with these words:

“To put right the injustice revealed by the CentreForum report requires us to put aside racist fantasies about “preferential treatment” for ethnic minorities; if their kids are preferentially treated, it is by their parents and their communities – who arm them with narratives and skills for overcoming economic disadvantage.

If these metrics are right, the present school system is failing to boost social mobility among white working-class kids. But educational reforms alone will barely scratch the surface. We have to find a form of economics that – without nostalgia or racism – allows the working population to define, once again, its own values, its own aspirations, its own story.”

We can’t go back, and for plenty of reasons we wouldn’t want to.  We have to find a way forward that enables ALL our children to have a decent education and access to opportunities.  As Mason says, it’s not about league tables, as useful as they are as measures.  Having taken the time to travel in other cultures I can step back and see what our society has lost, and it’s not education.  Identity and narrative, through culture, work, family and community are what gives children the framework on which to build their lives.  It’s what social workers do for individuals they work with.  It’s what society now needs to do for itself.

A Warning For People on Medication for Depression

Warning and Alert to anyone needing repeat prescriptions for depression – sounds like you need to make an appointment to see your GP as automatic repeat prescriptions are being cancelled.

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

This is a warning based on my personal experience. Like many people, I suffer from depression, for which I am, thankfully, on medication. However, the government, David Cameron, George Osborne, the head of the health service, Jeremy Hunt, and their corporate paymasters seem to resent the fact that so many people in Britain now are on medicine to treat this condition. So they’re doing their best to throw people off it. About a year or so I had to go to my doctor again for an examination after I had a repeat prescription turned down. I was told that because the government was concerned about the mental wellbeing of sufferers like myself, they were stopping automatic repeat conditions in order to make people see their doctors. It is, I was told, a condition that can get worse, and so it had been decided that sufferers like myself had to be…

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