Scottish councils have ‘no idea’ how to afford free care
Scotland’s council leaders have admitted they have no idea how they can afford to continue providing free personal care for the elderly in the face of deep spending cuts.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) warned families will have to take more responsibility for caring after elderly relatives because the “nanny state” will be forced to take a step back.
Alex Salmond, the First Minister, has vowed to protect the flagship policy from spending cuts but even Lord Sutherland, its architect, has said it should be included in a public spending review.
New research prepared for Holyrood’s finance committee projects the cost of free personal care will soar by more than 200 per cent over the next 20 years thanks to Scotland’s ageing population.
The policy currently costs the taxpayer more than £358 million per year, more than three times its original budget, but Cosla warned further increases are unsustainable.
Douglas Yates, the organisation’s health and wellbeing spokesman, admitted he did not have “a clue” how these costs will be met, which cuts projected at £1.7 billion in the next year alone.
“There will need to be more discussion among families about the provision of the older members of the family as time move on,” the SNP deputy leader of East Renfrewshire Council said.
“In some respects you might think it’s turning black the clock a little bit, a few generations, to what used to happen when people took more recognition of the family members who were elderly.
“We’ve become a nanny state. We’ve got to get away from the idea that local government or the government can do everything for everyone. Quite patently it can’t so we need to take more responsibility for ourselves.”
He said free care can only be afforded by imposing higher user charges, increasing taxes or a combination of both.
The policy, implemented in 2002 by the former Labour-led administration, currently sees councils provide care home residents with up to £227 per week for nursing and personal care.
An independent budget review (IBR) commissioned by John Swinney, the SNP Finance Minister, concluded that providing free care to those who can afford to pay for it is “hard to justify”.
It found that the policy is “unlikely to be affordable” in the longer term, with the number of over-75s expected to increase from 393,000 to 724,000 by 2033, and recommended the introduction of some form of means testing.
Anne-Marie Jeannet, of Holyrood’s independent research centre, warned if the cost of free care continues to rise at current levels, spending on the policy could increase by more than 200 per cent by 2033 in real terms.
A spokesman for Mr Swinney confirmed the SNP administration is “committed to retaining existing eligibility for free personal care”.
Meanwhile, doctors have urged the Scottish NHS to stop wasting £1.5 million of taxpayers’ money annually on homoeopathic treatments, around 10 times the level per head south of the Border.
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the British Medical Association’s director of science and ethics, said funding for a facility at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital should cease unless evidence is presented of the treatments’ benefits.
Big backdown in British climate policy
Britain can no longer stop global warming and must instead focus on adapting to the ‘inevitable’ impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts and rising sea levels, Government ministers will warn this week.
For the past few years Government policy has concentrated on trying to make people turn off lights and grow their own vegetables in an effort to bring down carbon emissions.
But as global greenhouse gases continue to increase, with the growth of developing countries like China and India, and the public purse tightens, the focus will increasingly be on adapting to climate change.
The Government will set out plans to protect power stations from flooding and ensure hospitals can cope with water shortages during dry summers.
Since the beginning of the industrial era, the temperature has already risen by 0.8C, according to the Met Office. [A whole fraction of one degree in a couple of hunded years! How Awful!]
Temperatures are expected to rise further because of greenhouse gases that are already “locked in” but will take decades to warm the atmosphere.
In her first speech on climate change since taking office Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, will speak about the need for Britain to adapt to rising temperatures. “It is vital that we carry on working to drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions to stop the problem getting any worse,” she will say. “But we are already stuck with some unavoidable climate change. Because of this, we need to prepare for the best and worst cases which a changing climate will entail for our country.”
However environmental groups are nervous about the change in direction. They fear that the move away from tackling climate change is motivated by spending cuts rather than saving the planet. They also point out that no new money is being offered to help companies or the public sector adapt to climate change, preferring to leave it to ‘the Big Society’ and forward thinking businesses to come up with the cash.
Lord Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said it was dangerous to rely on adaptation rather than trying to mitigate the effects of climate change. “If Caroline Spelman makes her first speech about adaptation and nothing about mitigation it spells out significant danger for all of us,” he said.
Mrs Spelman will be speaking in response to a hard-hitting report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), due out on Thursday. The committee, set up to advise the Government on tackling climate change, is expected to recommend specific actions to protect against global warming. For example flood defences in coastal areas at risk of rising sea levels. Emergency plans are recommended for coping with heatwaves in the summer that could kill thousands of elderly people and more floods throughout the year.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is also producing a report on the risk of climate change, which will also call for more efforts to prepare for the impact of rising remperatures.
The powerful group of businesses leaders will call for a new public information bank, easily accessible online, that explains the risks in the local area to companies and individuals. People will be able to type in a postcode and be told the likelihood of floods and droughts over the next few decades. The CBI said the current information available needs to be simplified so that businesses and home owners can protect themselves in future.
In a speech to the CBI, Lord Henley, the climate change minister, will warn that business, public bodies and each individual will have to adapt to climate change. “One way or another, climate change is going to affect every organisation and every individual in this country. If we are to thrive as a society, every organisation and every individual must adapt,” he will say.
Official bigotry in British courts: Men now second-class citizens
Official guidance issued by feminist judges
Judges have been told to treat female criminals more leniently than men when deciding sentences. New guidelines declare that women suffer disadvantages and courts should `bear these matters in mind’.
The rules say women criminals often have poor mental health or are poorly educated, have not committed violence and have children to look after. “Women’s experiences as victims, witnesses and offenders are in many respects different to those of men,’ according to the Equal Treatment Bench Book. `These differences highlight the importance of the need for sentencers to bear these matters in mind when sentencing.’
The controversial advice comes from the Judicial Studies Board, which is responsible for training the judiciary. In the past, the board has caused upset by suggesting Rastafarians have religious beliefs which allow them to use cannabis. It has also tried to ban words such as immigrant, asylum-seeker and even West Indian from the courts on the grounds they are offensive.
The latest guidelines have also caused anger, this time among campaigners for male victims of domestic violence.
The Bench Book tells judges that the problem `consists mainly of violence by men against women’. It adds `the reality is that some of the most physically violent incidents are committed by men on female partners’. The document also suggests that aggression against men by women is rare, saying that `men and partners in same-sex relationships might also be victims of domestic violence’.
However, campaigners for male victims of domestic violence claimed that men are being treated as second-class citizens by the new guidelines. They also point to analysis of official figures by the Parity campaign group which last week concluded that four out of ten victims of domestic violence were men.
Mark Brooks, of the ManKind campaign group, said: `For a document that claims to be about gender equality, it clearly leaves the impression that male victims are seen as being second class when, of course, all should be seen the same. `It is unacceptable that men, often suffering in silence at home, are being shown to be second-class victims by those running the legal system.’
He added: `To say grudgingly that men might also be victims is sweeping their problems under the carpet, when the Government’s own figures show hundreds of thousands of men every year are suffering.’ The study from Parity based its assessment on Home Office statistics and the British Crime Survey, the measure of crime most trusted by Whitehall. The campaign group said that the average proportion of domestic violence victims who are men has been 40 per cent.
Updated guidance on how to sentence female criminals was distributed in April in a new section on `gender equality’. It told judges: `Women remain disadvantaged in many public and private areas of their life; they are under-represented in the judiciary, Parliament and senior positions across a range of jobs; and there is still a substantial pay gap between men and women.’
On women accused of crime, the guidance quoted Judge Baroness Hale, the only woman among the 11 at the Supreme Court, who describes herself as a `soft-line feminist’. She said: `It is now well recognised that a misplaced conception of equality has resulted in some very unequal treatment for women and girls.’
The rules were prepared by a team headed by High Court judge Dame Laura Cox. She wrote: `It is hardly revolutionary that judges should know of the matters central to the lives of those who attend courts and to aim to provide judges with that knowledge.’
More petty bureaucratic tyranny in Britain
Council threatens father for not walking his daughter, 7, to school bus stop… 20 yards from family home
A father could face legal action after he was reprimanded for allowing his seven-year-old daughter to walk alone to a school bus stop – just 20 yards from their home. Mark McCullough received a letter from Lincolnshire County Council threatening to report the situation as a ‘child protection issue’ unless his daughter Isabelle was accompanied the short distance to and from the bus stop.
The 32-year-old makes sure either he or his partner, Natasha Fegan, 33, is at home to see Isabelle off in the morning, and meet her when she returns home from school. But the couple, of Glentham, Lincolnshire, have now been told there must be a ‘change in arrangements’ or they will face action. Mr McCullough, who has four other children, has also been criticised for sending Isabelle to Normanby by Spital Primary School without a jumper.
He said today: ‘This is more than upsetting. It has made me angry. ‘I am happy for Isabelle to walk from home to the end of the road and, if necessary, cross a country lane and walk home. ‘I’m not going to wrap my children up in cotton wool. ‘When I was a child I would go anywhere during the school holidays. I would be out at eight in the morning and not back until teatime.
‘Admittedly I would not let the kids do that now because times are different. But for a seven-year-old not to be able to walk 20 metres to the top of the courtyard and cross a quiet country road is an absolute joke. ‘I’m going to carry on as normal even if it means going to court.’
Mr McCullough, a refuse collector, received the letter from the council on Friday. It claimed the bus driver felt ‘obliged’ to help Isabelle safely cross the road at the end of the day. It added: ‘Should there be no change in the arrangements for Isabelle’s delivery to and collection from the bus stop, I will have no option but to consider reporting this as a child protection issue.’
Denise Carr, Lincolnshire County Council’s head of transport services, said: ‘As a responsible authority we have expressed our concern that a seven-year-old is standing on a busy road alone each morning and then crossing the road unaccompanied. ‘As the child was also left standing by the roadside on a cold morning without warm clothing we have raised our concern with the parents.’ [A threat is “raising concern”?]
Up to 750,000 ‘special needs’ pupils in Britain are just badly taught
Schools have wrongly labelled as many as 750,000 children as having special needs to cover up poor teaching, a damning report warns today. They are diagnosing conditions such as ‘behavioural , emotional and social problems’ to massage unfavourable league table ratings, according to inspectors.
They found that 1.7million pupils in England were classed as having special educational needs in January, just over one in five. But, declares Ofsted, almost half of these have simply been poorly taught. In some schools, a ‘culture of excuses’ means that pupils making slow progress are automatically classed as having special needs.
In other cases, pupils have ended up with learning or behavioural problems after being failed by poor literacy and numeracy teaching early in their school career.
Inspectors also visited a school where pupils were categorised as having special needs simply because their fathers were away fighting in Afghanistan.
Inspectors found that some local authorities appear to offer incentives to give such labels to children as some types of educational need bring in extra funds.
Exam results are also adjusted to take account of the number of pupils with special needs. This can have a ‘positive influence’ on their league table rankings, Ofsted found.
Schools are, meanwhile, under pressure from ‘articulate middle-class parents’ who lobby for such diagnoses to ensure extra support for their children, such as personal tuition and extra time in exams.
‘The term “special educational needs” is used too widely,’ said the report. ‘Around half the schools and early years provision visited used low attainment and relatively slow progress as their principal indicators. ‘Inspectors saw schools that identified pupils as having special needs when, in fact, their needs were no different from most other pupils. ‘They were under-achieving but this was sometimes simply because teaching was not good enough and expectations of pupil were too low.
‘A conclusion that may be drawn is that some pupils are being wrongly identified as having special needs and that relatively expensive additional provision is being used to make up for poor teaching and pastoral support.’
Christine Gilbert, the chief inspector of schools, said: ‘Schools are identifying children and young people as having special needs when they need essentially better teaching and better pastoral support.’ In contrast, parents of children with the greatest needs or disabilities must endure the troublesome ‘statementing’ process. Statements are legal documents outlining the support to which children are entitled. But Ofsted found that, even when parents succeed in obtaining one, there was no guarantee of appropriate or good provision.
Those with the severest needs – 2.7 per cent of all primary and secondary pupils – have written statements. This is down slightly from 3 per cent in 2003. But the proportion of all pupils classed as having special needs without statements rose from 14 per cent in 2003 to 18.2 per cent this year.
As many as half of these, or approximately 750,000, ‘would not be identified as having special educational needs if schools focused on improving teaching and learning for all, with individual goals for improvement,’ Ofsted suggested.
Pupils from poor backgrounds or who regularly play truant or who were disruptive were more likely to be given the label. In one case, 14 and 15-year-olds who were ‘demotivated’ about taking their GCSEs were put on the special needs register so the school could justify bringing in ‘mentors’ to help them.
Janet Thompson, an Ofsted inspector and the report’s author, said: ‘Too much is being identified as being additional and different, rather than “this is the group of youngsters we are providing education for and this is the wide range of needs that we can meet”.
‘We did find examples of young people identified as having behavioural, emotional and social difficulties who, if you unpicked the reasons for that, were actually around inability to read and write.’
There is a big new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.