Amy Winehouse’s death prompts review of drug rehab waiting times
I am a bit ambivalent about this. On the one hand I doubt that “rehab” clinics do much good — but on the other hand drug addiction can lead to rapid death in some cases so long waits for treatment are inexcusable
MPs are to review waiting times for drug addicts in need of rehabilitation following the death of the singer Amy Winehouse. The star’s father claimed to mourners at her funeral yesterday that addicts face a two-year wait for rehab on the NHS.
In an emotional eulogy to his 27-year-old daughter, Mitch Winehouse said he hoped her death would prompt greater awareness of addicts’ plight.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, today pledged to back Mr Winehouse’s campaign and investigate the speed of access to rehab.
Paying tribute to his daughter yesterday at Edgwarebury Cemetery, north London, Mr Winehouse, 58, said: “Three years ago, Amy conquered her drug dependency, the doctors said it was impossible but she really did it. “In this country, if you cannot afford a private rehabilitation clinic, there is a two-year waiting list for help. With the help of Keith Vaz MP, we are trying to change that.”
Mr Winehouse gave evidence to the Home Affairs committee two years ago on the cocaine trade, claiming that many drug users were so desperate for treatment that they committed crimes so they would be fast-tracked into rehab.
Mr Vaz said today: “Mitch Winehouse gave powerful evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee during our inquiry into drugs in 2009. “Drawing on his personal experience he highlighted the long delay in accessing treatment for those with addiction. Two years on we need to revisit this issue to see if anything has improved. “I am very happy to help Mitch in any way I can with his important campaign to help rehabilitate those most vulnerable in our society.”
The claims over waiting times are disputed by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA), which is part of the NHS. It claims that in 2009/10, 94 per cent of patients waited less than three weeks for drug rehabilitation. During that period, the NTA dealt with nearly 207,000 addicts, official figures show.
Winehouse was admitted to private rehabilitation clinics on a string of occasions during her battle with alcohol and drug addictions. The Grammy-award winning singer was found dead at her home in Camden, north London, on Saturday.
At a private funeral for close friends and family yesterday, Mr Winehouse said the singer was the happiest she had been for many years in the run up to her death and had managed to stop drinking. “She said, ‘Dad I’ve had enough of drinking, I can’t stand the look on your and the family’s faces anymore’. She was not depressed,” he said.
Referring to the night she died, he added: “She was in her room, playing drums and singing. As it was late, her security guard said to keep it quiet and she did. “He heard her walking around for a while and when he went to check on her in the morning he thought she was asleep. He went back a few hours later, that was when he realised she was not breathing and called for help. “But knowing she wasn’t depressed, knowing she passed away, knowing she passed away happy, it makes us all feel better.
“I was in New York with my cousin Michael when I heard and straight away I said I wanted an Amy Winehouse Foundation, something to help the things she loved – children, horses, but also to help those struggling with substance abuse.”
The funeral comes after police revealed they will have to wait up to four weeks for the results of toxicology tests to establish her cause of death. A post-mortem examination has proved inconclusive and an inquest has been opened and adjourned with no cause of death given.
Mr Winehouse told the Home Affairs committee in 2009 that addicts he had interviewed a television documentary claimed they waited a year on average for rehab. He said: “People are definitely committing offences so they can have a chance, and it’s only a chance, of receiving treatment.
“The biggest impact on families is that there is very little help available to them, especially if their relative is a non-offending addict.
The problem we found in our research in London is that it’s a year before any treatment can be given. It’s very difficult and the reason for this is the majority of funding is taken up by the criminal justice system.”
Britain looks likely to adopt a version of a “workfare” program set up some years ago in Australia by a conserrvative administration
THE MINISTER charged with tackling Britain’s welfare dependency crisis has drawn on Australia for inspiration by copying policies introduced by the Howard government and continued under Labor.
The former British Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, now secretary of State for Work and Pensions in the the Cameron government, said he was openly plagiarising Howard government polices which sought to lure people off welfare rather than further entrench dependence.
The policy approach, once controversial in Australia, is now accepted and pursued by both major political parties whereas it is stirring controversy now in Britain.
Mr Duncan Smith will copy the 1998 Jobs Network initiative which involved outsourcing job placement services away from the now-defunct Commonwealth Employment Service and paying private providers.
“As a country, Britain has taken too long to understand the basic message that we shouldn’t be so concerned with who delivers support or how they do it, but whether what they do works,” he said.
Mr Duncan Smith is proposing a harsher version of welfare-to-work reforms that have been implemented by the Coalition and Labor and which involve incentives for moving into work and penalties for refusing to do so.
At the heart of his reform agenda is his Universal Credit scheme, which involves rolling Britain’s seven unemployment benefits into a single benefit.
The rate at which the benefit will be withdrawn when a person does some work will be lessened to increase the incentive to work. But the penalties for refusing work will be harsher.
The first refusal will involve a three-month suspension of benefits, a nine-month suspension for the second breach and three years for the third.
He said he was not necessarily advocating Australia matches his scheme, but said conservatives around the world “need to capture the idea of poverty rather than leaving it to the left”.
“They are conservative reforms to improve the quality of life of people rather than just an issue about money.
“For too long Conservatives had left this area to the left, only occasionally making forays to attack spending on welfare and everything was viewed through the lens of saving money or catching scroungers,” he said
Both Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard are advocates of welfare-to-work measures. This year’s federal budget contained measures to break the cycle of dependency, end long-term unemployment and ease the blowout in the disability support pension.
Mr Duncan Smith was being hosted by the conservative think-tank, the Menzies Research Centre.
Also in Australia yesterday was the former British Labour prime minister, Tony Blair. He and Ms Gillard met in Melbourne. At a press conference, Mr Blair declined to comment on domestic policy matters but did agree pricing carbon was the best way to reduce emissions.
Children ‘should be allowed to leave school at 14’, says British business leader
Children should be allowed to leave school at 14 and start work to boost Britain’s economy, the former head of the Confederation of British Industry has said.
Disruptive pupils would be better off abandoning mainstream education and “earning a few bob” to encourage growth, Lord Jones of Birmingham believes.
The former Labour Trade Minister said British businesses are struggling through a lack of skilled young people, meaning employers are forced to hire workers from overseas.
Allowing youngsters to embark on vocational training and get jobs at 14 would fill the skills gap while stimulating economic growth through increased spending, Lord Jones said.
However teaching leaders warned that the idea would lead to millions of young people becoming “trapped” in low-paid jobs, having dropped out of academic studies without basic levels of literacy and numeracy.
The suggestion comes as official GDP figures show Britain’s economy stagnated between April and June with growth down to 0.2 per cent from the 0.5 per cent expansion seen in the previous quarter.
Lord Jones, who was himself expelled from public school for streaking, said: “We’ve got to appreciate that the world’s changed and there are loads of kids in school today who at 14 are more mature, and so many of them are disruptive. “They are disruptive to themselves, disruptive to the class, and they’re disruptive to the teacher.
“This isn’t about saying ‘school’s out, away you go kids’, this is about going into a technical college, doing a couple of days a week on a vocational course and going into a business or indeed a public sector employer, and getting the link in their mind, in their DNA, that if you get better skilled, you make more money. “Then, of course, if they make a few bob, they spend it and what do you do when you spend money? You create jobs.”
The former CBI director general claimed that with more skilled young people and a weak pound, Britain could re-establish itself as a manufacturing centre and rebalance the economy away from the banks and public sector.
Lord Jones, who is now business ambassador for UK Trade & Investment, added: “The unemployed, especially the young unemployed, have got to get a skill, because there aren’t jobs in Britain if you haven’t got a skill.
“I act for a lot of manufacturers who say the biggest inhibitor to succeeding in Britain in the 21st century is ‘I haven’t got enough skilled people and I don’t want them from Poland or India, I want them from Britain’.
“Why is it that so many young people say ‘I won’t go into this, I’d rather be on the dole because I’ll make more money than being in work’? Then the jobs go to people from other countries who are prepared to work harder for less.
“I want a situation where business and other employers, colleges and schools link together so that younger people, instead of being disruptive actually can make themselves a few more bob, and add to the wealth of the country.”
Head teachers claim the scheme would drive down education standards, leaving millions of young people ill-equipped for the challenges of a changing economy.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This would be an extraordinary retrograde step. “If we allowed people to leave school at 14, we would be letting loose a cohort of people in the workplace who are simply unprepared.
“Research shows that early specialism is dangerous, especially at a time when we simply do not know what sort of workforce we will need in 20 or 30 years time and young people are going to have to work longer than any previous generation.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “There aren’t enough jobs for 16-year-olds, let alone 14-year-olds.
“Allowing children to leave school at that age, without good levels of literacy and numeracy, would trap them in low-paid jobs for the rest of their lives.”
Bowel cancer rate doubles for British men
This is what is to be expected of an ageing population. Old people fall apart in all sorts of ways and there are now a lot more of them. The claims about red meat are just epidemiological garbage
Bowel cancer rates for men have doubled since the 1970s, it was revealed yesterday. More than one in 15 men are at risk of developing the disease compared with one in 29 in 1975. For women, the risk has risen by more than a quarter to one in 19, from one in 26 in the mid-1970s, according to figures released by Cancer Research UK.
Experts say a diet rich in red and processed meat and lacking in fruit and vegetables is partly to blame for the soaring levels.
Sara Hiom, director of health information at the charity, said: ‘An ageing population as well as changes in lifestyle have both led to more people developing cancer than a generation ago.
‘But even though the chances of getting the disease have increased in the population there are many ways that people can cut their own risk. ‘You can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by keeping a healthy weight, being physically active, eating a healthy diet that’s high in fibre and low in red and processed meat, cutting down on alcohol and not smoking.’
In 2008 there were 21,500 cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in men compared with 11,800 in 1975. For women the numbers have gone up from 13,500 in 1975 to 17,400 three years ago.
The figures, published in the British Journal of Cancer, represent the ‘lifetime risk’ of getting the disease, a new method of calculation taking into account people who get cancer more than once or die from other diseases.
Professor Peter Sasieni, the Cancer Research UK epidemiologist who produced the figures, said: ‘As people are living longer the numbers getting cancer have increased and the lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer has gone up. ‘For some cancers, including bowel, the risk of cancer in the next ten years will be much higher for people in their 50s and 60s.
‘But if someone reaches their late 70s and hasn’t yet developed the disease then their risk of getting it during the rest of their lifetime is lower than their risk at birth.’
Survival rates have improved, however, with 50 per cent of bowel cancer patients now living for at least ten years, double the number in the early 1970s due to earlier diagnosis and improvements in surgical techniques.
Scientists warned earlier this year that eating less red meat could prevent 17,000 cases of bowel cancer in the UK every year.
Mark Flannagan, chief executive of the charity Beating Bowel Cancer, urged people who are offered screening to accept the offer. ‘It could save your life,’ he said. ‘But we must look at the positives. In around half of cases bowel cancer can now be beaten.’