Lying NHS psychologist gets a slap on the wrist
A child psychologist who has featured as an expert on BBC’s Woman’s Hour tried to stop a father winning custody of his teenage daughter by falsely claiming he was autistic, a disciplinary panel was told yesterday.
Dr Ruth Coppard told officers involved in family court proceedings that Ian Watson had Asperger’s syndrome, despite having no evidence to back the claim. As well as Radio 4, Coppard has appeared on the Richard and Judy show and featured in other media.
She was found guilty of misconduct by the Health Professions Council in London yesterday after six out of seven allegations against her were found proved. The panel also ruled that her fitness to practice was impaired.
The allegations included informing a family court officer that Mr Watson had Asperger’s syndrome – a form of autism – ‘without providing any evidence to substantiate your conclusion’.
Coppard, an NHS psychologist who is based in Barnsley, had also diagnosed the teenage girl as having the same autistic spectrum disorder.
She made damaging comments about them both in a report commissioned by Mr Watson’s ex-wife in November 2008 and a second report for the family GP four months later. Coppard admitted she ‘crossed the line’ by helping Mr Watson’s former wife and taking her side in the custody dispute. She told the hearing: ‘I may have been seduced by the mother’s request, but I really believed it was important for people to understand the extent of her difficulties.’
Mr Watson said he had attended treatment sessions with his ex-wife and daughter but had never himself been assessed for any condition.
He claimed Coppard’s report misused confidential information, which left his daughter feeling ‘cross and emotional’. ‘I don’t believe at any time in her life she’s going to have the confidence to talk about her feelings with anyone like that again,’ he said.
‘I went there in good faith and revealed my thoughts and feelings. What I said was added to a long list of failings that were mentioned in court as evidence to why I wasn’t fit to have custody of my two children.’
Coppard made the claims about Mr Watson two years after treating his 14-year-old daughter for an eating disorder.
She even contacted the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service to make sure they took her opinions into consideration. She admitted breaching patient confidentiality, but insisted she believed it was in the teenager’s best interests. She conceded: ‘There are a number of things I should have done differently.’
Panel chairman Jacki Pearce said Coppard ‘conducted herself in a manner that fell short of a registered psychologist’.
She was given an 18-month condition of practice order, which means she will work under supervision and undergo training.
Hospitals call in Army: Staffing crisis in casualty wards forces NHS bosses to turn to military medics
A recruitment crisis has forced hospitals to call in Army medical staff to run their accident and emergency departments. The national shortage of ‘mid-grade’ doctors – posts between junior doctors and consultants – means some hospitals have 30 per cent fewer staff than they need, figures show. This has led to NHS trusts being forced to close units overnight because there are not enough staff to ensure they are safely run.
Yesterday it emerged that Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has called the Army Medical Service to ask for cover to try to restore a 24-hour emergency service.
Pontefract Hospital A&E has, since November, been closed between 10pm and 6am due to a shortage of mid-grade doctors.
Around 12,000 residents have signed a petition pleading for Pontefract A&E to be re-opened. Meanwhile, Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust has confirmed that, until last month, doctors and nurses from the Army and RAF had been working in its A&E.
The staffing crisis has been blamed on soaring admissions caused by binge-drinking and patients unable to see an out-of-hours GP. Critics described the situation as ‘deeply worrying’ and blamed the Government’s controversial health reforms.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said that in the past shortages would have been solved by Strategic Health Authorities, which are to be scrapped.
He said: ‘The dangerous decision to dismantle existing NHS structures before Parliament has approved new ones is exposing hospitals and patients to unacceptable risks. Essential tasks such as workforce planning across hospitals, to resolve these problems, have been disrupted. There is a loss of grip and focus at local level.’
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, who is MP for Pontefract and Castleford, said: ‘It is deeply worrying that two hospitals have had to seek help from the Army because of the shortage of doctors and the Government needs to explain urgently why they have allowed it to come to this and what action ministers will take to deliver the doctors we need.’
Dr Taj Hassan, vice-president of the College of Emergency Medicine, which provided the national shortage figures, said fewer junior doctors wanted to specialise in A&E as the departments have become increasingly intense.
The number of admissions has soared in recent years and he pointed to the binge-drinking culture, as well as patients not being able to see a GP whenever they want. Dr Hassan added that gaps in the rota were caused by a EU diktat stipulating junior doctors could only work a maximum of 48 hours a week
Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust confirmed two doctors and five nurses from the Army and RAF helped man Stafford Hospital’s A&E department between October and December. The trust has struggled to recruit staff in the wake of a care scandal which is thought to have cost the lives of up to 1,200 patients.
Professor Tim Hendra, medical director at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said there had only been ‘very early exploratory conversations with the Army’. It followed a review by the trust, Strategic Health Authority and Primary Care Trust, he added. ‘These doctors would be trained medical staff not on military service who could provide temporary support with our staffing rotas,’ he said. ‘This is only offered in exceptional circumstances.’
A Department of Health spokesman denied there was a shortage of doctors at Pontefract.
Labour Party didn’t care who landed in Britain
Labour left our immigration system in a complete mess. Everyone could see that. Millions of people came through its open doors to the UK – sometimes in the backs of lorries, sometimes as students who never went home when their studies finished, sometimes as failed asylum seekers who were never asked to leave.
Hundreds of thousands more came from Eastern Europe when the European Union expanded. Other countries erected temporary barriers to immediate migration. Britain did not – and saw a wave of people come here to find work.
We knew all this when we took office, and we began work immediately, both to bring the numbers down and to tackle the organisational chaos. What came as a particular shock, though, was the way in which Labour had managed the interaction between our immigration and benefits systems. Quite simply, they had not linked the two at all. When parliamentary questions were asked about the number of overseas nationals who were claiming benefits, we couldn’t answer. The information simply wasn’t recorded. It was a scandalous omission.
The integrity of our benefits system is crucial to the reputation of our welfare state – to whether taxpayers feel that they are getting a fair deal. There’s a natural instinct that says that no one from other countries should receive benefits at all. But if someone works and pays taxes here, it’s not unreasonable that we should help out if they fall on hard times.
But we have to have a system that is fair and transparent, and which stops people receiving money that they should not be entitled to.
In the last few months we have been working together to tackle the problem. For the first time the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions are working together on this. We started with a programme of modification to our IT systems that means the nationality of all benefit claimants will be recorded when the new Universal Credit begins in 2013.
But waiting three years and doing nothing was not good enough. So we’ve done a complex research exercise to match information about people’s nationality when they entered the country with the list of people now on benefits. As a result we now know that there are 371,000 people who were foreign nationals when they entered Britain who are claiming benefits. The majority come from outside the EU.
We’ve also done a further piece of work with a sample group of 9,000 of those people to find out more about them. We’ve tracked down three quarters of them, and most have a right to what they are receiving. They are people who have settled here, either by becoming British nationals or being given indefinite leave to remain. Those people who are now British nationals are fully entitled to means-tested benefits. Those who come here for a limited period cannot claim benefits. But if we allow them to stay, the current rules say they can access our welfare state.
We’ve yet to track down the other quarter. There may be a good reason for the fact that we can’t identify the rest – there may be data errors in our different databases, like the spelling of a foreign surname. But equally, they may be an indication of a major failure in our benefits system left behind for us by the last government.
Either way, we will find out. We’ll be investigating the records of all of those people claiming benefits to make sure they are entitled to what they are receiving. We’ve already identified some with serious question marks over both their right to benefits and their immigration status. Investigators are calling to see them.
We’re also working on urgent plans to streamline the rules so that we can stop benefits immediately. Under the regulations we inherited, it takes nearly three months in a case like this. That has to stop.
All of this represents an almighty mess. It should never have been allowed to happen. And Labour should be embarrassed by what it left behind.
We’re determined to sort things out. First, by building an immigration system that is properly controlled and which people can have confidence in. And second, by building a new generation of data systems that will ensure that no one can come to Britain and claim benefits to which they are not entitled. It’s what British taxpayers deserve, and it’s not before time.
370,000 migrants on the dole in Britain
More than 370,000 migrants who were admitted to Britain to work, study or go on holiday are now claiming out-of-work benefits, according to official figures compiled for the first time.
370,000 migrants on the dole
The migrants, who can claim unemployment, housing and incapacity benefit, are costing taxpayers billions of pounds a year. In other countries, many would have had to return home after their visas expired or their employment ended.
The figures are likely to reopen the debate over the generosity of the welfare system amid growing concerns that the country has become a destination for “benefit tourists”.
In an article for today’s Daily Telegraph, Chris Grayling, the employment minister, and Damian Green, the immigration minister, say that the large number of migrants now claiming benefits has been increased by the “organisational chaos” of Britain’s immigration system. “It should never have been allowed to happen and Labour should be embarrassed by what it left behind,” they add.
“We’re determined to sort things out. Firstly by building an immigration system that is properly controlled and which people can have confidence in. And secondly by building a new generation of data systems that will ensure that no one can come to Britain and claim benefits to which they are not entitled.”
In the past, the nationality of benefit claimants has not been recorded. Ministers ordered a comparison of records held by the UK Border Agency, Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs.
The analysis found there were 371,000 foreign-born claimants for out-of-work benefits, out of a total 5.5 million recipients. Of these, 258,000 were from outside the European Economic Area.
Officials used data from applications for National Insurance cards, which require people to declare whether they are foreign nationals. Just over half have subsequently become British citizens.
People from outside the European Union can legally come to Britain to work, study or visit with a visa. If they stay for a certain period of time, marry or have children they can apply to remain permanently — after which they become eligible for state handouts. Asylum seekers can also be eligible for benefits.
European nationals actively looking for work can claim unemployment benefit. However, those from some eastern European nations can only claim after 12 months on a registration scheme.
In the majority of cases, ministers found that the migrants claiming benefits were eligible for the money. In a small sample group, details from a quarter of claimants could not be verified, while 2 per cent of them were suspected of making fraudulent claims.
Mr Grayling and Mr Green write: “We’ll be investigating the records of all
those people claiming benefits to make sure they are entitled to what they are receiving.
“We’ve already identified some with serious question marks over both their right to benefits and their immigration status. Investigators are calling to see them.”
It currently takes about three months to stop benefits in these cases and ministers are drawing up plans to allow the handouts to be stopped immediately.
The analysis found that the highest number of migrants on benefits originally came from Pakistan, Somalia and India. Bangladesh, Iraq and Iran also featured prominently. European countries among the top 20 for claimants include Poland, Ireland, France and Italy.
The figures will lead to a debate over whether people who had previously paid tax should be given priority for benefits.
Mr Grayling and Mr Green write: “The integrity of our benefits system is crucial to the reputation of our welfare state — to whether taxpayers feel that they are getting a fair deal.
“There’s a natural instinct that says that no one from other countries should receive benefits at all. But if someone works and pays taxes here, it’s not unreasonable that we should help out if they fall on hard times.”
They add that the system has to be fair and stop people receiving money to which there are not entitled.
The Department for Work and Pensions has not made any estimate as to the total cost of the benefits claimed by the immigrants. Nor does the research cover those receiving the state pension, child benefit or other handouts.
Jobseekers’ Allowance is currently paid at up to £67.50 a week. Incapacity benefit is worth up to £94.25 a week. Housing benefits are typically more generous although the Government is planning to introduce a “benefit cap” to prevent any household from claiming a total of more than £26,000 annually.
Mr Grayling also disclosed last year that the Government was poised to take legal action against the EU to stop more foreigners being able to claim benefits in this country under controversial “reciprocal arrangements”.
David Cameron has pledged to bring non-EU immigration “under control” and a target to reduce those moving to Britain into the “tens of thousands” annually is one of his main policies.
The Conservatives accuse Labour of having let immigration spiral out of control with hundreds of thousands of people, including many from eastern Europe, settling in this country.
Apart from their impact on the welfare system, ministers are also concerned about the number of jobs being taken by immigrants.
Other official figures show that up to 90 percent of new jobs created in Britain over the past decade have gone to foreign -born workers while levels of unemployment have risen.
The Government believes that improving the education and training of Britons, particularly young people, is the key to ensuring that they can compete for jobs.
In England, where I live now, I let a house to a group of students. In 2004, the Blair Labour government passed a new Housing Act which, among other things, required landlords like me to install a hand basin in every bedroom, ‘where practicable.’ This clause is now operative, so just before Christmas, I met at the house with my tenants, a qualified plumber, and an inspector from the local Council to determine whether it was ‘practicable’ to install basins in the five bedrooms.
I admit I wasn’t much in favour of the idea; it is an expensive job and I have visions of drunken students heaving basins off the wall and flooding the whole house. My tenants didn’t like the idea either. They thought basins would take up valuable wall space that could be better occupied by desks, book cases or Che Guevara posters. The man from the Council thought the new rule was ridiculous, too, but his hands were tied. And my plumber had to admit that, with a soil pipe immediately outside two of the windows, it would be quite ‘practicable’ to install basins in two of the five bedrooms.
So we all agreed that in two of the five rooms, basins would have to be installed to comply with the Act, even though it made no sense to do so. The tenants promptly asked me to delay this ‘improvement’ until after they move out.
At the last election, the Tories promised to scrap all unnecessary red tape, so I wrote to my local Conservative MP and suggested that this particular provision of the 2004 Housing Act might be a good place to start. She forwarded my letter to the (Liberal Democrat) Minister responsible for such matters (the Tories are in coalition, remember, and all the boring jobs have been given to Lib Dems). He has just replied to me.
He tells me that the law requiring a hand basin in every room is necessary ‘to ensure that standards are decent.’ The implication seems to be that, unless we are tightly controlled, we avaricious landlords will condemn students to live ‘indecently’ (in my experience, many students manage this quite nicely with no prompting from me).
I have written back to the Minister asking why he thinks a politician in Westminster is a better judge than the landlord who owns the house, the tenants who live in it, and the local council that regulates it, to determine whether or not a bedroom requires a hand basin. I’ll let you know if I get an answer.
Meanwhile, on the same day that I received the Minister’s letter, I had an email from a certain Ben Plowdon, who tells me he is ‘Director of Surface Planning’ at something called ‘Transport for London’. I don’t know Ben, but he seems to know me, for he addresses me personally. He writes: ‘Dear Mr Saunders, I am writing to both drivers and cyclists reminding them to take care on London’s roads.’
I can’t remember the last time I drove or cycled in London. Nevertheless, I was so touched by Ben’s concern for my welfare that I decided to write back immediately:
Dear Mr Plowden,
Thank you for your email telling me to “take care on London’s roads.”
Up until now I did not realise it was necessary to take care when driving in London.
I will do my best to follow your advice in the future – just as soon as I have taught my grandmother to suck eggs.
PS How many GCSEs do you need to do your job?
SOURCE (GCSEs are a middle school qualification, well short of a degree)
Britain’s Green Subsidy Farms Harvest £25 Million For Sweet F.A.
Wind farms are receiving millions of pounds to shut down when the weather is too windy, The Times has learnt.
Dozens of onshore facilities shared £25 million last year, a 13,733 per cent increase on 2010, after a particularly blustery year, according to the figures released by National Grid.
The payments to stop operating are made by National Grid because it cannot cope with the amount of power being fed on to the system when it is very windy. But experts and consumer groups have accused wind-farm operators of abusing the system by demanding excessive payments.
Ultimately, the cost of being shut down is passed on to households because National Grid charges energy suppliers, who add the levy to bills.
Wind farms already receive large subsidies from consumers because they cost more to operate than coal and gas plants but produce no carbon emissions.
In total last year National Grid paid operators to stop generating for 149,983 megawatt-hours, equivalent to 1.49 per cent of the total electricity generated by Britain’s wind farms. This is equivalent to one large onshore farm being paid to be switched off all year.
It is the first time that National Grid, a FTSE-100 company, has revealed how much it paid wind farms not to operate. Many of the payments are made to onshore wind farms in remote places, like the Scottish Highlands, where the grid has not been properly upgraded.
National Grid argues that it is usually cheaper to pay off wind farms on the occasions when they would be operating at full capacity than spending billions of pounds to strengthen these isolated parts of the grid.
On one of the windiest days in October last year, National Grid paid wind farms £1.6 million, or £361 per MW/h on average, about four times the price that operators would expect to sell their electricity, according to ENDS, the specialist environmental information provider.
Consumer Focus said that wind-farm operators should not be able to hold National Grid to ransom by demanding huge payments in return for not generating electricity.
Richard Hall, head of energy regulation, said: “If wind-farm generators are asked to cut production they will clearly expect some compensation. But to keep costs down for customers we believe this should be at a level which reflects the realistic value of the loss to the company, not an arbitrary level that the firms set themselves.”
Ofgem, the energy regulator, said that it had “long-standing concerns” about the level of payments.
Since 2007 the amount of these “constraint payments” to all power generators has doubled as the amount of renewables being built has risen. Wind farms receive a disproportionately high amount of these payments compared with coal and gas plants.
The size of payments will soar further as Britain tries to meet its target of generating a third of its electricity from renewables, mostly wind farms, by 2020.
Phil Hare, vice-president for northwest Europe for Pöyry Management Consulting, the energy consultant, said: “If wind farms are receiving much more in constraint payments than they would if they sold the electricity, they are making a turn they shouldn’t be.
“By 2020, because of all the wind farms which will be on the system, the ups and downs of power generation will be staggering and very hard to deal with.”
Now Brussels ‘brainwashes’ schoolchildren: EU accused of targeting pupils after handing out pencil cases bearing logo
This might seem like a trivial complaint but the EU is not popular in Britain. Only the politicians want it
The European Union has been accused of trying to ‘brainwash’ children after pupils all over the country were given pencil cases with its logo emblazoned across it.
The brightly-coloured pencil cases featuring the EU’s 12-star logo were handed out to schoolchildren following an event encouraging teachers to forge links with the Commission.
The one-day conference was staged by Staffordshire County Council and was attended by 50 teachers to raise awareness of the EU in schools, it was reported.
However, critics fear the event and the subsequent gifts to pupils were attempts to brainwash schoolchildren into backing the EU. ‘Taxpayers will be shocked to read the cash they pay to Brussels is being spent in this way. If schools want children to know about the EU, there are plenty of unbiased resources,’ Andrew Allison, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told the Express. ‘Teachers don’t need to go to expensive conferences, and schools don’t need to buy books from the EU bookshop.’
Meanwhile Paul Nuttal, Ukip MEP, added that it was ‘utterly wrong’ that an organisation representing a ‘highly controversial political position’ should be allowed to spread its message in to schools.
The EU Commission denied the pencil cases amounted to propaganda, or that the conference had a political slant. Instead event’s focus was to explore funding opportunities for the EU. The scheme was part of the EU Comenius programme, aimed at schools, colleges and councils across and supported by the British Council, an EU spokesman said.
A total of 438 UK schools were funded to forge links with European counterparts in 2011, the spokesman told the Express, adding: ‘The UK authorities vigorously promoted British involvement.’
Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for schools, Liz Staples, said the event – which cost £3,500 – was ‘purely educational’ and there was no cost to the taxpayer.
Staffordshire County Council is understood to have received a formal complaint from a resident about the conference, which was held in November, which its legal department is now looking in to.