Elderly are humiliated by nurses, warns report
Too many nurses are robbing elderly people of their dignity by treating them as children and stripping them of independence, a commission is to warn.
The landmark report is expected to say that staff in hospitals and care homes are humiliating older people by feeding them to save time – rather than helping those who need it – and issuing orders about what they should wear and when they must go to bed.
Senior managers, charities and council chiefs have made a series of recommendations designed to stamp out discrimination of the elderly as well as neglect and abuse.
Evidence to their commission heard the devastating effect of poor care, with older people describing how their skills, self-confidence, and ability to look after themselves deteriorated in response to the way they were treated.
The report by Age UK, the NHS Confederation and the Local Government Association will say institutions need to do more to help older people maintain their identity, especially when they are adjusting to major changes in their circumstances, such as the loss of a partner, or the move into hospital or a care home.
In an earlier draft of the report, authors said nurses should be banned from using patronising phrase such as “How are we today, dear?” which they said belittled older people.
Recommendations due to be published on Monday are expected to say that language which denigrates older people “has no place in a caring society and should be as unacceptable as racist or sexist terms”.
The report will say that expressions such as “bed blockers” to describe those waiting to be discharged from hospital should not be used because they imply that older people are a burden.
However, it will shy away from advising nurses not to call patients “dear” after the recommendation was pilloried by commentators – who said most people cared more about being treated with kindness and not being left in soiled bed sheets, than about the terms used to address them.
The commission will say staff need to give more physical and emotional support to those in their care, and to take into account the spiritual needs of elderly people, especially those reaching the end of their lives.
The report, which has been redrafted following responses from more than 200 organisations and individuals, will say hospitals and care homes could use social networking tools to store a record of an elderly person’s personal preferences, to ensure they are treated like an individual.
It is expected to suggest that sites like Facebook and LinkdIn could be adapted to hold information, which would advise those caring for elderly people about the person’s life, preferred habits, food and drink tastes, and any communication difficulties or triggers which could cause upset.
A paper version of such records was pioneered by the Alzheimer’s Society for patients with dementia.
Other recommendations include more regular assessments of elderly people, to ensure that their pain and nutrition are managed, and to eliminate basic errors, such as forgetting to end a period when patients are “nil by mouth”.
A copy of the report will be sent to every NHS hospital and care home chief executive in England.
British school inspectorate to tackle ‘anti-school culture’ in poor areas
Generations of white working-class boys are being consigned to the scrapheap because of an “anti-school culture” in deprived areas, according to the head of Ofsted.
Hundreds of thousands of poor children are growing up with little hope of a good education or career after being raised by families that fail to set proper boundaries or fully understand the difference between right and wrong, Sir Michael Wilshaw warned.
He said problems were particularly acute among disadvantaged white boys who perform worse than almost every other group at the age of 16.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Sir Michael said that old-fashioned values such as “self-help” and support for education had been eroded in many communities, particularly those in post-industrial cities with high levels of unemployment.
He said teachers from the best schools in these areas were now expected to act as “surrogate parents” – escorting pupils to bus stops, helping with homework, providing meals and giving them advice – in place of families “who can’t or won’t support their children”.
The comments were made as Ofsted prepared to launch a major inquiry on Friday intended to tackle the gulf between rich and poor pupils in the English education system.
Experts from schools, social services and higher education will sit on a panel established to assess the scale of underachievement in deprived communities and make sweeping recommendations designed to “close the gap”.
The programme – due to be concluded next year – comes two decades after a landmark study from Ofsted, Access and Achievement in Urban Education, raised major concerns over the issue. A follow-up report was published in 2003.
Sir Michael said: “We still have this long tail of underperformance in our state education system and we’re not closing the gap between the best and the worst, the richest and the poorest. We still have failure which largely resides in the poorest communities.
“Schools in these areas have to counter generations of failure and a culture which is often anti-school and anti-learning. We must show how that is tackled.”
According to figures, children from the poorest homes – those eligible for free school meals – fall behind wealthier classmates throughout compulsory education.
Last year, just a third of these pupils gained five good GCSEs, including the core subjects of English and mathematics, compared with some 62 per cent of other children.
White British boys eligible for free meals officially performed worse than any other group – aside from gypsy and traveller children – with fewer than 29 per cent gaining good grades.
Speaking before a major address to the National College for School Leadership in Birmingham on Friday, Sir Michael said the report would outline how outstanding schools in tough areas gained good results.
He also said it would tackle underperformance among certain groups, with white working-class boys being seen as a “big issue”.
Many of these children were surrounded by “generations of worklessness” following the demise of industries such as coalmining and shipbuilding, he said.
He added: “We need to look back as well as forward. By that I mean, working-class communities in the past valued education, with that spirit of working men’s institutes and technical colleges and so on. Those communities thought long and hard about the future of their children and supported schools and were very much into self-help. We need to bring that back.”
Sir Michael, former head of Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney, east London, also said that school leaders had to “understand that they are not going to close the gap unless they act as surrogate parents in place of those families who can’t or won’t support their children”.
“A lot of children will depend on the school to help with homework, to come in at weekends and to work in extension programmes,” he said. “Often these youngsters come from unstructured environments where there are few boundaries and few social, cultural and family norms.
“It is really important that school, from the very word go, introduces those boundaries; behaviour boundaries, understanding the difference between right and wrong, talking to children in the way that you expect good families to do.”
Blog banned by embarrassed British council
A British schoolgirl, Martha Payne, has been banned from posting pictures of her school dinners on her hugely successful blog despite it earning worldwide praise for its content.
The nine year-old’s blog NeverSeconds has had more than two million hits, sparked debate about the state of school dinners across the globe and raised at least £2000 for charity.
But on Friday it emerged the local council has banned her from posting pictures on her blog, started seven weeks ago, because of a “headline in a newspaper”.
Despite the blog’s huge success and the “brilliant” support from her unnamed school, Argyll and Bute Council bureaucrats made the decision after the negative publicity.
The decision has left the schoolgirl, from Lochgilphead, Argyll, devastated and her 39 year-old father, Dave, angry at the “unfortunate” decision, which will prevent her from continuing the blog.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Payne [the girl’s father] agreed the ban was an “own goal” by the council that will only serve to generate more criticism because “the pictures tell the story about how good the food is.”
“I have no idea what process the council went through, but it just seems to me incredibly short-sighted to penalise a girl who’s actually been a force for good and a force for change by slapping her down and silencing her. If that had happened in China, we would be up in arms about it.”
Because her home is on the west coast of Scotland, standards for school meals are different and improvements throughout Britain appear not to have been applied to her unidentified school.
With permission from teachers, she photographed her £2 school lunches and wrote about them, posting pictures online every day and added a rating under her “Food-o-meter”. Her first picture was a slice of pizza and a single potato croquette, alongside some sweetcorn and a cupcake for desert.
UPDATE: After huge criticism, Argyll and Bute council have now backed down on their ban
Martha Payne isn’t the only schoolkid who has fallen victim to Britain’s school-dinners authoritarianism
By Brendan O’Neill
How lovely that the Twitterati has come out in support of Martha Payne, the nine-year-old girl whose school-dinners blog, “Never Seconds”, was temporarily banned by Argyll and Bute council. Little Miss Payne has been taking photos of her school dinners every day for two months, and posting them online with comments about how unappealing they were. And in an era when officialdom and commentators are obsessed with what schoolkids eat during their lunchbreaks, as if it makes a blind bit of difference to their future fortunes, her blog became an internet sensation. Her local council, not best pleased by the adverse publicity and clearly possessed of a bizarre authoritarian streak, decided to ban the blog. The ban has now been overturned, after tweeters and celebs correctly pointed out that it was wrong and rotten for a council to censor a child’s after-school blogging. Good work, Twitterati.
But what a shame that these decent folks’ opposition to council heavy-handedness in relation to school lunches is so spectacularly partial. What a shame, for example, that they haven’t offered solidarity to those millions of children who have been banned from bringing sweets and crisps into schools, which, as I once reported for the BBC, has given rise to a black market in junk food in school playgrounds. What a shame they didn’t speak out when councils, behaving like a Tuckshop Taliban, stormed into schools and shut down tuckshops and vending machines that sold chocolate or Coke. What a shame they didn’t have anything to say when mothers in Yorkshire who passed chips through the schoolgates to their children were slated in the media and depicted as Viz-style “Fat Slags” in The Sun. What a shame they didn’t complain when it was revealed that some schools are taking it upon themselves to raid children’s lunchboxes – made for them by their parents! – in order to confiscate anything “unhealthy”.
What a shame, in other words, that only one kind of authoritarianism in relation to school dinners is criticised – namely that which censors people from revealing how crap such dinners are – while other forms of authoritarianism, which control both what children can eat and even what their parents can provide them with, are tolerated. Like stern headmasters, it seems concerned hacks will only give their nod of approval to nice, polite, healthy schoolchildren, while withholding it from the rabble, from kids who eat chips and cake with the blessing of their stupid parents. Those kids, it seems, can be censored and censured and controlled as much as is necessary.
Hickman on Lovelock
A little while ago I was rather reproving towards Ben Pile over his “intellectual” style of writing — a style which to an extent obscured an excellent skeptical mind. In a brief resultant correspondence with him he mentioned that his own father had once asked him: “Why use 8 words when 80 would do?”. He assured me however that he can write in an easily understandable way when he tries and I think his article below is proof of that
Given that Lovelock predicted in 2006 that by this century’s end “billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable”, this new laissez-faire attitude to our environmental fate smells and sounds like of a screeching handbrake turn.
Indeed, earlier this year he admitted to MSNBC in an interview reported around the world with somewhat mocking headlines along the lines of “Doom-monger recants”, that he had been “extrapolating too far” in reaching such a conclusion and had made a “mistake” in claiming to know with such certainty what will happen to the climate.
But Lovelock is relaxed about how this reversal might be perceived. He says being allowed to change your mind and follow the evidence is one of the liberating marvels of being an independent scientist, something he has revelled in since leaving Nasa, his last full-time employer, in the late 1960s.
This raises some points of discussion that Hickman has in the past shrunk away from, and no doubt, given his green leanings, is made uncomfortable by. Kudos to him for that. But as I pointed out in my review of Mark Lynas’ attempt to reformulate environmentalism, these uncomfortable issues might well have been confronted years ago.
Environmentalism, ignorant to criticism, has thus developed inside an insular, self-regarding bubble. Perhaps only someone from within it could prick that bubble, revealing to its members what those outside it have been telling them for decades.
Lovelock observes, for instance, that environmentalism has developed into something resembling a religion, which is mirrored by a religiosity amongst some sceptics. On the first point, Lovelock is hardly the first to point it out. And though as a description it seems to explain the excesses of environmentalism, it isn’t enough to explain how green thinking developed in this way. And the second point seems to present environmentalists as equal and opposite forces, which is inaccurate, as we know, because ‘scepticism’ simply isn’t a political force — it has very little institutional muscle through which it can assert itself . Similarly, the substance of many arguments on Hickman’s own articles seems to have been that a handful of tiny and barely-funded organisations have been able to thwart the progress of huge NGOs and governments seeking to establish global political institutions to ‘tackle climate change’.
The interview concludes, after Lovelock’s entirely correct pointing out that ‘sustainability’ is a meaningless concept:
Lovelock says he’s doubtful that internationalist efforts of this sort achieve much: “Whenever the UN puts its finger in, it seems to become a mess. The burden of my thoughts are very much that the climate situation is more complex than we at present are capable of handling, or possibly even in the future. You can’t treat it as a scientific problem alone. You have to involve the whole world, and then there’s the time constant of human activity. Look at how long ago the Kyoto treaty was – 15 years ago – and damn all has been done. The human time constant is very slow. You don’t get major changes in under 50-100 years, and climate doesn’t wait for that.”
But the UN’s efforts were never ‘science alone’ and were from the outset a political project, which recruited scientific authority precisely as the political authority of domestic governments waned. This ought to gives us clues, both as to environmentalism’s ascendency, and its religious character. It’s no use pretending now that environmentalism was, from its beginning, a response to science which merely lost its way. The clues are there: Lovelock’s freedom to admit his mistakes are, as he explains, made possible by his freedom from institutional science. The transformation of science — its increasing specialisation, and its shift of focus, away from the material world, onto the organisation of society and formulating the basis of policy — is something which Lovelock seems to recognise as a problem, but is unable to distance himself from:
Lovelock is influenced at present by US biologist EO Wilson and his study of social insects. “He’s come up with an extraordinary theory that the nest is the unit of selection, not the individual insects. That has enormous consequences. Now consider that applied to humans. If we all move into cities, they become the equivalent of a nest. Then another thought comes immediately from that: if that’s the way the flow is going, don’t stop it, let’s encourage it. Instead of trying to save the planet by geo-engineering or whatever, you merely have to air-condition the cities.”
This Logan’s Run vision of the future – where we all live in megacities to better manage dwindling resources – might not appeal to all, he admits. “But you don’t even have to do the experiment. You only have to go to Singapore. You could not have chosen a worse climate in which to build a city. It’s a swamp with temperatures in the 90s every day, and very humid. But it is one of the most successful cities in the world. It seems to me that they are treading the path that we are all going to go. It’s so much cheaper to air-condition the cities and let Gaia take care of the world. It’s a much better route to go than so-called ‘sustainable development’, which is meaningless drivel.”
The idea of cities as ‘nests’, which better enable us to survive nature’s (now mediated, or at lest, deferred) revenge is not a real escape from the ‘Spaceship Earth’ idea of social organisation. Cities were attractive once because they offered many things than amount to a preferable way of life (for most), not simply an escape from nature — whatever her plans. The idea of limited resources still seems to forces us into megacities, whereas a proper break with environmentalism’s precepts would conceive of a future in which we are <i>less</i> bound by material constraints — natural resources and hostile environments — than more so. Cities should develop according to our wishes, not organised around the (myth of the) necessity of survival.There is little reflection, also, in Lovelock’s distancing from his alarmist past. It’s one thing to recognise the excesses of environmental orthodoxy, and its weakening foundation in science. But surely the most interesting thing is how one moves from a perspective in which ‘Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades‘ and ‘became the Earth’s infection a long and uncertain time ago‘ into one in which environmentalism is seen in as an irrational, inflexible and religious ideology. After all, Lovelock’s comments were related by Hickman just two years ago. Maybe… Just maybe… it was this view of humans — their capacities and moral value — which helps to explain environmentalism. It follows that if you think humans are stupid, and simply a virus, you might not have too much time for nuclear power.
Trust me, you can’t trust this lot with any more powers
Britain as the new East Germany
When the Coalition came to power two years ago there was at least hope that Labour’s ever-expanding Stasi state would be thrown into reverse.
Nick Clegg and his colleagues, in particular, prided themselves on their civil libertarian credentials. Both the Lib Dems and the Tories appeared to be united in their opposition to the unwarranted extension of surveillance into every crevice of our private lives.
Sadly, those hopes have been comprehensively dashed. The Government is so in thrall to the internet giant Google that it turns a blind eye to the outrageous wholesale harvesting of our personal details for commercial gain.
Under the new proposals, police will not be able to access users’ message content, but will know who was contacted, when and by what method
Loss of freedom: Police will be entitled to know the address of every email we send or receive, every website or social networking forum we visit, and the number and identity of everyone we speak to on the telephone
Now it proposes giving the police blanket authority to spy on our phone calls, texts and emails. As usual, the justification is that only by having access to our confidential communications can the police and security services keep us safe from criminals and terrorists.
Up goes the cry of the tyrant through the ages: Those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear.
The Home Secretary Theresa May suggests scandalously that anyone concerned about granting the police new powers to trawl through our private correspondence is a ‘conspiracy theorist’ who would cheerfully condemn children to abuse at the hands of paedophiles.
‘I don’t understand why some criticise these proposals,’ May writes. ‘By trying to stop the police having access to this tool, they are risking both justice and public safety.’
When May comes out with such simplistic, sentimental, intelligence-insulting drivel it almost has one hankering for the halcyon days of her hopeless Labour predecessor ‘Jackboots’ Jacqui Smith, who displayed a cavalier, almost criminal, disregard for our hard-won freedoms.
As a sop to those of us who consider any extension of the surveillance state to be a gross intrusion into our privacy, May proposes to remove the rights of Town Halls and other agencies to snoop on our emails, phone calls and internet activity.
That’s big of her. These powers should never have been granted in the first place and should have been rescinded as one of the very first acts of an incoming Coalition Government allegedly committed to upholding civil liberties. They shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip in a cynical putsch to expand the right of the state to pry into every aspect of our existence.
If May gets her way, the police and security services will ‘only’ be entitled to know the address of every email we send or receive, every website or social networking forum we visit, and the number and identity of everyone we speak to on the telephone. We are assured they won’t know the contents of those communications.
‘Whenever you give any agent of the state extra powers, they will always, always abuse it’
So that’s all right, then. Into the middle of this sensitive political debate plods the recently installed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hyphen-Howe.
‘Trust me,’ he writes in a newspaper article designed to terrify us into agreeing to his demands.
‘I don’t say this lightly, but in a significant number of cases, access to communications data is a matter of life or death.’
Translation: give me what I want or you’ll all be murdered in your beds. Hyphen-Howe cites the examples of Soham killer Ian Huntley and Milly Dowler’s murderer Levi Bellfield, who were both convicted using evidence obtained from texts and phone calls.
His implication is that without the police having access to their mobile phone records, they may have escaped justice. This is deliberately disingenuous, to say the least.
The reason Huntley evaded capture for so long was because of negligence on the part of Humberside Police, who failed to inform their counterparts in Cambridge of his suspected criminal activity.
Surely the fact that both were caught and convicted would seem to prove that sufficient powers exist already.
The police are at liberty at any time to apply to a magistrate for a warrant to carry out surveillance on a named suspect. In the year 2010-11, they were granted permission for 398 such operations, so they’re hardly fighting crime with one hand tied behind their backs.
I’ve always assumed the Funny People routinely bug and spy on suspected terrorists as a matter of course, with or without a warrant. That’s what they’re there for. No one is too concerned when the subjects of such surveillance are genuine bad guys.
What’s wrong with this latest attempted land-grab is that both the police and the security services would be tempted to go on speculative fishing expeditions against all and sundry.
Hyphen-Howe broadens his argument to suggest that any new power wouldn’t just be confined to terrorists, organised crime and paedophile rings. He says it would be used to ‘tackle criminals whose activities affect the wider community, such as repeat burglars and drug dealers’.
If he was serious about tackling everyday crime, including drug dealers and burglars, he’d reopen a few police stations and put some proper coppers back on the beat.
The most likely outcome of granting the police more surveillance powers is that even more officers will be withdrawn from the streets and will spend their time trawling pruriently through the internet alongside colleagues who currently spend all day gawping at grainy CCTV images.
Inevitably, much of this information will fall into the wrong hands, or be sold on by bent coppers to private investigators and blackmailers.
If you still think what the police are seeking is reasonable and proportionate, ask yourself this: would you like a copper on permanent duty in your house demanding to inspect all your letters and emails, sifting through your bank statements and medical records, vetting your friends and recording details of your phone calls? That, in effect, is what this amounts to.
The police and politicians pretend that what they are proposing is benign and in our best interests. Unfortunately, experience teaches us otherwise. The state is obsessed with acquiring and storing private information. Police already hold millions of DNA samples belonging to innocent people which should properly have been destroyed.
Whenever you give any agent of the state extra powers, they will always, always abuse it.
Trust me, says Hyphen-Howe. Why should we, Bernard?
Judge wants to gag British government minister
A most interesting commentary on the mentality of the judge concerned. Is a judge with a glass jaw the right man to decide on censorship? Is he up to the job?
The judge leading the probe into media behaviour threatened to quit after he was publicly criticised by a Cabinet Minister, senior Government sources claimed last night.
Lord Justice Leveson phoned Whitehall’s most senior mandarin and demanded that Education Secretary Michael Gove – who claimed the inquiry had created a ‘chilling atmosphere’ towards freedom of speech – should be gagged. In the angry call to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, the judge claimed that if Ministers were not silenced, his inquiry, set up to investigate phone-hacking by Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, would be rendered worthless.
He also summoned Mr Gove to give evidence to the inquiry to explain himself. An alarmed Sir Jeremy informed David Cameron of the judge’s ultimatum.
Government insiders say they were convinced Leveson was prepared to resign in protest unless Ministers stopped passing comment on his inquiry.
‘Our clear impression was that he was spitting tacks with Gove and was ready to resign unless the Minister was told to shut up,’ said one source.
Other insiders insisted Leveson did not threaten to walk away from the inquiry, but they confirmed the phone call to Sir Jeremy – and that Leveson said Ministers such as Mr Gove should not speak out.
‘Leveson said that if this was going to continue with Cabinet Ministers offering opinions while the inquiry was in its early days, he would have to question whether the inquiry had any value, bearing in mind it was using public money,’ said the source. ‘He did not threaten to resign.’
A spokesman for the inquiry said: ‘Lord Justice Leveson is conducting a judicial inquiry and, in that capacity, will not comment on prospective press stories outside the formal proceedings of the inquiry.’ The spokesman refused to make any further comment.
Downing Street, Mr Gove and the Cabinet Office, where Sir Jeremy is based, all refused to comment.
The extraordinary row erupted after Mr Gove gave a speech to political journalists at a House of Commons Press Gallery luncheon on February 21.
He argued that the Leveson Inquiry had created a ‘chilling atmosphere’ towards freedom of expression and any attempt to tighten regulation of newspapers could result in ‘a cure worse than the original disease’. Mr Gove was concerned about groups with vested interests ‘fettering’ the press.
He conceded that illegal activity conducted by some sections of the media had to be ‘vigorously policed’ but said Ministers should not be panicked into over-reacting to the phone-hacking scandal.
He appeared to have riled Leveson with pointed comments accusing ‘the Establishment, the great and the good and judges’ of joining forces with celebrities who wanted to muzzle a free press.
Mr Gove said: ‘When an undoubted wrong has been done there’s a desire to find a judge, a civil servant, a representative of the great and good, inevitably a figure from the Establishment, to inquire into what went wrong and to make recommendations about what might be put right. ‘It’s a natural thing for politicians to do but sometimes there are dangers associated with it.’
He added that there was a danger of regulation being imposed by ‘judges, celebrities, and the Establishment ….. all of whom have an interest in taking over from the press as arbiters of what a free press should be.’
An enraged Leveson immediately instructed his officials to compile a full report of Mr Gove’s comments. And within 24 hours, he phoned Sir Jeremy to protest.
The Cabinet Secretary informed No. 10 and Mr Gove. Cabinet sources say neither Mr Gove nor other Ministers were ordered to keep quiet about the Leveson Inquiry. However, few have spoken out since his indignant phone call.
But the bitter feud between Mr Gove and Leveson was evident when the Education Secretary, a former journalist at The Times, owned by Mr Murdoch, gave evidence at the inquiry on May 29.
A defiant Mr Gove repeated the arguments he made at the Commons Press Gallery, almost word for word, to the evident annoyance of Leveson.
The judge insisted new rules were needed to curb media excesses, while Mr Gove strongly defended Mr Murdoch and said journalists were ‘exercising a precious liberty’ when they wrote articles.
A clearly irritated Lord Justice Leveson snapped: ‘Mr Gove, I do not need to be told about the importance of freedom of speech, I really don’t.’ He was ‘concerned’ by Mr Gove’s view that ‘unacceptable’ behaviour has ‘to be accepted because of the right of freedom of speech’.
But Mr Gove stuck to his guns, insisting attempts to stamp out wrongdoing could make things worse.
Typical of British social services: Never take children away from ferals — only from decent families
It’s the Marxism they learn in social work courses: The Bourgeoisie are evil and the lower classes can do no wrong
Collette Elliott treasures the simple rituals of motherhood — the Saturday mornings when her three daughters clamber onto her bed for a cuddle and a chat, and the Sunday evenings spent watching a DVD together.
She celebrates their birthdays with parties, and still kisses her youngest tenderly after a bedtime story each night.
These rituals are not unusual, yet to Collette they are at once precious and disconcerting, so alien are they to the childhood she knew. For her own mother was as distant and neglectful as Collette is devoted and doting.
Maureen Batchelor was an alleged prostitute who spent Collette’s early years flitting between men, failing to feed her daughter properly and often seeming to forget her existence.
But while Maureen’s conduct as a mother was shocking, it is not as shocking as the fact that social services knew what her vulnerable daughter was going through.
So enraged is Collette by what she believes is their negligence that she is now taking legal action against Birmingham social services for failing to take her into full-time care, in what is thought to be the first case of its kind in Britain.
They were alerted to her mother’s behaviour when Collette was just two months old, and concerned enough to put her into care on two occasions before she was four.
Reports seen by the Mail show that they believed Maureen had been cautioned for soliciting men, and was proving to be an incapable mother. But when approached by the Mail, Maureen denied ever having been a prostitute. Social services also allegedly knew about her criminal boyfriends, her brushes with the law and her occasional homelessness.
They heard from Collette’s foster mother how Collette had said her mother hit her — yet still decreed Maureen was the best person to care for her. Against all odds, 34-year-old Collette is now happily married and trying to heal the scars of her blighted early life. She and her mother, who still lives near her in Birmingham, are estranged, but her situation today couldn’t be further from her chaotic early life.
Collette was so psychologically damaged by the age of 18 that she tried to kill herself. It was to be the first of 12 suicide attempts over more than a decade of suffering from clinical depression.
It was only last year, after a session with her psychiatrist, that she decided to find out what exactly had happened to her by reading the social services files relating to her childhood.
‘I felt sick as I read them,’ she says today. ‘Suddenly everything slotted into place, and I felt utterly betrayed. I hated my mother.’ Collette’s fury at Maureen was equalled only by her anger at social services. ‘They let me down,’ she says. ‘There was page upon page of reasons why I shouldn’t be left with my mother, yet they seemingly ignored them.’
Despite managing to turn her life around so admirably, Collette remains troubled. Even now she suffers panic attacks and nightmares that she is back in her mother’s care.
She says: ‘My legal action is about social services being held accountable for the terrible mess my life became, and admitting that they should have cared for me better. It’s about making sure this never happens to anyone else, too.’
Collette also hopes to force a change in the law so the police can press charges against Maureen. ‘They’re saying it happened too long ago, but the scars inside will never fade,’ she says.
Sitting in her neat two-bedroom terrace house, Collette sheds frequent tears as she shares her disbelief at the contents of the 600-plus pages of social services reports she has by her side.
Meanwhile, upstairs, her three daughters, aged 15, 12 and four, are getting ready for bed. Pictures of the girls with Collette and her husband, Scott, 29, line the walls of their home.
‘Becoming a mother made me realise how awful my own childhood was,’ says Collette, who refuses to call Maureen her mother. ‘I am determined to keep my girls safe, happy and protected in a way I never was.’
Collette was just two months old when she first came to the attention of Birmingham social services. In November 1977, her health visitor reported her failure to thrive. Maureen was feeding her daughter a diet of pasteurised milk, potatoes and gravy, and Collette was often taken to hospital with infections.
Social workers described the council maisonette where Collette lived with Maureen and her boyfriend as ‘bare, cold and dirty’. At five months old, Collette weighed only 10lb. Social workers began visiting regularly: in reports they described Maureen as irresponsible and manipulative. By the time Collette was a toddler, Maureen had had known liaisons with five men.
When social workers visited, she refused to let them in, and a neighbour allegedly saw Collette wandering the streets, crying for her mother — although the police concluded she was ‘playing out of doors’ and there was no real cause for concern. ‘Maureen apparently shut me out because she was in the house with a man,’ says Collette.
In January 1979, when Collette was 18 months old, social services made her the subject of a three-year supervision order, and she was placed in a children’s home in Birmingham.
She says: ‘One social worker found prospective adoptive parents for me and argued it was detrimental for me to go back to my mother, but her bosses disagreed.’
Collette was returned to her mother on a trial arrangement in April 1980. Six months later, she fell out of her mother’s bedroom window and fractured her skull.
By then Maureen’s latest boyfriend was living with them. Two of his children from a previous relationship were in care, and he had served jail sentences for theft.
After that relationship, Maureen married Harry Price, in 1981. But that same year a neighbour reported her for soliciting, claiming men were turning up at her home at all hours of the day and night.
Collette, who was four, recalls Maureen bringing men back to their home and having sex in front of her: ‘I sat in a chair while Maureen had sex on the sofa.’
When Collette asked who her father was, Maureen was dismissive.
‘She said I was conceived during an affair, but I think my father was a client. She said he was half-Asian, and always called me a “Paki”.’ Maureen’s parents — Collette’s grandparents — refused to intervene in the chaos, and Maureen’s six siblings severed contact with her.
In March 1982, Maureen was arrested for fighting with a neighbour and charged with causing criminal damage. She was fined, and the police discovered she had previously been cautioned for soliciting. Collette was then placed with a foster mother. Maureen was allowed to visit regularly, although the reports say she rarely did.
Social workers acknowledged that Maureen’s lifestyle was having a damaging effect on her daughter but claimed they did not have the concrete evidence needed to make permanent changes.
Incredibly, their solution was a six-month rehabilitation programme in which Maureen would visit Collette several times a week at a neutral location until she felt able to look after her again.
In reality, these visits rarely happened, leaving Collette to savour her first taste of happy stability in the care of foster parents that summer.
‘My foster parents had a big garden where we picked daisies. My foster mother took me to Sunday School and gave me mints in the car on the way, which seemed like such a treat,’ she recalls.
‘I didn’t want to go back to Maureen. She’d go for weeks without seeing me, saying she’d been ill or couldn’t afford the fare to visit.’
It seems incredible, then, that by the end of 1982 Collette had been placed back with her mother. By then, Maureen had left Harry and married her current husband, Peter Batchelor, with whom she had a son in 1983 and a daughter in 1985. Collette felt even more neglected. ‘She’d tell me I didn’t belong, and that she wished I’d never been born,’ says Collette.
Her social services records contain no notes for the next two years, so it is impossible to know exactly what happened. But Collette’s memory of that time is, she says, vivid. She claims that Maureen hit her regularly with her fists, a slipper or broom handle.
‘I was told to go to my room by 6pm every night, and I wasn’t allowed books or a bedroom light on. I was so hungry I ate tissue paper. ‘I used to wet myself because the bathroom was downstairs and I was too scared of running into Maureen.’
‘Maureen lavished attention on my brother and sister. She bought them toys and gave them sweets, but I was made to eat my dinner outside, even in winter.’
Collette says that in 1985, when she was eight, she showed her teachers her bruises. They contacted social services, who requested a meeting with Collette, Maureen and Peter.
‘I told them Maureen was beating me but she denied it. They sent me home, and that night I was beaten more than ever. Maureen took me out of that school the following week.’
In 1987, Collette’s records report bruises to her knee. Although child abuse procedures were seemingly put in operation, Collette doesn’t remember social workers visiting her after that, and assumed they’d given up on her.
In May 1992, when she was 14, Collette took matters into her own hands. She went to see a social worker, reporting that she had been bitten and hit by her mother, and wanted to go back into care. Rather than investigate, however, it seems the social worker told Collette she could see no evidence of injuries, and advised her to speak to a teacher.
‘I felt I’d reached the end of the road,’ she says. ‘I was covered in bite marks and bruises, and the people who were meant to be helping me didn’t care. ‘I thought about calling the police, but if social workers didn’t believe me, why would they? I ran away a few times but I had nowhere to go, so I always went home.’
Collette left school at 16, moved in with a boyfriend in Birmingham and began studying nursing at college.
Maureen seemed less interested in her daughter by then — a fact which outsiders might assume would have come as a relief. Instead, missing the unhealthy control her mother had always exerted over her, Collette felt lost and confused.
She dropped out of college, got a job as a care worker, and at 18 was so depressed and confused that she swallowed a bottle of pills that Peter took for a heart condition. Maureen didn’t visit her daughter in hospital, where she had her stomach pumped and was placed under the care of her local mental health authority.
Collette was prescribed antidepressants and fortnightly therapy sessions. Two days later, she left hospital and went back to live with her mother and Peter. She returned to her job as a care worker and, a year later, in December 1995, met the man who was to become the father of her two eldest children at a social club.
She moved into his home in Birmingham, but the relationship was troubled from the start. Collette says her partner was domineering and controlling, but by then she felt anything was better than living with her mother. Their first daughter was born in March 1997, and their second daughter three years later.
Motherhood proved both therapeutic and traumatic for Collette, who would lock herself in the bathroom with the children for hours on end, irrationally fearing they would be taken away by her mother.
Her relationship with the girls’ father ended eight years after it began, in 2003, amid claims he’d been unfaithful to her. Four years later, when she was 29, a full-time mother and living with her children in her own home in Birmingham, Collette met Scott Elliott, then aged 24 and a window cleaner. They married soon afterwards.
‘He was kinder than any man I’d met before,’ Collette says. ‘My daughters loved him, he understood me, and he was stable and level-headed.’ Their daughter was born in November 2007.
Yet for all this new-found domestic stability — she and Scott have been married for five years and live happily with Collette’s daughters — she remained in the grip of an unshakeable depression for three further years. Between the ages of 18 and 32, Collette overdosed 12 times on antidepressants and painkillers. ‘It wasn’t a cry for help — I wanted to die,’ she says.
For reasons she cannot explain, but which probably have everything to do with the ties that bind children and abusive parents, Collette was sporadically in touch with Maureen until 2010, when her psychiatrist suggested she should sever contact so she could finally move on with her life.
‘So I called Maureen and told her I wouldn’t be in touch again. I told my daughters and they understood — they knew she hadn’t been a good mother,’ she says.
Collette then decided to investigate her past, in the hope that understanding it would help her move on. But nothing could have prepared her for the shock she felt last May on reading the extent of her mother’s neglect in the social services records.
A friend suggested she confront social workers about their role in her upbringing, and Collette is now suing them.
She also wants a change in the law so her mother can be charged with abuse. ‘I don’t want her to go to prison,’ she says. ‘I just want some acknowledgement that she did wrong.’
Last night, Maureen denied ever abusing or neglecting her daughter, and said she had never worked as a prostitute. She added: ‘Collette is round the twist. She’s doing this for a compensation payout.’
A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said it was unable to comment on individual cases. Collette still lives in the same neighbourhood as Maureen, now 58, and Peter, 70, a retired mechanic.
She last met her mother at a family funeral in April, but says it was not the ordeal she’d anticipated. ‘We didn’t speak. I looked at her and felt nothing,’ she says. ‘I realised she could no longer hurt me. In some ways, what she did made me stronger.’
With that, Collette wipes the tears from her eyes and goes upstairs to kiss her daughters goodnight.
Britain fights euro zone threat with £100 billion credit boost: “The government and central bank will flood Britain’s banking system with more than 100 billion pounds ($155.43 billion), seeking to pump credit through an economy struggling to escape recession under the ‘black cloud’ of the euro zone crisis. In his annual Mansion House policy speech to London financiers on Thursday, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said Britain would launch a scheme to provide cheap long-term funding to banks to encourage them to lend to businesses and consumers”
It’s time to end Britain’s exploitative minimum wage laws: “For those who are 21 years old or over, the national minimum wage is currently £6.08 — do we really believe that the moment they earn £6.07 they are being exploited? Why should it be left to government bureaucrats to arbitrarily decide what constitutes exploitation? Payment should be between the employer and employee. If the employee doesn’t like the offer being made they are free to refuse it and if they are willing to accept it, then it’s not for anybody else to label it exploitation.”