Saturday, 31 December 2011

Trust ... the big issue for 2012

Things do look quite dire at the moment for most people; small businesses, large businesses, small countries and large countries, for young people and older people, for those in work and for those who are not.

2012 looks to be an anxious vulnerable time for so many of us.

In my mind, I play out a variety of game plans for both me and those around me.

When the NHS reform bill was voted through in May it was clear that things were much worse than we had thought. Sure, there had previously been student protests about tuition fee increases and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance, but these could be seen by politicians as minority interests. Simply issues that concern the young and their parents. Not even all parents would be affected, just those with bright children of the right age group. However with the NHS reform bill, here was an issue that affected us all ... or perhaps all of us that did not have private health insurance. If there was to be a smidgeon of light at the end of the tunnel, it was the hope that there were enough MP’s of conscience to rebel on at least this issue. Over the last few weeks with the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders (LASPO) bill going through the House of Lords, Norman Tebbit who famously stated that the unemployed should “get on their bikes” to find work becoming the darling of many a left-wing cartoonist, managed a gargantuan image shift by fighting to legal aid to be retained cases of alleged medical negligence involving children. When Tebbit comes to our rescue, what kind of an alternative dimension do we find ourselves living in.

As we enter a new year, in 2011 there have been mass statements of the need for a political change of direction such as the TUC rally on 26th March and the combined day of action on pensions on 30th November, where we saw that biggest demonstrations that the country has ever seen. However, with parliamentary politicians in their seats for the next few years there is no sign of any movement for a change in direction.

The unity that was achieved in the TUC actions in March and November has to be the way forward, but it seems hard to get agreement on the when and the why. It is important for the trade union movement to build community links as more and more will not be in work. These are not as strong as they could be and approaches from Unite in allowing a version of membership for those not in employment must be an approach that all unions should consider for the future. There needs to be far more encouragement and incentive for unions that have their strength regionally to build links and relationships locally as that is where change needs to be actioned, brick by brick.

The thing to avoid in 2012 is conflict within the Labour Party. Despite the loose lipped comments by some senior Labour MP’s, the last thing that the party and the country need is a ditching of Labour's leader. The other potential site of conflict is between the Labour Party and the Trade Union movement over more industrial action. Yes, there should be healthy debate within open democratic processes but when decisions are taken it would be better that the ego’s are put aside so that action for change can be as effective as possible.

So although the does seem to be despair ... lets be part of the difference we want to see.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Wrong, wrong, so clearly wrong

What kind of world do we live in when so whole organisations defend the indefensible, claim that they did not know, claim that is wasn’t them.
Regulation of the Press is clearly unsavoury in a democracy but when the basic human rights to privacy are not even considered essential to preserve when it comes to people who have lost their children to sexual abuse and murder, we have to accept that the balance is wrong.

But this is not just a story of good people and bad people ... young innocent girls who get killed but evil unbalanced men ... but it is also the actions of a variety of people in an organisation booth men and women who saw it as acceptable in the name of selling more newspapers,in the name of profit to commit which they knew were unlawful, immoral and potentially likely to cause additional distress to grieving parents and also potentially likely to pervert the course of justice.
In the same way as the banks , who were reckless with their risk assessment or the sub-prime mortgage market which came close to spiralling the world into complete economic disaster need better regulation, so does the media to ensure that profit and any story at any cost isn’t the doctrine that prevails and influences our world to the institutional abuse of individuals when they are at their most vulnerable.

The motivation of profit and unravelling of how various people who should have put a stop to it and did not is exactly why the Government must box clever with Rupert Murdoch’s BskyB takeover.

Millie Dowler and Soham girls murder phone hacking! Time for a public enquiry

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Human Rights and Equality Disappointments - The need to get off our knees

Finding myself at this time of year unusually outside the space of electoral politics, I have had time to focus a little harder on the other things around me. This afternoon the shocking revelation of the failure of the criminal justice system to obtain a single conviction for sixty people living in Kettering being kept in near slavery-like conditions leaves many of us with all too many questions. Many of these people were trafficked from their homes. Speaking earlier on in the year to a police officer involved in the investigation, it seems it was through investigating the theft of charity bags in the with second hand clothing that had alerted the police to the conditions that these workers were living and working in appalling physical abuse, threats and harassment. More than 20 of the workers were crammed into a three-bedroom terraced house with a single toilet that did not work.
This situation continued for four years with no one coming forward to the police or to report the situation to any other agency. There are various parties that share the blame for this including the Gang Master Licensing Authority that issued the license to the employers, the multi-million pound supermarkets that bought the produce. It is situations like this that highlight the real need for advice that reaches the individuals in greatest need. However, with drastic reforms and cuts to legal advice, one can’t help feeling that things are just going to get worse. Check out the campaigns on this here and here. This all comes together with the Government Equality Office releasing a consultation paper earlier this month, clearly stating that they wish the Equality and Human Rights Commission to cease funding their legal grants programme from 2012. They seem to think that this in the future could be funded by legal aid regardless of the fact that legal aid will not fund tribunal representation. With respondents generally only really motivated to settle cases as the tribunal date approaches, any respondent that is aware that the claimant in their case is supported by legal aid is likely to play hard ball to the end, increasing the number of tribunals that taken place and increase in the costs of justice for all of us. Perhaps the icing on the cake was the newly released proposals for equality regulations. These have been re-issues after initially being issued at the start of the year (hummm ... like that did take more resources at a time when I thought we are all mean to be tightening our belts) and significantly waters down the obligations on public bodies to demonstrate that they are doing all they can to elimination discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and promote good relations and just to make sure that we are on a generally uphill struggle the Equality and Human Rights Commission is having 55% of its budget cut. In such circumstances it is all too easy to not fight back when it comes to the bad news. However with decisions being changed nationally and locally all the time with the right kind of pressure at the right time, it’s all the more reason to hope and make ourselves heard. Join me and fight against the EHRC cuts by signing this.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Cuts and the recession

The cuts are the big news at the minute with the reality of what will go finally emerging. In the County and the the Borough.

This is the first set of budgets that I have seen that have clear evidence that there has a least been an attempt to equality impact assess either through referencing in reports or through full publication like the County Council. However, these documents have clearly been carried out in some haste with some having completely inadequate data sets to inform them. Some of them are very poor pieces of work with others not recognising the leverage that small amounts of investment can have particularly in the voluntary and community sector. Investment of a few thousand for the County Council can assist levering in tens, even hundreds of thousands from other sources for some organisations in this sector. All this at a time when there is in addition to these local cuts decisions, national cuts decisions that are a complete assault on the vulnerable in our communities. This is a must see for all. The disabled women presenting in the film highlights the focus from some in the voluntary and community sector "picking the carcass of the welfare state". It is reference to the hours, often days of time trying to apply for a plethora tenders and contracts to see some future after 31st March rather than putting the kind of energy that is needed to challenge the cuts. All too true. The cuts locally are difficult to see as much of them are hidden in debris of enormity of the cuts. For instance, in the £2,772,000 cut known as SC016 the complete axing of all advice work in the County lies. This will in particular hit Cleggs alarm clock Britain. It is those who have always worked for a living who perhaps now find themselves in hard times through redundancy, ill-heath or bereavement that will feel this the most as the services that have previously guided these people in need through an unfamiliar and complex welfare system disappear.

The recession and the cuts that exacerbate them are about inequality. Figures released last week show only one in five under 24 year olds are in work with an increasing proportion never having experienced work in the last two years. Over 50% of Black under 24 year olds unemployed, our nation is failing an entire generation. Since the Fawcett Society's attempted challenge on the governments budget the case for the gender equality implictions of the cut carries on growing.

So what is the answer? the only one that I can think of is about resistance. There are many ways of doing this, talking planning objecting but overall making the job of implementing cuts as hard as possible. The demonstration on 26th March should be a highlight of the campaign. Why don't you commit to going along too.

Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year

With the new year comes a new accolade with local twitter and hyper-local blog Hunsbury Herald highlighting this blog in it's best of blogs page here.
Although it's always good to have praise, I will point out that my blog is a personal one and not connected to my employment at Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council.