A daily summary of social care stories from the main newspapers

By Clare Jerrom and Reg McKay.

£1,200 tax bills for blind residents

Older blind residents at a care home face council tax bills of
£1,266 as a result of an upgrading in facilities, which has
left them “too independent” to qualify as needing staff

The home for 37 blind and partially sighted people was rebuilt
to comply with recommendations made by the social services
inspectorate, according to the Royal National Institute for the

The residents, mostly in their 80s and 90s, were provided with
cookers and en suite bathrooms at Kathleen Chambers House in

But this has made the inland revenue reassess the home and the
extra facilities were enough to convert the resident’s rooms
into individual dwellings so they were no longer eligible for tax

The institute said tax laws and health guidelines were in

Source:- The Guardian Saturday 3 November page 13

Hearing aids ‘played down to save

Deaf people are being misled by senior NHS doctors about the
advantages of digital hearing aids, to avoid pressure on
“shoestring” audiology budgets, a leading charity has warned.

The Royal National Institute for the Deaf released a leaked
memorandum from the West Dorset General Hospitals NHS trust
advising that the more effective digital aids would have to be

“It is also very helpful to us if you can downplay the benefits
of digital versus standard NHS hearing aids,” said the memorandum
from Jeremy Tweed, the trust’s head of audiology and hearing

The RNID said digital aids perform better than traditional
analogue aids for most people.

Source:- The Guardian Saturday 3 November page 14

£5m night court test projects shelved

An experiment to introduce night courts from January to tackle
street crime and anti-social behaviour by dispensing immediate
punishment, is being shelved after failing to win funding.

Home office papers show that two pilot schemes in London and
Manchester have been shelved when home office officials thrashed
out their bids for Treasury funds for next year’s law and
order projects.

The schemes would have cost £5.4 million.

Tony Blair backed the scheme after Metropolitan police
commissioner Sir John Stevens returned from New York in February
and claimed the night courts could make a real difference.

The pilot schemes were due to be launched in Horseferry Road
magistrates court in London and at Manchester city court.

Source:- The Guardian Saturday 3 November page 9

Immigrants must prove they really want to be

Immigrants wanting to seek asylum in Britain, will face loyalty
tests to prove they want to be British, according to plans from
David Blunkett.

They will ask to show that they want their children and
grandchildren to feel and be British. They will also have to pledge
not to live in ‘enclaves’ cut off from the general

The home secretary’s plans come as he is overhauling the
immigration system.

He has already announced that immigrants will face English
language classes and citizenship lessons.

The ‘loyalty tests’ will be faced by the 60,000
people who apply for British nationality each year.

Source:- Daily Mail Saturday 3 November page 4

Girl, 5, ‘raped’

A 13-year-old boy has been given conditional bail at Ilkeston
youth court, charged with raping a girl aged five, and other
offences against children under the age of 16.

He will appear in court on November 23.

Source:- The Times Saturday 3 November page 18

Give up your children, homeless families

Housing experts have warned that some children could be facing
Christmas in care as homeless families are being threatened with
having their children taken away from them.

Russell Campbell, chief solicitor of Shelter, said: “We’ve
dealt with a string of cases across the country in the last three
months where social services are telling homeless families their
children should be taken away and fostered or placed in local
authority care.

“Councils are saying the only service they are obliged to
provide is care for the children,” he added.

Cash strapped councils, short of housing, won legal challenges
to a 10-year-old requirement to help families with children in
need. They say that housing parents as well, goes beyond their
legal obligation.

“Until now the Children Act provided a safety net for our most
disadvantaged families,” said Campbell. “The recent court cases
have taken that away. The housing crisis arises from a desperate
shortage of family accommodation, but breaking families up
isn’t the way to deal with it.”

Source:- The Observer Sunday 4 November page 5

Barbed wire and cameras for asylum seekers

The home office is planning to incarcerate entire families of
asylum seekers in the equivalent of category B prisons.

Architect’s plans for Yarl’s wood detention centre
in Bedfordshire shows a facility capable of detaining 900 asylum
seekers behind three lines of secure walls more than five metres

The centre cost £80 million to build and contains dozens of
moving cameras.

“It is not the highest of security ratings, but it is a very
secure establishment indeed,” said professor of Crimonology and
former prison governor David Wilson. “However, the microwave
detection units and pan and tilt dome cameras are the sort of
equipment you would expect to find in the very highest security

Source:- The Observer Sunday 4 November page 12

Cherie’s crusade against bullies

The prime minister’s wife has spoken out this week about
her disappointment with the way many schools deal with

Cherie Booth received a letter from mother Julie Oakley who
described how her 15-year-old daughter nearly died from taking an
overdose as a result of school bullying, which included death
threats, physical abuse and insults.

“In some schools, sadly there is a tendency to claim “It
doesn’t happen here,” or to adopt an approach which forces
the problem underground rather than out in the open,” Booth

“Bullying will not stop if it is tolerated or ignored. We have
to be reminded bullying doesn’t have to be an inevitable part
of school life.”

Booth will chair a conference on Monday organised by the charity
Childline on bullying. The conference will hear that for the fifth
year running bullying is the major cause behind the 20,000 calls
received by the charity.

Source:- The Observer Sunday 4 November page 3

Give addicts free heroin, says former chief

Britain’s 300,000 heroin addicts should be provided with
the drug on demand from the government to reduce crime, ministers
will be told.

An influential report written by a former chief constable and
backed by Sir David Ramsbotham will urge the government to become
the biggest supplier of heroin.

The move would smash organised crime gangs, deprive terrorists
of their main source of income and take away the need for junkies,
who spend an average of £16,500 a year on drugs.

“For heroin alone, the effective regulation of supply could be
reasonably expected to result in a 20 per cent drop in crime,”
concludes Francis Wilkinson in the study, Heroin: the Failure of
prohibition and What to do Now.

Source:- The Independent Sunday 4 November
page 1

Parents to be told they can carry on

The government will rule this week that parents can carry on
smacking toddlers so long as they live in England or Wales.

The decision will dismay pressure groups which have campaigned
to ban all forms of corporal punishment for children.

A spokesperson for the NSPCC said: “This is a terrible
misjudgement of the public mood.”

The Scottish Assembly will pass laws making parents liable for
prosecution for slapping under-threes.

Source:- The Sunday Telegraph Sunday 4 November page

Sister who saw killing wins record trauma

A woman has won a record settlement for the loss and trauma she
suffered after witnessing her mentally ill brother stab their
mother to death.

In the highest payment received for psychiatric injury, believed
to be around £500,000, Christina Kopernik-Steckel has arrived
at a settlement with South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. The trust
had been responsible for the care of her brother Gilbert after he
suffered a severe mental breakdown five years ago.

He committed suicide in January 1996 immediately after stabbing
his mother at their home in South Norwood, London.

In the two days leading up to his deaths, Mr Kopernik-Steckel
had twice voluntarily admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital.
An independent inquiry into the killings published in 1997 found
that on each occasion, he was allowed to leave the ward even though
it was recognised he posed a danger to himself and to others.

The trust admitted liability and settled the case two weeks
before it went to court.

Michael Howlett of mental health charity the Zito Trust, said:
“Mental health services have been failing individuals and families
for years and yet there has been no real accountability in spite of
considerable evidence of bad practice amounting to negligence.”

“This record settlement sends a clear message to all mental
health services and it’s one they will need to study very

Source:- The Times Monday 5 November page 5

Abortion rates peak but quality of clinics is

Women in England and Wales are having more abortions than ever
but the quality of the procedure on the National Health Service is
putting some of them at risk.

The first audit of the NHS’s abortion clinics has found
that one in four women is at a greater risk of infection after a
termination than they should be, and that 34 per cent of abortion
services fail to meet minimum targets for acceptable waiting

About 180,000 abortions a year are performed in England and
Wales making it one of the most common gynaecological

Source:- The Times Monday 5 November page 5

Language tests for Afghan

The government is hiring language experts to trap fraudulent
asylum seekers claiming to be Afghans fleeing the Taliban.

Immigration officers doubting stories will pass the immigrants
to the experts and they will undergo a linguistic test to prove
their country of origin.

The tests will also be used for applicants who say they are
Somalis and Sri Lankans “where there are objective reasons for
doubting the nationality of a person”.

It is the first time the home office has routinely carried out

Source:- Daily Telegraph Monday 5 November page 4

Scottish newspapers

Calls for prison boss to resign

Falling morale among prison officers has resulted in calls for
the resignation of Tony Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish
Prison Service.

An internal survey released last week reveals that prison staff
believe the service is not interested in their welfare, health and
safety issues are not taken seriously, and barely one in four would
encourage anyone else to work in the prison service.

Jim Dawson, spokesperson for the Scottish Prison Officers
Association, said that staff morale problems had deteriorated since
Cameron’s appointment two years ago, staff had no confidence
in him and he should resign.

Source:- Sunday Herald 4 November page 10

Free nursing care for Wales

Free nursing care is to be given to all nursing home residents
in Wales in a move similar to the Scottish executive’s policy
of providing free personal care.

Source:- The Herald Monday 5 November page 5

Charities upset at no ban on smacking

Children’s charities, Barnardo’s and NSPCC said
yesterday they were “disappointed” and “dismayed” at the
government’s refusal to follow Scotland’s lead in
banning parents from smacking children under three-years-old in
England and Wales.

Source:- The Herald Monday 5 November page 5

The pros and cons of step-families

Step-families are soon to be in the majority. A full-length
feature examines the various pros and cons of step-families.

Source:- The Herald Monday 5 November page 10

Mass bullying at NHS trust

Almost half of staff working at Grampian University Hospital
Trust have experienced bullying at work, according to a
confidential internal survey by the trust leaked to The

The report indicates that 47 per cent of staff have experienced
bullying, and “undue pressure to produce work” is highlighted as
the single most common cause. The report shows levels of
self-reported bullying twice as high as any other NHS survey to
date. Opposition political parties and trade unions called for the
Scottish executive to urgently review NHS performance targets.

The Scottish executive refused to comment until it had seen the
report, but referred to national guidance on tackling bullying
issued to all NHS trusts in January this year.

Source:- The Scotsman Monday 5 November page 4












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