A daily summary of social care stories from the main newspapers

headlines from Saturday and Sunday.

By Clare Jerrom, Reg McKay and Alex Dobson.

Drug users should be fined on the spot, say police

A growing unease over the softly softly approach to drug users in south
London, has led to proposals from Scotland Yard that a middle way option of
on-the-spot fines should be introduced.

A senior commander has been ordered to report on the feasibility of using
fixed penalty notices in London as an alternative to rolling out the Brixton scheme.

Home secretary David Blunkett and the Metropolitan Police are studying the
results of the experiment in Lambeth.

The scheme was introduced to cut bureaucracy and free officers to tackle
hard drug dealers. But police believe on-the-spot fines would meet the concerns
of many officers, who want a tougher line on people found in possession of

Source:- The Times Saturday 2 March page 1

Couple set up forger’s factory for immigrants

A couple turned their home into a forger’s workshop that produced tens of
thousands of bogus birth certificates and other documents for illegal

Police raided the couple’s home in Thamesmead, south east London, and
discovered computers and specialised equipment in an upstairs room, which gave
Bais Sulaiman and his wife Wurola the ability to produce virtually any type of
card. More than 130,000 forged documents were discovered.

Southwark crown court also heard how subsequent searches discovered birth
certificates, NHS medical documentation, hundreds of blank payslips and
building society statements.

The enterprise allowed them to buy an eight-bedroom mansion in their home
country of Nigeria.

Sulaiman pleaded guilty to 31 specimen counts of forgery, two of attempting
to facilitate illegal entry and one of handling stolen goods. He was jailed for
four and a half years.

His wife admitted three charges of possessing false instruments, two of
facilitating illegal entry and one of obtaining housing benefit by deception
and was jailed for 12 months.

Source:- The Times Saturday 2 March page 15

Curb magistrates, prison chiefs plead

Prison governors demanded that magistrates should be stripped of their power
to jail offenders yesterday, as the prison population soared to a record of
nearly 70,000 inmates.

The penal system is close to capacity as numbers have risen between 300 and
600 a week since Christmas. Police cells will have to be used as overflow
accommodation by next month at the current rate.

Radical action is needed to reduce numbers, according to Mike Newell, president
of the Prison Governor’s Association.

"Magistrates have a wide range of community penalties available to
them, but they insist on imposing inappropriate prison sentences," he
said. "These powers should now be taken away from them."

"Sending people to prison for short sentences often causes more harm
than good. People can lose their homes, their jobs and their families. There
are 4,000 people serving sentences of a week or less. If these people had not
been sent to prison, the pressure on the system would not be so great."

Much of the increase has been due to an increase in female offenders (up 21
per cent over the past year), and a rise in remand prisoners (up 13 per cent in
the same period.)

Source:- The Guardian Saturday 2 March page 7

Drug victim’s parents defend death images

The parents of the 21-year-old girl who died of a heroin overdose, defended
their decision to release photographs of the corpse as part of an educational
video last night.

Rachel Whitear’s mother Pauline Holcroft said: "We realised when we
agreed to release them they would be distasteful to some people, but we felt
they were a very important part of the film."

She and her husband Mick said the photographs should be taken in context of
the 22-minute film, which shows Rachel’s descent into addiction.

"The feedback we have got from parents is excellent. Practically 100
per cent of children said it would make them think they couldn’t do this to
their families," Mrs Holcroft concluded.

Source:- The Guardian Saturday 2 March page 10

Treasury makes £2.4 billion from legal immigrants

Legal immigrants to Britain contribute £2.4 billion to the economy,
according to government research.

Although immigrants cost Britain £28.8 billion in welfare benefits and state
services in 1999/2000 they contributed £31.2 billion in taxes, according to a
home office study. The figure is helped by the higher salaries earned by
immigrants in comparison with the native population.

Source:- The Sunday Times 3 March page 14

Asylum inferno: Group 4 accused

The private security firm that runs Yarl’s Wood asylum detention centre,
Group 4, has been accused of blocking police and fire fighters from attending
the blaze at the unit last month.

Fire brigade representatives claim there was a ‘potential catastrophic’
delay of at least an hour when officers were barred from the site, not by
detainees, but by Group 4.

Bedfordshire Fire Service confirmed there were no reports of officers being
intimidated by detainees as had been reported.

Twenty-one immigrants have been missing since the fire.

David Blunkett said last Monday that detainees prevented the fire service
from gaining entry to the blazes.

A spokesperson from Group 4 John Bates, said investigations would determine
the chronology of events.

Source:- The Observer Sunday 3 March page 9

Beggars hotline ditched as flop

A hotline set up for people to donate cash to help beggars and homeless
people has raised just £1,500 during the past four winter months – less than
20p for every street sleeper in Britain.

Homelessness Tsar Louise Casey was accused of callousness when she announced
the policy 16 months ago, which encouraged the public to donate to homelessness
charities via the hotline, as opposed to giving cash directly to people on the

The Change a Life phoneline cost £240,000 in advertising, and the initiative
is likely to be axed now.

A rough sleeper’s unit spokesperson said: "The main purpose of the
campaign was to find a way of moving people away from the streets. Giving money
to beggars can trap people into drug addiction."

Source:- The Observer Sunday 3 March page 17

Shock anti-drugs campaigns ‘are a waste of money’

A leading research body has claimed shock tactics will not deter people from
using drugs.

The comments follow the decision by Rachel Whitear’s parents to release
photographs of her corpse to be used in an educational anti-drugs video to be
shown in schools. The 21-year-old girl died of a heroin overdose.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse in the US said that such campaigns are
a waste of money, and a report by them claims public awareness campaigns have
little impact.

Heroin deaths have increased five-fold since the early 1990s, and new
figures show there were 926 heroin deaths in 2000 compared with 187 in 1993.

Source:- The Independent on Sunday 3 March page 4

Blunkett goes back to jailing asylum seekers

The home office has admitted that 46 asylum seekers are being held in
prisons without charge following the fire at the immigration unit at Yarl’s
Wood near Bedford.

Campaigners claim the move flies in the face of the home secretary who
promised not to jail asylum seekers.

A home office spokesperson said the asylum seekers were placed in jail
because "they are people who have a history of violent or criminal
behaviour, or are considered to be a danger to safety. That is why they have
been moved."

Campaigners are now calling for a public inquiry into the events of 14

Emma Ginn, of the Campaign to Stop Arbitrary Detention at Yarl’s Wood, said:
"Blunkett said it was scandalous that asylum seekers should be put in
prison. Now he is putting people there who have never been accused of a

Source:- The Independent on Sunday 3 March page 13

German doctors ‘can end NHS waiting lists’

The huge NHS waiting list for day case surgery could be eliminated by a plan
to use German doctors, former Labour minister Frank Field will tell Tony Blair
this week.

Hundreds of freelance German medical teams can be made available at short
notice to treat more than 500,000 patients waiting for quick operations that do
not require an overnight hospital stay, he will say.

Field, a Labour MP from Birkenhead, will present a business strategy from a
healthcare company German Medicine Net, which is offering to set up surgery
units across England to treat patients.

"We can transform the NHS debate by dealing with the entire waiting
list for straight forward operations such as cataracts, hernias and varicose
veins," Field said. "We are meant to have declared a war on waiting
lists but progress so far has been absurdly slow."

Source:- The Guardian Monday 4 March page 1

Scottish newspapers

‘War on drugs’ is over

Scotland’s drugs tsar, Dr Richard Simpson, has declared an end to the
anti-addiction campaign using statements such as ‘War On Drugs’ and ‘Just Say

Instead Simpson, the deputy minister for justice, has pledged to develop
existing harm reduction, methadone and rehabilitation services. Announcing this
dramatic turnaround in Scottish executive policy, Simpson said that there would
now be greater concentration on education and support.

Source:- The Sunday Herald 3 March page 1

Scotland hit by new virulent HIV strain

Three-quarters of heterosexuals newly infected with HIV in Scotland have a
more virulent strain of the virus which did not previously exist in Europe,
according to research by the Centre for HIV Infection at Edinburgh University.

The new strain is more infectious and originated in Africa and Asia where it
has spread rapidly killing millions over the past two decades.

Source:- The Sunday Herald 3 March page 1

Second community group faces inquiry

A second community group with close ties to the Labour party in Govan,
Glasgow, is to be investigated by Glasgow council following concerns over
alleged financial irregularities.

The Pollokshields Development Association (PDA), which has received £350,000
from the council since 1996, is to face checks by the local authority’s audit
division following allegations of poor financial administration including misuse
of project telephones being used to call overseas particularly to Pakistan.

The PDA’s management committee has many members in common with the nearby
East Pollokshields Multicultural Centre, which was taken over by the council
last month after auditors found its book-keeping to be shambolic.

The PDA hit a financial crisis last week having to secure a short-term
overdraft to meet essential costs.

Source:- The Herald Monday 4 March page 6

No age limit for foster parents

North Lanarkshire council has decided not to set an upper age limit for
foster parents following an inquiry into an incident where a child drowned
while in the care of a 71-year old foster mother.

Nancy McLaughlin was caring for 18-month-old Jamie Harper when he ran away
and drowned in a burn half a mile from her home. The Lord Advocate decided
against taking any further action in the case.

North Lanarkshire council has now decided not to impose an upper age limit
for foster parents as is the case in some other authorities. A spokesperson for
the authority said it would continue to assess each individual on their own

Source:- The Scotsman Monday 4 March page 4

Welsh newspapers

Who are you trying to kid?

Cardiff’s deputy mayor has issued a two-page emergency statement in response

to newspaper stories about the way in which the city’s children’s homes are

being run.

The stories presented a picture of staff coming under increasing pressure,
and vulnerable children exposed to potentially harmful situations.

Peter Perkins, deputy mayor, said that he asked council officers to look
into making a complaint to the press complaints commission over a picture
accompanying one of the articles which he said was posed, and did not in
reality show a child in the care of the council.

He said the articles are an example of political point scoring, and that
they have the effect of lowering morale among staff and do not take into
account the feelings of services users.

The newspaper says that the story was prompted by concerns from Unison that
children’s services in Cardiff were at crisis point.

Source:- South Wales Echo Friday 1 March page 1 and 3

Health minister may face calls to quit

Health and social services minister in the Welsh Assembly, Jane Hutt, could

face calls to resign following allegations that she may have tried to
influence waiting list times for patients in her constituency.

The row erupted after the minister allegedly wrote to Llandough Hospital in
Cardiff asking for an investigation into the waiting list times for colostomy
patients after a complaint from one of her constituents. The constituent told
Hutt that he faced a two year wait for a colostomy reversal, but later he was
told that his operation would take place within weeks.

Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson Dr Dai Lloyd is demanding that all the
minister’s correspondence is publicised. He said that it is an issue about
confidence, and that waiting lists are matters for the professional judgement
of doctors, and should not be influenced by political interference.

Source:- Western Mail Monday 4th March page 5



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