The owl returns …..


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“Nothing about us, without us, is for us”

Cameron’s former council taken to court over austerity cuts

“There were chaotic scenes on Thursday 17 August as Oxfordshire County Council, the borough in which David Cameron’s former constituency sits, appeared in a central London court. It was there to defend itself in a case which is a legal first. And the case the Tory-run authority had to answer? That its austerity-driven cuts to vital services may have broken the law.

A legal first

The Court of Appeal was hearing the case of Luke Davey. In November, a judge granted the 40-year-old from Oxfordshire a judicial review against the council, following a 42% cut to the amount he received to pay for his care and support. This is because Davey has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, is registered blind, and requires assistance with all of his intimate personal care needs.

But Davey’s case is a legal first, because his lawyers are using the Care Act 2014 to argue that the council has broken the law. Specifically, that Oxfordshire County Council has breached its obligations under the “wellbeing” principle of the act.

Disabled people’s organisation Inclusion London and campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are supporting Davey’s case. The groups had organised representatives to support Davey before and during the hearing. And in another legal first, Inclusion London was granted an intervention in the case by the judge: the first time an organisation led by disabled people has been given this privilege.

But things didn’t go smoothly for the campaigners.

At first, they gathered outside the main entrance to the courts, raising awareness of both the case and the broader issues facing sick and disabled people in society.

One campaigner’s banner referenced an UN report which accused successive Conservative-led governments of committing “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights.

And campaigners like DPAC Steer Group member Nicola Jeffery were also highlighting the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which had previously supported disabled people to access their communities and maintain their day-to-day lives. But the Conservative government abolished the ILF in 2015.

But there were angry scenes when disabled campaigners, their solicitors and the media tried to enter the court building. Security at first told them they could not go in, as there were “not enough staff on duty” to cope, and they were not willing to open the disabled entrance.

After the intervention of a reporter and several wheelchair users, the court’s security opened up the supposedly ‘accessible’ entrance to the court. But the entrance was barely accessible, and one disabled campaigner was nearly knocked to the ground by a passing cyclist.

Setting a precedent?

Davey’s case, if successful, could set a precedent, as it’s the first time the Care Act 2014 has been cited in law. The council argues that there were two underlying reasons given for its decision to reduce Davey’s personal budget. Specifically, that:

He could spend more time alone without the benefit of a Personal Assistant being present.
Davey could and should reduce the amount which he pays to his Personal Assistants.
But his solicitors say that, by cutting his support from £1,651 a week in 2015 to £950 a week now, Oxfordshire County Council has breached Davey’s rights under the wellbeing principle of the act. Specifically, that it will cause/pose:

Additional and excessive anxiety to Davey, from having to spend unwanted time alone.

The risk of Davey losing his established care team of 18 years.

The wellbeing principle of the Care Act says that a council has a legal duty to “promote” a person’s wellbeing. Specifically:

Personal dignity.
Physical and mental health and emotional well-being.
Protection from abuse and neglect.
Control by the individual over day-to-day life.
Participation in work, education, training or recreation.
Social and economic well-being.
Domestic, family and personal relationships.
Suitability of living accommodation.
The individual’s contribution to society. …”

Care for people without families

In many “care closer to home” scenarios it is assumed that the patient (Owl refuses to call them clients – this isn’t home hairdressing) have some sort of outside support – family, friends or voluntary groups. This is often not the case – especially in rural areas.

So, what should our health services be doing?

“… Firstly, we need to review our care services from the point of older people doing everything entirely without support from family. This includes everything from finding out information to getting their washing things in the event of unplanned hospital admission to creating a lasting power of attorney to arranging hospital discharge to searching for a care home. Only then can we see how much family support is required to make the system work and where we need to change things so it works for those without. Care services that work for people without family support will work far better for people who do have family too.

Secondly, care services must make a greater effort to understand why so many more people are aging without children and the issues that face them. It is not possible to design services that work if you do not understand the people you are designing them for. People ageing without children must be included in all co-production and planning on ageing as a matter of course.

Thirdly services must consider their use of language. Branding services with “grandparent/grans/grannies” unless they specifically mean only grandparents should use them exclude older people who are not and never will be grandparents.

Fourthly, people ageing without children should be supported to form groups both on and off line where they come together to form peer support networks. People ageing without children want to help themselves and each other.

Fifthly, the gap around advocacy must be addressed. People ageing without children have been very clear on their fears of an old age without a child to act as their intermediary and advocate in their dealings with care services particularly if they become incapacitated mentally or physically.

Finally, everyone, both people ageing without children and those who do have family, should be helped to plan for their later life.

People ageing without children must be brought into mainstream thinking on ageing. By working collectively we can as individuals, communities and wider society address the needs of older people without children or any family support. Only by working together so can we do care differently for people ageing without children.”

Devon number 4 in best places for pensioners to live

Research by the Prudential insurance company – though they might want to check the state of the NHS and social care before coming here – unless they are very rich, of course, when that won’t matter.

Best to go to Dorset perhaps.

The list:

1. West Sussex
2. Dorset
3. East Sussex
4. Devon
5. Norfolk
=6. Oxfordshire
8. Isle of Wight
=9. Suffolk
=9. North Yorkshire

Government ripping us off – again

From The Times (pay wall). It’s going to make commuting by rail to Exeter from Axminster, Honiton, Feniton, Whimple and Cranbrook a very expensive way of getting there – so more cars will be clogging up more roads in “Greater Exeter”.

“Nobody likes being ripped off. And there is something particularly distasteful about being fleeced by your own government.

But that is precisely what is happening. Rail fares are set to rise at a much faster rate than employee earnings, with annual season tickets of over £5,000 an increasingly common sight. And interest charges on student loans in England will rise to 6.1 per cent from the autumn.

From students to commuters, the cost of living in the UK is on the rise. And some of the biggest cost increases are in areas where the government sets the terms.

Both rail fares and student loans are linked, under government policy, to the retail price index measure of inflation, long ago discarded by economists as a flawed measure of price growth. It is widely known that RPI consistently overstates inflation in the UK, and that the alternative measures of inflation, consumer prices index (CPI) and CPIH (which includes owner-occupiers’ housing costs) are a far better reflection of what is actually going on.

Indeed, in the June 2010 budget George Osborne announced that, partly for these reasons, the government would start using CPI for the uprating of benefits and public sector pensions. The same budget mentioned “reviewing how CPI can be used for the indexation of taxes and duties while protecting revenues”, yet there has been near-silence on this issue ever since.”

“Seaton vigil will protest next week’s closure of community hospital beds”

Press release

“NEW Devon CCG, an unelected quango, intends to permanently close the remaining in-patient beds in Seaton and District Community Hospital next week (beds in Okehampton will close at the same time and in Honiton the following week).

The CCG has shamefully ignored the views of the community in Seaton, Colyton, Beer and Axminster and their elected representatives in the town, parish, district and county councils, all of whom have protested against this decision. A narrow majority of councillors on Devon County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, which failed to properly scrutinise the CCG’s decision, has prevented us from formally requiring the Secretary of State to re-examine it.

On the initiative of Cllr Martin Pigott, Vice-Chairman of Seaton Town Council, there will be a vigil outside the hospital on

Monday 21 August
from 12 to 1pm

to protest at the closure of the in-patient beds and express our deep concern about the very future of the hospital. Cllr Jack Rowland, Mayor of Seaton, and I will be supporting the vigil. We shall be supporting Seaton Town Council’s demand that, even at this late stage, Neil Parish MP must intervene with the Government to reverse this decision.”

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton

How to fritter away our money or close our hospitals – just because you can

Guardian letters – also has echoes of the DCC “scrutiny” meeting sabotaged by Sarah Randall Johnson and her Tory posse which beat down referral of Seaton and Honiton hospital bed closure to the Secretary of State with their sleight of hand, resulting in the total loss of all their beds in the next two weeks.

“The proposed garden bridge across the Thames was bound to fail as soon as Zac Goldsmith lost to Sadiq Khan, given that the project never had the support of a majority of the 25-member London assembly (Recriminations fly after garden bridge cancelled, 15 August).

The parties opposed to the scheme, with 16 members of the assembly between them, were one seat short of the two-thirds super majority required to stop Boris Johnson and George Osborne frittering the best part of £52m, which had the support of only nine Conservative members.

Ultimately, the origins of this fiasco lies with the Blairite fixation with experimenting with directly elected local potentates, rather than properly constituted English regional assemblies and the single transferable vote for local elections.

David Nowell
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

Who cares about the poor? Not this government – £10 for nit treatment or eat, that’s the choice for some

” … Little by little services vanish. Prof Azeem Majeed, head of primary care and public health at Imperial College and a Lambeth GP, has just blown the whistle in the British Medical Journal on the latest withdrawal of a service: many clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), including his own, are banning GPs from prescribing anything that can be bought over the counter. Bristol, Lincolnshire, Dudley, Telford and Essex are among many others issuing the same edict.

At first glance it makes sense not to prescribe what most people can get for themselves, until you consider poorer patients who can’t afford the 22 drugs now banned for prescribing. Majeed says “Low-income families often can’t afford ibuprofen, or gluten-free products for coeliac disease sufferers. A single mother on low pay with two children can’t afford the £10 it would cost for nit treatment.”

Pain relief will be denied for those suffering headache, backache, toothache, migraine, fever or those needing antihistamines for hayfever, treatments for thrush or eye infections. With food banks handing out over a million emergency food kits and Unicef reporting that 10% of UK children suffer “severe food insecurity”, basic but essential over-the-counter medicines are beyond the budgets of households who struggle to provide meals. …”