This is my first post in a few months, there’s been several reasons for this including an horrendous bout of depression, an operation and masses of work for DEAEP, our new course starts next week. There also been one issue that has taken over what little energy I’ve had left after this; a month ago I was asked if I’d be interested in working on the setting up of a unifying group for disabled people to fight the Government.
Anyone that’s read my blogs is well aware I’m committed to collective working and collaboration, most of my posts end with some form of plea for Unity or Togetherness, so of course I said yes. To my horror, in this very short period of time several of those willing to do the backroom work have been bullied and verbally assaulted by the same people who purport to believe in campaigning and challenging…
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There’s an appalling stench to the election result and it’s one of scaremongering and dirty tricks, but there’s also a faint odour of Labour’s weakness, complacency and drift. Scottish Labour, especially, ran an abysmal catch-up campaign in which they adopted Tory scare tactics to try to frighten voters into returning to them. Labour also made a huge mistake in standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the Scottish independence referendum. This, as well as their reluctance to offer a clear alternative vision to voters, cost them dearly not only in Scotland but south of the border too.
The turnout for this election was 66% nationwide. That’s nothing to crow about. In French presidential elections, the vote often exceeds 80%. According to the Daily Mirror, in Lucy Powell’s constituency, only 18% bothered to vote in the 2012 by-election. Yesterday the turnout was 44%. It isn’t great. That tells us that some voters who…
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Tyneside has seen an alarming rise in the number of people calling Samaritans.
Figures released by the charity show more than 37,000 desperate pleas were made last year, with nearly 5,000 of those coming from people considering taking their own lives.
The suicide rate in the North East is the highest in England, 13.8 per 100,000, compared with 7.9 in London, a figure which gives great concern to Samaritans.
Libby Hibbert, Director of Samaritans of Tyneside, said the number of callers has risen steadily over the past few years.
“Callers talk about a wide range of troubles that they may be unable to share with the people closest to them. Others are lonely and have no-one close to speak to.
“Some people have mental health difficulties that may affect their relationships or ability to work, some have other illnesses, and some have split up with their partners, some have financial worries, others are upset about bullying and some want to talk about their addictions.”
Samaritans of Tyneside is based at Jesmond, in Newcastle, where more than 100 volunteers answer the telephones.
Shirley Smith, of Chester-le-Street mental health charity Ifucareshare, urges anyone having suicidal thoughts to confide in someone.
“We have seen an increase in the demand for our service. That could be because people are coming more and aware of what we do. But, I would say the impact of suicide devastates communities and one suicide is one too many.
“Often for those left feeling suicidal there is always something that can be done. Terrific services like Samaritans help people at times of crisis are imperative.
“The most important thing is to reach out for that help. Speak to somebody, let somebody know how you are feeling. Talk to your GP, talk to a friend, that’s the most important thing; start the conversation.
“One of the things most families who have been affected by suicide say is that they didn’t know their loved ones were feeling that way. As a charity we believe there is always a way out. People do not feel suicidal forever. It can be a very temporary feeling. But feeling so low you can think of nothing else.
“Getting the right help at the right time is really important.”
Some of the concerns raised by people contacting Samaritans of Tyneside include financial problems, illness, job loss, bullying, low self esteem, bereavement, guilt, stress/anxiety, divorce, and access to children.
Ifucareshare can be reached on 0191 397 5661.
CALM– Campaign Against Living Miserably– specialise in male’s mental health and can be reached on 0800 58 58 58.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Apr 2015
Parents in the North East are fed up with rip-off school uniform policies, new research reveals.
A report – published by the Children’s Society – reveals families are forking out around £251 per year for each child at a state primary school and £316 for a child at a state secondary.
Across the region, parents are spending an estimated £89.4m per year on school uniforms and accessories.
Parents are so stretched that around 24,000 children in the North East have gone to school in incorrect, unclean or poorly fitting uniform because of the cost, the research shows.
A survey of 1,000 parents found 95% of parents believe the amount they are expected to pay is “unreasonable”.
Last night bosses at the Children’s Society called for action from government to make sure uniforms are more affordable.
Lily Caprani, director of policy and strategy for The Children’s Society, said:
“Parents in the North East are fed up with paying the costs of stringent and prescriptive school uniform requirements that deprive them of the choice to shop around for prices they can afford.
“They are digging ever deeper into their pockets to pay for book bags and blazers when what they really want is for their children to receive a good education and a good start in life.
“We know that children whose parents cannot afford the cost of specialist uniforms face punishment and bullying for not having exactly the right clothes or kit.
“It’s time for the government to introduce legally binding rules to stop schools from making parents pay over the odds for items available only at specialist shops.”
Across the country parents pay about £2.1 billion per year on school uniforms. That is £1.3 billion more than what parents say would be “reasonable”.
In Newcastle, the Children’s Society found that 2,350 parents spend over £8,700 a year on their child’s school uniform.
Meanwhile, in Gateshead 1,804 parents spend over £6,700 on school uniform and in North Tyneside more than 1,900 parents spend £7,200 a year. In South Tyneside 1,300 parents spend £4,893 on their child’s uniform.
In other parts of the region, 2,976 families in Northumberland fork out more than 11,800 on school uniform per year and in Durham 4,490 parents spend a whopping £16,500.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Mar 2015
The deselected deputy leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council Sheelagh Clarke has called the process “undemocratic” – and claims “somebody in London wants rid”.
Council Leader George Dunning, along with deputy Cllr Clarke, cabinet member Mark Hannon and former mayor Vic Jefferies were told at a meeting at the Claxton Hotel in Redcar on Sunday that they would not be allowed to stand for Labour in their wards in May’s elections.
It immediately raises questions about how the authority will run on a day-to-day basis – coming as it does after a further four Labour councillors were deselected last year.
But Cllrs Dunning and Clarke say they remain “as committed as ever”.
How the leader and deputy responded
“There is a budget for us to get through, and we’re proposing to keep council tax frozen again and do what’s right for the people of this borough,” said the leader.
“We’ve done a hell of a lot of work since taking the council back in 2007 – which a lot of people in our party didn’t even think we would do.
“As far as we’re concerned, unless there’s a vote of no confidence, Sheelagh and I will continue to run the council.”
Cllr Dunning insists he is the victim of a “power struggle” within the Labour Party and that the office of Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop “wants to run the council, and we won’t let them”.
“A lot of members in Teesville are getting on, or have been ill,” the leader continued.
“I wasn’t going to round people up on a cold day and tell them they had to come and vote for us, but I know we had the support.
“This has been a struggle for years.
“There have been people in this party who wanted to be leader, who wanted to be on the cabinet, and they are paranoid and power-mad.”
‘It’s not democratic’
Cllr Dunning has survived tests of his leadership in the past – both from within his own party and from the Liberal Democrat opposition.
And Cllr Clarke said:
“I do not think it is a democratic process. If the people of my ward had voted me out, I would fully accept that.
“But those people have been denied a chance, because somebody from the Labour Party in London wants rid of us.”
Meanwhile, cabinet member Mark Hannon blamed the fall-out on a rift between senior councillors and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Mr Blenkinsop, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Redcar Anna Turley, and councillors working in their offices.
Candidates are chosen by local Labour party members in each ward, but if not enough members show up, as was the case on Sunday, the party’s local executive steps in to vote.
And Cllr Hannon, cabinet member for economic development, said: “I went and did a ten minute presentation at my interview, I answered questions for ten minutes, and I know I did the best presentation.
“The other candidates weren’t in there for anywhere near as long as me.
“I am popular with people in Redcar.
“Since I’ve been a councillor, we’ve got a new hospital in my Kirkleatham ward, housing, a new shopping centre.
“That doesn’t matter though. It’s been a cull of senior councillors.”
‘Labour just want to keep people on benefits’
“The Labour Party doesn’t care about the working classes any more.
“They just want to keep people on benefits and feather their own nests.”
“Against a backdrop of austerity, we have totally regenerated Redcar.
“We’ve not only kept leisure centres open, but we’ve built a new one, we’ve kept libraries open – and we’ve tried to keep council tax down.”
Cllr Hannon alluded to bullying within the party – which led cabinet member Olwyn Peters to claim she had suffered a breakdown.
This comes two-and-a-half years after Labour North’s Wallis Report claimed the Redcar and Cleveland Labour Group was “dysfunctional”.
What the MPs said
In a joint statement, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Redcar, thanked Cllrs Dunning and Clarke for their service but said it was “time for change”.
Mr Blenkinsop said:
“All candidates knew exactly what to expect, and the bar has been set very high in these elections.
“If deselected councillors were not told about the reasons for deselection, they’re not asking the right questions. Selection is a democratic process.
“The Labour Party is not looking for candidates that take support for the party for granted, or for anyone who is complacent. Candidates need to get out and talk to people to find out what they want.
“But I wasn’t part of the selection process for these councillors, so I don’t know what the reasons were.”
‘If Labour group can’t manage their own affairs, how can they manage the council?’
Glyn Nightingale, leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, said the possibility of launching another ‘no confidence’ vote would “be a matter for group members to discuss”.
“If the Labour group cannot manage their own affairs, how can they manage the council?” he added.
“I do not agree with what George Dunning and his administration have done in office, but I acknowledge that they have been working hard.
“It was up to the people at the ballot box to replace them – not an internal party manipulation.”
‘I totally do not accept any form of bullying’
Neil Bendelow, the chair of the Redcar Constituency Labour Party, said that all members had been treated equally.
“The way that candidates were selected follows the Labour Party process and would be the same anywhere,” he added.
“All councillors were asked the same type of questions, and were allowed to give a ten minute presentation and answer questions for ten minutes.
“We have some fanstastic candidates who are going to work tirelessly for their wards.”
Last year, Cllrs Brian Briggs, Steve Goldswain, Norman Pickthall and Brian Hogg were also deselected.
But Mr Bendelow added: “I totally do not accept any form of bullying whatsoever.
“There is a process for anyone to follow if they feel they are being bullied, and I have received no complaints and no shred of evidence has been given to us.”
What the future holds
Cllrs Dunning, Clarke and Hannon were told that they could possibly stand for Labour in other wards – but say they were not given reasons for their deselection.
Cllrs Dunning and Clarke said that at this point, they would not consider standing as independent councillors.
Cllr Dunning said that Bob Norton, Rob Hodgson, and Geraldine Williams will now stand for Labour in the Teesville ward.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 02 Feb 2015
Who Will Watch the Watchmen?
An Open Letter to John Bercow
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A vicious loan shark who threatened to break a terrified woman’s legs and cracked a man over the head with a police baton has been taken off the streets.
Waiter turned illegal money lender Joaquim Lara Alves Boal charged vulnerable people “extortionate” interest rates and turned nasty when debtors struggled to keep up repayments.
The 52-year-old was jailed for 28 months at Teesside Crown Court yesterday after his two-year reign of terror was brought to an end.
The court heard how Boal had made 34 loans to customers in Hartlepool totalling £7,000 and he expected to see a return of £10,000 by charging borrowers 20 to 25 per cent interest per £100.
But when one woman who had borrowed £600 struggled to keep up repayments, Boal threatened to smash her windows.
“She continued to pay him through fear,” prosecuting barrister Simon Mortimer said.
And due to Boal’s inept record keeping the woman ended up paying back twice what she had borrowed.
When another woman, who borrowed £700 from Boal, asked to see records of what she had paid back, Boal was unable to produce them.
He later approached her at Hartlepool Marina and produced a metal extended police baton and wanted her mobile phone as security.
Boal started to walk away, but turned round and said: “If you don’t pay, this is what will happen,” before slamming the baton against the railings.
“The victim was hysterical and very frightened,” said Mr Mortimer.
A third victim told investigators how Boal tried to crack him over the head with the weapon in Morrisons supermarket. He missed but struck the victim on the elbow.
Earlier, Boal had gone round to his house and began ranting and raving about money he said he was owed.
When the man would not go to the door Boal broke the window with the baton.
After the attack in Morrisons, police searched Boal’s Lancaster Road home and seized a notebook detailing some of his loans.
A second notebook referred to by witnesses was not found so the true extent of Boal’s lending is unknown.
The business had about 20 customers and had been operating for around two years.
Boal, who was born in Angola and came to the UK in 1990, told police threatened to break one of the female victim’s legs “to show he was serious”.
He pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal money lending, one of money laundering, two of blackmail, actual bodily harm and criminal damage.
Jim Withyman, mitigating, said Boal, who had no previous convictions, had fallen into illegal money lending after loaning colleagues cash as a favour.
He said: “He completely overstepped the mark.”
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton said: “Anybody who borrows money from loan sharks in the street is a vulnerable individual and these were vulnerable because they had no other recourse other than to go to people like you.
“Twenty per cent interest is an extortionate rate.
“You embarked upon a course of conduct which was threatening, threatening violence, intimidatory and bullying.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 21 Aug 2014
I was reading A Gay Mentalist’s blog a little while ago, and a term he used to describe the middle classes struck me. He called them ‘feral’. It’s not a word that usually applied to the upper ranks of society. Usually it’s given to the underclass and their children, the type of people, leading bleak lives of deprivation and pointless moral squalor. The type of people with no jobs, and no self-respect, whose chief and often only activities seem to be drunkenness, drug dealing, violence and sexual promiscuity. The type of people who provide the raw fodder for Jeremy Kyle, as they slouch onto his show to present their sordid tales of domestic abuse and accuse each other of stealing each other’s partners.
It does, however, also perfectly describe the attitude of the middle classes, and particularly the hysterical ranting of the middle market tabloids and the vicious, punitive attitude…
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A mum whose disabled daughter was the victim of bullying has backed a new film launched to encourage people to report hate crimes.
Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger launched the 15-minute film as a training tool to show the true impact of crimes against disabled people, which aims to address the levels of under-reporting across Teesside.
Kay Demoily, of Acklam, Middlesbrough, helped her daughter Katy, who has Down’s syndrome, through her difficulties with bullying at school and college and welcomes the efforts of police.
“It is very important that people are made aware of the amount of bullying that goes on. Young people especially are vulnerable and might not be able to stand up for themselves, so it is vital that others look out for bullying, which is so much more common than people think.”
Last year there were only 23 reports of disability hate crime incidents – but police and support charities believe victims are not coming forward, due to fear or because they are unaware that bullying is classed as a hate crime.
Kay says that Katy, now 32, who enjoys photography as a hobby, has managed to move on since the bullying with support from family, friends and the local community.
She said: “Everyone who lives close by is very helpful, and would keep an eye out while Katy is around here but you can’t always know what goes on.
“Katy became very introverted and upset. I thought that I would have seen the signs but I didn’t. The film that the police have produced is hard hitting, and I think it should be shown in schools so that young people understand the issues.”
Mr Coppinger said: “Cleveland is not unique in the fact that disability hate crime is under-reported but as a force we are dealing with it head-on by raising awareness of ways in which to report the crime and enhance our training to officers and staff. Incidents can take the form of name calling in the street, serious assaults, and deliberate deception of vulnerable people with disabilities. These are completely unacceptable and it’s important that officers can identify where a crime has a disability hate element and how to raise awareness of reporting with victims, carers and families.”
The short film has taken months of planning and features real life stories brought to life by IMPACT Drama Group, part of Middlesbrough Community Inclusion Service, who directed the film and featured in the case studies.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 17 May 2014