Why should I know?

I was driving along listening to Radio 4 this morning when the news came on at the top of the hour. Just the headlines, you know.

One of the stories caught my ear, and I’ve been thinking about it all day.

In Portsmouth, a primary school head teacher had admitted in Magistrates Court to drink driving and being in possession of half a gram of cocaine.

That was one of the headlines they read out on the BBC news. Now, this wasn’t a detailed news programme, but a bulletin with headlines. That a head teacher had been fined in a Magistrates Court and banned from driving.

They read out his name, maybe they read out his school, I don’t quite recall now and it doesn’t seem the news from that time is on the iPlayer radio app. But on the BBC website there’s a link to his schools OFSTED report if you want to read it.

Please, don’t for a minute think that I think it’s OK for head teachers to be driving drunk and taking cocaine. I don’t. But with all that’s going on in the world, is that really one of the top stories, the few headlines, chosen to be read out on the BBC news?

His school, by the way, has 300 children on role according to the OFSTED report. So, if you’re a parent to one of those 300 children, or a parent thinking of sending your child there, perhaps it’s of public interest that you should know.

But I live more than 200 miles away.

Maybe it should be in the local paper? But as a headline on the national news? Surely not. It was also one of the top 10 most read stories on the BBC website at one point in the day.

The guy has been to court, he’s been banned from driving, he’s been fined, he’s been suspended from his job, he’ll probably be sacked and never teach again. Should he have been driving drunk? No, of course not. Should he have been in possession of cocaine? No, of course not.

Is it national news? One of the top six stories to make the news bulletin at the top of the hour on BBC Radio4? Is it in the public interest that everyone across the country knows the name of this guy? No, I shouldn’t have thought so.

Or if it is, let’s make the news bulletin longer – because if we’re going to read out the name of every head teacher who’s been caught drink driving or taken cocaine maybe we should do the same with doctors? Police officers? Politicians? Who else, maybe members of the clergy? Anyone who ever breaks the law? Let’s read them all out every day.

Is that news? Does it make the world better? Does it heck.

Anonymous.

What! The Conservatives Respect the Act of Union? Do They Really? By Sarinder Joshua Duroch

The Tories drove Scotland away from Socialism to Scottish Nationalism

It is a well-known fact that in Scotland there is antipathy towards the Tories, it is virtually a tradition to be anti-Tory in Scotland. Some may disagree based on election results that this is changing, or is it the case that Scots are just desperate to see an opposition to the Scottish Nationalists be it Labour or Tory?

Who can ever forget the anti-Thatcher chants at the Scottish Cup Final in 1988, Celtic won on the day and Thatcher presented the trophy to the winning captain, Roy Aitken.

Anyone who is old enough can clearly remember the audible memories of the moment she appeared to present the cup. From the joy of winning the cup she managed to create a cauldron of hate filled chants from the crowd, clearly displaying how much she was disliked north of the border.

For a party that is adamant to ‘protect’ the Union at all costs and oppose the Scottish National Party, one needs to examine their track record in Scotland.

The Abolition of Rates Act 1987 brought an end to what we know as the traditional rates system to pay for local government services, and what we got in its place was the Poll Tax or officially known as the Community Charge.

What was George Younger, the then Secretary of State for Scotland, thinking of when he lobbied Thatcher into introducing the Poll Tax in Scotland in 1989, one year before it was introduced in England?

He was the Secretary of State for Scotland between 1979 to1986 and he lobbied Thatcher to introduce the Poll Tax in Scotland first to avoid an expensive review of the old Rates system.

What the Tories didn’t realise, through their total ignorance towards Scotland and the Tory traditional view that Scotland is an ‘addendum’ to the nation, was that the Act of Union of 1707 was clearly being broken under Article 18.

It was abhorrent to watch any government imposing its totalitarian authority on a minority of the population.

This was the beginning of Thatcher’s demise, agreed, it was the beginning of her departure and what was to develop later was so much anger towards the Tories that it developed into Scottish Nationalism.

Mr. Randolph Murray, a solicitor, failed to submit his details to the Poll Tax office based on the reason that a constitutional inequality had taken place. He was fined £50 for failing to register, he contested this and lost his appeal at the time.

However, he held the government to account at the time and probably had the Gandhi mindset of Satyagarh, a nonviolent, non-cooperation, insistence on truth approach and opposition to colonial masters.

Did the people of Scotland feel that they were being subjected to the same level of injustice through this historic tax that was always met with anger that had the ability to create divisions on a colossal scale?

It is evident through all the protests and people going to prison that the question is answered in full evidence; yes they were faced with an injustice that they had to rebel against.

We must accept that Gandhi went to prison over the salt protests and encouraged Indians to collect and sell salt. The British government at the time prohibited all Indians from making and selling salt so that they had the monopoly over it and could charge a heavy tax on it.

Citizens in those days were forced to buy from the government and were given no choice. The people found this to be very unfair and protested over it, at least 60,000 were arrested over the protests.

Similarly in 1989 the unfairness of the government’s actions in breaking a Parliamentary Act had to be met with protest.

The Tories totally neglected their position and responsibility, they were the custodians of the law and governance and they still gave no regard for such an important Act of Parliament.

An Act of immense importance was completely disrespected to push through the Poll Tax agenda in Scotland even if it meant breaking the Act of Union.

The Tory agenda, for them, was the most important act to adhere to, not the Act of Union.

Mr. Murray had to be right in taking a stance where the Act of Union had clearly been violated and broken!

Surely the Tories and their historic past behavioural pattern of non-cooperation with the working classes was the driving factor in delivering the policy of the Poll Tax.

An example of this autocratic behavioural pattern takes us back to 1984 when the strikers at Cammell Laird shipyards were imprisoned for their occupation of the shipyard; they were on an official strike and found themselves in prison for thirty days for not vacating the site.

The ship yard was in Birkenhead, we are all aware of how the Tories treated socialist Liverpool back in the ‘80s. The Iron fist seemed to strike a lot faster in the northern parts of the nation where there was a socialist will to fight for equality and rights.

Political expediency was clearly at the top of their agenda, engaging and listening was not and never will be an asset the Tories possess when engaging with the working classes. They only know how to oppress when engaging in dialogue, their historical behavioural pattern confirms this.

Given the fact that the Tories and their ilk have been so privileged to have the ‘best of education’, one would have thought that someone within their ranks would have reminded them King Richard II brought in a Poll Tax in 1381 that lead to the peasant revolt and almost brought him down.

Arrogance and education do not mix; like electricity and water and one needs to speak with variety and the other listen with an open mind. The Tories obviously had already proven with the miners’ strike they were not willing to listen to anyone, so why would the Scots be any different?

One could argue that at the time of Richard II the public were just recovering from the Black Death, we on the other hand were enduring the slaughter of the unions by Thatcher over 600 years later!

At the time of 1380 the Poll Tax did not consider the wealth factor or ability to pay regardless if one was rich or poor. In May 1381, the poor revolted and sacked the City of London.

The same happened with the Poll Tax riots in Trafalgar Square in 1990, didn’t any of the well-educated Tories and their advisers realise that the historical name of ‘Poll Tax’ was a bad omen?

It was the Tories that created the nationalistic temperament in Scotland by not playing fair in the first place, the bully in the playground does not know what to do when his victims stand up to him and fight back.

The Tory desire to punish the Scots for being historically socialist has in effect turned on them; they were and are the instigators and creators of what we see and hear in Scotland today.

It is their fault in its entirety when the people of Scotland ask the question, “What has Westminster ever done for us?”

The answer is the historic behavioural pattern of the Tories in the first place!

Because if we examine the Act of Union of 1707 and Article 18 it clearly defines that taxation/excises should be implemented equally on both sides of the border. This policy and its implementation clearly broke the Act of the Union and resulted in people willing to go to prison and face fines.

There was uproar at the time; sadly, the injustices are still happening today.

If we look at the gulf between the rich and the poor today, it has increased immensely and it is obvious that inequality in its implementation is visible through zero-hour contracts and exploitation of immigrant workers.

This in turn makes it a culture for employers and agencies to behave in such a manner towards the wider population making it an acceptable culture of ‘take it or leave it’.

The Tory injustices have continued not only in the ‘Tory experimental laboratory’ known as Scotland but nationwide too.

The Chartered Institute of Housing and the University of Sheffield have managed to provide statistics relating to the suffering of those on benefits.

84% of the 106 local authorities and 70% of the housing associations revealed that welfare policies are a major contributing factor to homelessness.

The lower benefit cap is leaving a huge gap and rents are not being met, it clearly shows that the gulf between rich and poor is result of policy provision and implementation.

The Tories have turned our nation into a sorry state, it is traditional for them to take such actions given their history and behavioural pattern towards the working classes and anyone who wishes to challenge them.

If we look at out of work benefits in Scotland and compare it to the UK level it is presently at 2.9% whilst the UK level is 2.3%.

In comparison, the South East of England reflects very different figures at 1.3%.

The North West of England has 3.1% claimants for out of work benefits, even concerningly higher is North East of England where the level is 4.4%.

The inequalities are evident in the figures and it is obvious that northern parts of the nation with a strong Labour voting tradition are victims of the growing divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

The economics of the Union cannot just be repaired with a High-Speed Rail Line from London to the North.

The GDP of our Union has a huge gulf between London and the rest of the nation, it is presently 22% of the total GDP and that comes from 12.5% of the UK population.

No wonder the Union was nearly compromised because of the Independence Referendum in Scotland back in 2014.

Anyone examining the figures can see that the gulf will only increase over the years and the suffering will continue not just in Scotland but in the North West & East of England as well.

The Union isn’t getting any equality from Tory policies and the Tories are clearly creating greater divisions and apathy towards the Union rather than unifying the nation.

We only need to look at these figures to ascertain that Theresa May’s mantra of a ‘fairer society’ throughout the Union of our nation is not going to work.

False words and false promises are being delivered whilst the rich are clearly getting richer and the poverty gap is increasing.

The historic antics do not need to be searched and sought for in history books, it’s all happening in front of our eyes daily in virtually every part of the nation.

Tory antics will not strengthen our Union but cause greater division both socially and economically; we need a socialist government that unites the Union and gives it the economic and social prosperity it needs.

Sources – Chartered Institute of Housing and University of Sheffield.

Parliament Acts UK Parliament & Nomisweb.

Carillion: Public Risk, Private Profit By Kelly Grehan

So Carillion has gone into liquidation, plunging the lives of the 20,000 people working for them in the UK and those reliant on the public services they are paid by the coffers supplied by taxpayers to provide, into uncertainty.

Carillion is one of largest providers of NHS facilities management, covering:

200 operating theatres;

-300 critical-care beds and

-11,500 in-patient beds.

It also has contracts to maintain:

-50,000 armed forces’ houses;

– £680m contract to provide 130 new buildings in Aldershot and Salisbury plain for troops returning from Germany;

– It provides cleaning and school meals for 875 schools and

– Maintains 50% of prisons.

When governments began outsourcing the work for public services we were told it was a means  of transferring the risks arising from major projects to the private sector.

Of course this has proven to be categorically untrue.  

Outsourcing and privatisation doesn’t transfer risk to a company. Instead, it transfers any profits or savings made (coming from general taxation)  to shareholders and leaves taxpayers exposed and vulnerable towards all the risks and failures; because if they fail the government bails them out.

Privatisation simply means no accountability for public money

For over a year now, Carillion has been in meltdown. Its shares have dropped 90% and it issued profit warnings, and went through three chief executive within six months  Yet they continued to be awarded government contracts including the £1.4 billion HS2 contact.

Could the reason Carillion have continued to be given government contracts have anything to do with their Chairman, Phillip Green being a Tory Party donor?

Of course, while Carillion workers are likely to face a difficult time with regards to their future, no such worries exist for those who headed up the company.

Carillion’s pay policy wording was changed to make it harder for investors to claw back bonuses in the event of ‘corporate failure.’

Chief operating officer Richard Howson has made £1.9m in cash and share bonuses during his tenure while ex-finance chief Richard Adam has received £2.6m.

Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has already said contracts run by Carillion should be bought back ‘in-house.’

Rehana Azam, the National Secretary of the GMB Union, said: “The fact such a massive government contractor like Carillion has been allowed to go into administration shows the complete failure of a system that has put our public services in the grip of shady profit-making contractors.’

So what will happen next? Is this the beginning of the end of the privatisation of public services?

We are told that MPs will be holding an enquiry into outsourcing Public Sector jobs in the wake of the Carillion collapse.

Jeremy Corbyn echoes once again what most of us are thinking and hoping for. He has said that this ” Is a watershed moment for PFI contracts”.

One can hope.

What they will ‘find’ and act upon remains to be seen and many will feel that this is just the current government making another empty promise in a long and sorry saga of public services outsourced for private profit.

Family Life, Support and Judgement By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

Yesterday I attended an event organised by Mums4Corbyn at The World Transformed.

It was clear that women have a lot to offer each other in terms of support. One issue that came up was that of breast feeding. The problem, in Britain at least is that the feeding of babies can often feel an issue of division rather than unification.  

The UK has the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world.
About 80% of women try breastfeeding at birth but by the end of the first week half have given up.  
Lots of new mums speak about feeling pressure to breastfeed and experiencing guilt about ‘failing.’ 
In recent decades a newer pressure has emerged, for babies to be in a sleeping and eating routine as quickly as possible and this is largely incompatible with breastfeeding and not good for milk production. Mothers are now experiencing a sense of failure if their children are not complying with this picture-perfect experience of motherhood.

To be clear if women chose not to breastfeed this is absolutely fine, what concerns me is a society that tells women to breastfeed, fails to support them to do so and then instills guilt into them for the failure.  

I’m passionate about more support and understanding for new mums, partly because of my own experience. My first child struggled to latch on, was losing weight, not sleeping. He is 10 now, but I’ve never forgotten the awful sense of failure that overtook me. It later transpired I had a tongue tie which made it hard for him to latch on. I fed half breast milk and half formula for four months, before giving up completely. Anytime I met anyone who talked of finding feeding easy or of having fed for long periods I felt jealous and the sense of disappointment hit me.  
Three years later my second one fed without any issues immediately after birth and I breastfed him for over a year. My previous guilt and anxiety about breastfeeding melted away.

What the experience of having two such polar opposite experiences of breastfeeding I have been able to observe the divisive nature many conversations about breastfeeding take, with it often causing conflict, defensiveness and separation between mothers. 

Then of course other issues start to take on the form of division and competition between mothers – weaning, childcare, controlled crying, discipline, clothing, diets, going back to work – discussions around all these things often feel like they end in judgement rather than support.

Is there something about our approach as a society that is unsupportive towards parenting and parents in general?

Well research confirms that if women receive support – whether it be from a friend or family member, a health professional, or volunteer breastfeeding supporter – they are likely to breastfeed for longer. 

Yet, Peer Support and Drop in sessions for breastfeeding services are being cut all over the country. 

In Kent where I live, the County Council was proposing to absorb the support into the health visiting service make a saving of £404,000 a year.

This week the consultation was suddenly halted until September so we await news of what will happen next. Sadly, I think we all know health visitors are too overstretched to offer the help needed.

It is a similar picture with other parenting issues. Up to 20% of women experiencing mental health problems in pregnancy or the first 12 months after birth. A Mental Health Alliance study in 2014 report found significant gaps in the detection of mental health problems in the period before and after birth, only an estimated 40% are diagnosed, with just 3% of women experiencing a full recovery. 

Costs of perinatal mental illness in the UK are estimated at £8.1bn per year, or almost £10,000 per birth. Yet fewer than 15% of areas provide effective specialist perinatal services for women with severe or complex conditions, and almost half provide no service at all.
Sure Start appeared to be making some progress with a culture change, but more than 350 Sure Start children’s centres have closed in England since 2010, with only eight new centres opening over that period. Spending on the centres in the 2015-16 financial year was 47% less in real terms than in 2010.

Childcare remains a deeply expensive and stressful thing for many parents, as work and money compete with family pressures compete, causing terrible stress and anxiety for parents. 

There is nothing I can find to indicate any progress has been made in aiding parents with this.  

It seems that family life, feels very unsupported in this country.
Judgement and pressure reign and support is hard to access and what is available is diminishing.

I think this culture is damaging family life and impacting upon the happiness of parents, children and everyone else. 

 The lack of support undoubtedly impacts on emotional well being across the board. We need better services, but we also need to look at our attitudes towards each other and to create more supportive dialogues and attitudes. 
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Grenfell : Neglect, Shock and the Idea Some Lives Are Worth More Than Others By Grehan

By Kelly Grehan 

It is now 100 days since the Grenfell fire.

In the days following the tragedy the emotion that overwhelmed me was anger that this had happened, and that although maybe the fire was not preventable, the loss of life was compounded by decisions taken in the name of austerity, deregulation, outsourcing and a general disregard for the economically poorer members of the community.  
As London Mayor Sadiq Khan said at the time “There is a feeling from the community that they’ve been treated badly because some of them are poor, some of them may come from deprived backgrounds, some of them may be asylum-seekers and refugees.”
As is now well known Grenfell Action Group warned the council and the estate management company of multiple fire hazards within the building including failing alarms, a lack of sprinklers and of faulty electrical wiring causing frequent power surges and small fires. They warned that the wholly cosmetic refurbishment of the building was a serious fire risk. 

Rather than heed these warnings the council responded with legal action against the group. 

For several decades now a denouncement of regulation has taken place. Phrases like ‘health and safety gone mad’ and ‘red tape’ are common. Free market think-tanks, such as the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Centre for Policy Studies and property developers lobby government against regulation.
In recent years it has become apparent that poorer people are no longer welcome in the Capital.

For example the demolition of social housing estates, such as the Heygate estate in Southwark, has made way for luxury flats with many bought by super-rich investors. Plots are often sold abroad in Asia or the Middle East prior to domestic sales.

The £83.7 million of cuts in Kensington since 2010 have disproportionately impacted servicers relied upon by poorer people. 

This includes closure of nurseries, of homelessness prevention schemes, of local A&E departments and in a move that says it all to me, there is an attempt to sell a public Library to a nearby fee-paying Prep School.

I can only conclude that the safety, health and quality of life of those in rented accommodation is seen as a secondary concern to profit. 

Last year, an amendment to the Housing Act tabled by Labour to introduce a legal requirement for landlords to ensure their homes are fit and safe for human habitation was voted down by Tory MPs including 71 who were themselves private landlords.



So the catastrophe that has occurred in Kensington causing, death, destruction, injury, trauma and displacement should not be dismissed as an accident. 

It is the culmination of policy and neglect aimed at those whose lives are regarded as less valuable. 

This is seen as unbelievable by those unfamiliar with being on the receiving end of policies designed to ‘punish’ those who are not high earners or wealth accumulators. But the circumstances and outcome of Grenfall are repeated throughout the world in places where neoliberalism rules. 

One such example is Hurricane Katrina which occurred, causing mass flooding in New Orleans in August 2005. It is easy to see it as a natural disaster, but that is to ignore the neglect in maintenance of the flood defences which should have protected the city from what was actually a tropical storm by the time it reached New Orleans. Despite previous repeated warnings the Army Corp of Engineers allowed the defences to fall into disrepair. 

This happened in the context of a neglect of infrastructure throughout America as neoliberal policies gained control. But is also relevant that the homes left the most vulnerable by the failure to fix the levees were those occupied by economically poor black people.  

After the storm it took five days to get water and food to people sheltering in the Superdome. In common with Grenfell people did what they could to help each other but, again in common with Grenfell the state failed. 

Divisions formed along class and racial lines. Healthy people of means were able to leave the city – others – vulnerable by nature of being unable to leave – stayed. 

As people began looting to survive, news outlets used the opportunity to paint the black residents as dangerous. A war zone atmosphere emerged as vigilantes and private security guards ‘’controlled’’ the streets. Survivors of Grenfell now speak of being let down by the council, living in transit in crowded hotel rooms, some without hot water.  

My concern in Kensington now is what happens next: Milton Friedman once said ‘Only a crisis-actual or perceived- produces real change.’ 

In New Orleans , with residents dispersed across the country and schools and homes in ruins; Friedman described this as an ‘opportunity’. Public housing, including that which was undamaged was demolished and replaced with housing far out of the price reach of those who had previously lived there. 

Mike Pence (now Us Vice president) chaired a meeting 14 days post disaster to look at ‘Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina.’ New Orleans quickly became the place with the most privately run schools.  



There must be real concern that Grenfell residents and those living in surrounding blocks are able to remain in the area in suitable accommodation. 

Any suggestion that people should be grateful for what they are offered should not be tolerated. 

Counselling and therapy services need to be offered as standard to anyone in the area impacted by what has occurred. Let us not forget many witnessed horrendous scenes and have lost friends.  
History, though leads to concerns that enquiries and cover ups can go on for decades. There is something about this situation which feels like Hillsborough to me, a feeling that the fight for justice here will not be easy and that nothing will change without a real fight.  

Indeed lessons could have been learnt after the Lakanal Tower block Fire in Southwark in 2009 which killed 6. 

Recommendations followed in 2013 but were never implemented, including one to fit sprinkler systems in all tower blocks. 

Lessons about outsourcing, which leads to responsibility and ultimately blame being diluted must be examined. But more than anything I hope we see a change in this attitude that some lives are worth more than others and that profit is worth endangering life for.

Everyone needs to stand up for this for us to have any hope of change.
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Dear Mr Clegg: Austerity Is Not The Victim In All Of This!!! And There Is An Alternative…

Nick Clegg has criticised Corbyn and Labour for “Demonising Austerity” . This will no doubt anger many of us but worryingly it will probably fuel the fire of those that support austerity measures. 

He has personified austerity. As if austerity is a defenceless being that has feelings. 
So let us take a look at the meaning of the word austerity. 

** Spoiler Alert – Austerity is not an actual person **


The truth is that austerity has been falsely used.

True austerity would mean cut backs in all government spending including MPs salaries but that hasn’t happened has it?

The average basic income for an MP increased from £67,000 a year in 2015 (the year they won the election and got into power without the Lib Dems) has rose to £74,000. A whopping 10% !! Hardly ‘tightening our belts’.

Well perhaps they can console themselves that they solved the deficit problem, which surely was the reasons they introduced austerity in the first place? But that hasn’t happened either.

In fact the deficit has increased by 53% (and that is taking into account inflation, otherwise the figure would be much higher).


** Provided by FullFact.org

So what exactly has austerity ‘achieved?’
If you can call a 134% increase in homelessness, a rise in the deficit, a pay cap on public sector workers so severe that now 17% of nurses now have to rely on foodbanks an ‘achievement’ then yes it has achieved something.

The biggest ‘badge of honour’ that austerity has achieved is the UN finding that the Human Rights of disabled people has been violated by austerity.  That is surely something to write home about?

If Nick Clegg would like to point out exactly what  positive outcomes austerity has achieved, then I will gladly listen to him. Because I don’t understand how can you ‘demonise’ a severe economic policy that has left millions in poverty. 

What about the feelings of families that have to choose between eating and heating? Do their feelings not matter?
Many of those in favour of austerity may cry well how do we deal with the economic problem that we have following the Global Crash of 2008? 

Well there is an alternative…

Perhaps we need to think outside of the box that is Neoliberalism, we have afterall been in this situation before. 

The Great Depression of 1931 was followed by austerity and a World War that plunged many of the poor into even worse conditions than they were already living in.
Similarly, the Global Crash of 2008 and subsequent recession led to the introduction of austerity measures in 2010, and an increase in poverty.

Has no one learned yet that tightening our belts after an economic crisis does not work?

On the back of the austerity that followed the Depression, Labour Party created the Beveridge Report of 1942, which set out a grand vision of public spending much like the Labour Manifesto of 2017 did. It provided an alternative to austerity and eventually it was accepted and proved very popular. It led to a landslide victory for Labour and the creation of NHS and the Welfare State. After years of austerity and changed the social and economic landscape of the UK for the better and it was just what everyone needed.

So when will we learn from previous mistakes and eventual victories?

The Crash could have been avoided. Remember, it was caused by the over inflation and free market economics, much like 1931. Keynesian economics would have controlled the over inflation that preceded the 2008 crash and would have opposed austerity measures that followed. 

Keynesianism is an economic theory that works on the belief that economic demand determines economic output, in other words the more the public are willing and able to spend, the better the economy will perform. And this means investing more into public spending, not less . If the public have more money to spend the economy recovers quickly. If the public are skint and poor, how on earth can they spend anything? It’s quite logical really! 

Today we see that austerity has not reduced the debt but that the government are quite happy to spend generously when it suits them with the £1 billion DUP deal, so how long can we live under a false austerity?
The Tories voted against the public sector pay cap only a fortnight ago, flying in the face of hopes of an end to austerity. 

The optimist in me however, would like to think that we are on the brink of a radical change for the better and that it is only matter of time before we have a government that rejected austerity.

For now though if Nick Clegg wants to defend and personify austerity then we should treat austerity as a person.

And in that case (Mr or Mrs) Austerity should be punished by the UN for its’ Human Right Violations and stand trial for fraud. It has been lying to us all from that start.


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Staying ‘Well’ : 8 Tips to Maintaining Mental Wellness By Rachael Lamb

By Rachael Lamb

This isn’t the be all and end all of staying well as I know different things work for different people and also what works for you sometimes may not at others so do go back to things you have tried before even if it didn’t help in other times because every day, every situation is different. 

First I would just like to say that I am mentally ill,  I have had therapies, counselling , lots of medications, hospital stays and so much discrimination because of this. Over the years I have struggled with suicidal thoughts, self harm , anxiety and PTSD and I have found over this time some things that help me also help others. 

Two years ago,  I was talking with my peer support worker and she mentioned needing ideas for a new occupational therapy group, so I sat and reeled off some ideas; she wrote them down and a week or so later rang and said she had some other ideas from another service user and our ideas were going to make a group which would run for 12 weeks via the mental health team and I was asked to help facilitate this. I felt like finally something good had come of my struggles.

The group ran and it was so popular than have run it 3 times a year since and are also sharing the 12 week group on a website for professionals in the UK so they too can run the groups.



Everything is low cost / free . I will gladly share details on a separate  blog but for now I wanted you to know a bit of my background and ideas for mental health. 

Anyway here are some tips I have found help me to stay ‘well’

1. Have a daily planner
  

If you are really struggling to prompt yourself to do even the minimum of tasks like self care, taking  meds , washing , eating etc , you can buy a planner to put on the wall.

Fill it leaving slots so its not overwhelming. Once you get into the routine of doing the self care stuff you can add other things like going for a walk or gardening or something you enjoy or will get you out of the house. I have a weekly planner now as my days are going OK so I have not been using it but if I feel myself sliding I will write up what I’m doing for the week and I consult it in the mornings it helps to ease stress and anxiety.


 

2. The out and about bag  

I use a zip up bag for inside my bag which is my go to area for when I’m out and about, I use the bus a lot so having things to help calm me or keep me from fidgeting and getting over anxious helps.

I have the following below in my bag, but you can put in anything you think would help you while out and about, or even have it in your living room or bedroom though I have a bigger selection of things for use in situations at home where I am anxious.

  • Hair clip to open and shut so simple but the motions helps
  • Roll on perfume , the scent helps me to concentrate on the here and now of I find myself getting distracted in a day dream 
  • Fiddle toys, there are lots on the market and I find the cube one helps me to relax and stop my hands shaking
  • Lavender balm, lavender is known for its relaxing scent.
  • Lip balm , dry lips are the worst when anxious 
  • Boiled sweets/mints to ease dry mouth
  • Little charms  that I have been given , these remind me of happy memories 
  • Hair brush and hairbands , I sweat a lot due to anxiety and there’s nothing worse than a hairband breaking so knowing I have spares and a brush to sort out my sweaty hair helps
  • Mobile phone emergency charger , I use my phone all the time when out and it helps to know my battery can be charged when needed. I have apps and the radio which help a lot.
  • Bach’s rescue remedy drops , I’m not sure if they really help but I use them sometimes
  • Promethazine ( I am prescribed this and can take it throughout the day if needed) 
  • Pen and small note pad, so I can doodle or write when needed
  • Shiny stones , because they look pretty and are smooth its a great sensory tool.

3. Find a group

Even if it is online where you can talk to others going through similar things and it is good to help others and also talk to others when you aren’t feeling so great.

4. Have a bath or shower 

I know we can get dictated to by mental health professionals to keep doing the basics but I struggled for a long time to have a bath and relax , now I found some lovely bath products and candles can really help if I’m stressed out . 

5. Try and go for a walk

Even if it is a short 5/10 minute walk each day , I used to roll my eyes and say whatever but even a short time outside can break a bad mood and help move the day forwards.



6. Try and eat 

I’m not going to say eat healthy eat your five a day but it is important that you eat ( or drink) at low points I made sure I had lots of smoothies in so I was getting some goodness , when you are on medication it is key to having something in your stomach. 

Eat little and often if you can’t face or prepare a meal. Toast , porridge, yoghurt etc , make a snack plate and includestgubgs that you fancy to encourage yourself.

Never say no to treats!

7. Engage with support 

Whether you can’t reach for the support of mental health teams or you find that you don’t get listened to, even if you have a good friend, they will listen or help you keep distracted go out for coffee/tea and relax. 

I must say at this point if you do have a named care co ordinator or mental health nurse do ask for another if you don’t feel they are helping or don’t understand you. If your relationship with them is not a good one at the times to need to speak to someone you are more unlikely to call if you don’t get on well.

 I had to do this myself recently and although it made my anxiety increase it has worked out better for me in the long run as I now have a care co ordinator who listens


8. Connect with free services who have trained volunteers. 

I stumbled upon a web service chat with trained volunteers called mental health matters. 
http://www.mentalhealthmatters.com/our-services/helpline-services/time-online/

They operate an online chat usually after the telephone line has finished late at night usually around 10.30/11pm. I found talking online really helped. Sometimes I just could not verbally get the words out and would seek support and guidance and they gave me the courage I needed when I really needed to get help.

You are never truly alone

Mental health lies to you to isolate you and it can consume you but by following your own path you can be well. It’s not a recovery , I don’t think you ever truly are recovered from mental illness but that as in life you have the ups and downs the highs and lows. 

Never be ashamed of being you, you are beautiful.



** If you need to seek support in a crisis please try and reach out. **

You can call the Samaritans just to chat, you do not have to be suicidal you can just need someone to listen and vent to and it’s completely confidential.
The number is 116 123 or you can email jo@samaritans.org although a reply may take a little while.