New Chair nominated for Equality and Human Rights Commission
Baroness Onora O’Neill has been chosen by the Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, to be the next Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Her appointment will need to be reviewed by a parliamentary committee before it is confirmed. The selection comes in the wake of Trevor Phillips leaving the Commission after a controversial two terms as Chair.
Baroness O’Neill is a philosopher and a crossbench member of the House of Lords, who has held several academic positions and sat on the boards of various organisations to do with public science and bioethics. She has written extensively about choice and autonomy, so it will be interesting to hear her thoughts about disability equality. The incoming Chair’s background is one of privilege – she was privately educated and studied at Oxford and Harvard – and she is used to dealing with abstract academic issues rather than the nuts and bolts of disability politics on the ground. Time will tell whether she can connect with the needs of disabled people at grass roots level. Encouragingly, giving evidence to the Commission on Assisted Dying last year, she recognised the potential pressures on people with impairments and serious illnesses, saying that the idea of effective legal safeguards for assisted dying involved “misleading and unrealisable fantasies about individual autonomy”. She said that assisted suicide is “not safely legislatable”. We will have to wait for her appearance before the Joint Committee on Human Rights to find out more about where she stands on the issues that matter to disabled people.
It has been rumoured that Baroness O’Neill will be presiding over a sinking ship. Although the Commission escaped the government’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’, its budget has been slashed, its helpline has been given to a private provider, and its grants programme has been cut. Is the Commission being hollowed out ready to be shut down altogether – or will it be allowed to find a way to struggle on with a new operating model? Under this government, it’s anybody’s guess.
Please find below an open letter from staff working at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the Commission) to Baroness Margaret Prosser who chairs the Commission’s Resources committee. This committee approved proposals in June this year that would see the Commission reduce its staff headcount to 150. These proposals are now the subject of a 90 day statutory consultation with the trade unions representing staff at the Commission.
The Resources committee arrived at this new headcount by assuming that the Government will reduce the Commission’s budget to £18 million by the financial year 2014/15. However, the committee has recommended that these staff cuts should be implemented by the end of 2012. This assumed budget of £18 million represents an additional 30% cut to the budget already announced in the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review when the Government said that the budget would be reduced from its original budget of £70 million to £26 million by 2014/15. The Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone MP, confirmed the £26 million budget as recently as March this year in answer to a parliamentary question http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2012-03-27a.100388.h&s=speaker%3A11641#g100388.r0
Over 200 skilled and experienced staff have already left the Commission in the past year and if these proposals are implemented a further 100 staff will leave. More staff will be lost when the Commission’s helpline is outsourced to Sitel in the autumn because Sitel has only one site based in Stratford-upon-Avon. Staff do not believe that the Commission will be subjected to yet more draconian budget cuts given that it has already had its budget reduced by 62%, a hugely disproportionate cut compared to those imposed on other public bodies. Indeed, we would expect stakeholders, parliamentarians and the UN International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs to vigorously oppose any Government plans to make further cuts to the Commission’s budget.
Staff believe that the Resources committee should withdraw these proposals and commence a meaningful consultation based on the actual budget of £26 million. Following the statutory consultation period the proposals must be approved by the full Board of the Commission in early October before they can be implemented. So the time to take action is now.
What you can do:
Write to Baroness Prosser, EHRC, 3 More London, Riverside Tooley Street, London SE1 2RG
Write to members of the Commission’s Board at 3 More London: Stephen Alambritis, Kaliani Lyle, Sarah Anderson, Meral Hussein Ece, Simon Woolley, Kay Carberry, Ann Beynon, Trevor Phillips, Professor Geraldine Van Beuren, Baroness Sally Greengross, Dr Jean Irvine, Angela Mason and Michael Smith
Ask your MP to lobby the Chairs of the following Parliamentary Select Committees requesting an inquiry into the Commission’s restructuring plans: Home Affairs, Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Public Accounts Committee
Join our Facebook Group – Save the Equality and Human Rights Commission
Follow us on twitter #savetheehrc
With thanks to http://www.kingqueen.org.uk/archives/70
For letting us repost- pop over for some more brilliant stuff!
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has come in for somewhat of a bashing recently. But I didn’t think they would lie as well.
CQC carries out an unannounced inspection of every care and nursing home in England every year – more often if we believe people may be at risk. This system of regulation can and does identify poor care which CQC then takes action to tackle.
A quick look at the five care homes I’d stayed in in the last year revealed last inspection dates as follows:
- Summer 2010 (in response to a specific incident, last “proper” inspection November 2007)
- January 2009
- November 2009
- February 2011 (in response to specific allegations)
- December 2009
Not one was inspected in the past 12 months. 0%.
Personal experience with looking for care homes for a relative confirmed the impression that most care homes have gone well beyond 12 months without an inspection.
I smelled a rat. So I asked CQC how many homes it had indeed inspected. The response came. Answering a slightly different question, CQC admit they did 13,082 inspections of care homes over the last 12 months. There are 17,756 care homes. So at least 26% of homes didn’t get inspected. I say “at least” as where CQC identifes problems at a care home they conduct more than one inspection. (hence why I think their FoI response is disingenuous.)
Let’s look at these once again.
- “CQC carries out an unannounced inspection of every care and nursing home in England every year – more often if we believe people may be at risk.”
- Of the 17,756 English care homes, CQC did 13,082 inspections over the last 12 months.
Is it me, or do the figures not add up?
Where did this come from?
The sad thing is we always knew CQC would be an appalling, incompetent mashup.
It was formed from a merger of the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and the Mental Health Act Commission a couple of years ago. Having worked with CSCI, who were at least trying to do things right, me and other service users raised the concern that it would follow the sad precedent of the subjugation of disabled people’s rights following the Disability Rights Commission being subsumed into the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Sadly, we were right. Our concerns that social care would always be lower priority than healthcare were realised.
It didn’t help that the new body was given new, overarching registration standards. These same standards applied to all bodies registered – from acute hospitals, to dentists and care homes. The result being the emphasis on residents rights was lost, and the regulations simply weren’t specific enough for the situation. We lost rights in the change.
Then CQC sacked 70% of its inspectors so that it could register dentists. They adopted what they acknowledge as light touch regulation. They ceased grading care homes, and largely stopped inspecting them. The majority of care home reviews became based on self-declaration by care home managers. Inspections became very rare. Now, precisely which poorly performing care homes would state this to the regulator do you think?
All this came to a head during the very sad and distressing Panorama documentary of the systemic abuse of people with learning difficulties at Winterbourne View. CQC became a very public whipping boy, held accountable for a lot of what happened. Much criticism resulted, including a select committee and the PM criticisng CQC for reducing inspections. Many made a comparison with the seminal Silent Minority documentary exposing the “care” of people with learning difficulties in institutions in the early 1980s. (Documentary available to view online – very distressing too.)
Meanwhile, there’s been blood on the carpet and accusations of gagging orders on staff etc. CQC has become a toxic brand. It’s been desperately attempting to reinvent itself, so far (in my view) failing miserably.
If it wasn’t so serious, this would be funny. The reality is, though, that people are suffering as a result of this disgusting shambles. Care home residents are some of the most vulnerable, most disadvantaged, most disempowered people in this country. Abuse is the norm, not the exception in my experience; it just varies in degree. Without an effective regulator, the thousands of people in care homes up and down the country suffer even more abuse, poor treatment, curtailment of life opportunities.
CQC are ineffective, stuffed up, an ineffective regulator who lie about themselves to try and stop the torrent of legitimate criticism aimed their way. They are beyond redemption and need replacing.
(With grateful thanks as always to the wonderful Crippen for his inciteful cartoon