Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Mencap, pay the going rate

Mencap claims that organisations like theirs who provide overnight support and assistance to clients with complex learning disabilities will face a bill of £400m if a six-year backpay is imposed. HMRC has stated that support workers who sleep over at their workplace are entitled to the minimum wage for all hours worked. 

Many charities, including Mencap, have been paying their workers a flat rate below minimum wage for overnight shifts; the money topped-up if the worker is woken to carry out support during the shift.

Some 5,500 people work in this sector and it has been calculated that there has been an underpay of £400m over the past six-years. Mencap states that:  "For many smaller care providers across the country the financial impact will be devastating."

Yes, the government’s failure to adequately fund social care and support has impacted greatly on the sector, and doubtlessly has some bearing on this situation. However, as a Unison official points out: 

"Charities and care companies have known for a long time they must pay sleep-in staff at least the minimum wage. But it's only now HM Revenue & Customs is in pursuit that many are pleading poverty and asking for an exemption from the law.”
I have little sympathy with Mencap and the other providers of these services. This is a long-standing issue. The trade unions have been fighting for this group of workers for many years. Indeed, Unite carried out some work amongst its housing workers who carry out sleepovers as part of their work duties.
Mencap and other major charities have been quite silent over the past seven-years. I don't recall Mencap joining in with disabled people in our fight against cuts to social care and support. While we have been out on the streets and actively campaigning through the courts against the closure of the ILF  and the right to decent care packages these large charities have kept their heads below the parapet.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Now we know the impact of deregulation - people perishing unnecessarily in horrendous blazes

Brandon Lewis was the Tory Housing Minister in the Conservative/LibDem Coalition. In 2014 as Housing Minister, he declined to require developers to install sprinklers. Instead he told Parliament:  

“We believe that it is the responsibility of the fire industry, rather than the Government, to market fire sprinkler systems effectively and to encourage their wider installation. … The cost of fitting a fire sprinkler system may affect house building -- something we want to encourage -- so we must wait to see what impact that regulation has.”

Well Mr Lewis, how does 58 lives sound, for openers? How do several hundred lives sound? Will that be impact enough?

Safety has to become our watchword

This is an email I've sent to my HO, housing manager, local RMO, Lambeth cabinet members across a number of disciplines, Lambeth Community Police and Fire Services as well as my MP.

"To Who it May Concern

I have lived in ******** Road for three years; and in that time have been concerned with the flouting of parking regulations. From 8.30 to 16.30 Monday to Friday motorists need to display a parking permit to park on ******** Road.  So during these hours parking rules are generally obeyed. This allows a clear passage for vehicles to use even with cars parked on either side of the road. For instance should the need arise vehicles such as fire engines could access the whole street from end to end.

However, from 16.30 and 8.30 on week days and at weekends as there is no permit system in play. During these times parking becomes a free-for-all. Those of you familiar with the lay-out of the part of ******* Road that runs from xxxxxx Road to xxxxxx Walk, around 100 meters, will know this quite a narrow road. Therefore, when people double-park it completely blocks the access for larger vehicles such as fire engines. As a disabled person and a tenant of ******** Road I have grave concerns for my safety and that of my neighbours, many of whom are children, elderly and disabled people.

Parking restrictions are not frivolous rules just put in place as a money spinner for councils. No, as well as allowing the free flow of traffic they have a health and safety dimension. They allow for clear roads that enable any vehicle, including emergency traffic, access. Night times and weekends, the very time when the road is blocked by double parking, are the times when most domestic fires occur.  

The other issue related to this is the parking of vehicles on pavements. As a wheelchair user it is very frustrating to find my path blocked by a car fully parked on a pavement. This causes me the inconvenience of turning around, if I'm able to on a very narrow pavement, finding a dropped kerb crossing over to the other side of the road, providing there is a negotiable pathway.

Parking for me is not so much of a problem as I have a carport on the forecourt of my flat. Convenient as this may sound, it becomes totally ineffective when, as is too often the case, other motorists park on the pavement across my carport denying me access to the road; in effect imprisoning me in my home.

While I'm sure my neighbours are not meaning to endanger life, their inadvertent actions could put the safety of others at risk. It is with this in mind, and of course the horrendous events of Grenfell Tower earlier this week that has triggered this email. 


Sean McGovern

26 Fiveways Road
London SW9 7LY"  

Saturday, 17 June 2017

If a situation gives you concern, it should be reported

Thankfully we can now discuss health and safety without the right-wing media and reactionary political commentators demeaning our fears. Therefore, I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss a possible safety issue where I live.
There is a portion of my street, around 200 meters, over which I have concerns. I live in a residential street. The street is very narrow and lined on one side by three-story social housing with five-story on the other.
As the pavement is quite narrow parking is available in cutaway bays, with no permissible parking on the rest of the road. During the day, Mondays to Fridays, from 8.30 to 16.30 parking rules are heeded. Outside these days and times, they are ignored.
The reason I'm posting this at this time is because of the danger this free-for-all parking poses. A fire in a property in the middle of the street could lead to life-threatening situations.
Most house fires occur at night and over weekends, the very times my street is impassable. During these times, my PAs find it very difficult to negotiate the road in a Peugeot Tepee. Illegally parked cars and vans narrow the road to a perilous width. A fire tender would not be able to pass along the road; an ambulance would struggle.
In an emergency, time is of the essence. The time lost by fire-fighters trying to reach the seat of the fire due to illegally parked cars could be critical, the difference between life and death.
Given my concerns I am going to write to the Angell Town TMO, my landlord NHHG, the Fire Service and the Met. Given the awful tragedy of Grenfell Tower earlier this week I am hoping my concerns will be heeded.