Monday 20 July 2015

Using communities to tackle extremism

David Cameron's five year plan to tackle extremism must focus on curtailing demonisation and promoting engagement with communities.

In a recent letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, I warned that the group and individual banning orders to be introduced in forthcoming legislation could be counter-productive and hinder rather than help the fight against extremism. I argued that the key weapon in the fight against radicalisation will be to harness the often unsung civic spirit represented by the work of the 1,200 plus Islamic charities in the country.

The Prime Minister has hit the nail on the head today in identifying “the overshadowing of moderate Muslim voices" and “failures of integration” as central elements of the radicalisation that has so far taken place.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning former MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller said that talk of one central Muslim identity and community is misguided, rather that there are hundreds and thousands of separate communities all of which must be reached. This is why it is so important that the Government, indeed all of us, embrace and celebrate the work done by Islamic charities across the country. This would go a long way to bringing the moderate Muslim voices out of the shadows.

I met only recently with Home Office Minister Lord Ahmed to develop these dialogues and agreed to draft some proposals for adoption by the Government.

Friday 17 July 2015

Gove is right. Let's back him...

Michael Gove has wasted no time at all in pushing ahead with reforms since taking over at the Ministry of Justice.  So far, he has lifted the petty and silly prison book restrictions.  Well done on that.
In a speech today, Gove will focus on the role of education in rehabilitating prisoner s<>. 

“No government serious about building one nation, no minister concerned with greater social justice, can be anything other than horrified by our persistent failure to reduce re-offending.  In prisons there is a - literally - captive population whose inability to read properly or master basic mathematics makes them prime candidates for re-offending...
The failure to teach our prisoners a proper lesson is indefensible.  I fear the reason for that is, as things stand, we do not have the right incentives for prisoners to learn or for prison staff to prioritise education.  And that's got to change."
How right this is.  And it's a change that many ACEVO members will warmly welcome. He’s considering what would be a very radical overhaul of the prisons system: introducing an “earned release" system to encourage prisoners to improve their education while in jail.  I'm also writing to hi.  To encourage him to look at the rehabilitation revolution programme. It's been a huge disappointment for our third sector. We wanted to see programmes that galvanised the power of charities to prevent  re-offending and to tackle the revolving doors in prisons where half of all prisoners released return to prison in a year. 

I'm offering Michael Gove the hand of friendship in tackling his reform agenda.  He has shown exactly the reform zeal we need! 

Thursday 16 July 2015


I wonder how many papers will carry the report of the inquest into the tragic death of Olive Cook.  Will the Daily Mail splash this on its front pages?

This is what was said re charity fundraising,

"But her family insisted that - while the letters and phone calls were intrusive - the charities were not to blame for Mrs Cooke's death".

How does this square with media coverage and some politicians comments?  Of course it is right to review how we fund-raise. And it is right to look particularly at how outsourcing calls work as this is not always done to the highest ethical standards.  Bad fundraising practice harms all charities.  ACEVO has asked its CEO members in the fundraising charities to review what they are doing.  That is a right thing to do and it's the right time to do it.  But some of the more OTT comments about a "crisis" are wide of the mark.  And it is perhaps questionable why this issue is being pursued so vehemently in some papers.  Surely it couldn't be anything to do with duffing us up so we feel less able to be robust in our campaigning?  For us our guiding star must be our beneficiaries and not the tabloid  press.

So yes, a good time to review and strengthen good practice and root out bad.  But let's also remember at this time less asking means less giving and that harms our beneficiaries.  Together with the IoF we will be convening a meeting of leading fundraising charity CEOs and Fundraising Directors to discuss all this and look at what we need to do that secures the balance between effective fundraising and meeting public concern over bad practise. 

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Winterbourne View - Time is running out

7 months ago I produced my independent review on the failure of Government and the NHS to implement their promise to close all Winterbourne style institutions.  I made a number of recommendations.  I was also asked by NHS England to review progress after 6 months and then after a year.  I have just concluded my 6 month review and its published today.

I think the main messages are in my foreword so let me report that here:

Winterbourne View - Time is Running Out: Foreword
When Winterbourne View – Time for Change was published in November 2014, still more people with learning disabilities and/or autism were being admitted to inpatient facilities than being discharged. This is despite a promise from Government to close institutions such as Winterbourne View. Time for Change has been widely supported but I understood the deep scepticism of people with learning disabilities and/or autism and their families that anything would actually change. I am acutely aware that we do not just want more reports.

I believe that things have changed, and that we will see the closure of inappropriate institutions and the scaling up of community provision that has been needed for so long. The leadership being displayed by NHS England’s CEO, Simon Stevens, does give me that optimism. The Government endorsed my report and moved forward with a consultation on its recommendations, including the ‘right to challenge’ for people with learning disabilities and/or autism and their families. That is a step change.

The report laid out a clear roadmap of action – a new national framework in which commissioners choose community-based provision over hospitals. The programme would deliver closures and enable providers to work in partnership to offer new facilities, to ensure community support and independence for people with learning disabilities and/or autism. In particular I argued that people with learning disabilities and/or autism must have a central role in designing the care that will best meet their needs. And they should be able to challenge decisions when it does not.

There has been progress since the publication of my report. We have seen a definite shift in the direction and commitment to change which was not apparent when I started the review. At last we have an acceptance that institutions must close and I congratulate Simon Stevens on making his promise to the Public Accounts Committee that NHS England will produce a closure timetable. We expect this to be published in October.

The last Government were swift to move on the recommendations to strengthen the rights of people with learning disabilities and/or autism and their families. A consultation has been made through the Green Paper No Voice Unheard, No Right Ignored, which has seen over 400 responses. I look to the new Care Minister, Alistair Burt, to move on introducing legislation that will enshrine peoples’ ‘right to challenge’ in law.

The number of people being discharged from institutions is now greater than those being admitted. At the end of May 2015, over 1,700 Care and Treatment Reviews had been conducted. However it remains abundantly clear that a ‘revolving door’ of discharges and admissions will continue unless a closure and transition programme is acted on.

NHS England has made it a top strategic objective to improve the health outcomes for people with learning disabilities, by implementing new service models that provide care for people in their communities rather than in hospital. The Care Act is a landmark piece of legislation, and the Green Paper is progress that should not be underestimated. 

But the pace of change remains slow, and this is unacceptable. While a priority for NHS England, the Transforming Care programme has not yet delivered anything tangible in terms of new community facilities or closures.  This is worrying; robust community provision does not appear overnight. And yet the closure of institutions can only happen when there are sustainable alternatives built up by commissioners and providers.  
In responding to Time for Change, the Transforming Care partners committed to a series of actions. I accepted Simon Stevens’ proposal that my steering group be reconvened in 6 months to review progress and that a formal stock take of actions be taken in 12 months. So this report is a warning call – my steering group was clear on the changes that need to take place. Where positive step changes have been made, I have recognised the success. Where delivery has been lacking, my appraisal will be severe. 

I will be reviewing the adequacy of closure plans when published. The Transforming Care programme recently announced five ‘fast-track’ sites where services will be shifted away from hospitals. These sites will help shape the service model that is being developed to re-design care across England. A programme of action is clearly starting to take shape, but we must expect a closure programme to cover the whole country and not just five areas. We know that people with learning disabilities and/or autism are often in hospitals very far from their families – a nation-wide programme is therefore essential.

The scaling up of community provision is a fundamental part of this programme. Yet there has been little to no discussion with providers and stakeholders outside of the Transforming Care partners. Lack of communication from the centre prevents local commissioners and providers from readying themselves for change, or even being aware that they will be expected to respond to a new service model. 

That is why I have set up a Provider Delivery Taskforce, alongside the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group and Housing and Support Alliance. This will work with excellent providers of community-based care (using NHS England and LGA’s own ‘Ensuring Quality Services’ guidelines) to make sure they can be responsive and proactive in transitioning people out of institutions. But that is not enough. 

Time for Change was clear that building this capacity in the community is an absolute priority. But the two recommendations made to this effect – workforce development, and investment in community-based services –have seen little progress. This is unacceptable and risks undermining the work being done elsewhere to create a new framework of care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism. 

So I am now calling on NHS England to establish a Transition Taskforce which will be mandated to work with providers, commissioners, people with learning disabilities and/or autism and families to set out the national framework for scaling up community provision. It will plan for ‘shovel ready’ schemes that can be sustainably established to allow for the closure of institutions and the appropriate transition of individuals into the community. The Taskforce will examine the financial models that are needed, as well as how to secure a skilled workforce.

This will build on the excellent services that are already provided by charities and social enterprises, many of which pioneer innovative ways to support the wellbeing and independence of people with learning disabilities and/or autism outside of hospital settings. For example, there is wide-ranging good practice for staff training and Positive Behaviour Support. I am clear that restrictive practices, such as the use of mechanical restraint or seclusion have no place in the 21st century of care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, and this report gives recommendations to that effect. Given that it will take time to effectively transition care from institutions into the community, there must be steps taken now to ensure people are receiving the best support.

Since November, I have visited and spoken to a number of providers, as well as institutions about Time for Change. Any closure programme will lead to concern within this sector, especially the workforce, around whether such a shift can and will be managed effectively. Individuals with learning disabilities and/or autism, their families and carers cannot be isolated from the Transforming Care programme; they must be at its core.

I want to thank all of my colleagues on the steering group, and all those I have met or spoken to. In November, I cautioned NHS England and its partners to be realistic about the timeline for success – to not promise another ‘false dawn.’ However the call for urgent action remains and I will be holding Transforming Care to account on its commitment to deliver lasting change. 

I will review further progress at the year anniversary of the publication of Time for Change – the steering group will be reconvened on 7th December 2015. I expect to see change being delivered on the ground. This is the opportunity for us, as a nation, to provide the care that people with learning disabilities and/or autism deserve and have been denied for so long. 

Thursday 2 July 2015

Viva the National Trust

The National Trust is one our country's most loved charities and yesterday I was having an NT day by visiting two of their much loved houses, Greenway and Coleton Fishacre.  Greenway is a stunning Georgian house set into the wooded hills overlooking the Dart river, just downstream from Dartmouth.  The best way to arrive as did my brother, father and old fiend John, is to take the ferry up river and get off at the Greenway landing.  This old house was the much loved home of Agatha Christie and was gifted to the NT by the daughter and grandson of Dame Agatha.  It contains much of the contents of the house as it was in her day. You can walk into her bedroom and still hear her talking (an old radio interview playing from a Roberts radio!).  Clever lot the NT. 

Brother Nick and I.  Am I shrinking?

Greenway House

Gardens at Coleton Fishacre

Then back on the ferry and off to Coleton Fishacre.  This was a home built in the 30s by a pupil of the great Lutyens for the famous D'Oyly Carter family (money made from the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas).  It's set on the top of a valley that runs down to the sea.  The NT purchased the house in 1982 but not with the contents. They have spent years building up the inside to look like it did in the thirties i.e. all Art Deco, a period I particularly like.  But the real glory are the gardens. Formal terraces surround the house then the garden tumbles down to the sea. 
The NT is such a Treasure you can forget it's radical beginnings.  One of the key protagonists and founders of the Trust was Octavia Hill. 
She  was a social reformer, whose main concern was the welfare of the inhabitants of cities, especially London, in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Born into a family with a strong commitment to alleviating poverty, she herself grew up in straitened circumstances owing to the financial failure of her father. With no formal schooling, she worked from the age of 14 for the welfare of working people.
Hill was a moving force behind the development of social housing, and her early friendship with John Ruskin enabled her to put her theories into practice with the aid of his initial investment.  She believed in self-reliance, and made it a key part of her housing system that she and her assistants knew their tenants personally and encouraged them to better themselves.  She was opposed to municipal provision of housing, believing it to be bureaucratic and impersonal.
Another of Hill's concerns was the availability of open spaces for poor people.  She campaigned against development on existing suburban woodlands, and helped to save London's Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill Fields from being built on.  She was one of the three founders of the National Trust, set up to preserve places of historic interest or natural beauty for the enjoyment of all the British public and not just the few.  She was a founder member of the Charity Organisation Society (now the charity Family Action), which organised charitable grants and pioneered a home-visiting service that formed the basis for modern social work. 
Hill's legacy includes the large holdings of the modern National Trust some of which I saw today, as well as several housing projects that still run on her lines, and a tradition of training for housing managers.  I can imagine what Octavia would think of current government plans to seize charity assets for "right to buy"and so diminish the housing stock for the very people she campaigned to house. 
Peers have criticised the government’s plans to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants, saying that it could undermine charity legislation dating back to the 16th century.
The National Housing Federation, warned before the general election that the proposal would require a "fundamental rewriting of the agreement between government and civil society".
In the House of Lords Baroness Hollis of Heigham, who is chair of Broadland Housing Association, questioned the government’s right to "seize the assets of independent charities, given that it will have to unpick myriad overlapping laws that go back centuries".  It's worth repeating some of what she said.

She said that housing associations, most of which are charities, were framed by charity legislation dating back to the time of Elizabeth I.

"Housing associations are independent charities, many of which are a century old, financed often by gifts from local benefactors," she said. "Would we accept the government asset-stripping Eton or Winchester to fund academies? Perhaps the NHS would like the endowments of medical charities to pay for the drugs bill. Or perhaps we would accept National Trust assets being used to restore this Palace of Westminster."


What will the Charity Commission do on this? Back in 1947 when the government were establishing the NHS by taking over the thousand charity hospitals there was also a debate about whether to seize the endowments of those hospitals. The Commission intervened to stop Government and said they could not take over endowments that had been made to a charity by the donor in perpetuity.  They were successful and so we still have a wide range of excellent NHS charities who work to improve health and well being generally.  I  hope the current Commission will be equally robust in defending the principle that an endowment to a charity is sacrosanct and cannot be seized by the State. It would be a shocking precedent if the Government gets away with this.  Donors in the future, when they consider gifts, particularly of capital assets, might be wary if they thought them susceptible to a State grab. It would be a bit like the Government nationalising an historic NT house so they could mine underneath it!

Sunset at Hope Cove