Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2257

Counting the human cost of Southern Cross

It’s very distressing to read about the crisis at Southern Cross nursing homes (Socialist Worker, 11 June).

Six years ago, following major heart surgery, my mum had a stroke that left her blind, partially paralysed and confused.

She spent four months in hospital, where she was fed erratically and steadily lost weight.

She was very vulnerable after her stroke and, as anyone trying to organise care for an elderly relative will know, frequent reports about mismanaged care and abuse can make you terribly anxious.

After discharge, she had a brief stay in a nursing home—which was awful, despite its good report by the Care Quality Commission.

She finally ended up in another home—which was then taken over by Southern Cross.

She was there for four and a half years. The home had over 60 beds, staff worked 12-hour shifts, and they were caring for other people like my mum who needed to be fed, washed, and changed regularly.

Inevitably there were shortcomings in the care provided.

She needed much more than the system was prepared to pay for. But I was grateful for the core of staff that had worked there for a long time.

Despite appallingly low pay and constant changes in management, they were kind and able people who looked after my mum and took time to chat with her— and with me—whenever they could.

Things suddenly seemed to deteriorate last year, and workers regularly told me they were upset at being left to manage too many residents.

My mum died in December. She’d been divorced when I was young and worked hard all her life to bring up her three children on her own on very little money.

Her care was funded by social services, with her state pension also used as payment.

It’s appalling that Southern Cross bosses and the private equity industry see the old and ill as a way to make themselves rich.

We need investment to provide quality care and services we can all depend on.

Heather Rutledge, Birmingham

The scandal of the near collapse of Southern Cross and Four Seasons care homes detailed in Socialist Worker makes the case for why we need a socialist society.

The privatisation of adult care homes and children’s social care stands behind all this—and will eventually cost lives.

I dread what the future holds for working class people when they get old or sick and need help.

We need to stop privatisation, stop the bankers, stop the bosses’ payouts and the MPs’ expenses. But we’ll need a revolution to do it.

Charlie Dowthwaite, Barrow

Post boss’s scam mail

Royal Mail bosses last week said that they intend to slash even more jobs because the amount of post is falling.

But it’s certainly not the case that postal workers are doing less work.

Thousands of jobs have already gone. Those of us who are left are handling ever greater amounts of work from Royal Mail’s rivals—we process and deliver all the mail for our so‑called competitors.

Management know that we can’t cope but they keep piling on the pressure.

In my area, they are turning a blind eye to both the law and Royal Mail’s own rules in an effort to get the mail delivered.

Vehicles are going out without being safety checked, mail bags are not being weighed, and meal breaks are being worked through.

The new delivery systems that the company is bringing in don’t work.

The result is that some people are being forced to work extra hours every week.

Many postal workers have to use their own cars in order to finish at a reasonable hour.

The company now says that it is going to get rid of even more workers. But I’m already dealing with lots of people who are getting injured at work, or suffering from stress and fatigue.

I think the national union has to take a tough stand over this. For too long Royal Mail has been able to use a backdrop of job losses as a way of imposing attacks.

We should tell our members to “Do The Job Properly”—that means observing every legal safeguard and sticking to the letter of health and safety rules.

Then, when management discover they can’t get the mail out on time, we should remind them of all the staff they sacked.

CWU union rep, Essex

Congratulations to the newish head of Royal Mail.

Moya Greene was paid £637,000 for her first nine months in the job, including a £142,000 bonus.

She has just helped turn last year’s £20 million profit into a £120 million loss!

Postal worker, By email

Fake ‘Gay Girl’ reveals internet weakness

When the world’s media plays second fiddle to the citizen journalist in any news story, I get a bit excited.

But with the case of the fake “Gay Girl in Damascus” blog, something more troubling than impersonation is involved.

One of the great things about citizen journalism is how non-elitist it is and how it can genuinely help readers to get to the truth. Good journalism should be about making the powerful more accountable.

But the “Gay Girl” case has made it more difficult for activists in Syria to pressurise the elite, as they can now pass off any opposition as “fake”.

The scandal also reveals the way that high quality “mainstream” reporting is being undermined by the free market.

Journalists spend years in training. But then the chances are they will become a freelancer—not paid until months after producing their work. As a result, investigative reporting barely exists now.

Citizen journalists and bloggers on the internet can help fill this gap but there are limitations.

For example, Iran’s government has recently decided to create its own Iran-wide web so that it can be tightly controlled. And, the most proficient hacking software is owned by states, not individuals.

The internet is fantastically useful way to spread information, but it is far from “free”.

Siobhan Schwartzberg, London

No to sexism and no to censorship

Julie Waterson and Sarah Ensor are absolutely right to criticise the Tories’ campaign against the “early sexualisation of children” (Socialist Worker, 18 June).

This is an attempt by the government to restrict sex education in schools, and to brush discussions about sex under the carpet.

Young people should be taught that sex is natural and healthy part of the human experience.

However, socialists should be critical about the way that female children are encouraged to wear clothes like push up bras and “Playboy” outfits.

And let’s be clear, it is female children, not male children, who are taught to view themselves as sex objects.

It is bad enough that adult women are forced to bear this pressure.

But it is even worse that young girls, who have not even reached puberty and don’t yet understand what “Playboy” means, should have to endure it too.

Socialists should adopt an approach which involves challenging raunch culture but without resorting to Tory-style censorship.

Julie Webster, Nottingham

Streaming is not appealing

One in six children is being streamed by ability by the age of seven, according to research by the Institute of Education published last week.

This is enormously damaging to our kids.

Most children who are placed in low sets remain there for their whole time at school.

No matter how the streams are labelled, kids always know when they have been put in the bottom set.

And, they know there is little chance of moving up because they have already been labelled as “failures”.

Some say that “bright” children benefit from streaming but this is not true.

The best way to learn is to explain what you know to others.

Pupils who can teach concepts to others are demonstrating that they have truly grasped the subject. That means mixed ability classes help everyone.

Terry Sullivan, North London

Never cross a picket line

Pickets outside the British Museum in London last week had their spirits lifted by tourists and visitors.

One elderly couple looked like they had come a long way for a visit.

When they saw the CWU union’s picket line they asked the Romec workers, “Are you taking industrial action?”

“Yes,” replied the pickets somewhat sheepishly.

“Right then,” said the visitor. “We’ll not be going into the museum today.” And off they went.

It seems that some people take not crossing picket lines extremely seriously.

Kelvin Williams, East London

Snobs in a scrap

No privilege is too much for the hat‑wearing gentry who attended the Ascot races this year.

From £98 bottles of champagne to a deposit box for illegal drugs at the entrance to save them the hassle of getting stopped, searched and arrested.

Compare this to the treatment of the Notting Hill Carnival when thousands of working class people get together in one of London’s most multicultural areas.

From the police we get kettles, checkpoints and mass arrests. In the media, there is hysteria about “infiltration” and “violence” from gangs.

But with the punch‑up on “Ladies’ Day” on every front page, it seems like Ascot has more of a problem with its violent minority.

If the rich policed themselves to the same brutal standards as the rest of us, they’d all be in jail.

Richard O’Leary, Bracknell

No justice at Tribunals

Many say that strikes are a weapon of last resort. I disagree. Employment Tribunals are the last, least and grottiest resort.

Some 50,900 people made Employment Tribunal claims last year.

Around 10,900 got a hearing, and 5,200 were successful. But only 2,900 got any financial award. Just six people had a reinstatement order issued in their case.

It’s also increasingly common that bosses refuse to pay up when they are fined.

The tribunal won’t chase the employers, and the unions are often reluctant, so it is left to the workers themselves to organise and fund this.

Unions should stop telling their members that tribunals are the way to get justice and instead get back to basics.

Any employer that victimises activists should face strikes—and the wrath of the whole union movement.

CWU union member, London

Another Clegg calamity

So “atheist” Nick Clegg is to send his kids to a top Catholic school. How characteristically principled of him.

Chas Anderson, Leicester

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Article information

Tue 21 Jun 2011, 18:00 BST
Issue No. 2257
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