Monday, June 04, 2012

Britain's barmy elf 'n' safety fears which stopped disadvantaged inner city kids from paddling in the sea

For the past 26 years, John Barclay has been involved in a charity aimed at improving the lives of disadvantaged children. The Arundel Castle Cricket Foundation was set up to help inner city youngsters escape  their everyday surroundings and broaden their horizons.

It combines cricket coaching with educational trips and, weather permitting, a day at the seaside.

John, a former Sussex county cricket captain, devotes much of his time to working with disabled children, including the partially-sighted and those with learning difficulties.

Last weekend, the charity played host to a party of four teachers and 11 young people from a special needs school in East London. Their three-day residential stay included a visit to Arundel Castle and an excursion to nearby Littlehampton beach.

It was a scorching English summer’s afternoon, spent soaking up the sun,  eating ice cream, picking up shells, looking for baby crabs and playing beach cricket. John decided to cool down by kicking off his shoes, rolling up his trousers and paddling in the sea.

He expected the youngsters to follow suit but was told by the headteacher that they weren’t allowed in the water.

When the local education authority authorised the trip, the school had to fill in a detailed risk assessment. One of the main conditions was that in the event of a trip to the seaside, under no circumstances were the pupils to be allowed in the sea.

Never mind that the water was only a few inches deep and would barely cover their ankles. Or that there were six experienced adults accompanying them — four  teachers, John and another charity  volunteer. Paddling in the sea was deemed too dangerous.

These weren’t young children. They were all aged between 14 and 16 and classified as having ‘moderate’ rather than ‘profound’ disabilities. Yet even with more than one adult to supervise every two youngsters, they still couldn’t be trusted not to come to grief in a couple of inches of water.

John said: ‘It’s not as if they were likely to be eaten by a shark. They were at more risk coming down to Littlehampton on the minibus than they were on the beach.

‘But to my astonishment I was told that because of health and safety regulations they were not allowed to do what children have done for centuries — dip their toes in the sea, maybe up to their ankles, and experience as an island race this joyous pleasure.’

John is eager to stress he doesn’t blame the teachers, who were as exasperated as he was. ‘Those teachers who work with special needs children are saints.’ And, at his request, I won’t identify the school involved.

But, like me, he despairs of Britain’s suffocating elf’n’safety culture, which is so risk-averse and paralysed by fear that it would even deny deprived children of a simple pleasure.

‘Fear is a corrosive instinct,’ he said. It is a mistake to be over-protective. In the case of these young people, it only serves to make them more vulnerable. It instills fear in them. They have got to be exposed to every aspect of life, including those which involve some risk.’

Surely the whole idea of special needs teaching is to ensure young people with disabilities, either mental or physical, can live as normal a life as possible.

So why would anyone wish to stop a party of disadvantaged inner city kids rounding off a convivial day at the beach with a paddle in the sea?

The fact is that this has got nothing whatsoever to do with the level of risk to the youngsters themselves. It is about those who draw up the rules protecting their own backs.

These people are terrified of being sued by one of those spiv daytime TV law firms if someone so much as stubs their toe or gets bitten by a baby crab. In their world, accidents don’t happen, someone is always to blame.

And where there’s blame, there’s a claim. So they are determined to ensure that if anyone is going to carry the can, it’s not going to be them.

They are the omnipotent modern-day versions of King Canute, who believe that even if they can’t legislate away the tides, they can at least make it illegal to get your feet wet.

They never stop to think through the consequences of their moral cowardice and bureaucratic belligerence. Frankly, my dear, they don’t give a damn.

Most of the examples of elf’n’safety madness which appear in this column are good for a giggle, even if they make us all despair.

But preventing disadvantaged inner city children from paddling in the sea isn’t funny, it’s wicked.

As John Barclay says: ‘What is the world coming to?’


In Britain it can take a newspaper article to get your garbage collected

A man whose wheelie bin was 'too heavy' to be emptied was stunned when a council worker told him to take his rubbish to the tip on a bus.

Father-of-one David Bridgman said he was given the astonishing instruction when he phoned Canterbury City Council to find out why binmen hadn't taken away his household rubbish.

After being told his bin could break the rubbish cart, he was astonished when the council worker informed him: 'You will have to get a bus.'

Red-faced council bosses have since apologised to Mr Bridgman after admitting the comment was 'inappropriate'.

The 25-year-old, who lives with his pregnant girlfriend Hannah, 24, and their 22-month-old son Harley in Herne Bay, Kent, said: 'When I saw our wheelie bin hadn't been emptied I phoned the council to ask why and was told it was because our bin was too heavy and would break the dust cart.

'I said to the woman, well what do you suggest I do with the rubbish if they won't take it away and she told me the only thing I could do was take it myself to the local tip.

'My nearest tip is a mile-and-a-half away. I don't have a car, so I said to her the only way I could possibly get there was to get on the bus.  'She replied: 'Well, if needs must, you will have to get a bus.'

'I just laughed at her. No bus driver would let me on their bus with a wheelie bin. And if the wheelie bin was too heavy for the binmen to empty, then how did she think I was going to take it with me on a bus to the tip?

'I couldn't believe it. What planet is this woman living on? What she was suggesting is so ridiculous I find it funny.'  Mr Bridgman, an unemployed carpet fitter, said: 'I told the woman on the phone there was no way I could get the rubbish to the tip and she had to arrange for someone to come round and collect it.

'I phoned back another three times that day to see what they were doing about it, but got nowhere.  'Then the next morning I woke up to find some purple sacks and been stuffed through our letter box with a leaflet saying I'd have to take our rubbish out of the wheelie bin, put it in these purple sacks and leave them out the front of the house until the next collection.

'I can't believe they expect us to leave our rubbish on the street for two weeks. There are dirty nappies and old food in the rubbish - we'll be getting maggots, rats and all sorts.  'I'm really not happy, but I don't know what else I can do.'

Larissa Laing, the council's head of neighbourhood services, said: 'We're sorry if Mr Bridgman feels that he was spoken to inappropriately and that his situation was not taken seriously when he called about his bin not being emptied.  'I have spoken to Mr Bridgman today and arrangements have been made to take away all of his rubbish tomorrow.'


Criminal record checks to be abolished for millions of British community volunteers

Millions of people who volunteer to help in schools, with sport or at charity events are to be freed from the red tape of criminal record checks.

Ministers are scaling back legislation to exempt more than half of the nine million who have needed to go through Labour’s ‘vetting and barring scheme’ from the need to be officially checked.

Cabinet Office Minister Nick Hurd said that, from next year, rules requiring those who want to volunteer in their communities to undergo repeated screening will be scrapped.

People are forced to have checks so they can be monitored while coming into contact with children or vulnerable adults.

But the scheme, introduced in the wake of the inquiry into the murders of Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002, is widely seen to have spiralled out of control.

Town halls spent £45million last year demanding criminal records checks not only on their own staff but also on civic-minded people who gave up their time to help in their communities.

As well as school volunteers, checks are being carried out on tree surgeons, beach cleaners, park rangers and ice cream and burger van operators.

Even the Duchess of Cambridge had to undergo a check by the Criminal Records Bureau before becoming a volunteer for the Scouts.

The Government says safety should not be compromised, but the scheme is being significantly curtailed so that only those in sensitive posts or who have intensive contact with youngsters or vulnerable adults will need to undergo criminal record checks.

The CRB and the Independent Safeguarding Authority are to be merged to form a streamlined body to provide a ‘proportionate’ system of checks.

Mr Hurd said the Government planned further steps to ensure barriers are not put in the way of people who want to volunteer.  ‘People and charities have often told me of their frustration that they have to go through a costly and time-consuming process to get a CRB check often when they already have a certificate,’ he said.

‘We’ve listened and changed the legislation so that people only need to get checked once or when absolutely necessary, which will mean that more people can get involved in their local communities without the burden of unnecessary red tape.’

The Government is issuing new guidance to make it clear that volunteering should not usually be considered a risky activity requiring criminal record checks.

From next year, the Protection of Freedoms Act will improve the ‘portability’ of CRB certificates so that people can volunteer using the same certificate they have used for employment or other volunteering, he added.


The media's religion deficit

Big media has a bias against religion that doesn't advance the secular and liberal agenda of the Democratic Party -- the evidence is beyond dispute. Any faith attached to a conservative agenda is to be ridiculed, stereotyped and misrepresented. (Islam is a notable exception. The media appear to bend over backward not to offend Muslims.)

The Washington Post on Monday, reporting from Carrollton, Ark., uncovered an event that occurred nearly 155 years ago, and then sought to link it to the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney: "On Sept. 11, 1857, a wagon train from this part of Arkansas met with a gruesome fate in Utah, where most of the travelers were slaughtered by a Mormon militia in an episode known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre."

The Romney connection? "There aren't many places in America more likely to be suspicious of Mormonism -- and potentially problematic for Mitt Romney, who is seeking to become the country's first Mormon president."

As Carrollton, Ark., goes, so goes the nation? Would the Post question the legitimacy and faith of a Muslim candidate for Congress, or any office, because of 9/11? Do you even have to ask? Should the Spanish Inquisition reflect on a Catholic candidate?

Since Jimmy Carter announced during the 1976 presidential campaign that he was a born-again Christian, the media have been fascinated by religion, but not so much that they would labor to understand it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a devout Mormon, but Reid gets a media pass on his faith because he toes the line on the secular left's agenda, from abortion to same-sex marriage, which Reid endorsed last week. That his church teaches the opposite of the way he votes doesn't appear to concern him. Senator Orrin Hatch, also a Mormon, is running for re-election in Utah. Hatch is less scary to the media because he made friends with the late Senator Ted Kennedy, with whom he occasionally cooperated on legislation.

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, a devout Catholic, opposes the death penalty, as does the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church also opposes the "death penalty" for the unborn, but Cuomo challenged the Church's position on abortion in his speech at Notre Dame in 1984, titled "Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor's Perspective." Why did no reporter press Cuomo on his "cafeteria theology"? Answer: because his positions on both the death penalty and abortion reflect the views of most in big media.

The questions reporters should be asking Mitt Romney are not about his style of worship or about Mormon theology, but rather, which of his Church's beliefs he thinks are connected to earthly policies and which ones, if any, he will attempt to implement should he become president.

On her Washington Post blog, Jennifer Rubin says the media has a "Mormon Obsession": "In sum, the left's obsession with Romney's faith tells us more about their ignorance of faithful people of all religions than anything else. ... Whether born of ignorance (i.e. that other faiths don't share these essential values) or rank bias or intention to paint Romney as weird, the definition of Romney as nothing more than a Mormon stick figure is pernicious in our political culture and begs the question: Why is the media entirely uninterested in Obama's religious influences, and indeed has dubbed such discussion racist?"

Journalists and media organizations should be required to take advanced religion courses so they can better understand faith, explain it accurately and ask the right questions of candidates who believe in an Authority higher than the state.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCHAUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site  here.


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