As millions of people across the UK observed a two-minute silence to mark Armistice Day (see bbc.co.uk), where were you at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month? Did you pause, remember and reflect? What thoughts went through your mind for those few brief moments? For my part and in some ways, I suppose some would say, I was actually disrespecting the memory of the fallen…
You see I was somewhat preoccupied, I suppose you could say I was caught with my pants down, so to speak. I happened to be in the smallest room of the house, suffering the after effects of the previous evening’s dodgy curry. But as I sat there, I could still sence the town fall silent, I could even hear the bell toll out the 11th hour from the distant Parish Church clock. And as I sat, I imagined all the people standing silent in the High Street with their thoughts.
The media hype and furore around the recent FIFA incident may have gone some way towards galvanizing the nation’s ‘respect’ and ‘pride’, at least more than usual however; as Scott Hill pointed out in today’s Huffington Post – it is actually about far more than a couple of minutes and simply wearing a poppy…
Sitting listening to the suddenly audible but somewhat eery twitter of birds in a nearby tree, the silence was abruptly broken by the sound of an emergency services vehicle speeding to a call for assistance. A sound that reminded me how many of those who spend their life helping others, actually continue to do so, 365 days per year, 24/7 no matter what.
However and in addition to all the political and financial issues facing our nation today, there are always some who fail in their service to others. Some of the most disgusting and prominent failures or traits, are mostly born out of inherent self-interest. As a society, we seem far too able to vindicate our inactions with a liberal dose of false concern or a modicum of contrived and overt emotion. Many of us simply cough up the odd 50p now and then, when a collecting box is stuffed under our chin, then continue onward with our self-important quest, happy that we have done something to ease the plight of others, apparently less fortunate than we are.
What worries me most is; unfortunately too many of these ‘charitable’ platitudes are often displayed by individuals employed within the public sector. People who are employed (and handsomely remunerated) by you and I, to serve the needs and requirements of our society. They are tasked with helping and supporting those who, for whatever reason, are residing within the lower levels of our dung heap society. The socially, physically or mentally disadvantaged, people like the elderly, the young, the disabled or the abused and the homeless or poor.
But when we think of the word ‘poor’, most people’s minds drift off to some third-world country. They imagine hungry children in africa, some urchin scavenging on a dump in South America, or be being ‘bothered’ by a group of unkempt little people somewhere in the Asian sub-continent. But think again people, just in case you were simply too busy to notice, whilst flitting around in your snug microcosm, we actually have ‘real’ poverty here in the UK…
Army veteran and his wife die in tragic ‘suicide pact’ after becoming ‘too poor to live through the winter’ – (dailymail.co.uk)
Although this tragic incident is recent, there are those who already seek to brush it away under our carpet of social ambivalence. To treat the matter as some form of political weapon, simply a tool being used to rubbish current government policies. Whether an element of that is involved or not is mostly irrelevant, I for one don’t think so and the most important questions must be; how the hell can an incident like this happen in what is supposedly a civilised western society? Why and how were this couple failed by our systems of welfare support? How can we prevent things like this happening again in the future? I am not alone with these questions or my disgust…
Charities have demanded an urgent investigation into the suicide pact of an army veteran and his wife, Mark and Helen Mullins, who were struggling to live on just £57.50 a week…(Metro News)
How can we can we just sit and say “oh dear, how very sad” then move on? Here we have a man who has served his country, an army veteran who is unable to support himself and his disabled wife, so despondent and helpless that they killed themselves.
A Warwickshire Police spokesman said: “Post-mortem examinations have been conducted on the bodies of a man and a woman who were found at an address in Henson Road, Bedworth, on Thursday 4 November. “The results are inconclusive and police are now waiting for toxicology tests to establish how the two people died” – (bbc.co.uk)
According to the media reports I’ve read thus far, although a full investigation is pending, the crux of the matter would appear to be; our welfare agencies are failing us and people are dying due to public sector ineptitude. Mark Mullins had (apparently) made numerous attempts to get help and previously told charity workers in Coventry about the hopelessness of his and his wife’s situation (telegraph.co.uk).
“They were trying to do the right thing, they were trying to do it the right way, and it seems like every corner they turned, they were met with a different obstacle” – (Kervin Julien: Anesis Homeless Ministry)
Unsurprisingly, and probably as the first stage of their ‘damage limitation’ and departmental self-preservation, a spokeswoman for Warwickshire County Council said: “Warwickshire Police haven’t formally identified the bodies found at Henson Road and it would be inappropriate for us to offer any comment” (bbc.co.uk), if nothing else they’re probably buying time to cover their tracks.
Dying to stay warm? The state must take responsibility: The story of Mark and Helen Mullins is one that should never be told, and it should never be told because it shouldn’t have occurred in the first place…(dailymail.co.uk)
A ‘ad indictment of our society and our welfare systems undoubtedly however, the situation is actually worse than it would first appear, especially when you consider that this unhappy set of circumstances is simply the latest of many. The case of ‘Baby P’ who died in August 2007 after months of abuse and a series of failings by Haringey Council, was another example in point.
Anyone who actually bothers to take notice will be aware these social and welfare system failings are myriad during recent years. Most of them can also be attributed to similar factors. The impacts of silo working and narrowing of specialism, along with the current ‘fashion’ for multi-agency working, all do little to ease the problems. In many ways, they actually increase the negative impacts upon levels of responsibility and accountability.
They allow individuals, departments and agencies to shirk their responsibility for issues and/or sidestep any important ownership and accountability factors. The propensity for silo working and agency or departmental rivalry causes arguments over remits and budgetary competition that (mostly) shouldn’t be part of public service delivery.
Our systems are also willingly allowing managers to cascade blame to the lowest possible scapegoat. To mostly diligent and overworked individuals trying to do their best in an organisation managed by self-important and self-interested leadership. The problem is both widespread and endemic across the majority of the public sector. You simply wouldn’t believe the ineptitude and incompetence displayed by many of our welfare systems. And here are two further examples…
(1) My wife, recently made redundant, has first-hand knowledge and experience of the welfare system; differing individuals and departments offering different and opposing answers to questions and when challenged, denying they ever said what they said in the first place. No ownership of functions, little understanding of regulations, process or issues and little or no accountability for failings. Save for a grudgingly offered apology and a promise to learn from mistakes when challenged.
More minor issues than a death I know but important all the same, especially to the individual with difficulties, financial or physical, and wholly indicative of the wider issues. As they say…You simply couldn’t make it up!
To compound all these issues, as with the Sharon Shoesmith’s case for compensation, after being accused of “staggering conceit” and refusing to accept any blame for the death of Baby P (see here), it would also appear there is no such thing as vicarious liability within public sector management. Perhaps there really should be? If nothing else there is real need for better ‘ownership’ of situations and overall management of the staff and their tasks.
As I’ve said before; when the crap hits the fan, shit always conforms with gravity… Perhaps it’s finally time to challenge Sir Isaac Newton’s law as far as it relates to public sector management?
Note: the following YouTube clip (see below) was filmed for a TV documentary prior to the couple’s death…
- The tragic story of suicides Mark and Helen Mullins is a tale our politicians should pay attention to (mirror.co.uk)
- A Hell-hole Called Britain! (dickiebo.wordpress.com)
- Poverty suicide couple had warned of hopeless situation (telegraph.co.uk)
- A welfare state and the state of its Army veterans (duncanlewissocialwelfare.wordpress.com)
- Bedworth ‘suicide pact’ couple found lying side-by-side(worldwright.wordpress.com)