Claire Dyer: Transfer postponed!

Selection of pictures of Claire and family at the Race for Life in Swansea last Sunday; participants are all in pink, as is usual

Update 30th July, 14:13: See this BBC news report – this may be on TV later, especially in Wales.

Update 14:55: There is to be a court hearing this Friday; Claire will not be moved before then.

Yesterday Catherine Dyer, mother of Claire who I have been writing about for some time, told us that her daughter was to be transferred to a medium-secure hospital unit near Brighton tomorrow (Wednesday). Claire is autistic and displays challenging behaviour (ie., self-injury, hitting others and property), particularly in stressful situations, as is fairly common with autism. However, the family say they have only experienced a few such incidents over the last few years, mainly because they keep her occupied, which the assessment and treatment unit she is currently in does not. Claire has been out or home with her family on most days since being sectioned last September, which is otherwise unheard-of for someone held under Section 3. This will not continue when she is transferred, and visits will be much less frequent as it’s a five-hour journey.

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‘Retirement flats’ to free up family homes

Picture of Vanessa Feltz, a white woman with long blonde hair wearing a thick white coat of some sortDemos: build retirement properties to free up 3 million family homes

I was going to be writing a piece this morning about how unworkable it would be to ‘encourage’ the over-55s to move out of their family homes in London into retirement flats on the coast, as was being discussed on the Vanessa Feltz show on BBC London yesterday morning. I listened to the first hour and a bit of the show as I drove out of London on my run up to Rotherham; I go out of range around Luton and switch to Radio 4 then anyway. The prompt for that was a Demos report which she said claimed that the think-tank were proposing encouraging older people living in family homes in the suburbs to move out so that young families could move in. However, I took a look at the press release this morning, and it really says no such thing.

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Online friends, suicide and threats thereof

Recently, two people I know (or knew) on Twitter posted threats to kill themselves. One of them is a woman who has bipolar disorder and has been in hospital on several occasions recently; the other has a chronic, disabling condition and has had her hopes raised and then dashed repeatedly since her condition deteriorated in 2012. The latter left Twitter this past week, after friends took her threats seriously and told both her husband and the police; this led to a hospital appointment having to be cancelled. I wasn’t one of the people who called the police, or her husband, because I do not know more about her than her first name. But if I had done, I would have called whoever I knew could help.

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Claire threatened with secure unit transfer again

Claire (a young white woman wearing a stripey white and blue top and grey tracksuit bottoms, wearing red and black ear defenders) sitting on a beach with a small brown dog.Last January I wrote about Claire Dyer, a young autistic woman in Swansea who was at the time being threatened with transfer to a secure hospital in Northampton. Then as now, she was living mostly in an assessment and treatment unit, which is a mental health unit for people with learning disabilities, in Swansea and spending much time at home or out and about with her family, despite being detained under section 3 of the Mental Health Act. Her family were appealing against the section, which ultimately expired (but was renewed), and for a while it appeared that the Northampton option was “highly unlikely”, and bespoke placements (where she would occupy a bungalow and have support staff) were being looked at. This week, however, things have taken a serious downturn, and staff have ‘agreed’ (with other clinicians that have never met Claire) that she should be transferred to a secure unit, which could be anywhere in the UK, as soon as a bed is available. The family have invoked the “nearest relative” method to get her released (this means that if the unit do not discharge her within three days, a tribunal must be held within a month). She has since been denied a routine day out because of medication given in the evening, something that has not been done before and which neither she nor her family were warned of.

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Work

The past month or so, I’ve been working full-time, and most of that has been in one job that requires quite long hours — it usually starts at 9am (which is late for a driving job; they usually start around 7 or 8am) and finishes around 8pm. It involves driving an 18-tonne truck from Park Royal in north-west London, via Hemel Hempstead, to a depot outside Rotherham, and back (straight to Park Royal). What I’m doing is delivering sandwiches; the company is a major supplier of them and you can find their sandwiches in a number of high-street shops and at airports and railway stations. The upshot is that I’m earning money, but have very little time for myself at the moment and that includes for writing, particularly as I only got Saturday off this and last weekend (however, for legal reasons, I have to have three days off next weekend).

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McDougalls’ children removed yet again

Mark and Kerry McDougall, the Scottish couple who fled to Ireland in 2009 to avoid the social services in Fife, Scotland, taking her then unborn son into care at birth (on the grounds that she was unfit to be a parent because of her learning difficulties) have had both their sons removed by the same department last Saturday. The couple had returned to Dunfermline last year as they wanted to be near friends and family, but social workers interfered from the start, insisting that Mark not work as Kerry should not look after the children unsupervised. The latest development seems to have occurred after Mark was arrested for calling social services and ‘threatening’ one of the staff (he claims that his offending consisted of nothing more than a raised voice) after they interviewed one of the children at nursery without their presence or consent. Mark was bailed on the condition that he not contact the department.

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So, what are these ‘British values’, then?

Picture of Michael Wilshaw, a white man wearing a dark suit, accompanied by a middle-aged female teacher in a yellow coat and skirt, watching a lesson through a glass screen.I’m a bit late in writing about this, as I’ve been working long hours the past two weeks during which the Ofsted report into a number of Birmingham schools supposedly targeted by a conspiracy to turn them into Muslim schools by the back door was released and several of them were put into special measures, having previously been classified as outstanding. This past week, one of the governing bodies resigned en masse, and on Thursday it was reported that new government rules will require new academies and ‘free schools’ to abide by so-called fundamental British values, which include “respect for the law, democracy, equality and tolerance of different faiths and religious and other beliefs”, and enable the education secretary to close a school or dismiss governors if he deems them “unsuitable” if his conduct undermines these values. Meanwhile, former prime minister Tony Blair claimed that both the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria and the supposed Birmingham plot stemmed from the same “warped and abusive view of the religion”.

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Bloody foreigners

Front cover of Truck & Driver (not the issue referred to in this entry)There’s a letter in the current (July 2014) edition of Truck & Driver magazine from one D Pardner (address withheld) moaning about everything about foreign truck drivers, particularly eastern Europeans. He claims that they cause accidents through incompetence, leave truck stops and lay-bys in a filthy state, break the law (such as by transporting large amounts of diesel to avoid higher British fuel prices), rarely spend money in the UK, and in some cases even import prostitutes from their home countries. I’ve been driving trucks since 2000 (7.5-tonners most of that time, but I passed my class 2 HGV test last November) and I can say that British bad truck driving rivals anything eastern Europe has to offer.

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Ayn van Dyk is coming home at last

Picture of Ayn van Dyk, a young white girl with a turqouise T-shirt on, sitting on a pink child-sized seat and playing with a pink kitchen-themed toy.On Tuesday Amie van Dyk, mother of Ayn van Dyk who was seized from her home in Canada by social services after briefly wandering from her father’s home in June 2011 (see previous posts), announced that said social services (the British Columbia Ministry of Child and Family Development, or MCFD) had decided to allow her to go and live with her mother, without any supervision order. She will remain at her foster placement until the end of the school term this month, at Amie’s request, spending the weekends at home, and then go to her mother’s house permanently after that. (I haven’t posted about it so far because I had been busy with work, and because I was waiting for more information.)

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Free speech

The last couple of weeks a few things have made me seriously consider the state of free speech in the UK. One was that a man (Michael Abberton, right) who had posted some innocuous anti-UKIP material (that didn’t call for people to riot, or assassinate UKIP politicians, or in any other way commit acts of violence) received a visit at home from the police, who “politely” suggested that he remove the material even though, as they said, it was perfectly legal. Someone else got a prison sentence for posting an offensive message about a teacher who was murdered in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago. Newspapers printed stories alleging that meat on sale in commercial restaurants is halal, as if that was a bad thing. And I have been reading yet another few sorry tales of people trapped in learning disability units whose families are trying desperately to get them out, or prevent them being transferred hundreds of miles away, and their only way of doing this is to use the press and social media to raise public awareness, something many professionals would like to see banned (and which is already banned in the case of children and people under the Court of Protection).

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Thalidomide: David Mason is no hero

A girl without arms uses her feet to play a board gameLast Thursday there was a BBC documentary about thalidomide, the drug used to suppress sickness in pregnant women which was responsible for serious birth defects in the children of the women who took it. The programme focussed on David Mason, a shareholder in the company which manufactured thalidomide in the UK and whose daughter Louise was affected (born with no arms or legs). Mason vetoed a confidential £3m settlement and proceeded to use the media to pressure Distillers to accept a much bigger settlement, ultimately successfully. However, a brief search for his name reveals less heroic details about Mason that the BBC chose to gloss over: that this wealthy man consigned Louise to an institution as a child, where she remained until age 17. (The [Telegraph's review](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/tv-and-radio-reviews/10833716/Thalidomide-The-Fifty-Year-Fight-BBC-Two-review-engrossing-and-moving.html) notes that the programme favoured the voices of journalists and of Mason over those of survivors, and only briefly mentions the current legal action against Grunenthal, the German developer of thalidomide.)
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Make no mistake: “halal hysteria” is malicious

Front page of the Sun, with the headline "Halal secret of Pizza Express"Last week a number of newspapers ran with prominent stories that supermarkets and restaurant chains were using halal meat, or had been doing so without their customers’ knowledge for some time. This is actually not news as a number of supermarkets have been doing this for years, chiefly because New Zealand abbatoirs employ Muslim slaughtermen so that the lamb they produce can be supplied to the Middle East. The media have been mixing the issue of the meat being halal with it being from animals that were not stunned before slaughter (which in fact is the case with only a minority of halal meat in the UK). It is the first time the story has made the front page of a national tabloid, however.

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On the Kim Walmsley gender case

Newspapers are reporting that a woman from Liverpool, Kim Walmsley (right), has had her marriage annulled, and been refused a passport, because the official copy of her birth certificate wrongly records her gender as male. The result is that she had to leave Australia with her husband in 2005, where she had been living on a temporary work visa and had set up a business. The fact that she is actually female is demonstrated by having had five children of her own, but the law apparently provides no means of rectifying this error, unlike when people actually have their gender reassigned. (**Update:** Kim has started an e-Petition to get this law changed; you have to be a British resident or citizen to sign.)

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Dudes

A graphic for Blogging Against Disablism Day, showing a 4x5 grid of stickmen in different colours on different backgrounds, some of which have crutches, and including one wheelchair.*This post is part of [Blogging Against Disablism Day 2014](http://blobolobolob.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/blogging-against-disablism-day-2014.html).*

Recently a fashion has emerged of referring to people with learning disabilities, particularly autism, as *dudes*. This fashion has emerged out of the Justice for LB campaign but has cropped up in some of their media interviews, and I believe it ought to be challenged before it becomes established anywhere else. LB, for anyone who isn’t a regular reader, was Connor “Laughing Boy” Sparrowhawk, an 18-year-old autisic man who died in an NHS assessment and treatment unit (a mental health unit for people with learning disabilities) in Oxford, England, as a result of staff negligence which was part of a culture which was exposed by both an independent investigation into his death and an inspection by the Care Quality Commission last year. His mother, Sara Ryan, blogs at My Daft Life and there is currently a campaign of 107 Days of Action, after the time Connor spent in the unit before he died, “to bring about #JusticeforLB and all young dudes”.

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Why is T-Mobile censoring disability blogs?

imageI regularly read a blog, Blogging Astrid, by an autistic woman in the Netherlands who has been blogging about her life since her teens, but since 2007 it has been about her life in two psychiatric institutions following a breakdown that year. (Besides her autism, she is also blind and believes she could not live independently, even with her husband.) In the last couple of months I have, on about four occasions, tried to access that blog on my phone, which is on the EE (formerly T-Mobile, but which also includes the old Orange UK network) and been presented with their “content lock” page. Initially, to get that removed, I had to supply them with a credit card number to prove I was an adult (as if all adults have credit cards), but you can also do it through the T-Mobile account website (as they assume that the person with access to the account is the adult, and that if the child is the user, he or she does not have access).

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Rapists to Rio? Are we that desperate?

Polesden Lacey, an English stately home with yellow cladding and creeping plants over some parts of the exterior, and a small belfry above the middle section.This past week, a man from Surrey was given a non-custodial sentence for a series of serious sexual assaults against a 12-year-old girl in December 2012. Adam Hulin plied the young girl, whose age he knew from having asked which school year she was in on Facebook, with vodka, drove her to the grounds of Polesden Lacey (a stately home just outside Leatherhead, pictured right) and performed two sex acts on her while she was drunk. He denied having sexual intercourse with her (i.e. raping her, as she was 12 and had had several shots of vodka which she was presumably unaccustomed to) and the judge dismissed the jury to hear this aspect of the case alone. Hulin is described as “a talented middle-distance runner with the Aldershot, Farnham and District club team” and has a promising future ahead of him; he has been accepted at a university to study marketing from next September. The judge accepted his claim that he believed the girl was 16 (note: nobody is still in year 7 at age 16) and said he “certainly wouldn’t want to do anything which would prejudice his future career”.

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Massachusetts: The land where torture is legal

A protest against the use of shocks at the Judge Rotenberg Center; there are men and women holding signs saying 'Torture isn't treatment', 'JRC tortures' and 'JRC: the school that teaches torture'Before and during the Afghan invasion twelve years ago, it was hotly debated whether torture of terrorist suspects is justified, particularly (but not only) when a terrorist has been arrested and it is suspected that they may know of a “ticking bomb” or someone just about to plant one. In civilian justice systems in every western country that I know of, torture has been illegal for centuries, not only because it is inhumane but also because it elicits misinformation, as the victims tell their captors what they want to hear, or implicate personal enemies, or just say anything that will make the torture stop. It’s unethical and doesn’t work. The sale of electroshock weapons has been illegal in the UK since 1997, and according to Mark Thomas, who has campaigned against and written a book on the arms trade, “the mere presence of a brochure advertising them will get companies thrown out of arms fairs”, and he himself had a man arrested for demonstrating them at a security fair in Birmingham in 2007. There is one part of the western world, however, where the use of electroshock as a punishment is allowed: in the United States, at institutions for people with learning disabilities who display challenging behaviour. And the “challenges” can be very mild indeed.

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Before you say “poor mum” …

Picture of Katie McCarron in a pink top with flowers, standing on grass in front of a lake. Someone off-camera is holding her hand.Last night three children were found dead at their home in New Malden, at an address half a mile from where I live. Olivia Clarence, aged four, and twins Max and Ben Clarence, aged three, had a form of muscular dystrophy; their mother Tania Clarence was also found with minor injuries, but has been released from hospital and is under arrest. As often happens in this case, the mainstream and social media commentary has included a number of suggestions that this was a really dedicated mother who must have cracked under the strain. For example, the Independent said that their mother “was the full-time carer for the children, but had been under immense pressure looking after children who had been struggling to sleep, according to acquaintances”. (More: Same Difference, Life with Hollywood, My Daft Life. **Update:** Tania Clarence [has been charged](http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-27151343) with the three children’s murders.)

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Happiness Will Prevail

Picture of the Kandyman, a monster made of Bassett-style sweets.Back in the 1980s, Doctor Who featured a storyline in which The Doctor was transported to a land ruled by so-called happy people, a land in which sadness is illegal and punished by the Happiness Patrol, who have the TARDIS painted pink, lock up blues musicians and execute so-called Killjoys in a river of strawberry fondant. In reality, the land is a colony in which the native inhabitants have been forced underground, and the happy message is reinforced by robotic announcements over the speaker system which reinforce the message “happiness will prevail”. (The secret police chief was loosely based on Margaret Thatcher, but the parallels with some of the self-proclaimed people’s paradises of the time are pretty obvious as well.) This enforced happiness was brought to mind by a recent video in which Muslims are shown dancing to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy”, and the reaction in which the press declared that it shows Muslims can be happy, and dissenters who pointed out that it contains a number of un-Islamic elements were labelled as puritanical killjoys. (More: Fugstar, Muslim Matters, Peace, Bruv.)
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Olympic Park: a sea of ugly

Yesterday I decided to have a walk through the Olympic Park, which opened a couple of weeks ago after having been closed since the end of the Olympics in 2012. I was excited that a new, large park had opened up in an inner area of London, but was hugely disappointed by what I saw. The park is scrappy, still full of building sites, and has too much concrete.

You reach the park by taking the train to Stratford and walking through a bit of the Westfield shopping complex. It’s then quite a long walk along a wide concrete pathway to the (still closed) athletics track. The Orbit “sculpture” is on the left, and a fairground helter-skelter is on the right, as if to invite comparisons with the hugely overblown, shapeless structure which appears to serve as an advertisement for a big Indian steel company. The London Aquatics Centre is also on the left as you walk into the park, and is now a public swimming pool (there is a viewing lobby off the entrance walkway, but you can only see the far end of the pool).

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