n a cold, clear night in September 2014, a man I’ll call Ahn walked up to the edge of the Tumen River on the Chinese side of the heavily guarded border between China and North Korea. At its narrowest points, the Tumen measures a little over 150 feet wide, and Ahn could easily see the North Korean side from where he stood. In two bags, he was carrying 100 USB drives filled with films, television shows, music, and e-books from around the world.
Almost anywhere else, such material would be considered completely innocuous. At this border, however, it constitutes highly illicit, dangerous contraband. In the totalitarian state of North Korea, citizens are allowed to see and hear only those media products created or sanctioned by the government. Pyongyang considers foreign information of any kind a threat and expends great effort keeping it out. The regime’s primary fear is that exposure to words, images, and sounds from the outside world could make North Koreans disillusioned with the state of affairs in their own country, which could lead them to desire—or even demand—change.
Ahn is a defector who escaped from North Korea in 2004 and now lives in the South Korean capital, Seoul, where he runs a nongovernmental organization that sends information into North Korea. He is one of the dozens of defectors from North Korea whom I have interviewed in the past ten years. Defectors’ testimony is not always reliable, nor is it enough to piece together an accurate portrait of life inside the opaque and secretive country. But when combined with other information, defectors’ stories offer invaluable insights.
At the edge of the river that night, Ahn knew precisely what to do; he had made this kind of trip to the border many times before. With his senses on high alert, he scanned the area for guards. Once he felt certain that he wasn’t being watched, h
What needs explaining is why Trump and his staff tell obvious and easily disprovable lies, such as the claim that record numbers of people came to see his inauguration.
My own thought was that it served two purposes. One was to confuse the issue, because most people don’t have the time or resources to check facts. As long as you stick to what you’re saying and never back down, a certain number of people will believe you.
The other purpose was to distract the attention of the press from more serious issues. The time spent by reporters in covering arguments over crowd sizes is time spent not covering things such as Trump’s infrastructure plan.
But economist Tyler Cowen has a more sinister explanation.
Our democracy is broken. How else to explain the depth of the divisions that scar our country, and were revealed in all their visceral rawness by this bleak and all too often bitter referendum campaign? Yet if we are to start the process of healing these divisions and rebuilding our politics, we first need to understand the degree of people’s resentment and alienation in the face of economic and technological forces beyond their control.
I know that many people who voted remain will be angry with those who opted to leave, but such feelings are misplaced. To dismiss them as bigots or racists would be a serious mistake. Instead what we should recognise from these results is a profound rage at a political and economic elite who have held power and wealth close to their chests for…
Over four thousand people have seen and shared on Twitter the horrifically degrading and abusive photo of the support worker employed by Mencap talking on the phone while smoking a cigarette and standing by the Disabled Person they are supposed to be supporting who is covered in their shopping bags balanced humiliatingly across them and their wheelchair.
When we see practice like this or like we saw on the Panorama programme of Winterbourne View, we collectively feel appalled and ashamed of how society can and does treat people with learning disabilities. Speaking with people with learning disabilities employed at CHANGE hearing the story made them feel angry and demeaned. What is perhaps the hardest thing to bear is that we also know that this is not a one off ‘bad’support worker. This is not just something that happens to be caught (luckily) on camera one day in a service run…
Nearly half of disabled people receiving care and support from their local authority say their quality of life has fallen in the last year, despite major new legislation designed to boost their well-being, choice and control.
The survey of 399 disabled people was carried out by the Independent Living Strategy Group (ILSG) – some of whose members were part of the independent living movement in the 1970s –as part of a report assessing the impact of the Care Act 2014 on choice and control.
The group was set up by a broad range of disabled activists and disability organisations concerned about the potential impact of welfare reform and cuts to public services on independent living, and the government’s failure to follow through on its 2010 pledge to monitor the implementation of Labour’s independent living strategy.
Their report was funded and published by In Control, the charity which helped develop the idea of personal budgets*.
ILSG members wanted to find out how local authorities were following “the spirit and letter of the Care Act and its statutory guidance in seeking to optimise choice and control”, which they say is “fundamental” to the Care Act’s “core purpose” of helping people achieve the outcomes that matter to them.
More than 45 per cent of those surveyed said their quality of life had reduced over the past year, including 18 per cent who said it had fallen significantly.
Almost 30 per cent said they had experienced a reduction in choice and control over their support in the past year, while only eight per cent said it had increased.
And nearly 30 per cent of respondents said restrictions had been placed on their use of direct payments or personal budgets.
The report warns that social care spending by local authorities had already fallen by £4.6 billion from 2010-11 to 2014-15 – a real terms cut of 31 per cent – while the government’s imminent spending review had “opened the door to even deeper cuts in the years to come”.
Some councils have introduced restrictions on how disabled people can spend their personal budgets, such as banning them from using them to pay for gym memberships, or for personal assistants to accompany them on outings.
Others have imposed a “cost ceiling”, which means the council will pay no more for independent living than the cost of a residential care placement, despite Care Act guidance making it clear that such practices are unacceptable.
The report calls on central government to ensure that funding to local authorities is “sufficient to enable them to meet their statutory obligations as a minimum, let alone the broader goals and aspirations of the Care Act in respect of prevention and well-being”.
But it also says that there are many things councils can do, “irrespective of their financial position”, to promote choice and control and “strive to meet the letter and spirit of the Care Act 2014”.
Jenny Morris, one of the report’s authors and another ILSG member, said the survey results were “very shocking”.
She there was a “yawning gap between the welcome principles of the Care Act 2014 and what is actually happening to older and disabled people”.
She said: “The whole value system behind personal budgets is incompatible with the massive reduction in expenditure on social care which local authorities are facing.
“There are some local authorities where a significant proportion of social workers and managers are not signed up to the choice and control agenda, but any progress is being made almost impossible by the massive reductions in the funding available.”
She said: “Personal budgets were supposed to enable everyone who needed social care support to have the kind of choice and control that was previously only open to those receiving direct payments.
“Instead, they have been rolled out in the context of a major financial crisis facing adult social care, and the result is not only a reduction in choice but also a decrease in the quality of people’s everyday lives. This is the government’s responsibility and they must act.”
She said ILSG would continue to monitor the state of independent living, including through future surveys.
And she called on councils to “make it clear to government that the current financial climate is incompatible with what they are required to do, according to the Care Act and the statutory guidance that accompanies it”.
Sue Bott, deputy chief executiveof Disability Rights UK, added: “Local authorities might argue that it is early days in the implementation of the Care Act, but if you don’t start as you mean to go on then the spirit of the act will never be implemented.
“This report demonstrates, and the calls to our advice line also show, that disabled people are being denied choice and control over how support needs are met and that independent living is being fundamentally undermined.”
*A personal budget is a sum of money allocated by a local authority to meet a person’s care and support needs, while direct payments allow a disabled person to take such a care package as a cash payment
He said the “potential ideas” laid out in the paper had four key principles: giving people control of their support, rather than being “prisoners” of the system; inclusion and independence in the community; proper person-centred planning; and “very clear” accountability and responsibility throughout the system.
Among the proposals, which could only become law if the next government takes them forward, Lamb suggests that only those organisations that include self-advocates and family carers on their governing bodies should win contracts with the local authority or the NHS to provide services for people with learning difficulties or autism.
Local authorities and NHS commissioners would have to take account of factors which support inclusion in the community when making decisions on living arrangements, while there would be stronger rights to request a transfer to a “less restrictive” setting or somewhere closer to home, or to ask for a discharge.
Local authorities and the NHS could also have a duty to think about how to ensure they provide enough community-based support and treatment services.
Another proposal is for every service-user to be given a named social worker to keep them “informed and involved” and to “make sure less restrictive and community based plans are considered”.
Lamb said: “While recognising the complexities, I have been disappointed that some commissioners have failed to grasp and act on the urgency of putting in place suitable community provision. We have to go further.
“We want to consider how we can make sure that the rights, incentives, responsibilities and duties in the system ensure that change is delivered everywhere and no-one can fall through the gaps any longer.”
The proposals would affect assessment and treatment units (ATUs) in mental health hospitals for people with learning difficulties or autism; care and support for adults with learning difficulties and autism; and adults and children affected by the Mental Health Act.
The consultation paper was co-authored by the leading self-advocate Gavin Harding, who has himself spent time in ATUs and is co-chair of the government’s transforming care assurance board.
He says in the consultation document: “We closed NHS campuses and long stay hospitals. But we now have some very large ATUs. We must not make the same mistakes again.
“Equally, we must not find we end up with very large organisations as providers in the community which are not responsive to individuals.
“Local commissioners need to start helping to make sure there are many, high quality, responsive local community providers not big institutions.”
Only last month, members of the Commons public accounts committee expressed concern at the lack of progress in moving people with learning difficulties out of long-term ATUs, despite the public outrage at the abuse that took place at Winterbourne View, a private hospital on the edge of Bristol, exposed by the BBC’s Panorama in May 2011.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told the committee last month that NHS England would close some of the remaining hospitals that provide in-patient mental health beds for people with learning difficulties, and move people with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour into community settings.
A National Audit Office report published last month said there were 2,615 people with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour in hospital in England in March 2014, 2,601 in June 2014, and 2,600 in September 2014, while the average length of stay, including admissions and readmissions, in four hospitals visited by NAO, was 17 years and four months.
Campaigners have been attempting to persuade governments to close long-stay hospitals for people with learning difficulties since the late 1940s.
In 1951, the National Council for Civil Liberties released a report describing the regime brought in by the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act – which confined hundreds of thousands of people with learning difficulties to long-stay NHS hospitals – as “one of the gravest social scandals of the twentieth century”.
Lamb’s consultation will run for 12 weeks and ends on 29 May.
The following post states a situation that no one should be in and have to endure and although, in this instance, it is in Australia, could it not be anywhere. No one should be subjected to any form of abuse, but if they are, the so called ‘respected authorities’ should be there to help and save them from this continued abuse.
‘My mother stayed because there was nowhere to go. By 2015, I imagined domestic violence victims would have more options but it seems we’re going backwards
On my first day of kindergarten in the early 1970s I stood outside the little wooden school building with my satchel over my back and a desperate desire to get into the classroom where there were books, and maths puzzles, and an orange story chair. Outside, a boy with red hair clung, sobbing, to a pillar, while his mother tried to peel him off. Puzzled, I watched him. Why would anyone be frightened of school? What could be more frightening than home?
Home was the dark shadow of my father, the thud of his punches, or him throwing my mother across the room. Home was my teenage sisters, shouting out their defence against him, or sobbing in their room. Home was my brother, not yet out of infants school, clinging to my mother’s leg, trying to protect her while my father peeled him off, flicking him across the kitchen with a single kick. And home was the desperate desire to be the one to make him laugh, to have his attention turned to me, to be his favourite, his one.
Like many violent men, he was a charmer, my father.
My mother stayed with my father for 22 years. For 20 of those years he repeatedly hit, kicked, pushed and pummelled her. Two of my bright and capable sisters didn’t see out high school. Desperate to escape, they left home as soon as they were legally able.
Why did she stay? As a teenager, I spat at her weakness: I would never allow a man to treat me like this. I would never. Why did she stay?
And each time, she gave this answer: there was nowhere to go.
Before the 1975 Family Law Act, divorce could be granted for adultery but not for violence. Before the Supporting Mothers Benefit of 1973, women with young children could not be guaranteed of a means to live once they left their husbands. And before Elsie – the first women’s shelter – was established in 1974, women like my mother had nowhere to go.
In recent months, the beleaguered Abbott government has made many disastrous decisions. Among them, the decision to cut funding to women’s shelters. Withtwo women a week being killed by male partners and ex-partners, I can’t believe I have to spell it out, but it seems I do: women need somewhere safe to go when they leave.
In a period of decreasing homicides generally, the number of women killed by male partners or ex-partners has increased. In the last six weeks alone, 13 women have been killed by their male partners. Last week Q&A hosted a discussion on male violence against women, making the mistake of overloading the panel with male speakers. The conversation about male violence, though, is not just about who speaks. It’s about who should listen.
But it’s also about asking the right questions. The question my teenage self repeatedly posed to my mother – why did you stay? – was the wrong question, to the wrong person. I never, once, asked my father why he was violent or if he wanted to change. No one did.
When British novelist Jill Dawson wrote a piece in the Guardian about her own experience of her partner’s violence, she said that it was the other people’s response that allowed her to see the violence for what it was. Peer pressure, she said, in particular condemnation by other men, as well legal repercussions, has been shown to create a change in the perpetrator’s behaviour. Rosie Batty echoed this on Q&A, speaking about the importance of “men holding other men accountable.”
According to No To Violence, the male family violence prevention association, recent studies have shown that male behaviour change programs (MBCP) are highly effective. In these programs, it’s clear who does the listening.
My father was a policeman. When my mother went to the police, she was told they could do nothing. When she went to family friends, she was told to keep quiet. When she went to the church, she was told to stay in her marriage.
In that first year of my escape into the world of school, my mother escaped into the world of work. As an enrolled nurse she found that perhaps she wasn’t as useless as she had come to believe; she found a community of women who laughed loudly, who listened and did not say “stay”. And she often treated other women, who came to Casualty with broken bones, or bloodied jaws, or battered backs. The world changed: by the mid-70s divorce rates were up. The conversation had changed, women felt able to leave. At the end of my first year of school, we pulled down the Christmas tree and loaded up a moving van. I spent three weeks sobbing for my father: he of the power and the charm and the wit.
As as an 80s’ teenager, I held tight to the line from L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between:
The past is another country, they do things differently there.
It was incomprehensible to me then that the country of the past meant that my mother had no place to go, no one to listen, no means of support. Five children, 22 years. That’s a lot of bruises. I was certain that for girls and women of my generation it would be different.
But that dark country of the past now feels not so far away. That country where women had nowhere to go is here, now. I can feel it creeping up again; can hear the voices telling us to hush up, to settle down, to get back in our boxes. But we won’t. We won’t stop talking. We can’t go back.’