Friday, August 10, 2012

SILKWORTH deserves a better form of Scrutiny Hearing...

Special  Silkworth Scrutiny Hearing  10 August 2012

“Good communication is vital” were the mumbled, final faltering words from Health Minister Deputy Pryke (nee Quenault) at this morning’s special Scrutiny session.

Of course, even at the best of times, Deputy Pryke is not one of the world’s best speakers but when she speaks quietly from behind her fist the problem is much magnified.

At today’s Scrutiny meeting her deficiencies were even more apparent because the “hearing” (if you will excuse the word) took place in Church House which is an echoing bare room about 15 feet high where the acoustics are especially bad.

I had previously written to the Scrutiny clerk to request that a proper sound system be installed for this hearing with a loop for those using hearing aids. At a health meeting (of all meetings) these standards should be obligatory – whether a public meeting or otherwise. Of course my request was ignored. The 6 mics around the inward looking “top table” were only for the benefit of the recording system and the transcribers in New Zealand.
They were the usual window dressing so far as this “public” hearing was concerned..

My own post-meeting protest fell on “deaf” ears with Chair Deputy Moore (the ex- professional communicator from the “accredited media”). She had little sympathy.
“You can always read the transcript” being the limit of her interest in the problem.
Who needs the public anyway one might conclude? – WE are the government this is our show for OUR benefit seems to be the attitude.
How different from all those promises to want to serve the voting/paying public at election times!

This communicating day did not start well.
BBC Radio’s Matthew Price (the non-accredited” journo) had evidently swallowed a Communications Unit  Diversion Press Release about the latest government plans for “Roseneath” and how this was now going to be used to accommodate all sorts of deserving people in a partnership deal with Sanctuary Trust.
It was a blatant disinformation exercise and the fate of 350 homeless people was trotted out as though anybody in government really gives a damn for their welfare.

Preacher Price’s husband also kept telling us, of a plan in Guernsey whereby householders are to be invited to offer rooms to homeless young people in that Island (aka the sister feudal Bailiwick).What a super charitable and |Christian idea!

But of course, the simple fact is that neither Island has a legal obligation to house any residents or to care for them if they fall ill.
(After I responded to his request to phone in with comments just a few of my much clipped words on this aspect were read out). 

In the UK and most other civilised places, governments accept such things as a legal right. They might not offer comprehensive solutions to all such problems – but they do not shirk their responsibilities as this bunch does. They do try and they also enter into Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that are binding over several years so that providers of “essential” services such as Silkworth can plan their futures rather then being kept dangling on a very thin thread of “promises”

The BBC themed government propaganda today was clearly designed to deflect attention away from the substance of the Scrutiny hearing. This had been called following the Silkworth Trust’s recent startling revelelations of a failing relationship with the Health Department and some very murky dealings by Health, Treasury and Property Services to wind up the Nemo Charity and take the Roseneath properties back into the States property portfolio. The aim to reduce financial contributions to several important charities (or Third Sector Providers as they tend to call them) was clearly too “Jersey image” damaging.
The failing pretence that this was all in some way to the benefit of the public had to be repaired!!

Naturally, the hidden hand of Senator Ozouf was everywhere apparent.
This was evidently just another aspect of his SAVE money CSR plan.
10% reduction or else and never mind who it hurts! So start with the most deserving and most vulnerable and if anything is still moving in the undergrowth of society - give them another burst of austerity and inflict some more PAIN!

It was especially sad to hear Deputy Green the Housing Minister ( who has gone so shy in front of my video camera) suggesting that the revamped Roseneath might do anything to house all or any of the under 25’s who do not qualify for “social housing” under the current absurd rules.
His promised White Paper will inevitably be about as much good as Health’s own “Caring for Each Other Caring for Ourselves” proposals which are visibly unwinding before our very eyes and ears, the more we learn about such worked examples as “Silkworth” etc.
Neither Deputy Green nor Pryke will be awarded enough money by Treasury to do a fraction of the things that are “talked” of around these Green and White Papers.

With rooms for 30 residents at most, the Rosemount property will hardly touch the needs of any one section of our needy society. The prospect of it as yet another building accommodating a random mix of all ages with all sorts of illnesses and issues must be a guaranteed formula for yet more and diverse problems in the future.

Laughably, the question was put whether Silkworth’s empty beds might be used for other purposes too - since Health does not seem to have any proper mechanism to refer clients for the 6 beds actually contracted for under the SLA.

Obviously, the nature of the specialist treatment undertaken at Silkworth was generally not understood here today. It appeared to be viewed as just another filing cabinet opportunity to hide so many of Jersey’s human problems.  Out of sight out of mind - although Deputy Pryke claimed that it provided a “very important service” when asked. But her solution to almost everything was “to discuss it around the table.”

Inevitably, neither the management from Silkworth nor others in the public seats were allowed to utter a squeak today. How absurd this is. So many half answered questions could have been clarified and possible deceits challenged, there and then.
But this is just a symptom of the bureaucratic malaise. It is ever more obvious that so many in senior positions do little more than attending endless discussions and “consultations” dreaming up catchphrases and novel names to describe projects that will never be financed or realised.

As always, Deputy Pryke turned up for this hearing with 6 minders including Constable Refault but they mostly mumbled their names at the outset and it is impossible to identify all of them here.
What a pity they cannot all be referred to Silkworth to occupy the empty beds for a 3 months learning and re-training exercise!

Chair of this Scrutiny Panel Deputy Moore was assisted by Deputy Hilton who both talked very quietly and apologised for the non-appearance of Deputy Reed.
The Panel’s “adviser” did not audibly speak and was presumed to have died in his seat until the meeting ended and he rose to leave.

So, yet another totally unsatisfactory hearing in this year’s scrutiny season
with no gold medals to be won by either the Scrutineers or the Health department.

There were too many issues raised today to be dealt with adequately here.

I hope that “Silkworth” might now respond publicly in some way to correct any defects on the public record but I feel sure they would rather get on with the job of saving the lives of so many people.

Perhaps Ronnie Allan might still be alive to day (see previous blogs on this site) if Deputy Pryke and her “Health” team had paid more attention to his needs and had not spent so much time talking and posturing amongst themselves whilst resisting those who offered to give genuine help…
…but have they even learned anything from his tragic death “in care”?

Answers on a ballot card please.


  1. Great posting Tom, I was hoping you would do a write up on this.

    “You can always read the transcript”

    BRILLIANT! They will probably doctor the transcripts, just as they do with their trial tapes.

  2. This 'hearing' still posed far more questions than answers, and some of the evidence that was given did not really ring true nor I am sure will tally with the proof that Silkworth Lodge could have offered.

    As per usual 'lack of communication'- 'we must get around that good old table' are the only solutions that seem to emerge from a very sad state of affairs. Nothing, but nothing was resolved yesterday, and if asked which side I believed I think the answer is patently obvious.

    Just why, when the Acohol and Drugs Service were informed by Mr/Mrs/Ms Anonymous that Silkworth was closed for new referrals late last year did no-one have the wherewithall to make a simple phone call and check that this was indeed correct? Just one example of something not being quite right here.

    Other comments were made which truly shocked me, but that is for another time and place. This whole situation needs resolving, and a proper inquiry should be made.

    Finally, your observations regarding the accoustics were spot on. Sitting behind the Scrutiny Panel it was almost impossible to hear any of the questions they were asking, and in some instances more difficult to hear the responses.

  3. "Perhaps Ronnie Allan might still be alive to day (see previous blogs on this site)"

    Tom, activate your labels like on my blog, your labels will then show all postings on that particular word subject simply by clicking on the word!

    Ring me tomorrow if your stuck.