Third-class workers: those with disability?

There are currently two different pay rates for the National Minimum Wage (NMW). Those aged 18 to 20 get £5.13 per hour, and the rest get £6.50.

It would seem that some in Conservative circles think there should be a third category, the disabled, for whom as little as £2 per hour would be their choice. I do not agree.

The argument supposedly goes that there are some disabled whose disability is so great that the NMW is a barrier to them being employed. Employers, so it is claimed, need to be bribed in order to see the merits of employing them. This bribe could, it has been postulated, come in the form of financial incentives that would boost the pittance that employers actually wish to recompense the so-called extremely disabled. Alternatively, one could just give the severely disabled a very low salary.

This fails on a number of levels.

The NMW is meant to be the minimum recompense for labour given. It is presumed that those who work (and I happy to agree) must expect a salary floor; this serves two purposes, not only does it end exploitative practises but is also is recognition that there is a minimum worth for all workers. The happy by-product is, of course, increased spending power – a gain for society in general. Those on the lowest wages spend the greatest proportion of their wages (saving a near impossibility) and thus increase the prospects of others seeking employment or profit.

If an employer could get away with employing people for as little as £2 an hour it would also give them a competitive advantage over those who pay the proper rates for a job.

I have yet to meet an employer who would see his business jeopardised by employing someone incapable of doing their job. If incentives are to be offered to employers so that they will consider employing the disabled (in itself not at all objectionable) then how about giving grants if and where the workplace has to be modified. Most places of employment should already be disabled friendly, but you can imagine circumstances where extra measure may be required. These one-off incentives make sense to me in an way that long-term incentives to under-pay do not.

There will be jobs that the disabled just cannot do. However there are jobs (such as mine) which they will be able to do just as well as any person who is not disabled.

What the Conservatives have said (and, admittedly, backtracked on) is effectively there is an inferior type of worker – the disabled. So inferior that even the minimum (which I hope that many will be earning far more than in any case) is more than they deserve.

Utterly, utterly shameful.

Southend-on-Sea: 55,000 residents fall within the 30% most deprived areas of the country

The Southend-on-Sea Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment includes some very interesting data about the borough. I have previously reported on some of these numbers, but I think the data worth revisiting. The data rather presents a less than glowing picture of the borough.

The wards with the greatest percentage of over 65s:

1, Belfairs
2, Thorpe
3, Eastwood Park
4, Southchurch

Westborough has the lowest percentage of over 65s. Westborough has the highest percentage of under 19s, followed by West Shoebury, St Luke’s, and Victoria.

In the 2011 census, 87% of the population described themselves as White: English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British. This compares to 79.8% for the whole of England. The level of diversity is increasing. Just over 10% come from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities; a significant increase from the 2001 census. Victoria and Milton Wards have the highest proportion of BAME communities. 125 languages are spoken, with Polish, Bengali, Czech, Chinese, Shona and Tagalog/Filipino being the most common.

Southend-on-Sea is one of Essex’s most deprived areas: 55,000 residents fall within the 30% most deprived areas of the country and 16,000 fall within the 10& most deprived areas. The wards with the highest levels of deprivation are located within the East Locality with Kursaal, Victoria and Milton being ranked the highest on the IMD (2010). 1 in 4 children live in poverty compared with 1 in 5 across England.

This picture of deprivation, together with pockets of affluence, result in significant differences in both life expectancy and disability free years within Southend-on-Sea. Disablity-free life expectancy at birth is 13 years lower for men, and 11 years lower for women, living in Victoria & Kursaal wards compared with those in West Leigh.

Life expectancy is a measure of how long a person, born into an area, would be expected to live by reference to current observed rates of mortality. The gap in life expectancy, between the best and worst, helps to illustrate how inequalities affect the population differently. In Southend-on-Sea, the gap between the most deprived and least deprived areas is: Women 8.8 years, Men 9.1 years.

Starting from the most deprived to the least deprived, the wards in Southend-on-Sea are thus arranged: Kursaal, Victoria, Milton, Southchurch, Shoeburyness, St Luke’s, West Shoebury, Blenheim Park, Westborough, Prittlewell, St Laurence, Chalkwell, Belfairs, Leigh, Thorpe, Eastwood Park, West Leigh.

(IMD – Index of Multiple Deprivation)

In the mail this morning


Southend A&E 4 hour performance

There was a chart circulated at yesterday’s Place Scrutiny that I thought could have been simpler and easier to assimilate. So, here is my version:

Apr – Jun 2014 Jul – Sep 2014 Year to date
Basildon & Thurrock 95.95 94.68 95.34
Southend 94.14 96.46 95.28
Essex 93.45 93.10 93.28
Colchester 94.78 91.16 93.01
Mid Essex 91.20 92.23 91.70
Princess Alexandra 90.91 90.27 90.62

All figures are percentages and show how many were dealt with within the four hour target. This is not about being initially seen (triaged) but the length of time from entry into A&E to leaving.

Southend does not come out too badly as compared to other Essex hospitals, although any missed target is not good.

The target is 95%. The numbers in bold red are where the target was missed.

Place Scrutiny: health tourism, faith and failing schools

And so, to People Scrutiny Committee, and a full house from the Conservatives (unlike at Place). It began with a plea from the UKIP chair, Cllr Moyies, for brevity and an avoidance of technical terms: sounded like he was admitting that he was not up to the job.

The first question on the item A&E Performance came from Cllr Folkard (Conservative, Chalkwell) who proceeded to give his best UKIP impersonation when asking a number of questions about health tourism. It is tempting to speculate that Cllr Folkard believes that local difficulties are down to foreigners over here, monopolising our germs, etc. I sought some clarification on the issue, as well as making it clear that I believed we had a duty to treat the ill, regardless of their nationality. (I do wonder what sort of message Cllr Folkard intends to send out to the tourists the town aspires to attract.)

Whilst the CQC does keep a track of those in default as regards to payments to the local NHS, it cannot differentiate between those who fall ill whilst here, and those already ill who travel specifically for treatment. I should be noted that Cllr Folkard did not seek clarification on this point – his determination to peddle the latest scare story evidently overriding any attempt at seeking a balanced view.

There are no figures showing how many of Southend’s residents seek treatment whilst abroad. Cllr Crystall (Liberal Democrat, Leigh) said that the board had had sight of the figures on this issue. Cllr Moyies, from the chair, believed these numbers were important (quelle surprise).

Some statistics regarding A&E performance were circulated showing the performance over the last twelve months. It looked dire for the autumn and winter months, which is why Southend University Hospital A&E Departments was, at one point, rated the very worst in the UK. The two representatives could not guarantee that this would not be repeated in the coming months, although they did say that measures had been taken to try to avoid a repeat.

The Outcome of Consultation on the Permanent Expansion of Primary Places in Southend perturbed me. Two faith schools (Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School and St Helen’s Catholic Primary School) are getting public money to fund their expansion. I am opposed to any segregation at any level of education, and this is why I am opposed to this. By all means teach faith (and non-faith), but let’s teach all of our children together. I had an unlikely ally in the guise of Cllr Moyies on this issue.

The item School Organisation Data Supplement 2014 covered a report with all sorts of data within it, except what I think the most important – the effects of poverty. I will separately ask for this data. Whilst I want to see improving schools, it is vital that this reaches all social groups. I am concerned that there is a significant educational underclass in Southend-on-Sea.

I cannot report much from the Schools Progress Report (as it confidential), but I can report the following:

Nearly a quarter (23.4%) of those at a secondary school in the borough attend a school described as inadequate. A further 7.7% attend a school that Ofsted assert requires improvement. This means that nearly a third (31.1%) of all secondary school children in Southend-on-Sea are at a school that is described as below ‘Good’. This is an appalling state of affairs, appalling.

The meeting lasted two and a half hours. This is my version of events, not minutes or a verbatim record. Of course it is biased.

A march, on Saturday



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