Rachman Returns……?

Rachman Returns ….?
The Times, (09/11/18), has been investigating Housing Benefit and reveals that Housing Benefit does not cover rentals in 95% of the country. The gap is about £100 a month across England and £900 in London, and the result, if discretionary benefit is not available, is debt, loan sharks and, eventually, eviction for the most excluded families.
As far as I know, this is one of the few recent phenomena for which Brexit is not regarded as culpable; it’s caused by a much simpler factor; landlord greed, (or market forces as it’s more politely known). Peter Rachman was a 1960s landlord with a well-deserved reputation for intimidation and exploitation of his tenants, it seems his spirit is not dead!
Universal Credit seems to be making things worse with a BBC Panorama report showing that rent arrears are up and not surprisingly, so are evictions, with temporary accommodation provided by Councils now running at a staggering £1.1bn a year. No evidence here of the polluter paying; no wonder Councils are going broke.
The answer? Either the Benefit Cap has to rise, (long resisted by the Government), or rents have to be controlled, or both, if we are to curb the return of Rachmanism and ensure excluded families avoid crippling debt and have a roof over their heads.

Always the Bridesmaid……?

Hidden Talents, (our scheme which brings Refugees into the NHS nursing workforce), has now been a finalist in two NHS competitions run by the Health Service Journal and Nursing Times.
We are very proud of this, even though we didn’t actually win.
Our main objective has to been to attract other hospital Trusts into our Hidden Talents programme, which is so well regarded in Leeds, and so well supported by the local NHS Trust.
But we have knocked on doors, pitched at workshops and conferences, written to Chief Executives and used social media, but we’re still only working in Leeds. Our ambition is to win, work with more Trusts and help some 200 Refugees a year to join the NHS Nursing team whilst reducing agency costs and improving diversity with well-motivated and ambitious people.
Please open the door to us, and lead us up the aisle!

Pig in the Middle

Remember the game ? The “pig” stands between two people who throw a ball to each other and (if you’re the pig) you hope to intercept it so that the person who threw it becomes pig.
Simple and fun except when it comes to organisations throwing the ball and you are trying to communicate with them! Often communications don’t work that well, pigs squeal about it, so organisations have come up with a new ploy. They appoint another organisation to throw the ball, usually a new voluntary organisation with a developmental and monitoring role with a remit to both improve communication and build things like resilience, community and coherence (in the pig), That sort of thing.
Well, I can see the point, giving a new organisation the job of doing something you don’t do as well as you’d like to because resources are tight and communications and development are lower down the priority list. but does it work?
Well I now experience this in each of the volorgs I work with and so far it doesn’t feel any better ( although in one case the new volorg has not really stated yet). One of the problems is that the new pig has to have a role of their own which creates another link in a chain which is already to long and having created the link, that issue becomes the focus ( how do you like my driving/check-out/response times?) When what you want is an answer! This makes things more elusive and part of the gathering organisational miasma. But I’m hoping the clouds will part and soon everything will be come clear……..now, where did I put that ball?

Sports Direct and the NHS: suitable cases for treatment?

Sports Direct has been under the cosh recently for paying less than the minimum wage. That’s bad but it’s not just them, it’s the NHS as well. And this is preventing refugees taking vital places on apprenticeship schemes to become Clinical Support Workers.
To date more than 30 refugees at Leeds University Hospital have completed our Hidden Talents programme (where the minimum wage IS paid) and for the first time they now are off benefits and in jobs vital to the NHS. A great result!
But we have tried to repeat the project in Hull, Sheffield and Leicester without success, because on the same apprentice scheme these hospitals pay £3.50 per hour.
None of our customers can afford this, and we wouldn’t ask them to. We have been directed to benefit offices to top up these miserable wages but this represents yet another hurdle for people who are desperate to do a great job for the NHS and be paid a living wage to train, a win-win if there ever was one!

We know the NHS is strapped for cash but it’s paying silly money to private recruitment agencies for nurses, wasting money that could be used to pay proper wages and allow us to provide more nurses to the NHS through Hidden Talents! Our plan is to recruit 400 over the next 3 years!

We want Health Education England to direct Trusts to pay at least the minimum wage, and if they won’t, the Government should intervene to close this loophole that too many Trusts in the NHS are happy to squeeze through.

Please use any or all of this to write to print/broadcast or social media,or MPs

Raise a storm, Alabama style!

And in the end…..🎶👣🎶👣

Well it’s over! At 11.45 on Thursday 28th September at Pierhead in Liverpool,to be exact.
More than 200 miles, nearly 1/2million footsteps, 4 events, 15 overnight stays, from Hull to Liverpool preceded by 6 months of planning, logistics and imagining how it might all be; the potential disasters and the things that go bump at 4am, and then JDI time on my 70th Birthday, put up or shut up!
How is it done? A day at a time and after 2weeks you’ve done it! Keeping your eye on the map, having sufficient underpants, places to sleep, good routes to take,stuff to eat, baths to relax in, clean 1000 mile sox to wear, meeting walking companions, setting up events, measuring strides, handing- out cards, writing blogs, tweeting, facebooking, crowdfunding, and the kindness of strangers.
My proudest moment? Standing next to Ddiako at the Leeds event while she spoke with such confidence about what a difference Hidden Talents had made to her life.
I feel I have been very lucky too. The weather had been exceptionally kind bearing in mind how bad it has been around the world, my feet and body have held-up remarkably and my plan to walk 4 hours from an early start meant that by noon I usually did have 12 miles clocked- up and the rest of the day was downhill! My luck was in too with all the support I got, most days I walked alone but I didn’t feel on my own, there was a tiny organisation acting like a big one; updating Websites, tweeting , facebooking and crowdfunding all a vital part of the walk.
So my thanks to everyone who walked, held whip-rounds,baked-off, printed T-shirts, arranged suppers,shaved heads,put me up,donated money, updated web-sites, did laundry, fed me, cheered me on, redirected me, watched Strictly with me, gave me lifts, met in pubs, bought drinks laid out events and talked well of Growing Points, and helped it all happen. It was a great experience and one I treasure and one from which, when the final tally is done Growing Points will have benefited financially.
I now have to get out of a 6 months mind-set of making it happen and burst the walking-bubble that I’ve lived in for the past 2 weeks and get back to the day job!
Thank you all!
( ….and whilst I was away Worcestershire have been promoted! Well done you )

Not up here you’re not!

Lymm to Widnes (19m)
Early start with the motorway truckers as soon as dawn broke and up the A50 to Warrington. But wait a minute, what’s this Traffic Officer saying? “And where do you think you are off to?” Me, in my 7am commander of all I survey, voice; ” Up here to get onto this footpath”, offering ancient OS map in evidence, ” Not up there you’re not, this is the M6!” Oops!
Well I could explain but it would be pointless wouldn’t it? Yes dear reader I was navigating up the M6 and no mistake. Jane said she had her doubts about the route but hadn’t raised them because she knew what my response would be. And thereby hangs an improving tale for all of us.
Route corrected, and aiming to rejoin the canal asap, we routed up a bridle way and found ourselves in the company of a man with a gun and full military camouflage ( including face) and yes, he was out shooting; pigeons, 493 last month and yes, he ate them ( and Canada Geese and Mallard) Well, we are in Cheshire!
Reconnecting with the Bridgewater and a rather basic tow path; so basic that not a single cyclist appeared. ( Jeremy please note for next speech)
The canal snaked through Grappenhall, Thelwell Heys ( yes a Shetland pony was spotted), Stockton Heath and Lower Walton. All would have made a great Flanders and Swan song had they ever strayed north of Watford. But sadly the link with this lovely 300 year old canal had to be broken to reach Runcorn,with its famous Priory and even more famous Bridge. So famous and iconic is the bridge, that it is due to be closed ( it was only opened in 1961) and replaced by another even longer and supported by a lot less metal work called the Mersey Gateway ( clever, not a common or garden bridge at all)
Extra miles were walked to reach Widnes station and access to Liverpool via Halewood. Of which more tomorrow. Widnes station was built where it is for a reason I expect; it’s possible the good townsfolk having endured a coal and steel-fuelled industrial revolution, followed by the most polluting petro-chemical industry in Europe, didn’t want train smuts as well. But it was too late, the reputational damage was done, the town’s picture board records it as “the dirtiest, ugliest and most depressing town in England” and for good measure, “a poisonous hell town”. But that’s all in the past and since most of the poisonous industry has been run out of town or closed, there is very little of any thing left in Widnes at all. Even Mel B ( Spice Girl remember?) who was apparently born in Widnes keeps changing her Wiki entry to Warrington; how bad can it all get? It could be worse, people might confuse you with Wigan I suppose…….

Medical Report: nil other than slightly deflated ego, see above. But at least I have something now to match Diana’s roller-skating on the M6!

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Seek and you shall find (litter)

Manchester to Lymm (18m)
Amazingly when you look , you find things! And this is hardly believable; just 100 yards, no more, from the end of the canal that Paul, Gerard and I ended our walk two Sundays ago, is another canal. This is the Bridgewater which rises at Piccadilly under the Malmaison Hotel and travels to……Lymm! So for the whole journey minus about 3m at the end it was a constant companion.
Jane R joined me and walked with me through deep and dirty Manchester, to clean and hip Media City, past you know where (MUFC), and into the Cheshire countryside. Perfect you might think, but of course, dear reader there were problems and you know perhaps of them already! Hyperventilating cyclists wanting to get where they need to get to….and I’m in the way. Surely they should give way to me?😕 Steam and Sail and all that; some ( a few) are effortlessly polite and pedestrian-regarding but the majority are brutish oafs who I hope will come a cropper-in-the-cut on the trail of tin-tacks I laid ( not really). 😡
And the other, yes, dear reader, litter. No improvement here east to west. A barge was working in Manchester to scoop out as much as possible but fighting a loosing battle, I’m afraid.
So here’s my plan Jeremy Corbyn; all these people who sell take-out food and anything in plastic bottles have a 100% duty applied to cover the cost of clean-up. And guess who is doing the clean-up? Those brutish-oafs now barred from cycling who have to drag a bin-bag of litter to their work and without it they have their bike impounded for……….l could go on!
Plus think how healthy we will be without all that junk stuff in bottles and the environment will bless you Dickie.
A lovely young woman expresses amazement at our journey from Manchester ” That’s so cool”,it seems hardly polite to explain all this stated in Hull and a twinkly old man leaning on his bike as he walks, explains that this is the way to stay healthy…..too right!
The Lavender Barn in Dunham Massey is where the red pepper soup is to be found and all the same village that the estimable Thomas Worth established his dame school in 1759 . Well done and no litter or cyclists….beam me up! I’m in the wrong century obviously. 🙄
Horrific walk to overnight stay from Lymm with no footpaths. Too many Porches not enough Paths is our mantra.

Medical Report: nil other than slightly elevated paranoia, see above.

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A Day of Two Halves!

From Sheffield to Manchester ( by Train 5m)
Two entirety different events today.
We had invited organisations and individuals in Sheffield interested in our services to the new City of Sanctuary walk in centre for a Breakfast Briefing ( the time not the breakfast!)
We had a good turnout of organisations, Guardians, potential Guardians and a couple of Customers. We were delighted to welcome one of our Patrons, Marina Lewycka who stayed for the whole session and heard a lot of good ( and the problems) of our services and our plans for the future. We concluded with a determination to move forward and to maintain recruitment of both the Customers and Guardians. A short informal Q&A session followed with Geraldine and Dick left for Manchester for the next session. We thanked Sarah for the hospitality and made a small collection to cover costs.
Manchester was a different country, we only had one attendee. We did however have a useful discussion about the viability of going forward with so little commitment and have decided to put Manchester on the slow boiler for the time being.
Our next set-up will therefore be Leicester where we have strong local support and already have had positive discussions with local organisations including the local NHS trust.
Tomorrow just under 50 miles will take us to Liverpool Pier-head by Thursday lunchtime.

Our donations trail well behind our efforts on the footpaths and we ask all our readers to support our cause.
www.chuffed.org/project/from-the-margins-to-the-mainstream

Thank you.

Jackey Hill and Hagg Hill: My Nemesis!

Langsett to Sheffield (16m)
When they write the story of my walk and ask me “What bit was the worst?” I will reply, “Jackey Hill.” But that comes later.
We started the day with a roaring Yorkshire breakfast with Bob and Ruth discussing the subjet de jour; What happens to hens that stop laying? The answer appears to be ; Act as if nothing has happened and hope eggs begin to reappear at some stage. If that doesn’t work, have an encouraging word with them……
We left for Wooldale buoyed up with entirely false optimism about our underperforming hens and a determination to try harder, in some way.
At Langsett we parted and I was on the road, the peace of the moors shattered by a local tribute to the Isle of Man TT races by some extremely large motorcyclists on very noisy bikes. They were followed by equally large and red faced Lycra bound cyclists struggling up very steep hills on the Stines road. I tried to recall my cardio-resuscitation drill which seemed in imminent need and wondered if my nail scissors would have an impact on the heavy duty Lycra on display. I avoided eye contact and certainly silenced my usual cheery ” How Do?” In case this might precipitate a CVA simply by answering….. No one died.
The High Bradfield brewery ( home of the excellent Farmer’s Blond) seemed a good place for lunch and my journey continued into Sheffield driven by Map.Me and the glum faces of returning Wednesday supporters who had been beaten at home by the newly promoted Blades.
So those Hills ( two of the 7 hills upon which the City of Sheffield , like Rome, was founded). They are both steep, very steep and made me think seriously about my “crow-flies” to route planning! Unusually the tracks went straight up:no concessions. I remember Hagg Hill from when I used to work in Sheffield and always thought it too steep even for cars. Now I know I was right. Jackey Hill was even more vertical. Pleased to pass them by in future.
On arrival at Karen’s had complete wash and dry of my sweaty garments. All ready for the west now, a after a great evening of amongst others putting the NHS to rights ( again!)
Medical Report: No blisters!

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Dewsbury Dawn to Holmfirth Hoe-down!

Dewsbury to Upperthong (17m)
What a beginning and ending!
Diana and I began our day leaving Freya and Jamie’s house which had been my base-camp since arriving at Castleford. It was amazingly convenient and veryhomely and made a big difference. Now I’m back on the road again with a different bed each night and decision to make about what to carry and logistics of event back-up.
We drove to our start-point at Dewsbury station to be greeted by a steely blue sky and a brilliant golden dawn over so much municipal-grand architecture that you felt there was no space for another building shouting “look at me, I’m important, lm loaded and I’m here forever.” Dewsbury does pomp and circumstance exactly as Elgar would have understood it.
It was cold and sharp as we made our way alongside the pounding traffic into the calm of Mirfield and over the top through Kirkheaton and down a long mill workers slab-laid path into Huddersfield to meet my old friend Harold Wilson who has a marvellous statute outside the station.
Here I was met by Paul M and Ann B who were to accompany me over the next stage. We were joined by Ann’s partner Robin at Armitage Bridge and eventually about a dozen dogs! The day had turned ( as it does in these parts) to somber and rain was in the air. When we reached Upperthong ( where we first lived in Yorkshire) we called it a day. With Ann tweeting and me prepping for the evening Bash.
Holmfirth had laid on a great event to raise funds for the walk. About 50 people crowded in Choplards mission and we ate curry and sang sea shanties ( perhaps the furthest point from the sea!) and listened to me rousing the virtues of Growing Points, though all were very interested in the walk and how it was going. Thanks to my good friends who worked so hard to make this an evening to remember, Paul, Gerard, Steven and Mr Logistics, John!
And so to bed!

Ann B pointed out that there was something wrong with the Chuffed address, and so it was I had forgotten the “org”. The correct address follows.
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Thank you