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29 May 2019


Staffordshire County Council (Amanda Stringer) has updated the online FAQ for Direct Payments, unfortunately it looks like window dressing.
Even though it should now be theoretically possible for someeone to remain on Direct Payments it is not the preferred option.
It looks like the destruction of everyones Direct Payments in Staffordshire will continue unabated.
I suppose the only good thing is that they haven't updated the "easy read" version, as it would be even more cruel to mislead the most vulnerable.

27 May 2019


I've found a study of payment cards in adult social care which has details of other Councils who are also introducing pre-paid cards in contravention of the care act, the study points out the problems and what should be done to rectify the problems.

I've been having another look at the FAQ that came with the letter informing me I was going on direct payments:

I've underlined the bits that don't seem to comply with the Care Act:

1. The cards must not be compulsary.
2. There should be no restrictions upon choice.
3. There must not be a blanket ban on cash withdrawals.
4. Consultation must take place before removing money from the account.

24 May 2019


Staffordshire County Council's Lead Commissioner, Amanda Stringer telephoned me and surprisingly she was aware of the statutory guidance:

Direct payments in the form of pre-paid or pre-payment cards

12.58 Many local authorities have been developing the use of pre-paid cards as a mechanism to allow direct payments without the need for a separate bank account, or to ease the financial management of the payment. Whilst the use of such cards can be a useful step from managed services to direct payments, they should not be provided as the only option to take a direct payment The offer of a ‘traditional’ direct payment paid into a bank account should always be available if this is what the person requests and this is appropriate to meet needs. Consideration should be given to the benefit gained from this arrangement as opposed to receiving the payment via a pre-paid card.

12.59 It is also important that where a pre-paid card system is used, the person is still free to exercise choice and control. For example, there should not be blanket restrictions on cash withdrawals from pre-paid cards which could limit choice and control. The card must not be linked solely to an online market-place that only contains selected providers in which to choose from. Local authorities should therefore give consideration to how they develop card systems that encourage flexibility and innovation, and consider consulting care and support user groups on any proposed changes to direct payment processes.

Initially she wouldn't accept that there was a ban on cash being withdrawn, until I read out the section on the FAQ included with the letter I was sent, which she obviously had not read and didn't have a copy of. After that she tried to pursuade me that the sentence:

For example, there should not be blanket restrictions on cash withdrawals from pre-paid cards which could limit choice and control.

actually means that because it used the word 'should' instead of 'must' that meant that it was OK to have a blanket ban on cash withdrawals, but it was clearly too much of a stretch and eventually she accepted that the sentence actually means what it says.

After that she decided that the sentence:

Consideration should be given to the benefit gained from this arrangement as opposed to receiving the payment via a pre-paid card.

means that the benefits of pre-paid cards needs to be discussed with a social worker, which as well as being the exact opposite of what it says, is being used by her to make this personal so that this will not effect everyone else who received the standardised letter.

I'm guessing that a positive outcome from her persective is to remove the wording on a blanket ban on cash withdrawals and to leave the blanket ban in place, then get someone who isn't in a position to allow me to stay on 'Traditional' Direct Payments to tell me that I need to go on the card system because it is wonderful, so leaving everything as it is. Unfortunately that won't comply with the Care Act, but I'm sure that won't worry her.

I guess I need to wait for an official response so that I can got this onto the Ombudsman, because as well as the mis-representation of the Care Act the complaints process didn't comply with the Councils own rules (Amanda Stringer investigating herself).

17 May 2019


After a brief stage 1 investigation where the person investigating (Donna Colgrave - Commissioning Manager) was only interested in telling me how wonderful the Pre-payment cards are, I've been moved onto stage 2 investigation - the person doing the investigation is Donna Colgrave's boss and co-incidentally the person who was in charge of the Commissioning of the Pre-payment card system (Amanda Stringer - Lead Commissioner). I now realize why the stage 1 investigation was so brief - she wasn't going to say her boss made a mess of the commissioning, although as it was her boss she may have been involved in the commissioning herself and that would have made any criticism even less likely.

10 May 2019


Unfortunately Staffordshire County Council (more specifically John Tradewell) has decided to contravene the Care Act by imposing pre-payment cards upon everyone in Staffordshire who is receipt of Direct Payments.
If they had bother to check the statutory guidance published by the government on the Care Act:

Care Act Guidance

Section 12.58 and 12.59 details what is and isn't allowed in relation to pre-paid cards under the Care Act.
In relation to them being imposed on service users they they can be offered as an option, but as stated in 12.58 "The offer of a 'traditional' direct payment paid into a bank account should always be available".
Also Section 12.59 states "there should not be blanket restrictions on cash withdrawls"

You would have thought that someone being paid £147,802 a year would manage to check what is legal before wasting a load of taxpayers money on something that contravenes the Care Act.

21 April 2019


Latest news from Stafford College is that:

I have found online that Karen Dobson (The Principal at Stafford College and Newcastle College) has been awarded an OBE, which actually caused me to literally feel like throwing up. I presume the award is for services to age discrimination and disability discrimination.

I guess this shows that the Honors system is still working - historically you had to murder a load of people to get a Knighthood, now you just need to ruin the educational opportunities for mature students and disabled students in a couple of towns to get an award.

26 March 2018


Latest news from Stafford College is that:

I have found an article in the online copy of The Sentinel which details the Director of human resources at Newcastle and Stafford College Group Ian Hookway (ian.hookway@nulc.ac.uk 01782 254225) discriminating against someone else due to their age.

The article is about Brett Owen who wanted to attend a full time carpentry and joinery course at Newcastle College and was turned down because of his age.
College officials confirmed they 'do not tend' to have mixed-age classes.
He received a phone call stating that it would be inappropriate for a 44 year old to be in the same class as 16 to 19 year olds.
Director of human resources Ian Hookway said "As the largest tertiary collage in the region, we offer a broad range of courses, ranging from recreational courses through to university-level programmes."
"As a result we offer courses suitable for learners aged 16 to 19 and adults. Our full-time provision, in the main, is focused towards learners aged 16 to 19 and our part-time and evening provision is generally targeted towards adult learners."
"Our experience shows adult learn better in a group with peers of a similar age and, consequently, we do not tend to mix age ranges in groups."

The article was published on 27 September 2017 and clearly this doesn't comply with the 2010 Equality act and from speaking to several different lecturers who currently or who have in the past worked in further educational establishments is factually inaccurate as mixed age groups produce better results for both the younger students and the mature students.

As the College is willing to break the law to stop adults attending classes it does lead me to have some concerns over what is happening in classes at Newcastle College that they don't want mature students to witness. With all the sex scandals in the news over recent years I dread to think what could potentially be happening to those students.

25 March 2018


Latest news from Stafford College is that:

I've emailed Rebecca Hilsenrath who is the Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission about the age discrimination at Stafford College in the hope that she may decide to take action against Stafford College and force the Principal Karen Dobson (karen.dobson@nulc.ac.uk 01782 524230 / 01889 500440 / 07923 584632) to allow mature students to enrol on the A Level courses at Stafford College.


I've finally finished assembling my DNA molecular model:

As the stand still hasn't turned up I've used the central part of a multi-monitor stand I made a few years ago to support it.

It took a few days to assemble it all, but now it is all assembled I'm fairly happy with it. The compressed cardboard top and bottom don't look great and I may at some point paint them black so that they stand out a bit less.

I've had a bit of a break from translating the Chinese index page that I got when I purchased a "Median Section of Human Head & Neck Anatomical Model" from ebay as when it arrived all the parts were marked on the model:

Unfortunately the index page was entirely in Chinese and of the 81 labelled parts I still have 19 labels to translate (7 muscles, 2 arteries, 1 nerve, 3 glands, 2 vertebrae, 2 bits of the throat, 1 to do with sound and 1 unknown), I have been looking up what is what online then using Google Translate and checking if the result matches what I have down on the index page and if I get a match it should be correct.

20 March 2018


Latest news from Stafford College is that:
  • We do not do a levels as a part time option for adults
  • A levels at Stafford and NULC are full time programmes for 16- 18yr old students
  • We do not offer single A level programmes
This information was forwared from the pricipal Karen Dobson (karen.dobson@nulc.ac.uk 01782 524230 / 01889 500440 / 07923 584632) and the Director of HR & Communication Ian Hookway (ian.hookway@nulc.ac.uk 01782 254225) .

Obviously this is bad news and doesn't comply with age equality legislation and there was no mention of making reasonable adjustments because of disability.

I did reply saying that as I went through all the proper channels last year I'm left with the fact that I'm not sure banning Mature Disabled Students from some college courses is the sort of publicity the college is after when trying to attract students (or Sponsors like LEGO).

Hopefully they will get back to me with a more positive response as I could do without the hassle of having to contact the local papers, Lego and any other partners the college has who have some sort of public profile.

9 March 2018


Stafford County Council are still proceeding with illegally introducing Pre-Payment Cards for those on Direct Payments. In addition they have specified that those in receipt of Direct Payments may not use cash to pay for any services (contrary to the Care Act)

I got a letter a while ago about this from Amanda Stringer (Lead Commissioner for Adult Social Care) - you would have thought they would run a costly project like this past their legal department before they started, rather than wasting a load of taxpayer's money and causing a load of stress to a couple of thousand disabled people in Staffordshire.

Information on the Care Act can be found at Care and support statutory guidance
The relevant bit is in Section 12.58 and 12.59 (Chapter 12 is about Direct Payments).


I'm hoping to enrol this year to do an 'A Level' in Biology at Stafford College, I had wanted to do an 'A Level' in Chemistry this last year, but was stopped by the head of 'A Levels' Shirley Brookes-Mills (based at Newcastle College) who decided that although they could make adjustments because of disability and allow me to do just one 'A Level', because I am over the age of 19 they wouldn't allow me to do the course (contrary to the Equality Act 2010).

Information on equality law for students in further or higher education can be found at Equality Guide for Students

I did go through their complaints procedure and ended up with a letter from the pricipal, Karen Dobson (karen.dobson@nulc.ac.uk 01782 524230 / 01889 500440 / 07923 584632) saying that they didn't want mature students on their 'A Level' course.

I also contacted my MP 'Jeremy Lefroy', his assisstant contacted the College and got the same answer, so that was a waste of time.

I also contacted the Education and Skills Funding Agency and had it forwarded to the complaints department and never heard back from them.

I also contacted the Equality and Human Rights Commission and even though they were clearly breaking the law they didn't seem particularly interested.

In the end I enrolled to do a GCSE in Biology, which I'm enjoying and is the reason this time I'll attempt to enrol to do an 'A Level' in Biology.

Last modified: May 29 2019 12:37:31.