A mental health charity that refused to criticise

first_imgA mental health charity that refused to criticise the government for ignoring links between claimants of out-of-work disability benefits and suicide attempts is facing criticism after it emerged that more than half of its advisory board are influential Conservatives.Disability News Service (DNS) revealed in December that the Department of Health (DH) had failed to highlight claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) as a high-risk group in its national suicide prevention strategy.DH had failed to act even though its own survey showed that more than 43 per cent of ESA claimants had said in 2014 that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.But when told about that failure in December, the mental health charity Samaritans – which focuses on suicide prevention and support for those in mental distress, and is itself part-funded by the Department of Health* – refused to criticise the government.Now mental health system survivors have raised concerns that at least seven of the 11 members of the charity’s advisory board are prominent Conservatives or Conservative supporters, or have close links to the party, including two Tory peers, a current and a former Tory MP, and a leading Tory donor who is married to another Tory peer.They are particularly alarmed that the newest member of the board is Esther McVey, the new work and pensions secretary, whose appointment to head the Department for Work and Pensions last month caused widespread anger among disabled activists.McVey appears to have joined the Samaritans advisory board last year, when she was still chair of the British Transport Police Authority (BTPA)**, one of the partners the charity works with to reduce suicides across the rail system.Many campaigners expressed their alarm and anger through social media this week at McVey’s presence on the advisory board, with many questioning the charity’s judgement and calling on it to end the association.There was also coverage of her presence on the board in the mainstream, left-wing and local media, and political news websites.Despite the anger, campaigners have appealed for people in mental distress to continue calling the charity’s helpline if they need support, as its volunteers provide a vital service.In addition to McVey, other members of the advisory board are the Tory peers Lord Grade and Baroness Wheatcroft; Sir Edward Garnier QC, who until last May was a Conservative MP; and David McDonough, who co-owns the public relations firm Norris McDonough with former Tory minister and London mayoral candidate Steve Norris.Others include Bill Muirhead, a founding partner of M&C Saatchi, who helped lead the 2010 Conservative general election advertising campaign; and Philip Buscombe, a leading Tory donor and husband of the Conservative peer Baroness Buscombe, who was herself a member of the advisory board until last year.Another link between the advisory board and the government comes through Jeremy Courtenay-Stamp, a partner with the legal firm Macfarlanes, where justice secretary David Gauke – McVey’s predecessor as work and pensions secretary – previously worked.Rick Burgess, a spokesman for the user-led campaign group Recovery in the Bin, said the board was full of Tory “party hacks”.He said: “if the advisory board advises, surely they want a breadth of views and not to be crowded out by Conservatives with little to no mental health expertise.“Such biased ignorance is lethal, for example their failing to campaign on the increased suicide risk from government welfare reform of ESA and personal independence payment.”He added: “That they think Esther McVey, a human rights abuser, should be an adviser shows a profound failure of their governance and moral principles.”John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said it was “like putting Cruella De Vil and her acolytes in charge of the kennels”.He said: “Are they completely ignorant of McVey’s track record and the devastation inflicted upon disabled people with mental health problems under her leadership? It just beggars belief.”A Charity Commission spokeswoman said the make-up of the Samaritans advisory board was not itself a breach of its rules, but she added: “Trustees have a responsibility to protect their charity’s reputation.“This includes paying particular consideration to the consequences of working with political parties and their representatives, and being open and transparent about any contact they have.”The commission’s guidance also says that charities “should consider working with a range of political parties to help ensure public perceptions of neutrality”.There do not appear to be prominent members of any political party other than the Conservatives on the advisory board.A Samaritans spokeswoman said its vision was that “fewer people die by suicide” and that it worked “across the political divide to achieve this”.She said: “Esther McVey joined Samaritans’ advisory board when chair of the British Transport Police Authority, which is one of the partners we work with to reduce suicides in the rail environment.“The advisory board has no legal or governance role in Samaritans and elects its own chair and members.”But Samaritans has refused to explain why so many members of its advisory board are members of the Conservative party, and whether that affected its decision not to speak out on the Department of Health’s failure to highlight ESA claimants as being at particularly high risk of attempting suicide.The spokeswoman said: “Our advisory board was formed by a group of friends of Michael Varah, who died in 2007.“Michael was the son of Samaritans’ founder, Chad Varah, and his friends wanted to support the charity in an informal way in his memory.“Our advisory board continues to provide informal support to Samaritans, helping us increase our potential to influence and fundraise.”Asked whether the charity was concerned that having so many members of one political party on its advisory board might be breaching Charity Commission rules, the spokeswoman said: “We are confident that having an informal group of people, with no legal or governance role, supporting us to ensure that more people can access our services so that we can save more lives, is fully within Charity Commission rules.”But Burgess said: “The Samaritans are being disingenuous. The board advises, as such it should have a diverse membership. It clearly does not, so its advice will be poor.”*Now renamed the Department of Health and Social Care **She resigned as BPTA chair after being selected to fight the Tatton seat for the Tories at the 2017 general electionlast_img read more

Developments in Development The Bright Side

first_img 0% Let’s go back to that $800 half-room for a second. According to one estimate, that’s not even a bad deal, because the average rent for a room (a room, not a one-bedroom apartment) in San Francisco is now close to $2,000.That is so expletive-worthy that I’m actually inclined not to believe it, especially given another calculation, also noted in the first story, that indicates median rent for a room is about $1300. Still ludicrous, but not as surprising. There’s also the fact that the $2,000 a month figure comes from simply taking the rent prices of multi-bedroom units on the market and dividing by the number of bedrooms, which doesn’t factor in those rooms for rent in apartments with a master tenant who has been in place for a while. Those kinds of rooms must still be out there. Right? Right??I put that to the test and yeah, it seems my (non-scientific) Craigslist experiment confirms the bleak outlook. You want something for $1,000 or less? Well, it’s gonna be in the Western fringes of the city and you definitely will not have a kitchen. In this one, cooking isn’t even allowed. Or you could sleep on a cot in the corner of a SoMa shared apartment. Spring for $200 a month more and your options look a little less bleak, with one option even in the Mission!Real rooms with access to a real kitchen, in the Mission District, are going for closer to $1,500 a month and easily up to $1,800 a month, especially once you factor in utilities. At that point, why not rent a studio? Those are starting to become available for something like $1800, $1,900 a month in parts of town, and at least there you could potentially move in with a significant other, spouse, or like, even a cat. And, not like it needs saying at this point, but just imagine being a family of three who just got the boot and is looking for a place.Enough about renting. Let’s talk about selling.The developers of a project on Cesar Chavez street near Guerrero are apparently pulling out, putting their site up for sale even after going through the entitlement process. This is the development that neighbors complained about at a community meeting in August last year. The developers are looking to offload the site, permitted as it is, for $8 million. That, Socketsite calculates, puts the per-unit cost to build this place at about $333,000 per door.Remember when SocketSite reported that the Baha’í temple on Valencia near the freeway was up for sale? We were never able to reach anyone there to figure out what was going on. Now, it turns out, the neighboring building, which currently houses the furniture store Stuff, is for sale too. The lot is zoned to go up to 50 feet, but with what happened at that other end of that block, more height there might not fly. Developments in Development is a “weekly” column recapping real estate, business, planning, zoning and construction news.Sure, this place might be on fire more or less constantly, but at least we’re not up to our balconies in water like San Jose was this week!Yes, San Francisco now has the dubious honor of being named the fourth-most congested city in the world and has terrible roads, but at least it’s also apparently the best city to live in car-free. That might have something to do with the source of that evaluation being a realty company averaging the city’s “walk scores” …but no, I’m all about silver linings this week.  And yeah, half of a SRO room in the Tenderloin costs $800 a month, but you don’t really need space to live your Silicon Valley Dream with this “Unicorn Startup Simulator” that SFist was kind enough to highlight. Work out all your schadenfreude kinks while you’re at it and decide to kill or spare reporters who write mean things about your startup.center_img Tags: development • Developments in Development • housing Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0%last_img read more

An eighth grader asks is one measly lane enough for Rosa Parks

first_imgAlamara Varughese is an eighth grader at the San Francisco Friends School.San Francisco, a city that holds everybody to the highest standards and remembers and honors members of the past, is not giving one of the most influential civil rights leaders the reverence, commemoration and respect she deserves. In the heart of the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco, off of Valencia Street, a bustling avenue, lies a small lane only the most attentive passersby would notice.Rosa Parks Lane, hidden in the shadows of surrounding buildings, holds a row of government-owned houses. At the entrance to the street, there is a tilted pole on which a faded sign hangs that says, “Rosa Parks Lane.” The bland sign blends right into the background of buildings. It’s not the almost-nonexistent sign that leads the common eye to fly over the small street or the boring and dreary buildings, it’s the combination of the two. Ask San Franciscans if they know where Rosa Parks Lane is — or if they even know it exists.Although Martin Luther King Jr. was a very substantial person in the civil rights movement who rallied and galvanized many people, Rosa Parks was the face of the bus boycotts that have become a key image for the civil rights movement. The bus boycotts catalyzed thousands of everyday citizens to fight for their rights. Martin Luther King has a holiday that millions of people celebrate nationally every year, and has over 900 streets named after him, whereas Rosa Parks has a single street named after her. Most likely, there are other places in our country that have designated areas to honor Rosa Parks with the recognition she deserves, but in the city of San Francisco, there is only one single monument in her honor, and it is buried beneath the constant bustle of city life. There has to be something more we can do to recognize her efforts. One simple and effective way to pay homage to the people of our past, specifically Rosa Parks, is to have school children take the time during Black history month to visit Rosa Parks Lane. This would elevate awareness about the street among children, who are an important part of our city population, are very impressionable, and need to learn about the great civic leaders that influenced our country’s evolution. This may seem too small an honor for such a heroic and significant person, but starting small is always the first step towards change.ADVERTISEMENT 5 Below Market Rate (BMR) Rental Apartments available at 3000 23rd St., San Francisco, CA 94110. Applications must be received by 5PM, Nov. 7, 2017, and must either be submitted online here or mailed in with a self-addressed stamped envelope to: 3000 23rd St. BMR, P.O. Box 420847, San Francisco, CA 94124. Applications available here or picked up from an agency listed here.Rosa Parks Lane. Photo by Lola M. Chavez. 0%center_img Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0%last_img read more

Surprise Surprise Elbo Room building on sale for 42 million

first_img Subscribe to Mission Local’s daily newsletter In other words, the site is plug-and-play for any would-be developer. Back in 2014, however, that is not what Susan Ring told community members. Their plans then: Move into one of the condos.  “This is part of our vision for ourselves, for my husband and I to spend the rest of our days,” Susan Ring told community members in November 2014, when she and her husband, Dennis Ring, presented their plans for the site.Mission Local revealed in February that the Rings have repeatedly evicted tenants from their properties by moving into the units, and then subsequently flipped the properties. All told, the Rings have evicted tenants on at least four separate occasions to turn a profit. With the Elbo Room plans, the Rings placated community criticism by saying they wanted to retire in one of the condos they planned to build on Valencia. Now, it turns out, they were only turning the building into a development opportunity. “We don’t have any comment,” Susan Ring told Mission Local on Tuesday. Ring, a real estate agent, is also the broker for the property. Some experts, however, believe that the Rings could have a difficult time selling the property with its current $4.2 million price tag — citing high construction, capital, and carrying costs.This is the latest in a long saga with the Rings and Elbo Room that began with Dennis Ring founding the popular bar on the corner of Valencia and Sycamore in the 1990s.    Email Addresscenter_img The Elbo Room building hit the market Monday for $4.2 million, spurring what has now become a common refrain: Is this the end of Elbo Room? The two-story, 5,250-square-foot building, with a bar and music venue on the ground floor and three housing units above, is being marketed as a “Commercial space with approved site permit for future development on prime Valencia Street location.” “This could be a great chance for an owner to have a great return on their investment,” according to the marketing materials. Indeed, the owners, Susan and Dennis Ring, have owned the building since 1991, and in 2014 decided to entitle the property, which now allows a developer to erect a five-story, seven-unit condo building with four parking spaces. last_img read more

FANS can now take advantage of a unique ticket off

first_imgFANS can now take advantage of a unique ticket offer for Rugby League World Cup 2013 – the UK’s next major international sporting event.Tickets for the 28-game tournament go on general sale on Friday October 26 – exactly one year from the opening ceremony and double-header at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.But anyone registering at rlwc2013.com before October 26 will enjoy exclusive access to the best tickets available and will get £5 off each purchased ticket for the Rugby League World Cup Final at Old Trafford – and a free RLWC2013 beanie.RLWC2013 General Manager Sally Bolton said: “More than 10,000 people have registered for our ‘Early Bird’ offer in the past two months alone, which is great news for the tournament.“Following the success of the London Olympics and Paralympics, we anticipate high demand for our showpiece events such as the opening ceremony, semi-finals and the Rugby World Cup Final itself.“We would genuinely urge people to buy their tickets early and take advantage of this special pre-sales offer. We’re offering exceptional value, with 55% of tickets priced £20 or less, including group games and quarter-final tickets from just £10 (£5 for concessions). This will be a world class event – and an affordable one.”People without internet access can phone the RLWC2013 Ticket Hotline on 0844 847 2013.Loyal Rugby League fans have already been offered the chance to buy tournament tickets through their annual club season ticket renewal packs.You can pre-register here.last_img read more