Category Archives: Equality



Sign posting human & multi-media resources to schools & beyond to combat inequalities, racism and injustice arising from our colonial experience. 



A group of teachers working through 70s, 80s and 90s, much of the time in Birmingham, are responding to requests for help and support in the present climate when the Black Lives Matter movement, together with revelations brought about by the Covid 19 Pandemic, have laid bare inequalities where there are glaring disparities between “racial” and ethnic groups and how they are affected on the face of it by the virus. On closer inspection other factors like health, housing, employment, education, the criminal justice system come into play. Issues arise where there is evidence to show effects of discrimination together with individual experience. A number of Black Members of Parliament have have spoken of their experience of the British Parliament which they described as a “White Man’s Club”. It can be expected that other key organisations mirror this together with services they should provide to all.

Carlton Duncan was the first Black Headmaster in the UK when he took charge of Wyke Manor School in Bradford. This was at the time another Head Teacher, Ray Honeyford publicly decried the “multicultural” movement. Carlton was caught up in the ensuing rows that erupted. He moved to Birmingham as Head Teacher of George Dixon School, amalgamation of two grammar schools. His coming to Birmingham was greatly welcomed by those of us teaching in Birmingham and we witnessed first hand his determination and ground breaking work with pupils, their families and the community.

Carlton had long be sought after as a speaker from the days he was a deputy Head Teacher at Sydney Stringer School in Coventry. He came to speak to teachers in the Department of Teaching English as a Second Language in Birmingham, a group of 2-300 teachers led by Bob Chapman in the 1970s. Other guest speakers included Professor Stuart Hall and Jean D’Costa, a writer of children’s books in Jamaica.

Based on his considerable pioneering experience which led to his appointment to both Rampton and Swann Committees he has prepared the following statement as we launch De-Colonising Education, Issues and Resources.

De-colonising the Curriculum – for educators in UK.

Why don’t we just talk about a Curriculum for Equality and Justice for ALL.

The school curriculum has numerous purposes.  As teachers we, and most of the rest of society, place particular emphasis on the informational purpose for reason of enabling pupils to pass tests and examinations.  There is no denying that this aspect or purpose of the curriculum is of great significance and importance largely because of the way the world beyond the classroom is structured, the demands it makes and its expectations. But while we are organizing to follow this important purpose, some of us pay scant regards to the content accuracy, motivational effects and values transmission of the curriculum diet upon which we feed (indoctrinate?) our young impressionable minds.

Colonialism did more serious harm to humanity than just plundering other people’s wealth, land and labour.  Much more harmful is what colonialism did to minds and value systems which are then replicated and perpetuated everywhere – almost globally. “None but ourselves can free our minds from mental slavery”.

What the Colonialists Left Behind

The colonialist put and left in places systems (the church, schools, and teacher-training institutions) which confound, corrupt and enslave the peoples of the territories they otherwise plundered.  What is more, the damage replicates and perpetuates its purpose automatically.  That is why, for example, Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean still display certain values which were in existence over 70 years ago when I was a boy in the Caribbean.

a. The whiter/browner skins are more valued than darker ones.  Consequently, many Jamaicans actually bleach themselves to become more acceptable and marketable.

b. Although Patois/Creole is most widely practiced than any other language, it is not readily accepted in up-market circles.

c. In spite of what esteem Bob Marley brought to Jamaica, the Rasta culture and appearance are not allowed to front-line respectability in Jamaica.

d. It is seriously distressing to see some black people cow tailing to local or visiting white people on the island. The remnants of slavery much in evidence.

“None but ourselves can free our minds from mental slavery”.

Teacher-training institutions, their personnel pregnant with colonialist values, train teachers and Sunday school teachers.  These, in turn, produce our politicians, doctors, lawyers, employers, industrialists and all the others…let us not forget peer-group influences.  The vicious circle of colonialist value perpetuation persists.

What the Colonialists did at Home

Apart from the physical spoils, wealth and gains from plunders (note Cardiff, Liverpool and Bristol), there, at home social, educational and political institutions are all about institutionalised racism from the word go.  This has become so deeply ingrained into the furniture of life that the earliest multicultural and antiracists and human rights struggles of the 1960s onward have made little impact on the surface of our society.  We see this so very clearly in our school exclusions, incarceration, employment, housing and health statistics as underlined by COVID-19 since the beginning of this year. 


Our attention is drawn to the ‘fierce urgency’ of turning to the resources routes for identifying and removing injustices thus enabling the promotion of the kind of society and world where people are evaluated in terms of the ‘content of their character and not the colour of their skin’, their sex, their religion or their sexual orientation.  The vicious circle alluded to above has to be broken into and this resources junction is as good a point for this purpose as anywhere else. I have just one proviso on this resources argument, viz., resources must be broken down into human and non-human categories.

Human Resources

It is my contention that unless we get our human resources right, we cannot get the non-resources avenues right for the simple reason that humans create non-human resources and thus transmit their values this way.  Hence, if we get our educators (human resource) right everything else is more likely to fall in the right places.  This brings into play issues such as diversity among educators, role-modelling and the reduction of stereotyping.

The classroom teacher needs to be aware that it is in three areas (fact contents, motivational worth and value transmission), in particular, that colonisation has done the most debilitating harm and racial injustice to ALL our pupils.  The ALL here is very important to note.  For example, what is the motivational value of teaching about Nightingale to white pupils?  Could we have similar effects on black pupils through Mary Seacole’s history and contributions?  Guess what, both black and white pupils (for sheer convenience here, you are black if you are not white) through this one example have learnt that there are great achievers in every race in every field.  We are microscopically altering the value systems in our children, affecting positively their attitude and expectation of one another so that when these children become tomorrow’s employers, administrators, politicians and people in positions of power, influence and responsibility, it will no longer matter what colour is their colleagues. They were not taught to hate and discriminate based upon distorted curricular material.  Instead, they learnt how to appreciate the good in themselves and others because we altered the colonial messages.  We need a holistic approach to the development of young minds whose task it will be to perpetuate what is truthful, just and valued universally.

The colonialists, in particular the British, have spread their wings far and wide – whether it was India, the Caribbean, and Africa or where have you – the stories of exploitation, spoils grabbing, plunders and enslavements are now freely available, not only from the point of view of the colonialists but also from those of the sufferers with greater authenticity.

Up to the time I quitted the schoolroom in the late 1990s, The British school system was largely designed to transmit the white man’s values and view of the world. And there was glorification in everything he did or achieved even if it was enslaving his fellow men and plundering the wealth and products of other countries to take back to Cardiff, Bristol and Liverpool, to mention just a few glaring examples.  This is what the removal of statutes and other images are about at the present time.  Underneath or resulting from such glorification is racial injustice which we see manifesting itself in educational under-achievement, poor housing, unemployment and the kinds of health issues currently underlying the disproportionate attacks of COVID-19 on non-white peoples all over the globe.

The classroom teacher in preparing his or her lesson plans tonight should use the available research time (the internet makes life so much easier now a days) to deliver more truths, enhanced motivation and greater equality to all the pupils tomorrow.

So that when, as head teacher, I come to your classroom you will not be teaching Florence Nightingale in isolation from Mary Seacole.  You will not be giving your pupils a diet of lies by omissions that the horrendous wars – 1st and 2nd – were all fought by white faces.  They will be learning about the contributions made to these historical epics by black and brown faces. Your pupils will be learning that Wilberforce and Lincoln did not singlehandedly brought about the end of slavery.  Instead, they will be learning about the more vital contributions made by leading slaves themselves – perhaps starting with Nanny and the Maroons.

***Subject by subject, starting with Mathematics and the Sciences, should be rigorously purged of falsehood (decolonized) so that ALL our pupils know of black contributions in all fields  Gone must be the times when music and sports are the only areas of refuge for black pupils.  Because Angela’s mother currently earns a living from low level catering is no reason for discouraging her daughter who wants to do medicine and directing her to follow in her mother’s foot step.  My own experiences, as a black teacher/head teacher, illustrate this matter well.  In every school that I taught from I was a probationer till retirement (six in total), I was always chosen first for the cricket team.  They only realised their mistake when the first ball was bowled to me.

***For more subject by subject illustrations, see

Pastoral Care: An Antiracist/Multicultural Perspective’ Carlton Duncan, Blackwell Education, Basil Blackwell 1988 ISBN 0 631 16223 2 and 0 631 90162 0

‘Multicultural Education: Towards Good Practice’ Edited by Ranjit Arora and Carlton Duncan, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1986 ISBN 0 7102 1202 X

“Multicultural Education: Towards Good Practice Routledge Education Books, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1986 NEdited by Ranjit Arora and Carlton Duncan

Carlton Duncan 22/10/20.


Bernard Coard (a Grenadian academic and teacher living in the UK in the 70s) became alarmed by his experiences of how the British ESN schools (schools for those considered to be educationally sub-normal) operated and were populated.  This prompted him to publish his book HOW THE WEST INDIAN CHILD IS MADE EDUCATIONALLY SUBNORMAL IN THE BRITISH SCHOOL SYSTEM.  It is no longer accepted to use the term “West Indian”, hence, here from, the term “black is substituted.

What Coard found was that 4 out of 5 children in ESN schools were black.  Often, these children found their way to ESN schools with the support and acquiescence of their parents because their children’s teachers told them that their children would be sent to “special” schools.  “Special” is a term known to black people as something very good and beneficial.  Incidentally, in spite of the fact that political involvement in Grenada eventually landed Coard a death sentence which was later commuted to life imprisonment, Coard has maintained a strong interest in this aspect of British education from his prison cell. His current view is that what is needed to bring educational justice to all children alike is:  “quality education for all: that is one that is not dependent on the parental income/wealth or social status and connections of school children, does not have schools providing vastly different standards of education and does not have a two-tiered system, or multi-tiered system of education, providing differential education for the children of different classes, genders and ethnicities”.

Though, at the time, Coard’s disclosure was the most significant in stirring black parents into action, he was not alone in identifying the educational obstacles and educational state of affairs for black children.

Throughout the education system generally, black children were encouraged to take CSE as opposed to the then GCE examinations.  The latter, of course was for high flyers (usually white children) whilst the former was of much less worth for children’s life chances.  Studies, after studies, showed the damning effects of these practices on black children’s performance in schools.  A Brent LEA study in 1963 raised alarm about black children performance in reading , arithmetic and spelling; Vernon 1965; Little’s studies 1966 and 1968 and a Redbridge study in 1978 all, similarly reflected major concerns about black children’s performance compared with white children in British schools.  It was in this climate of concern that the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration in 1977 produced its Report on ‘The West Indian Community’.  The Report highlighted the widespread concern about the poor performance of [black] children in schools.  The Committee, therefore, recommended that the Government, as a matter of urgency, should institute “a high level independent inquiry into the causes of the underachievement of children of West Indian origin in maintained schools and the remedial action required”.  The James Callaghan Labour Government with the Honourable Shirley Williams as Secretary Of State for Education, at the time, responded to the Select Committee’s recommendation positively but widened it to include all ethnic minorities whilst giving more urgent attention to children of West Indian origin.  Hence, this was the birth of the Rampton and, subsequently,  Swann Inquiries which reported in 1981 and 1985 respectively.  Carlton Duncan, one of our members served on both Inquiries.

This was the remit given to Anthony Rampton (Chairman) and his colleagues:

“Recognising the contribution of schools in preparing all pupils for life in a society which is both multi-racial and culturally diverse, the Committee is required to:

review in relation to schools the educational needs and attainments of children from ethnic minority groups taking account, as necessary, of factors outside the formal educational system relevant to school performance, including influences in early childhood and prospects for school leavers;

consider the potential value of instituting arrangements for keeping under review the educational performance of different ethnic minority groups, what those arrangements might be;

consider the most effective use of resources for these purposes; and to make recommendations.

In carrying out its programme of work, the Committee is to give early and particular attention to the educational needs and attainments of pupils of West Indian origin and to make interim recommendations as soon as possible on action which might be taken in the interest of this group”.

There was a change of Government in 1979 which produced two other Secretaries of State (Mark Carlisle and Sir Keith Joseph) during the life time of the Rampton and Swann Inquiries.

On the Rampton Inquiry, there were 4 Afro Caribbean members; 5 Asian members and 13 Caucasians making a total of 22 members.  For the Swann Inquiry, membership changed on account of resignations and co-options. By and large, the bulk of the original membership lasted the full duration of the five year inquiry.

The Rampton Interim Report (West Indian children in our schools – Cmnd 8273, HMSO 1979) was based on considerable researched evidence, gathered information from parents, pupils teachers at all ranks, LEAs and community interested officials and others from all walks of life.  Following the ensuing deliberations of the evidential material so gathered, we were able to report our findings with recommendations in June 1981.  The evidence, findings and recommendation are far too voluminous for reproduction here.  Consequently, the reader is referred to chapters 1, 2 and 4 severally of the Interim Report for the details.  What these chapters will reveal is that the most prominent issue in our findings was racism (other issues included: the inadequacy of pre-school provision; linguistic difficulties of West Indian children; the inappropriateness of the school curriculum and the examination system, teachers’ low expectation of West Indian pupils’ a loss of trust and a lack of understanding between home and school, discrimination in employment, and by extension, poor housing and health issues, the state of race relations generally particularly with the police, the absence of black role models in high places).  These other issues are themselves pregnant with racist practices: but let the Report speak:

“In seeking to identify the factors which lead so many West Indian children to underachieve in our schools, many causes, both within the education system and outside it, were suggested by by those who gave evidence to us.  That which was most forcefully and frequently put forward by West Indians themselves was racism, both within schools and in society”. Page 11 of the Report, chap. 2, Para 1.

Did all this sound the bells of the impact of corona virus (COVID-19) upon the black communities; was Black Lives Matter clearly in the making?

This Report, then. was the first ever Government official document to identify racism as a problem for black people and their children.  This did not auger well for Anthony Rampton who was politely removed from the Chairmanship of the Committee and replaced by Lord Swann – a man who self-confessed to be ignorant of the issues upon which he is now called to give leadership.  

“The then Secretary of State’s invitation to me to take on the Chairmanship of the Committee came as a considerable surprise, i had been a scientist, the Principal of an ancient Scottish University and Chairman of the BBC, but I had little knowledge of the needs of Britain’s ethnic minority citizens…..”.

So, following on from the Interim Report, the Inquiry would now be the Swann Inquiry and ultimately, The Swann Report (Education for All) Cmnd 9453, HMSO, 1985.


Right from the start, it became obvious that part of Lord Swann’s role was to remove racism as an issue, more over the main issue, from the final Report.  11 members resigned from this Committee.  Their replacements plus co-opted others ensured a viable Committee to the end.  None of the Afro-Caribbean members resigned.  They needed to see this through and they all did.  Even against the background of Lord Swann picking them off one by one to dine at his up-market home, it didn’t work.  They found their own survival methods and techniques to stay together in the light of the clear evidence of racism.  Lord Swann was definitely not able to get the final Report to ignore the evidence.  But he was not to be out done.  Unknown to the membership of the Committee, Lord Swann prepared his own summary of the Report and ensured that it would find its way gratuitously into every school in the land.  The Report, itself, carried a price tag of £24.  In Lord Swann’s summary of nearly 7,000 words, he never managed to utter the word ‘racism’ once, except where he was quoting Professor Bhikhu Parekh (a member of the Committee) who had mentioned the word three times in the passage Lord Swann was quoting.  Because the evidence which were collected from the people who mattered so clearly embodied racism, and because both the Interim and the final Reports openly dealt with the racism issue, Lord Swann had difficulties in shutting out that matter.  It will be noted that throughout his summary, he sought refuge euphemistically in the terms “prejudice and discrimination.  ‘Education For All’ is a volume of 807 pages with a price tag of £24.  Clearly, it cannot be reproduced here.  The reader is besieged to reach for this entire Report rather than rely on the more readily accessible but misleading summary produced by Lord Swann behind the backs of the members of the Committee.

The damage which was done by the release of the summary has left us still grappling with issues that could have been laid to rest had the recommendations of the two Reports been implemented.  Some members of the Committee, including our member, Carlton Duncan, foresaw this happening.  Six members of the Committee, including Carlton Duncan, dissented from the wider Committee’s decision on the then popular call for separate schools which would alleviate many of the educational ills affecting ethnic minorities. (See page 515 of the main Report – Education For All)  The main reason why the Committee took a different view from that of the six dissenters was based on the assumption that the Reports’ findings and recommendations would be implemented and thus removing the pressures for separate schools.  Well, to date, the Reports have been largely shelved in dusty places.  And although the answers to the vast array of problematic issues flagged up by COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and, more recently, Meghan and Harry are already known and documented, the arguments, void of action, still rage on indefinitely.

The following are snapshots of education at a time the Rampton an Swann reports were being deliberated giving a flavour of young Black pupils’ experiences – and determination to make life better for the following generations. The implementation of recommendations of these reports is still awaited and it has been due to the determination of such young people that things have changed. Until there is firm leadership at every level and committed Government progress will continue to be fragmentary and discretionary.

From the Playground, to Training, to the Classroom – A Teacher’s Journey

My memories of growing up in the 1970s are of the National Front and the racist attitudes which often resulted in physical and verbal abuse on a regular basis. The 1980s proved to be a time of further riots and tense race relations. Despite a difficult school experience in these times, I decided to become a teacher to give future students a more positive education.

I found that a change of attitude emerged in the late 80s, during my teacher training, when lecturers were much better at identifying issues and dealing with them accordingly. We briefly studied the Rampton (1981) and Swann (1985) reports. The change in attitude was also reflected in the literature we studied, including Tagore and Agard as well as Shakespeare and the Brontës. Maths highlighted the Arabic numerals as well as the Roman, and even the PE curriculum took religious and cultural needs into account, for instance more covering kit. By the 90s, the new national curriculum emerged, as did I, into primary schools. I was determined to make the curriculum truly representative of the diverse global community that I felt education had a duty to cover, empowering all pupils. A supportive environment enabled me to explore the possibilities, with other, like-minded members of staff and an empathetic mentor.

And we certainly did.

Examples included Elizabethan trade links with Mughal India, the artwork of the Benin civilisation in West Africa, workshops in Creole poetry and the stories of Anansi from the West Indian oral tradition, as well as the achievements of African and Asian scientists and mathematicians, from al-Khwarizmi (now widely acknowledged as the father of algebra, al jabr) and Sir Magdi Yacoub, the pioneering heart surgeon. Through RE we celebrated the major world religions with an emphasis on those relevant to the student community including Rastafarianism. Beyond the curriculum we celebrated international events unifying our diverse communities, celebrating Eid, Guy Fawkes’ Night, Divali and Halle Selassi’s birthday.

I looked ahead eagerly to the 21st century, optimistic about how education would continue to build on equal opportunities for all.  

Issues include evidence of the current situation both globally and nationally revealing serious inequalities. 

  1. Covid 19: differential effects of the Covid 19 pandemic both in its observed differential outcomes for different groups and those charged with caring for victims of the virus.
  1. “Black Lives Matter” response to differential treatment of people based on “race”, ethnicity, gender etc. 

3.    Denial of Institutional Racism. Failure to implement Rampton, 1979/Swann 1985. The Sewell Report 2021.

4.    Resistance to colonialism.

5.     Reparations. Banks have paid out to former slave owners to compensate them after their slaves were freed, but those who had endured slavery were left to fend for themselves in an alien world that saw many lynchings and discriminatory treatment. 

Black people continue to experience discriminatory practices daily e.g, Government described by Black MPs to be a “white male club”. Police use of procedures like stop and search in a discriminatory manner. Channel 4 news report includes Black MP being stopped and well-known athlete, and manner in which an individual is treated without being told why they were being stopped and searched including the use of force. Police had procedures in place which were ignored and senior officers in denial that the acted in a discriminatory manner, an enduring legacy of colonial power.


Signposts for Educators

Aim: to provide sign posts for educators concerned with ensuring equality and justice in eduction and key organisations providing services to the community. Includes issues and resources

Two fold strategic approach includes human and non-human resources 

Signposts pointing to:

1. Human resources

    organisations/individuals: information; advice on rights;  correct procedures;   support

2. Non-human resources: websites; multi-media publications 

Inclusion of and portrayal of Black people in writing and images selected. 

C.L.R James explain the rationale he had in mind when writing “The Black Jacobins”.

“The Black Jacobins was first published in England in 1938, but I had written on the subject before I left Trinidad in 1932. I had the idea for some time. I was tired of reading and hearing about Africans being persecuted and oppressed in Africa, in the Middle Passage and all over the Caribbean. I would write a book in which Africans or people of African descent instead of constantly being the object of other peoples’ exploitation and ferocity would themselves be taking action on a grand scale and shaping other people to their own needs” C.L.R. James foreword to 1980 edition.

Signposts point to facts which have been overlooked, linking an individual with better known individuals and events in commonly taught not just in history but in other subjects across the curriculum, including science and mathematics. The story of zero is one starting point.

Signposts point to links with little or unknown people to people and events already familiar in all subjects across the curriculum

Joseph Bologne (Chevalier de St George) with composers Gossec, Haydn & Mozart, Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, Robespierre, Toussaint’ L’Ouverture

Signpost achievements they made and influences they had on others. eg Bologne Invented Sinfonia Concertante form used by Haydn & Mozart etc., He has a key role in commissioning Haydn’s 6 “Paris” symphonies leading their 1st performances in Paris.

Issues faced/addressed by individual including contributions made.

Link to actions taken to advance equality and combat racism and discrimination. eg involvement with groups in Paris & London

Links to dates and places when individuals lived or events happened. 

Positive images showing individuals in action. 

Other examples with similarities.

Black Lives Matter. Implementing Rampton and Swann

In 2020 Black Lives Matter became a universal cry after another death of a Black person, George Floyd, caused uproar re-opening the Civil Rights’ Movement action 4 decades earlier. At the same time the pandemic, Covid 19, also laid bare gross inequalities, not least Black people, many of whom were prominent on the front line in health and other essential services, key workers in fighting the pandemic and saving the lives of others.

In the UK Belly Mujinga died from the Covid virus after someone spat in her face. She was on duty as a railway worker based at Victoria Station in London in a public space, but without protection from infection in a busy public place. She was vulnerable having an underlying health condition. Covid 19, in addition to the Black Lives Matter movement, laid bare inequalities apparently on the basis of “race” and ethnicity. Research is revealing socio-economic equality is the more likely reason for the huge disparity in deaths among Black communities.

Black Members of Parliament are calling for de-colonising education. The last official government reports on education and Black achievement date back to 1979 and 1985. For one reason or another they were kicked into the long grass. Many individual schools welcomed their recommendations resulting in changes being piecemeal and those in opposition able to ignore or even challenge the reports’ conclusions. Dawn Butler, now a well established MP, has led calls for action. She is not alone. A number of other more recently elected Black members are also making the plea. While there is opposition and denial from the Government benches, the Labour Party too has been dragging its feet in opposing racism, with the exception of its vigorous championing of anti-semitism. There can be no league table of groups facing discrimination. Equality demands fairness across the board and legislation if necessary to ensure that colonialism thinking and practice is comprehensively removed from institutions. While people are free to have their beliefs it is unacceptable for any government to allow discrimination arising from the UK’s colonial history to continue resulting in disproportionate numbers of deaths of Black people to occur. One example above show individuals in the criminal justice system to use extreme violence in the course of duty, the other the failure of an employer with a serious underlying health problem to give protection to their employee. Deaths of Black people in custody and on the front line in the health and other essential services have been common in the UK in recent years. Of those responsible few, if any, have been brought to justice.

The Stuart Hall Foundation has published reports of recent figures showing differences between groups in achievement in education in 2016/7. However the latest official Government reports arising from concern of children’s performance were the Rampton Report, 1979, and Swann Report, 1985. They give the recommendations of each report.

Carlton Duncan, who provided the introduction to this report, was a member on both Rampton and Swann committees. He has shone revelatory light onto reasons why implementation has not occurred between then and now. He is asking the question that now Black Lives Matter and Covid 19 have made it crystal clear that discrimination continues in a way many considered to be in the past this is not born out by the day to day experience of those who experience racism and discrimination. It is the same question as Black MPs now in parliament are asking about their experiences both in Parliament and in their constituencies. This includes having their staff to weed out abusive correspondence before its gets to them. The current Minister for Equalities and Women, Liz Truss, has stated that in her opinion institutional racism is “evidence free”!

Alton Burnett


Our Comrade, Friend and Brother Alton Burnett finally succumbed to his battle with cancer and passed away on Friday, 7th March at 7.20 pm. Phillip Murphy, Maxie Hayles and I had visited a week or so earlier but found him in a deep sleep. We understood he was suffering considerable pain in his waking moments. Alton was a larger than life character committed to serve the community, which he did as a Councillor for Erdington and as Secretary to the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre on Dudley Road, Birmingham.

In 1985 Alton led a group along Lozells to pay tribute to the post masters, the Moledena brothers, who lost their lives in a fire at the post office.


More than 20 years later he repeated this act of reconciliation when some young men were tragically run down along the Dudley Road, yards from the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre. At the time there was considerable tension with a feeling that what had happened was due to friction in the community. It fell to Alton once again to dispel the idea as he carried a tribute to Tariq Jahan, father of one of the boys killed. Tariq himself rose above the rumours flying round and was given great credit for his generosity of spirit at such a time of personal loss. (He went to give aid to the injured only to find it was his own dying son he was trying to help.)

Alton Burnett pays tribute to the young men who were killed along the Dudley Road speaking to Tariq Jahan, bereaved father of one of them.
Rather than a flashpoint, the makeshift shrine appears to have evolved into a focal point for the community to bond. It was there that Alton Burnett of the Afro Caribbean Millennium community center presented Mr. Jahan with flowers and a message of condolence on Thursday evening.
“We are one,” Mr. Burnett said. “We feel your pain and we feel your sorrow. We will not let this divide us.” The two men hugged, a symbolic moment recognized with applause from those watching.
New York Times 11/8/2011



Frankenstein’s monster created by global elite

The monster that is Capitalism is frightening the global elite involved in the consequences of their own making. Just like Frankenstein it is rampaging out of control. If you’re asset rich you just can’t help making more and more money while at the other end of the spectrum no cash means no food on the table, no heat and probably no roof over your head. The consequences of inequality can come back on you if you leave it spiralling out of control.

The lengths that the ruling elite will go to is illustrated with the passing of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Scarcely distinguishable in its barbaric practices from arch enemy ISIS (funded like other excoriated groups including Al Quaeda from Saudi sources) flags on official building are at half mast while leaders and royals are dispatched to Riyadh to cry crocodile tears.

Meanwhile back in Davos issues of earth shaking importance are announced. Prince Andrew has made his first public statement on allegations of sexual impropriety. Talk of global warming, international aid is all put into sharp perspective. This is all about 1% of the world’s population defining what the rest of us are supposed to be concerned about. Reality recedes.

Interestingly Christine Lagarde has been making references to Marx including “Capitalism sowing the seeds of its own destruction”. The idea of “inclusive Capitalism”, as with “cuddly Capitalism” and other ideas which bring to mind the idea of throwing scraps to dogs, is invoked. Capitalism by its nature is the absolute antithesis of such descriptions. Clearly others in attendance at Davos are bored out of their minds when such ideas are raised.

In Europe the Marxist response looks most likely to emerge in Greece at tomorrow’s election. Scaremongering has been rife, but as the report by Paul Mason on the state of the parties there shows, anyone tainted with “Austerity” is likely to be summarily dismissed by many making Syriza the favourite. The left are starved of political oxygen, very clearly in the UK, where the crackpots of UKIP are chased around by the media while Socialism remains an unmentionable word.

Latin American countries have developed economic and political alliances which have offered alternatives to the powerful nations in the north of the continent who continue to threat and destabilise where they can. Pressure has mounted against Venezuela following the death of Chavez, so the question is asked who will support them from going the way of Allende’s Chile? Once again it is necessary to go to alternative sources of information to get a picture.

Food Aid Britain

Hunger is a major issue in Britain. Food poverty added to fuel poverty add up to a threat to life in a wealthy nation where its leaders have more pressing priorities. The dismantling of a welfare state and redistributing wealth to an already overfed elite.

Food is something we can take control of and grow our own – as happened in war time. Havana in Cuba, struggling from an embargo imposed by its mighty imperial neighbour, has created a means of helping to feed its population. Havana can provide for about 50% of its population. Which other city in the world could approach anything like that? If we ask how many of its population of around 1 million could Birmingham in the UK support a target of 10% would seem daunting. Yet a sizeable number of people demand allotments and use leisure time to cultivate food for themselves. Rules for allotments, set years ago, do not allow for a system which, as in Cuba, brings about a market where food grown is sold to the community at affordable prices.

Much is happening at the Uplands Allotment in Handsworth, Birmingham UK to enhance urban living. They note that fruit is lefty to rot on trees in gardens across the city. THeir response is an urban harvest where volunteers will collect the fruit. They have introduced bees to ensure the fertility of crops.

On the other hand big business has other ideas claiming that it has the solution the world hunger. This involves the seizure of land displacing peasant farmers, many of whom committed suicide, and introducing genetically modified crops. Food is a commodity to produce maximum profit.

Food waste is a huge issue with about half of that expensively produced wasted. Supermarket chains have become aware with some produce, just a little, ending up in food banks. Much of this is tinned and processed so does not provide the healthy nutrition that the growing number of people with families need to keep healthy. THe potential cost to society and its services is enormous. Yet a poor country like Cuba can keep its population healthy and educated. What can we learn?


Overview. Key Reports on Health Care 2012-3
“Compassionate Care”
1.1 Key recommendations of the report into the death of David Bennett, which appeared at the beginning of 2004, emphasise training in cultural competence. They state:

(i) All who work in mental health services should receive training in cultural awareness and sensitivity.
(ii) All managers and clinical staff, however senior or junior, should receive mandatory training in all aspects of cultural competency, awareness and sensitivity. This should include training to tackle overt and covert racism and institutional racism.
(iii) All training referred to in 1 and 2 above should be regularly updated.

1.2 The Government initiative “No Health Without Mental Health” 2011 also reports that BME communities across the UK request increased cultural competence in services. All participating Black and minority ethnic communities point to a strong need for greatly increased cultural competency in mental health services. Study participants highlighted the need for practical improvements in language (interpreting, translating, literacy support), meeting faith-related and religious needs, culturally appropriate food, gender-specific services and staff, increasing the ethnic diversity of staff, and action to tackle racism.” No Health Without Mental Health 2011
1.3 The first year report “If only we were told” looked at mental health initiatives over a decade. The David “Rocky” Bennett report led directly to key initiatives in equality in mental health provision. particularly “Delivering Race Equality” and “Count Me in” statistics. These annual reports gave evidence of marked and unacceptable differences in equality in access to appropriate services.
“If only we were told report -year 1
1.4 New programmes of treatment, such as “Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies” were thought to be major advances, yet BME communities are saying that they have not benefitted from them.

1.5 Evidence shows that different sections of the community are likely to follow different paths in accessing mental health treatment. More African Caribbean people access mental health treatment through the criminal justice system ending up in secure units and prisons. Asian communities say they too find difficulty getting treatment that recognises different cultural, religious and linguistic understanding of mental health.
Improving Access to Psychological Therapies. A review of the progress made by sites in the first roll‐out year
1.6 A consequence of failure to address cultural competence can be misdiagnosis. This, according to practitioners such as Dr Aggrey Burke continues to be a hazard between clinician and patient where there is cultural confusion. This is compounded by commonly held ideas and beliefs about black people and mental health and applying labels as a result of stereotypical understanding of conditions such as schizophrenia.
1.7 Different traditions may have their own ways of dealing with well being, Much is made of reporting the widespread existence of stigma and fear, and supposed cultural shortcomings, much less attention is given to different coping strategies which if understood and taken up by professionals could greatly help improved well being of patients.
1.8 In 2012-13 health care issues were dominated by two reports of major failures in care. The Francis Report into failings at the Staffordshire Hospital Trust was followed by the Winterbourne View report of abuse of patients in care homes. Resulting from these and other reports of breakdowns in care to vulnerable people came a response from the Government with the call for “Compassionate Care”.

The failure to deal with inequalities in mental health
Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)

1.9 While there have been significant advances in mental health treatment over the last decade, similar advances in addressing equalities have stayed stubbornly static with identifiable pathways to services differing between cultural groups. One major initiative has been the IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) but feelings of many are that they have been excluded from benefitting from these treatments and are consigned to medical remedies, coercion and detention. While there has been a move away from a medical model of care competence in recognising varying perceptions of mental health according to culture is still largely missing. Whether this is due to absent mindedness or more deliberate racist attitude it is necessary to create a climate of understanding and refusal to tolerate willful acts of violence by agency staff serving the public.
Coercion in Mental Health
1.10 Referrals to mental health services will likely be from various other agencies and sources for a variety of reasons. Social services, police, prison services, schools and colleges all deal day to day with people and it is expected that within their training they will be competent to recognise those at risk from difficulties such as poor mental health. A number of questions arise.
1.11 If cultural competence is missing from the range of competencies needed in working in a diverse community then there is added risk. Even within the health service people can be labelled and prejudice results. This we know that black men in particular are associated with “schizophrenia”. The case of Kingsley Burrell who died while being held in a secure mental health unit in Birmingham in 2010, was taken there by police after he had called them for support when he felt under threat from a group of youths. The police judged him to be paranoid, beat him according to his young son who was with him, and he was sectioned as a result. His family say there was no previous knowledge of mental health problems. He later died in mysterious circumstances that have still to be explained. 10 years on from the David Bennett Report and cases of many people with or some without mental health histories and a high proportion of black men have died in custody. No reports have been commissioned and indeed in many cases there are suspected cover ups.
1.12 It is of deep concern that threats of “sectioning” is used as a weapon when dealing with people as some black women in the West Midlands have alleged in their dealings with police. In one case the threat was carried out, the family unable to find her whereabouts.
1.13 In some of these examples it appears that racism may be a factor for those dealing with people using mental health issues improperly. Of course in order for this to work institutional back up is essential. Police superiors, courts, prison officers and even trained clinicians seem happy to oblige. This matter is in urgent need of independent investigation.
2. Cultural Competence – some definitions
The importance of cultural competence

2.1 In 2007 Professor Kamaldeep Bhui et al surveyed the availability of courses of study addressing cultural competence. They discovered only 9 programmes of study with outcomes evaluated to demonstrate they had been effective:
2.2 Abstract of research programme
“Background: Cultural competency is now a core requirement for mental health professionals working with culturally diverse patient groups. Cultural competency training may improve the quality of mental health care for ethnic groups.
Methods: A systematic review that included evaluated models of professional education or service delivery.
Results: Of 109 potential papers, only 9 included an evaluation of the model to improve the cultural competency practice and service delivery. All 9 studies were located in North America. Cultural competency included modification of clinical practice and organizational performance. Few studies published their teaching and learning methods. Only three studies used quantitative outcomes. One of these showed a change in attitudes and skills of staff following training. The cultural consultation model showed evidence of significant satisfaction by clinicians using the service. No studies investigated service user experiences and outcomes.
Conclusion: There is limited evidence on the effectiveness of cultural competency training and service delivery. Further work is required to evaluate improvement in service users’ experiences and outcomes.”
2.3 The research paper looks at the selected papers to see if a pattern emerges to say what cultural competence is. The conclusion they reach is that it is about practitioner and patient understanding each others cultural viewpoints, the absence of which can lead to misdiagnosis, or mismanagement of care provided. It is extremely complex in practice and subject to oversimplification and misconception. It is not, for example, just a matter of knowing about different faiths and cultures, their symbols and practices, rather it is coming to an understanding of how cultural difference can lead to different concepts of mental illness. It is understanding how different family structures and traditions affect individuals. Different individuals within any one cultural will vary so no formulae are likely to help. There are differences between age groups.
2.4 A model developed by BEWEG likens “cultural competence” to an iceberg where the visible tip is what is commonly accepted as its meaning while what really matters is what lies out of sight below the surface. The authors also point out that there is often an expectation of having practitioners and patients with common cultural backgrounds is the answer. This is unrealistic because the practitioners will most likely have been trained in the same way.
2.5 The following is from a source in the United States talking about cultural competence and why it is of fundamental importance:

“Cultural competency is one of the main ingredients in closing the disparities gap in health care. It’s the way patients and doctors can come together and talk about health concerns without cultural differences hindering the conversation, but enhancing it. Quite simply, health care services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients can help bring about positive health outcomes.”

2.6 The Government’s “No Health Without Mental Health” stresses in the foreword under the names of David Cameron and Nick Clegg:

“The Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, have made it clear that the Coalition Government’s success will be measured by the nation’s wellbeing, not just by the state of the economy. The public health White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People is the first public health strategy to give equal weight to both mental and physical health.This Government recognises that our mental health is central to our quality of life, central to our economic success and interdependent with our success in improving education, training and employment outcomes and tackling some of the persistent problems that scar our society, from homelessness, violence and abuse, to drug use and crime.”

On inequality the report has this to say:

“Critically, not all groups have benefited equally from improvements – for example, many
people from black and minority ethnic communities. Access to services is uneven and some people get no help at all. This contributes to health inequalities within and between groups with ‘protected characteristics’ “

No Health Without Mental Health p 8. 1.11
2.7 However good intentions are evidence of the present state of mental health provision is of a crisis. Since the Talk to Us project, 2007, many of the voluntary sector organisation “set up because of unmet need” (Ralph Hall of CSIP) have lost key staff. “Delivering Race Equality and the Count Me In statistics have been archived as if no longer relevant. While it is clear that the programmes failed to meet expectation the knowledge gained needs to be developed, not discarded.
3. David Bennett: the report 10 years on
3.1 While the present Government’s plans make it very clear that the same issues continue to exist it is as if they are treating the efforts to deal with it as political. Two issues illustrated here by case studies show that:
(i) Issues of Mental Health in the African Caribbean community continue to feature, although they fail to get the public attention that followed the death Stephen Lawrence, if not that of David Bennett. Of deaths in custody since the David Bennett report a significant number have been African Caribbean. Far from getting reports written they have characteristically been followed by cover ups. Many have been related to mental health issues, although some of the victims were not known to have a prior history of illness. This prompts the question of diagnosis and understanding when terms like “schizophrenia” are routinely attached in a way that becomes stereotypical. The question arises are members of this section of the community at risk from being mistreated based on prior assumptions and racist attitudes? The cases of Mikey Powell and Kingsley Burrell in Birmingham and police practice in Wolverhampton will be considered here.
(ii) Members of Asian communities have noted that the Delivering Race Equality agenda highlighted the failure of services to offer effective mental health services to the African Caribbean community. They feel that the characteristics of this failure are increasingly applicable to them, but with important differences. In particular advances in treatment such as IAPT it is felt have not been readily available, and may not take account of cultural or linguistic differences. The question of “cultural competence” is highlighted, with doubts that while it is said to be important it is widely misunderstood, dealing only with the visible tip of the iceberg model rather than underlying factors.
3.2 Cases in Birmingham and Wolverhampton over the period since the Bennett Report question what, if anything, has been learned? What has improved?
The death of Mikey Powell in 2003 when the ink on the David Bennett Report was not yet dry. It then took 6 years to decide that he died as a result “positional asphyxia”.
Now 10 years on the family has received an apology from the police. On the other hand no one has been called to account. As usually happens officers involved have retired from the police force and just faded out of sight.
The following is an account from the Friends of Mikey Powell Campaign for Justice.

“Mikey Powell was 38 years old when he died after being detained by West Midlands Police on 7 September 2003. He had three children. He had a mental health crisis and smashed a window at the home he shared with his mother. His mother called the police for help, assuming they would take him to hospital.
During the incident that followed, the police drove a car at Mikey as fast as they could, claiming they thought he had a gun, which he did not. Mikey was injured but survived the collision. He was then sprayed with four times the recommended amount of CS gas, hit with a baton and restrained for at least 16 minutes. No ambulance was called. Mikey was put on the floor of the police van and taken to the police station and into a ‘drunk cell’. It was only then officers noticed that he was not breathing.
The inquest jury found that Mikey died of positional asphyxia in the back of the police van while he was being taken to the police station.
Many issues were raised by the inquest into his death, including questions around possible assumptions made by police about Mikey, based on the area he was living in and the colour of his skin. The family made several recommendations following Mikey’s death, including training for officers to avoid these kinds of assumptions being made.”

Mikey Powell was not a criminal, He lived in the Lozells district of Handsworth which itself has a history of associations with black people. While events in 1981 and 1985 received sensationlised media coverage, attributing “rioting” to the black population, those seen in court came a variety of backgrounds, age groups and areas outside both Handsworth and Birmingham. As one resident said at the time, the impression was given that “we routinely had drugs with our cornflakes”. Mikey was a much loved family member but who was experiencing a mental health problem. It was his Mother who called the police for assistance, hardly expecting the response described above. She continues to regret her decision that day in September 2003.
As stated it took years to establish the cause of Mikey’s death: that it was not being hit by a police car, using excessive amounts of CS gas, being hit repeatedly with police batons or being sat on by a number of police officers. It has taken longer for an apology, but as yet no one has been called to account and held responsible. The family have made recommendations, but it is not clear if these have been accepted an shared. Meanwhile the recommendations of the David Bennett enquiry remain together with information now archived.
3.3 On 27th March, 2011 another member of the African Caribbean community died while in custody. He had no previous history of mental illness but ended up being sectioned and detained at the Mary Seacole Centre in the Winson Green area of Birmingham. On this occasion he himself had called the police when he felt that he and his young son were being threatened.
Kingsley Burrell, 29, dialled 999 after being threatened by a group of men while with his young son in Icknield Port Road, Birmingham, on March 27 last year.
But when officers turned up they detained the trainee security guard under the Mental Health Act – despite his family saying he had no history of mental illness.
Within hours Mr Burrell was sectioned and taken to a mental health unit in the city, where his family claim he had mysterious physical injuries and was not allowed to speak to them.
Three days later, police were called to the Mary Seacole mental institute in Winson Green after an “incident” involving the dad-of-two and he was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he died on March 31.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission immediately launched an inquiry and has now asked Dorset Police to begin a further investigation into the death.
Last night Mr Burrell’s sister, Kadisha Brown-Burrell said the family still had no idea how he had died – and could still be months away from having a funeral.
She said:

“How can they keep a body for a year? It’s been more than a year now and they are dragging their heels.
”We are still grieving and need closure but have been told the Dorset Police investigation will take at least take another six months.
“We’re angry and frustrated and don’t know what is happening.
”It’s been painstakingly difficult, frustrating, and emotionally overwhelming for the family to begin to come to terms with his death. Especially, not being able to lay his body to rest, not knowing the sequence of events that led up to his death and how he died.”
Mr Burrell was dad to five-year-old son Kayden – who was with him when he was detained by police – and 10-year-old daughter Travita.
Student Miss Brown-Burrell regularly visits her brother’s body, which is being held at the mortuary at Sandwell Hospital.
She added: “I personally don’t have much confidence in the IPCC investigation and we have not been kept informed.
“The family has now attended eight or nine pre-inquest hearings, yet still nobody can tell us what or who killed Kingsley.
”It’s not fair on his children, especially his little boy who can’t stop thinking and talking about what happened that day.”
A spokesman for the IPCC said investigators have interviewed four West Midlands police officers under criminal caution and a further 10 officers as witnesses.
He added: “In total, more than 100 witness statements have been obtained from police officers, medical professionals, ambulance staff and members of the public.
”Footage from CCTV cameras at four locations has been recovered and reviewed and hundreds of documents have been seized as part of the independent investigation.
“Earlier this year, after liaison with HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Dorset Police were requested by the IPCC to begin an investigation into the actions of non-police personnel who had contact with Mr Burrell and they continue to undertake enquiries.
“The IPCC has provided regular updates at HM Coroner’s pre-inquest hearings and to the family and interested parties.'”

Kingsley Burrell’s funeral was eventually held on 31st August 2012, well over a year after his death occurred and during which time there appeared a great reluctance to give any information or account for how he came to die. Kingsley was taken to a unit with the name of Mary Seacole, which itself associates the African Caribbean community as a whole with mental illness.
3.4 In the past ten years black women and men have been subject to brutal treatment from police officers in Wolverhampton, Bilston Street Police Station being the centre of focus. While some of their victims have no records of mental health problems officers have resorted to threats of sectioning telling them “you are mad”. They have been taken to police cells or mental health institutions and held in custody.
3.5 So ten years on from a land mark report what has changed, especially for African Caribbean citizens. They remain vulnerable from a whole spectrum of inequality from individual attitudes to the institutional racism highlighted by the Stephen Lawrence enquiry. What the “cultural competence” recommended by the David Bennett report is remains unclear. Although widely referred to in the context of addressing mental health it requires a thorough going appraisal in order for it to become central to the training the report, and many others now recommend.
3.6 The NHS offers a guide for good practice in prisons. While it speaks of addressing inequality it confines itself to mentioning gender but avoids reference to the inequalities described above. The ratio of black people in jail proportionally was given as 7:1 in the Guardian, compared to 4:1 in the United States.
3.7 Evidence shows that black people are much more likely to be detained either in prison or secure units where they are likely to encounter heavy sedation.
4. The Asian community’s concerns over access to appropriate services
4.1 While the focus of the last 10 years has been on the African Caribbean community, albeit with little, if anything, to show for it apart from continuing restraint and incarceration measures with further deaths in custody of those with mental heath problem and those assumed to have because of prevalent stereotyping and racist attitudes, members of the Asian community are asking if they too are being excluded from advances in treatment for mental health issues in the community. Lord Kamlesh Patel of the Mental Health act Commission speaks about a “hidden plague” affecting them and fear of a trend which is leading to them finding themselves in a comparable position to the African Caribbean community within 10 to 20 years.

“People of South Asian origin with mental health problems are missing out on treatment, the BBC has been told.
Experts warn it is contributing to the high suicide rate among Asian women.
The chairman of one NHS Trust says he blames “institutional racism” for the “lack of engagement” with the South Asian community.
And Lord Kamlesh Patel, of the Mental Health Act Commission, warned the “hidden plague” would grow if the problem was not tackled urgently.”

4.2 In describing a failure to address need in the Asian community, itself diverse in respect of religious affiliation and variations between generations settled in the UK, attention is regularly given to social pathology or attributing blame to victims of failure to get support. Clearly features of differences such as family structure, values, beliefs and perceptions are important, but it can result in less attention being paid to ways in which traditional support mechanisms operate. This results in inappropriate intervention by clinicians making decisions without possessing the necessary cultural competence.
Case study
4.3 A Hindu man living in Birmingham suffered a brain haemorrhage in 1999 while in his early forties. He had a young family who were left deeply traumatised. He received remarkable care and treatment to bring him back to life, but an existence that required full time care. He had an uncle in India who had experienced a similar occurrence and in which case the family expected his wife to act as his main carer. Although widely spread his large extended family had similar expectations of his wife, faced with the daunting task of keeping his immediate family, a son of 11 and daughter of 19, together. He meanwhile was placed variously in highly successful rehabilitation followed by disastrous periods in homes totally unprepared and unsuited to his complex needs. Family and friends rallied together and devised a structural programme to stimulate him with the aim of allowing him as full a life as he could achieve.
4.4 Life for him in a care home quickly proved totally inappropriate with their inability to recognise his cultural, spiritual or social needs. Not that they were competent in other spheres of care in which they laid claim to expertise. The Primary Care Trust continued to proceed on a medical model of care based on the diagnosed medical condition of the patient and totally neglecting him as a human being. The possibility of him retaining his traditional position as head of his family was effectively removed, the family portrayed as a problem to the “care” they believed they needed to give.
4.5 The failure to comprehend cultural traditions leads to severe and potentially damaging consequences which can be very costly in terms of human suffering to the patient and their family but also financially for the health authority. The development of cultural competence is an essential component for a just, compassionate care system. Misconceived ideas of what this is are common, concentrating on known “facts” and possibly stereotypical ideas of other lifestyles. It is not just a matter of reading up about Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam or whatever, it is understanding how individuals relate to their wider family and how matters like mental illness are understood and the consequential decisions made, often by other family members, about necessary action. There is no solution other than for health professionals to work closely and co-operatively with family and/or community to be able to provide care which encompasses the range of need of the patient.
4.6 In more than a decade of care provision for their Hindu patient, the officers of the Primary Care Trust have failed to learn lessons from experience. In their retention of an outmoded medical model of care there has been a concentration on his medical condition coupled with a complete failure to account for cultural, spiritual and social requirements. This has led to frustration and ongoing battles with family members who have become vilified and labelled as problems who threaten their patient’s well being and best interests.
4.7 From early on after a period of intensive support and rehabilitation this patient made an amazing recovery to the extent he regained ability to walk and speak. It was necessary for him to have 24/7 care and family and friends rallied round devising stimulation to aid a return to a life as fulfilling as possible. This was his wife’s wish.
4.8 What the family were aware of and attempted to achieve owed much to their understanding of the situation. As husband and father he was regarded as head of the family and the change in his health and ability didn’t change that. His carers however did not even imagine the possibility of other ideas based on their experience of life as Hindus, shared by an extended family spread across continents, all with their own beliefs and expectations within the shared culture. They had their own beliefs that religious acts would be beneficial and had high expectations that the family would continue their duty to a beloved family member. Unfortunately that was not so simple.
4.9 An initial period in institutions and care homes ranged from disastrous to a period of rehabilitation which once more regained progress damaged by life in alien institutions where their patient lost his identity. His behaviour deteriorated seriously during such periods. His immediate family continued to give support battling against uncomprehending bureaucracies. Their health suffered as a consequence although the care agencies failed to notice. Rather the family continued to be regarded as a source of irritation. This culminated in an attempt by the Primary Care Trust to get a protection order issued against the family. This failed when they couldn’t produce evidence for the allegations made without any reference to the family.
4.10 Cultural competence, it is clear from this family’s experience, has to do with an understanding of family dynamics, quite different in Asian culture to western tradition. Whereas in a western cultural model care staff routinely expect to be dealing with an autonomous individual in Asian families individuals have a place and role which cannot be overlooked and discarded. To vary this will ultimately be damaging and counterproductive. This understanding is chiefly located in the submerged bulk of the iceberg model. It is complex and requires carers to develop their understanding. This is only achieved by working closely with family and community.
4.11 A solution to the care in this case was to provide a bungalow with full time care. The family lived over a shop so the possibility of returning there was not an option. However the care company commissioned to provide the care were located in Telford. They were selected by the PCT and were not familiar with the needs and expectations of an Asian family. When problems arose the PCT regarded it as matter between the family and care company. The family wished to recreate family life as far as possible which would mean having family and friends round regularly. It soon became clear that the carers saw the bungalow as primarily a place of work, so what would have been a dining room became their office. Care staff brought in their own food, stored in in the family’s fridge and used available utensils to prepare it. When beef products were brought in the family found it necessary to take action to say that could not be allowed. Furniture provided was dilapidated, and according to one of the relief staff an infection hazard, yet neither PCT nor the nurse in charge saw a problem. The family asked if they could bring in their own furniture, which was at first agreed. It was then pointed out to the family that if any items they brought in was the cause of an accident then they would be liable. They then had to pay for the furniture to be put in storage. The more the family tried to bring problems to the attention of the care provider, and when that failed the PCT, the more they were perceived as problematic.
4.12 Eventually the Primary Care Trust made a decision to change the care provider. They told the family it would be necessary for their patient to go into a care home for no longer than three months while they made necessary preparations. The family were unhappy with this but were given no choice. They wished to help with the transition and take their family member to his new temporary – they thought- home. The PCT disregarded their wishes and advice and a van driven by staff from the care home arrived and collected him. They disrespected both him and his daughter as they took him away from her treating without concern for either him or his family. The next time they saw him they were in for a shock. He was found to be inactive, confined to a wheel chair. He appeared uncared for with long hair and nails. Uncut toe nails meant he found it difficult to walk. He was wearing other people’s clothes, having promised to label the new clothes the family supplied. A mixture of his and other clothes were found bundled in a heap in a wardrobe. The family found it hard to find the courage to visit. When they did they discovered a note on file warning staff about them and advising them to contact police if necessary. Although staff had acknowledged and apologised for their lack of care, the family remained the one regarded as at fault.
4.13 The family then raised their concerns with Birmingham Social Care and Health and so another meeting was called to consider protection issues this time at their request. There was still the belief that a return to the bungalow would happen, but it was agreed that another care home could be found in the meantime.
4.14. At the new care home family and friends attempted to help the new care providers understand their new resident’s needs. However they were alarmed when they found information accompanying him had him classed as a Muslim and as having diabetes. It had been assumed that those responsible for his move would have monitored information on file. Surely records would accompany him from placement to placement. It seemed there was marked reluctance to listen to his family, but finally his religion changed to Hindu/Sikh whatever that means. While there were assurances that he had not been diagnosed with diabetes without the family’s knowledge he was still tested for this on a visit to the dentist, apparently because it was still on the records.
4.15 It finally emerged that the decision to return home was changed by the PCT. In making their decision they failed to follow the Mental Capacity Act and consider the family’s view on Best Interest. This means that those most likely to know what the patient’s own views were likely to be on deciding where to live were ignored. It also means that a chance to demonstrate cultural competence was once again missed. It has been left for a court to make the final decision.
4.16 In her talk to a Sikh health conference in 2012, Kamel Chahal, Chartered Clinical Psychologist working in a London Health Authority, made the following points about menbers of the Asian community following Lord Patel’s concerns in 3.1 above:

Women trapped in situations of domestic violence are well documented
Women (ages 15-34) are 2-3 x suicides than British peers
Self-injurious behaviour is increasing in young women
High levels of alcohol use and dependence in men
Frequent presentations at GP surgeries with physical complaints

4.17 Those involved in delivering services to members of the Asian community need to be sensitive to the cultural perspectives and understanding of their patients. They have been identified as obstacles to individuals and families seeking help at a critical time. While these will vary between individuals and families western family patterns and traditions are vary from the characteristics of Asian families. As has been noted above it is important not to make assumptions, and there are likely to be variations between first, second and third generations settled in Britain.
4.18 Kamel Chahal refers to Rethink reports of work within the Sikh, Punjabi South Asian communities in Harrow, North West London
Research conducted by Rethink Mental Illness revealed six key findings;

1. Shame, fear and secrecy surround mental illness
2. The causes of mental illness are often misunderstood
3. The family can be both caring and isolating
4. Social pressure to conform
5. People with mental health problems are not valued
Marriage prospects can be damaged by mental illness
Extended family and wider community were felt by people with mental health problems to
have most impact on their lives.
The key learnings from the project are:
1. It’s important to embrace the power of the community, its networks and local knowledge.
2. Pay attention to cultural dates of interest as hooks for PR and local activity.

5. IAPT – increasing access to psychological therapies. Source of equality or further discrimination?
5.1 One major advance in recent years is the understanding that the use of psychology can be effective in treatment of mental illness, which is as likely to stem from social factors as from physical illness. The development of such treatments is becoming a growing industry with universities like Chester setting up departments and publishing journals. I attended a conference to discuss the present state of affairs, but was concerned to see no contribution to the issue of diversity and a recognition of how cultural competence will be necessary for practitioners in the development of their skills. The question has to be asked whether this will intensify the situation where many will be denied a choice in their treatment on the basis of their ethnicity and culture. A current NHS document on IAPT acknowledges diversity and the requirement of cultural competence. Sections on this, while acknowledging complexity, are extremely brief.
5.2 Concern that much more needs to be done to ensure equal access across cultural groups appears to be shared by professional groups such as the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
5.3 Kamel Chahal enumerated blocks within NHS services to Asian families accessing talking therapies:
Blocks within NHS Services:
Obstacles to Accessing Talking Therapies – Ethnic monitoring within psychology services shows:

“Less access to talking therapies (although often requested by communities in reports)
Less referrals from GP’s & CMHT’s
Less take-up of therapy when offered
Higher & earlier drop-out rates Issues related to cultural competence
Confidentiality fears – Major taboo to talk about problems outside home
Self-esteem built through different mechanisms – “we want” rather than “I want”
Value system and rules of living can be very much in conflict with “host” society
External & Internal Pressure to comply with cultural norms of: Impacted on by 1st,2nd, 3rd generational differences & ensuing cultural conflicts
Family structures & familial expectations – e.g. Marriage
Rules & subtleties in managing immediate and extended relationships
Folk-lore understanding of metal illness
Superstition, jinns, past lives, bad blood, not curable – passed on through families
Spirituality / Religious philosophy ignored.”

Kamel Chahal 2012
6. The Voluntary Sector’s role in supporting mental health needs of a diverse community

6.1 The “Talk to Us” project involved visits to some 40 voluntary organisations across the West Midlands. They typically involved enthusiastic and in many cases staff with long experience in working with sections of the community. These were usually those known to be at risk of failing to get appropriate, if any, help from the statutory sector. The organisations in the words of Ralph Hall of CSIP were “set up because of unmet need”. Most expressed a wish to build their capacity to develop their services professionally to be able to deliver a high standard of care in partnership with health service professionals. Now in 2013 most are struggling to exist. They have to compete for contracts with large well-staffed organisations. While they have the knowledge and experience to deal with what matters to the communities they have sprung from and serve, they are often unable to contend with the bureaucratic requirements of complex contracts. This has become even more difficult in a period of transition for commissioning bodies as Primary Care Trusts (PCT’s) end and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) evolve.
6.2 Professor Kamaldeep Bhui of Queen Mary College, University of London, argues the importance of the voluntary sector in addressing detention of those with mental health need. Professor Bhui has set up a Cultural Consultation Service (hear a podcast on the link provided) intended to address cultural factors in mental health services.
7. The Development of a Level 2 Syllabus to Improve Access to Appropriate Mental Health Services

7.1 While the first year report looked at key reports and recommendations following the David Bennett Report, 2003, the current report for year 2 considers the present position nationally, while drawing on case studies within the West Midlands where the SCYS Project is centred.
7.2 The headings above serve to signal key issues which seem essential for those serving a diverse community. The first thing to recognise is that mental health is a world wide problem which the World Health Organisation has described as “the silent epidemic” growing so that by 2020 it will be one of the largest and the most debilitating ailments facing human beings. There is no difference in the condition between diverse groups, but there is a difference of how it is understood according to cultural understanding and consequent approaches to help and support. On the one hand this can lead to a failure to take appropriate action to get help for self or other, on the other the views and lack of cultural understanding by health providers lead to a failure to provide appropriate services. This encompasses ignorance leading to misdiagnosis and willful racist attitudes. The David Bennett Report recommended thoroughgoing and continuous training in cultural competence and this has been retained through the previous government’s Delivering Race Equality (DRE) agenda, backed by Count Me In statistics to present recommendations in “No Health Without Mental Health”. While the DRE and Count Me in statistics have been archived they are by no means irrelevant. The decision to stop collecting is apparently because they repeat the same pattern, not because they have shown that matters are improving. Figures found elsewhere suggest that far from it detention of those with severe need are on the increase and need addressing. Professor Bhui states the importance of the voluntary sector in addressing this.
7.3 Outline of syllabus proposed based on sections discussed above.

Understanding of developments over last 10 years. The significance of the David “Rocky” Bennett report, it’s recommendations. Setting up of the Delivering Race Equality agenda and collection of statistics annually in “Count Me In” reports. Appraisal of outcomes of legislation (see If only we were told Year 1 Report).
(ii)The current situation. Publication of Francis and Winterbourne View reports on care and recommendations for “compassionate care”. what would this look like taking into account diverse needs of BME communities?
Cultural Competence. Iceberg model showing common understanding and failure to understand complexities of hidden (vastly greater) part required to address appropriate care provision. This is itself in need of developing and refining, particularly on the basis of experience of cases of care, including where there has been a significant lack of understanding of different expectations base on cultural differences in understanding of mental well being.
Advances in mental health treatment: IAPT and differential access. Factors preventing access and ways in which community engagement can help.
Working with statutory and voluntary agencies. Partnerships, discrimination and injutice, the voluntary sector and its role in the community.
Compassionate care – what this looks like for BME communities where cultural competence is put into practice

Who are suffering most in this new world without compassion?

Recent reports have shown levels of violence against individuals at a high level, sickening in their reporting. That they are reported at all, how and why remains a topic of debate.
On Friday, 4th January 2013, a meeting is to be held by the Indian Worker’s Association. A response came as follows:
MBugi Bugi Bugiandassociates: this just came from the walls of Mr Das Gupta of DELHI–our senior friend—————–Candles in the wind—————–
In a few hours, a special flight will reach New Delhi with the body of Nirbhaya, the gang rape victim, from Singapore.
If she had lived, Nirbhaya, which translates into the fearless, would have returned from that same city with a diploma in the course she was pursuing – physiotherapy.
It was the wish of her father, a poor handler at Delhi’s T3 airport, who sold his small, fertile land in Megrakalakhur village (Thana: Narahi) in Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia district and traveled to Delhi to support his daughter’s education.
A foreign educated daughter would have been the biggest pride of the family, the father had told his family members.
There would be more cash in the home. It would supplement his Rs 5000 a month salary, he had told his wife and sons.
A few days ago, as top government officials told him the government’s decision to take his daughter to Singapore for treatment, the distraught father – aware of Nirbhaya’s precarious condition – told them it was the same city she wanted to go to acquire a specialized diploma.
How could he take her there? he asked.
And seconds later, he broke into a paroxysm of sobbing.
Standing close, a former government employee who once worked in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) during the four month tenure of Chandra Shekhar told Nirbhaya’s father to gather courage and accept the government’s request.
The family – claimed the former PMO official – was surprised to see the abundance of India’s official machinery that remains woefully inadequate to protect the poor.
Two ambulances with patients were set up as decoys and the third carried Nirbhaya and her family. Their travel documents were made in a record time.
In Singapore, the family checked into the swanky Mandarin Orchard. Then, they all rushed at Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital to be with their daughter.
The doctors switched on a ventilator to perform the work for Nirbhaya’s near-defunct lungs. The doctors sedated her to prevent the pain from being felt by her damaged brain and tortured innards.
Nothing worked. At 0445 hours Singapore Time, Nirbhaya died without opening her eyes on the island nation.
Without seeing an inch of the hospital she would have worked if she had managed the diploma in Singapore.
In the Indian Capital, prime time television anchors rushed to their studios on Sunday morning and handled shows with moist eyes and heavy tones.
Radio stations and television channels also urged many to send text messages. Those who did were blissfully unaware that such messages only meant cash for the service provider and news organizations.
Candles, placards and flaming torches hit the fog-filled Capital where politicians and celebrities started their usual blame game that continued till late evening hours.
No one asked the city’s transport minister, Arvind Singh Lovely, why his department never took action against private buses with dark windows illegally plying in the city.
The bus in which the rape took place was impounded six times and let off with a minor warning. The owner had 11 such illegal vehicles. The Transport Department wanted the buses to be impounded and had ever referred the case to the top authority.
But no one budged.
Was it because the masters of all illegal buses in the city are politicians, both from the ruling and opposition parties?
No one asked, hence no one answered.
In India, the safety of the poor has never merited any attention or action.
But on Sunday, the rulers were genuinely worried about their very own safety.
The heart of the city, where the rich and famous live, was cordoned off and a special rule – Section 144 – imposed by the authorities. It resembled a fortress, with armed police and riot troops maintaining a heavy presence.
Those in power probably feared a revolution on Sunday could rattle their citadel, which sociologists have described as the Geographical Centralization of Power. After all, the zone is home to the ruling Cabinet and members of opposition politicians.
It has brains, lungs and arteries but no heart.
The candles are still burning, so is a nation with rage.

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Police and mental health

DSC03349.JPGYesterday, 18th August 2012, saw the second march to protest at the non-action since the death in Birmingham of Kingsley Burrell. This happened at the Mary Seacole Centre. Kingsley had called the police when he and his young son were threatened by a group of youth on Icknield Port Road. The police decided to detain him and he was taken to the mental health hospital and sectioned. His family say he had no record of mental health. A few days later police were called to the centre. Kingsley ended up in hospital where he died. After a year the body is only now being released. The family and we are none the wiser how and why he died. He is one of a large number of statistics of deaths in custody, many of which involve mental health issues.
I met Jenny Cooper and her family at the march. She was beaten up by police in Wolverhampton two years ago and remains severely disabled. The police say they have held an enquiry, but they haven;t release their findings to Jenny. She and her family have been continually harassed over many years, and police have raided her house and the homes of her daughters on numerous occasions. On one occasion an officer told Jenny “she was mad” and he would have her sectioned. Another black Wolverhampton woman told me that she had been brutally treated by police and on occasions taken into cells and beaten or taken to a mental health institution. She complained but got no satisfaction. Both prisons (7 black people to one white person in UK) and mental health secure institutions show black over representation. This is how it happens. There needs to be a police watch, starting with Wolverhampton’s Bilston Street Station in the West Midlands.
If someone is thought to hav a mental health problem, then why are hey given a beating? It happened to Mikey Powell in Handsworth district of Birmingham in 2004. Aljazeera talks about people being caged or bound and badly treated in the third world. Not much progress here after the David Bennett report and the Lawrence enquiry.

Women Chain makers of Cradley Heath. 2012 Festival

A lull in the weather, the train to Cradley Heath to join the throng around the covered up statue, a memorial to Mary MacArthur who had led the working women of Cradley to a famous victory in 1910. Last year the turn out was disappointing but two years after the Centenary banners were out in force for this year’s Festival.
I met up with comrades from the Socialist Labour Party ready to carry the banner through Cradley to the park where the celebrations continued into the afternoon. An actress spoke the stirring words of McArthur which reminded people that gains won following long struggles can just as easily be lost if that is allowed to happen. This in my mind links the struggle to the picketing miners at Saltley Gate in 1972 when joint action in support brought about a victory overshadowed a few years later with the revenge of the Thatcher government for the defeat of the earlier Tory administration under Heath. What followed was the dismantlement of manufacturing Britain, the source of prosperity for many, allowing jobs to go abroad and policies introduced to import expensive energy when Britain had huge reserves. Coal in particular, now regarded as unclean, was imported. That which continues to be used extensively dirtier in terms of carbon emissions than that produced in the UK. This is not to say that it is preferable to renewable forms of energy. Arthur Scargill continues to argue for a balance which includes coal combined with technologies for carbon capture. This is preferable to the prospect of a nuclear future where the dangers are increasingly evident following Chernobyl, Fukashima, and yes, let’s remember Windscale. Other nuclear “accidents” and incidents continue to be hushed up.

Raghib Ahsan finally settles with Labour

While it has taken many years of pressure and determined effort, a settlement has been reached with Raghib Ahsan over the discrimination it made over his re-selection as a Birmingham City Councillor. It demonstrates the way New Labour acted against sections of its membership. It became the norm for non-elected officers to interfere with selection procedures and determine who they liked and who they didn’t. In spite of concern, supported by evidence, it was Khalid Mahmood who became MP for Perry Barr in 2001.
The Labour Party showed that it was much more concerned about stopping Raghib Ahsan replacing Jeff Rooker than paying attention to Khalid’s chequered career. Both Raghib and Khalid had been elected to Birmingham City Councillor. While Raghib fought hard for his constituents’ rights, Khalid went away to Kuwait after only months in office leaving his supporters in the lurch. Labour refused to listen when its members complained ending up with the vast majority supporting the Lib Dem candidate, Jon Hunt, now a Birmingham City Councillor, who ran an anti-sleaze campaign. Members of the Labour Party took their campaign to Mill Bank, then New Labour’s HQ.
West Midlands Labour toughed this one out as they did other matters that brought them into disrepute, such as the voting fraud issue of 2004. In spite of the mayhem and damage when the case successfully went to the House of Lords, the officers still remain in charge continuing their nonsense. As I maintained at the time, they should have been sacked.

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