Normal Service Resumed – News Round-Up, March 8 2017

What with all the hacking that’s been going on and the technical problems with my site, I haven’t blogged as much as I wanted to over the last few days, but I’m glad to say that after taking some technical advice, I seem to be back in business again on the blog. So here’s a summary of a few things that caught my interest over the past few days.

A news story that was sparked off in the Daily Post that took north Wales by storm and even ended up featuring on the main BBC News site (next to a story about Trump no less) was the report that Wrexham bus station was some sort of centre for ‘addicts’ and the use of hard drugs. It began when the Post published a series of photos that they maintained was ‘evidence’ of hard drug use in Wrexham bus station. However all was clearly not as we were being led to believe. The ‘shock horror’ photo that caused the biggest sensation was a photo of someone flat out, lying face down on the ground in the bus station. Yet the small print under this photo actually admitted that there was no evidence that the person in the photo had been using drugs. A correspondent of this blog commented that this person looked as though they were in need of urgent medical attention, so why someone was snapping away rather than checking on this person’s well-being I do not know. Other photos of further ‘evidence’ accompanied this one – photos of hypodermic needles on the floor accompanied by a smear of blood and most interestingly a photo of a home-made knife. Well anyone could have scattered a few syringes about and smeared a bit of blood on the ground and the relevance of a home-made weapon to drug taking was not explained. Considering the sleight of hand that had been employed in the case of the photo of the unfortunate person flat-out on the floor in the bus station, nothing at all could be deduced from the other photos. But it was enough to start a major news story. Further features appeared on the Post’s website, featuring comments from a number of different people, some maintaining that the story had been an exaggeration, others maintaining that addicts were using Wrexham bus station and that the problem had been ignored. Then the Post ran interviews with two women, one of whom was ‘confessing’ to being a ‘Wrexham bus station addict’, the other one being her sister who claimed to be fearful that the Wrexham bus station addict would lose her life. I couldn’t help noticing though that the Wrexham bus station addict looked remarkably healthy and well-dressed for one so allegedly ravaged and her main problem seemed to be some missing teeth – which could have been simply caused by too many sweets/sugary drinks and the lack of NHS dentists in north Wales. The interview with the bus station addict was interesting though – heroin (thus the photos of the syringes) was not mentioned. The bus station addict instead waxed lyrical about Black Mamba, a ‘legal high’. Note – a LEGAL high. So the bus station addict wasn’t even breaking the law with her bus station addiction. There were other inconsistencies in the bus station addict story as well – the bus station addict in question stated that the addicts congregate in the bus station because it’s warm. It isn’t. I know that bus station well because I used to travel through there several times a week for about 18 months until about a year ago. It is absolutely freezing in Wrexham bus station because there’s no doors between the waiting areas and the bus bays, the wind just whistles straight through – and if it’s raining it gets wet in there too. The seats are moulded metal and are really uncomfortable, not at all suitable for anyone to doss down on should they so wish. At no point when I was waiting in that station did I ever see any drug users. I was occasionally there very early in the mornings and late in the evenings and even then I did not even see any anti-social behaviour. I saw a few homeless and dispossessed people walking around, but they weren’t causing any problems for anyone. However, the bus station addict’s story now clearly had a life of its own. Hot on the heels of the interview with the bus station addict was another news story, this time reporting that the MP for Wrexham, Ian Lucas, had demanded a meeting with the Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, to discuss the alleged happenings in Wrexham bus station. Then Liz Truss announced that they’d all be seeking advice from the ‘experts’ at HMP Berwyn, the monstrosity of a prison that has just been built in Wrexham after Hywel Williams MP and David Hanson MP begged for a prison in north Wales on the grounds that so many of us up here needed banging up. And which ‘experts’ might these be? Black Mamba has been reported as being the ‘drug of choice’ in Altcourse and Walton prisons and is alleged to be causing havoc, rendering those prisons unmanageable. If prisons that are already well-established and staffed by ‘experts’ can’t control the use of Black Mamba within the institutions, how on earth are the ‘experts’ from a prison that only opened its doors a matter of days ago going to control the use of Black Mamba in a bus station?

However, the whole Wrexham bus station addicts story prompted some interesting comments from a reader of the blog. If there is a drug problem in north Wales – and although the bus station story was obviously very flaky, everyone keeps maintaining that there is a serious and growing drugs problem in north Wales, particularly in Wrexham – the reader asked then why does the Betsi keep throwing millions at CAIS, that anti-addiction charity that boasts of its success in combatting drug addiction? CAIS is expanding and expanding, picking up more and more contracts to ‘treat’ and ‘detox’ drug users – well they’re obviously not that successful are they. CAIS have been in business for decades and the man that established it and still chairs it, dear old Dr Dafydd Alun Jones, has for donkeys years styled himself as an ‘expert’ on drug problems and in his younger day made regular appearances on TV maintaining that He Should Be Listened To. Yet if we are to believe what we are being told by the police, the probation service, the Courts, the Betsi Health Board etc, the drug problem in north Wales is completely out of control. CAIS have now expanded into mid-Wales and I understand are putting feelers out into south Wales as well, trying to pick up a few more lucrative NHS contracts no doubt. So we can expect the drug problems to get much worse in mid and south Wales now that Dafydd’s come to the rescue…

Just as Dr Dafydd Aun Jones is to be found at the root of many bizarre news stories in north Wales,  recent news reports in the Daily Post featured another old favourite in terms of bad news stories in north Wales – yes, Anglesey County Council have hit the headlines once more. It was reported that a CSSIW inspection of Anglesey’s children’s services has resulted in a truly damning report. Inspectors found that services ‘were not always delivered by a skilled, competent, suitably qualified and experienced workforce’, with a ‘particular vulnerability’ at team manager level. Although acknowledging that ‘prompt and proportionate action’ was taken in cases of potential significant harm to children on Anglesey, it was not always followed-up adequately. Partially blaming the failure on a lack of capacity and experience at operational manager or senior practitioner level, inspectors said they looked closely at the quality of outcomes for children in need of help, care, support and/or protection. Inspectors also found ‘insufficient attention to improving practice’ and the quality and timeliness of child protection enquiries to be ‘inconsistent’. Other concerns included the council’s information, advice and assistance services that were found to be ‘insufficiently developed’ with ‘too many’ cases not progressing to referral when they should have. The report noted that ‘we found that management oversight of safeguarding, access and assessment arrangements were insufficient and the pace of change in improving the provision of help, care and support and/or protection for children and families in Anglesey must be accelerated’. Of course, no-one should actually be surprised by this. Anglesey children’s services have previous. A 2011 CSSIW report noted a failure to improve, dating back ‘over many years’, with the assessment and care management of children on Anglesey to be ‘poor’. This is a council whose shenanigans have regularly featured in the media in Wales and have also made it into the London-based media and Private Eye. A number of Anglesey Councillors have gone to prison and the Council is alleged to be rife with bullying, bad practice and corruption. Why is anyone even trusting them to run a children’s service in the first place? (I seem to remember that many years ago as the horrors of the lives of children who were ‘in care’ in north Wales gradually seeped out into the media, one of the worst cases of child cruelty had occurred on Anglesey. A teenager had been fostered out to a couple who had hung up in a barn by ropes and regularly beaten him.) Anglesey children’s services have been given a year to improve. It’s a fairly safe bet that when the inspectors return next year things will be as bad as ever. No-one will have been held to account yet alone dismissed and they will carry on in the same way – they won’t actually know how to do things differently. As with the NHS, even if things are so bad that a head has to roll, that head won’t roll very far, it’ll be given another job nearby at the same level on the same salary. This happened a few years ago in Gwynedd County Council. A terrible report was produced about Gwynedd Social Services after an inspection absolutely slated the senior management. Gwynedd held out as long as they could in the wake of this report, but eventually Gwenan Carrington, the Director of Social Services, announced that she was stepping down. The region breathed a sigh of relief – but not for long. Shortly after, it was announced that Gwenan had been appointed to a senior management position in Anglesey. Some months after that, a Grade A row broke out when it was revealed that the council-run old people’s homes on Anglesey were in crisis and that some were going to be flogged off to the highest bidder. The senior manager responsible was one Gwenan Carrington. I don’t even know why Gwenan wanted to land another job after the catastrophe that she oversaw at Gwynedd – she was around retirement age with a gold-plated pension and had enjoyed a lifetime’s worth of a salary that most people in Gwynedd never manage to obtain….

And so to today. I was expecting our elected representatives to be tweeting like mad about Phil Hammond’s budget, but they’re not. They are however very excited indeed – because it’s International Women’s Day. The first twitter feed that I read was Sian Gwenllian’s, AM for Arfon. Sian had tweeted a cartoon of a group of women (dressed up in Wonderwoman outfits) of various shapes, sizes and ethnicities, with one in a wheelchair, under the words ‘forward to equality’. So much for ‘equality’ and including the ‘disabled’ Sian – you have continually refused to utter a word about the lethal local mental health services, which are damaging and killing women. There is also another local politician who has been tweeting his support for women and disabled people like there’s no tomorrow – Sian’s colleague, Hywel Williams MP (who shares an office with Sian). Hywel has been tweeting his ire at cuts in disability benefits and has been expressing concern about disabled people facing ‘isolation’. Regular readers of this blog know that like Sian, Hywel also remains completely silent about the lethal mental health services. However Hywel goes one better – he is actively friends with some of the local mental health professionals (he’s a former north Wales psychiatric social worker himself) and held one of his post-election victory parties at the house of a Hergest nurse. Prior to this however, a very interesting photo of Hywel was available on the internet – it featured Hywel along with the appalling Keith Fearns (please see blog post ‘The Arfon Community Mental Health Team’ for the background on Fearns and his colleagues), at a ‘conference’ that Fearns had organised. Readers who have followed the blog for the past few weeks will know the lengths to which Fearns went to take me to Court, to deny me healthcare and indeed to get me the sack from jobs – because I had complained about the mental health services. Fearns achieved notoriety when I began teacher training by telling a third party that he would ensure that ‘no decent person’ would have anything to do with me. Yes Hywel, your mate Fearns certainly knows all about disabled people facing isolation…

There has of course been another enthusiastic tweeter today because of International Women’s Day – Leanne Wood, ie. Sian and Hywel’s leader. Leanne retweeted a curious tweet from someone called ‘Chicago Tafia’ which had pictures of some well-known Welsh women – including Leanne – and the message ‘Happy International Women’s Day to the ballsy and fierce women of Wales…’ I find this a little perplexing. The word ‘ballsy’ is I presume a reference to testicles, not something that women possess. It is also a rather crass macho phrase and I always find it sad when women feel that they have to describe themselves, or each other, as ‘ballsy’ if they want to pay a compliment. I dunno about you Leanne but I possess ovaries, I’d be bloody horrified if I found that I had suddenly grown a pair of testicles. And I’m quite happy with my ovaries, I don’t feel the need to purloin some daft macho phrase used by butch meatheads to give me credibility. Leanne also retweeted the tweet that Sian sent out, ie. that of the ‘diverse’ Wonderwomen. Like Sian, Leanne has remained absolutely schtum concerning the women who have been exterminated by the mental health services in north Wales. But then I am a little worried about the brand of feminism that is emanating from some people in Plaid at the moment. It’s the Harriet Harman brand of feminism – Harriet is the daughter of a Harley Street doctor, a very privileged woman who has had an awful lot handed to her on a plate. Yet Harriet believes that she is oppressed – because she is female. Harriet has bags more power and privilege than most men in this country by dint of her class. Leanne and Harriet’s brand of feminism doesn’t seem to embrace fighting on behalf of women who are at the bottom of the social heap – who are being screwed over by the mental health services for example – it is about assisting other privileged women, usually their friends with careers in politics. I was interested to see a few ripe comments about the style of ‘feminism’ that is currently pervading Plaid on Jac o the North’s blog earlier today. I don’t share Jac’s political outlook – and I’m sure that he’d absolutely hate me, a leftie English immigrant – but I do follow his blog and there were some very pertinent comments made in his responses section regarding the ‘feminism’ of present day female politicians. But then Leanne has had a rather unusual understanding of gender matters for quite some time. After Theresa May announced the re-investigation into the north Wales child abuse scandal and it was stated that there was to be another police inquiry and an appeal for witnesses to come forward, Carwyn held a press conference and emphasised that this was a serious criminal investigation and if any politicians were approached by witnesses with information, they must not talk to the witnesses themselves but must refer the witnesses to the police. Leanne then put out a public appeal – for witnesses to come forward and talk to her. The inevitable furore followed and Leanne was then interviewed and said that she thought that the witnesses might like to talk to her rather than the police ‘because I’m a woman’. This was a criminal investigation into a vicious paedophile ring who had evaded prosecution for years. A lot of people who had suffered at their hands had killed themselves and some witnesses had died in suspicious circumstances. But Leanne wanted to get to the witnesses before the police did – because she was a woman. Que?? I always thought that interfering with witnesses was a serious offence. I’m sure that if I did it I would be arrested. Now if Leanne had been an utter dipstick of a first year student on a social work course with a rather simplistic idea of gender roles, her appeal for witnesses to talk to her rather than the police might be understandable. But Leanne was the leader of the opposition in Wales. She is also a former probation officer – and was actually co-chair of the National Association of Probation Officers – as well as a former lecturer in social policy at Cardiff University. Presumably then Leanne knows what a criminal investigation involves – and she will also know that the last thing that anybody should be doing whether they are female, male or intersex, is interfering with the witnesses. Especially when so many of them have been found dead. So a message to Leanne, from one women to another on International Women’s Day: that paedophile gang Leanne had tentacles throughout the UK, particularly in the mental health services, and they destroyed lives, including my own for many years. I was lucky enough to escape their associates constant attempts to frame me for serious crimes (although I’m not sure how) and unlike so many other people whom they targeted I did not actually end up dead in questionable circumstances. But I am not an idiot and I know a real progressive feminist when I see one – and it is not you. Oh and Sian also managed to tweet about her dissatisfaction that the Welsh Labour Gov’t had failed to commit to making ‘healthy relationships education’ compulsory in schools. I don’t think that anyone has much to learn about ‘healthy relationships’ from someone who has stuck her head in the sand regarding the dreadfully unhealthy relationships between mental health professionals and their patients in the way that Sian has. There was however one worthwhile International Women’s Day tweet from a north Wales politician today – Liz Saville Roberts sent out a nice photo of the Asda workers from Pwhelli. And I bet that not one of them will have had a father who’s a Harley Street doctor – but Harriet would probably just view them as the sort of women that she’d employ as cleaners…

Author: Sally Baker

I am a writer and a sociologist, originally from Somerset, but I've been based in Wales for most of my life. I had my first encounter with a mental health professional in 1984 at the age of 21. My GP described this man to my then partner - who also became a sociologist - as someone who had experienced 'considerable success'. My meeting with this psychiatrist was a disaster and we attempted to complain about his insensitivity and highly inappropriate behaviour. That was the first time we were threatened and pressurised to withdraw a complaint against a mental health professional. This man is long dead - he was a retired psychiatrist from the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, T. Gwynne Williams, who was working shifts in the student health centre at University College of North Wales (now Bangor University). We discovered years later that this 'successful man' was notorious - he had been an enthusiastic lobotomist...

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