FAO Anti-Slavery Tsar!

My recent post ‘Everywoman?’ detailed the background and ambitions of Stephen Chapman, the ‘Anti-Slavery Tsar’, whom the Welsh Gov’t appointed in 2012. Not only does Stephen seem to be completely unaware of examples of forced labour in Wales that I and others knew of, but Stephen reeled off a long list of bodies that he was working with and ‘co-ordinating’ in order to tackle slavery in an interview with the Guardian. All the bodies that Stephen listed had colluded with the North Wales Paedophile Ring as well as the neglect and abuse of people with learning disabilities and mental health problems. The high profile prosecutions involving modern slavery that have taken place in Wales to date have involved ‘service users’ being held captive, terrorised and forced to work for nothing.

Well Mr Chapman had better get his arse up to north Wales, because the NHS – one of the organisations that Stephen ‘works with’ – is participating in modern slavery.

Daily Post Online have reported a huge row over the ‘work placement scheme’ that the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is running with the local job centres and Careers Wales. It involves unemployed people working for six weeks WITH NO PAY WHATEVER as porters, cleaners and trainee administrators. The upside to this? They are ‘guaranteed an interview’ for ‘vacant posts’ with the Betsi. The scheme is for ‘disadvantaged people’. Mandy Hughes, the ‘modernisation manager’ at the Betsi has been wheeled out to the press to defend this scam – but that makes sense, under neoliberalism one does all one can to con people into working for no pay. It is usually tarted up as ‘self-employment’ or ‘zero hours contracts’, but the Betsi haven’t even bothered to do that.

It sounds rather like using service users as free labour to me.

Lest anyone be duped into thinking that the Betsi might be providing ‘opportunities’, I’ll remind readers of a few things.

The Betsi has been repeatedly named as having a culture of serious bullying and harassment in the workplace. It is currently in special measures after serious abuse of patients on an EMI ward, Tawel Fan, was revealed. Patients were found crawling around naked in their own faeces and urine, one patient had an untreated broken arm and staff swore at patients and discussed their sex lives. No-one was disciplined – except for the nurse who blew the whistle. She was suspended, arrested, received death threats and now works elsewhere. The staff who abused the patients refused to co-operate with an inquiry into the abuse. The Betsi has the highest rate of unfilled vacancies of any health board in Wales – it is a completely toxic brand and Top Doctors and Angels just won’t work there. The Betsi have been relying on the recruitment of staff from outside the UK, but they leave after a matter of weeks or months when they witness what goes on in that organisation.

Are the Betsi giving unemployed people – or indeed anyone else – six weeks work experience as nurses, doctors, managers, technicians or any other skilled or professional role which could possibly lead to a paid job? No, they are offering unpaid work as cleaners, porters or admin assistants. North Wales has a very great shortage of professional well-paid jobs, but there are loads of jobs going in cleaning or as admin assistants. The job seekers could find such work anywhere and get paid for it. Unless of course they are ‘service users’ – probably the Betsi’s own patients, who have been so scandalously neglected that their problems have lasted years and they have lost all hope of landing professional work.

The Betsi is notoriously effectively bankrupt and in receipt of millions in bail-outs from the Welsh Gov’t. It is not the wages of the cleaners, porters and admin assistants that have tipped the Betsi over the edge – they are paid a pittance anyway. Rather it is the haemorrhaging of money as a result of the gross mismanagement and corruption that is causing the problem – this blog has published many examples of managers at the Betsi running business scams with their mates, of ‘contracts’ being given to highly questionable ‘consultants’ and ‘providers’ who have connections to senior people in the Betsi.

This Board is an absolute disgrace. The Chair, Dr Peter Higson, is the former manager of the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, whose staff were abusing patients and concealing a paedophile ring. The Director of Workforce – who will have something to do with this exploitative scam – is the infamous bullying oaf Martin Jones, who led the North West Wales NHS Trust to disaster when he was CEO there. Grace Lewis-Parry, another Board member, is a former Angel who screwed up completely when she headed the Gwynedd Local Health Board. Gary Doherty the CEO is a just a prize wally. Martin and Grace earn getting on for £150k pa each. Gary will earn more. Higson gets a hefty whack, although he’s past retirement age and has a gold-plated pension as well from his glorious career ignoring abuse and criminal activity in the mental health services.

The Plaid AM Llyr Gruffydd has spoken to the media and condemned the scheme, as has a rep from UNISON, Andy Rutherford.

Everybody has ignored the Betsi’s abuse of patients, intimidation of whistleblowers and sky high death rates for years. Surely now that they’ve moved into the modern slavery business someone is going to investigate?

Any enterprising person fancy securing a Betsi ‘placement’, filming undercover and blowing the whistle AGAIN as well as taking a slavery test case against these bastards?

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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