In which the writer begins to deconstruct an ‘ideological assault’ directed at early years settings in England, children, parents, families, people with disabilities and the NHS. With the help of a public meeting against the cuts in Northwich, Cheshire.

Felicity Dowling. National Union of Teachers. Public Meeting Northwich Cheshire West Against the Cuts. May 24th, 2011. Photograph: Frances Laing.

The phrase ideological assault may help us understand what is happening to and in our society. For understanding is half the battle. To begin, readers I’m offering two single word definitions from a rather elderly edition of the New Shorter Oxford English dictionary for your consideration: 

Ideological: A system of ideas or way of thinking pertaining to a class or individual, esp. as a basis of some economic or political theory or system, regarded as justifying actions and esp. to be maintained irrespective of events.

Assault: 2. An attack by spiritual enemies; temptation to evil.

Public Meeting Cheshire West Against the Cuts. Northwich, England, 24th. May, 2011. Speakers Felicity Dowling. National Union of Teachers and Andy Ford member of Unison union regional committee and NHS employee (speaking in an individual capacity). Photo: F.Laing

The context is not simply the public meeting against the cuts which took place in Northwich, Cheshire, last month. The context is our whole lives. The entirety of this blog, since I began writing it two years ago and certainly the chapter of the book I have just completed – fellow contributors to the book include members of Parliament and Early Years Experts across the planet. The book, soon to be published will be called: “Dissent and the English Early Years Education System”. For without dissent there is no democracy. AND I’m not just mentioning this book for a publicity plug – I’m mentioning it because every  one of the issues mentioned in this blog post – and the book – directly affect every young child in this country.

Young children need health care and until and unless that provision is made secure – the huge  proposed investments in Phonics programmes and School League Tables – which have already been called into question by international researchers and academics – should again be called into question too. Joined up thinking.

I say: the ideological assault we are facing is Orwellian in nature. War is Peace. In a response to campaigning constituents in a letter dated 20th. May (see previous post) – elected representative Conservative M.P. for Chester Stephen Moseley declared: “…there are no cuts in the National Health Service and in fact NHS funding has been increased by the coalition government”.

Watch the video featured at the end of this post and Dr. Ron Singer who clearly states: “There are going to be huge reductions in what the NHS provides…not only are we facing the biggest reorganisation in the history of the NHS (the NHS and Social Care Bill) but at the same time we are also being asked to save or create ‘efficiencies’ of twenty billion pounds over four years (about twenty per cent of the total budget and for England about twenty-five per cent of the total budget”).

War is Peace.

Thirty five people were present at the public meeting in Northwich, Cheshire – some of them NHS employees. Amongst them Felicity Dowling of the National Union of Teachers and Andy Ford, member of Unison  Trade Union Regional Committee.Felicity Dowling, who works with children in the field of Special Education Needs (SEN) described a barrage of cuts on the battle field:

Early Years Consultants privatised and cut from 17 to 12 in her area. An overall reduction in special educational needs funding, affecting play areas, toddler groups, access arrangements, cuts in basic provision such as the lack of special chairs – a three year staff pay freeze in schools – along with cuts of pay and weekend work.

Felicity stressed the importance of talking for small children – and how cuts in the ‘Every Child a Talker’ (see this link for similar cuts elsewhere) grant will impede their progess. Cuts in Sure Start provision…disability provision all gone. People not being able to pay for child care. “Who is going to pay for a specialist teacher?” she asked.Felicity also spoke in some detail about the pending National Union of Teachers ballot for strike action on the issue of pay, conditions and pensions and deconstructed some popular myths about the cuts;

MYTH ONE:  The cuts exist to save money (academies and ‘free’ school cost vast amounts and in the long run will be more expensive to maintain – the cuts Felicity said ‘are not about money they are about politics and the way the government sees the public sector’).

MYTH TWO: “We are all in this together” – (72 per cent of the cuts described by Felicity impact on women and small children).

MYTH THREE: “Nothing we can do will make a difference” – (when soldiers came back from the Second World War they wanted a better world – Felicity refers to the letters written by her own father – they had the determination to build a better world and many of their generation pushed to found the NHS – a system free at the point of need).

Felicity urged the audience: “Don’t think things will stay the same – if they get away with this  – they will come back for more – Cameron will come back for the forests too”.

Andy Ford, member of Unison Trade Union Regional Committee and speaker on the panel is an employee of the NHS national blood transfusion service and highlighted  the need for the general public to support NHS workers – if blood transfusion support workers didn’t work for three days then ‘a lot of people would die’. 

Andy stressed the proposed ‘reforms’ in the NHS were firstly, the ‘wrong reforms at the wrong time’ and secondly ‘bad for patients’. ‘Bad for patients’ because the principal of universal health care – free at the point of need – is due to be abolished with the proposed reforms. 

We are facing a ‘privatisation like never before’ even Thatcher ‘did not attack the NHS’ he said.Andy described a lack of public accountability where ‘any willing provider can provide healthcare’ – the trade union position was ‘a clear defence of social medicine rather than the market’.And the market was a huge and lucrative one – the NHS budget in Rochdale alone was 300 million.

Andy spoke about how prices and tariffs for operations are not true prices, for example for children’s heart surgery. A surgeon from the John Radcliffe hospital surgeon said to him “What am I supposed to do – turn these people away?, I can’t do it…” – there would be a tendency for privatised companies to pick easy operations. Without the NHS people with cancer would bankrupt themselves.

Andy Ford, Unison Regional Trade Union Representative addresses the public Meeting in Northwich May 24th, 2011- organised by the coalition "Cheshire West Against the Cuts". Photograph: Frances Laing.

Private finance initiatives were unsustainable – locally in Whiston debt servicing of the PFI cannot be met from the market. If the market were a true market then PFIS would be allowed to go bankrupt. The first duty of a PFI is to service and pay debts…By contrast in Scotland there is no market for services. MRSA was unknown before Thatcher and deregulation. Regular cleaners had always been present. In Wales Plaid Cymru took cleaning services back in house and this led to improved standards. 

Discussion at the meeting kicked off with a few voices saying that some people were in ignorance of the extent of the cuts – but by the end of the meeting – an impressive and detailed list emerged and the recognition that we can’t wait until 2015 and a general election to take action. 

One union delegate’s summary of cuts in West Cheshire included those made in Children’s Centres and home care facilities – together with an assault on staff terms and conditions summed up by the motto: “keep council tax down and screw the staff”.

I gave a short account of attendance at the Multiple Sclerosis Society Regional Meeting in Preston last month – and the week of action against assessors ATOS. The M.S society is currently in the forefront of the ‘Hardest Hit’ campaign which highlights how people with disabilities are being detrimentally affected by the proposed Welfare Reform Bill.

 As promised at the beginning of this blog post here is Dr. Ron Singer with the clearest account of the ideological assault I’ve heard so far: 
 
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