AB at 5 Live

When Debs met Andy Burnham at Radio 5 Live

Last week, I was invited by Radio 5 Live to be part of their “Your Call” hour.  This time it was to be part of a panel of “the public” interviewing Andy Burnham before the big day tomorrow.

This was a much more formal set up than the last time I was on the show.  The last broadcast was from a Kent school, in their library, sat on very comfortable sofas.  This time, we were at their studio in London and sat on a very hard chair with a camera next to my head and bless them, they thought I needed a boom microphone over my head to be heard.

Now, before I talk about the show, I have to confess here that growing up on Merseyside, as a Liverpool FC fan, I have a lot of time for Andy Burnham.  I remember watching him as he stood at a Hillsborough memorial in Anfield being booed by the families.  He stood there and then promised he would do everything he could to help the families get Justice for the 96.  I respect him (despite his football allegiance) for not just talking the talk and actively helping the families.  As we know, the new inquest into Hillsborough is currently taking place in Warrington and more than a few shocking truths have come out.  So I was really pleased to be able to say thank you to him personally when we met last week.

AB at 5 Live
However, as a mum of three children with a variety of SEND, I had a job to do at Radio 5 Live.  I needed to know if this man and his party would support our children’s rights with the same passion as he showed for the Hillsborough families.  I walked in with mixed views about Labour.  It was the Labour party who introduced the ATOS disaster that impacted negatively on so many families but they also introduced Aiming High for Disabled Children which had a positive impact.

It was an interesting mix of people, a real spread of ages, party preferences and backgrounds.  There were some great questions asked around social care, the NHS and CAMHS – the audience had some very passionate ladies.  One lady was a trainee social worker who had actually grown up in care and she was just inspirational.  I spent time with her before the interview and walked away thinking “we need more people like you in the world”.  I have transcribed the questions and answers that I believe are relevant to the families reading this blog.  You can listen to the whole interview online (link above) but I think it disappears after a short time.


Young people are often allocated a certain number of hours with CAMHS but how will you protect those who have used the hours but still need support? 
One of the shocking things we have seen under this Government is the collapse of CAMHS – we now have the most vulnerable kids being shunted up and down the motorway in search of a crisis bed.  There is a mum in Hull campaigning to have her daughter brought home from Sheffield – Get Maisie home – how can that be right?  How can we have a system where we are cutting these services first?
I was talking more specifically about Looked After Children, children in care – when they transition from CAMHS to adults mental health services but there is an 18 month waiting list?
We need to look at transition and make sure it is not a cliff edge. where people fall off and end up in a system that does not respond to their needs.  Children, not just those in care, but those with severe disabilities are living longer so we need to look at the transition stage.
We have to ask though “How much longer can we run a society where Mental Health is the poor relation of the NHS?”  CAMHS is the poor relation of the poor relation, it receives 6% of the Mental Health budget.  These are the most vulnerable kids we are talking about and if they got the support when they needed it could fulfil their potential in the same way as anyone else.

Youth Services, Social Care and Spending Cuts

You have talked about protecting certain budgets.  However, Youth Services have been cut all over the place and that directly affects jobs and young people’s wellbeing and welfare.  Why is that funding not protected?
I take your point and this is the difference really in this election,
Tory have said they will do everything with deeper spending cuts, so they have legislated to say they won’t raise taxes, they will make sure everything comes from spending cuts.  That will put vulnerable people and young people at real risk.
With huge cuts to local government and to other departments, youth services will be decimated and social services will be decimated under the Conservative spending plans.  So Labour propose some spending cuts, some changes to tax and by a growing economy where people are protected at the bottom  so people have tax credits so they are supported to contribute to the economy.
Interviewing Andy BurnhamYou say you will be increasing doctors, nurses and yet we don’t have a real plan as you say you will repeal the Care Act which is all about assessments.  How will you do that when we don’t have enough people to do the job now?
By a Mansion tax.  We are not going to pay for the NHS with more borrowing, or clobbering everyone with a new tax rise, we are also not going to fund the NHS by cutting social care.  The Conservatives have raided social services in this government.  This has led to an A&E crisis because record numbers of old people are trapped in hospital beds because we are not supporting them in their own homes.  NHS currently spend a small fortune on agency staff because there is a lack of nurses coming through the system.
Mansion tax will be paid on what the property is valued at and not what it sells for.  It will be based on the market valuation.
Simon Stephens, the Chief Executive of NHS England has said the NHS will need £8bn a year over the next 5 years to keep going.  Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have said they will do this, will you?
We will do what has to be done but just to clarify, the £8bn relates to 2020 and that’s too long – we’re in crisis now and need to do something now.  The mansions tax will put more money into the NHS this year and next year.  The Conservatives are not answering what they will do right now.
Why do you not consider social care to be the answer to some of the problems  in the NHS?  It’s always seen as something separate.  We’ve talked about integration, everybody talks about the integration agenda, why don’t you actually do it?
You are absolutely right, I think the time has come for one service for the whole person, to cover their physical, mental and crucially their social needs.  Social care is prevention.   Social care is a little bit of help with living your life.  At the moment, we are failing to give people that support and instead paying thousands to keep them in hospital so financially, this system is not sustainable.  I believe we need a National Health and Care Service.

Disabled Children and Accountability

When Labour were last in Government, Ed Ball helped to introduce Aiming High for Disabled Children.  You used words such as “aspiration” and “inclusion”.  As a mum of three children with SEN, this was a positive thing.  How would you build on that if you were successful next week?

It’s the same principle as we discussed for older people – where you invest in prevention, this  must apply for children, if not more so.  For the kids with the biggest challenges in life, you pile on that support in the early years and you don’t leave parents of children with disabilities battling for everything and telling their story again to everyone they meet.
How do you then propose to look at accountability within LA and other departments where legislation isn’t always complied with, or interpreted differently.  Currently, it is often the families who have to hold their LA to account because no one else does.
Rights, I want to give you rights in the NHS constitution – the right to one person, a key worker (one person for all your health care and needs), a personalised care plan that is for you and your family that works for you, the right to care where you want it.  I believe the public NHS but we need it to be responsive and personalised to people.
That’s how I would do what you are asking for?
How do you propose to do that?
Through the NHS constitution and legal rights.


get-rid-of-the-boxIt was reassuring to hear Andy speak of campaigns such as Get Maisie Home and about giving us rights in the NHS constitution and a key worker role.  However, I think he (like every other MP I have met) hasn’t realised that the real issue is accountability.  This is the issue for families.  This is what we need to be addressed.

Mark Neary wrote a great blog yesterday for the #LBBill #107days campaign about how he is fed up of hearing about the “need for culture change” and he is right.  I hold my hand up and say I have talked about the culture change but it shouldn’t be about the culture change.  If the law says you have to do something, then it should be done.  If the law says you can’t do something, then you don’t.  It’s that simple.  If you don’t do what the law says, then there should be a real, appropriate and more than adequate penalty.  The penalty should be something that makes people stop and think twice before tweaking legislation to meet their budget or agenda.

We have so much legislation in place but things still go wrong and people die.  As LB’s mum would say “yes, they die”

All the key workers and rights won’t help us until someone is holding the LA, NHS and other departments truly accountable.  Not a token slap on the wrist, not a “now don’t do it again, you naughty person” but a real penalty.

When Winterbourne View happened, people actually turned off their TV sets because the scenes were so harrowing, that should have been the turning point.  The point where someone in a position to do so said “enough” and did something about it.  And when I say “did something about it”, I mean real things.  Not wasting tonnes of funding on “reviews” , pretty little Boards and tokenistic consultations.  I mean get it stopped.  I mean have those who break the law held accountable, not given further funding to help them not do it again, the poor little things!

If legislation and rights were enough, we would not have Justice for LB, Get Maisie Home, Justice for Nico, Iam Thomas or any of the many other campaigns.  If legislation and rights were enough, I wouldn’t look at Facebook every day and read story after story of a family in crisis or yet another family battling their LA.  Families wouldn’t be paying out for private assessment, LA’s wouldn’t be complying with budget legislation ahead of disability legislation and I wouldn’t hear of yet another family who has lost their child due to the failings of the system.  Crucially, if legislation and rights were enough, I would have time to be mum and not just carer of…

So, Andy, giving us rights in the NHS Constitution is a lovely idea but without true accountability, it’s not enough.  When you were talking, it was obvious that you have heard of the issues we face and that you want to help.  You have evidence that you will walk the walk rather than talk the talk.  So do that for us, sort out accountability and make it real.

Your party have my vote tomorrow (there you go, everyone, I have said it – I will be voting Labour), but Andy, please don’t let it be a vote that I end up regretting.






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