Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Finding a nursing home

Mum had a fall a few months back and managed to break her hip which was replaced surprisingly quickly but unfortunately even after a couple of months worth of rehabilitation, her mobility is still way down from what it was and stairs aren’t a runner for her. That’s something of a problem as she’d have to be able to deal with the stairs to come home and so we’ve been looking for some kind of nursing home.

At the discharge meeting the consensus was that it would need to be a nursing home rather than a residential one so off we went round looking at places on that basis. All of that time was wasted as a) she’d not been formally assessed (and didn’t need “nursing” as it turned out) and b) every place we went to had a waiting list (20 years, yes TWENTY YEARS, in one case!!).

As far as rehabilitation goes, you get up to six weeks before they start looking for money and then you’ve 48 hours to move before you start writing cheques. That being the case, you’d think that they’d do the assessment a week or two in advance of discharge but in our case it was done the day before she notionally had to leave. Anyway, that kicked off another round of running around looking at residential homes. Except that they too had waiting lists and it was only a few days later that we were given a short list of ones that didn’t have lists. A list with three places on it, two of which were miles away and the third of which had a waiting list. So we asked again and were given another name which had a place. Except that it didn’t as it was away by the time we got there, just a couple of hours after getting the name of it.

We asked the doctor and he had a name of a place that seemed perfect. Snag was that it turned out not to be a runner financially. What they didn’t tell us was that they’d pay £426 and we’d have to pay anything above that. You might think that the person going in could pay it but they can’t as it has to be a “3rd party” (ie usually the sons/daughters). It’s also worth bearing in mind that this “top-up” can go up quite dramatically over the years eg one place we know of went from £10 a week to getting on for £100 a week over the course of 10 years (bear in mind that people usually stay 10-15 years).

Anyway, we’re back to the place that said they had a waiting list but had two empty rooms. Quite why those rooms were available us and not offered to those on the waiting list first is a mystery, but then so much of nursing home lore is a mystery. The remaining issue with it is that it’s basically an unfurnished flat so we need to source some furniture.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

The hot potatoe that’s care for the elderly

Mum had a fall a few months ago and managed to land that little bit too heavily and consequently broke her hip. That in turn led to a new hip so the fall actually helped her in that she now has the new hip that she needed but would otherwise have needed to wait a couple of years to get. That then led to was an extended stay in what’s called an intermediate care home which is basically an annexe to the hospital in all but name and she’d been there almost six weeks now.

That “almost six weeks” means that last week I was called to what’s essentially a discharge meeting where all the social work people along with a representative from the care home to discuss what her situation was now and what should happen next. It’s almost six weeks because six weeks is the maximum amount of time that the local trust will pay for recuperative care and after that, well, that’s a good question as it turns out.

It was very clear from what was said about her current condition that our house just isn’t suitable for her and neither would we be able to offer the level of care that seems to be necessary, even were we to accept what would be a very high degree of care on offer from the trust. Actually, the level of care on offer was something that we’d had offered before and when we thought through the consequences, it just wasn’t going to be viable. Moreover, now they’re saying that it’s pretty much round the clock care that she needs which isn’t on offer and wouldn’t really be practical for us even if it were.

Anyway, that in turn meant that we we felt that a nursing home was the way to go. But is it a “nursing home” or a ” residential home” that she needs? That’s a good question and one that I couldn’t answer. Neither could the people at the meeting, at least not in a definitive way. Would it be permanent or temporary? Another good question although in that old people always get older I’d say that permanent would be a good guess.

A rather interesting question is who pays for it all. As far as the social worker group were concerned it was around £540 from them (in itself consisting of all but £22 of Mum’s pension and allowances) and the top-up of (for that home) of £70 from me. That was if the money was available in the budget which, of course, it may not be. A chat with Age Concern (OK, AgeUK, but really, who calls them that?) it was quite a different story. For one thing they appear to have to find the money from the budget and I don’t have to pay a top-up either as only someone “willing and able” to pay would have to pay (she can’t pay herself as it needs to be a 3rd party).

Until we found all that out we were running around everywhere trying to find a home that we could afford (of which there were none) and that had spaces (also none). Who knows what’ll happen on Monday when the six weeks are up though as I’ve not been able to get in touch with any of the social worker team.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Alternative vote, or not?

Northern Ireland has had a variant of the Alternative Voting scheme for many years and in the vote today one of the biggest downsides of it is very plain to see.

In place of what was once a relatively short voting paper were two around two feet long with around 20 candidates on each. Even reading down the list takes a while and with two elections and the ballot for the AV system today, the queues are somewhat longer than usual. Is that a fairer system? Well, it would be, if people paid as much attention to their vote as politicians always seem to think that they do. In reality, people just don’t do that and thus the system probably ends up producing a result that’s less representative of “the people” than what went before. Picking one person that you’d quite like to represent you is much easier than choosing two or three amongst a much longer list of people.

Having said that, it’s more likely that people will add a name or two as a protest which they couldn’t do if there was only one person that they could vote for. Thus in response to the widespread dislike of the mass immigration that we’ve experienced one could expect that the BNP will pick up some protest votes.

Although it can take longer (a lot longer) to produce a final result from AV, that’s something that only happens every four or five years so is probably the weakest argument on the anti-AV campaign.

Is it worth having to give the potential for a protest vote? Maybe, but for me the biggest downside is that it makes it a good deal more difficult to use your vote effectively and that more than cancels out any advantage of protest vote potential.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Just how much is the euro overvalued?

For the most part, the relative valuation of currencies isn’t something that affects day to day life for most people.

After all, outside holidays, how often do you directly buy something from overseas? Even with Internet sales sites as numerous as they are, in reality most people buy from their closest outlet for the simple reason that to do otherwise would add to the shipping costs. Even when that’s not so much the case it needs a major price disparity to make it worthwhile shipping internationally for most products.

However, that all changes when it’s a major transaction such as a house. Which is why we find ourselves wonder just what’s going to happen to the sterling/euro rate over the next six months or so.

Frankly, most ways of predicting the future direction of exchange rates are little more than gambling. However, looking at it historically the rate has been between 1.50€ to about 1.05€ over the last five years and around 1.10€ to 1.25€ over the last year. Perhaps more importantly though is that the Euro is clearly overvalued a lot. For example, the Big Mac Index puts the over-valuation at 30% (ie the 1.50€ from getting on for five year ago is the right one); the problem is that it can take a long time before a currency reaches its correct exchange rate, however one might define that.

So what’s a person to do?

In practice most people do nothing which leaves them wide-open to what can be massive exchange rate differences. For example, that 15% change over the last year might not sound like much but translate that into a house price of, say, 200,000€ and you could be looking at a change of around 30,000€ which isn’t small change obviously.

Second choice is to translate the prices into your own currency at the current rate and build that into the sale contract. A reasonable option for you, if you can convince the other party into running with it. Chances are that in reality this is going to be a non-runner.

Finally, there’s the option of using one of the currency exchange places and fixing the exchange rate in advance. There are a whole lot of options with this route but the principle differences are between committing yourself to buy/sell at the rate quoted and getting an option to buy/sell at that rate. It’s much, much better to run with the option as, of course, the exchange rate could move in your favour. With an option, you can change your mind and exchange at the better rate.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

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Conflicts between laws and morality in the Christian B&B owners case

Christian beliefs and the law came into conflict back in 2008 when an openly gay couple turned up to stay at a B&B in Cornwall and were turned away because they were gay and the owners did not believe in unmarried couples sharing a bed. To complicate it a little more the couple were in a registered partnership which, supposedly, is equivalent to marriage however that aside the beliefs of the owners wouldn’t have counted that as a marriage anyway.

They lost their case today but have leave to appeal essentially because there’s quite a conflict between the gay couple’s right to stay and the owners right to their religious beliefs. This is merely the first round. In one corner we have the Equality Commission and in the other, the Christian movement around the world.

The problem in this case is that both the couple and the owners are “right”.

The couple are right legally in that it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and morally right as it seems wrong and intrusive to be enquiring about one’s sexual orientation. Do they ask the marital status of everyone checking in? After all, many heterosexual couples who’ve been living together for a long time would come across as being married so it wouldn’t be as simple as picking out a gay couple as opposed to two male friends who were travelling around together.

The owners are right both legally and morally too though. After all, article 9 of the human rights convention is very clear about one’s right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
  2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Morally they seem to be right too in that clearly a gay couple in a bed was a major conflict with their own beliefs.

Given that they’re both right it would have obviously been better if the conflict between them hadn’t arisen. There are a great number of gay friendly establishments for the couple to have stayed with and likewise there are a large number of married couples to have stayed at the B&B. What needed to be cleared was that the establishment was a Christian owned one (there’s nothing on their website to indicate that) although I suspect that they could do little more than that: a “no unmarried couples” policy would probably be illegal.

This is one case that we’ll likely hear a lot more of in the years to come as it trundles along to the highest courts.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.