Hinterland - 09 October 2018

In Hinterland this week – challenges for vulnerable groups: carers, young people with poor mental health, “County Line” victims. Some optimism on the people front linked to the innovation of group GP appointments. Controversy over fracking and the soothing balm of the summer festival with Glastonbury selling out in 30 minutes! Read on.....

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UK carers face fraud prosecutions and fines due to overpaid benefit

Many rural dwellers are drawn into care because: of a lack of alternatives and the high incidence of elderly couples. They save the public purse millions in terms of acute service pressures. In the light of this, the revelations in this article seem punitive. It tells us:

More than a thousand carers face being prosecuted for fraud as the government attempts to claw back overpayments to people who have been looking after sick and elderly relatives from the poorest communities, the Guardian has been told.

Another 10,000 carers could face fines, as the Department of Work and Pensions prepares to recover money mistakenly paid out over several years.

But campaigners say the ‘get tough’ policy could unfairly penalise people who are already struggling to make ends meet, and claim the government has to share the blame for the overpayments.

The DWP has had access to records from the taxman that allow it to check carers’ eligibility for the benefit, but continued to pay the sums anyway.

The department’s own figures show that £700m in carer’s allowance may have been overpaid over the past five years; however, the estimate is based on analysis of fraud and error rates undertaken more than 20 years ago.

Following investigations into the overpayments, the DWP is understood to be seeking hundreds of criminal prosecutions, while others face fines through civil ‘compliance action’.


'County lines' heroin dealer jailed under child trafficking law

This is scary stuff and shows one of the least attractive connectivities between rural and urban places it tells us:

A drug dealer who used three children from Birmingham to sell crack cocaine and heroin to addicts in a Lincolnshire town has been jailed for 14 years after admitting charges of modern slavery.

In what the prosecutors described as a landmark case, Zakaria Mohammed admitted using two boys aged 15 and a 14-year-old girl to deal on his behalf from a flat in Lincoln that was also occupied by two heroin users.

Mohammed, 21, transported the children, drugs and money between Birmingham and Lincoln. He operated the line remotely; taking calls and then telling the children when and where to make sales.

Police said he made profits of £500 a day. Yet his young dealers benefited little from the ring. In a “filthy, cold” flat identified by the investigation, three “drawn, tired and hungry” youngsters were found living alongside two hard drug users “surrounded by used syringes”.

 “They were not wearing new trainers or designer clothes … they didn’t have new phones or gadgets,” said DI Tom Hadley, the senior investigating officer in the case. “They were not making money – they were having their childhood stolen from them by Mohammed who considered them expendable workhorses.

“That’s the reality for children lured into this world through false promises.”

West Midlands police began a joint investigation with colleagues from Lincolnshire police after a raid on a flat in Lincoln on 25 January turned up two 15-year-old boys who had been reported missing from their homes in Birmingham.


The frackers are back: but will there ever be a British shale gas boom?

Well the people behind fracking in the UK are nothing if not persistent. This story tells us:

Fracking is due to return to the UK this week, as the shale gas company Cuadrilla prepares to start operations at a well in Lancashire – provided it can see off a last-minute legal challenge.

It will be the first horizontal shale well to be fracked in the UK. The drills have penetrated two kilometres deep and later this week Cuadrilla will pump in water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to fracture the rock and release the gas.

It will be the first time since 2011 that fracking has taken place in the UK. This is not a commercial well, and the gas will be flared rather than captured. But could it mark the start of a new fossil fuel boom in the UK?

Cuadrilla is at the forefront of the exploration drive, with several locations in Lancashire. It was the first company to win a government fracking permit under the UK’s new regulatory regime, for a well at its Preston New Road site, in a farmer’s field between Blackpool and Preston. It has the green light for a second well there too. The firm is also awaiting a government decision on its appeal over another Lancashire site that was turned down on traffic grounds.

Based on an industrial estate outside Preston, Cuadrilla is backed by British private equity group Riverstone, Australian firm AJ Lucas and a subsidiary of British Gas’s parent company, Centrica.

Ineos, a privately owned petrochemicals giant with deep pockets, is the biggest company in UK fracking but is further behind Cuadrilla due to planning battles. Run by Jim Ratcliffe, the country’s richest person, the London-headquartered firm is focused on three prospective shale gas sites in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, though it holds licences for other areas too.

Then there is iGas, which is developing four sites across Cheshire and Nottinghamshire, some of which Ineos also holds a stake in. Lastly, there is Barclays-backed Third Energy, which has suffered delays and financial setbacks in North Yorkshire, and Aberdeen-based Aurora Resources, which is seeking to drill and frack not far from Cuadrilla’s main site.

So far, Cuadrilla is the only company to have applied for and received permission for fracking.

Is it commercially viable?

Industry figures think anything resembling commercial production is several years off. Ken Cronin, chief executive of industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas (Ukoog), said: “I’ve said I’d like to see first commercial production site by 2020. I think that is still possible.” That would be incredibly fast for a sector that has been promising to deliver for years, but has been beset by delays. Cuadrilla’s former chairman, Lord Browne, has previously said it would take up to five years and 20-40 wells to ascertain if the UK has a viable shale industry.


Tens of thousands of children in England rejected for mental health treatment

Bearing in mind the high incidence of mental health challenges in rural England this is depressing reading – its suggests yet another facet of rural service deprivation in England facing young people. The story tells us:

More children than ever are seeking specialist mental health treatment in England but tens of thousands are being turned away despite evidence of self-harm or abuse, according to a report.

An investigation by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that referrals to children’s mental health services in England had increased by 26% over the last five years – but nearly one in four were rejected, meaning that at least 55,000 children were not accepted for treatment in 2017-18.

Most were rejected because their condition was not regarded as serious enough to meet eligibility criteria – including young people who had experienced abuse or showed evidence of self-harm.

 “This report shows a significant increase in demand for children’s mental health services over the last five years, even as many local authorities are having to cut back on the services they are providing. This is very worrying and could lead to increased access problems,” said David Laws, the former Liberal Democrat minister who now chairs the EPI.

The EPI collected the data through a series of freedom of information requests to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and local authorities. Responses were received from 54 out of 60 services and 111 of 152 local authorities.


Some patients benefit from group appointments, GPs say

I think this is a fabulous innovative idea – particularly pertinent to rural settings where people may be distant from support and connections with other people who understand their challenges. Whilst I am sure its not for everyone this story tells us:

GP surgeries in England that offer shared appointments for groups of patients with similar conditions have had very positive feedback, family doctors say.

Some patients said they had benefited from group appointments after receiving support from other participants, according to the head of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP).

Doctors are said to find the sessions effective in dealing with a variety of health issues, such as diabetes, arthritis and obesity, because they do not have to repeat the same advice individually.

Group appointments with up to 15 people with the same condition have been trialled at surgeries in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Berkshire, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the RCGP, said: “We are already aware of practices that are offering ‘shared’ appointments for patients with similar conditions and the feedback has been very positive.

“Some patients have even said they have benefited from the support they receive from their fellow patients, in addition to the care they receive from their GP.

“However, this approach will not work for everyone and GPs will know what best suits their patients and practices – and there is no pressure on patients to participate if they would prefer to continue seeing their GP in a one-to-one consultation.”

The Patients Association said group consultations could help some people by providing an opportunity to discuss their conditions with others in the same situation.


And Finally….

Glastonbury 2019 tickets sell out in half an hour

Tickets for next year's Glastonbury Festival sold out in just over half an hour. Organiser Emily Eavis tweeted to say a record number of people tried to buy tickets when general admission sales began at 09:00 BST on Sunday.

Posting on Twitter at 09:36, Ms Eavis confirmed the festival had sold out, and she was "blown away" by the demand. 

About 200,000 people are due to attend the festival at Worthy Farm, Somerset, in June.

The line-up for the event has not yet been announced, but Sir Paul McCartney is rumoured be one of the possible headline acts.

People paid £248 plus a booking fee for a standard ticket at the event, which is described as the largest "green-field music and performing arts festival" in the world.

Glastonbury did not host a festival in 2018, with organisers deeming it a "fallow year".

These are held intermittently "in order to give the farm, the village and the festival team" time off.


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.



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