Monday, 2 March 2009

Anne Begg's Week

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Week beginning 23rd February – A Sad Week.

Before I left Aberdeen on Monday I had to do a lot of interviews about my claim that the Council were intending to force adults with a learning disability from their supported accommodation and into an Old Folks Home once they reach 65 in order to save money. I was finding it difficult to believe they were really planning to do this even although it is the clear interpretation of the documents I had seen. It was certainly what the relatives thought too. I genuinely believed that by the end of the day the Council would have rebutted my claim saying it wasn't true. No such luck. All we got was Liberal Democrat Councillor, Gordon Leslie, the social care spokesperson for the Council, admitting that they were going to do what I had alleged. And to make matters worse, he didn't seem to think there was anything wrong with it.

It is now the end of the week and the Council still haven't issued a formal statement, except for one about day care when I what I had raised was residential care. Surely they know the difference, don't they?

Anyway, I arrived in Westminster on Monday just in time to attend the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party addressed by Gordon Brown. He was incredibly passionate and got a very warm reception.

On Tuesday, my Select Committee finalised our latest Report into Contract Commissioning and the Flexible New

Deal. It will be published next week but I can't say what its conclusions are otherwise I would be breaking Parliamentary rules and could be disciplined and thrown off the Committee.

Wednesday saw me and the other members of the Speaker’s Conference begin the task of interviewing people who might act as Advisers. Final interviews will be held next week and then we have to make a decision.

Later on that day, and for the first time in my life, I was interviewed for Pink Times on the work of the Speaker's Conference. Being Vice-chair of the Conference seems to be getting me into some unusual places.

At lunch I shared a table with Joan Bakewell, at an event held by the Employers Forum on Age. Joan is one of my icons and is looking remarkable for her age. Now she is in her mid 70's she has been appointed by government to speak for older people.

It may be well past 'Burns season', but Mr Speaker hosted his annual Burns Supper on Wednesday evening. And, yes, he does play the bagpipes!

Thursday afternoon was spent in Westminster Hall participating in a debate on the Work and Pensions Select Committee report on carers. Carers need respite, but that is being taken away from many in Aberdeen because the council is cutting the services that disabled people get. This will have a huge impact on carers who don't get a rest or a break to do the normal things in life.

Nevertheless, this week was clearly dominated by the tragic death of David Cameron's 6 year old son, Ivan. So instead of Prime Minister's questions we had very emotional statements from both the Prime Minister and William Hague. There were a lot of tears in people's eyes, including mine. Some things transcend Party politics.

I'm sure that I'm not the only person disturbed by the notion of the council taking vulnerable people away from specialist care in order to save money. It seems that no matter how low the council stoops, it can always get just a little bit worse.

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