Diversity. Inclusivity. Non-discrimination. Easy to talk about. Hard to put into practice.

A few years ago, I was contacted by an organization that provides diversity training. Part of its mission was the following:

We seek to be an open, transparent, inclusive non-profit organisation, promoting diversity and equality.
We also firmly believe that individuals should be treated equally regardless of disability, gender, ethnic origin, religion and sexual orientation.

I met with its Chairperson, who asked me to take a look at the organization’s Articles.

I did that and found that they were (a slightly adapted version of) older standard Articles, even though the organization was set up more than half a year after the change in the standard Articles (28 April 2013).

Different in the newer version was that it no longer discriminated against mental health versus physical health. The Mental Health Discrimination Act 2013 had something to do with that.

This is the offending sub-clause in the articles up to 28 April 2013:

18. A person ceases to be a director as soon as—

(e) by reason of that person’s mental health, a court makes an order which wholly or partly prevents that person from personally exercising any powers or rights which that person would otherwise have;

Compare it with sub-clause 18d, which is not discriminatory toward mental health relative to physical health:

18. A person ceases to be a director as soon as—

(d) a registered medical practitioner who is treating that person gives a written opinion to the company stating that that person has become physically or mentally incapable of acting as a director and may remain so for more than three months;

The newer version reads:

18. A person ceases to be a director as soon as—

(e) [paragraph omitted pursuant to The Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013]

Even though the fact that the sub-clause in question (18e) was rendered invalid by the Mental Health Act because of its discriminatory nature, I felt that the organization should update its Articles.

  • It would reflect the organization’s stated values and objectives.
  • Unless the person was familiar with company law, whoever read that sub-clause might not know that it was invalid.

The organization’s Chair didn’t see the need.

 

What Theresa May and her pals are doing to me and others

In my opinion, her government is breaking the law and is encouraging and even forcing British citizens to break the law too.

Why? While Brexit is not a reality yet, the British government has ramped up its anti-foreigner campaigns and is introducing procedures that are clearly discriminatory in nature.

As an example of what I mean by “anti-anti-foreigner campaigns”, a few days ago, health minister James O’Shaugnessy very cleverly suggested that foreigners in the UK do not pay tax. As what he said was not an outright lie, merely extremely suggestive, it is hard to call him out on it. He did not respond to a tweet from me about the matter.

It is lies and suggestions like these that fan antagonistic attitudes toward foreigners in Britain.

Also, media should take responsibility for what they report. The Standard quoted O’Shaugnessy without correcting him.

The Equality Act 2010 explicitly states that it is against the law to treat any person unfairly or less favourably than someone else because of a personal characteristic.

Those personal characteristics include race and according to the Act, the term “race” includes nationality, colour and national or ethnic origins.

  • The practice currently being introduced at hospitals, in which patients with foreign-sounding names and looks perceived as foreign are treated differently – and on occasion refused treatment on the basis of the assumption that the person is not British or not permanently based in Britain – is discriminatory in nature (a violation of the Equality Act). Note that this is also affecting British people.

The existence of NI cards means that there is no reason for this discrimination. It would be  very normal, expected even, to ask everyone to present their NI cards when using NHS services.

This verification could include a copy of the latest water or council tax bill if the government wants to make sure that someone is not using an old card but does no longer live in the UK if it worries about that. It could also serve to ascertain that the medical records contain accurate information. (I have missed appointments in the past because appointment letters continued to go to an old address.)

As an EU citizen in Britain, I underwent an interview process and submitted all the documentation that was required as part of applying for an NI number. NI numbers are not automatically assigned to anyone who shows up.

Asking this from everyone who uses NHS services would not be discriminatory.

(The new banking regulations coming into effect in January may not be discriminatory in nature, but I don’t have enough details to be able to assess that. The idea seems to be that the UK government wants to be able to freeze the bank accounts of foreigners it thinks it may want to deport. The usual errors can be expected. So I advise foreigners to keep sufficient funds in foreign accounts. Better safe than sorry.)

  • Information being sent to the Home Office when it concerns patients who do not have or are perceived as possibly not having the British nationality causes problems for medical staff as well as it forces them to violate doctor-patient confidentiality.
  • Theresa May also forces and encourages exploitation and discrimination of EU citizens, because of the stance she continues to take with regard to the rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK (and the deportation threats and notifications many foreigners have been exposed to). This has also appalled many EU officials.

By refusing to guarantee the continuation of the existing rights of EU citizens (*see below), Theresa May ensures that British employers cannot afford to hire foreign nationals for critical functions or functions that require (expensive) training. As we’ve recently been able to read, it also leads to exploitation of EU citizens currently in the UK.

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Verhofstadt is currently President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (@ALDEGroup). Among other things, he has been prime minister of Belgium. He is a member of the European Parliament and is the European Parliament’s representative in the Brexit negotiations.

I find it highly deplorable that the British government continues to set such an appalling example in the area of tolerance, inclusion and equality.

Successions of British governments (including for example Blair’s) have done this with regard to large proportions of the British population as well.

Many of the British may be astonished to see that EU citizens – all coming from nations with much greater equality than Britain – loudly object to how the British government is currently not only abusing their rights but also encouraging widespread violation of their rights (thereby perhaps also stepping up for some of those Britons).

 

PS 27 October
*I have meanwhile realized that I need to explain this further for the benefit of some.

Yes, Theresa May – she of the “go home or face arrest” campaign as I was reminded of this evening, and I have also read in the past that according to her, refugees come to the UK to kill and eat British swans – keeps saying that EU citizens who are currently here legally will be able to stay. The problem is that “legally” is redefined every other week, so to speak, and that the government picks and chooses bits of legislation depending on which outcome it wants.

Until very recently, I was no longer sure if I was still seen as being here legally or not, even though some legislation says that I have had the same position as British citizens for eight years now (namely after I had been here for five years, legally). With all the people being deported or threatened with deportation, even though most of that appears to have happened in error, I haven’t known what to expect for a long time.

If the UK government saw me as an illegal immigrant, however, it wouldn’t have admitted me back into the country on my recent trip to the continent, I reckon. Since then, I have been breathing easier. The idea that you can be arrested any time and instantly dumped into an immigration detention centre with no more than the clothes and anything else you had on you at the time of arrest and without there being any time limit to that detention is not one that puts a person at ease.

After my last trip out of the country, more clarity has been given – indeed! agreed! – but it still is not fully clear what “legally” means. Theresa May deliberately forced this limbo not just on EU citizens in the UK but also on British citizens abroad, so I understand. Most of them, too, seem to be mere “chicken shit” to her.

Thank you, Theresa May, for the hate you encourage

(But not really.)

Another example of what Ms May’s reign is resulting in:
http://metro.co.uk/2017/10/21/pregnant-woman-denied-nhs-treatment-after-taking-polish-husbands-name-7016266/

I have a hospital appointment next month and I will likely cancel it and go to an optician instead, and pay for my examination. My eyes require an examination every six months, and my eye condition (pigment dispersion syndrome) makes me very angry and powerless because it really hampers what I can do with my life. It tethers me to fridges, pharmacies and hospitals. (It makes me particularly angry because I was finally free from having to have periods and I was so enjoying that freedom.)

I hate that stupid class system that only the British have and that classifies human beings into lesser and higher humans. I too will never be anything but fourth-rate in Britain. I have tick marks in so many “negative” boxes against me. I will never even be second-rate here and this is currently actively driven by the government here.

After reading what it says in that Metro article, I will definitely cancel my hospital appointment. I have had plenty of state-driven hatred and human rights violations in Britain and am sick of it. I won’t put up with any more of it. Enough is enough.

And I’ll get my eye meds some other way too. (That’ll be the modern variety that does not require refrigeration, by the way.)

Yes, of course, there are worse things than having a stupid eye condition that in itself is quite interesting/funny. But I don’t get to choose whether I have it or not.

So Theresa May wanting to subject me to discrimination on account of it is something I will not stand for. If I put up with abuse without protesting, I become a party to it and just as guilty of my own abuse.


Appointment cancelled. Strangely enough, the message I received in response was “We are grateful for this questionnaire response based on your experience of our services. All completed questionnaires are completely anonymous. Thank you for your support.” The form I used requested many personal details.


For those of you who don’t know that, we foreigners go through an interview process before we get our national insurance number and card. We need it for all sorts of things. It is also on our tax papers, for instance. (But apparently, I can cut the thing in two and throw it out now.)

New discriminatory NHS policy is bad for your health, whoever you are

File 20170928 1440 1wn352h
Imran’s Photography/Shutterstock

Jessica Potter, Queen Mary University of London

When I first qualified as a doctor more than ten years ago, it was simple – my duty was to provide the best possible care to the patient in front of me. Evidence and clinical experience were my guides. Unlike in a commercialised health system, such as the US or India, I was not torn between doing the right thing and demands from a profit-making paymaster, or concerns over whether my patient could afford the care.

Identity checks at the front door and upfront charging have changed all that. They compromise my duty to “show respect for human life” by prioritising British lives over all others, regardless of the wider implications.

According to the NHS constitution, healthcare should be “available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion, belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity or marital or civil partnership status”. It is a service that provides care “based on need, not an individual’s ability to pay”. It is these first two fundamental principles that I, along with many other NHS staff, am so proud of.

For the first time since its inception, Jeremy Hunt has said “we should all expect to be asked questions that confirm our eligibility for free healthcare”. This statement came as part of the Migrant and Visitor Cost Recovery Programme, first rolled out in 2014. It sets in place a series of policies that restrict access to healthcare for those not born in the UK. The NHS cannot be available to all, as the constitution states. A line must be drawn somewhere, and that line is the UK border.

An immigration health surcharge has been one of the least controversial measures introduced, attached to the visa application process for long-term non-European Economic Area migrants and students.

However, the second part of the cost recovery programme has been to incentivise NHS trusts to identify ineligible patients and charge them 50% more than the actual cost of their care. Critics argue that the cost of managing this scheme does not justify the 0.3% dent in the annual NHS budget attributable to health tourism. Furthermore, there have been reports of patients wrongfully billed. This would be stressful in itself, but more concerning are the reports of racial profiling that has been used to aid the identification of chargeable patients. With the introduction of charges upfront in an NHS that is already running on empty, snap decisions on who will actually be asked to provide identification are likely to be based on identifiers of difference, such as skin colour or accent.

To add to this hostile environment for migrants, in February this year the assumption of confidentiality – a sacred cornerstone of medical practice and a foundation of the trust that is so vital to the doctor-patient relationship – was placed on shaky ground with an agreement that patient details could be passed on to the Home Office. This memorandum of understanding, along with a hotline which charged the NHS 80 pence per minute (just to add insult to injury), is aimed at identifying people for deportation.

A public health risk

Despite the Department of Health’s claim that evidence is lacking, there is a significant body of knowledge that demonstrates that charging and data-sharing deter people from seeking help when they are unwell. These barriers to obtaining health – which, by the way, the UK government has signed up to protect as part of the EU convention on human rights – extend way beyond those who, in the eyes of the law, are ineligible for care. From a public health perspective, delaying diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases increases the risk of spread to the wider community. Bacteria, I assure you, pay no heed to arbitrary notions of birth rights and citizenship.

From an economic perspective, prevention is better than cure. Those deterred from accessing healthcare by these policies are the least able to pay. By the time their treatment is life-threatening, you can be sure that, had we treated them sooner, the outcome would be better and cheaper for all. It will be those who look different, sound different, or dress differently from an “average British citizen” (in the head of the person in front of them) who will be caught in the wider net of eligibility checks.

The ConversationThese policies do not protect human rights. They are not in line with my General Medical Council duties as a doctor or with NHS principles. They are not economically sound. They will not protect the health of the public. These policies feed a narrative that the NHS crisis has been caused by migrants – not the rich people who broke the banks and heralded in a period of austerity. We must look up and hold those people in power to account and look around at our fellow human beings with compassion and kindness.

Jessica Potter, MRC Doctoral Clinical Research Fellow, Queen Mary University of London

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Will future parents need a license?

I ran into a discussion on Kialo, to which I quickly contributed the first paragraph below and penned what I have added below, all within about five minutes. I later edited it a bit, to make it easier to read.

I am so pleased someone started this discussion. I promote non-discrimination of embryos and fetuses. A child is not a consumer product but a human being who must be loved and encouraged to flourish. How can you love one child but not another if the latter is non-mainstream? I’ve been thinking about that and it’s made me wonder if it actually means that the parents aren’t fit to be parents. I haven’t dared say that out loud yet, but this discussion clears the road for me.

So yes, maybe parents-to-be should require vetting.

Within a few decades, we will no longer require sex to create babies, but will make our offspring in the lab, possibly on the basis of skin cells from each of the parents. We’ll probably look after our little gestating (incubating) children as if they are rare orchids that we want to bring to bloom.

(So by that time, women will no longer have a need for abortions and they won’t have to menstruate and experience PMS any longer either.)

I can imagine very well that you will require a license in the future in order to have a child. Somehow, that feels like an automatic consequence of the possibilities we will have then.

And also, indeed, why should adoptive parents be scrutinized but are natural parents free to do whatever they want?

And after all, in that distant future, anyone who wants can probably have a child (technically speaking). Even adoption may slowly become a thing of the past, that is, if we get to the point that we no longer succumb to illnesses and accidents and maybe even can choose when our lives end.

I hasten to add that at the moment, natural parents are not always free to do as they please either, of course. For example, in countries with a great deal of inequality, the state may step in on the basis of what is no more than prejudice in practice.

Nowadays, some children suffer horribly, either because of their parents or because of someone else. Sometimes before children are removed from their parents and sometimes afterward.

In practice, perhaps it won’t be an actual license but a training program that must be completed with good results. If that training is tough and long enough, that alone will already sort committed parents from parents who aren’t ready for a child.

Would they have to get a license or go through some kind of training program every time they want to have a child? Yes, I think so. Insights change.

It’s even possible that parenting will eventually become a profession.

PS
Unfortunately, Kialo may not work very well with Linux. I was able to post my contribution, but seem unable to comment on other people’s contributions. Maybe it’s part of the learning curve, but I did see the intro video and the comment option mentioned in it simply does not seem to exist for me.