Items filtered by date: May 2017

Thursday, 25 May 2017 09:55

Public Art and is it worth the spend?

The question will always be what does it do for a community and what is the legacy of such an installation. 

Do you think the Angel of the North has not made an impact on the North East of England?

Have the Kelpies not brought visitors to the Falkirk area which they would have typically driven past without giving the town a second thought?

Engaging an artist and commissioning an installation is more about the requirement of what is delivered, how it is promoted, symbolic meaning, and what is the actual pay back. 

The artist should also be committed to the project and its entirety promoting a legacy.  Commissioning is all about achieving a clear objective on factors such as tourism, investment and business, these all happen after the installation.

Public art should also be relevant to the cause either a depiction, or, symbolism to an event, a person, an industry or local community.  Public art for the sake of public art does not work! 

The installation spend is also relevant and how that spend is managed. Not everyone will support the project so make sure you are open to scrutiny, have engaged and consulted and most importantly as these projects are typically public funded ensured it is a collective decision.

As a commissioning Council, there are also some basic considerations. 

  • Firstly, do not overdo it and have public art on every street corner or roundabout. People see this as a spend that could have been better spent on emotive services such as education, health and employment.
  • Secondly do not focus on one artist as your go to public artist.  It is not good for other artists who are then left questioning the commissioning process and the public will have serious concerns about the spend.
  • Thirdly, do not forget the legacy has a cost associated with it so this needs to be justified by a financial return and is not just limited to an annual insurance premium.
  • Custodian on behalf of the public is the need to maintain and replace and work with the installation in years to come.  It should be maintained and kept looking good for future generations to enjoy.
  • Run events pre and post installation for the public to engage with the work.
  • Finally, appoint through a robust selection process and not delegated authority.

When you drive around the country you will see art everywhere and it is often changing based on your mood and feelings at the time, light and darkness and how others are reacting to it.  So, do not be too eager to judge, take some time to consider the symbolic meaning and also remember how your views differ from others who are more positive about the installation.  Sometimes it takes time to accept art which is thought provoking or abstract.

I would conclude public art has a place in our lives even with all the associated costs.  It is not a black and white, or, yes and no argument on whether you support public art.  People will have different views between one installation and another. Getting the commissioning process right will get more people supporting the art installation from the start.

On a personal level as I drive up the A1 me and my family look out for the beacon which is the Angel of the North welcoming you to Gateshead and Newcastle with open arms!

Published in Public Art

Someone recently asked me about Newcastle and what to do in the city.  It started me thinking of what we associate with various places, apologies for the many bars and nightclubs in the 12 but probably apt for this city.  A combination of drink associated venues, TV programmes and adverts paint a picture of the city.  So, in no particular order 12 memories associated with Newcastle;

  1. Newcastle Brown Ale, poured from the bottle never on draught.
  2. The Tyne Bridge
  3. A “Canny bag of Tudor”, for those not around in the 70’s this was “you would do anything for a bag of Tudor crisps”.
  4. Auf Wiedersehen Pet, still one of the best series on TV although not really set in the city.
  5. Terry and Bob, aka the Likely Lads.
  6. The Tuxedo nightclubs moored beneath the Tyne Bridge.
  7. The Angel of the North.
  8. The Quayside and pub crawls and the dress code – next to nothing.
  9. The Tyne Tunnel.
  10. St James’ Park
  11. When the Boat Comes In, another James Bolam series
  12. Buffalo Joes, and ending up there on most nights out. Often frequented by the Newcastle United players.

We will do some other cities soon!

Published in England
Tuesday, 23 May 2017 11:48

Top 10 things to do in Scotland.

Some recommendations for the visitor and residents of Scotland.  Make the most of the events and activities on your doorstep.

Walking

Whether a leisurely walk or a more strenuous hill walk or even tackling a Munro the scenery is spectacular and you can have days of fun filled rambling. It’s also FREE!

Visit a Castle

Whether it is Edinburgh or Stirling or a ruined rural fortress step back in history and immerse yourself in the past.

Time on the Beach

Miles and miles of perfectly sandy beaches with windswept vista perfect for a stroll whether you have a dog to walk or not.  But don’t be fooled they may look like the idyllic Caribbean shoreline but very rarely have the same weather conditions!

Whisky

A distillery tour will open your mind and taste buds to an experience that will tantalise all the senses. If you have a dedicated driver why not sample a few and take part in a tasting.  Learn and become a connoisseur.

Driving

Whether it is the Ayrshire coastline, the rolling border hills, picturesque Glencoe or the Scotland “route 66” around Caithness and Sutherland the panorama, the moody skies and the atmospheric landscapes will keep you mesmerised.

Golf

Everyone has heard of the likes of St Andrews, Turnberry, Troon and Gleneagles but Scotland is blessed with many a course that will challenge even the most accomplished golfer and those that will not break the bank for a round.

Culture

Whether it is the Edinburgh Festival and the Fringe, or just the developing café culture Scotland has something for everyone.  Watch the world go by or actively get involved there is fun, entertainment and culturally enhancing events inside and out, Edinburgh, Glasgow and beyond.

Highland Games

Time your visit right and experience the Gathering! Whether it is Braemar or not events like tossing the caber at the small highland village games is a new experience for most.  You will experience the hammer, highland dancing and running races.  You might be able to take part in some of the invitational events.

Sporting Events

Experiencing an Old Firm game or sitting in the Stand at Murrayfield watching the passionate fan support are places to tick off on that sporting bucket list. Yet there are others to consider, what about the Chris Hoy velodrome and a cycling event, a local curling meet or even a mountain biking event that has competitors hurtling down mountain and woodland tracks.   

Screen Set and Location Spotting

Over the years, several blockbusting films have been made in Scotland and whether it is an organised tour or you are on a mission to be photographed where the famous Hollywood actor stood you won’t be disappointed with the choice but remember backdrops are often studio or post production enhanced.  Films such as Highlander, Local Hero, Trainspotting, Forty Nine Steps to name a few or maybe TV Series like Outlander, Taggart and Monarch of the Glen might take your fancy.

Published in Scotland

Growing up in the 70’s rugby was played by a right bunch of misfits but in those individuals, you got players that shone across all age grades, club, district and international level and you got pure individual brilliance.  The debate will always be would the likes of Jim Renwick (Scotland), Barry John (Wales), Jean-Pierre Rive (France), Serge Blanco (France), Fran Cotton (England), etc. make it into an International side today?  The debate across generations will always be can you compare different eras but controversially I would say now size matters so much and backs have become forwards and forwards backs.

The last 20-years of women’s rugby has seen the sport develop, increase in popularity and honouring those rugby values as the game is played to physical constraints.  I remember watching the Women’s Rugby World Cup when it was held in Scotland in 1994 when England won with a pack that drove the length of the field and were physically so much bigger.  But even then, the Scotland team showed glimpses of what was to come with the likes of Kim Littlejohn and Pogo Paterson in the centre. Not physically big but athletes that had natural flare and ability with skills in abundance.

Since the early 90’s the men’s professional game, and even through the amateur ranks bulking up, hours in the gym and protein diets have become the norm.  Ball skills, speed, agility and cardiovascular fitness are all becoming secondary to bulking up.  What does this all mean in terms of injuries, recovery and sadly the exclusion of individuals as they are not the 6’5” 19 stone Centre, Wing, or Flanker.  It also does not attract the late developers who have played other sports. The men’s game needs to change for a number of reasons!

So why do I make the statement about women’s rugby? 

The clubs across the country have introduced women’s rugby teams and they are attracting youths and adults who have never picked up a rugby ball before.  In rugby, they have found that they don’t need to be a certain size they are included in to the rugby family and enjoy putting on a pair of boots at the weekend and playing with and for their team mates.  In amongst these new starters you come across some gifted individuals who have not been coached to the point of doing things in a metronomic fashion and suddenly do that something special during a match.  Not saying coaching is not important but a good coach will allow the individual brilliance to become part of their game and not try and coach it out of them!

Certain areas of the women’s game have adapted and have added to the spectacle of the game.  Not limitations but differences such as kicking to touch versus the quick tap and go.   A 50-metre touch finding kick in the men’s game replaced with a pick and go, ruck and grubber kick in the ladies’ game making the most of physical attributes and providing more time with the ball in hand.

An argument might be as the sport is relatively new it is still developing and attracting individuals but this can be countered by the argument that people develop at various stages and ages and girl’s rugby in schools is not a mainstream in physical education classes.  How many of the young boys on a weekend morning at mini rugby get to a certain age and as they perceive they do not have the right shape or size stop doing something they have enjoyed and end up in front of an Xbox or Playstation? 

I would suggest any reader make the time to go and join a club, pick up a ball and get involved.  If you are unsure spend an afternoon and go and watch a female rugby game, see the skills, camaraderie and most importantly the smiles on the faces; ENJOY!

To finish off I thought I would share some of the recent comments of the University of St Andrews Women’s Rugby Team on why they play.

I PLAY RUGBY BECAUSE…..

  • I am Stronger than I Look
  • I know my Friends have my Back On and Off the Pitch
  • It Makes me Feel Alive
  • Netball Never Did it for Me
  • I Can
  • I Like Mud
  • I’m Good at It
  • My Strength is an Advantage and Celebrated
  • Of the Ladz, Bantz and Booze
  • I am Stonger than I Ever Thought I Could Be
Published in Rugby

Got your attention? 

Looking at the NHS, it is undeniably struggling in places and things will need to change to support an aging UK population and the expectations people seem to have when it comes to medicines and medical procedures. 

Some issues are less emotive and can be improved with transforming services within the NHS namely technology and business processes, recruitment and retainment, asset management and operational costs, etc.

If we consider the salary figures;

  1. A) A Consultant in a hospital mid-grade is on £90,000,
  2. B) Senior Consultant would earn more than £100,000,
  3. C) A GP practice partner around £80,000,
  4. D) A Nurse is on an average salary of £23,000 to £25,000 per year,
  5. E) A Nurse practitioner could be earning as much as £70,000 per year based on location.

Who is underpaid?  There are a lot people working for salaries well below those of nurses and managing family commitments and daily living expenses.  So, what is the problem?  Do we want to put our life in the hands of staff that are undertrained, not incentivised, or are lacking committed to their chosen profession?

Remember the NHS was designed for a population approximately 65% of the current UK levels.

Considering the cost of an agency member of staff where the figures above could be doubled easily, where an agency nurse could be earning more than £75,000 per year based on 40-weeks!  Doctors covering out of hours playing a system to get higher rates and therefore enhanced payments and fundamentally not available to cover daily workloads.

The reality of expectations being set by what earnings are possible when the NHS has staff shortages to deal with. When the service cannot be delivered unless relief personnel on inflated wage contracts are brought in you have two people trained within the NHS, one remining as an employee on £23,000 the other who left because knowing they will be contracted back on 3 times the salary on £75,000.  Is this a fair system? Or value for money?

Shortages also result in longer hours, more work pressures and strains on service delivery.

In conclusion, the one answer is that staff levels, retention, job satisfaction and the overall expectations are somewhat broken.  This can be fixed as a long-term commitment to the NHS without breaking the bank. 

More nurses, more doctors, improved job satisfaction and ultimate retention is a big part of the solution.  Restricting agency staff contracts. Resetting public expectations for pressure points such as A&E and out of hours GP consultancy.  The journey to the solution involves a change of systems and processes, using technology, reducing paperwork and improving completion times.  This means stronger management and controls and up to date patient records.  A cost of living increase at the lower salary scales narrows the gap and releases the short-term dissatisfaction but with a programme delivery to readdress the main issues around staff shortages and agency employment.

If the plan is to reform the NHS the realisation throwing money into it for increased salaries does not fix it.  It masks the underlying issues.  Money for new employment and fast tracking students through the system would be a start but investment in continued training and enhanced terms and conditions is the answer.

Politicians need to be brave and justify this transformation as the longer the status quo continues as a broken system the ability to fix it becomes harder each year that passes.

Published in Healthcare

The following are our top 10 tips when selecting a driving instructor for you, your partner or your children.

  1. Listen to others, recommendations from successful drivers. This is always a good starting point.
  2. If looking online does their presence look professional? If it does they have invested in getting it right and this is probably representative of their approach to tuition. Also allows you to compare and contract and even book lessons online.
  3. Ask about their pass rates and approach to teaching. People learn differently and the instructor should be adaptable and amenable to your needs.
  4. Does the car look clean and well maintained? The appearance of the car demonstrates a commitment to the profession, attention to detail and the safety aspect of you learning to drive with someone.
  5. Speak to the instructor and ensure you agree what is offered will meet your expectations. Many instructors offer intensive driving courses and these suit some people and not others. To make the most of this learning style you will need a level of commitment from both you and the instructor.
  6. Read feedback on Social Media from successful drivers. People will happily post their experiences highlighting the number of minor points in their test. People are different but you want to see a broad spectrum of “passers” and their experience with the instructor.
  7. Can they fit in with your schedule, do they pick up and drop off, etc. You may want picked up from school and the lesson finishing at your house, is this possible? Do they do early morning and evening lessons to fit in with your work commitments?
  8. Do they look smart and well turned out? Just like the car appearance is important. You will be sitting beside the instructor for over 40 hours and maybe a minor point but you should expect professionalism. This does not mean a suit but well-groomed, clean and tidy.
  9. Do they offer discounts on block bookings? Leaning to drive is not cheap. The DVLA indicates an average of 45 hours of tuition which translates to around £1,000 based on current charges. Any savings that you can get block booking at the start means more money in your pocket.
  10. Do they offer add on services which focus on parking, night driving, motorway driving etc. You might not need these to pass you test but it indicates the instructor’s commitment to offering a full driving package of lessons.

If you are looking for someone who can tick all the points above and are looking for driving lessons in Kirkcaldy, Perth and Kinross then why not contact www.roadrunnerschoolofmotoring.co.uk  and discuss your requirements.

Published in Driving Lessons
Sunday, 21 May 2017 15:54

Scottish Education what is happening?

The headlines are "everything is failing within Education and it is all down to the SNP"!

Is it right? Are we trying to compare Apples with Pears?

The recent headlines are without doubt shocking and concerning but it is important to understand what it really means, some of the factors and then judge if it is damning or not.

  1. Education is devolved to the Scottish parliament so if anyone says it is a UK problem they are wrong.  Scotland has operated its own education system well before the set up of the Scottish parliament.
  2. The structure and control of Scottish schools is they are operated as part of the Local Council and are therefore constrained by Council budgets. In most cases a Council budget is predominantly made up of Education, Social Care and then the rest of the services.  Education typically would be more than 50% of the total Council spend.
  3. In 2010 Curriculum for Excellence was introduced and it was designed to provide a wider choices and ultimately a breadth of knowledge for young people so they are better prepared for adulthood.  This was assuming though a level of attainment in literacy and numeracy would still be achieved.
  4. The McCrone Agreement in 2000 was introduced by the Labour and Liberal coalition and its aim was to protect the pay and conditions of teachers covering areas such as class teaching times, pay, working hours, etc.  It also introduced a level of protection to the profession but although budget was devolved to the Councils numerous conditions were to be nationally managed such as pay, main duties of teachers, class sizes etc.  The devolved management has led to a focus on reducing the number of senior teachers as a cost saving, i.e. good teachers leaving the profession replaced by junior teachers on lower grades to realise the saving.
  5. Attainment through tutors is also a significant factor and further highlights the shortfall in delivering subjects such as English and Mathematics.  This has caused a further divide between those children of parents who can afford to employ a tutor and those that cannot.
  6. Statistics can often be used to represent both a positive and negative but for both the literacy and numeracy figures and attainment are quite clearly a deterioration.  They are also run every couple of years so they are probably masking further detail. The SNP do not disagree with the figures but would rather stress the attainment at higher levels with benefits and higher number of “A-Grade” passes but what about all those children not presented for examination?  Dropping statistical measures and replacing with a new benchmark is now being discussed which would be catastrophic if trends are to be reversed, i.e you lose the basis of the requiremnt to change. The existing statistical measures should be run in parallel for a number of years with any new.
  7. Teacher shortages are an underlying problem but it is equally important the correct individuals are attracted to the profession.  Just making up the numbers is not the solution!
  8. Without English and Mathematics, the broad subjects and teachings will eventually suffer and ultimately impact students in employment and further education.
  9. Further education available to all Scottish children will not happen without fixing the underlying problems.  Universities already have limited places and have English A-level students entering at year 2 versus Scottish students with Highers entering in first year.  Are Universities really looking for rounded individuals with a broad education attainment with multiple subjects or are they looking for high attainment in 3 or 4 traditional academic school subjects?  Financial burdens may have been reduced in comparison to those of English students but if attainments in English and Mathematics are not there then it is a bigger problem.

In addition to fully appreciate the issue, it is important to consider the following:

  1. Is the problem with Curriculum for Excellence and should this be reviewed as the underlying problem?
  2. Should education be managed fully by a central body or fully devolved to the Councils?
  3. Should the McCrone agreement be scrapped and updated terms and conditions agreed that keeps qualified, focused and dedicated teachers within the profession and removes those that have joined for a job and not as a career.
  4. Further education consulted on requirements of entry and the levels of numeracy and literacy to succeed at College and University.

Going back to the original question on whether the SNP are wholly to blame?

The answer is not fully, but blaming historical other political party decisions should not be a get out! 

What cannot be denied is that the deterioration has happened during their watch and what may be more of an issue is they have not understood and addressed some of the underlying issues and problems in their 10-years of Government. 

The questions of funding, controls, devolved versus centralised management, Curriculum for Excellence too broad an agenda, attracting the correct teachers in to post and aligning with further education are reforms that the SNP should be focusing on in governing the Country.

No small task to reverse the trend and will require policies, statute, management reform and the Government Governing!

Published in Scottish

What does the future hold?

Years ago, the demographics of the voters was clear, with traditional classes typically mirroring the political allegiances. The middle classes falling across the main parties and where the liberals would pick up a share of the votes.  The mirroring of classes therefore tended to be left wing, right wing or centre ground. Simple!

Somewhere in the late 90’s and early noughties things changed with a shift from the right to the centre and most significant was the shift from the left to centre ground.  The predictability then of polls becomes a lot less clear as the variations of swing within an election campaign is a lot less to determine the result.

In the 1970’s and early 1980’s the mantra was that what worked well was the 2 term Conservative to the 1 term Labour where the economy was the focus for eight years followed by 4 years of focus on the people.  Building the economy to a state that could then fund spending on conditions, the poor and the public services. Political views across terms remained the same and the people voted accordingly.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s the paradigm shift happened where Labour struggled to offer a cohesive opposition as people were benefiting from the boom in the economy and a change in the GDP where the country moved away from traditional and historic manufacturing to service based industries.

The solution in the late 90’s was to move to “New Labour” which fundamentally was a shift to the centre ground a decade too late but the result was an effective opposition that was electable as the commercial and economic vision was what would have been expected of a historic Conservative government.

The economic boom and bust was a worldwide phenomenon and the political landscape changed more based on the ability to react than anything to do with policy or manifesto.  The shift was somehow inevitable and the change would have happened whoever was in power because it was not just big companies that got their fingers burned but the ripple went all the way down to the man in the street.

So, what now?  The 2017 General Election is being run on the ability to be in a strong negotiating position with the EU.  People want to be better off and have the ability to live a life with options and disposable income to make life choices.  So, what do the manifestos say for the ground each party is trying to gain?

Firstly, the Labour party is trying to step back to the left with a vision fundamentally based on improving public services through nationalising railways, water, utilities, etc.

Secondly the Conservatives have made a notional step across the central ground to the left with some policies intended to target the labour voters who are concerned about the direction of labour occupying their traditional left position.

Thirdly the Liberal Democrats are caught in the middle as usual but with a mixed bag of policies that are reactionary to the other two parties.  They are also under threat from the small “other” parties like the SNP, UKIP, Greens and Plaid Cymru who have picked up voters with demographic shifts of the two main parties.

Looking to the future what can we foresee?

The Liberal Democrats need to communicate their future vision if they are not going to be surpassed by the “others” and we will then have two party politics and protest vote parties.

The political map needs to be redrawn with the occupying of the centre ground by the main parties.  To report on demographics becomes blurred and very difficult to predict in a society that votes on the personalities often.

The “others” are not going away but will not pose effective opposition in coalition.  Politics needs both effective leaders and opposition, and politicians need to remember they are voted in and voted out and it is not ALL about them!

In conclusion, the 1970’s and 80’s where the analogy of 2 terms Conservative to the 1 of Labour is probably resigned to history but the politics should not be forgotten or ignored and the balance of economy versus public services should be forefront of every parties manifesto as they all occupy that centre ground which wins voters.

So is it Good or Bad?

Neither it is evolving and only time will tell but politicians will need to change on the new playing field.

Published in British
Saturday, 20 May 2017 09:36

Home Care versus Care Home?

Home Care versus Care Home?

We are often asked what is the cheaper, Home Care or Care Home support for either elderly or disabled people. The first thing we would always stress is that you need to make sure you are comparing like for like and also what your requirements are now or longer term. Consider the following Youth Hostel or 5 Star Hotel? Both have beds, both can provide catering, both have toilets and bathing facilities but you would not say they are the same.

Similarly when deciding on care provision especially for Live-In Care you start to see some fundamental differences that start to determine what is right for you.

Do you have a pet? Many Care Homes do not allow pets so keeping your dog or cat is an obvious consideration.

Do you like flexibility of when you eat, have cups of tea or socialise with friends? Many care homes have set times for activities and you will need to fit in with the schedule.

Is it just you or is it you and a partner or other family member? Live-In care will be a lot more cost effective when it is more than one as typically one Live-In personal care assistant can cover two people for a slight premium, unlike a Care Home wher it will be two fees.

Also consider the element of companionship and if you are looking for joint social activities and group activities then maybe a Care Home can provide you this more than staying in your own home. Alternatively if you have a local group of friends and existing social activities these might have to be sacrificed based on location.

Cost is the difficult one based on requirements and obviously funding will be available for both depending on the care assessment carried out but we in most cases see the monthly fee being less with Live-In Home Care subject to complexity of care needs.

Finally the most common feedback we get is that emotional attachment to your existing house, belongings and area in which you live and people want to spend the “autumn years” of their lives surrounded by what they feel most comfortable with.

To learn more about our Live-In services please follow the link of call us on 01204 325013 to discuss your specific requirements.

ICRIT Healthcare cover the whole of the UK, why not get in touch.

Published in Adult Care

ICRIT Healthcare and Supporting Hospital Discharges

GREAT NEWS!

Your relative is ready to come home is really positive news. On further discussion the elation turns to despair on how you will be able to provide the care needed. This could be someone who already benefits from a care plan and this now needs to be increased or it might be someone who is now in need of support for the first time.

Typically as part of the discharge the care needed will be discussed in detail with all parties and the medical profession will detail what they will do which is clinical led care which may involve visits to attend to wounds, dressings, medication, etc. Personal care is where family will be expected to provide or make arrangements to supplement or compliment the medical care.

ICRIT Healthcare
Published in Adult Care
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