Wow! A think tank making sense?

I must have read the article wrong. In the Guardian today, a think tank report published by the Centre for Policy Studies is recommending that there should be a single agency responsible for dealing with all benefit claims, and that one application should be enough to cover them all.

Have I read it right? It seems to make sense to me, although it’s another case of the government, or their QUANGOs, or whoever these people are, saying what ordinary people have been thinking for years. For instance, in order to renew my tax credits claim, why do I need to phone up a government agency to tell them how much my husband and I have¬†earned over the past year? They know already because they taxed us and charged us national insurance on it. Surely I should only need to contact them if family circumstances have changed – more babies, husband left home, new husband moved in?! I much preferred the old system whereby they changed our tax codes to reflect a benefit awarded for families – at least I knew whether I was coming or going with that one.

Also, one form for all benefits would erase the government’s so called ‘concern’ that some people are not claiming everything that they’re entitled to. The article says that there are more than fifty benefits available, so it would be extremely difficult for most people to easily work out what, if anything, they are entitled to. Also, as the article also points out, many must be at a loss to work out whether there is any point in trying to get more work, in terms of how much the benefits decrease.

Anyway, I’m finishing now, otherwise this will degenerate into a rant about the tax credits system and its incomprehensibility, as well as inefficiency and lack of giving a damn,¬†claiming¬†back already paid benefits if you get work half way through the tax year when you were in real need at the beginning of the year…see, you started me off!

Genetics or chance?

I apologise in advance for the poor picture quality of my ‘letters’ – I photographed them rather than scanning them onto my computer, purely out of laziness – the camera was right by my side, whereas I would have had to walk into the next room to use the scanner! However, it’s readable, so I’m not going to the extra effort now!¬†

letter to blogletter to blogletter to blog

Dad's handwriting sample

Dad's handwriting sample

My handwriting sample

My handwriting sample

Mum's handwriting sample

Mum's handwriting sample

letter to blogletter to blog

And life goes on…

Life goes on. This is something we say after bad things happen. It is equally true, though, after good and exciting and long-hoped-for things happen.

I am thrilled that Senator Obama is now the President Elect. Like my Mum, I think I am probably a natural Democrat. I am excited and hopeful for the next four (eight?) years, and look forward to the transition period when we will find out more about his policies, as well as his choice of people in government to help him govern.

However, life goes on. Once the excitement and furore dies down, there are still things to be done; laundry to be done, baking to be done, typing (NaNoWriMo, aaaargh! NaBloPoMo – what was I thinking?!?) to be done, meals to be made, children to ferry to and from school etc etc.

My every urge is sending me to the BBC, the Times, the Washington Post, CNN, et al to read every account of election day I can find. I’m checking my blog readers every three minutes to see whether any of the American blogs I follow have new comments about the results. I need to find a way to distance myself from the events of the last few hours so that I can engage with the things that I need to get done today. The bread and cakes for Bonfire Night won’t bake themselves, and the laundry (unfortunately) won’t take itself outside and hang itself up! Neither will today’s 1667 words for NaNoWriMo travel psychically into Microsoft Word. As it is, I have not got the first idea what I’m going to write today. At least I’ve managed this (half-baked, if you’ll forgive the pun) post toward my NaBloPoMo effort. One job down, 57 to go!

And now we wait…

So, it’s finally here. 4th November 2008. US Election Day. Anxious eyes around the world clock watch as the minutes pass ever more slowly towards the closing of the polls in America.

Please, if you are a US citizen, go and vote. Preferably for Senator Obama, but please vote.

Think about how many things are affected by that person at the top of the command chain in the White House, and by the Congressmen and Senators, as well as the Governors. Healthcare, education, public spending, fighting crime, taxation, social security, the list goes on and on and on. Very few people will be unaffected by the results of today’s election.

If you don’t vote, I think that you are then hypocritical when you complain about the decisions made by those in power. How can you, in all conscience, complain about the decisinos made in Congress if you have taken no part in the democratic process yourself?

Oh, and when you’ve voted, come and let me know who you’ve voted for. I’d be interested to see what spread of voters I have from among my American readers. If you’d like to share the reasons behind your voting decision, that would be lovely!

I hope that the weather is good for you today, and that the voting process is straightforward and fast.

Be a part of this historic election. Get out the vote!

Good old bilingual road signs! Always good for a laugh!

Please, please have a look at this article on the BBC website today – surely this can only happen in Wales?!? Is there anywhere else in the world where this sort of error routinely happens?

Just in case you can’t be bothered to read the whole thing – here’s a teaser for you;

When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed.

Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated”.

So that was what went up under the English version which barred lorries from a road near a supermarket.

Isn’t this fantastic! Follow the link to see a picture of the actual sign – I (as a Welsh speaker) would have loved to see this before it was taken down!

According to the article there have been many other examples of the translators and proof readers falling down on the job of making road signs in our country, including one quite worrying instance of the English version of the sign telling people to ‘look left’ while the Welsh asked them to ‘look right’! Hmmm. One hopes that any Welsh speakers who read the sign could also read English, or an unfortunate accident may have occurred!

Best investment practices?

Last night, my husband was happy to point out this article which highlights a far more productive use of money over the past year than many traditional savings or stock schemes;

This is the best financial advice I’ve heard all week:

If you had purchased £1000 of Northern Rock shares one year ago it  would now be worth £4.95, with HBOS, earlier this week your £1000  would have been worth £16.50, £1000 invested in XL Leisure would now  be worth less than £5, but if you bought £1000 worth of Tennents Lager  one year ago, drank it all, then took the empty cans to an aluminium  re-cycling plant, you would get £214. So based on the above statistics  the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and re-cycle.

From ‘The Spectator’, article written by Michael Millar.

So basically, this is your classic example of having your cake (beer) and eating (drinking) it! You get to drink to excess but then appease your ‘green’ side by recycling the waste and getting a small return on your ‘investment’! Bonus!

I think he was probably quite disappointed at the missed opportunity!

Lack of provision for Stroke survivors in Mid-Wales

I was disappointed but not unduly surprised to read today about the lack of rehabilitation and related aftercare that there is in Mid Wales for survivors of strokes. I grew up in Mid Wales, in the county of Ceredigion, and the local people grew accustomed to having to travel long distances for health care. My neighbour had a young daughter with arthritis; they travelled to Oswestry (a journey of several hours) regularly for her treatment. My friend Delyth in High School had to travel to Cardiff when she was younger for treatment of (I think) a heart condition, and when another neighbour was pregnant with some complications, she was transferred to hospital in Cardiff (3 hours away from her home) in order to receive the needed care. These are just a few of the examples – I could go on. However, due to the low population density in the area I think it is probably overlooked for some of the more crucial services as not being ‘cost effective’. Thus people who are already going through a lot in their everyday lives, coping with illnesses and disabilities are forced to travel many many miles to seek the healthcare they need.

My mother and father in law moved to Cardiff from Aberystwyth in May 2002. One month later, my father in law suffered a stroke, which left him without the sight in one eye, very much weaker on one side and greatly affected his voice (he used to have a strong, resonating bass singing voice, but after his stroke he couldn’t sing at all and his speaking voice was much weaker and less defined than it used to be). He was ‘fortunate’ in that he had his stroke after leaving mid-Wales and therefore had access to the facilities in Cardiff. He was admitted to the University Hospital of Wales immediately, and later transferred to the ‘West Wing’ unit for rehabilitative care. Although he never fully regained his previous state, he recovered as much as he was able in a relatively quick time, thanks to the great care he received from the medical teams at these two places. I dread to think how his final few years would have been (he passed away in 2006) had he not received prompt and efficient care directly after that stroke.