Dear Editor, When we first had the idea of setting up Edward’s Trust twenty years ago, we approached Birmingham Children’s Hospital (BCH) for their support.
Their response was encouraging in terms of providing parent accommodation but very dismissive at the notion, first, of improving education in food and diet as a contributory cause of ill health and, second, the whole area of complementary therapy.
Over the years attitudes have changed and there is now a general recognition from the medical profession that a more holistic approach to illness, managed in a professional way, can improve overall wellbeing. Edward’s Trust has always followed the middle way in offering its therapies through trained professionals and support through specialist counsellors. Each parent, carer or child is unique and we recognise that uniqueness. One size does not fit all. We do not mass produce our support. However, our values are firmly rooted in the notion of ethical living. We recognise how vulnerable parents, grandparents, carers are when they stay at Edward House. We understand how impressionable children are, more especially when they are ill or when their brother or sister is in hospital. That is why we have created a safe haven of retreat away from the hospital wards and corridors where families can come every day to enjoy the home comforts of a cup of tea, freshly baked homemade cakes and Trust staff who stop their work to share those precious moments together. A home is not just the physical structure or a range of facilities. It is the soul of a place, that intangible harmony that greets you as you enter a building.
Too often in today’s environment we seem to have little time and space to share in such ways. Hectic lifestyles encourage long hours of work, fast food solutions and energy levels out of balance.
Edward House has now been closed because it was too successful. For several years now we have sought to expand our accommodation. But the BCH Board were, behind our back, negotiating other arrangements with Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). The worldwide recognition of the McDonalds brand is infectious and when the hospital has to consider its international market, an association with McDonalds must have obvious attraction. Equally, I am sure it will not be long before the business opens a restaurant close to the hospital site.
I personally have concerns at the morality of promoting health through a Big Mac provider (healthy ingredients maybe, but large portions) particularly at a time when the government recognises that obesity is now an epidemic.
It is sad that a small local organisation who stick to their beliefs and social responsibility are given no chance to compete against a major corporate whose charitable arm is providing good quality accommodation for sick children whilst at the same time, according to UWIC Business School, set themselves a business target of 20 burgers a month per customer. That is its business. But I had hoped that BCH’s business and its corporate social responsibility would be more aligned with our own.
If the BCH Board were to really listen and give care, affection and attention to their stakeholders they might be able to see beyond the image, the words, the branding. But, as so often in business today, decisions are cunningly constructed by opportunist, footloose entrepreneurs with little regard for sentiment or spiritual capital or the connectivity between business and the wider human enterprise. They have limited vision. This may be disguised as paternalism, the greater good, the future. But, in reality, it is just another form of self-aggrandisement. On the other hand, there are opportunities for organisations that are rich in spiritual capital to be evolutionary. There was a time that I had high hopes for BCH. None of what is contained in this letter is intended as a criticism of the clinical care of children at BCH. I have the highest regard for all the clinical staff and the way in which they provide care and treatment for their patients. Just to clarify, my comments refer to the management of the ‘business side’ of the hospital.
I finish with a big thank you to all the trustees, staff, patrons and supporters who have given in so many ways to the running of Edward House - and the families who we have got to know.
Outrageous price rises will hit those who can least afford it
Dear Editor, The recent, outrageous price hikes from ‘British’ Gas will have a severe impact on a wide range of people, particularly, but by no means only, the millions who are already in desperate fuel poverty. Average bills are well into four-figure territory and are likely to be pushed much higher still. In my view, the fuel companies benefit from a so-called ‘market’ where the main competition is about getting away with inflated prices, making more profits, taking bigger bonuses and treating people as monetary cannon fodder.
They point to rising prices in the wholesale ‘market’ for gas. But they keep secret the prices they actually pay for supplies. They choose the timing and extent of price changes to suit themselves. Like other notorious sections of business today, they operate in effect, quite legally, as an informal cartel. They set their prices and margins in the same way and take it in turns to hike prices according to what they think they can get away with. Whether it’s gas or petrol, one thing is certain, unless there is action they will be getting away with a lot more of your money and mine and their profits will not suffer one bit as a result. Still, at least we needn’t lose sleep at night worrying about their executives’ remuneration; they at least will be comfortable in success or failure.
In my opinion there should certainly be windfall taxes on fuel, power (and other) profiteering - the only question should be about the extent. It is clearly wrong that companies should make fat and inflated profits while people struggle to make ends meet, faced with rapidly rising costs for other essentials such as food or even hanging on to their own homes. Electricity generation is now dominated by six firms that can in turn dominate you and me. Industry ‘regulation’ in all quarters has been weak under successive governments and will remain so. The exhortation to ‘shop around’ is worth little over time. It has been found out that a third of switchers make themselves worse off. And do they think that elderly and now vulnerable people who have built the country up should be spending their retirement ‘switching’ between fuel companies (and banks) to reduce the extent to which they are ripped-off?
In my view also it is no defence for these organisations to retort that they are operate globally. Who has paid to make their fat global profits possible in the first place? We have! We’ve already paid ‘global’ companies with the British jobs they have exported and the higher prices they extract from us for the same products sold in other countries. This has fattened their profits and we’re entitled to a return on that too! Furthermore, companies have profited from their very own windfalls from the emissions trading scheme - the vast majority of permits to produce carbon dioxide being given away - and energy companies can decide to sell rather than use these free permits.
Companies who use (by whose consent?) the label ‘British’ should be made to act as if they were. Those who take big from society should also give back in comparable measure. Long gone are the days when those in near monopoly positions could be relied on to do this to some extent on their own account - or to be socially responsible in the first place. So they need now to be taught how to be generous.
Coun Michael Wilkes,
Lessons must be learned at Edgbaston
Dear Editor, Mr Last is right to observe that the pricing policy must have had a detrimental effect on the attendance figures at the Edgbaston Test.
There are, however, other lessons that the authorities should learn. The attitude of certain stewards, presumably under instruction from the club, had to be seen to be believed: at one point a father and son behind me on the back row of the Press Box stand had the temerity to stand up at the fall of a wicket to stretch their legs and were immediately shouted at to “sit down”-presumably they were interrupting the view of those in the high rise flats behind. Later in the day we had the vision of a steward holding up the match by sprinting across the width of the ground to assist a colleague who was attempting to eject a spectator. The arrangements concerning entering the ground were shambolic and the time taken in searching paying spectators bags in the hunt for alcohol (or weapons of mass destruction) was ridiculous. I contrast the arrangements with those in place at Lord’s when one is greeted by well mannered stewards and efficient security procedures.
Once in the ground one is presented with food and drink at ludicrously high prices.
There are indeed lessons to be learnt and one hopes that a visit to Edgbaston for next year’s Ashes Test Match will be a more pleasant experience.
College Road, Bromsgrove.