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Archives for May 2010

How will the new Government handle disability?

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Peter White Peter White | 17:17 UK time, Tuesday, 25 May 2010


wheelchair_two_men_303_170.gifJust before the general election (seems a long time ago now, doesn't it?) You and Yours and In Touch ran question-and-answer sessions with the three major political parties on disability.

We asked what their policies would be towards disabled people on - employment, benefits, help for carers, etc.

Now a coalition government has arrived, begging many questions about what form its policies will take, and where there are differences between the two parties, which approach will gain the upper hand.

These are questions we intend to put to new ministers in the weeks to come, (dates yet to be confirmed), to try to obtain some clear answers for you.

For instance, there have already been intimations from the Department for Work and Pensions, under its new Secretary of State Iain Duncan-Smith, that they intend to re-visit, yet again, the numbers of people who claim benefit because they are deemed unable to work.

This is a vexed question and one which worries many disabled people because of the implication, which has come from governments regardless of their political colour in recent years, that many of those who are receiving benefits could and should be in jobs.

There have been various attempts by both Labour and Conservative governments in the past 20 years, to get numbers down. The most recent re-organisation was just a couple of years ago. And today You and Yours reported on Employment and Support Allowance assessments in Scotland where there are serious concerns about how people ability to work is assessed.

So what does the coalition have in mind and - as we suggested to our panel in those recent sessions - where will the jobs come from with two-and a-half million people currently out of work?

We are also revisiting plans to increase Disability Living Allowance to help blind people with travel costs, which were approved last year. It would be worth around £30 a week. Indications before the election were that these plans, due to be put in place next year, would be honoured, but with all the talk of cost-saving, will it still happen?

We'd also like to explore the balance between special and mainstream education, the likely shape of social care, whether there is more money for carers, many of whom tell us that they are saving social services and the NHS billions.

More generally - how will disability as an issue will be treated: will there be one minister responsible for disability issues across the board, or should it be dealt with by individual departments, rather than being regarded as a specialism?

As I say, we can't give precise dates for these broadcasts at the moment, but I will keep you posted. Good listening!

More on Disability Living Allowance

Peter White presents You and Yours and In Touch on BBC Radio 4

Climbing the walls?

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Julian Worricker Julian Worricker | 13:51 UK time, Monday, 24 May 2010


Julian-in-his-garden_303x17.gifNot to be outdone by Winifred's garden furniture/wasp troubles, I spent last Thursday morning in my garden in the interests of You & Yours. This was to discuss ivy, a plant that proliferates in my tiny corner of west London, and which was the subject of discussion on today's programme.

According to a study carried out by researchers at Oxford University ivy doesn't necessarily destroy buildings after all. A three-year project, analysing the effects of ivy growing on buildings in five different parts of England, discovered that the plant plays a protective role. A canopy of ivy can act like a thermal shield, it absorbs some of the harmful pollutants in the atmosphere...and problems only tend to arise when it's pulled out too vigorously and parts of the wall come with it.

To examine this further a colleague and I welcomed David Hurrian, from Gardeners' World magazine, to my garden in Chiswick. Recordings like this ought to be quite straightforward, involving a working machine, a microphone and a talkative guest. But they aren't without their problems. While I like to portray my garden as a little oasis six miles from Trafalgar Square traffic noise is audible, planes rumble overhead, and there are the neighbours to bear in mind too. And this can lead to all manner of editing problems.

It's one thing to edit portions of speech, it's quite another to do it in such a way that the background noise doesn't suddenly do something unexpected. I remember being taught at radio journalism college about the perils of recording an interview with a clock ticking the background. If the interview is carelessly edited, the clock can go from being gentle and unintrusive to wildly erratic and consequently very distracting. Listeners don't pay an attention to the interview because they're too busy wondering if the clock in the background is going to be repaired in the near future!

Anyway, I digress. Today's piece about ivy provoked a lot of correspondence, so by all means add to it via other sections of our website, or you can just admire the photograph of me and gardener, David Hurrian.

You & Yours is on BBC Radio 4 at 1200 weekdays. Listen to today's episode on the Radio 4 web site.

Julian Worricker presents You and Yours on BBC Radio 4

In search of the superhighway

Catherine Carr | 14:45 UK time, Tuesday, 18 May 2010


By Catherine Carr


0530 Wake up in Cambridge.

0550 Peel children from legs.

0645 Train to London.

0830 Meeting in Broadcasting House, at which some bright spark has the idea to send me in search of the new cycle superhighway. Apparently these new bright blue lanes will criss-cross London to allow commuters to get to work without ending up being sandwiched between two buses. Or two taxis. Or two buses and a taxi.

0900ish make calls to Transport for London to get guest for programme. Unfold bike. Call Cycle Touring Club for guest as well. Ask colleague to call BOJO (Boris Johnson's) office in case he wants to talk about the "great oak" of a cycle network which he says must start with an "acorn". Warning bells go off somewhere in tired woolly head, that maybe an acorn in Clapham might be hard to find. However blue.

0930 Get recorder, bike, A to Z and notebook. Entertain hare-brained idea to pedal to find cycle lanes, in a bid to make comparison between super and not so super cycle routes more 'authentic'.

1030 Discover that Clapham is miles from Broadcasting House.

1031 Discover that the fly that had ended up in my eye was in fact three flies.

1032 Look for cycle lanes.

1033 Look a bit more.

1034 Call Transport for London and they tell me that the cycle lanes are at the very early stage (acorn, remember). They suggest Balham or Tooting. I hang up and swear softly.

1040 Field call from office who wonder where on earth I am. Feel a little bit panicked that somehow I have to find cycle lane, assess it, interview someone, get back to BH, put interview and stuff in computer and edit it. All before 1230.

1050 Interview someone in a bike shop. Bit tenuous, but at least she has seen some blue paint in the borough.

1055 Bingo!! Blue superhighway!! Plus six or seven very obliging men en route to Paris in aid of Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign. They are smack-bang on top of (very short) stretch of super-highway. And hadn't even realised. These highways will not be ready until July, so we weren't expecting them to stretch all the way from Morden to the city yet.... But I was expecting more than 50 or so metres of blue paint.

1100 Find some builders building the superhighway. Persuade them to turn on their pneumatic drill for a burst for my piece.. and then ask them if the cycle lanes will be ready for July. A man in a hi-vis jacket says "no". I get that on tape. It's quite funny.

1106 Cycle to Stockwell and tell office I am coming back and hump folding bike to tube. Regret beige skirt. Not for first time this morning, either.

1108 Sit on tube.

1109 Eat apple.

1110 Dream of a latte.

1111 Finish apple.

1112 Listen to stuff I had taped, to get an idea which bits will go where in final piece.

1130 Back to office and load recorded stuff onto PC, start marshalling it into some kind of order.

1135 Establish that my colleague Lucy has sorted interviews and briefed all and sundry. Good-oh.

1150 Try to find a studio engineer to help make the piece sound pretty (iron out all the traffic noises and de-umm it.)

1202 Ask Lucy to help me find an engineer.

1210 Ask Chris to help Lucy to help me to find an engineer.

1220 Run up three flights of stairs, through the radio drama studio to find engineer (find Vicky, who works like lightning on the piece).

1240 Piece finished. Three and a half minutes of me breathless and with a rising and shrill voice somewhere in Clapham/Tooting/Balham with flies in my eyes and a grubby beige skirt on, chatting to bemused men in lycra.

1250 Interview with Transport for London and Cycle Touring Club goes on air after my piece. Peter White sounding bouncy and in control (as usual) despite the activity behind the glass screen. And the late arrival of any script for the interview.

1300 Off air.

Listen to Catherine's report.

Catherine Carr is a reporter for You and Yours.

non-You and non-Yours

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Peter White Peter White | 16:48 UK time, Monday, 10 May 2010


Preparing a programme which is destined never to go out is a strange experience! I've been trying to find a parallel! Is it like being left at the church, along with all the guests, while your beloved fails to show up! Perhaps it's like a false pregnancy, although at the moment I seem only to be able to come up with examples I either haven't experienced, or am biologically incapable of experiencing.

Ah: I've got it; it's like the long-awaited cup game involving my football team, Southampton which, on the very morning of the game, is called off because of bad weather. There you are: arrangements made, emotions tuned to a high pitch of excitement and then: total deflation; a day stretching ahead whose central point has been removed.

Okay: a bit overblown perhaps; I present You and Yours every Friday: but it was a bit like that at eight o'clock last Friday morning, when we would normally have been starting the morning planning meeting, when we learned that the election was still the only game in town, and that the World at One was to become the World at Twelve, and You and Yours was to become non-You and non-Yours. What made it the more annoying, even though we'd had fair warning that it might happen, was that I'd had to deny myself the pleasurable torture of staying up and watching the results, in order to get the minimum sleep to do a job I knew I might never do.

Still: these things happen in broadcasting, and lest all you care about is not my feelings in the matter but whether there has been any waste of BBC resources, let me assure you most of the items we had prepared will still be used, either in subsequent programmes of mine, or in editions presented by Julian and Winifred. Oh: and that's another thing! While I was denying myself the joy of listening to Dimbleby, Naughtie and co. my fellow-presenters J. and W. were actually out on the stump, bringing you the excitement from counts in Leeds and Ashfield. Not that I'm bitter, you understand! After all, as my friends said, what are you moaning about! you got a half-holiday, didn't you! Trouble is, I never did know what to do with a half-holiday! Anyway, back to business; the next Disability Newsletter will be delivered early next week! Honest!

Best Buy - balance in reporting consumer journalism

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Andrew Smith | 13:46 UK time, Friday, 7 May 2010


tightrope_walker_303x170.jpgOur report on Best Buy - the arrival of the American electrical retailer in the UK became controversial before it had finished. Listeners complained that we were offering a promotional platform for the company and in effect had become part of their PR operation.

"What the heck is this advert?", asked one. "A very prolonged advert" and a "free advert" were two more comments which rolled in by e-mail while we were still on air. There's also a thread on the subject on the Radio 4 Message Board which expresses similar sentiments.

Stories about new products and services are often misinterpreted when they appear on a consumer programme like You and Yours. Many listeners expect us to be "up and at" companies - finding the flaws in their business offer and exposing their wrong-doings.

My sense is that modern consumers want raw information as well as warnings about poor practice. They want to know about new, commercially available, products and services. A new retailer with ambitions to challenge Currys and Comet about to start operating in the UK, is of interest to anyone likely to buy a new television or washing machine in the not too distant future. It's particularly interesting when the company involved is an established US retailer. It's also promising its stores will be manned by salaried staff who are knowledgeable about the products it sells - a development likely to be welcomed by shoppers fed-up with fending off commission hungry shop staff.

A report by Alan Budd for the BBC Trust on BBC business reporting criticised a "preoccupation with taking the consumer perspective" and warned against "the polarisation of views between business and consumer."

To me that means we shouldn't turn up at Best Buy assuming they're trying to fleece every paying customer (unless we have evidence that they are.) But we do need to have our wits about us. Best Buy did employ one of the leading PR agencies Freud Communications to orchestrate their launch. Prior to the event there were briefings to selected analysts and journalists. We were not allowed to attend. Best Buy knew they'd get more media attention on Day One than on any other hence the megaphone-equipped cheerleaders and the attractive opening sale offers.

The BBC's editorial guidelines warn against giving "undue prominence" to commercial products or services and against appearing to endorse any organisation - "its products, activities or services."

Rob Gregory - an analyst from Planet Retail with a decade in retail research behind him and a specialist in the electronics sector, provided the context to the excitement and razzamatazz of Best Buy's "G.O." - or Grand Opening. He told us, among other things, that prices online can still be cheaper than Best Buy can offer. Our reporter Catherine Carr mentions the retaliation of the competition and expresses natural scepticism about those enticing first day offers and how long they'll last.

So this kind of story is always a tightrope. I'd be interested to know how many listeners felt that with Best Buy, we really lost our balance.

Listen again

Tempting offer from fraudster turned author

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Melanie Abbott | 13:40 UK time, Wednesday, 5 May 2010


By Melanie Abbott
graham_templeton.jpgI've had a few interesting job offers in my time. But I've just received the first from a convicted fraudster who featured as part of the You and Yours' investigative strand Face the Facts.

Graham Templeton, who defrauded nearly two million euros from ex-pats living in the Dordogne, wants me to help him promote a book he is writing about the case.

In January we featured his activities as a financial advisor. He persuaded people who had retired to the Dordogne to invest money in a bond issued by Societe Generale. But a loop hole in French banking law meant he was able to pay the money into his own bank account simply by countersigning the cheques on the back. This practice was stopped in the UK in 2006 but still goes on in France.

One couple handed Templeton more than half a million pounds via a series of cheques. Another, who had sold a business to retire to France, gave him £450,000. After losing that money, they had to sell their house in France and are now living in a caravan.

Despite being convicted of the fraud Graham Templeton was allowed to go free because French prisons are overcrowded. But he has now been arrested and is serving his 20 month sentence in jail in Fresnes in France.

Last week I received a letter from him suggesting I might like to deal with him exclusively to promote his book. If it is published he says the money will go towards paying back his victims and writes that; "After reading the dull books of Archer I am sure it could be quite a good long haul read with interesting facts about prison life in France."

This letter follows an earlier missive in quite a different tone accusing me of harassing his family and "telling lies and ruining lives". I wrote back explaining I had not approached his family and that's when I received the offer.

Tempting as it is BBC editorial Guidelines say that relationships with an individual or organisations outside of the BBC must not compromise editorial impartiality and integrity, that our choice of partners won't bring the BBC into disrepute and that we don't promote or appear to endorse other organisations, products, services, views or opinions.

Somehow I don't think the controller of editorial policy will green light this particular opportunity.

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