Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bureaucracy at work

This is what Leftists want to lumber us with more and more of: A total lack of normal human feeling and decency. Mindless following of rules, no matter how inappropriate, is the essence of bureaucracy. It's inbuilt

A GRIEVING mother has been sent a bill for the cost of a guardrail damaged during the car crash which killed her daughter. The State Government yesterday apologised for the letter, sent only weeks after 26-year-old Krista Flett died on the Pacific Motorway at Worongary on June 13.

Her grieving mother yesterday told The Courier-Mail bureaucrats needed to think before putting pen to paper. Wendy Flett, of Mudgeeraba, said the family was "flabbergasted" when they received a Main Roads Department letter demanding payment for the damaged guardrail – which ended with a "sorry" for their loss.

The letter, which was signed on behalf of Main Roads South Coast regional director Andrew Cramp, said a bill would be sent to the family because Krista was deemed at fault for the accident. "Roadside property such as guardrails, traffic lights and landscaping are maintained by Main Roads with taxpayers' funds for the benefit of the whole community," the letter read. "By law, this department is required to recover the costs of damage from the responsible driver and this letter is to advise you about that process. "Main Roads has assessed the most economical way of repairing the damage and will invoice the estate of Ms Flett for those costs when finalised. "I am sorry for your loss and understand that this situation may be difficult for Ms Flett's family."

Two days later, the department sent the Fletts another letter saying it had decided "not to proceed with cost recovery".

Yesterday Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace apologised to the family, saying the letter was "inappropriate" and should never have been sent. "This should not have happened, and I apologise for the distress this undoubtedly caused the family," Mr Wallace said. "As soon as my director-general became aware of the letter he immediately arranged for a further letter to be sent to the family indicating that they should disregard this previous correspondence. "He has also made several attempts to contact the family to apologise personally but has not been able to make contact at this stage."

Mrs Flett said that while she accepted the apology, she was not prepared to let the matter be "swept under the carpet". "I never want this to happen to anyone else," she said. "It's unpleasant. "It brings back the whole horror of the night that happened. "You just have to relive it all again."

Mrs Flett said that while she had heard of the department's "cost recovery" policy, the letter was a shock. "I was angry when I read it . . . it shouldn't have happened," she said. "Everyone's just been flabbergasted and said 'how can they do that?' Well, that's what they do. "That's how all bureaucratic processes are handled – they step outside the bounds of human procedure. They follow procedure, type the letter and send the letter. "It's not moral and it needs to be reviewed."

Mr Wallace said a review of the department's policy to seek payment for the cost of damaged road infrastructure in some circumstances had been initiated by director-general Dave Stewart. He said Mr Stewart had sent letters to the department's regional directors, telling them to use "common sense" in their discretionary decisions.


Literacy tests key to improving student skills

STUDENTS' reading and writing skills improve more quickly if teachers use their literacy test results to adjust teaching methods, new research shows. But not enough teachers are learning to interpret the results effectively.

New Zealand researcher Professor Helen Timperley yesterday presented the findings of a study of 300 schools at the Australian Council for Educational Research conference in Perth. Students involved in the program learned reading and writing skills at twice the rate of the national average.

"Previously, the education system has assumed that if teachers had this information they automatically would be able to use it to enhance student learning, but this is not the case," Professor Timperley, of the University of Auckland, said.

"Teachers need detailed information about what students know and can do, but they also need to know how to use the information to change teaching practice.

"And school leaders need to know how to lead the kinds of change in thinking and practice that are required for teachers to use the data."

Also at the conference, ACER research director Margaret Forster told delegates that standardised test results should be used to test the limits of students' knowledge and challenge them.

"Research shows that effective teachers recognise that learning is most likely to occur when a student is challenged just beyond their current level of attainment," she said.

"Effective teachers understand, therefore, the importance of first determining students' current levels of attainment rather than working from what we expect them to know and understand given their age or year level."

Nationally, the Principals as Literacy Leaders project is this year encouraging school leaders to be more involved in lifting standards in their schools.


Quack psychotherapy kills

"Encounter groups" and the like once had a certain vogue in mainstream psychology but it became apparent that they often did more harm than good to vulnerable people and they therefore largely fell out of mainstream use. The quacks, however, seem to have reinvented and worsened the procedures.

Last I heard, NSW had psychologist registration laws requiring 6 years of accredited training in some form. I would have thought that the quacks below were in breach of that and could be prosecuted

JOHN Marshall had a sense of deja vu when he heard that Rebekah Lawrence had jumped naked to her death just days after completing a self-help course. Eighteen years earlier, Mr Marshall's stepson died during a self-help program run by the creator of Ms Lawrence's course. "When I first heard about it in the news, I thought, my God," Mr Marshall told The Australian yesterday. "They're identical. They've just changed the dates and the names."

Darren Hughes was 24 when, in 1987, he fell to his death from a 12m-high window during the Breakthrough residential self-help program. In 2005, Lawrence jumped naked to her death from her office window, just two days after completing The Turning Point course. Hughes's course was run by the Walter Bellin Partnership until 1988. Mr Bellin also created The Turning Point course.

The inquest into Lawrence's death heard last week from Geoffrey Kabealo, the chief executive of People Knowhow, the company behind The Turning Point and Breakthrough courses since 1988. Mr Kabealo said last week that "some 40,000 people have come through the (Turning Point) course and we haven't had any episodes like Rebekah Lawrence". Mr Kabealo has since denied any knowledge of Hughes's death.

Mr Marshall, a sergeant with Sydney Water Police, said organisers of the course were aware of his stepson's mental problems. Hughes had been in a psychiatric hospital, had had electric shock therapy and was recovering from drug addiction. Mr Marshall warned one of the organisers that his stepson should not be doing the $1500 course because of his mental health history. "It's all right," the organiser told him. "He's on a higher plane now." The woman he spoke to was a volunteer who had taken the course herself but who did not have any professional training.

The inquest into Lawrence's death heard a similar story about the volunteers' training. The 34-year-old called two members of her "service team" the night before she died. The first team member told the inquest he had not expected to receive calls in the middle of the night. The other told Lawrence she was not qualified to answer her questions. Neither had any formal training or qualifications in counselling or psychology.

Mr Marshall said his stepson, a welder and boilermaker, was on medication and "seemed to be getting himself back on track" before starting the Breakthrough course. It was on the fourth day of the program that Hughes fell 2 1/2 storeys at a guest house in Robertson, in the NSW southern highlands. A policeman told Mr Marshall the group had reacted to Hughes's death "as if nothing had happened".

Mr Marshall said the organisers "took participants' watches away and any personal effects, like photos, that gave them a link to their identities". "The idea was to disorientate them and reprogram them," he said. Hughes's parents describe the course when it was run by the Walter Bellin Partnership as "brainwashing" and "a cult". The inquest into Hughes's death recorded an open verdict, but his mother, Dorothy Marshall, believes the course was to blame. She said she was horrified to discover "that the same people could do it again". "They take innocent young people that trust them and they destroy them mentally," she said.

Mr Marshall hopes the inquest into Lawrence's death will ensure courses use qualified practitioners and are properly regulated. "Otherwise it will happen again," he said.


Update: There is now a report of a third death allegedly caused by this quackery

Federal Government cracks down on weight-loss industry

This falls under the heading of fraud prevention so has my hearty endorsement. My only question is whether ANY non-surgical weight loss claim will stand up to full scientific scrutiny of its long-term effectiveness

WEIGHT-LOSS programs and products will have to prove they can help people keep off the kilos long-term as the Federal Government cracks down on the $414-million-a-year industry. The Rudd Government's Preventative Health Taskforce is understood to have called for the weight-loss industry to be regulated in a report handed down last month.

It follows growing evidence that diets may actually be adding to the obesity crisis as overweight people lose weight rapidly while following programs but quickly put it back on after they stop.

The taskforce said that young women in particular were spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on programs to manage their weight. Despite this, the nation's obesity rate was climbing with more than 60 per cent of adults now overweight or obese. While weight-loss programs and pharmacy-based meal replacement programs were popular, the task force said there was limited data to show they were actually effective. It wants a wide-ranging review of diet products and a common code of practice drawn up covering the cost, the training of counsellors and the promotion of the diets.

The Dietitians Association of Australia is backing the recommendation. A spokesman told The Daily Telegraph all commercial diet programs should be assessed by a body of experts similar to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which assesses drugs for safety and efficacy before they can go on sale. The association said regulation should require businesses marketing a diet program to provide evidence to a panel of experts showing what percentage of those who used the diet kept the weight off two years after starting.

Chief executive Claire Hewat said a good diet would result in weight loss of about half a kilogram per week. "If you can lose 5 per cent of your body weight you are doing really well," she said. "Diets are not the point, it's lifestyle change that is needed."

A Choice survey of pharmacy diet programs published earlier this year found they were successful at helping people shed kilos in a hurry if followed closely - but they did little to change a person's lifestyle in the long term. Many were so nutritionally deficient that dieters had to take vitamin supplements, while some counsellors selling the programs had just three hours training.

A John Hopkins University study of commercial weight-loss programs last year found 27 per cent of people dropped out in the first month. Just 42 per cent were still enrolled at three months and 7 per cent were still following a year on.

The association also wants national exercise guidelines reviewed because the 30 minutes of exercise a day promoted by the Government is good for general wellbeing but not enough to tackle obesity.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lose weight, oh good its all gone now, where's that cream cake? Oh dear, weight back on. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN I WONDER?

If people can't use their brains for their own self interst, why should the rest of us fund their protection from themselves?