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Debra's Blog: What Are Weasel Words?
Debra's Blog: The Facts and Figures Around Mental Health in the UK is Alarming
Debra's Blog - 2014: Scotland's Big Year

Debra's Blog


Debra Green's thoughts on community transformation and the work of Redeeming Our Communities

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Debra Green










We’ve heard about your new building but how did it happen? 

Debra’s Blog - 23rd July
 
This is a question I have been asked a lot in the last two weeks. For those who don’t already know we have been given a £5 Million community building on a twenty-two year rent free lease, including fixtures and fittings. This is both a huge gift and a responsibility at the same time.
 
In my new book, ROC Your World, I wrote a litle bit about what a community asset transfer is and some examples of how it works. But that book was published before we were offered our new building. I can reflect now on what I wrote and how it has all fallen into place.
 
WHAT IS COMMUNITY ASSET TRANSFER?
 
Local authorities are empowered to transfer the ownership of land  and  buildings  to  communities  for  less  than  their  market value  or  for  a  peppercorn  rent.  This  is  known  as  “discounted asset transfer” or “asset transfer”. This shift in ownership from
public bodies to communities gives greater powers to:
• Community and voluntary sector organisations.
• Community and social enterprises.
•  Individuals looking to form a not-for-private-profit group to benefit their neighbourhood.
Community asset transfer can help deliver a variety of benefits but, in short, it is a key way in which local authorities can support the  development  of  a  strong,  vibrant  civil  society  through enhancing an organisation’s sustainability.Communities  can  enter  into  discussions  with  public  bodies about Community Asset Transfer where it is their intention to promote social, economic and environmental wellbeing.
The  ultimate  aim  of  Community  Asset  Transfer  is  community empowerment  –  that  is,  to  ensure  that  land  and  buildings are  retained  or  transformed,  then  operated  for  public  benefit through community asset ownership and management.
 
Who qualifies?
Clearly some community groups are better placed than others to qualify for an asset transfer. In our case, we had to write a strong business case which was based on our experience and proven track record in delivering effective community projects.
 
I have learned some lessons from our recent experience with asset transfer;
 
  1. Invest in relationships – we have been working with a variety of agencies for over ten years including the Police, Fire Service, probation, Local authority, schools, NHS. This experience has opened the way to the opportunities we have now.
  2. Research, demonstrate evidence of need, evaluate, monitor – any one who has any experience in fundraising will recognise the value of these things. Project ideas are not accepted on the basis of ‘this is my good idea’ but by showing the evidence that the work is needed, not currently being undertaken by anyone else and by regularly evaluating the success.
  3. Write a business case -  show how you will use the building, who you are working with, how much it will cost and how the funds will be raised.
  4. Seek endorsements – ask for references, letters of support, written endorsements from people you have worked with previously.
  5. Community consultation – we have undertaken over 200 of these which we call ROC Conversations. Usually attended by between 100 and 200 people including both agencies and local residents to discuss the needs and the potential solutions to community challenges. The important thing is to have some agreed action points with clear deadlines.
  6. Can you afford it? I thought you said it was free? When you think about a community asset transfer, it might be rent free or peppercorn rent but there are other costs associated. In our case we need to find around £10,000 per month for things like gas, electricity, water, maintainance etc This doesnt include extra salaries which might be needed for a new project eg caretaker, cleaner, receptionist. So the question can you afford it is a real one and needs carefully consideration.
 
So we move into our new building on July 29th after seven months of planning and a few headaches along the way. Has it been hard? Yes! Would I do it again? Yes!
 
 FUSE
 
 The Fuse, our new ROC HQ and community centre
 

Debra Green, 23/07/2014


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Debra's Blog: What are weasel words?

weasel-words    This week I heard someone use the term weasel words and I was intrigued. The context was a paper we are writing concerning our charity work. When I looked up the definition I was concerned about whether we should use weasel words and even more intrigued.   If you are too read on…
     









According to Wiki the expression weasel word derives apparently from the egg-eating habits of weasels. An article published by the Buffalo News attributes the origin of the term to William Shakespeare's plays Henry V and As You Like It, in which the author includes similes of weasels sucking eggs.

The weasel Scot Comes sneaking, and so sucks the princoly egg. - Henry V, 1598

I can suck melancholy out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs. - As You Like It, 1600

The article also claims that this is a misnomer, because weasels do not have a mandible suitable for sucking eggs or blood. Regardless of whether weasels in fact suck eggs, a belief that they do implies an egg shell devoid of its contents. Thus, words or claims that turn out to be empty upon analysis are known as "weasel words".

The expression first appeared in Stewart Chaplin's short story "Stained Glass Political Platform" (published in 1900 in The Century Magazine) in which they were referred to as "words that suck the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks the egg and leaves the shell". Theodore Roosevelt attributed the term to Dave Sewall, claiming that Sewall used the term in a private conversation in 1879. Winston Churchill wrote: "The reserve of modern assertions is sometimes pushed to extremes, in which the fear of being contradicted leads the writer to strip himself of almost all sense and meaning."

In the political sphere, this type of language is used to "spin" or alter the public's perception of an issue. In 1916, Theodore Roosevelt argued that "one of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use ...'weasel words'; when one 'weasel word' is used ... after another there is nothing left".
Weasel words are sometimes described as expressions that attempt to make an unsupported claim seem authoritative.
Consider the weasel word help. Help means 'aid' or 'assist' and nothing else. Yet as one author has observed, 'help' is the one single word which, in all the annals of advertising, has done the most to say something that couldn't be said. Because the word help is used to qualify, almost anything can be said after it. Thus we're exposed to ads for products that 'help keep us young,' 'help prevent cavities,' 'help keep our houses germ-free.' Consider for a moment how many times a day you hear or read phrases like these: helps stop, helps prevent, helps fight, helps overcome, helps you feel, helps you look."

(William H. Shaw, Business Ethics: A Textbook with Cases, 7th ed. Wadsworth, Cengage, 2011)

 

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Embrace weasel words


A weasel word is, potentially, a word intended to, or having the effect of, softening the force of a potentially loaded or otherwise controversial statement, or avoids forming a clear position on a particular issue. Some people say the quintessential example of weasel words is the phrase "Some people say".

Wikipedia has a style guide entitled Avoid weasel words which strongly discourages the use of weasel words. However, there are editors who think that weasel words are helpful and appropriate in some cases. These editors believe that we should embrace weasel words, not avoid them.

Some examples of when weasel words can be good;
  • When the belief or opinion is actually the topic of discussion."In the Middle Ages, most people believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth."
  • When the holders of the opinion are too diverse or numerous to qualify."Some people prefer dogs as pets; others prefer cats."
  • When contrasting a minority opinion, it's not necessary to source the majority opinion when describing the minority one.
"Although Brahms's work is part of the classical music canon, Benjamin Britten has questioned its value."

So perhaps it's a case of poetic licence and there are times when we need to use  these words. Maybe weasel words can be OK after all.
 

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Debra's Blog: The Facts and Figures Around Mental Health in the UK is Alarming

Mental-illness-007
  • 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year
  • Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain
  • Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men
  • About 10% of children have a mental health problem at any one time
  • Depression affects 1 in 5 older people
  • Suicide rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women
  • Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population
  • Only 1 in 10 prisoners has no mental disorder
 

Mental health issues are also seriously affecting Police resources


The Police are commonly a first point of contact in a mental health crisis. Recent reports estimate that 15 percent of all incidents dealt with by The Metropolitan Police have some form of mental health element.
 
Mental Health Disorders is a common denominator in some long term anti-social behaviour cases and there is national work ongoing to explore this link.

Many of those identified as most vulnerable and most challenging problem solving scenarios have dual diagnosis of learning difficulties and mental health and/or substance misuse.

Individuals can fall between agencies responsibilities.
 
The Police are the agency of last resort for any crisis, it is perceived that the balance in the level of responsibility for long term support of those with mental health appears to have shifted, and that care in the community too often and inappropriately resorts to Police Interventions as the 24/7 service.
 
The transition from children services to adults frequently see individuals fall out of the system, and into the Police to manage.
 
Staffordshire Police focus on partnership working around a range of vulnerabilities, including mental health. It is recognised that closer working with partners, particularly community mental health teams, and early recognition of those experiencing mental health issues might avoid a crisis, but officers find it difficult to access support for the early interventions from specialist services.
 
Historically the Police have played an important role in dealing with mental health related crisis, but there is an increasing demand to support greater numbers of people living independently within the community. It would appear that the services to support this have not grown at the same rate and emergency services such as the Police are filling the void
 
It is a growing concern that as the public purse shrinks, voluntary services struggle to meet the gap resulting from the withdrawal of discretionary services provided by the statutory sector the police are increasingly picking up the widening gap in service provision.
 
The Police or Community Safety Partnership often take the lead in convening professionals meetings in relation to individuals with mental health disorders (diagnosed/undiagnosed or those who have disengaged with mental health services/ refused to take medicines and are deemed to have capacity to make the decision not to engage).
 
On occasions the CJS does not assist in these situations. The CPS guidance on prosecuting mentally disordered offenders quite rightly recognises that prosecution is not the most appropriate disposal. However where the individual is not effectively managed in the mental health system an individual is left to behave as they wish with impunity. The consequences of such individuals on the community and individuals has been so damaging it has resulted in community tensions, serious detrimental impact on key victims’ mental and physical welfare.
 
ROC has increasingly felt the need to get involved in this issue, both at the request of public services who are under pressure and because we care about community well-being.
 
Rebecca Green, the national development manager for ROC Restore, our restorative justice project comes into regular contact with mental health issues in her work. She and her team have attended training courses and ROC has recently been commissioned to do a piece of work for Stockport Council. ROC has also been approached by other Councils to look at the issue of mental health.


10 Ways to Look After Your Mental Health

  1. Talk about your feelings
  2. Eat well
  3. Connect with friends and family
  4. Take a break
  5. Accept who you are
  6. Keep active
  7. Drink sensibly
  8. Ask for help
  9. Do something you are good at
  10. Care for others
 
For more information please contact – info@roc.uk.com

Picture taken from The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/society/reality-check/2013/oct/07/sun-people-killed-mental-health-true

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Debra's Blog - 2014: Scotland's Big Year

scotland     As we at ROC HQ prepare for our ROC Showcase event in Glasgow on February 5th I have been reflecting on what a big year this is for Scotland.

The date for the independence referendum has now been announced as 18 September. There are a number of other landmark events which will make this year memorable.


QUEEN'S BATON RELAY - 14 JUNE to 22 JULY


The baton relay is the Commonwealth Games's version of the Olympic torch relay
. The relay begins at Buckingham Palace in October this year, where the Queen, who is head of the Commonwealth, places a message inside the baton - which will be carried around the world for seven months before arriving in the host country on 14 June.

The baton will travel around Scotland for 40 days before the games opening ceremony, where the Queen will read out her message.


BATTLE OF BANNOCKBURN 700th ANNIVERSARY - 24 to 30 JUNE

In the words of Flower of Scotland, it was the battle in which the Scottish forces stood against "Proud Edward's army, And sent him homeward, To think again."

In June 1314, King Edward II brought the largest English army ever to invade Scotland.

Scottish King Robert the Bruce led his smaller force to a decisive victory at Bannockburn, near Stirling, and Edward narrowly escaped capture as he fled to Dunbar and the safety of a ship home.

Plans are being developed to celebrate the anniversary.

It is hoped a new multi-million pound visitor centre will open at the battle site in time for the 700th anniversary.

CHURCHES RESPOND TO THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES –

Saturday 19th to Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Venue: Glasgow! (Team time in Queens Park Baptist Church)


Under the banner of More Than Gold 2014, and attracting the attention of mission ministries throughout and outside of Scotland, CLAN will host a mission that will play a part in our nation’s history.

Leaders this is a great opportunity to further equip your teams and inspire your youth groups. Church groups can join other missions to be trained and equipped, or a church can request a mission team to come and run a mission alongside your church.

http://www.clangathering.org.uk/clangames2014.php


COMMONWEALTH GAMES - GLASGOW - 23 JULY to 3 AUGUST


Glasgow 2014 will be the 20th version of the Commonwealth Games.

It will see 4,500 athletes from 71 nations and territories compete for 261 medals in 17 sports, held in 14 venues around Glasgow and beyond.

Hampden Stadium in Glasgow will be used for the track and field events, with the Emirates arena being used for badminton and the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome for cycling.

The venues at the SECC, including the new Hydro arena, will play host to gymnastics, boxing, judo, wrestling, weightlifting and netball.

Squash and table tennis will take place in Scotstoun, swimming at Tollcross and lawn bowls at Kelvingrove.  Ibrox stadium will be used for the rugby sevens and Celtic Park will host the opening ceremony.

Outside Glasgow, the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh will host the diving, the Barry Buddon Centre in Angus will be the venue for the shooting and the triathlon will take place at Strathclyde Country Park in Lanarkshire.


INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM - 18 SEPTEMBER


The Scottish independence referendum will be held on 18 September 2014.

Voters will be asked the yes/no question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"


RYDER CUP - GLENEAGLES - 26 to 28 SEPTEMBER


It is arguably the biggest tournament in golf and one of the most anticipated events in sport.

Every two years 12 of the best golfers in the world compete against each other in two teams representing Europe and the USA.

In September, the three-day tournament arrives at Gleneagles in Perthshire.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-21896191

Find out more about ROC in Scotland at http://scotland.roc.uk.com

Picture taken from Telegraph website http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/9306174/London-2012-Olympics-Scotland-gains-right-to-fly-saltire-flag-over-Games-following-embarrassing-Locog-backdown.html



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