All posts by Rebekah Logan

Northern Ireland human trafficking ‘fastest growing in UK’

Northern Ireland has been revealed as having the fastest growing human trafficking industry in the UK, Rebekah Logan reports.

Once thought to be a crime limited to underground circles in distant war torn countries, human trafficking is now happening on our doorstep.

Speaking at the Northern Ireland Assembly in February, Justice Minister, David Ford said:

“Northern Ireland society should not be ignorant of the fact that trafficking is going on in every part of our community. I therefore welcome the spotlight that is being shone on human trafficking.”

In order to comply with the EU Directives requirements on human trafficking, the minister proposes to introduce two new legislations.

The legislation will ensure that UK nationals who commit human trafficking offences elsewhere in the world face prosecution as well as creating a particular offence for those found guilty of trafficking within the UK.

Amnesty International campaigner, Grainne Teggert, said: “Holding people to account for this heinous crime is incredibly important. High profile convictions must be part of attempts to prevent trafficking taking place, but there must also be other preventative measures undertaken,”

Amnesty International NI

In February 2012 the Northern Ireland Assembly, in cooperation with Amnesty International, created the All Party Group on Human Trafficking (APGHT).

Northern Ireland Assembly APGHT

While many consider trafficking to be primarily concerned with the movement of women and children between countries for forced prostitution, the APGHT stresses that this is not the case.

Human trafficking is also concerned with the forced labour of migrants in a number of different work sectors as well as the exploitation of children in fraud or other criminal activity.

The organisation, No More Traffick On Our Streets have organised a series of events this month across Belfast to raise awareness among the general public as well as provide a lifeline and lasting help for victims of human trafficking.

No More Traffik On Our streets

The events, covering everything from marathons and flash mobs to photography exhibitions, force the public to open their eyes and face the issue head on.

The group stresses that the public must be aware that slavery is not just something they read in history books, but is thriving in modern day in their own neighbourhoods.

It seems the fight to abolish trafficking in Northern Ireland has just begun, Teggert said: “This is a bad day for traffickers and a good day for justice. Let’s hope it’s just the start.”

MTV stars perform at Titanic Sounds

Rebekah Logan visits the MTV awards

Thousands of music fans filled the Titanic dock on Friday as MTV returned to the city once more to host the Titanic Sounds festival.

With a star-studded line-up featuring the likes of Olly Murs and Pixie Lott it came as no surprise that tickets sold out within hours.

MTV UK

Opening the centenary concert and dressed in Dolce and Gabbana, Pixie Lott took to the stage with an up tempo performance of Boys and Girls before singing hits such as All About Tonight, Kiss the Stars and Mama Do.

Next to storm the stage was energetic duo, Rizzle Kicks who opened with a lively performance of their hit, Prophet.

As the excitement in the 16,000-strong crowd grew, so did the duo’s momentum as they powered through a number of well-known hits from their debut album such as Mama Do the Hump, When I Was A Youngster and Down With The Trumpets.

Performance Teaser

Jamaican star Sean Paul took to the stage to perform a string of well-known hits such as Get Busy, Got 2 Luv U and Gimme The Light.

As the sun set over Belfast the superstar encouraged concert goers to follow their dreams:

“I had a dream that I would one day perform in Belfast. If you have a dream, hold onto it.”

Next up was songstress Katy B who belted out hits such as, On A Mission, Lights Out as well as her new single, Anywhere In The World , the official single for the London Olympics 2012.

The dubstep star tweeted after the show:

‘Belfast that was so much fun!! Thank u so much for having me!! 🙂 xxx’

Headlining the show was X-Factor runner-up Olly Murs, who performed with his own nine-piece band.

The singer danced his way through songs such as, Dance With Me Tonight and Don’t Let Me Go, as well as a cover of American singer Aloe Blacc’s hit, I Need A Dollar.

As the concert drew to a close Murs was joined on-stage by Rizzle Kicks as the trio belted out their Brit nominated single, Heart Skips a Beat.

Tweeting after the show he said: “BELFAST!! Finally got out there to see ya!! Was waiting for ages!! Proper buzzing crowd!! Long day for ya!! Thanks for staying til the end!x”

@OLLYOFFICIAL

The concert was one of the first in a series of events set to take place across the city to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic.

SW Acute Hospital to open June 2012

As the South West Acute Hospital opens, Rebekah Logan examines the reasoning behind its Enniskillen location

The countdown to the opening of the controversial new South West Acute Hospital, based in Enniskillen, has begun.

The South West Acute Hospital, which is due to open in June 2012, will offer services including paediatrics, critical care, general medicine, rehab, general surgery, laparoscopic surgery and care of the elderly as inpatient care.

Western Trust

Although patients who need urology care, specialist medical or surgical interventions will have to travel to Altnagelvin, while those in need of treatment such as heart surgery and neurosurgery will still have to travel to Belfast.

Due to accommodate a catchment area covering County Tyrone as well as areas of Donegal, Cavan and Leitrim, the decision to place the new hospital at Enniskillen came as a surprise.

Omagh has a larger catchment area than Enniskillen and would have appeared the obvious choice to place a new acute hospital, with around 6,000 more people availing of healthcare services.

Options Omagh Enniskillen
Catchment – 2001 123,000 117,000
Catchment – 2010 130,000 124,000
Pop.more than 30minutes away 40% 53%

York Report

The hospital is a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) building, meaning that it has been constructed due to a consortium of investors and mortgaged back to the Western Trust.

PFI initiatives have long been a source of controversy as investors in healthcare can sell their interest in projects, such as the SW Acute Hospital for up to 60% profit, yet the NHS is locked into a contract of repayments.

The SW Acute Hospital is costing the Western Trust around £270 million to be paid back over a period of 30 years.

NI Health Group

Despite the level of controversy that surrounds the new hospital, Northern Ireland Health Minister, Edwin Poots has said that he is, “hugely impressed with the new state of the art healthcare facility for the people of Fermanagh and Tyrone”.

The new 300-bed hospital is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland to provide 100% single ensuite rooms for every patient.

Design

The idea for an entirely single roomed hospital was first developed in Australia, the concept appeared to work well for the prevention of spread of infection and privacy and dignity.

Although, while preserving some dignity this layout raises multiple issues for staff such as isolation from patients as well as a greatly increased level of ground to cover.

Cherry Lynn, a divisional nurse in surgery and anaesthetics, feels the best way to prevent these problems is to use increased technology.

She said: “There is a very modern alarm system in the SWAH. The alarm can be voice activated, but the single rooms have got satellite nurses stations so that the nursing teams are not at a distance and if there is the correct number of nurses then the risk is minimised.”

Due to the nature of the singled-bed rooms there was to be an increase in nursing numbers, although funding appears to have partially thwarted this necessity also.

The Western Trust has taken care to ensure that staff numbers are tightly benchmarked with Altnagelvin and similar hospitals, although after the redeployment of their current staff the trust found that they had a deficit of around 30 nurses to compensate for the single rooms and increased annual leave after the agenda for change.

Lynn said:  “Despite the need, the department have confirmed funding for only 17 additional nurses to deal with the increased work, so not all of the beds can be opened.”

Originally, due to the close proximity to the border, the hospital was to take on patients in the Donegal corridor, Cavan and Leitrim.

While that appeared to be a beneficial cross border initiative when first proposed, the economic situation in the Republic of Ireland was in better standing than it is today, the Health Service Executive in Ireland may not be able to invest in Northern Ireland when their own hospitals paying their own people are in dire need of any additional funding available.

With surgical theatres closing down in Letterkenny General Hospital due to a lack of available funding, it is unlikely that the people of Donegal will look kindly on the Irish government funding a Northern hospital.

Lynn has illustrated that financial investment from Ireland is imperative to the success of the hospital.

She said: “The Trust does not need two acute hospitals for the number of people in the catchment area so the cross border investment is vital.”

The desire to attract patients from Ireland is likely to have played a role in the decision to place the hospital at Enniskillen rather than Omagh, as the former is closer to the North/South border than the latter.

Western Trust Chairman, Gerard Guckian, is confident that the many controversies and issues which appear to plague the project will be resolved once the hospital opens next month.

Guckian said: “We are progressing as planned with the full range of preparations required to ensure that the facility is fully commissioned and staff are ready to receive patients when doors open in June 2012.”

Colour Me Happy

By Rebekah Logan

Despite the colourful workshops and glitter-strewn table-tops, art therapy is a serious and respected form of psychotherapy that uses art as its primary form of practice.

Not concerned with turning their clients into the next Picasso or Monet, an art therapist’s main aim is to enable their client to utilise art materials and methods as a means of self-expression and stress-relief in a stable and secure setting. It is an idea reiterated by French artist Edgar Degas who wrote, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

So, is it time for us to view art not only as an enjoyable past-time but rather as an important psychotherapy?

Art therapy is almost unique in its practice that it relies on a three-way relationship, joining the client, the therapist and the artefact produced from their sessions.

This relationship is very important as it sets arts therapy aside from other, less practical therapeutic methods.

Using the arts as a form of therapy can prove beneficial to those who need help but struggle to express their thoughts and emotions verbally, such as children and adolescents.

Young children, of primary school age in particular, may find the standard therapeutic institution to be cold and intimidating making them reluctant to partake in the necessary practice to help them.

It is for this reason this reason that art therapy is primarily directed at the younger generation.

By combining a favourite childhood past-time such as art with therapeutic psychotherapy allows the child to be treated without inflicting feelings of isolation or intimidation upon them.

Liz Cammack, a qualified special needs classroom assistant, has 15 years of experience working one on one with children suffering from severe behavioural problems.

One of the children that Liz is primarily based with suffers from severe behavioural problems; prior to art therapy the child also received regular visits to school from a child psychologist, who in turn referred the child to a licensed art therapist.

Speaking of the benefits to the child of having art therapy, Liz said, “[It] gave the art therapist and ultimately the psychologist an insight into how the child’s mind worked because all his drawings were in black, pencils and paint, he used no colour at all to express himself in his art work.”

A child may not be able to express complex emotions such as these verbally but through their artwork enable the psychologists and therapists to determine the issues they may be having and thus draw conclusions to remedy the situation.

But does it work? “Initially, yes”, said Liz, “however, when the therapy stopped he regressed and his behaviour deteriorated. There needs to be follow-up care such as counselling and this did not happen in this child’s case.”

Art psychotherapist, Jean Beolan Gascoigne tells us that the end products vary with many involving, “the making of visual images through painting, drawing, clay modelling and collage…”

While there are a small number of children who require intensive art therapy it is important to remember that the arts can benefit children of any capability and background.

Inside Art, a creative workshop set up in Londonderry works to develop, “teamwork, leadership and communication, while encouraging participants to challenge conventional ways of thinking.”

While providing activities in everything from creating wall hangings, soft sculpture and glass painting right down to decoupage and mandala making.  Inside Art also provides high quality and innovative workshops, community consultation and creative consultation.

Children partaking in one of Inside Art’s creative workshops throughout October would have seen their artwork displayed during the 25th anniversary celebrations of Londonderry’s Halloween Carnival.

While not therapeutic, art classes followed by presentations such as these can have an intensive effect on a child’s mental health as well as improving their confidence and social skills from a young age.

Projects such as these help to increasing a child’s feelings of relevance and uniqueness, something that can be lost in large groups of children.

Claire Heaney-McKee, Inside Art’s creative workshop facilitator, describes a child’s creativity as, “innate, and continued exposure to art cultivates self-expression, improves concentration, develops planning skills and enhances dexterity.”

Kathryn McCloskey, the mother of a child suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism, feels that art therapy has helped her son, “in ways [she] could never have imagined.”

One of the primary concerns with children suffering from these disorders is a life-long struggle to cooperate in everyday social situations.

Kathryn told me animatedly of how a careful combination of increased amounts of exercise and art therapy has drastically improved her both her son’s interpersonal and cognitive skills.

“He still struggles with his academic classes and that, because he doesn’t like the structured environment, but in the playground, during breaks, he’s far more interactive with the other children than he used to be.”

The informal environment in which art therapy takes place is imperative to its success as a form of psychotherapy for children, they enjoy escaping, what they generally feel is a confined and constricted environment within their day-to-day classroom activities.

It would appear that, at least where children are concerned, the time has come for art therapy to take step forward and encourage more verbal psychotherapy to take a back seat when treating children with complex issues.