‘Coach industry must work together to attract drivers’

first_imgThe coach industry must work together if it is to address the ticking time-bomb of an ageing driver pool, says a leading South Yorkshire operator.Peter Regan, founder and MD of 18-vehicle Expressway, based in Rotherham, believes that making a driving career more attractive to younger people is vital, as is recognising the responsibility placed on drivers’ shoulders.“In some cases we can see someone in charge of a 300,000 coach and 50 people, and earning little more than minimum wage for the privilege,” he says. “20 years ago I had one of the youngest teams of coach drivers in South Yorkshire. Two decades later, most of them are still working for me – yet still, I have one of the youngest teams of coach drivers in South Yorkshire.“That’s not a healthy situation for the coach industry to be in. We have to make the role attractive to young men and women. If we keep our heads in the sand for another 15 years then I fear for the industry’s future. I wonder where the next generation of drivers will come from.”Mr Regan says that the industry must improve pay and conditions if it is to attract new blood. “If the government was to impose VAT on coach hire then a 500 job would become 600 overnight, and we would have no choice in that.“Similarly, if we have to increase our rates in order to be able to pay drivers more and attract staff, that is what should happen. No one person can address the problem; we have to do so collectively, as an industry.”Research by People 1st shows that 20% of all coach and bus drivers are aged between 60-64, compared to just 5% of the UK workforce as a whole, and that only 7% of workers in the PSV sector are under 30, compared to 24% of the workforce in general. 58% of coach and bus industry employees are aged over 50, its findings show.last_img read more

Report urges reform of the state’s mental health system

first_imgReport urges reform of the state’s mental health system Report urges reform of the state’s mental health system December 1, 2007 Senior Editor Regular Newscenter_img Courts and jails are ill-equipped to be mental health providers Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Florida’s system of warehousing the mentally ill behind bars is insane.That was the stark conclusion of a 170-page study report initiated by Chief Justice Fred Lewis.When 11th Circuit Judge Steve Leifman asked Department of Children and Families Secretary Bob Butterworth how to reform Florida’s dysfunctional mental health system, Butterworth had some terse advice: “Just fix the damn thing.”Leifman is the special advisor to the Supreme Court on mental health issues, and chairs the Mental Health Subcommittee of the Steering Committee on Family and Children in the Court. On November 14, at a public ceremony at the Supreme Court, the subcommittee unveiled its plan to carry out Butterworth’s advice.In attendance were Gov. Charlie Crist, justices, judges, several state agency department heads including Butterworth, mental health experts, and others from around the state. What they pledged was a cooperative and collaborative effort to carry out the recommendations of Leifman’s subcommittee. That calls for nothing less than — over the next six years — revamping the state’s public mental health system to provide effective and measurable treatment for the mentally ill. It would also relieve Florida’s courts and law enforcement agencies from a task they have always said they were ill-equipped to handle — being the mental health provider of last resort for many residents who, because of a lack of effective treatment, find themselves involved over and over again in the criminal justice system, frequently for minor infractions. “It’s important to understand that there for the grace of God go I,” Crist said in pledging his administration’s support for the effort.Addressing Lewis, he added, “We want to do everything we can, chief, from the administration’s point of view to be as significant a partner as you will.” As for the others who worked on drawing up the program, “Your compassion, your heart, your desire, your labor make all the difference in the world. The willing heart that you have makes all of the difference in their [patients’] world,” Crist said. “This is a bold attempt to address an issue that for so long has not been addressed,” Lewis said. “We ought to be about cooperation, we ought to be about collaboration, and we ought to be about the business of the common good and working together.. . . “None of the substance of this report can be implemented by any single branch of state government. We need all three branches involved, and I am so proud to see how well the leadership has responded.”The effort stems from a crisis last year when courts ordered Butterworth’s predecessor to find space in treatment facilities for mentally ill inmates in county jails found incompetent to stand trial, as provided under state law. But citing a lack of funding the then-DCF chief refused, leading to a showdown and a threat by a judge to jail the secretary for contempt.At the court ceremony, Butterworth told those gathered that when Crist contacted him after the 2006 elections about becoming DCF secretary, the then governor-elect relayed that the first thing he wanted done was to find a solution to the treatment bed problem.At the same time, Lewis, concerned about problems the mentally ill were creating for the criminal justice system, began an effort to see what could be done. Leifman was appointed to his post, the subcommittee was formed, Crist pledged cooperation with the effort, and even state legislators came on board to help draw up the plans.At the November 14 event, Crist and Lewis were followed by Butterworth, Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, Department of Corrections Secretary James McDonough, and Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Walt McNeil, Leifman, and others.Their message was a variation on the theme that Florida’s mental health system does little to help those with mental illnesses, particularly those who come into contact with the courts.Butterworth noted the first issue he had to deal with — finding “forensic” beds for those who have been determined to be incompetent to stand trial — is a prime example of the problems.“What we’re paying for now is 1,700 forensic beds at a cost of $250 million,” Butterworth said. “In the next few years, that cost, by adding more people into the system, will be a half a billion.”The result is there is little money left over for the 125,000 other people with severe mental health problems who are arrested and booked into Florida’s jails annually, for treatment of mentally ill inmates, or treatment of mentally ill inmates after they are released.“If we can work together, the executive branch, the judicial, and the legislative. . . on the front end, we would not have to use those useless dollars, so many dollars for such an issue that we should address early on,” Butterworth said.Agwunobi looked at the problem from a different slant. “If you have someone who is really sick in the hospital and it gets to the point you can send them home but they’re not quite totally well, if you don’t send them to a supportive community, with a well-case managed, well-supported integrated system to support them, what happens is they get readmitted to the hospital. In fact, we consider readmission rates within a certain period of time as a sign of bad quality,” he said.Yet that is exactly what Florida does.“In the mental health and the correctional system, if someone is sent out or discharged from the prison or correctional system, and they still have mental problems, what happens?” Agwunobi said. “They wind up being readmitted soon.“Because of the nature of their illness, many of these people cannot seek services when they are not given them in a direct fashion. It’s really about disease management and case management.”McNeil said 65 percent of those in the juvenile justice system have mental health issues, and Leifman added more than half of those also have substance abuse problems.Second Circuit Judge Nikki Clark, chair of the Steering Committee on Family and Children in the Court, reported that 40 percent of the children in the state’s foster care system have emotional disturbances and the third leading cause of death in Florida for those ages 15 to 24 is suicide.Studies show that at least 80 percent of girls in the delinquency system have been molested, Clark said, adding, “We don’t have the number for the boys, but we think it is high.“If we don’t help them, they will become the future abusers and molesters,” she said.McDonough said 17,000 of state prison inmates, about 17 percent, have mental health problems, and that number is expected to rise to 35,000 in the next few years. He added that for women inmates, the figure is 50 percent. (Another 15,000 people with mental illness are in county jails on a typical day, and 40,000 are under correctional supervision in the community.)Leifman said studies also show that almost 100 percent of the women in jails and prisons with mental health issues were sexually abused as children, yet there is no treatment when they are released.Several speakers noted that as states turned away from institutionalizing those with severe mental illnesses, the number of mentally ill in prisons and jails began to correspondingly rise. That was largely because community mental health treatment programs that were supposed to take over for the institutions either never materialized or were underfunded.That left Florida — and the rest of the nation — where it was 200 years ago with the mentally ill warehoused in jails and prisons with little or no effective treatment.The challenge faced by Leifman and his subcommittee was to design a system to reverse more than 30 years of failure in mental health treatment, and do it at a time with the state facing exceptionally tight financial strictures.The plan calls for a new approach, using community-based treatment providers who are overseen by a state committee to ensure treatment is effective, uses modern methods, and prevents criminal recidivism.Leifman said the legislature will be asked for about $20 million in seed money. That will allow the state to transfer about 300 people in the forensic mental health system to alternative treatment, which in turn will save about $48 million the first year. That $48 million can be combined with Medicaid money under new federal guidelines that allow more flexibility in using Medicaid dollars for mental health treatment, Leifman said. Medicaid will pick up 60 percent of the costs for community treatment, versus nothing for those who are incarcerated.The Agency for Health Care Administration divides the state, for the purpose of administering its programs, into 11 districts and Leifman said the new approach will initially be tried in three of those districts. The most likely candidates, he said, are Miami-Dade and Broward counties, plus one other area of the state. If the program works, additional four districts will be added in two years, and the final four in four years with full implementation in six years.The plan is proving attractive to state legislators, Leifman said, because it is a positive alternative to just spending $250 million for more forensic treatment. Effective front-end treatment could reduce some of the staggering costs on prisons and jails when they are forced to warehouse the mentally ill.Leifman estimated the plan will help the 25,000 to 50,000 Florida residents with the most serious problems, adding it will be aimed both at those in the criminal justice system and those deemed most likely to become involved without such treatment.One political plus, Leifman and others noted, is the plan has the strong support of sheriffs and others in law enforcement who see effective treatment as a way to reduce the burden on jails.Leifman said the initial reaction from legislators has been positive. Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, served on his subcommittee. He said Speaker Marco Rubio, R-Miami, has expressed interest in the proposal as an alternative to expensive budget increases for forensic treatment, and the proposal will be presented to a Senate committee in December.The next step is to move toward implementation, Leifman said.“We must embrace this. We must move forward,” Chief Justice Lewis said, as he adjourned the meeting. “The engine has started to move. The wheels are spinning. It’s time for it to take traction.”(The report is available on the court’s Web site: www.floridasupremecourt.org.)last_img read more

Russian firms to invest in Iranian rolling stock

first_imgIRAN: A memorandum of co-operation for the joint production of rolling stock was signed by national railway RAI and the Russian Export Centre on December 18.The memorandum provides for Russian companies to invest €3bn in rolling stock financing and the formation of joint ventures which would support the localisation of production.Iran’s Ministry of Roads & Urban Development said this could cover 20 000 wagons, 1 000 coaches and 350 freight locomotives. United Wagon Co and Iran’s Wagon Pars, Wagon Kowsar Co and Foolad Derakhshan are to jointly produce an initial 600 wagons as part of the agreement.last_img read more