Three things to get involved with at the start of this term – NHS demo, College Reps and Campaigner Training

The start of term is fast approaching. Over the summer, and in the last few weeks in particular, I’ve been spending a lot of my time on 3 initiatives that will be kicking off very soon and which people should definitely get involved with.

1)      The NHS Demo

Over recent years we have already witnessed the patchwork privatisation of various NHS services. “Payment by Results” has meant that healthcare providers get paid per treatment, procedure, or “episode of care”. This incentivises providers to compete with one another and to discharge patients as soon as possible so as to treat more patients. Private provider prefer services that are cheaper to run, leaving more complicated services like A&E and patients with complex needs, to the NHS. However, this prevents the cheaper services being used to cross-subsidise the more expensive and complicated ones, leaving NHS providers struggling to maintain them. NHS providers have to discover methods of reducing costs or face being taken into administration, broken up and closed down. Privatisation is destroying the services and care offered to us, and putting profit above the needs of patients and society. We are going to have deal with the consequences of privatisation and cuts.

Many students are already reliant on services provided by the NHS, and many will also work within it, but there are a couple of other student specific issues surrounding the NHS. Firstly, the government are proposing charging international students to be able to use the NHS. Students from outside Europe could pay at least £200 and postgraduate researchers with families could pay £3,000. There’s been some talk on Facebook about it being unfair for international to get free healthcare if they don’t contribute in taxes/to the economy. Firstly, I don’t even agree with this argument, but for those who do, here are some statistics which demonstrate that international students already pay far more than they get out: the Government spent £33 million treating foreign nationals in 2011, £21 of which were recovered. This represents a net cost of £12 million. This represents 0.01% of the NHS’ annual budget of £106 billion. However, international students contribute a net benefit to the UK far greater- BIS estimated that international students contribute £7.9 billion to the UK economy each year. We should have no doubt that this is another xenophobic attempt to discourage and penalise international students and appease the right wing media. Healthcare is a fundamental right and to deny it to anyone when we have the ability to provide it is a disgusting state of affairs.

In addition, the prospect of 7 walk-in centres in Birmingham closing, including the one on Katie Road in Selly Oak, will severely impact on students. Many students are not registered at GPs surgeries, or at ones far away, often because of them moving on such a regular basis, that walk-in centres are a lifeline to them seeking treatment quickly. They are essential for emergency contraception and treating STIs. The majority of visits are by women, and this is yet another cut which will hit liberation groups the hardest.

The demonstration will be taking place in Manchester on Sunday 29th September. Coaches will be leaving from the Guild at 8am and leave Manchester at 4pm. They are wheelchair accessible as well. Tickets are only £4 and are available at: http://www.guildtickets.co.uk/event/NHS-Demo and will also be on sale at the Student Development counter 23rd-25th September. If you have any questions, please get in contact.

2) College Rep Elections

The Student Rep Scheme is something which I feel is very important. The lack of democracy within our institution is shocking, with so many decisions being made by management without the say of students and staff. Tokenistic inclusion of sabbatical officers on committees is a norm and a far cry from the democratic university, run by students, staff and the local community which I would like to see. The Student Rep Scheme is something which does give students representation at a departmental level, and whilst it leaves a lot to be desired, it is a step in the right direction towards students having greater control over their education. However, the sheer size of the scheme, with 1,000 reps, and no one in between them and the Vice-President Education, hampers the Guild’s ability to communicate with reps and vice-versa, and the organisation of the scheme.

The positions of College Reps were passed through Guild Council to try to address some of these issues. There will one postgraduate and one undergraduate rep per college. Their role will be to campaign on issues of concern to students in their college. Working closely with the Vice-President Education, they will empower student reps to achieve positive change on behalf of students through the provision of such services as training sessions and advisory briefings. They will co-ordinate and share best practise between student reps in the college, organising college wide meetings of reps. This should hopefully lead to an easier to manage, more co-ordinated and better supported Student Rep Scheme. Student reps should be clearer as to where to seek advice and communicating with them and their communication with the Guild and each other should be improved. This is obviously highly dependent on the commitment of the people elected to these roles.

Their remit will also include the opportunity to influence decisions at the college level and they will attend regular meetings with the VPE to co-ordinate education strategy. Hopefully, by getting them to sit on college level committees, issues brought up by the student reps which need to be resolved at a college level will be able to be aired. It should also give me a better picture of what the issues are in different colleges as they arise.

If you’re interested in standing to be a College Rep, nominations open on 23rd September. You’ll be able to pick up a nominations pack from Student Voice or from www.guildofstudents.com/elections

3) Activist and Campaigner Training

I don’t think it’s hard to look around you and see things you want to change, whether it’s on your course, in the university, your local community or on a national or international skill. What’s much harder is having the confidence to decide to do something about it and try to change it. These fortnightly training sessions aim to provide students with the skills and confidence to go out and run their own campaigns. Sessions will include ones on designing leaflets and posters, your rights as a protestor, how to be secure online, facilitating meetings and writing articles and working with the media. They will take place on Thursdays from 6pm every other week in the Harvey Milk room, starting from the 10th October.

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