As the TV time devoted Margaret Thatcher rises, I passed her birthplace today in Grantham…

The event was a trading standards conference where I was introducing the work of Consumer Focus. It felt modest, but Ron Gainsford tells me that Britain spends 210 million pounds on trading standards. Comment of the day, after the good news this morning on the court of appeal upholding the OFT on bank charges, was Phil who talked of banks as “cowboys in suits”.

The interesting thing with the OFT court ruling (and a huge well done to all those involved in this campaign) is whether it opens the door to looking at some of the other dodgy and hidden small print consumers have complained about as unfair contract terms… maybe we can take a leaf from Maggie’s book and take them all on?

Why care about social care?

I spoke this morning at the first Board meeting of the newly reorganised London TravelWatch led by Sharon Grant. One of their great strengths is that they represent people in all the different modes of transport – drivers, bus users, pedestrians – so can help join things up. Good luck to them!

Then I was on a panel at a Counsel and Care conference on older people’s care. There was an interesting presentation from the company Tunstall on how technology is beginning to change care. One mother of a child with disabilities said “I have been able to get a good night’s sleep for the first time in many years, as I no longer have to stay awake at night worrying.” They argue that one million people using ‘telecare’ could save 5.3 billion in five years time.

But there are big claims and big issues across social care policy – with a Green Paper on social care in England expected soon. There is a real sense of momentum around personalised budgets, with places like Oldham showing the way – but equally a recognition that there are limits, risks and in particular resources are a big issue. Who pays for care and are local authorities cutting back? Malcolm Dean, a fellow trustee on the Young Foundation, has found that we spend twice the amount now on social care but help half the number of people.

The truth is that the economy and society rests on a bedrock of care. Money is tight, but the recession forces us to rethink our priorities, as the longer challenge of climate change does. Both may mean that we need to value care, harness new people-centred technologies and invest more as a society in the gentle, low-carbon art of local help for local people.

Your money, your rights

Thanks to Daniel for sending me this link to an excellent resource from the Citizenship Foundation – they are working hard to raise money to get it out to sixth forms around the country. image001

More on Barbie


Here is the 5 minute BBC Today Programme interview with Agnes on Consumer Kids and Barbie’s 50th birthday.

There is also an article on ‘Barbie Girls Play Rough’ by Agnes on BBC.

For the full and amazing story of the new barbie barbarians, get yourself a copy of Consumer Kids.

You can then also find out about Action Man… and what young boys learn about life from David Beckham!

1.2 million pounds

great news that the complaint we made to the energy regulator Ofgem last year (as energywatch) on Npower means that the company will have to repay 1.2 million pounds to consumers.

Yes, it’s Barbie!

Barbie is fifty years old this year. In our book Consumer Kids, we reveal that girls have a love hate relationship with the doll – with some ending up torturing their Barbies. You can read how and why in Consumer Kids – you can also hear it over the airwaves tomorrow morning, when Agnes is interviewed about the book and about Barbie on Radio 4’s Today programme around 8.30am.

Anybody have Barbie pictures to send?