Don’t dare think in China

Today, Christmas day, in China, there was a ‘legal’ verdict which was an affront to all democracies in the world. Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned for eleven years for the ‘crime’ of promoting human rights in the country of his birth. Liu is the founder of the Charter 08 campaign for constitutional reform. Although he had previously been held for a year without trial, the offical Chinese news agency, Xinhua, released a statement that said that the court had “strictly followed the legal procedures” and “fully protected Liu’s litigation rights”.

According to The Guardian’s report the case has raised fears that other drafters of Charter 08 could also face retribution from the authorities.

We sometimes moan about legal punishments in the UK, for instance when a rapist gets two years but a fraudster five. However we are not imprisoned in this country for ‘thought crimes’, at least, not yet.

Caring for your customers

It’s a truism in sales that it’s usually a lot more expensive to find new customers than it is to keep old ones. That’s why good customer service is so important. Yet it seems so many companies, especially large ones, forget this until an account closure is imminent.

circuit boardTo save their blushes, I won’t name them publicly, but I recently encountered atrocious support from our old hosting provider. To give the best service to you we run a dedicated server. For the past three years I’d been very happy with our setup. The server had been reliable and stable, the only downtime being during scheduled maintenance. Admittedly I hadn’t had to ask the company for anything much as everything just worked. However as our picture collection grew (over 11,000 pictures now) we were getting to the point where we needed a larger hard disk on the server.

I contacted the hosting company and was pleased to find that they would fit a new disk for a one-off charge. There was only one slight problem, our server, being an older model, was not compatible with the latest types of disks on the market. Would this be a problem I asked? Not at all was the reply, our engineers will sort everything out. So, a time for the upgrade was agreed (outside office hours so as not to disrupt normal business), and I backed everything up and notified everyone who needed to know.

The evening of the upgrade arrived, I arranged to work late, to make sure everything went smoothly. The time for the server to go offline arrived, but nothing happened. Instead I got an email from the hosting company’s engineer tasked with the work. “Unfortunately, your server is not compatible with the disks we use for upgrades”…

To cut a long story short, no upgrade happened. Instead there were weeks of exchanges between myself and the company’s sales department. They said I should go for a new server, I asked what deal they’d give me, no deal was offered. Communication was further complicated by the relevant salesman seemingly not having a full grasp of the technology he was selling. Eventually I’d had enough and looked at other providers in the market.

As things turned out, I was able to get a better server at a lower price than I’d been paying and I have no hesitation in naming our new providers as Poundhost.

The transition to the new server has been fully completed, with minimal disruption. Of course, our old company has recently started ringing the office trying to keep our business…

Be assured that if anyone has any service issues with Careimages we will strive to address the matter within one working day and usually much more quickly. Our customers matter to us.

Why you won’t see Harry in the Sun

Reading the gutter, and indeed occasionally the pavement press, you get the idea that social work is not exactly flavour of the month. Every social services chief in the country must be dreading a phone call from the Sun newsdesk before having to trawl the media centres explaining why a youngster in care has….

I know a few social workers and all of them repeat the same mantra; ‘why do we only hear about the tragedies?’ And so to redress the balance here’s a little tribute to a friend, let’s call him Harry, who at 60 is starting a very happy retirement after 35 years outstanding service to social work.

I first encountered Harry in 1979 when he interviewed me for a basic grade residential social work job in what became one of the pioneer horticultural model units for adults with physical disabilities. Due to our shared passion for football, we became good friends and I had the good fortune to be deputy to Harry in another pioneering project in Hackney where we opened a residential provision for adults with learning disabilities and successfully helped former Hackney residents who had been shipped out to dreadful institutions in the infamous ‘mad Surrey’ region to rebuild their lives.

Harry never climbed the management greasy pole, he remained a basic grade social worker all his career (although he was top of that basic grade early on). He worked in a variety of settings, for the last few years of his career he was on the front line of provision, working as a forensic social worker in one of the most difficult inner-city areas on the UK.

There are thousands of Harrys in social work; more importantly, there are tens of thousands of people in the UK whose lives have been enriched and even saved by the intervention of social workers. We know the Sun will not be bothered about you Harry, so this blog entry is for you. Happy retirement!