Monthly Archives: May 2015

Richard Kirkman (1949-1987)

Richard Stephen Kirkman was born on 29 April (or 29 March) 1949 in Surbiton, Surrey, England. His passions included cricket, railways, and justice for homeless people. He undertook management and business studies at university, though most of his working life was with homeless people. He was a prominent member of Char, the campaign for single homeless people, both nationally and within Greater Manchester. He always carried a book in his bag which contained the current timetables of every train service in Britain. He died aged 38 years on 4 May 1987 in Stockport, Greater Manchester.

Richard was killed while working at a hostel, stabbed repeatedly by a young male resident. The attacker was subsequently caught by police officers when they searched the young man’s girlfriend’s flat in Hulme, Manchester, and found him hiding on the balcony. Richard was a large, well-built man and in reporting his death, the local newspaper called him a “gentle giant”.

An Inquest into the death was held on 29 May 1987. The young man was later tried, found guilty and sentenced to prison. The hostel was at 220 Wellington Road South, Stockport, now used as offices.

A non-religious memorial service was held at the St Thomas Centre, Ardwick Green North, in Manchester for his many friends and colleagues. The funeral was held later near Southampton, where his parents lived, with the reception held at the Hampshire county cricket grounds.

A story Richard liked to tell:

“One day while I was working in Stockport I found myself in a record shop in the rougher end of town. Various folk were lingering there, slowly flicking through the album covers, a few there just for the warmth. A bell rings and the door opens – in walks a tall police sergeant in full uniform. Everyone there is suddenly looking down very hard, pretending not to notice him. Slowly, he walks through the shop, past everyone in turn. People bristle, their pulses racing. With so many people to choose from, who is he after today? He walks on, up to the counter. Just as the assistant is about to speak, the sergeant puts a fiver on the counter. ‘Baker Street,’ he says. Such a relief all round. Brilliant!” Richard said.

In 1988 a charity was set up by his family, The Richard Kirkman Trust, (registration 327972) which makes donations from the income from its investments for good causes in the Hampshire area. Previously his friends had paid for a bench for waiting passengers at Stockport railway station in his name.

A year after he died he was mentioned in a debate in the House of Lords concerning the death of social workers at work. “There have been too many similar cases of violent attacks on social workers and others. Last year Richard Kirkman was stabbed to death at a hostel for homeless people in Stockport, Cheshire.”(1)

A decade later he was mentioned again in a BBC report on trade union concerns about violence against social and community workers, although the date of his attack was incorrectly given as 1983.(2)

(1) http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1988/dec/01/miss-sharon-campbell

(2) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/393605.stm

Footnote:

Richard was a good friend of mine, and I was surprised about how little I could find that had been written about his life, so I started with this.

TWO PRESS CUTTINGS:

Stockport Express Advertiser, Thursday 7 May 1987, front page

Murder of a Gentle Man

A “gentle giant” who spent his life trying to help people was murdered in a “savage and frenzied” knife attack on Monday.

Richard Kirkman, warden of a Wellington Road North halfway hostel and chairman of Stockport Action for Benefits, was found by one of the residents in a pool of blood just after 10pm.

He had suffered more than 25 stab wounds mainly to the chest. Detectives leading the enquiry say it was a particularly “frenzied and sustained attack of savage intensity”.

The body of Mr Kirkman, in his late 30s, was found in the pantry of the hostel, owned by the Stonham Housing Association, where he had worked for the last eight years.

Police were trying to find the murder weapon which they believe to be a knife, possibly a kitchen knife, which is believed to have a 10-inch blade.

Police want to interview a heavily tattooed man called …, who was seen near the hostel on Monday between 12.30 and 1.30pm carrying a rucksack and also, it is believed, a sheath knife with an 8-10 inch blade.

Police say he is potentially dangerous and should not be approached.

Mr Kirkman, a 6ft gentle giant who weighed 18 stone, was described by friends as a quiet man. He lived in a flat near to the hostel in Wellington Road North, Heaton Norris.

For the past 18 months he had been involved with Stockport Action for Benefits, trying to help the homeless and was in charge of the hostel which tried to rehabilitate offenders back into society.

Mr Patrick Cornwell, National President of the housing charity CHAR (Campaign for the Homeless and Rootless) said, “He was a wonderful man. I’d known him for 14 years.

“Everyone who knew him respected his enormous commitment to helping homeless people. I’m devastated.”

Councillor Ian Roberts, who had known Mr Kirkman for 18 months, said, “I only saw him last week. He was a great bloke who spent his life trying to help those less fortunate than himself.

“He deserved better than this. For the last year and a half he’d been trying to bring the plight of the homeless to the attention of Stockport Council. I can only hope that the work which Richard started will get some recognition.”

Councillor Ann Coffey, Labour’s Social Services spokesman was stunned by the news. “He was a man who changed things. He had done a lot of work to make Stockport council more understanding to the plight of the homeless.”

Detectives are anxious to trace anyone who has stayed in the hostel recently, and three men who were currently registered there. Det Chief Supt Jim Grant said, “I hope we can prick the consciences of these people he has helped in the past, to help us now.

“Police can be contacted in confidence on ….”

A spokesman for Stonham Housing Association said, “We are very shocked. We are working in co-operation with the police and are making arrangements for the house to be closed for the time being.”

—-

Stockport Express Advertiser, Thursday 4 June 1987, page 10

Tributes to Richard

Campaigner for the homeless Richard Kirkman who was killed last month is being remembered by his family and friends at a commemorative gathering tomorrow (Friday).

Tributes will flow at St Thomas Centre in Ardwick Green, Manchester, for the “gentle giant” many people took to their hearts.

A trust fund is being set up to carry on Richard’s unstinting work for the homeless. Further details can be obtained by ringing Patrick on … or Lyn on …

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EU referendum, welfare cuts, and pensions

The new UK government is committed to making ‘savings’ or cuts of £12 billion in the welfare budget. This is said to exclude payments to pensioners.

But perhaps one option will be to only protect pensioners living in Britain.

Pensioners who move abroad to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere have their UK state pension frozen – the green line below. But pensioners who move to any other EU country get the same annual increases as if they stayed in the UK – the blue line below. Currently the annual increase is a guaranteed minimum of 2.5 per cent.

Pensions Graph - EU & Commonwealth

There is speculation that the EU referendum will focus on non-treaty agreements such as the mutual recognition of welfare benefits. So-called “British welfare for British people”. We can expect a steady flow of tabloid newspaper articles with headlines like, “Large criminal family from EU gets £400 a week plus new house by social workers”.

So, removing mutual recognition of welfare systems could be the result of the EU referendum, which then opens the door to freezing the state pension for people living anywhere outside the UK, including popular warmer EU destinations such as France and Spain.

British welfare for British people – versus – the free movement of disabled people

Disabled people might lose the most in the UK referendum on EU membership. Here is how it might happen.

The early signs after the UK general election are that the promised referendum on EU membership will be framed by a political message of “British welfare for British people“.

The logic for the UK in framing the debate around welfare payments is that none of the other 27 countries in the EU want a new treaty, so it is politically impossible to change the wider fundamentals. Because the system of welfare payments is decided country by country, not at the EU level, it is possible to avoid asking for a new treaty.

The two main principles in welfare benefits at the EU level are non-discrimination and mutual recognition. A common example is that a British pensioner living in Spain will still get their British pension. The issue of non-discrimination is very important to the EU.

An example is the winter fuel payments given to pensioners. The UK is allowed by EU treaty to say that payments will be made when the temperature drops below a certain figure. It is not allowed to say that such payments will be paid to pensioners but only if they live in the UK.

The effect may be similar, that people living in warmer areas don’t get the extra heating payment. But the logic is about warmth, and must not be about discriminating against their movement to another country.

But the UK referendum could try to change this. This is speculation, but the change could be to say that EU citizens moving into the UK cannot have “recourse to public funds” for a number of years. So, you can continue to come here if you are rich but not if you are poor and were getting some assistance where you used to live.

An example would be a care package for a disabled person. You might feel that it is already the devil’s own job to keep your care package when you move from one borough to another, or from one part of the country to another. Moving with a care package to another EU country is already even more difficult. It might soon become impossible.

In the UK we could end up in a position where we say to EU disabled people: you are welcome here … but let’s see your money first.

And it doesn’t take a crystal ball to guess that other countries will then say to very same thing to British disabled people wanting to live elsewhere in the EU.

A solution could be that all countries agree, say, to pay for care packages up to two years of living abroad, after which it passes over to the new country. But just one example here – NHS prescriptions to people who are living abroad stop after three months, and with austerity it is unlikely that the UK would increase entitlements as part of the negotiations.

The early signs after the UK general election are that the promised referendum on EU membership will be held sooner in 2016, not 2017.

The logic for moving the date is to avoid prolonging the agony of endless debate and argument. An early date also reduces the time when many EU processes are put ‘on hold’ while we wait for the result of the vote.

But there might not be a lot of time left to campaign for disabled people’s rights to move around the EU as freely as non-disabled people can.