News & features

Working age social care

Time and laterally the crushing impact of Coronavirus have destroyed any illusion that resolution of the social care crisis in England can be delayed. Proposed solutions must meet ethical tests around the essential value of all people – and also be just for adults of working age who need adult social care.

People of working age who need social care are faced with a system that financial pressure has optimised to barely meet the statutory obligations that Local Authority have to older people. For the working age community the combination of the crippling means test, and the inability of care providers to reliably meet incredibly basic needs; makes much Local Authority social care a disabling, trauma producing system.

Implementation of an effective social care reform requires primary attention to the solution must reflect the changing demography of England. The needs of older people must dominate the settlement. It would though, be remiss and inequitable to leave working age recipients of social care with a system that fails them as badly as the present one does.

Just social care for working age adults means ensuring that any solutions are able to meet basic life needs of people bringing up families, contributing to society or working. For example, at present it might be difficult to get regular care at a suitable time to allow someone to commute to work, to study, or to take their child to school. That isn’t ethical, or humane. It shouldn’t happen now, and it mustn’t in the future.

There has been tentative proposals that revisions to the social care system be funded by state managed group insurance paid for by a premium: bluntly a tax, paid by all over the age of 40. However it is drawn such a scheme must cover younger adults who need care – perhaps from the day of their birth, or who acquire disability early in life. Such a scheme must be mindful that there are injuries which occur for which no personal injury claim could ever be possibly effective.

Especially in working age adults good integration between health and social care is essential. Integration doesn’t mean one side owning the other though. In fact the NHS taking over social care in another ‘visible from space’ reform that medicalises models of care and strips expertise from Local Authorities is a potential tragedy. Social care has specific connections into the community which aren’t the competence of health care. Broadly Local Authorities are generally incredibly efficient in their delivery of social care through their own staff and contractors. They have to be. The long coming crisis in social care, has forced every efficiency possible to be made. It would be foolishness to hand the complexity of social care – so very different from health delivery to the NHS.

News & features

Hiroshima 75

Down the rabbit hole into a crazy word:

75 years ago, nuclear weapons were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This first sight of the weapons of light which bring only darkness was sufficient for the Word Council of Churches to declare war with atomic arms: “sin against God and a degradation of man,” For the life of the world which is from everlasting, the time for every nation: superpowers included prohibit nuclear arms, is now

A strategist: Bernard Brodie coined two axioms about nuclear ams in 1946 which remain true until today: First that they exist, and second that their destructive power is fantastically great. Those wizards of armageddon: closeted intellectuals charged with grappling military utility from this destructive power failed. The only end of attempts to create logical schemes for the employment of nuclear weapons is a rabbit hole winding to death, destruction and certain catastrophe. There is only one way to safely address the pair of axioms. Tackle the first, not the second: disarm, disarm entirely, and disarm now.

For most of the Cold War the military plans for the employment of Nuclear Weapons could be simply characterised: Massive Attack. There was it seemed no likelihood that either side could enter a limited nuclear war without spillover, in part because with weapons each 10 – 100 times larger than that dropped at Hiroshima no sane definition of a limited attack stood scrutiny. Unaware of, or unwilling to model the ionising radiation, fire-aggregation and other effects of nuclear weapons, US planners calculated using blast effects alone. They and presumably their USSR counterparts created a level of overkill which would have devastated the world and left the ruins bouncing.

The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken the globalised world. Every excess death is a tragedy. However a virus that kills around 1:1000 is in historical terms a moderate epidemic. The Black Death at its worst killed between one third and two thirds of Europe. Dreadful though that plague was, it did not poison the earth. Nuclear arms, threaten not only megadeath, but the killing of the wind and water, the earth and sky. A major nuclear exchange ends this civilisation.

In both Russian and US circles there is renewed interest and commissioning of smaller ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons. We are told the Russians consider that it might be necessary ‘to escalate in order to deescalate’ That is, the use of overwhelming force – with ‘small’ nuclear arms might stop conflict in its tracks. In the US the claim is that certain targets are now so hard to destroy with conventional weapons, that it would be proportional to use a small nuclear weapon. As mischief is worked, arms control treaties unravel, weapons proliferate to new countries, strategists are again looking for problems to which the answer are atomic arms.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which was adopted by the United Nations in 2017 has now been ratified by 40 states, albeit not by any state with or in the process of obtaining nuclear weapons. It enters into force, binding the signatories when 50 states have ratified the treaty. Will this uprising by non-nuclear states to declare the obscenity of these weapons illegal have effect in time? Nothing is certain save that, for the life of the world this is time to put our heart and soul into the effort – wherever we live.

Before I was injured I briefly served in the Royal Navy as a very junior officer. The Navy is responsible for the UK’s nuclear deterrent. At the time the idea that the knowledge that vengeance waited in the deep for any who struck the first blow seemed an uncomfortable, but just deterrent to secure peace. I no longer think that it is a peaceable way to make peace, and no longer a thing which I as a follower of the carpenter from Nazareth: Jesus can support.

Reading list

The Wizards of Armageddon (Stanford Nuclear Age Series) Fred Kaplan

The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War. Fred Kaplan

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Daniel Ellsberg, Bloomsbury


Subtitling on zero budget

Accessible subtitling is critical for disabled users, and increasingly essential for all users, due to the popularity muting sound while consuming social video. Producing subtitles is not difficult, and can be done for free. This guide helps explain how subtitling works and takes you through the process of creating a subtitle file at zero cost. Video is not finished until it has been subtitled or captioned.

What does a subtitle file look like?

A subtitle file connects speech in the video with text. Depending on the intent of the Caption Writer, other elements of the video may also be conveyed. Subtitles can be stored in many different digital files. The simplest is SubRip (.srt) which is accepted by Facebook and Youtube as well as semi – professional applications like Adobe Premiere Pro CC

What you need:

  • a transcript of your video
  • a video player that will display ‘Audio time units’ – i.e. time in HH:MM:SS;mS and which you are familiar with
  • a text editor (notepad will do if you are desperate)

SRT formatting is exceptionally simple. This makes it suitable for hand coding into a plain text file. The format is simply this:

  • Subtitle index (starts at zero increments +1 per subtitle)
  • Start time –> end time (h:mm:ss;ms)
  • Subtitle content (as plain text, hard line breaks are honoured on screen)
  • Blank line to terminate this subtitle
00:20:41,150 --> 00:20:45,109
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 
Lets open up this tricky passage of scripture. 

00:20:45,110 -->  00:20:50,001
The wise ones, Magi, brought gifts to the infant Christ of 
Gold Frankinsense and myrh

There is a very readable guide at Wikipedia about the format and also some formatting permitted by convention in many SRT clients

Step 1: Obtaining a transcript of your video

  • The simplest strategy is just to type one. I recommend not trying to type your transcript in SRT format to start with. Instead transcribe it into natural chunks. If you are very familiar with what was said, you may find that transcribing chunks from the end of the video and moving ‘backwards’ towards the beginning gets you a more accurate transcript.
    • This technique is great if you have poor internet upload speed, or are constrained to keep the content of the video on your local machine – for example in the developing world
    • Hand coding also works well if you have poor quality sound in the video
  • An alternative method is to use an AI speech recognition service. There are several with adequate free plans for a lot of work:
    • At the time of writing works well providing you give it clean audio. Helpfully Otter can handle multiple speakers competently.

Step 2: Splitting your transcript for best effect

Subtitling for effective communication is an art. You can’t expect to just split every n words. That creates very poor intelligibility. You want to help the viewer through the video. Your role is important and should not be rushed. Here’s an example

Christmas has come and gone and also the new year.
And if we are honest,

we would probably have to admit that most of us,
if not all of us have been feeling rather exhausted.

We do it every year, the mad rush to buy the presents before
the shop closeson Christmas Eve;.

Step 3: Adding timings

Now there is nothing to do but some hard work. In the absence of any other tools you need VLC the excellent free video player to play the video out. You need an VLC extension ‘Time’ which allows you to put the time in an useful format on screen in ms.

Simply go down the file adding in the time stamps and index numbers

Step 4: Finalise

Now name the file *.srt perhaps and you are good to go.

Data Stories

Sony PXW-Z190, ffmpeg batch transcode to ProRes Quicktime: Explained

Specific guide on using ffmpeg to transcode Quicktime (ProRes) from the native MXF as recorded by Sony PXW-Z190 cameras. Also of interest to users of the PXW-Z280. For those of you desperate to cut and paste an incantation into Terminal – here you go:

 for i in *.MXF; do ffmpeg -i "$i"   -map 0:0 -map 0:1 -map 0:2 -map 0:3 -map 0:4 -c:v prores_ks -profile:v 1 -quant_mat:v 3 -qscale:v 13   "./output/${i%.*}.mov";done

Read on to understand what it does and why it works. If you’re not technical or used to Terminal – don’t worry we do it step by step.

So for the transcode we want to operate on the video stream particularly which is in h264, and transcode that to ProRes. We could do things to the audio stream but here we are just going to copy the four tracks of audio straight over.

Video transcode

Using ffprobe find the information about the zeroth stream which in this camera is the video…

Stream #0:0: Video: h264 (High), yuv420p(tv, bt709, progressive), 3840x2160 [SAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 29.97 fps, 29.97 tbr, 29.97 tbn, 59.94 tbc    

So lets write a ffmpeg command to just make a QuickTime video file with no audio to illustrate what we are about.

ffmpeg -i INPUT.MXF -c:v prores_ks -profile:v 1 -quant_mat:v 3 -qscale 20  OUTPUT.MOV    

Exploding the command term by term

  • -c:v Selects the zeroth stream. If your video is somewhere else or there are n video streams then you need to map it / them formally
  • prores_ks selects the codec – This is one of number of ProRes options but is the one that I’ve had most luck with. Here’s a slightly despairing blog by one of the original authors: ProRes KS
  • -profile:v a preconfigured profile in prores_ks options are specified by an integer thus: -profile:v 3
    • 0 ‘proxy’
    • 1 ‘lt’ (suprisingly useful especially when output to web)
    • 2 ‘standard’
    • 3 ‘hq’
    • 4 ‘4444’
    • 5 ‘4444xq’
  • -quant_mat a preconfigured matrixes in prores_ks options are specified by an integer thus: -profile:v 3
    • 0‘auto’
    • 1‘default’
    • 2‘proxy’
    • 3‘lt’
    • 4 ‘standard’
    • 5 ‘hq’
  • -qscale Quantiser. Very broadly this is about the way the encoder picks the amount of compression per frame. Setting a fixed qscale speeds up the encode because a whole chunk of processing to get best quality is short-circuited.
  • bits_per_mb higher values will improve speed. I don’t recommend specifying both this and -qscaleat the same time because predicting the outcome gets tricky if you aren’t intimate with the maths

Audio copy

ffmpeg -i INPUT.MXF -map 0:1 -map 0:2 -map 0:3 -map 0:4 -c:a copy  OUTPUT.MOV    

Creating a straight copy over of the audio as PCM – i.e. without transcoding needs the use of the map command. There’s a better explanation of what’s going on here than I can give ffmpeg wiki some systems may struggle with the raw audio.

 Synthesising the command

ffmpeg -i INPUT.MXF -map 0:1 -map 0:2 -map 0:3 -map 0:4 -c:v prores_ks -profile:v 1  -quant_mat:v 3 -qscale:v 12  -c:a:0  pcm_alaw  -c:a:1  pcm_alaw -c:a:2 pcm_alaw -c:a:3 pcm_alaw

Note that we now need to map the video channel explicitly.

Now some magic to make I process a directory of files.

This works in OSX and probably works in most Linux. I’m not going to explain because why ‘$I’ works isn’t straightforward…

The only requirement here is that you probably should pre-create a directory called /output in the active directory. So if you’re working dir is
$usr/video then $usr/video/output

 for i in *.MXF; do ffmpeg -i "$i"   -map 0:0 -map 0:1 -map 0:2 -map 0:3 -map 0:4 -c:v prores_ks -profile:v 1 -quant_mat:v 3 -qscale:v 13  -c:a:0  pcm_alaw  -c:a:1  pcm_alaw -c:a:2 pcm_alaw -c:a:3 pcm_alaw "./output/${i%.*}.mov";done

Use your friend ffprobe

use ffmpeg without a solid understanding of the file you are feeding it as an input is fairly futile for all but the most straightforward cases. So first steps is always to use ffprobe to examine the input.

The bits we need from the screed of the Metadata report are the stream definitions – since they help with specifying the right options for the transcode.

 Video definition

 Stream #0:0: Video: h264 (High), yuv420p(tv, bt709, progressive), 3840x2160 [SAR 1:1 DAR 16:9], 29.97 fps, 29.97 tbr, 29.97 tbn, 59.94 tbc    

The first stream is the video – h264 encoded, colour depth 4:2:0,

N audio streams

 Stream #0:1: Audio: pcm_s24le, 48000 Hz, 1 channels, s32 (24 bit), 1152 kb/s

Then we get to the audio streams of which there are at least four – two external microphones, and two internal mics. I haven’t been able to test the Sony special interface

Mysterious fifth stream

There is a data stream which it isn’t quite clear what it does – It’s timecode related but I don’t do enough TC specific stuff to have worked out what.


Have a nature bath

In these frenetic times the #NatureBath series aids reflection, prayer, mediation and peace. This is social media for the common good. To see more or keep in touch: follow @ianwyllie on twitter.

A #WheeelyBeastFilms project. Everything you see has been filmed from a wheelchair. @IanWyllie is available for your creative interview or project around faith, disability, hope, recovery and Hampshire news.


Licensed under an Attribution, Non Commercial, No Derivatives license is in force. In principle other licenses for specific users in the sphere of disability, mental health and religion could be agreed. Please contact Ian Wyllie.

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News & features

The Hillier’s meditations

Hillier’s Gardens, are full of life at the moment, and as spring tends to summer the plants are at their flourishing best. I’ve spent a few afternoons there recently, in part to explore making some mediative reflections for Disability and Jesus, who are a user led collective doing all sorts of transformational access stuff as well as the amazing An Ordinary Office project. Do check it out.

So here are some of the very little films, from a strikingly windy gardens, rendered apparently less so by the judicious use of slow(er) mo(tion), at least as much as the PXW-Z190 will provide. It’s fair to say it’s not one of the camera’s strong points.

The gardens were very much less busy and calmer when this was shot – all handheld, which isn’t an excuse, but was an opportunity to check out the handling on the camera, which doesn’t get off a tripod much.

And finally the Woodland Pigs which were very much full grown and seem to have ‘mysteriously vanished’ with replacements due soon. Sausages anyone?″
News & features

Music therapists in the wild

Meta Killick from Living with Harmony Music Therapy, has a side gig busking in Winchester. She finds it a non threatening and impactful way of engaging people and sharing the difference music therapy can make to wellbeing and mood. 

Living with Harmony is a specialist Music Therapy practice run by Alistair Clarkson and Meta. Together they have a formidable range of expertise, but a gentle and generous approach to the power of music fully participated in to change moods, health and ultimately lives. They work in a range of residential and community settings. 

In an innovative move they are engaged in a project to explore how Music Therapy can make a positive contribution to the safeguarding of vulnerable adults. In an innovative move they are engaged in a project to explore how Music Therapy can make a positive contribution to the safeguarding of vulnerable adults

Busking doesn’t just keep the pennies rolling in. Meta finds it a useful opportunity to engage people and educate them about the benefits of Music Therapy.

She said: “I’m here busking, it’s a magnet. People come and tell me how beautiful the Harp is, and I tell them how wonderful Music Therapy is. I engage people in conversation, People like the Harp, it’s a pretty sound, and if I’m sitting down, I’m non threatening.”

Meta Killick, Winchester 3 May 2019

Here’s a longer piece of relaxing harp busking, video in the street ambience of Winchester. 


Social media or not in Lent?

Should we advocate fasting from social media over Lent given that so many faithful believers with disabilities rely on digital social media threads to connect them to worship, and to life?

In watching a small storm unfold over this social media or not in Lent issue and seeing public figures and bodies in various churches posting both web reflections at the same time as advice that perhaps we should consider abstaining the digital world during Lent. I’ve been struck how we risk falling into the great trap on social media, of seeking a ‘digital, or binary mindset’: that is seeking dichotomous solutions to every problem.

In this discussion I’d like to appeal to the community to remember that we have advice on this very situation straight from Romans 14 which includes the admonition: ‘Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains’ and vice versa.

The parallel with the text in Romans should be clear: food is vital to long term survival, and eating together is at the heart of community. These are the two arguments being put about how abstaining from social media can hurt the disabled community. I understand both perspectives and I’m writing as someone affected by disabilities, and I implore you let’s heed the advice given by Paul: don’t quarrel about it.

In thinking further about this I suggest that as followers of the Christ we should urgently resist this trend towards seeking a digital or binary outcome to every problem in society, politics, ethics and faith:

First, we don’t worship a God whose being is anyway simple. The economy of the Trinity is very clearly not straightforward. In fact it often seems irreducibly complex, the very opposite of binary.

Second, we should rejoice that @churchofengland and other churches are including the digital sphere both in their provision of resources to help disciples journey in Lent, and in their consideration of what and appropriate Lenten discipline might be.

Third, the nature of our personal journey in faith should mean that God is calling us to be made more holy day by day. That means change and growth. This journey of sanctification to use the posh word, demands different changes from each of us according to the issues God wants to touch in our lives. So it seems credible that without contradiction God can at the same time be calling one to abstain from Social Media and another to engage with it.

Fourth I’ve come to be an advocate for Lenten discipline. I’ve come to find this yearly season a treasure. Fasting is a biblically commended, valuable and powerful act. How it works and exactly what it does I have no idea. I do know that I’m sad that disease puts me in that group of people for whom the classic biblical fast from food is a very bad idea. I’m coming to learn that fasting from other natures of input can bring growth and blessings to my soul.

For the record, I don’t recommend anyone affected by chronic health conditions or serious disease fasts without serious consideration and medical advice. 

So finally, please sisters and brothers in the church let’s not fight, or even have a storm in a tea cup about this. It’s not worth it, and there are many, many things out there that can hurt the body of Christ and the very being of this United Kingdom. Let’s attend to those, to the cure of souls, the welfare of our communities – on or offline, and being the witness that this nation needs right now.

This isn’t a deeply considered post, its just a reminder that we worship the God who made all things, whose character and being is complex and wonderful beyond all things. I’m sure there are many theologians, academics and clergy who could share views on this to the benefit of us all.


Addressing access challenges

The access and sensory challenges posed by church buildings are significant, especially in the Church of England. An approach including nationally endorsed generic fabric changes by architectural period; requiring churches seeking to make fabric changes to present comprehensive access development roadmaps; and mandating consideration of community need in regard to hygiene related proposals.

Nationally endorsed generic changes by architectural period

The Church of England’s built estate is sufficiently large that there are few truly ‘unique’ examples or architecture from a given period. That is not to say, of course that there are no uniquely ‘valuable’ buildings

The Church Buildings Council or some other suitable body could draw up portfolios of generic adaptions for different architectural periods, with the cooperation of disability organisations, architectural professionals and ‘historical societies’. Parishes considering alterations could be assured that

  • these adaptions are proven both in functional and civil engineering terms.
  • Faculty applications for projects clearly using an appropriate generic design will be warranted to be favourably looked on by Diocesan Advisory Committees

Currently much expertise (above diocesan level) in alterations is vested in commercial architectural practices. This liberates this experience for the common good, and equips parishes to understand what sorts of adaption might work for their building, allowing them to focus on planning for development.

Comprehensive access development roadmap

Diocesan Advisory Committees (who grant planning approvals) should insist that any change to church buildings which has at its core sensory, hygiene or physical access adjustments be accompanied by a definite outline plan (including initial drawings) indicating a roadmap of all major changes necessary to ensure that the building will be no impediment to welcoming the whole community including the full spectrum of disabilities.

Presently it is possible for a parish to request a faculty (planning permission) for hygiene alterations, for example the provision of disabled toilet), when the relevant building continues to rely on a system of portable ramps to provide disability access. This provision combats the present non-sensical situation.

Community need consideration for any hygiene related change

Churches should be mandated to consider community benefit when changing hygiene provisions in their building, for example by altering toilets, installing disabled facilities, or changing areas.

For example a church installing disabled toilets should consider whether it can improve wider community accessibility through provision of a space meeting the Changing Places standard


Church Resource Hub?

Changes in patterns of ministerial service mean that a resourcing service at provincial level that can support the life of faith in the local parish church is urgently needed. An enabling Hub can draw locally generated resources into a national asset library. Such a hub is a critical necessity to equip commissioned or licensed lay leaders so they may serve and sustain the light of incarnate faith in local churches across England.

One of the humbling and inspiring features of the Church of England is the quality of thought, discernment and creativity found in the people of faith scattered across the 15,000 or so parishes. The commitment to subsidiarity in the Anglican churches, including this Church of England, means that there are few readily available platforms for drawing these invested gifts back to make them available for the common good across the wider church.

An authorised hub with national leadership would allow the best content and resources produced in Church of England to surface for the benefit of the whole people of God.

Why is this needed?

Changes in the pattern of ministerial deployment and creative acts by Bishops in various places are leading to the rapid authorisation via ‘Bishops Commission’ or similar instrument of lay people to act as service leaders, discipleship coaches, as pastoral workers or preachers.

The probability of success for such initiatives would be greatly enhanced were resources available to this new cadre of lay leaders in the church.

What sort of resource are we talking about?

Predominantly resources which enable the new cadre to effectively serve their congregation in their role. We anticipate that very many of these leaders will be ‘time poor’ and that resources which enable them to spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘preparing’ will predominate. Four classes of material might be considered:

  • drawing existing resources together with minimal modification
  • providing access to appropriate projects provided by para church organisations, or research by appropriate bodies.
  • adapting existing programmes from specific churches or areas to make them ‘widely deployable’
  • Least commonly, at least initially, to commission specific projects.\

How would we know what to provide in such a hub?

The true scope of such hub can only be precisely determined as users interact with the service. The project would benefit from an Agile approach similar to that commonly used in software development which would iterate rapidly from minimally viable product based on the analytics gained from users.

Why doesn’t it happen already?

The commitment to subsidiarity in the Anglican churches mean that there are few internal organisational vehicles for sharing the true span of the quality of invested in the lives of the faithful. Many excellent para church projects contribute valuable work in specific areas, but there is a specific lack of a provincially authorised source of curated products.

What models could we look at and learn from?

The model of the best bits of Open Access publishing in the Academic world is striking. Here are ‘Journals’ of every flavour, which provide a neutral space for academics from many different (and frequently competing) institutions to share knowledge. Typically they are managed by a largely volunteer editorial board, and the requirements for peer review, and other academic activities are met voluntarily from within the user community.

Recent developments have seen the Open Access community focusing on preserving the entire asset stack relating to the research paper – rather than just the final text. This move the Open Access journal towards a fusion of a document server and digital asset mangers.

These developments both conceptual and suggest that both in terms of concept and available platforms the church could be pushing at an open door in implementing such a resource hub.

Who should run this?

People who understand

  • the software design aspects of the problem
  • the user needs and interface issues
  • the existing resources available across the world
  • the future of the English Church
  • developments in missiology

What roadblocks might exist

Proposed digital products such as this require considerable user literacy, which evidence suggests is lacking in wider congregations. Whether it is lacking in the specific cadre of new ‘lay leaders’ is unclear. There are also barriers relating to bandwidth in some of the more isolated parts of the country, which mean there may need to be a physical media request service.

Finally where resources include provision for leaders to interact with digital products in the context of leading services there are issues because many churches lack the hardware to permit this. It may be necessary to think creatively and provide a standardised product similar to a mobile digital advertising display adapted to be suitably elegant and compatible with the listed buildings etc, to aid the delivery in some of the smallest and most delicate settings.

Where did this idea come from

I’m indebted to a collection of people including Tom Pearson for ideas presented at the 2018 Church of England Digital Labs hack day concerning a project called the ‘Church Support Hub’. 

 © Ian Wyllie 2019 for this post, with every expectation of sharing freely in the Church should someone be interested in taking the ideas on. I assert my moral rights etc.