📚 Why Join This Lesson?
- 📈 Boost your English fluency with our unique listen & learn method.
- 🗣 Enhance conversation and listening skills in real-life contexts.
- 📖 Deepen your understanding of UK government organisations and British culture.
- 🧠 Learn English the smart way - grasp grammar, pronunciation, and more through captivating stories.
A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
⭐ Winston Churchill
The discussion of the Post Office Scandal is not just about English vocabulary or grammar; it's about immersing you in a real, contemporary British issue. This approach connects you and your language learning with real-world events, making English more than just a subject to study but a story that will help you remember.
It becomes a tool to understand and engage with the world. By listening to this type of lessons, you're not just learning English, you're also gaining insights into British culture and societal issues. This deepens your understanding of the language in a context that's both interesting and relevant.
Truth allows you to live with integrity. Everything you do and say shows the world who you really are.
⭐ Oprah Winfrey
Today we dive into the intriguing Post Office Scandal to understand its impact on British culture and enhance your English fluency. This lesson isn't just about learning English; it's a journey into a real British issue that shook the nation.
In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
⭐ George Orwell
We pack a lot of English language learning into out English listening lessons:
- Vocabulary Expansion: Learn words like 'scandal', 'moat', 'bankrupt', enhancing your vocabulary.
- Cultural Insight: Understand British culture, like the significance of red post boxes.
- Real-world Context: Gain insights into current UK news and societal issues.
- Listening Skills: Improve listening comprehension through detailed storytelling.
- Pronunciation Practice: Hear and mimic natural British English pronunciation.
- Grammar in Context: Observe grammar usage in real-life discussions.
- Critical Thinking: Engage in critical analysis of news and its impact.
- Empathy Development: Learn to empathize with situations in English-speaking countries.
- Accent Exposure: Get accustomed to a British English accent.
- Interactive Learning: Opportunity to respond and reflect on the content.
Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.
⭐ Margaret Thatcher
Discover the advantages of this lesson. You'll not only improve your English skills but also gain a deep insight into a significant event in British culture.
- Cultural Insight: Understand British culture better through the Post Office Scandal.
- Language Skills: Enhance your vocabulary and grasp of English in a real-world context.
- Critical Thinking: Learn to think critically about news and cultural events.
- Personal Stories: Hear about the lives affected by the scandal, adding a human touch to your learning.
- Government and Legal Understanding: Discover how government actions and legal issues impact society.
Engage with this lesson to connect English learning with real-world events. The Post Office Scandal offers a unique view into British culture, government, and the human aspect of corporate mistakes. It challenges common misconceptions and provides a comprehensive understanding of contemporary issues.
Join us to explore a shocking UK story. Improve your English with us on YouTube & Spotify. Visit adeptenglish.com for more! #EnglishLearning #RealStories
Exploring the Post Office scandal is like unravelling a tightly knitted sweater, each thread revealing a new layer of British culture, intricately woven into the fabric of trust and responsibility.
- What is the Post Office Scandal in the UK? The Post Office Scandal involves a faulty IT system called 'Horizon', supplied by Fujitsu. It wrongly accused many sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses of financial discrepancies. This error led to unjust convictions, financial ruin, and even suicides among those affected. It challenges trust in government organizations and highlights issues of power imbalance and systemic failure.
- How does understanding this scandal help in learning British English? Exploring this scandal provides context for contemporary British culture and language. Understanding such events enriches your vocabulary and comprehension of British English, especially in terms of idiomatic expressions and cultural references. This deepens your language skills and aids in achieving fluency.
- What role did the Horizon system play in this scandal? Horizon, a computer system from Fujitsu, was responsible for numerous accounting errors. These errors falsely indicated financial losses, leading to wrongful accusations against sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses. The flawed system was a catalyst for the scandal, reflecting the human cost of corporate and technological errors.
- What has been the public reaction to the Post Office Scandal in the UK? Public reaction has been one of outrage and empathy. The scandal has damaged the reputation of the Post Office, once a trusted institution. A TV drama on this subject further raised awareness and humanized the victims, leading to a broader public understanding and demand for justice.
- How can learning about such scandals improve English language skills? Engaging with real-life events like the Post Office Scandal enhances language learning by providing real-world context. It helps in understanding nuances, cultural references, and the use of language in discussing societal issues. This approach aligns with Adept English's method of immersion, where learning is enriched through exposure to authentic language use in various contexts.
- Scandal: A situation that shocks people because it involves bad or immoral behaviour.
- Crocheting: The activity of making cloth items using a needle with a hook.
- Postmaster: The person in charge of a post office.
- Bankrupt: Having no money to pay debts and legally declared unable to do so.
- Reputation: What people think about someone or something, based on past behaviour or character.
- Judicial: Related to courts, judges, or the legal process.
- Intimidate: To frighten or threaten someone, often to make them do what you want.
- Allegation: A claim or statement that someone has done something wrong, often without proof.
- Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
- Privatised: Changed from being owned by the government to being owned by private individuals or companies.
Today, let's talk about news and in particular, learn how scandals can alter the perception of trusted government organisations. This UK news item is being talked about a lot by ordinary people, but it's also being discussed in the British Parliament. Let's learn something today about British culture while we talk about the Post Office Scandal.
You may have heard about this. Imagine one of those iconic red post boxes. It's a symbol of British culture, and in fact, I talked about these in one of our podcasts, number 543 from June 2022, when I was talking about the Queen's Jubilee. And I mentioned the craze for crocheting post box covers, which has swept across the UK! It's still happening. It was a lockdown craze, which has continued. So the red postbox is the symbol of the Post Office. Until now, a trusted UK organisation, but perhaps not anymore after this news item.
An alternative title for this podcast, 'The Human Cost of Corporate Errors'. So, this is the story of the very real deep human impact of a faulty IT system and an organisation that just doesn't seem to care. Listen on to find out more about the Post Office scandal.
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So the Post Office scandal has rocked the UK. First of all, the word 'scandal', that's S C A N D A L. A 'scandal' means 'the report of an action or activity that shocks people and that people disapprove of'.
So, when a scandal comes to light, people are outraged, angry, about what's happened and see it as a big injustice. 'It's not right!', they say, 'That's a scandal!'
Another example of a 'scandal' in the UK that happened a few years ago? The MPs' Expenses Scandal. This was in 2009.
In this scandal, it came to light that many members of the UK parliament, many MPs, had been putting in expense claims for all sorts of things that they weren't entitled to. Claiming taxpayers money for things they shouldn't have been!
Famously, one Conservative MP, Douglas Hogg, charged the UK taxpayer £2,200 for 'cleaning his moat'! That's M O A T. If you've ever visited a castle and it's got water round it, that's 'a moat'! So he put in an expense claim for the cleaning of his moat. This is not an allowable expense for an MP. That was a scandal.
A montage of British cultural symbols, like tea, the Union Jack, and a red double-decker bus. Sharpen your English by listening to fascinating stories.
So the Post Office scandal, which is currently in the news, similarly is making people angry at what's happened. The situation has been known about for a while, but it's a UK TV drama which has been showing since New Year, since the start of 2024, which has really brought it to people's attention.
Now the British Parliament are looking at measures which will overrule the process of the law courts to try to sort this one out.
It's a story, not just about technology going wrong, but it also challenges our trust in organisations, particularly government organisations.
Imagine for a moment running a Post Office in the UK, in a quaint English village, say. You're a respected person, a 'cornerstone of the community', we might say. Picture your world turning upside down over something that you didn't actually do. The police roll up in a car outside your Post Office and arrest you. You're tried, convicted. And you go to prison - all for something that you didn't do! This has been the harsh reality for many people caught up in this scandal.
So the Post Office is an organisation wholly owned by the UK government. It's separate from the Royal Mail. That bit is responsible for the delivery of letters and parcels, and that part was privatised some years ago. But the Post Office remains under government control.
The Post Office has lots of branches, so that's shops distributed all over the place, throughout the UK. There are main Post Offices in large towns or medium-sized towns, and in many villages and districts around the place, there are little Post Offices called 'sub-Post Offices'. And the people running these, members of the public that agree to take on the job, the franchise, they're known as 'sub-postmasters' and 'sub-postmistresses'.
So you go to the Post Office in the UK to buy stamps, to post your letters. But it's also where you go to renew your passport, buy insurance, perhaps. You can exchange foreign currency there. They deal with driver's licences. And you used to have to pay your tax on your car at the Post Office. You can now do it online, of course.
Also, it used to be where you bought your TV licence. You can't watch TV in the UK without a television licence, even if you don't watch the BBC. It's illegal! So, basically, everybody has dealings with the Post Office. If you live in the UK, you've no choice but to go to the Post Office for something! They also sell chocolate, pens, stationery, paper, newspapers etc. as well.
And until now, they were seen as a 'friendly hub of the community', particularly in small villages. So, what's the scandal?
Well, in 1999, the Post Office installed a new computer system called 'Horizon'. And this Horizon, this system, was supplied by Japanese tech company Fujitsu. This is where the problem started.
Errors that turn out to be in this computer system have resulted in hundreds of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses being wrongly accused of crimes, being tried, convicted, and even being sent to prison, all because their Post Office business accounts didn't balance.
The Horizon IT system repeatedly made it look as though money had gone missing.
And the Post Office told the sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, 'You have to pay this money back out of your own pocket'. Out of your own pocket, from your own money.
Some of these people had to take out second mortgages, loans in other words, to pay the shortfall. Some of them 'went bankrupt'. That's B A N K R U P T, which made them look as though they were incompetent financially, which wasn't the case.
As I said, many of them went to prison, most lost their businesses, many lost their homes. And four sub-postmasters killed themselves as a result of this situation.
In the UK, it's really, really hard to get a job if you've got a criminal conviction, if it's believed that you committed a crime. So a lot of this is about damage to people's reputations. That's R E P U T A T I O N. Your 'reputation' means 'what people think of you'.
You can imagine being a sub-postmaster or sub-postmistress in a small village. It's a public-facing role, a community role, and many of these people felt disgraced in front of their communities.
What has been criticised and perhaps what's caught people's imagination - it's another example of a large organisation 'exercising power over the little person'. The sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses were told, 'You're the only one having a problem with this IT system. No one else is having any difficulty. Just you. You must have done something wrong!' Clearly this was untrue. Over a period of 16 years, there were 900 people wrongly convicted, a result of this. Found guilty of a crime in a law court because of this IT system and because of the Post Office's attitude to it.
People paid as much as £60,000 or £70,000 out of their own pockets because of these system errors. And actually this went into the Post Office profits in the end, while the people themselves were made to look like criminals.
So this scandal has been known about for a while, but the government hadn't taken any action and it was letting the law courts, the UK judicial system, that's J U D I C I A L, letting the judicial system deal with it. And of course this was very slow and unfair. It's a very slow process and a very expensive process. So many of the sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses didn't have any money to fight their cases against the Post Office. The Post Office on the other hand, a large organisation could afford all the top lawyers, good 'legal representation'.
So this was a case of small people trying to 'clear their names', fighting a large organisation. Many just gave up and accepted being seen as 'criminals'. The Post Office used what we call 'scare tactics'. It seems to have purposefully bullied, intimidated and threatened people.
They told many of the people involved that they would drop the more serious charge of theft, that's T H E F T, that often carries a prison sentence with it, as long as the people pleaded guilty - that means 'admitted' - 'false accounting'. Many of the sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses did plead guilty to false accounting, even though they hadn't done anything wrong, so that they could avoid a prison sentence.
As well as the Post Office being to blame in this, also Fujitsu seemed to have played a role. I worked in the IT industry years ago, and I don't think there's a computer system around that doesn't have bugs and errors in it. But when you put a new system live, you listen to the users of that system. You get people to raise complaints or errors, to tell you what's wrong with the system. You then investigate those errors and you fix them!
It appears as though Fujitsu didn't do this. Fujitsu preferred to blame its users, the sub-postmasters and the sub-postmistresses, even though it knew there were problems.
In the TV drama, it's alleged that there was a basement in the Fujitsu building in Bracknell - near where I live actually - where Fujitsu employees were able to amend live data, to change the figures in the sub-Post Office accounts.
This is a very serious allegation and anyone who's ever worked in the IT industry knows that you don't amend live data. It's too risky! But surely this is illegal as well? Especially when people are being taken to court as a result. So Fujitsu knew there were problems with their Horizon system. They didn't own up to it.
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And the Post Office told the sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, 'You're the only one. No one else has any problem'. So it really is shocking behaviour, appalling behaviour by the UK government organisation, the Post Office.
The Post Office used to be a trusted brand. Not anymore. The Post Office have also continued to pay money to Fujitsu for other systems. Millions and millions of taxpayers money. Millions and millions of taxpayer pounds to Fujitsu.
So it's taken a rather cheesy ITV drama about this scandal to bring it to people's attention and to get the government moving and sorting this out.
This drama has made the situation real for ordinary people. It's added the human element. It's enabled viewers of the drama to say 'What would it be like if I was in their shoes?'. Empathy is a very wonderful and motivating thing, isn't it?
Anyway, let us know what you think of this story. Let us know if anything similar has happened in your country.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at adeptenglish.com
- Podcast Ep 543
- MP Moat Scandal
- Corporate Post Office
- BBC Scandal Story
- UK Post Office
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