Tagged: Christmas

Brothers, aged 9 & 5, campaigning for the homeless

Two young boys moved by the sight of people sleeping rough have started a campaign to help the homeless.

Jack and Tom Hobbs were horrified to see people on the streets of Newcastle during a city visit from their home in Stanley, County Durham, at Christmas.

Despite their tender years, they have pledged to do what they can to help and have started to collect warm clothes, sleeping bags and blankets to donate to the needy.

Jack, nine, and Tom, five, started collecting things at St Mary’s Junior School, where they are both pupils.

Proud father Gavin Hobbs, of Iveston Terrace, Shield Row, said:

“We were out for dinner in Newcastle just after Christmas and my two boys saw homeless people on the streets for the first time and were both extremely upset and bothered about them.

“They decided they wanted to collect hats, coats, scarves, gloves, blankets and sleeping bags and start giving them to the homeless people to keep them warm.

“Jack and Tom are very passionate about this and have collected quite a bit already. We have got so much it is unbelievable.”

Car loads of gear will be taken to The Tommy Armstrong Centre in Stanley and The People’s Kitchen in Newcastle on Saturday.

It is being stored at St Joseph’s Church in Stanley. Anyone who wants to help can call Mr Hobbs on 07432-693-558 or take it straight to the church.

Source –  Northern Echo, 04 Feb 2015

Bailiffs tell Acklam couple they owe £3,500 on Christmas Eve – but they had wrong address

A couple received a “shocking and distressing” extra Christmas present – a visit from the bailiffs – who later admitted they got the wrong address.

Paul and Kath Spenceley, from Middlesbrough, said bailiffs “bashed at their door” on Christmas Eve while they were out before leaving a note asking for £3,500.

The couple, of Endsleigh Drive, Acklam, said they were left confused and upset by the letter – before realising it wasn’t meant for them.

Mrs Spenceley, 51, an executive assistant for Redcar and Cleveland Council, said:

“The neighbours told me that they were bashing really hard on the door and making a scene.

“They then posted the note which was from the Sheriff’s Office.

“We were so confused when we read it. We have always paid our bills. We were so upset – it’s not nice to read that you owe £3,500 – especially on Christmas Eve. Then we realised they had the wrong address.”

Mrs Spenceley said she rang the office and left messages but never heard anything back.

She said:

“I am worried they haven’t realised the error and they might come back again. Next time they could actually get inside and start taking things. I have been so panicked all over Christmas. How could they get something like that so wrong?”

Mrs Spenceley said she later took the letter to the house it was addressed to.

A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office said:

“It was human error and we apologise for any distress caused. There wasn’t any bashing at the door. We knocked and then posted the letter.

“I received a message from the occupants telling us of the error and we advise that they put the letter in the bin.”

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 31 Dec 2014

City Link collapse: ‘I found out I’d lost my job while watching the news on Christmas Day’

A delivery driver who discovered he had lost his job watching the news on Christmas Day says his employers have left him “high and dry”.

News of the collapse of parcel delivery firm City Link was announced on Christmas Eve and will see 2,000 staff made redundant nationally.

Thornaby driver Chris Trattles, who worked at the firm’s Leeming Bar depot, only heard of the closure when a friend told him to switch on the television news on Christmas Day.

He was told not to go into work on Saturday – before a meeting at 7.30am this morning officially announced that he and his colleagues had been made redundant.

The 37-year-old, who worked for the company in two spells, said:

“They have left me and everyone else high and dry.

“We knew what was coming by the time we got to the meeting, but to lose your job this way – and especially finding out on Christmas Day.

“It has spoiled the entire festive period for me.”

Chris said that he will have to apply to the government for statutory redundancy pay, and chase for payment of overtime and unpaid holidays.

“I will have to go and sign on now,” he continued.

Before Christmas is a busy time, but now that is out of the way January is always a quiet time in the industry so I can’t see where my next job is coming from.

“I have a seven-year-old daughter so there are bills from Christmas, I still have my lodge to pay and I run a car, but there is no more money coming in.

“I don’t know how long a claim for statutory redundancy will take – and I don’t know how I’m going to get my overtime or holiday pay.”

A statement from the company which owned City Link, Better Capital, read:

“Unfortunately the appointment of an administrator was leaked to the media ahead of the intended announcement.

“The directors very much regret the impact on the employees of City Link receiving such bad news on Christmas Day.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Better Capital boss John Moulton said the firm’s administration could not have been handled any better and said: “We chased every possible way to save this company.”

But Chris said staff should have been told earlier:

“I cannot fault the manager at my depot, who has been brilliant, but the top brass knew things were going wrong and should have communicated with staff.”

Chris worked at City Link’s old Thornaby branch for around four years before accepting administration when the depot was closed and operations moved to Durham.

He rejoined the company working from Leeming Bar around four years ago, delivering parcels across Yorkshire.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 29 Dec 2014

Hospital trust tells staff nearly 40 jobs are to go – two days before Christmas

Nearly 40 Middlesbrough hospital staff were told two days before Christmas that their jobs are being “outsourced” to Lancashire.

The shock news has left workers reeling in the payroll department at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Trust chiefs say the review of financial services is part of a programme to save £90m over three years – “that will eventually touch all areas of the organisation”.

From April, 2015 services provided by the trust’s payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable teams will move to East Lancashire Financial Services, part of Calderstone Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Over the last three months the 37 full and part-time staff in those teams have had weekly meetings with managers about the review.

They received confirmation yesterday of the trust board’s decision to move the services to another NHS provider.

Staff effected will be subject to TUPE transfer, under which they would keep certain employment rights, to East Lancashire Financial Services, say the trust.

But chief executive, Professor Tricia Hart said:

“The board recognises that moving may not be a viable option for some staff.

“In those cases the trust will work with individual staff members to look for alternative roles at South Tees, in line with the trust’s policies.”

She added: “It is never a good time to make decisions that have a major impact on lives of staff, and we would not normally want to make such an announcement so close to Christmas.

“However in our discussions with staff over the last three months they have made it clear they wanted to know about any decision on the future of their services as soon as it was made.

“We will now be working on the detail of the contract with East Lancashire Financial Services over the coming months, and during that period we will support the staff affected by the change, having one-to-one discussions with individuals as well as team meetings to keep them up to date with details of the outsourcing process.”

Prof Hart said, in making the decision, the board “did give detailed consideration to a proposal put forward by staff to keep the services in-house, but unfortunately it did not offer the same benefits as the outsourcing option.”

A staff member said:

“We are mad that jobs are going from Teesside. Our area suffers enough and it’s the knock-on effect for our families.

“It’s only two days before Christmas.

“There’s a TUPE situation, but they will probably do that to get out of paying us redundancies.

“People are not going to take their families to East Lancashire.

“It’s been in the pipeline since early September – and they’ve waited until now to tell us officially.

“We said we could match them, so it wouldn’t cost any more and they wouldn’t outsource but they’ve gone for outsourcing.

“They haven’t treated us fairly. Everyone is really upset, especially when you see the big wigs getting their salary increases, then staff losing their jobs the next week.”

The trust says the outsourcing option will also free up space at The James Cook University Hospital to allow IT staff to move back on site from Eggleston Court in Middlesbrough, saving money on rented accommodation.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  24 Dec 2014

North Northumberland Food bank humbled by generosity

Kind-hearted residents have demonstrated their festive goodwill to ensure the needy don’t go without food and other essentials this Christmas.

North Northumberland Food Bank has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the generous donations made by local residents in recent weeks.

Around 25 bags – each containing seven days worth of food – had been given out by the end of last week with another 50 expected to be snapped up before Christmas.

The generosity of the community has been overwhelming,” revealed Jan Casson, food bank programme manager.

“We have had more food, toiletries, selection boxes, small gifts and so on.

“Those who give regularly have given more, it has been very humbling.

“Berwick people should be very proud, a community coming together to care.”

Nearly 1,000 people had been helped by the project from January up to the end of October. This included 571 bags of food and the feeding of 495 adults, 177 children under five and 242 children over five.

The food bank has been operational for a couple of years and continues to meet a real need in the north of the county.

This, however, is only part of the picture. It has, from very humble beginnings, developed into a project where so many aspects of the community have rallied together to make real differences to so many people.

“This is a really wonderful example of the community working together to help each other not only at this Christmas time but also throughout the year,” said Ian Guthrie of Berwick Community Trust.

Food and money are donated by many organisations, individuals, churches and supermarkets through a whole range of initiatives. These donations are controlled at a central store where a team of reliable volunteers sort the items into the particular commodities, into use by date order, and then into balanced parcels to meet the needs of the recipients of the parcels.

“Grateful thanks are due for not only the donation of these goods but also for the band of volunteers who make it all happen,” said Ian.

He explained that there is a system in place to identify people who are having short term financial difficulties due to delays in payment of benefits, delay with wage payments when they start employment, difficulty in paying regular bills and a whole range of other circumstances which mean they do not have ready access to money.

In these circumstances food parcels are made available to the families to tide them over but crucially this is not done until at least one of the professional organisations has had an opportunity to understand the problem the individual is facing and to ensure that the best possible advice is given to them to resolve the problem.

There has been a recent extension to the service where parcels are made available to elderly people who are discharged from hospital to ensure that they have sufficient food to meet their immediate needs. This helps to reduce the chances of them being re-admitted to hospital.

“Recipients of the parcels are really appreciative of the help they receive and equally the people donating the food and money are helping to meet a demand which sadly exists in the 21st century,” said Ian.

The whole operation is overseen by an ad hoc committee of interested parties which meets on a regular basis to review the operation of the service.

Source –  Berwick Advertiser,  24 Dec 2014

‘All I want for Christmas is a job’ – sandwich board campaigner fails to find work

> Sooner or later people are going to grasp the fact that no matter how you might debase yourself, there is still very little full-time paid work in the North East.

All she wants for Christmas is a job, but a South Tynesider’s campaign to get back to work is still failing to make any headway.

Joanne Rossiter marched along King Street in South Shields last month, wearing a sandwich board bearing the message: “Wanted, full-time job”, in the hope of attracting the attention of prospective employers.

She took affirmative action after applying, without success, for more than 100 jobs in the five months she has been out of work.

The 45-year-old had been taking the sandwich board, as well as copies of her CV, whenever she has been out and about, but she has now packed her placard away, saying she is disheartened by her failure to land a job.

Despite ending her recruitment march, Mrs Rossiter is still desperately seeking employment and is eager for would-be bosses to give her a chance.

She is still scouring the internet for positions and attending regular job interviews.

Mrs Rossiter, of Chichester Road, South Shields, said:

“I am no longer taking the sandwich board with me when I go out. I got a bit disheartened that it didn’t lead to a job.

“It would be great to get a job in time for Christmas, and I am still trying.”

The mother of three says Christmas could be cancelled for her family if she fails to get a foot back on the career ladder.

After being employed for most of the last 20 years, she says she finds being jobless is “soul-destroying and degrading”.

Mrs Rossiter was a shop worker at retail chain Iceland for five years before taking up a new job as a support worker.

She left that role after 12 days because it wasn’t suitable for her, but she has been unable to get back into work since.

Mrs Rossiter, who lives with son Adam, 18, added: “I just want any job with 30 hours. Keeping up with paying the bills is getting tough.”

> Join the club.

Source –  Shields Gazette,  23 Dec 2014

Government slammed over decision to reject EU hand-out while folk go hungry

The North’s poor are going hungry after the Government rejected a £22m food fund from Europe, it is claimed today by the region’s Labour MEPs.

David Cameron has been criticised for allegedly failing to take the money, which could directly go to foodbanks in the region, over fears it reveals the UK’s dependency on the EU and weakens his position.

However the Conservative Party have dismissed Labour’s claims, saying people are not missing out on the EU cash and have £2.9m to spend.

Labour MEPs have now written an open letter to the Prime Minister asking him to lift his block on support for the country’s most vulnerable people for what they consider is solely for ‘ideological reasons’.

The European Aid to the Most Deprived Fund is worth £2.5bn, and is available to all EU member countries to dip into to help people who are most in need.

Foodbanks in the North East would have been able to apply for funding from the pot.

However David Cameron decided to opt out of the scheme in 2013, which Labour members believe could have eventually totalled £22m for the UK between 2014 and 2020.

The Government has previously said it believes individual member states are best positioned to deliver social programmes for the poor through regional or local authorities. They’ve said they will take their Most Deprived Fund subsidy (£2.9m) and deduct it from their ‘structural fund’, the cash pot they would prefer to see money delivered through.

Today North East’s two Labour MEPs, Jude Kirton Darling and Paul Brannen have said in their joint letter to David Cameron that he should ‘remove opposition’ to support for foodbanks.

The letter has also been signed by leader of Newcastle City Council Nick Forbes and leader of Durham County Council Simon Henig.

Jude Kirton Darling, MEP, said:

“People are under intense financial pressure at the moment and many people will have used food banks this year.

“As the weather turns colder and people face increased heating bills and Christmas approaches we feel now is the time for the Government to remove its opposition to support for food banks.”

Paul Brannen MEP added that as well as accepting more money from the EU, he would like to see food bank use decline through an increased minimum wage, less use of zero hour contracts and a youth job guarantee for young people.

A Conservative party spokesperson, said:

“We aren’t losing money – any funding the UK receives from the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will be taken off our structural fund allocation.

“Instead we will use our structural funds to support local initiatives to train and support disadvantaged people into work. We have not yet decided how the €3.5m euro pot (£2.9m) will be spent – food aid is just one of the options for spending the money.”

In 2013, British MEPs alongside two other member states formed a blocking minority which meant the initial European-wide fund was spilt into two, with one fund for ‘material assistance’, which would have seen the UK receiving food and items like sleeping bags directly, and another for ‘immaterial assistance’ which could go towards the budgets of social programmes.

Britain chose to draw down only on the second fund ‘immaterial assistance’, and while it accepted a share of £2.9m, the same as the smallest EU member Malta with a population of just 450,000, neighbouring country France accepted has taken its full €443m allowance.

The letter to Mr Cameron written by the pair, said:

“We feel now is the time to remove your opposition to support for food banks.

“We understand your opposition to the European Union but the fact is that the money is available and should be used as there is clear and desperate need. It is wrong to block support for the most vulnerable people for ideological reasons.

“You have claimed that support for food banks should be a national decision, yet the decision of your government is to not support food banks at all. We do not believe that is right.”

The Government announced in October that it plans to use the UK share of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived to provide additional support for school breakfast clubs in England.

Under the plans, which will be led by the Department for Education, this money would be allocated to schools with particularly high rates of disadvantage, as measured by free-school meal eligibility. This still needs to be agreed by the EU Commission.

Source –  Sunday Sun,  21 Dec 2014

Parents out in force in Newcastle City Council cuts protest

Battling parents were on song yesterday in their fight against cuts which could see vital services for their kids cut.

A group of around 30 mums, dads and their children braved the chilly weather to take part in a street theatre event at the Centre for Life and later Central Station in Newcastle city centre.

For it, they also re-worked a few well known Christmas tunes to highlight their cause.

These included ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ which detailed what they saw as the effect on services of proposed city council cuts.

Lines included ‘On the first day of Christmas the council took from me, a future for my family’.

Meanwhile Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ and ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens also got the treatment.

It was the latest in a series of high profile events by The Parents against Cuts group which have resulted in at times heated clashes with city council leader Nick Forbes. Some wore Nick Forbes face masks for the event yesterday.

Last week the council announced proposals to cut its budget by £40m in response, it says, to Central Government austerity measures.

The PAC group was set up when plans to reduce the number of Sure Start Centres, which provide early educational and play facilities for pre-school children from the poorest backgrounds to save around £4.7m as part of these measures, were first made public.

Shannon Sherman, who helped organise the event, said:

“We’re still waiting to hear which Sure Start centres are to go.

“We were told it was to be this month, now the council is saying it’s in January.

“Christmas is a busy time for parents but we’ve got a good turn out.

“We have another planning meeting next week to decide what to do next.”

Those attending the event laughed off a suggestion made by Mr Forbes last week of a link between PAC and the Revolutionary Communist Group.

In an interview the council leader said:

“The Revolutionary Communist Party website clearly claims responsibility for a number of actions that Parents Against Cuts is taking.”

Vanessa Cutter of PAC denied the link. She said:

“I think it shows the council leader had been rattled by our protests.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Dec 2014

Newcastle parents group rubbish Revolutionary Communist Party link made by Nick Forbes

A campaign group fighting against cuts which will see child provision in Newcastle slashed has slammed city council leader Nick Forbes for linking them to the Revolutionary Communist Party.

Parents against Cuts was set up when plans to reduce the number of Sure Start Centres, which provide early educational and play facilities for pre-school children from the poorest backgrounds to save around £4.7m, were first made public.

The group has since arranged a number of high profile protests while Mr Forbes has been heckled at meetings and protests have been staged outside his council surgery.

In an interview the council leader said:

“The Revolutionary Communist Party website clearly claims responsibility for a number of actions that Parents Against Cuts is taking.”

He also said he wasn’t going to engage in playground politics with people who shouted and threw things.

Vanessa Cutter of PAC said: “I was astounded that the leader of the council could come out with such ludicrous comments.”

She described the link with the Revolutionary Communist Party as “completely unfounded”.

Details of the group’s action have appeared on the party’s website.

Ms Cutter added:

“They have also appeared on the Unison website. Does that make us a front for Unison too? The Revolutionary Communists are an anti-cuts party so it is natural that they report on us, an anti-cuts group.

“I think Mr Forbes is feeling the pressure of our campaign.”

> Parents against Cuts have appeared in this blog before too ! Whatever can it mean ?

However the city council leader hit back saying:

“There is strong evidence that the Revolutionary Communist Party is claiming the credit for the disruptive activities of the Parents Against Cuts group.”

He claimed the PAC had called for the setting of an illegal budget which would bring the city into disrepute.

> Which otherwise might be seen as making a stand against central government austerity policies.

Ms Cutter has also attacked the details released in this week’s £40m budget cuts announcement which has still left those parents who will be affected by the reduction of the Sure Start service in the dark as to the extent of them.

She said:

“We were told they would tell us which centres would be closed on December 1, then December 5, then December 17 and now it could be next week.

“I think it is very strategic as we believe he wants to delay the announcement to closer to Christmas as it will be harder to build resistance.”

However Mr Forbes denied this saying it was always the intention for the final decision on Sure Start provision to be decided at the council’s Cabinet meeting in January.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Dec 2014

Hidden debt epidemic from pay day loans hits North East teens

Desperate North teens are saddling themselves with payday loan debt with the help of their parents, it is claimed today.

A shock report by Action For Children has unearthed “worrying levels of borrowing” in the region among young people aged from 12 to 18.

Research by the charity reveals one in eight borrowed money from companies and an alarming 41% said they had used a payday loan company.

While it is illegal for anyone aged under 18 to get credit, Newcastle’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) said staff had dealt with cases where parents or guardians had sought payday loans on a youngster’s behalf.

And bureau Chief Executive Shona Alexander said the hidden debt epidemic is leading to relationship breakdown within families as teenagers – the age group most likely to be on a zero hours contract – struggle to repay relatives.

It is a serious problem,” said Shona, who called for the credit age to be raised to 25. “We know that young people have forged the signatures of adults and that they have pressured parents or grandparents into getting a loan for them or being their guarantor.

“When they can’t pay them back, the adult’s credit rating is seriously damaged and then it is not just a debt problem but a relationship problem.

“Young people don’t know how to manage money. Something needs to be done.”

Frontline staff see young people seeking debt money to replace household goods, set up their first home or keep up with pals. High street lenders, including store cards, were used by a third (38%) of those able to get credit, the survey said.

Action For Children said the Government must fund more debt education to stop another generation of young people from a cycle of debt and bad credit.

It comes as the charity publishes its Paying The Price report ahead of Christmas amid fears the expensive festive season could be a trigger.

The report unveils how that 55% of children have not received any financial education.

And of those who had, 87% learnt from parents or carers while just 27% learnt about money at school.

The CAB added its Stockton branch had run a successful service helping to educate young people on the dangers of debt which had now disappeared because of public sector cutbacks.

Shona added aggressive marketing campaigns from payday loan companies were attractive to young people and credit firms were likely to change tack after reforms in 2015 to sell more guarantor-style short-term loans.

“Young people don’t understand interest rates and they don’t get into the regular habit of saving,” she said. “We have really got to start education at primary school age and keep that going. Too much of the debt education that we have is short-term.”

John Egan, Action for Children’s operational director of children’s services, said by becoming bogged down with debt from a young age, countless young people from the region could have their future marred by unemployment and mental health problems as a result.

He said: “High interest products and companies are now far too easy for young people to access.

“Some young people are less likely to have the financial skills they need, they may have to live on a low income or are not in education. They are also not able to learn about money at home or at school where other young people do. Add in baffling financial jargon and a lack of knowledge will dramatically create a vicious circle of debt, increasing the risk of mental health problems and unemployment.

“We cannot afford to let children pay this price because of a simple lack of financial education. They must be equipped with the necessary skills to make informed money decisions to give them a chance of a happy future.”

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Chronicle,  14 Dec 2014