One of today’s main headlines in the mainstream press is that David Cameron is proposing a new law to jail ‘professionals’ who ignore evidence of child abuse. Under his proposals, social workers, teachers, local councillors, and others involved in children’s social care could face up to five years in prison.
In a statement to be made to Parliament today, Cameron will say“I’m sending an unequivocal message that professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable and council bosses who preside over such catastrophic failure will not see rewards for that failure. Offenders must no longer be able to use the system to hide their despicable activities.”
Cameron’s proposal comes in the aftermath of the latest scandal concerning the abuse of young children by a gang in Oxfordshire where more than 300 boys and girls have been trafficked for sex in the last 15 years.
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Coalition claims that it has presided over a jobs revival have come under fresh scrutiny with research showing that as few as a fifth of the 2 million jobless people whose benefit has been taken away are known to have found work.
The research, due to be presented at a Commons select committee inquiry into welfare sanctions on Wednesday, suggests that hundreds of thousands are leaving Jobseeker’s Allowance because of benefit sanctions without finding employment, though the report’s authors decline to provide an exact figure.
Written by academics at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the report raises questions about why so many of those losing their benefit then disappear from the welfare system – possibly to rely on food banks.
Prof David Stuckler, of Oxford University, said that benefit sanctions “do not appear to help people return to work. There is a real concern that sanctioned persons are disappearing from view. What we need next is a full cost-benefit analysis that looks not just narrowly at employment but possibly at hidden social costs of sanctions.
> No, what we need next is a stop to sanctions. Then you can do all the cost-benefit analysis stuff, in the knowledge that your research is not being made obsolute by people continuing to be sanctioned every day.
“If, as we’re finding, people are out of work but without support – disappeared from view – there’s a real danger that other services will absorb the costs, like the NHS, possibly jails and food support systems, to name a few. Sanctions could be costing taxpayers more.”
However, the Department for Work and Pensions, which is expected to hail a further rise in UK employment on Wednesday, countered that it was proud that 1 million jobless people were now subject to the “claimant commitment”, which sets out tougher requirements on the jobless to find work or risk losing their benefit payments.
Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said:
“It is only right that in return for government support – and in return for their benefits – jobseekers are expected to do all they can to find work. Although on benefits, they still have a job: the job is to get back into work.
> This would be the government support we paid into, via National Insurance, when we were working, right ? So its our money, IDS, not yours.
“The claimant commitment, which is deliberately set to mimic a contract of employment, makes this expectation explicit. It has created a real change in attitudes. Already more than a million people have signed up to – and are benefiting from – this new jobseeking regime.”
> What real-life employment contract does it mimic !? The sort used for slaves on the old southern US plantations perhaps ?
The Oxford-based research showed that between June 2011 and March 2014, more than 1.9m sanctions were imposed on people receiving jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), with 43% of those sanctioned subsequently ceasing to try to claim the benefit. Only 20% of those who left gave as their stated reason that they had found work.
The Department for Work and Pensions conducts no systematic research into what happens to those sanctioned, so the new findings start to fill an evidential gap in what has been one of the biggest but least publicised changes to the welfare system since the government came to power.
The 1.9m benefit removals between June 2011 and March 2014 represent a 40% increase compared with the previous seven years. The figures are based on official monthly and quarterly data from databases covering UK local authorities between 2005 and 2014.
The highly emotive dispute about a central aspect of government welfare reform centres on whether jobcentre staff, driven by senior management, are following arbitrary and poorly communicated rules that punish not just the feckless but some of the most vulnerable in society, including mentally ill and disabled people. Many independent witnesses have urged the DWP inquiry at least to suspend the sanctions regime for those claiming employment support allowance, the main disability benefit .
Study author Dr Rachel Loopstra, from Oxford University, said:
“The data did not give us the full picture of why sanctioned people have stopped claiming unemployment benefit. We can say, however, that there was a large rise in the number of people leaving JSA for reasons that were not linked to employment in association with sanctioning. On this basis, it appears that the punitive use of sanctions is driving people away from social support.”
The study also shows widespread variation in how local authorities used sanctions. In Derby, Preston, Chorley and Southampton, researchers found particularly high rates of people being referred for sanctions. In some months, more than 10% of claimants in these areas were sanctioned – the highest rates nationwide.
Co-author Prof Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:
“There is a need for a cost-benefit analysis of sanctioning, looking at it not just in narrow terms of unemployment benefit, but also the bigger picture, focusing on employment, health, and other social costs.”
“The coalition government has embarked upon an unprecedented experiment to reform social security. I hope policymakers will be informed by these findings and see the value of investigating the consequences.”
Separate evidence in front of the DWP select committee inquiry includes witness statements from former jobcentre staff suggesting senior management threaten staff if they do not take a harsh approach to claimants. There is also cumulative evidence that many of those sanctioned have little or no knowledge of why they are being punished.
The main union representing jobcentre staff, PCS – also due to give evidence on Wednesday to the select committee inquiry – suggests:
“While there is considerable anecdotal evidence about the inappropriate use of sanctions, there is a lack of empirical evidence. We believe that DWP should publish a more detailed breakdown of sanctions, and specifically more detailed explanations as to why they were imposed. PCS’s survey of our adviser members showed that 61% had experienced pressure to refer claimants to sanctions where they believed it may be inappropriate to do so.”
DWP select committee inquiry member Debbie Abrahams said:
“This government has developed a culture in which Jobcentre Plus advisers are expected to sanction claimants using unjust, and potentially fraudulent, reasons in order get people “off-flow”. This creates the illusion the government is bringing down unemployment.”
The government counters that its policies are turning the UK into the jobs factory of Europe, and dismisses the idea that the unemployment figures are being subverted by sanctions.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin and Patrick Wintour, for The Guardian on Tuesday 20th January 2015
Every MP should go through a criminal check to ensure they are fit to work with children, the Commons has been told.
North East MP Helen Goodman called for MPs to go through the same sorts of checks as teachers or youth workers.
She was speaking as Home Secretary Theresa May announced two inquiries into historic claims of child abuse.
Mrs May said Government would set up an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies have done enough to protect children from sexual abuse.
She said: “In recent years, we have seen appalling cases of organised and persistent child sex abuse. This includes abuse by celebrities like Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, as well as the systematic abuse of vulnerable girls in Derby, Rochdale, Oxford and other towns and cities. Some of these cases have exposed a failure by public bodies to take their duty of care seriously and some have shown that the organisations responsible for protecting children from abuse – including the police, social services and schools – have failed to work together properly.”
She added: “The Government will establish an independent inquiry panel of experts in the law and child protection to consider whether public bodies – and other non-state institutions – have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.”
The inquiry would be a non-statutory panel inquiry, similar to the Hillsbrough inquiry which reported back in 2012.
At the same time, Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, will lead a review into information provided to the Home Office about child abuse allegations.
It will look at claims that the Home Office failed to act on allegations of abuse provided to the department by the late Geoffrey Dickens, who was an MP from 1979 to 1995.
Speaking in the Commons, Mrs Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland, said MPs often worked with children and should undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks, known as CRB or DBS checks, to ensure they are not a threat.
She said: “In the course of doing constituency case work, every member of this house will come across vulnerable adults and children. Does the Home Secretary agree with me that Members of Parliament and caseworkers should undergo CRB checks?
“We’ve legislated for this for everybody else in similar positions of responsibilty. Isn’t it time that we did so in this House too?”
Mrs May said this was an issue the inquiry could consider.
North West Durham MP Pat Glass asked for assurances that the inquiry would be able to look at files held by the police or security services.
The announcement in the House of Commons came after Prime Minister David Cameron promised to leave “no stone unturned” in seeking the truth about widespread allegations of a paedophile ring with links to the establishment in the 1980s.
A series of allegations have emerged that Rochdale Liberal MP Cyril Smith, who died in 2010, abused vulnerable children.
An inquiry last month reported horrific abuse by television celebrity Jimmy Savile at Leeds General Infirmary and London hospital Broadmoor.
The Government’s inquiry could be converted into a full public inquiry if its chairman feels it is necessary.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 07 July 2014
Taking sides: Some of the demonstrators at Newtown, Powys. [Image: Mike Sivier] Were you one of the many, many people – both able-bodied and with disabilities – who gathered outside Atos assessment centres yesterday to demand an end to the system that continues to cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people every day?
I attended one of the 144 locations used by Atos to carry out the discredited work capability assessments – in Newtown, Powys – where I was just another face in the crowd that had gathered to remind the public of the atrocity being carried out with their tax money.
The Newtown campaign was undoubtedly small in comparison to others around the country, with a maximum of 15 protesters at its height, but the public response was excellent. The assessment centre is next to a major traffic junction, meaning there were plenty of opportunities to…
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