Tagged: Durham University

Immigrants guide to UK not fit for purpose

A guide for immigrants published for the Government has been described as “not fit for purpose” by a North East academic.

Prof Thom Brooks of Durham University said The Practical Guide to Living in the United Kingdom features numerous errors and omissions.

It provides information on health, education, work and volunteering to newly arrived migrants and is designed to help migrants understand the legal requirements for short and long-term residency ‘to settle in quickly and enjoy your new life’.

Prof Brooks, himself originally from the US and a British citizen since 2011, says he uncovered surprising omissions such as how to report emergencies to the police and calculating and paying income and council taxes. He also found outdated information.

He said: “The Government published a new citizenship test in 2013 which was like a bad pub quiz. They claimed migrants should know more about their responsibilities than rights to claim benefits.

“Ironically, the new Practical Guide includes more information about claiming benefits than ever before”.

Full story :  http://northstar.boards.net/thread/126/immigrants-guide-uk-fit-purpose

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Thatcherite policies ‘have made us sick’

‘Thatcherite’ policies have caused ‘epidemics’ in obesity, stress, austerity and inequality, according to a new book by public health experts.

The authors of the book, from Durham University, argue that the UK’s neoliberal politics, often associated with the economic policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, have increased inequalities and literally made people sick.

They suggest that the epidemics could have been prevented, or at least been reduced in scale, through alternative political and economic choices such as fairer and more progressive taxation, strengthened social protection and reduced spending on warheads.

The public health researchers are calling on the new Government to take drastic action to ensure a decent living wage, a fair welfare system and an end to privatisation within the NHS.

The book, ‘How Politics Makes Us Sick’, is due to be published by Palgrave Macmillan on May 20.

The authors, Professors Clare Bambra and Ted Schrecker, show that the rise of precarious jobs and zero-hours contracts has led to an epidemic of insecurity and chronic stress, and austerity measures have widened the gap between rich and poor with destructive consequences for health.

 They also highlight scientific evidence connecting the epidemic of obesity, which has doubled in the UK over the last 30 years, with the epidemic of insecurity that followed the neoliberal transformation of labour markets.

The book points out that the rising economic inequality is resulting in a growing health gap between the most and least deprived ten per cent of local authority districts in England, which is now larger than at any point since before the Great Depression.

Co-author Clare Bambra, professor of public health geography and director of the Centre for Health and Inequalities Research at Durham University, said:

Our findings show that modern-day ‘Thatcherism’ has made us fat, stressed, insecure and ill. These neoliberal policies are dominating the globe and they are often presented as our only option but they have devastating effects on our health.

 “What we need is a political cure in the form of a revitalised and social democratic welfare state in which workers have a living wage, the welfare system means that people are not below the breadline, and the market is removed from our public services such as the NHS.”
Source – Northern Echo, 15 May 2015

Housing : Pressure to combat ‘student ghettos’ in Durham

A council is facing renewed calls to combat “student ghettos”, after the last local resident of a city centre street described her life as “hell on earth”.

Jackie Levitas, the only remaining non-student on Waddington Street, Durham, said Durham County Council had concentrated on the county’s villages to the neglect of the city – and must decide whether it really “cares” about Durham.

“It’s your duty. People have fled the city. You’ve got to encourage them to come back.

“You must think about how to improve Durham – every decision taken should be an improvement,” the 78-year-old poet said.

Her calls were echoed by Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, who called the situation “dreadful” and said it left her “almost beyond despair”.

Roger Cornwell, chairman of the City of Durham Trust conservation society, said: “Jackie’s is an extreme form of what’s been going on.

“Her street is treated as part of a student hall of residence. She’s treated as an interloper. The street is totally dead when you get to the (university) vacation.”

 Stuart Timmiss, the council’s head of planning and assets, said it acknowledged the scale of student numbers could create tensions and it recognised the importance of Durham University to Durham.

“Ensuring a balance in respect of these issues is very difficult,” he added.

“We recognise that in Waddington Street and the adjoining streets almost all of the properties are in student use, largely down to how the market has operated over a period of time.

“We have policies in place which mean future applications for student housing developments take all of the above aspects into account and do not have an adverse impact on local communities.”

While first year students at Durham University live in college, many second and third years – plus postgraduates – live in formerly private homes that have been converted into houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) for students.

 Recently, a string of large-scale schemes for purpose-built student accommodation have come forward. Planning permission has been granted for more than 2,000 more student beds and several hundred more are in the pipeline, even though the university expects to expand by only 359 students by 2019-20.

The council is under pressure to introduce an Article 4 direction, which would force developers to apply for planning permission to convert a house into an HMO, and produce a comprehensive student accommodation strategy, a previous attempt having been rejected by a planning inspector.

Professor Graham Towl, the university’s pro-vice-chancellor, said:

We are keen to work with the community to ensure there is a positive environment for all who live and work in Durham and Stockton-on-Tees and we welcome open dialogue.”

Source –  Durham Times, 15 May 2015

UKIP candidate for Sedgefield: My deep shame over sex comments

A UKIP candidate has spoke of his deep shame after making sexually explicit comments about well-known female columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

John Leathley, 23, who hopes to represent Sedgefield , and who is also standing for Stockton Borough Council in the Hardwick area, was communicating with other young Ukip members on Facebook last November when he made sexually explicit remarks about the centre-left journalist.

Mr Leathley apologised in a statement issued through Ukip, saying:

“I would like to apologise unreservedly to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

“I read what I wrote now, I am shocked by them and am appalled and deeply ashamed of my words.

“The comments were made during a private conversation in the evening clearly were never meant to be publicly released, and they should never have been said.

“I am very sorry and regret deeply being so coarse, it is out of character but no more excusable for that.”

The Durham University student had previously declined to apologise in the university’s student newspaper, stating:

“I have no comment to make other than this is the work of an individual who is taking comments from a private conversation between a group of friends dated months ago in a malicious attempt to tarnish my name and reputation.”

 Ms Alibhai-Brown, whose appearance on the BBC’s Question Time led to the comments, said:
Even I’m shocked and I get a lot of this.

“If this is what people who go into public life are going to be like then God help us. I saw the apology and of course I’m not going to give any credence to it at all.

“You don’t apologise because you are found out. Was he drunk? If he wasn’t, then what he said was absolutely appalling. It’s sexist, it’s racist, it’s violent.”

Source – Durham Times, 06 May 2015

Brave revelation from parliamentary candidate brings domestic abuse into open

An election candidate made a brave revelation that she is a victim of rape during a hustings on female issues organised by the Darlington and Durham Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre.

Liberal Democrat candidate Anne-Marie Curry told the large gathering at Darlington Dolphin Centre’s Central Hall that it took her 22-years to accept she had been in an abusive relationship during her early 20s.

She described how she had witnessed some awful treatment of women during her upbringing in Uganda and that she had been threatened with knives when she later lived in Holland.

She said: “I seem to have opened myself up to rather destructive relationships from then on.

“At the age of 21 I was in a relationship and he was emotionally bullying me, hitting me and raping me.

“I didn’t realise that at the time, I only realised that in my 40s.”

Ms Curry’s revelation earned a round of applause and she said she wanted to speak out to bring the issue of domestic violence into the open.

She said:

“I can understand that women in that situation can find it really, really difficult to cope with what has happened to them.

“I am now coping, I am strong and I really want to shout about it because it (domestic abuse) is wrong.

 “These relationships need to stop and the only way we can do it is to be more open about it, talk about it, and allow young people through the education system to know that they shouldn’t let anybody harm them.”

Labour candidate Jenny Chapman said she was “blown away” and felt humbled by what Ms Curry had shared.

The hustings, chaired by Durham University professor Nicole Westmarland, touched on a range of female issues including funding problems experienced by rape crisis and support centres and whether more should be done to educate youngsters about domestic abuse.

The problems experienced by many victims of domestic abuse throughout the legal process were also highlighted, with all candidates agreeing that more needed to be done to support them.

All candidates also agreed that abuse and crimes against women were a key issue and Ms Chapman said that Labour planned to scrap Police and Crime Commissioners and would appoint a Women’s Commissioner in parliament.

 She said this would ensure there was person “with some clout” to ensure that women’s issues did not get sidelined.

The hustings was attended by Darlington’s candidates for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Green, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties who all signed a pledge to support women’s services.

UKIP candidate Dave Hodgson could not attend due to work commitments.

> Could he, given his party’s record, have signed it with a clear conscience anyway ?

Source – Northern Echo, 02 May 2015

Majority of North East university students set to vote Conservative, new poll reveals

The majority of students at two leading North East universities intend to vote Conservative in the forthcoming General Election, a new poll has revealed.

This is despite the party pushing up annual tuition fees for students to a maximum of £9,000 in 2012, up from £3,290.

The Student Politics 2015 poll, by independent research company High Fliers Research, is based on more than 13,000 face-to-face interviews with final year students at 30 UK universities.

Two North East universities, Durham and Newcastle, were represented in the survey and an overwhelming majority of students at both institutions voted in favour of the Conservatives.

 

At Durham University 45 per cent of students said they intended to vote Conservative at the General Election.

Only 27 per cent of finalists said they would be voting Labour, eight per cent Liberal Democrat and 17 per cent Green Party.

A small portion, two per cent, said they intended to vote for UKIP.

Down the road at Newcastle University, the political picture appears similar with 35 per cent saying they intend to vote Conservative at the May elections.

This is followed by 27 per cent of students voting Labour, three per cent Liberal Democrat and 29 per cent in favour of the Green Party. Only one per cent said they would be voting for UKIP.

Across the country, more than 30 per cent of students questioned intend to vote for Labour and the Conservative party in the forthcoming General Election.

A quarter of finalists plan to vote for the Green Party but only six per cent are backing the Liberal Democrats and just one per cent are UKIP supporters. Three per cent expect to vote for the SNP.

The Conservatives are the most popular party at 14 out of the 30 universities included within the survey and among the country’s greatest supporters are Durham University students.

Managing director of High Fliers Research, Martin Birchall, said:

“Our research not only confirms that first-time voters at the country’s top universities are set to vote for Labour and the Conservatives in almost equal numbers in the General Election but that there has been a huge surge in support for the Green Party on campus, taking them to within just a few percentage points of the two leading parties. By contrast, just six per cent of students are planning to vote Liberal Democrat, a quarter of the number who supported the party in 2010.”

> If true, then students deserve all the extra tuition fees they get heaped on them.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Apr 2015

Archbishop of York defends churches paying below Living Wage

The Archbishop of York, who chaired the Living Wage Commission, has defended parish churches paying below the minimum hourly rate.

Speaking during a visit to the North-East, Dr John Sentamu said churches that could afford to pay the Living Wage, currently £7.85 an hour outside London, should do so, but rejected suggestions it should be made mandatory.

The Church of England was criticised recently for advertising jobs at sub-Living Wage levels, a number of bishops having just backed the campaign. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said the revelation was “embarrassing”.

Speaking  in Durham yesterday , Dr Sentamu said:

“Where people are capable of paying the Living Wage, they should do it.

“In my diocese, we do. In my office, we do. Many other church groups do. I believe the FT 100 index ought to be.

“But there are some small businesses where if that became mandatory, they may go under.”

Whenit was suggested the Anglican Church was neither small nor new, the Archbishop said:

“Every Parochial Church Council is a charity in its own right. Every cathedral is a charity in its own right. People talk about the church as if it’s one huge organisation. No, every church has its own governance.

 “My plea to every church is: please, examine yourself carefully. If you can pay the Living Wage, please for heaven’s sake get on and pay it.

“If you can’t, tell your employees why you’re delaying and when you hope to arrive at a Living Wage.”

Dr Sentamu was speaking after delivering the annual Borderlands Lecture at Durham University.

He told a 150-strong audience at St John’s College that more employers should pay the Living Wage, to support the working poor not “well paid people like me”.

In a wide ranging 45-minute address, he railed against resource, economic, political, social and community injustice, saying society was at a moral, economic and spiritual crossroads and in need of moral, economic and social transformation.

Dr Sentamu also spoke of the “barbarity” of Islamic State, saying they were “using God as a weapon of mass destruction”.

> Well, that’s an accusation that could never be levelled against Christianity….

 His main theme was in support of restorative justice, where offenders and victims jointly decide on how to respond to a crime.

We all bear some collective responsibility for crime, he said, and instead of asking what law has been broken, who broke it and what they deserve, the justice system should ask: who has been hurt, what are their needs and who is obliged to meet their needs.

> Perhaps the Archbish might like to bend the ear of a certain Iain Duncan Smith on that point…

Source – Northern Echo, 07 Mar 2014

Durham University study warns cutting off benefits ‘makes people ill’

Tough measures designed to force benefit claimants to find work are instead making them ill, a study by North East academics has warned.

Claimants who have their benefits cut are sometimes left to go without food or the ability to heat their homes, a study found.

And this has an impact on their health – particularly because some of these affected are already ill or disabled.

The study was carried out by researcher Kayleigh Garthwaite and Professor Clare Bambra of Durham University.

Their findings were presented to MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, which is holding an investigation into “sanctions” which can imposed on people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and some people claiming Employment and Support Allowance, a benefit paid to people who are ill or disabled.

Claimants can have their benefits cuts off, known as a sanction, if officials believe they have failed to prove that they are looking for work.

But critics including a number of North East MPs argue that some claimants have lost benefits for no good reason. In a Commons debate in January, Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman and other Labour MPs said they believed job centre staff were given unofficial targets for the number of sanctions issued.

The study by Dr Garthwaite and Professor Bambra was part of a five year project looking at why some groups of people are healthier than others, which has focused on foodbank users in Stockton on Tees.

In a paper presented to MPs, they said:

“Sanctions led to loss of their only source of income, resulting in sanctioned ESA recipients often going without sufficient food and/or energy required to maintain good health or recover from illness.”

In some cases, benefits were taken from people who did not understand the complex rules, including people mental health conditions, the academics said.

They warned:

“Sanctions have led to cases of a total loss of income resulting in an inability to eat or heat at the levels required for maintaining good health or recovering from ill health.

“Indeed sanctions have exacerbated ill health. The sanctioning of people with mental health problems is a particular problem – with the stress and anxiety of income loss adding to their underlying condition.”

The academics said sanctions for ESA claimants “should be relaxed or removed – particularly for those with mental health problems”.

Dr Garthwaite also spoke to MPs at Westminster, where she warned that claimants often had no idea that there was an official hardship fund available to help people who had entirely run out of money.

She told them that some food bank users had resorted to eating food they knew would be bad for them because of medical conditions – such as an intolerance for wheat – because they had nothing else.

Defending the policy, Employment Minister Esther McVey told the committee that studies had shown sanctions encouraged people to find work.

She said:

“All the international evidence suggests that sanctions do have a positive impact on people getting into work, and there are two parts of that: as a deterrent, it has a positive impact on moving people into work, and there is further research that, should somebody have been sanctioned, it helps them into work afterwards.”

The Government publishes figures showing how many sanctions have been imposed.

In Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Tees Valley, sanctions were imposed 92,326 times since 2012.

The job centre which has cut benefits most often is James Cook House in Middlesbrough, which imposed 7,068 sanctions.

John Street job centre in Sunderland imposed 4,922 sanctions.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Feb 2015

Widening North/South divide in healthcare highlighted by new report

A damning report today reveals the “totally unacceptable” inequalities driving a widening health divide between the North East and the South.

Experts are warning the current approach to tackling the gap is failing, and the situation is only likely to get worse.

According to the report, a baby girl born in Coxhoe, County Durham, can expect to live for 15 fewer years in good health than a baby girl born in Richmond, London.

Public health experts have now highlighted how devolved powers from central government to the North East could play a vital role in helping close this gulf.

Due North: the report of the Inquiry on Health Equity for the North, is the outcome of an independent inquiry, commissioned by Public Health England.

Professor Clare Bambra from Durham University’s Department of Geography and an Inquiry panel member, said:

“The differences in people’s health in the north compared to other parts of the UK are totally unacceptable. Without a radical change to the current approach to health inequality, we are likely to see things getting worse.”

In the North East, 18% of residents are classed as living in poverty, compared to 12% in the South East. During the past 20 years the region has consistently had lower employment rates than the South for both men and women. These factors, among others, have had a subsequent knock-on effect on general health.

In more recent years, massive efforts and tens of millions of pounds have been spent across the North East on schemes aimed at improving wellbeing. Newcastle and Sunderland are just some of areas that have implemented ways of reducing inequality by campaigning for the payment of a Living Wage.

But the report sets out a number of recommendations including the use of devolved powers to ensure decisions about health issues in the North East are made in the North East. It states:

“Devolution is central for addressing health inequalities with the rest of England. Devolution means regions in the North retaining more power and resources to collectively develop solutions that build on the assets and resilience of the North.”

Ms Bambra said:

“Central government takes a ‘one size fits all’ approach to health spending. Devolution would allow us to address the problems we have here. In recent years we have lost our regional agencies in the North East so there is less focus on us.”

The report also recommended “collecting better data on children in the early years” so they can be tracked over time, monitoring inequalities in development.

In Sunderland over the last two years, figures showed 10% of reception-age children are obese, with local variations of 13 to 17% in some areas. By Year 6, the figure is 21% average, with some areas spiking at 26 to 34%.

Just days ago, plans to build a McDonald’s near a Newcastle school were rejected by councillors. Hundreds of people objected over fears the restaurant would promote unhealthy eating to children from nearby Kenton School.

Ms Bambra said:

“Lots of children’s life chances are determined before they are even born. We need to improve peoples’ access to affordable, healthy food.”

Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said:

“This report highlights the need for Government to take action on poverty and the underlying causes of health inequalities.

“Many people in our region also still suffer ill health as a result of our industrial past. Ministers should prioritise those parts of our country with greatest need, not shift resources into more affluent areas.”

However, Coun Lee Martin, leader of Wearside’s Conservatives, said:

“If Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had done exactly what the coalition are doing on jobs, welfare reform, and education then the gap would have closed in the last 20 years. If anything we need to go further in tackling poverty and poverty of aspiration. Some of the North East’s councils adopting the Living Wage would be a start. I’m all for more powers being devolved but let’s have them devolved to people the public can elect directly rather than faceless council leaders.”

Prof Eugene Milne, director of Public Health at Newcastle City Council, said efforts were underway on Tyneside to address some of the most prolific health concerns. He added:

“We know that we have an extensive public health programme which aims to improve the general health of the local population – as a result we have made progress in key areas over recent years.

“However, this report correctly points to a continuing divide across the country, and between the rich and the poor in our society. We welcome that debate.

“Even with the rate of progress that we have, we know that it would take many decades to close the gap between the north and the south. Larger scale action is needed if the problem is to be addressed.”

Source – Newcastle Journal, 15 Sept 2014

Health Inequalities and the one per cent – Free talk will address inequalities

The issue of health inequality in an increasingly unequal UK is the topic of the Wolfson Annual Lecture at Durham University’s Stockton campus later this year.

The free public lecture entitled “Health Inequalities and the one per cent” will be given by Professor Danny Dorling, from the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University.

Prof Dorling, who is the author of  Bankrupt Britain: An Atlas Of Social Change, highlights the fact that health inequalities are growing in the UK as the super-rich get richer.

In Britain the best-off one per cent take a very high share of national income – much more, for instance, than the annual cost of running the National Health Service,” he said.

Before tax, they consume about 15 per cent of all income, or around 10 per cent after paying income tax.”

In no other Western European country does a small group of people take such a large share of the cake, he adds.

Even as the overall size of that cake shrank during the great recession, their share rose while that of the rest fell.”

Prof Dorling asks what are the implications for everyone else in British society and suggests that the effects of such a wealth gap are not beneficial.

“There are many possible reasons as to why living in a very economically unequal country might be bad for our health….it is difficult to ascertain which might matter most. It is easier to suggest ways of remedying the situation.”

Anyone is welcome to attend the November 19 2014 lecture, which begins with lunch at 12.45 and ends at 3pm, but places are limited and must be booked in advance by contacting Suzanne Boyd on 0191 3340013.

The venue is the Ebsworth Building, Durham University, Queen’s Campus, Stockton.

Source – northern Echo, 02 Sept 2014