Tagged: health

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 He also found outdated information.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

North East must accept Metro Mayor to get new powers says Osborne

The region must accept a single directly-elected mayor ruling from Durham to Scotland in order to grab dramatic new powers, George Osborne said yesterday.

The Chancellor signed a landmark devolution deal with Greater Manchester – covering transport, health, housing and the police – in return for a ‘metro mayor’, to run its ten authorities.

And he immediately warned that any city-region hoping for similar control over its own destiny must also accept a cross-border ‘Boris Johnson-style’ leader.

That list includes the new the North East Combined Authority, which brings together County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

The area is believed to be third on Mr Osborne’s list for agreeing devolution deals – after Manchester and West Yorkshire – with an announcement as early as next month.

But, last night, Simon Henig, Durham’s leader and the chairman of the combined authority, criticised Mr Osborne’ attempt to tie the region’s hands.

And he pointed out voters in Newcastle and eight other English cities had rejected mayors – for city boundaries only – in referendums just two-and-a-half years ago.

Councillor Henig said:

“I strongly believe it is now the time for powers and control over spending to be devolved out of Whitehall throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, not just to Manchester.

“However, my own view is that devolution should not be made conditional on accepting an elected mayor, which was rejected by the public in referendums in several major cities in 2012.”

The Chancellor’s move is a dramatic U-turn, because the Conservatives had rejected calls for metro mayors which, many argued, could be handed a powerful portfolio.

Yesterday, Mr Osborne said:
I hope that Manchester will be the first of many big cities to take advantage of greater devolution of powers.

“Any other city that wants to receive more powers and move to a new model of governance, with an elected mayor, should bring forward their proposals.”

The Manchester package includes:

* Responsibility for re-regulated bus services and integrated ‘smart ticketing’ across all local modes of transport.

* An enhanced ‘earn back’ deal – keeping £1m a year from economic growth, to fund an extension to the Metrolink tram network.

* Police powers – with the abolition of the elected police and crime commissioner (PCC).

* Control of a £300 million ‘housing investment fund’.

* Power over business support services – including manufacturing advice and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) export advice.

* Power to develop a plan to integrate health and social care.

A Government source said:

Who do the voters sack if something goes wrong? City-region mayors answer that.

“So we can obviously go further for cities that are able to step up to the accountability challenge.”

Source – Northern Echo,  04 Nov 2014

Families stage ‘messy march’ against Sure Start cuts in Newcastle

Families staged a ‘messy march’ in Newcastle against cuts that could see a £5m reduction in funding for Sure Start Children’s Centres.

The figure amounts to about a 65% of the total budget for the service.

Protesters say if the proposal went through it could mean the city’s most vulnerable families would be left without childcare and vital support.

A series of themed protests – including a ‘teddy bear’s picnic’ – have been staged in recent weeks, and organiser Vanessa Cutter, 32, explained the thinking around Saturday’s event at Grey’s Monument.

The mum-of-three of Fenham, Newcastle, said:

A messy march is a child centred protest march where children do what they do best – make a mess and be noisy.

“It serves several purposes – we want to show the council that we are willing to take action, demonstrate and fight against their proposed 65% cuts to Sure Start services.

“We want to show them that if they close two thirds of centres then the city’s children will have nowhere to go.

“The council seems keen to invest lots of money in businesses and the city centre, but if that comes at the cost of children’s services then we will have to play in the areas they do invest in.”

All of Newcastle’s 20 Sure Start centres are now up for review as city councillors iron out their final budget proposals for the year 2014/2015.

Many councils across the North are struggling to make similar savings – or cuts – including Middlesbrough.

Mayor Ray Mallon announced in January £14.9m of cuts – in addition to more than £40m removed from the council’s budget over the last three years – will lead to the loss of around 300 jobs. Amongst departments are children’s services.

Sure Start was a Labour flagship policy from 1998, its aim was “giving children the best possible start in life” through improvement of childcare, early education, health and family support, with an emphasis on outreach and community development.

In Newcastle 50% of the services are delivered by the council and 50% by the Community and Voluntary Sector. The city council has estimated for the work it directly delivers, the cuts will equate to the loss of 63 full time equivalent posts.

The protestors say the proposals, if carried out, will see the budget slashed by £5m by 2016. This would mean the closure of services, buildings, parents groups and activities for children aged under five across the city.

Mum-of-two Anna Snaith, 28, of Heaton said:

“I am very upset that two out of three options for the future of services in my area include completely closing down the Ouseburn Family Centre which I regularly attend.

“The team there are fantastic and offer so much support to parents as well as children in a wide range of areas. The centre, like all Sure Start centres, promote health and well being for all families which is vital for communities. These services are the future for our children therefore I cannot understand how closing down any of them can be an option at all for our council!”

A council spokesman said previously:

“The city council is facing a considerable financial challenge, to find £100m in savings between 2013 and 2016.

“We share people’s concerns about the future of our Sure Start centres – they provide an important and well-loved service to families across the city – but the severity of the cuts leaves us with no choice but to consider further reductions.

“Nothing has been decided yet and we will be asking people to have their say with a big public consultation in September.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal, 13 Sept 2014

Real terms cut in public health budgets announced

Spending on public health in the region will be cut next year, it was announced yesterday (Tuesday, September 9) – despite Government promises to protect the NHS.

The amounts given to local councils – for services such as smoking cessation classes, obesity clinics, school nurses and drug and alcohol treatments – will be frozen.

The Department of Health admitted that meant a cut in real terms, after inflation, but said it was necessary because “the health budget is under a lot of pressure”.

Furthermore, it comes after cash-starved town halls have already been accused of raiding their public health budgets as they wrestle with huge cuts to their overall funds.

The cut was revealed in a statement to MPs, which announced that public health funding in 2015-16 would “remain the same as last year, at £2.79bn”.

It means County Durham will continue to receive £45.8m from next April. Other frozen allocations include Darlington (£7.8m), Middlesbrough (£16.4m) Stockton (£13.1m) and North Yorkshire (£19.7m).

In response to The Northern Echo, a department of health spokeswoman acknowledged:

This is a flat cash settlement – so it’s a real terms decrease.

 “The health budget is under a lot of pressure, so we are not able to increase it, but at least budgets are remaining stable and we are not taking money away.”

Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, linked the decision to the recent closures of medical centres at Skelton and Park End – with Hemlington also under threat.

He said:

“It is quite clear that our local areas NHS is being cut for purely financial reasons, with no attention to clinical need.”

Budgets for public health were transferred from the NHS to local authorities last year, as part of the Coalition’s radical overhaul of the health service.

Ministers argued councils were better equipped to tackle problems such as obesity, smoking and pollution and – ironically – that the funds had often been “raided” by the NHS.

The cut comes amid growing pressure to increase spending on the stubborn causes of ill-health, to cut the long-term cost to the health service.

 Yet both the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Journal have warned that services are being rundown – despite the money being, in theory, ring-fenced.

Cash has been diverted to areas including trading standards, citizens’ advice bureaux, domestic abuse services, housing, parks and leisure centres, they found.

But Jane Ellison, the public health minister, said:

“We want to see local areas continue their excellent work to help people lead healthier lives.

“The money has again been ring-fenced, so the focus will remain firmly on improving the health of local communities. This will be further boosted by an extra £5m to target priority areas.”

Source – Northern Echo, 10 Sept 2014

Newcastle parents protest against cuts to the Sure Start budget which will affect vulnerable families

Battling parents staged a ‘Teddy Bears Protest’ outside Newcastle City Council against cuts that could see a £5m reduction in funding for Sure Start Children’s Centres.

The figure amounts to about a 65% of the total budget for the service. Protesters say if the proposal went through it could mean the city’s most vulnerable families would be left without childcare and vital support.

Scores of mums and dads with their kids, along with Sure Start workers, converged on Newcastle Civic Centre for the colourful event, one of many that organisers ‘Parents Against Cuts’ have lined up in the run-in to the council’s budget implementation in October.

Spokeswoman Vanessa Cutter of Fenham, Newcastle, said: “We want to let the council know that they’re in for a fight.”

She said at a previous event earlier this month – a picnic in the Civic Centre grounds – Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes spoke to the protestors.

Vanessa said: “While he sympathised with us, he said there was nothing he can do as it was to do with Government cuts.

“But isn’t his role as leader of the council to fight for the people of Newcastle?

“We’re not putting ourselves above other services. We just think the cuts are too deep and the nearer the council can get to zero per cent cuts the better for us.”

All of Newcastle’s 20 Sure Start centres are now up for review as city councillors iron out their final budget proposals for the year 2014/2015.

A Labour flagship policy from 1998, its aim was “giving children the best possible start in life” through improvement of childcare, early education, health and family support, with an emphasis on outreach and community development.

In Newcastle 50% of the services are delivered by the council and 50% by the Community and Voluntary Sector. The city council has estimated for the work it directly delivers, the cuts will equate to the loss of 63 full time equivalent posts.

The protestors say the proposals, if carried out, will see the budget slashed by £5m by 2016. This would mean the closure of services, buildings, parents groups and activities for children aged under five across the city.

They say it will make a deteriorating situation even worse on the back of cuts which have seen the axing of council play and youth services last year.

Yvonne Holliman, 33, of the Montagu Estate, Newcastle, said of Sure Start: “It was an absolute lifeline for me. When my son, Josh, was born I suffered from Post Natal Depression and had nowhere to go at first.

“I was referred to Sure Start by my Health Visitor as are others have been. If it had not been there I don’t know what I would have done, maybe lapsed into a deeper depression.

“I got a chance to go somewhere to meet other parents and my son had kids to play with in a safe environment.

“At the end of the day, if the cuts are carried out, it will be the kids who suffer.”

Dad Rob Forster, 28, from Byker said: “I’m here to show support for the programme which supported my family.

“I don’t care about the financial side of it, it’s the social aspect I’m concerned about and the impact it will have on families.”

Dad Richard Cutter, 40, husband of Vanessa, said: “If the council closes these down now it will create a whole lot of social problems further down the line.

“The North East is one of the most deprived areas in the country and Sure Start helps provide tremendous support for the less well off. People who need help with raising kids, it teaches them about society and the community and means we are less likely to hear about problems of crime with them.

“It’s not just about the impact now, it’s about the impact it will have on Newcastle in the future.”

A council spokesman said: “The city council is facing a considerable financial challenge, to find £100m in savings between 2013 and 2016. We share people’s concerns about the future of our Sure Start centres – they provide an important and well-loved service to families across the city – but the severity of the cuts leaves us with no choice but to consider further reductions. Nothing has been decided yet and we will be asking people to have their say with a big public consultation in September.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 July 2014

Work Programme pushing people with disabilities further from work

A shocking report launched today (Thursday 12 June) has found that the back to work support provided through the Work Programme and Jobcentre Plus is causing severe anxiety for people with disabilities and pushing them further from the job market.

Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group’ is based on data from over 500 people with a range of physical and mental health problems.

All respondents had been assigned to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) having applied for the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

People in the WRAG can have their benefits stopped if they do not engage with work preparation schemes.

This research found that the Work Programme or Jobcentre Plus had helped just 5% of respondents move into work, while 60% of people said that their health, finances, confidence and sense of purpose had all suffered as a result.

Most people who responded to the survey had been compelled to undertake compulsory back-to-work activities or have their benefits cut.

The majority said their disabilities were not acknowledged or accommodated and made engaging in such activities difficult.

80% of people said they felt anxious about not being able to access activities and 70% were worried about their benefits being cut.

The actual or threatened cutting of benefits is meant to motivate people to get back to work, but the report suggests motivation is not a problem.

For most people (90%), their health or impairment was the main barrier to work.

The report was produced by Catherine Hale, a Work Programme service user, with support from the mental health charity Mind and the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Catherine currently claims ESA due to myalgic encephalopathy (ME), a long term health condition, and said:

The majority of disabled people want to work. However, people who have been awarded ESA have genuine and often severe health problems which make it difficult to access employment.

“The current system ignores these difficulties, and relies on the threat of sanctions to get people into work.

“It is no surprise that it is not only failing disabled people but causing additional distress and anxiety, on top of the barriers that they already face.

“People claiming ESA need to be placed with specialist organisations experienced in supporting disabled people into employment, not into mainstream welfare-to-work schemes.”

Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, commented:

This report adds to the existing evidence that the current benefits system is failing people with disabilities and mental health problems.

“There is far too much focus on pressuring people into undertaking compulsory activities, and not nearly enough ongoing, tailored support to help them into an appropriate job.

“We urgently need to see an overhaul of this system.”

The report has been endorsed by a further 18 organisations including Mencap, RNIB, Parkinson’s UK and the National Autistic Society.

Read Catherine Hale’s report here

Mind is promoting a campaign in support of changes to the current system, which you can read about and sign up to here

Source –  Benefits & Work,  12 June 2014

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2799-work-programme-pushing-people-with-disabilities-further-from-work

Inflation drop doesn’t mean wages will rise

Vox Political

'For the privileged few': If you're earning the average wage of £26,500 per year, or less, then nothing George Osborne says will be relevant to you. ‘For the privileged few’: If you’re earning the average wage of £26,500 per year, or less, then nothing George Osborne says will be relevant to you.

Why are the mainstream media so keen to make you think falling inflation means your wages will rise?

There is absolutely no indication that this will happen.

If you are lucky, and the drop in inflation (to 1.7 per cent) affects things that make a difference to the pound in your pocket, like fuel prices, groceries and utility bills, then their prices are now outstripping your ability to pay for them at a slightly slower rate. Big deal.

The reports all say that private sector wages are on the way up – but this includes the salaries of fatcat company bosses along with the lowest-paid office cleaners.

FTSE-100 bosses all received more pay by January 8 than average workers earn in a year. Their…

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Why Labour SHOULD be ‘the party of welfare’

Vox Political

[Image: Redpepper] [Image: Redpepper] What follows is intelligent, adroit and not mine. It was written by Bernadette Meaden on the Ekklesia website and passed on to me by a mutual friend.

It constitutes what I think may be a complete answer and refutation of ‘accusations’ that the Labour Party is the so-called ‘party of welfare’. Tories love to bandy this about as though it is an insult. What they don’t tell you is that their alternative is abject poverty for all but an elite few.

I’m jumping ahead of myself. Here’s what Bernadette had to say:

“Conservative MPs frequently say that the Conservatives are the party of ‘hardworking people’, and the Labour Party is ‘the party of welfare’. It’s said as an accusation, an insult, and many Labour MPs take it as such, attempting to deny the charge as if it’s something to be ashamed of.

I would like to see Labour…

View original post 442 more words