Tagged: North Shields

North Shields refugee and asylum protest

Protestors gathered outside of a Tyneside immigration centre to demonstrate about the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

A group of around 40 people gathered with banners, loud hailers, and music outside UK Visa and Immigrations Nortfolk Street Office in North Shields on Monday afternoon.

The reporting centre is soon to close amid a Home Office shake up of how it provides immigration services in the North East.

The demonstrators were campaigning not to bomb Libya and “let migrants pass safely,” to “shut down all immigration prisons in Britain” and to “end destitution” and provide “decent housing for all.”

The event, organised by Beyond Borders Tyneside, was part of Refugee Week – a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events and activities that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the country, and aims to promote better understanding of why people seek sanctuary.

Full story : http://northstar.boards.net/thread/100/north-shields-refugee-asylum-protest

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Two thirds of North East law firms ‘could close’ as Legal Aid contracts are slashed, lawyer claims

Criminal lawyers have today claimed that up to two thirds of law firms in the North East could close as the government slashes Legal Aid.

Lawyers raised fears in the wake of the failure of a national appeal to stop the number of available Legal Aid contracts being reduced.

The cuts, an extension of the government’s austerity program, could lead to miscarriages of justice for vulnerable people, campaigners say.

Lewis Pearson, vice-president of the Newcastle Law Society, said the changes represented a huge blow to the region, and Northumberland especially.

“The effect on the whole Legal Aid system will be profound and ultimately leading to a significant reduction in firms as well as reduction to justice,” he said.

“This is particularly the case in Northumberland where access to justice is already restricted.”

Mr Pearson, a partner at Pearson Caulfield solicitors in Newcastle, added:

“The issue is particularly important in our rural communities where there are many miles and people to cover.

“In the long run, those firms who do not have those contracts will waste away.”

Legal Aid is the help given to people that may not otherwise afford their own lawyers, and is a big source of income for many firms.

Proposals put forward by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling last year will see the number of contracts available cut from 1,600 to 527 across the UK to save money.

In the North East, the number of Legal Aid contracts available will fall from 60 to 12.

North of the Tyne, seven companies will be awarded the contracts for magistrates’ courts in Newcastle, Bedlington and North Shields.

Only five will be awarded for the courts in Gateshead, Sunderland and South Shields.

Last week the Law Society, the body representing solicitors, asked appeal court judges to rule that the cuts were not viable and contained “serious defects”, but the court turned down their bid.

Now, lawyers’ groups have called for the changes to become “an election issue”, saying they will threaten access to justice for many accused of crime, especially the vulnerable.

Elspeth Thomson, Legal Aid chair of the Law Society, said:

“Once you reach a tipping point where lawyers have gone under, there won’t be anyone there in police stations to advise people of their rights.

“The government make it sound like it is about loaded lawyers making the big bucks but it is not. It is about day-to-day lives, where normal people are needing help.”

But the Ministry of Justice says the changes are necessary to make savings, and anyone who needs access to a lawyer will still get it.

A spokesman said:

“Our legal aid reforms are designed to ensure the system is fair for those who need it, the lawyers who provide services as part of it and importantly the taxpayers who ultimately pay for it.

“We have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world and even after reform it will remain very generous – costing around £1.5bn a year.

“Anyone suspected of a crime will still have access to a legal aid lawyer of their choosing after reform, just as they do now.”

Last year, North East solicitors and probation service staff took part in 48 hours of protests at cuts to Legal Aid and the privatisation of court services.

Legal workers picketed outside courts across the region and rallied at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle last April, voicing fears for the future of their professions.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 29 Mar 2015

North Tyneside – “Jobs losses to protect services”

More than 150 jobs could be cut as council bosses deal with the continued pressure of government cuts in funding.

North Tyneside Council is looking to make £14m of savings in its 2015-16 budget, with one initiative being a more efficient management structure and 160 job losses.

But officials say it is unlikely any compulsory redundancies will be required, with the losses coming through natural wastage and voluntary redundancies.

Mayor Norma Redfearn said that as a result of the savings, the council is able to protect frontline services with no key facility being considered for closure.

She said: “We have been listening to the people and addressing their concerns.

“We won’t be closing any libraries or leisure centres. Over the last two years, attendance at leisure centres have been increasing.

“With the level of cuts imposed on the council, not all services can continue in their present form.

“However, this budget seeks to protect those services residents have told me are important to them.”

Coun Bruce Pickard added “We started re-organising the council last year.

“We said there is no more than six layers for frontline services and four layers for other services. That is one of the biggest savings in the council.

“We are looking at 160 proposed job cuts. We’ve introduced an enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme and had well over 100 people apply.

“Last year, out of the 150 job cuts, only eight were compulsory.”

Mrs Redfearn added: “We’re a public service. We have to think about what’s important to the people we’re serving. That is education, care and living in an environment that is decent.

“As a listening Mayor, in presenting this budget I have taken into account the issues raised and the hardship being experienced by many residents of North Tyneside.”

The final budget, being presented to full council tonight , will see a freeze on council tax levels for the third year running.

Weekly bin collections, fortnightly recycling and the free garden waste collection are also being maintained.

There will also be more investment in roads and pavements, progress on the regeneration of the seafront and Whitley Bay, continuing development on the Swans site on the riverside in Wallsend, and more affordable homes built.

And Mrs Redfearn said it was work on Whitley Bay seafront and the former Swan Hunters site she was looking forward to progressing the most, as it would mean they could then start work on improving North Shields town centre.

She said: “I desperately want to get on with Whitley Bay and Wallsend so we can get on with North Shields.”

Source –  Whitley Bay News Guardian,  05 Feb 2015

North Tyneside – crackdown on beggars

Operation Dollar has been launched on the back of increased concerns about people begging in North Shields town centre and Front Street, Tynemouth.

Officers from the local Neighbourhood Policing Team will be carrying out high visibility patrols as well as working with other agencies such as the Changing Lives scheme which aims to help homeless people.

Members of the public are being advised to help and not to give money to beggars.

North Shields and Tynemouth Neighbourhood Inspector Geoff Cross said:

“Beggars can be intimidating to some people and put them off from going to certain areas.

“Begging itself is an offence and it is often the case that people who are begging are involved in other crime and anti-social behaviour that has detrimental effect on the community.

“We want people to be able to visit Tynemouth and North Shields without fear of being harassed by beggars.

“Most people begging need help and support or help of some kind, and organisations such as Changing Lives can help put them in touch with the correct support and ensure they get the right help.”

“By ensuring those found begging are directed to the correct support it’s hoped we can reduce the amount of begging taking place on the streets.”

> I wonder in how many cases ‘the right help‘ put them on the streets in the first place ? As we know, Iain Duncan Smith believes sanctions help people focus on getting a job… how many sanctioned people have had to take up a ‘job’ begging as a result of them ?

Source –  Whitley Bay News Guardian,  11 Nov 2014

Northumberland : ‘Unfair’ transfer changes leaving patients stuck

A Seahouses man due to have an operation to repair a ruptured Achilles has been left stranded by new transport to healthcare rules.

Health bosses have changed the transport criteria, meaning some patients are expected to spend over five hours a day on public transport to attend hospital appointments.

Mr Vickers from Seahouses was informed of the change when he phoned to book transport to an appointment ahead of his operation on the 28th of this month.

He said:

“I would usually get an ambulance taxi but they told me I couldn’t anymore. The whole thing is ludicrous. Now I’m stuck, I can’t get to Hexham unless I get a private taxi.

“I was even more upset when they said after I have the operation, am in plaster and on crutches, I’m still not entitled to transport to get home.

“We had no idea anything was going to change. They said a new criteria had been brought in and asked all these ridiculous questions like are you blind, are you in a wheel chair, do you get housing benefit. I don’t know how many others have operations booked and don’t yet know about this.”

Berwick’s Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith described the new rules as “grotesquely unfair”.

He said:

“People have been told to get from Berwick to North Shields and back on a series of buses with no certainty their treatment will be finished in time for the last bus back to Berwick. Another constituent was told to take a two-and-a-half hour bus journey from north Northumberland to the Wansbeck Hospital for regular injections.

“Elderly widows are being told if they can use a local bus for a 10 minute journey into Berwick they should have no difficulty travelling on several buses to get to the Freeman.

“This is simply not acceptable and creates a huge barrier to healthcare for people in north Northumberland.”

Sir Alan said the situation was “even more insulting” to local people when they are being told they cannot go to Borders General Hospital which has a direct bus link from the centre of Berwick to the door of the hospital.

“This chaos all results from decisions of the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group and the uninformed way the decisions are being implemented in rural areas,” he said.

It’s clear that people sitting behind desks in urban parts of south east Northumberland have no idea how difficult it is for people without a car or someone to drive them to get to distant medical appointments.

“I have raised this issue with the Chief Medical Officer of the Clinical Commissioning Group and I will be raising it in Parliament, where I have already been taking up the restrictions on cross-border access to health services.”

A spokesperson for the Northumberland CCG said:

From 20 October 2014, we implemented the Department of Health’s national policy where all new patient transport bookings are subject to a short assessment. The assessment includes asking a few questions about how you would normally travel for day-to-day activities and if friends or family normally take you to your appointments.

“The purpose of this assessment is to make sure that the people who require ambulance services are prioritised based on their health needs and that the NHS is making the best use of the funding it has available. We understand that this can be a frustrating experience and some people who have previously used this service may find that they are no longer entitled to patient transport.

“If this is the case, then the booking service is offering information and advice on alternative forms of transport.”

They added: “We are in the early stages of implementing this process and we would like to reassure everyone that we are continually reviewing issues and concerns raised to make sure a common sense approach is applied.

“We are committed to ensuring that patients who live in rural areas are not disadvantaged by the implementation of the criteria, however, we still need to ensure that this is applied fairly across the region.”

If patients have any concerns, queries, or you are unhappy with a decision, they can contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by emailing northoftynepals@nhct.nhs.uk.

Source –  Berwick Advertiser, 06 November 2014

MPs ‘Lying’ About Benefit Sanction Targets, Says North East Whistleblower

Dear Sir/Madam,

Following the recent/continuous denials from Central Government about there never having been targets imposed in Jobcentre Plus offices for Advisers and sanctions, I wish to strongly disagree with the official line.

 I have spent over twenty years working in the Civil Service and for the last two years (contracted staff), I was working as an Adviser based in North Shields office. I worked for eighteen months as a New Deal Adviser and for the remaining six months I was (for the vast majority of the time) carrying out interviews for (again mostly) where there was a doubt on a customer’s job seeking records. This is classed as ASE or Actively Seeking Employment and could lead to an initial loss of benefit of two weeks (JSA is paid two weeks in arrears).

What I can confirm is that every Wednesday morning, the office would not open until 10am as we would have an open office meeting and during this various topics were covered: changes to policy/procedures etc, and also raised was the District League Table.

This was a table that listed all of the offices in the District (Wallsend/Blyth/Whitley Bay/North Shields amongst others) and has usually headed up by S Smith the most senior manager in the office.

We were originally informed that we had to reach a target of 1 sanction a week and once it was realised that this could be reached by lunchtime on the Monday, this was increased to four a week.

This was submitted sanctions – not those sanctions that actually took effect after a decision maker had made their judgement. So the stupidity was that you could suspend a customers benefit at your desk (with them in front of you), submit the paperwork to the Decision Maker, who could then either decide to implement the sanction to decide that there was no case to answer.

The end result was that Advisers were suspending benefit on the flimsiest of reasons – simply to hit targets. Never mind the fact that this annoyed the customer – thus raising the risk level to staff and security staff and also wasting the advisers time, the decision makers time, the customers time.

So to summarise – whichever MP is stating that targets were never implemented, is either:

A) Lying – to keep on message and protect their career.

B) Has been misled by those who are there to support him/her – to protect their careers they say whatever the MP wants to hear.

Regards,

Mr P Black

Source –  Welfare News Service, 06 Aug 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/mps-lying-benefit-sanction-targets-says-whistleblower/

A Christmas Quiz

Here’s the scenario –

You’re walking along a riverbank, just above a high waterfall, you have your camera with you.

Suddenly you notice a boat on the river. It appears to be in trouble, it’s engine has failed and the current is pulling it towards the falls and certain destruction.

Looking closer you see that the boat is full of people you recognize – David Cameron, George Osbourne, Iain Duncan Smith, Esther McVey and several others of their motley crew.

There is a rope on the riverbank – if you were to throw it to the boat and tie the other end to a tree, it would arrest their headlong rush to destruction and they’d be able to haul themselves to safety.

On the other hand… you have your camera and, should you choose  not to  intervene, the chance of some photos which you could name your own price for – easily enough to get you off the dole and set yourself up for life.

So… the big question –  do you

(a) use colour film, or

(b) opt for dramatic black & white shots ?