EU nurses turning their backs on Brexit Britain

Nurses from the EU are turning their backs on Britain, as new figures revealed that the number registering to work in the NHS since the Brexit referendum has fallen by 90%.

The news follows toxic Tory plans to hit employers with a £1000 a year tax for every EU worker they employ, which would see Scotland’s health and social care sector facing a £12 million bill.

Only 101 nurses and midwives from other European countries joined the register to work in the UK last month, down from 1,304 in July, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council stats – showing the very real impact that Brexit is having on our NHS before the full impact has even happened.

The worker levy plans were suggested by Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill. They have been labelled as xenophobic by former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who is one of the EU’s chief negotiators.

Senior Tory MP Anna Soubry called the proposals a “tax on successful businesses”.

Scotland’s health and social care sectors employ 12,000 non-UK EU citizens, according to Scottish Government figures. This would see health and social care in Scotland hit by a bill of £12 million for daring to employ highly skilled and qualified workers from the EU.

Commenting, SNP MSP Clare Haughey, who is Deputy Convener of the Health and Sport Committee at Holyrood, said:

“The Tories continue to pander to the UKIP agenda and the far-right of their own party – making policy based on the most basic dog-whistle racist and xenophobic attitudes rather than considering the impact it would have on services such as our NHS, which is already seeing the number of applications from European nurses and midwives fall dramatically.

“This potential Brexit bill of £12 million would take vital funding out of our health and social care sector – piling onto Tory austerity.

“The health and social care sector has already voiced its concern about the loss of free movement and the multitude of other benefits that the EU brings – and this latest proposal will simply raise even deeper concerns amongst health and care professionals, adding to concerns raised by the NMC’s figures.

Clare Haughey added: “Ruth Davidson must distance herself from these xenophobic proposals and make the case to her bosses at Westminster that Scotland’s health and social care sector cannot be allowed to suffer because of a Tory hard Brexit that aims to discourage diversity in our communities and rob our health sector of a vital source of labour.

“Before and after the referendum last year, Ruth Davidson championed free movement and Scotland’s place in the single market – it’s time for her to prove that she’s a politician of her word.”

This is an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP). Images added by Welfare Weekly.

Disabled jobseekers three-times more likely to be sanctioned than to find work

A disabled person on the DWP’s Work Programme was three times as likely to be sanctioned as to be found a job, according to evidence given to the Scottish Parliament’s Social Security Committee by Inclusion Scotland.

New powers will allow the Scottish Government to design new employment services for disabled people and those at risk of long-term unemployment.

Third sector groups giving evidence to the committee welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to ending the use of sanctions in devolved work schemes.

Academics at the University of Glasgow have found that the Tory sanctions regime has “detrimental financial, material, emotional and health impacts” and pushes those on JSA and ESA into debt and reliance on foodbanks.

Trussell Trust Foodbank. Photo credit: Newfrontiers via photopin cc

A report by the National Audit Office last year revealed that the administrative costs of the brutal benefit sanctions system dwarves the income removed from those on lowest incomes.

Related: Jobcentre staff at risk amid plans to close one in 10 offices

Commenting, SNP MSP Ruth Maguire: “The Tory sanctions regime is completely discredited – not only has it been shown to cause severe hardship, but the cost of administration dwarves the money saved by stopping benefits.

“It’s absolutely shocking that a disabled person on the DWP’s Work Programme was three times as likely to be sanctioned as to find a job.

“The clue is in the name – employability services should get people into work, not find excuses to stop their incomes.

“With the limited powers over welfare that are being devolved, the Scottish Government will build a social security system with dignity, respect and fairness at its heart.”

This is an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP). Images added by Welfare Weekly.

Jobcentre staff at risk amid plans to close one in 10 offices

Powered by article titled “Jobcentre staff at risk amid plans to close one in 10 offices” was written by Angela Monaghan and Phillip Inman, for on Thursday 26th January 2017 15.10 UTC

The government is planning to close more than one in 10 jobcentres around the UK, with the loss of up to 750 jobs.

The Department for Work and Pensions would not say how many of the 714 offices would close, but unions said it was more than one in 10 locations in England, Wales and Scotland.

Damian Hinds, the minister for employment, said the closures would better reflect today’s welfare state as people increasingly claim benefits online.

“The way the world works has changed rapidly in the last 20 years and the welfare state needs to keep pace,” he said. “As more people access their benefits through the internet many of our buildings are underused. We are concentrating our resources on what we know best helps people into work.”

The DWP said 78 small Jobcentre Plus offices would be merged with larger ones nearby, with a further 50 to be “co-located” with local authorities or other community services.

It will also close 27 back-office buildings around the country and develop larger processing sites, including five new large service centres from 2018.

The Public and Commercial Services union said it would oppose the plans. Mark Serwotka, general secretary said: “Jobcentres provide a lifeline for unemployed people, and forcing them to travel further is not only unfair it undermines support to get them back to work.

“We are opposed to these closures and will vigorously fight any attempt to force DWP workers out of their jobs.”

The DWP said up to 750 jobs would go although the vast majority of staff would have the option to relocate or take on other roles.

Frank Field, chair of the Commons work and pensions select committee and Labour MP for Birkenhead, said he was shocked by the closures.

“The DWP is cutting off its nose to spite its face, it seems to me,” he said. “It’s true that unemployment has been falling, but jobcentres have been given new tasks under universal Credit to help people find work.

“The centres are supposed to have worker coaches who can find people a job and advisers to help them get higher pay. It means that staff will need to understand the jobs market over a wider area, jeopardising their ability to achieve their targets.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Number of rough sleepers in England rises for sixth successive year

Powered by article titled “Number of rough sleepers in England rises for sixth successive year” was written by Patrick Butler Social policy editor, for on Wednesday 25th January 2017 10.11 UTC

The number of people sleeping rough in England has risen for the sixth year in a row, according to the latest official figures.

An estimated 4,134 people bedded down outside in 2016, according to the snapshot estimate, an increase of 16% on the previous year’s figure of 3,569, and more than double the 2010 figure.

London accounted for 23% of the England total (960), down slightly from 26% the previous year, with the borough of Westminster (260 cases) recording the highest number of rough sleepers in both the capital and the country.

After Westminster, the highest incidences of rough sleeping were recorded in Brighton and Hove (144), Cornwall (99), Manchester (78), Luton (76), Bristol (74), Croydon (68), Redbridge (60), Bedford (59) and Birmingham (55).

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said: “The number of people sleeping on our streets continues to rise at an appalling rate. Behind these statistics are thousands of desperate people, sleeping in doorways, bin shelters, stations and parks – anywhere they can find to stay safe and escape the elements.

“Rough sleeping ruins lives, leaving people vulnerable to violence and abuse, and taking a dreadful toll on their mental and physical health. Our recent research has shown how rough sleepers are 17 times more likely to be victims of violence. This is no way for anyone to live.”

The rough sleeping statistics come amid rising concern around rising homelessness in England, fuelled by insecure tenancies and rising rents, benefit cuts and shortages of affordable housing in many parts of the country.

local authority estimates

There are also fears that widespread local authority cuts to housing support for vulnerable tenants will increase the numbers of people forced to sleep rough.

The government is supporting a private member’s bill, which will oblige councils to make reasonable attempts to prevent residents becoming homeless. However, charities and local authorities have questioned whether government funding of £48m over three years to help implement the bill is sufficient.

UK nationals made up the biggest share of the total rough-sleeping figure, with 17% from EU states. Women made up 12% of rough sleepers. People under 25 accounted for 7% of the total.

Rough sleepers are defined for the purposes of official counts as people sleeping, about to bed down or bedded down on the street, in doorways, parks, tents, bus shelters, cars, barns, sheds and other places not designed for habitation.

It does not include people in hostels or shelters or formal temporary accommodation. The housing charity Shelter has estimated that more than 250,000 people in England are homeless or lack a permanent place to live.

Rough sleeping counts graphic

Many campaigners believe that the official rough sleeper figures are most likely an underestimate. The separate Chain database, which records the numbers of people in London seen rough sleeping by outreach workers, last June reported 8,096 rough sleepers in the capital in 2015-16.

The robustness of official government rough sleeper figures was questioned just over a year ago by the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA). It ruled that they lacked “trustworthiness”, were vulnerable to political manipulation, and did not meet the quality standard to be national statistics.

The UKSA noted that the statistics were based on either a single one-night snapshot “count” of rough sleeping in a particular council area, or an estimate based on intelligence supplied by local charities, police and homelessness outreach teams.

The latest statistical release shows that 47 out of 326 councils in England conducted rough sleeping counts (reporting 28% of the rough sleeper total) and 279 relied on estimates, accounting for 2,997 rough sleepers (28%). © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Tories sneak out refusal to reverse tax credits ‘rape clause’ during Trump’s inauguration

SNP MP Alison Thewliss has criticised the UK government for “sneaking out” its long-awaited response to the consultation on its “pernicious” two child policy and rape clause – part of plans to cut tax credits to low income families.

The MP for Glasgow Central, who has led the campaign to reform the policy, welcomed the UK government’s concessions but warned they do not go far enough and vowed to continue her campaign.

The consultation on the controversial policy closed in November 2016 but the UK government’s response was snuck out on Friday afternoon while media attention was focused on the US president’s inauguration.

Commenting Alison Thewliss MP said: “It speaks volumes that the UK government are desperate for media coverage of this callous policy to be buried.

“While I am pleased that Ministers have finally made a number of concessions, which will go some way to reducing some of the cruellest aspects associated with this pernicious proposal, it has had to be dragged out of them after much campaigning from a number of organisations.

“I particularly welcome the u-turn on multiple births, and that there will be no time limit on the reporting of rape. What is also encouraging is the decision to remove frontline DWP and HMRC staff from gatekeeping on this incredibly sensitive process.

“However, there are still fundamental problems with this pernicious two-child policy, not least concerning those of faith and ethnic minority backgrounds.

“The UK government’s own response clearly identifies that the most controversial aspect of the policy was the rape clause.

“Ministers even go on to concede that most respondents felt it was unacceptable for the UK government to ask women to re-live the ordeal of a rape just in order to make a claim for benefit.

“Despite receiving that loud and overwhelming message, this appalling and crass Tory government refuse to listen.

“The fact remains that this policy, however diluted, is still anti-women, anti-family and fundamentally wicked.

“There are still a number of very serious unanswered questions about the practicalities of a policy due to be implemented in just a few months’ time.

“I’ll be using this crucial time to fight these proposals all the way, particularly when they come to the House as a statutory instrument.”

Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive of Scottish Womens Aid, said: “We have said all along that there is no way that the so-called rape clause can be made somehow “acceptable” – it is a cruel and demeaning policy that revictimises women and reveals the utter callousness of so-called welfare reform.

“Hiding the results of the consultation behind the media attention on the US presidential ceremony just adds insult to injury. Did the government really think women across the U.K. wouldn’t notice?

“Scottish Women’s Aid will continue to oppose this shameful policy in every way possible.”

Sarah Champion MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, said: “The government are yet again demonstrating their profound lack of understanding of the nature of sexual abuse and coercive relationships and are designing policy in a way that is actively harmful to women.

“The fact that the Government have chosen Donald Trump’s inauguration to quietly sneak out a publication of controversial new rules that demand women ‘prove’ their rape to a third party before receiving child benefit is underhanded and extremely disappointing.

“Labour reiterates our long-standing calls for the government to conduct a full gender impact assessment of their policies without further delay. The government must take this harmful policy back to the drawing board before any women are forced to identify a child as a ‘product’ of rape.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “Our welfare reforms are a key part of controlling public spending as we create an economy that works for everyone.

“This reform ensures people on benefits have to make the same choices as those supporting themselves solely through work. But we have always been clear this reform will be delivered in the most effective, compassionate way and we have consulted to ensure the right exceptions and safeguards are in place.”

This is an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP). Labour Party and UK Government comments added by Welfare Weekly.

Failure to speak out on Jobcentre closures ‘a dereliction of duty’

The Scottish National Party has condemned Scottish Secretary David Mundell for ‘failing to lift a finger’ to prevent the UK Government from shutting half of the job centres in Glasgow, as the campaign against closures gathers pace.

A consultation on closing 8 of the city’s 16 job centres – first revealed last month – comes to a close at the end of January. The SNP’s MPs, MSPs and councillors in Glasgow are encouraging the public to sign a petition against the plans.

A cross-party letter to David Mundell asking the Scottish Secretary to back the campaign – whose signatories include all of Glasgow’s MPs and MSPs except the two Conservative MSPs – has gone unanswered.

Repeatedly pressed on the issue in the House of Commons this week, Mr Mundell failed to give any commitment to lobby the DWP to halt the closures, and could only say that he hoped that they would not impact on service users.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson called David Mundell’s failure to speak out against the closures a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” – and questioned what the purpose of the Scottish Secretary was if not to speak up for Scotland at the Cabinet table.

Commenting Angus Robertson MP said: “Tory plans to close half of Glasgow’s jobcentres are wrong-headed and completely counterproductive – and their flawed consultation process only adds insult to injury.

“The SNP has been actively opposing this issue – and just this week we led debates in both the House of Commons and the Scottish Parliament – but our attempts to get the Scottish Secretary to join us in calling on the DWP to halt these plans have fallen on deaf ears.

“In fact, there is no evidence that David Mundell has so much as lifted a finger to prevent these closures – or even soften the blow.

“Given the potentially devastating effect that these closures will have on some very vulnerable people in Glasgow, his failure to speak out is frankly a disgraceful dereliction of duty.

“It is completely unacceptable that Glasgow, with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, is set to be the first part of the UK to have job centre closures imposed on it – and at a disproportionately high level.

“We will not accept being dragged back to the bad old days of Tory governments – with no mandate north of the border – treating Scotland as a guinea pig for their unpopular policies and doing anything they want.

“But there is also a wider issue here. If Mr Mundell has – as is evident – done so little to fight Scotland’s corner on the issue of job centre closures, then what hope do we have that he has done anything behind the scenes to keep Scotland in the single market as part of the Brexit negotiations?

“The Scottish Secretary should be fighting for Scotland’s interests in Cabinet – not the other way around – and if Mr Mundell is unwilling to do that, then you have to wonder what the point is in there being a Scottish Secretary.”

This is an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP). Opinions are those of the author only.

UK council cuts will lead to more people sleeping rough, charities say

Powered by article titled “UK council cuts will lead to more people sleeping rough, charities say” was written by Patrick Butler and Sandra Laville, for The Guardian on Saturday 21st January 2017 08.00 UTC

Huge cuts to homelessness services will trigger a surge in the number of people forced to sleep on the streets and pile more pressure on hard-pressed NHS and social care services, charities have said.

Several councils are preparing to axe housing support services, including hostel beds, refuges and sheltered housing, as they struggle to meet the demands of a fresh round of multimillion-pound budget cuts from April.

In Sunderland, the housing support budget for homeless people in the city is being cut to zero. The Salvation Army, which runs a local hostel, said the council faced hard decisions. “They have closed libraries and children’s centres and they are now having to look at cutting support to the most vulnerable people.”

Sunderland council said in a statement: “Because of budget cuts and the government’s austerity programme, the council is reviewing and remodelling many services.”

In Birmingham, voluntary organisations said in an open letter to Theresa May that it was likely more vulnerable people would die as a direct result of proposed £10m cuts over two years to services for homeless and mentally ill people.

In November a homeless man, Chiriac Inout, was found dead near a car park in Birmingham city centre in temperatures of -6C.

The government is due to publish the latest annual rough sleeping statistics for England next Wednesday, and campaigners expect another rise. Official numbers of people forced to sleep on the streets rose by a third in 2015 to 3,369, which was double the figure in 2010.

Housing support includes services aimed at helping people at risk of homelessness – such as ex-offenders, people who are mentally ill, substance abusers, or those with learning disabilities – stay in stable accommodation, as well as the provision of hostel beds and homelessness outreach initiatives.

In Norfolk, charities have said £5m cuts to housing support services – equivalent to around 55% – proposed by Norfolk county council from April would drive up homelessness in Norwich, which is already reporting record numbers of people sleeping rough on the streets.

Derek Player, the general manager of St Martins Housing Trust, a homelessness charity in Norwich, said the county council’s proposals would push up homelessness and divert more people into high-cost social care and NHS services.

He said: “I have every sympathy with councils who are charged with really difficult choices. But the services [they are proposing to cut] are the services that divert people away from expensive forms of social care. We are easy targets, but we should be invested in, not disinvested from.”

Alan Waters, the leader of Norwich city council, said the city faced a “perfect storm” of shrinking council budgets, welfare cuts and rising rents. Spending on housing support in Norfolk had halved since 2010, and Norwich anticipates a 30% increase in demand for homelessness services.

Bill Borrett, the chair of Norfolk county council’s adult social care committee, said the council would continue to protect the most vulnerable residents. “We are clear that our priorities are preventing people from getting to the point of crisis and helping those most in need.”

In Bristol, £1m cuts to housing support services – equivalent to 10% – are being proposed as the city council faces cuts of £64m. A council report said cuts to local council budgets and a national freeze to local housing allowance “will have a profound impact on homelessness amongst families in Bristol”.

Local authorities are putting the final touches to budgets for 2017-18, which will herald another round of cuts. They follow £20bn savings made between 2010 and 2015, a 40% real-terms reduction to their core government grant, according to the Local Government Association.

Rick Henderson, the chief executive of Homeless Link, which represents homelessness charities, said: “These essential services provide a lifeline for some of society’s most vulnerable people, as well as being beneficial for the wider community and the public purse, and they need protecting.

“While we recognise that local authorities are under significant financial pressure, the evidence points to the real danger that cuts today will result in immense long-term damage for vulnerable individuals and communities as a whole.

“Higher rates of rough sleeping, substance misuse, ill-health and antisocial behaviour are bound to follow and we urge local authorities to consider the impact of their decisions and do all they can to safeguard the funding of these life changing services.”

A DCLG spokesman said: “This government is committed to supporting the most vulnerable in our society. That’s why we’ve given councils almost £200bn to spend over the lifetime of this parliament, so they can deliver services that local people need and ensure our country works for everyone.

“We’ve also announced an extra £900m for social care in England, meaning councils will have a total of £7.6bn to spend over four years. Our £550m investment to tackle homelessness includes specific funding for those areas facing the greatest pressures.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Attendance Allowance WILL NOT be devolved to local councils in England

A leading carers’ charity has welcomed a decision by the UK Government not to devolve responsibility for Attendance Allowance to local authorities in England.

The UK Government consulted on plans to devolve responsibility for delivering the older people’s disability benefit last year. Charities warned the proposal could have disastrous consequences for older people in receipt of Attendance Allowance, their carers and families.

The plans would have seen the budget and responsibility for Attendance Allowance passed to local councils, at a time when local authorities are already struggling to deliver adequate care and support to older people because of budget cuts.

Carers UK responded to the consultation by warning such a change would negatively impact on older people with care needs and their carers, and urged the UK Government to keep the benefit a ‘national entitlement’.

The charity also called on carers to respond to the consultation and make their MP aware of their concerns as part of its ‘Protect Attendance Allowance’ campaign.

The Secretary of State for Community and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, has now confirmed that Attendance Allowance will not be devolved to local councils.

Welcoming the announcement, Carers UK’s Chief Executive, Heléna Herklots CBE, said: “We are pleased that the concerns of older disabled people and carers have been listened to and we’re grateful to all those who made their views known.

“Localising Attendance Allowance would have risked fragmenting and reducing essential sources of practical and financial support both for older disabled people, and for carers.

“Attendance Allowance helps thousands of older people with the extra costs of disability and enables people to live in their own homes for longer.

“The benefit also provides a clear route for those caring for 35 hours or more, unpaid, to get vital recognition and financial support by enabling them to claim Carer’s Allowance – the main benefit for those caring unpaid and essential income for many who are unable to combine paid work with caring.”

Disability groups hail court’s support for wheelchair user on bus

Powered by article titled “Disability groups hail court’s support for wheelchair user on bus” was written by Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent, for The Guardian on Wednesday 18th January 2017 13.07 UTC

Disability rights campaigners have hailed a ruling by the supreme court that bus drivers must try to persuade other passengers to make room for wheelchair users.

Drivers may stop the bus “with a view to pressurising or shaming recalcitrant non-wheelchair users to move” if they believe a refusal is unreasonable, the judgment declared.

The case, brought by a wheelchair user who was unable to board a bus in Yorkshire, highlights the need for legislative changes, the supreme court judgment suggested. A bus services bill is currently going through parliament.

Doug Paulley attempted to get on a First Group bus from Wetherby to Leeds in February 2012 but the wheelchair space was being used by a mother with a pushchair and a sleeping child.

The woman rejected the driver’s request to move or fold the pushchair and so the driver told Paulley he could not board the vehicle. As a result, he missed his train connection at Leeds and was unable to meet his parents for lunch that day.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the court allowed Paulley’s appeal to the extent that the driver should have taken further steps to pressurise the non-wheelchair user into making space.

“Where the driver concludes that non-wheelchair users’ refusal is unreasonable,” Lord Nuebeger, the president of the supreme court said, “it seems to me that it would be unjustifiable for a bus-operating company to have a policy which does not require some further step of the bus driver …

“Where there is some other place on the bus to which a non-wheelchair user could move, I cannot see why a driver should not be expected to rephrase any polite request as a requirement.”

If that did not work and the bus was ahead of schedule, Neuberger added, the bus could be halted for a few minutes to apply pressure to the unreasonable and unmoved passenger.

Paulley took his claim for discrimination to the supreme court after the court of appeal in 2014 decided transport firms were not required to force one traveller to make way for another.

By a majority of four to three justices, however, the court decided not to award damages to Paulley.

Welcoming the decision, Paulley said: “I’m absolutely delighted. It represents a significant cultural change. It’s been a long fight of five years by a lot of people. I’m incredibly grateful that so many people put so much time, effort and passion into it. I know it was done for the cause.

“We have achieved something here that will make a difference not just for wheelchair users but for other disabled people.”

Chris Fry, of the law firm Unity Law, who represented Paulley, told disability campaigners who attended the hearing: “It’s a win for Doug and all of you, so that you will have an expectation that you have a right to travel.

“Three of the supreme court justices would have gone as far as saying that the policy should go as far as removing people from the bus who do not comply [with a request to make room].”

The judgment, Fry said, replaced the old “request and retreat” policy for drivers with a more forceful “request and require” policy.

“It’s the ‘Paulley principle’. We now have priority and right of access. We know that parliament is interested in this case. There’s a lot more to do.”

Robin Allen QC, who represented Paulley, said: “All the judges say that legislative change is needed. The bus services bill is now before parliament.

“The transport select committee have said they will have to consider their position after the Paulley judgment.

“The majority of the justices said that to have a notice that said you would be evicted [if you do not make room] would be going too far. First come first served is not reasonable.”

The transport select committee has suggested that an EU regulation that will make disability training for bus drivers compulsory should be incorporated into domestic legislation.

Giles Fearnley, managing director of First Bus, said the ruling did not require bus drivers to remove customers from vehicles. “This provides welcome clarity for bus operators, our drivers and our customers,” he said.

“This was clearly a difficult case for the supreme court with six different judgments … we will implement any necessary changes.

“We recognise how important it is that bus services are accessible for all customers, and we lead the industry in improving bus travel for customers with all disabilities. We are therefore also pleased that the supreme court found that we did not discriminate against Mr Paulley.”

Richard Lane, head of communications at disability charity Scope, said: “This is an important milestone. It’s a victory for common sense, and disabled customers will now want to see action from travel companies.

Wheelchair spaces on buses exist because of a sustained campaign by disabled people. But today many wheelchair users still face difficulties accessing the spaces on buses, often causing a great deal of distress.

“Most people don’t realise just how difficult it is for disabled people to get around, to get to the shops, or to visit friends. These spaces are often a lifeline into work and the local community.

“This ruling sends a clear message to transport providers right across the country that they have a responsibility to make travel easier and more comfortable for all of their customers.”

Paulley’s test case was supported by the the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has called on bus operators to ensure that people using wheelchairs can travel more easily.

The EHRC’s chairman, David Isaac, said: “Public transport is essential for disabled people to live independently, yet bus companies have not made it easy for this to happen.

“This is a victory for disabled people’s rights. The success of this case means bus companies will have to end ‘first come, first served’ policies, increasing peace of mind for disabled people.
“For years, wheelchair users have been deterred from using vital public transport links because they could not be sure they will be able to get on. Today’s judgment will make that easier.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Children unnecessarily removed from parents, report claims

Powered by article titled “Children unnecessarily removed from parents, report claims” was written by Sandra Laville, for The Guardian on Wednesday 18th January 2017 07.00 UTC

The push to increase adoption in England is punishing low-income women, who are increasingly losing their children due to poverty, according to research by Legal Action for Women.

A report to be presented at the House of Commons on Wednesday contains new research from the legal service and campaign group, which suggests the policy of increasing adoption has not reduced the number of children in care – as it was intended to – but has increased the number of those separated from their parents.

Dr Andy Bilson, emeritus professor of social work at the University of Lancashire, has been analysing the data gathered between 31 March 2001 and 2016. He found the number of children from care living with adopted parents or special guardians, has increased from 87,090 to 143,440 – a rise of 65%.

His research found adoptions have risen by 40% over the past five years, compared with the five previous years, but over the same period the number of children in care rose by 7.5% to 70,440.

“This is very unlikely to be due to an increase in abuse,” said Bilson. “The vast majority of this is about neglect or emotional abuse, often through witnessing domestic violence.

“Both of these can be better dealt with through family support and responses to poverty and deprivation. We are more willing to spend money on someone else looking after these children than in making sure the parents make a good job of it.”

Bilson’s research is part of the dossier of evidence collected by Legal Action for Women to be presented at the House of Commons on Wednesday. The report, Suffer the Little Children, examines what the group calls “the unjust separation of children from their mothers.”

It finds the number of looked-after children in England is the highest it has been since 1985; one in five children under five are referred to childrens’ services, one in 19 are investigated and adoptions are higher than in any other European country, and now stand at the highest level since data was first collected. More than 90% of adoptions are done without the consent of the family, the report states.

The report examined the cases of 56 women, all of whom came for help to fight for their children. Between them the women had 101 children; 71% of the women had suffered rape and/or domestic violence, 47% did not have a lawyer and 39% had mental health problems.

Anne Neale, one of the report’s authors, said: “Charges of neglect are used to punish, especially single-mother families, for their unbearably low incomes.

“The fundamental relationship between mother and child is dismissed as irrelevant to a child’s wellbeing and development, and the trauma of separation, and its lifelong consequences, are ignored.

“Mothers who are victims of domestic violence are refused help, blamed for ‘failing to protect’ their children, and punished with their removal.”

The report highlights the secrecy of family courts, where adoption decisions are made in private hearings, in which mothers are prevented by law from talking about the loss of their children.

Donna Clarke, whose granddaughter was taken from her teenage mother and handed to adoptive parents, will speak on Wednesday at the launch. She said families were being punished for living in poverty. “It is a form of social cleansing,” she said. “Vulnerable people are having their children taken away. It is all about them judging the risk of significant harm but if they spent the money on putting in the support that was needed many of these families would be able to keep their children.”

Clarke’s granddaughter was adopted when she was 13-months-old after spending the first five months with her biological mother, a teenager with learning difficulties. The baby was sent to a foster parent at five months while adoption proceedings got underway. The baby’s grandparents asked to be considered but none were deemed suitable and the child was given to new adoptive parents.

Clarke is able to write and receive two letters a year from the adoptive parents to keep in touch with her granddaughter. Her son – the baby’s father – and the baby’s mother, have gone on to have other children whom they are successfully caring for.

The drive to increase adoptions began under Tony Blair’s government in an attempt to reduce the numbers of children in long-term care. It was continued under David Cameron, who said that the children and social work bill – currently in parliament – was designed to “tip the balance in favour of permanent adoption where that is the right thing for the child – even when that means overriding family ties.”

In a 2013 high court ruling, Sir James Munby, the president of the high court family division, said the political drive to hasten and increase adoption should not override due process and break up families unnecessarily. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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