Report calls for ‘major reform’ of adult social care funding

An influential cross-party group of MPs has called on the UK Government to carry out “major reform” on how social care is funded, warning that inadequate funding is driving down the quality of adult social care provision in England.

The Communities and Local Government Committee (CLG) report says the Government needs to “urgently review how social care is funded in the long term and address serious threats to social care provision”, adding that the funding crisis is impacting “on those receiving care, the NHS, care staff, carers and providers”.

Funding constraints mean councils are providing care and support to fewer people, the report says The care provided is often limited to those with the “highest needs” and the “minimum required for a person to get through the day”.

The report also concludes that “gaps in funding have led to a deterioration in the overall quality of care and that this is likely to continue”. Providers have been pushed to “the brink of financial viability”, the Committee warns, “leading to them failing, exiting the market and handing back contracts for provision of care services”.

The CLG Committee welcomed a commitment by the Chancellor to provide an additional £2bn for social care over the next three years, but warns that “this will not be enough to close the social care funding gap”. “Expenditure on adult social care will need to rise as a proportion of total public expenditure”, the Committee says.

The CLG recommends that the Government use its new social care Green Paper, promised by the Chancellor in the Spring Budget, to explore all possible avenues to increase funding including national taxation – such as changes to income tax and pensioner’s benefits, or a compulsory new social insurance scheme.

Councils should also be allowed to use revenue from additional business rates to help reduce the funding gap, once 100 per cent retention comes into effect.

Clive Betts, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “During our inquiry we heard mounting concerns about the serious impact which inadequate funding is having both on the quality and on the level of care which people receive.

“We heard compelling evidence of acute threats to care providers’ financial viability and an increasing reliance on unpaid carers.

“It is clear there are also severe challenges in the care workforce, with high vacancy and turnover rates, and low pay, poor employment terms and conditions, lack of training and inadequate career opportunities the norm across the sector.

“A long-term fix, working on a cross-party basis and involving the public and social care sector, is urgently necessary to meet the ever-increasing demographic pressures on the system.

“This review must be ambitious and consider a wide range of potential funding sources, looking again at age-related expenditure, options such as a hypothecated tax for social care, a compulsory insurance scheme, and differences in how individuals contribute.

“The review must take a wide look at what we will spend this money on in the future – on support, on preventative care and intervention, on the care workforce – and ensure that care users are at the centre of how care is organised and that they get the assistance they deserve.”

Responding to the report, Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “The Committee has rightly recognised that an urgent review of how adult social care is funded is essential if we are to address the serious threats to social care provision in the long term.

“The announcement of £2 billion for adult social care in the Spring Budget marked a significant step towards protecting the services caring for the most vulnerable in our communities over the next few years, but it will not deal with all short-term pressures and it is not the long-term solution to the funding crisis that we have consistently called for.

“It is impossible to plan for the long-term without assurances of long-term funding.”

“The Government’s commitment in this year’s Budget to publish a Green Paper which explores options for a long-term solution to the social care crisis provides the opportunity to begin a much-needed meaningful national conversation about how, as a society, we should best support people of all ages with care and support needs in our communities.

“For the Green Paper to be successful, local government leaders must play a central role so that any solutions are workable, affordable, and support the spirit and letter of the Care Act, which councils are fully committed to.

“All options must be on the table. The review must look at the increase in numbers of informal carers, the care that is provided to people with mental health conditions, learning and physical disabilities, as well as care and support for older people.

“This is the only way we will find a solution that ensures our future generations enjoy a care system which doesn’t just help them out of bed and get them washed and dressed but ensures they have dignified and fulfilling lives.

“With councils facing further funding pressures and growing demand for support by the end of the decade, councils are clear that the recommendations that come out of the Green Paper cannot end up being kicked into the long grass like other social care reviews, inquiries, and commissions have been in the past decade.

“It is vital that political differences are put aside in the interests of real leadership so that we can tackle this crucial public policy question.

“We have long called for income generated by localised business rates to be used to cover existing pressures before any new responsibilities are considered, so we are pleased that the Committee is recommending that local government should be allowed to use some of the additional business rates revenue to close any adult social care funding shortfall that exists when 100 per cent business rates retention comes into effect.”

Up to 500,000 sick and disabled to receive £1,400 a year less in benefits

Changes to the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance, which come into force from 3 April, mean that up to half a million people will be awarded lower benefit payments than they would have otherwise received under the current system.

From Monday, all new claimants placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA, who are assessed as being capable of some sort of work-related-activity, will receive just £73.10 a week – the same as jobseekers’ allowance (JSA) claimants – rather than £102.15 a week paid to current claimants.

An analysis of the new rules by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that around 60,000 people with be affected in the first year, but all claims will ultimately be assessed under the new system. In the long-run, this means that around 500,000 claimants will receive £1,400 a year less on average, if they choose not to claim any other state benefits.

Around half of ESA claimants are in receipt of the benefit because of mental or behavioural disorders, and tend to be older than unemployed people on JSA. About half are between 50 and the state pension age.

They also tend to be in receipt of benefit longer than JSA claimants. Four in five ESA WRAG claimants have been claiming for over two years, compared to less than one in five for JSA.

The IFS predicts that those affected by the changes could respond in a number of different ways.

Given that the new rate of ESA WRAG will effectively be the same as JSA, some people may choose not to put themselves through the stressful ESA assessment and claim JSA instead. Those who choose this option, however, would find themselves subject to tough requirements in order to continue receiving benefit.

Others may try to appeal against decisions to place them in the WRAG in a desperate bid to get into the ESA Support Group, which will not be affected by the changes, and receive higher payments as a result. Currently, around 20 per cent of people placed in the ESA WRAG challenge the decision.

Some may choose not to claim either ESA or JSA and claim other benefits like Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to replace some of the lost income. If they successfully claim PIP, they could then be automatically ‘passported’ to higher ESA entitlements – great advice for anyone looking to find a way around the new ESA rules.

Some may move into work, but seeing as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has already accepted these people have ‘limited capability for work’ this could prove to be a difficult task, if not impossible. A DWP survey found that only 30 per cent of current WRAG claimants are actively looking for work.

Many more, perhaps the majority, will forego all these options – ‘choosing’ poverty over the unenviable task of navigating an increasingly traumatic welfare system, that seems hellbent on denying vulnerable people the support they need, or moving into work when they are unable to do so – and accept the £1,400 a year hit to their income.

In short, these changes risk pushing those with the greatest barriers to employment even further away from the world of work… and into poverty.

Disability benefit assessments ‘failing those who need help the most’

The Scottish National Party has said the UK government must bring Personal Independence Payments “right back to the drawing board” after an independent report found a lack of public trust in the assessment for the benefit.

Among the key conclusions of the Second Independent Review of the Personal Independence Payment Assessment report is that “public trust in the fairness and consistency of PIP decisions is not currently being achieved, with high levels of disputed award decisions, many of them overturned at appeal”.

On Wednesday, MPs were granted an emergency debate on recently announced changes to PIPs, which largely impact those with mental ill-health conditions after UK Ministers refused to allow a vote on “emergency legislation” introduced to tighten the criteria for the payment.

Corri Wilson MP, the SNP’s Disability spokesperson at Westminster, said: “This independent report into the UK government’s Personal Independence Payment system is a damning indictment of the Tories’ social security policies which are continuing to erode public confidence in assessment for the benefit.

“The fact that claimants have expressed a complete lack of confidence in the ability of health professionals to accurately record what is said during their assessments, as well as the 65% rate overturned initial decisions on appeal, is completely unacceptable.

“This shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with the approach being taken by the UK Government.

“The Tories have just railroaded through changes to PIP, which amounts to a cut to awards and will particularly impact those with mental ill-health conditions, with no consultation or parliamentary scrutiny. It is disgraceful that this legislation was forced through when it is now clear that there is already a total lack of trust in PIP assessments.

“The UK Government’s approach to disability support is failing those who need our help the most.

“They must listen to claimants and disability rights groups and take PIP back to the drawing board, to ensure disabled people receive the proper and adequate provision they need to live as independently as possible.”

Photo credit: Knox O (Wasi Daniju) via photopin cc

Paul Gray, the report’s author and chairman of the Social Security Advisory Committee, said: “Public trust in the fairness and consistency of PIP decisions is not currently being achieved, with high levels of disputed award decisions, many of them overturned at appeal.

“My findings point to the need to build very considerably on current action to improve the way PIP is administered.”

Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy added: “Anyone trying to get on with life while coping with a serious illness or disability deserves a quick and accurate experience when applying for personal independence payments (PIP).

“PIP is the single biggest advice issue people turn to Citizens Advice about and in the last 12 months we helped with almost 400,000 PIP problems.

“While some parts of the system have got better – such as a reduction in waiting times – we are concerned there is still a way to go in terms of improving the quality and accuracy of the PIP application and assessment process.

“It’s good to see the review recognises the need to improve the system around additional evidence which people can submit when they apply for PIP. Many currently find this confusing and don’t know what to send in. It can also take a lot of time and money to get the evidence you need, like a note from the GP.

“It’s vital the the government pays close attention to the issues highlighted by this review and takes meaningful action to tackle the ongoing flaws with the PIP process which stop people getting the help they need to live their lives.”

Poorest UK families struggle to put food on the table, survey finds

Powered by article titled “Poorest UK families struggle to put food on the table, survey finds” was written by Patrick Butler Social policy editor, for on Thursday 30th March 2017 13.42 UTC

One in four low-income households struggles to eat regularly or healthily because of a lack of money, according to the first substantial survey into the scale of food insecurity in the UK.

The survey showed that food insecurity was more highly concentrated among the unemployed, over a third of whom reported that they had either reduced the quality of their diet, or missed meals out altogether, because they had insufficient cash to buy food.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) carried out the survey as part of its biennial look at consumer attitudes to food. It categorised 8% of all respondents as having low or very low food security, suggesting that almost four million adults regularly struggle to put food on the table.

Nutrition experts said the findings confirmed fears that the poorest families struggled to eat well, and called on ministers to review the impact of welfare cuts. Although the FSA did not speculate on why some households were more at risk, other studies have shown that benefit freezes coupled with rising food prices are a big driver of food insecurity.

Rachel Loopstra, lecturer in nutrition at King’s College London, said: “These robust survey data confirm how serious the scale of the problem of people not having enough money for food to eat is in the UK, and are consistent with reports of increasing food bank usage.

“It is shocking that, at minimum, 17% of adults are worrying about their food supplies running out before they have enough money to buy more, and unacceptable that 8% of adults have had to eat less, experienced hunger, or at worse, gone whole days without eating because they lack money for food.”

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation thinktank, said: These data are truly shocking. To take so many British people off the breadline the government must drive uptake of the Healthy Start programme for young and low-income mothers, tackle gaps in food provision during school holidays, and review our welfare policies to protect the diets of society’s most vulnerable.”

Campaigners and MPs have called for the UK government to regularly monitor food insecurity, a request that ministers have so far rejected. However, the Scottish government has agreed to implement a food insecurity measure.

Last year the Food Foundation adapted UN figures, using 2014 data, to indicate that more than eight million people in Britain lived in food-insecure households. However, the FSA survey is more up to date – having been carried out in 2016 – and three times the size of the earlier report.

The FSA survey showed that women (10%) were more likely than men (6%) to live in food-insecure households. While 16% of young people aged 16-24 and 11% of 25- to 34-year-olds were food insecure, this shrank to just 1-2% for over 65s.

The FSA’s Food and You report adapted an established US government survey used to categorise respondent households on a scale of vulnerability to food insecurity; it included questions on whether people worried their food would run out before they got money to buy more, and whether they could afford to eat balanced meals.

The FSA, which questioned 3,000 adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, found that while more than 80% of all households had never worried about food running out nor about being able to eat proper meals in the last 12 months, there were wide variations among income groups.

Of unemployed respondents 47% said they often or sometimes worried about their food supplies running out before they got more money, compared with 7% of respondents in the top quartile.

Overall, nearly three-quarters of respondents reported living in highly food secure households, meaning they had no anxiety about consistently accessing adequate food. About 13% were marginally food insecure, meaning they had occasional problems but did not reduce the quality or quantity of their food intake. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Thousands to protest against ‘cruel and ineffective’ benefit sanctions regime

Activists from Britain’s biggest trade union Unite will tomorrow (Thursday) be protesting outside the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in London, calling on the UK Government to stop it’s “cruel and ineffective” benefit sanctions regime.

Campaigners will target more than 80 jobcentres across the UK, as part of a ‘national day of action‘ to stop benefit sanctions.

Since May 2010, over 3 million people have been referred for a sanction 8 million times. Over 318,000 people have had their benefits cut or stopped completely in the last year alone, often for punitive and unfair reasons – such as being late for appointments with the jobcentre, or being too sick to ‘actively seek work’.

According to the food bank charity Trussell Trust, more than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the first half of 2016/17, including over 188,500 to children, with the most common reason for referral being problems and delays with benefit payments.

Liane Groves, head of Unite Community said: “The government really needs to stop the cruel use of benefit sanctions which are destroying lives.

“The stress they are putting on people, and the effect on their children and wider families, is unacceptable. We should all be shocked.

[clickToTweet tweet=”No evidence that benefit sanctions are working” quote=”‘No evidence that benefit sanctions are working’ – Unite”]

“The government has shown no evidence that benefit sanctions are working. The opposite is true, when people are in survival mode, fighting to put food on their family’s table or stressing how they will pay their bills means their mental and physical heath suffers and finding work is so much harder.

“Rather than punishing the unemployed for not having a job the government should be helping people get jobs. People need a hand up – not a slap down.

“Unite Community members will be campaigning up and down the country tomorrow calling for an urgent end to sanctions.”

Unite has also expressed concerns that if people do not appeal against negative sanction decisions, if they are sanctioned again, they’re benefits could be affected for even longer – up to three years.

A report from the National Audit Office last year found there is very little evidence to suggest sanctions ‘encourage’ people back to work.

Unite Community members will be taking part in protests across London before moving to DWP headquarters for a demonstration from 15:00 to 16:30. Regional protests are also being held across the country.

Tories may cause ‘irreparable damage’ to homeless services, charity warns

The UK Government is in danger of causing ‘irreparable damage’ to supported housing for homeless people, a leading charity has warned today (Tuesday).

St Mungo’s is asking people to sign a petition that calls on the Government to rethink plans to change the way homeless hostels are funded, which they warn could result in an increase in rough sleeping.

Rough sleeping in England has soared by 134 per cent over the past five years, with as many as 4,134 individuals sleeping rough on any one night. Estimates suggest 4 in 10 rough sleepers have mental health problems and are at risk of violence and abuse.

Hostels provide homeless people with a safe place to spend the night and can help people escape homelessness for good and rebuild their lives.

A Government green paper, due to be published this spring, will outline how homeless services will be funded in future years.

National Audit Office analysis shows this has already been cut by 45 per cent since 2010/11. St Mungo’s is urging the Government not to put vital services at risk by reducing funding even further.

Rob, who has been homeless on and off for 20 years, told the charity: “The keywork was incredible – there was a plan put in action within two days of me moving in that was monitored.

“It was like ‘this is what you want to achieve, these are your goals’, so I kept being refreshed – ‘look, this is what you want to do.’

“When I had nothing, everything I wanted I had to put onto paper, and they’d make sure that I would achieve that.

“I got my debts cleared, I got rehoused, I got my benefits sorted out, all these little things build those pages, and before you know, it turns into the book. I would say it was more than a foundation, they showed me how to be a person again.”

[clickToTweet tweet=”Rough sleeping has soared by 134% over the past five years” quote=”Rough sleeping in England has soared by 134% over the past five years”]

A report by The National Housing Federation warned of a shortfall of 16,692 places in supported housing for working-age people in 2015/16, at a cost of £361 million to the taxpayer.

Research by Homeless Link found providing homeless people with a safe place to stay saves an estimated £6,703 per person per year because of reduced costs to health, social care and criminal justice services.

Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, said: “Homelessness is not inevitable. By providing a safe place to stay and specialist support, our supported housing projects help people to recover from homelessness and rebuild their lives away from the streets.

“Cuts in local authority funding and the Government’s decision not to exempt hostels from the reduction in rents already puts these services under great strain.

“The changes the Government is proposing now could cause irreparable damage and may ultimately lead to a loss of services at a time when rough sleeping is on the rise.

“The Government needs to give this important issue the time it deserves and work with the sector to develop a sustainable new funding system that protects these vital services, so we can continue to help people to get off the streets for good.”

DWP minister admits disabled people are wrongly refused benefits

A Tory minister has been forced to repeatedly admit that some disabled people are being wrongly refused access to vital disability benefits, adding further weight to accusations that cuts have left the welfare system unfit for purpose.

On three occasions, Penny Mordaunt, the disabilities minister, was forced to defend the Government’s treatment of people with disabilities, after opposition MPs cited a number of examples of their constituents being messed around by the Tory welfare system.

MPs from across the House rose to speak about how disabled people in their constituencies were struggling to claim the support they desperately need, during Work and Pensions Questions on Monday 27 March.

Labour MP Lilian Greenwood told Mordaunt about a constituent who has had to wait months for an assessment by the private firm Capita, who carry out assessment for PIP eligibility on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions.

Greenwood told Mordaunt: “A constituent contacted me after she submitted a claim for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and then had to wait twelve weeks for the home assessment appointment she needed.

“Capita finally telephoned giving less than 48 hours notice of the visit only to cancel 10 minutes before the appointed time.

“After three and a half months she is still no nearer to receiving the support she needs. I know that she is just one of dozens of people being let down by her department, when will she address this catalogue of failure.”

Responding, Mordaunt admitted the long wait was “unacceptable”, adding the private contractor was “falling below the performance and the courtesy, quit frankly, that we would want from our providers”.

SNP MP Philippa Whitford spoke about a former soldier who was now suffering with severe mental trauma and depression after serving in the Gulf War.

She told the minister: “Former sergeant William Bradley, who is one of my constituents, developed severe PTSD and depression while serving in the Gulf War, and was medically discharged from the Army in 2003.

“Having been on the enhanced PIP rate since 2014, he was cut to the lower rate last year. On appeal it has now been removed completely.

“And the reply from the PIP hotline was that ‘someone with mental health issues can work and that this is really a benefit for people with severe physical disabilities.”

Mordaunt admitted the case Whitford had described was “truly shocking”, but appeared to question its validity.

She replied: “What the Honorable lady has told me has happened is truly shocking.

“I would be incredibly surprised if somebody manning that hotline said those things. I’m not saying that I doubt her story but I would like to see that and I would like to know if possible the exact time that the conversation took place because that is quite wrong.”

Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael told the minister about one his disabled constituents, whose benefits had been cut by the DWP after missing an assessment appointment because she was in hospital.

Carmichael said: “Last week I had to deal with a constituent who’s benefits had been stopped because she had missed an appointment to be assessed for PIP.

“She missed that appointment because she was an inpatient in hospital in Aberdeen.

“Even after evidence of that had been exhibited to the minister’s department, they twice refused to reinstate her benefits because they said they had done ‘nothing procedurally wrong’. Is the minister content that that is how the system is supposed to work?”

Yet again, the DWP minister was forced to apologise: “That’s not how the system is supposed to work”, she said.

“If there is a reasonable reason why someone has not attended an appointment then that should not count against them.

“I would be quite happy to look at the Hon. Gentleman’s case but I would state that that is not what should be happening.”


Rio Ferdinand slams Tory plans to cut bereavement benefits for grieving parents

Former England captain and Manchester United star, Rio Ferdinand, has slammed Government plans to reduce the length of time grieving parents can receive bereavement benefits, it has been reported.

The Tory Government plans to replace existing bereavement benefits for widowed parents with a lump sum, followed by smaller payments for up to 18 months, compared to the current system where parents can continue to receive benefit until their youngest child reaches 18-years-of-age.

Those already in receipt of bereavement benefits will not be affected by the changes.

Tory minister Richard Harrington recently claimed those changes “will help people readjust to single-parent life”, to which Labour’s Stella Creasy accused the minister of cruelly using “justifications that sound like something from the dark ages”.

The changes also mean that cohabiting couples who are not married will not be entitled to receive the new benefit.

Harrington argued that expanding the benefit to cohabiting couples would be too expensive, adding that asking couples to prove cohabitation “could be a lengthy, complex process, which could cause distress at a time of bereavement”.

His opinion isn’t shared by Rio Ferdinand, whose wife Rebecca died in 2015 aged just 34 from breast cancer, leaving behind three children and a devastated father.

Speaking ahead of a BBC1 documentary about his experiences, Rio told Emma Barnett on BBC Radio 5 live: “I don’t understand how the Government can actually say there’s a time scale on it, because there is no time scale on anything to do with bereavement.”

“Every individual is different”, he added.

Rio argued that it’s wrong for the Government to place a time limit on how long it takes parents to recover from bereavement. “One person may take six months. Another person may take 10 years”, he told the Radio 5 host.

“There isn’t a time when you can say ‘Yeah, I’m over it’. Putting a number on it is the wrong thing to do”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions told the Press Association: “We’re updating an old system that was based on the outdated assumption that a widowed parent relied on their spouse for income, and would never work themselves. This doesn’t reflect people’s lives today.

“The 18 month Bereavement Support Payment helps with the immediate costs when someone loses their spouse or civil partner and the support can help protect families from sudden financial difficulties.

They added: “Once the payments come to an end, there are means-tested benefits which can continue to support the bereaved, especially those who are bringing up children.

“The new payment is easier to claim, won’t be taxed and doesn’t affect the amount received from other benefits, helping those on the lowest incomes the most.”

NHS draws up list of items to be banned from prescriptions

Powered by article titled “NHS draws up list of items to be banned from prescriptions” was written by Denis Campbell Health policy editor, for The Guardian on Monday 27th March 2017 23.59 UTC

The NHS is to stop giving patients travel vaccinations, gluten-free foods and some drugs that can be bought over the counter in an effort to rescue its ailing finances.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, announced the changes in an interview with the Daily Mail in which he detailed new efforts to get better value for money so that money saved could instead be spent on promising therapies that have recently been developed.

GPs will be told to not prescribe medications such as those for upset stomachs, travel sickness and haemorrhoids in a new drive to eliminate waste from the NHS’s £120bn annual budget.

Stevens said: “We’ve got to tackle some of the waste which is still in the system. The NHS is a very efficient health service but like every country’s health service there is inefficiency and waste.

“There’s £114m being spent on medicine for upset tummies, haemorrhoids, travel sickness, indigestion, [and] and that’s before you get to the £22m-plus on gluten-free that you can also now get at Morrison’s, Lidl or Tescos.

“Part of what we are trying to do is make sure that we make enough headroom to spend money on innovative new drugs by not wasting it on these kind of items.”

Next month, NHS England will start reviewing 10 items which it says are “ineffective, unnecessary [and] inappropriate for prescription on the NHS, or indeed unsafe”, which together cost the service £128m a year. The Department of Health is expected to then issue new guidance advising GPs that they are not prescribed.

They include omega 3 and fish oils; the painkiller fentanyl: lidocaine medicated plasters; a tablet used to treat high blood pressure called doxazosin MR; and a drug called tadalafil, which is used to treat erectile dysfunction, along with gluten-free foods and travel vaccines.

NHS Clinical Commissioners, which represents England’s 209 NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) – the GP-led bodies which hold health budgets locally – has asked NHS England to look into whether the 10 itemsare a good use of scarce cash when the NHS is undergoing the tightest budgetary squeeze in its 69-year history.

Many other common medications could soon be added to the banned list. NHS Englandsaid: “In light of the financial challenges faced by the NHS, further work will consider other medicines which are of relatively low clinical value or priority or are readily available over the counter and in some instances, at far lower cost, such as treatment for coughs and colds, antihistamines, indigestion and heartburn medication and suncream. Guidance will support clinical commissioning groups in making decisions locally about what is prescribed on the NHS.”

NHS bosses hope the moves could ultimately save as much as £400m a year. The service is facing serious financial problems. NHS trusts in England recorded a deficit of £2.45bn last year and are expected to end this financial year almost £1bn in the red again, despite repeated warnings to get their finances in order.

An NHS spokesman said: “New guidelines will advise CCGs on the commissioning of medicines generally assessed as low priority and will provide support to clinical commissioning groups, prescribers and dispensers.

“The increasing demand for prescriptions for medication that can be bought over the counter at relatively low cost, often for self-limiting or minor conditions, underlines the need for all healthcare professionals to work even closer with patients to ensure the best possible value from NHS resources, whilst eliminating wastage and improving patient outcomes.”

Stevens’s money-saving initiative is a foretaste of a major initiative he will unveil on Friday. He will announce details of his long-awaited “delivery plan” to fulfil his pledge, first made in October 2014 in his Five Year Forward View modernisation blueprint, to radically transform how the health service works by 2020 so that it delivers better care and closes the £22bn gap which is expected to open up in its own finances by then in order to remain sustainable.

He will give the go-ahead to between six and 10 of the 44 sustainability and transformation plans (STP), one covering each part of England, which are intended to implement his ideas, which centre on moving a lot of care out of hospitals and treating patients closer to home and keeping them healthier so that they avoid expensive £400-a-night unnecessary stays in hospital.

The STP plans have proved very controversial because they could see dozens of hospitals lose key services, such as their A&E or maternity unit. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Half of young mums skip meals to feed their children, survey shows

Almost half of young mothers in the UK are skipping meals so they can afford to feed their hungry children, while more than a quarter have had to use a food bank, a shocking new survey reveals today.

A survey of more than 300 mums by Survation, on behalf of the Young Women’s Trust, found that 46 per cent of mums aged under 25 in the UK regularly miss meals in order to provide for their children, with 61 per cent saying they were struggling to cope financially.

Anna, 23, spoke about how she was referred to a food bank, after a back operation meant she couldn’t return to work as soon as she had hoped.

“I was working but have been off for a couple of months after a back operation”, she said.

“Due to the long recovery I ended up on Statutory Sick Pay, and the drop in money coming in compared to my normal wage has meant I’ve really struggled to pay bills, rent and feed myself and my young son. Something had to give.

“The food bank has been a real lifeline and I’m very grateful for all the support and help the lovely volunteers have given me, but I never imagined I’d need their help.”

The nationwide food bank charity Trussell Trust provided 519,342 three-day emergency food parcels between April and September 2016, compared to 506,369 during the same period the previous year. 188,584 of these went to children.

One in ten surveyed by the Young Women’s Trust admitted to be “extremely worried” about their financial situation, with many of those questioned in earlier research by the Trust citing the many obstacles they face in finding work and how this can place a severe strain on family budgets.

According to that earlier research, young mums face isolation, discrimination by employers, high childcare costs and a lack of flexible working opportunities.

One in four young mums claim they’ve been discriminated against after informing their employer that they were pregnant, and almost forty per cent have been quizzed in job interviews about how being a mother would affect their ability to work.

A quarter had requests for flexible working turned down by employers, and one in four have been forced to leave a job because they couldn’t afford spiralling childcare costs.

When asked what would help them to find jobs, 79 per cent said cheaper childcare, 83 per cent said more opportunities for flexible working, and 8 per cent said more support from employers for women who are pregnant.

Young mothers are denied equivalent support from government experienced by many older workers and are more likely to be in low-paid jobs. For example, under-25s are not entitled to the new ‘national living wage‘, which is rising to £7.50 an hour from April this year (2017) for working people aged over 25.

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said: “Young Women’s Trust has found that young mothers are clearly committed to their children’s upbringing but often face huge challenges in their everyday lives, including discrimination, isolation and financial difficulties.

“A shocking number are having to skip meals or turn to food banks in order to feed their children.

“Young mums are telling us they want to work and become financially independent but they face huge barriers like discrimination from employers, a lack of available and affordable childcare, a lack of flexible working opportunities and inconsistent support from Jobcentre Plus.

“On top of that, they are entitled to less government support and lower wages because of their age.

“Young Women’s Trust’s report recommends access to affordable childcare, better support for young women at job centres and advertising jobs on a flexible, part-time or job share basis by default.

“Giving young mothers the support they need to get jobs will not only help them to become financially independent but will benefit businesses and the economy too.”