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Preview: Latest news from the public and voluntary sectors, including health, children, local government and social care, plus SocietyGua

Society | The Guardian

Latest Society news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice

Published: Fri, 24 Nov 2017 02:13:22 GMT2017-11-24T02:13:22Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017

Budget's £1.6bn cash boost for NHS less than half of experts’ advice

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:03:06 GMT2017-11-22T19:03:06Z

Government warned anything short of extra £4bn next year would leave service struggling to deliver care

Philip Hammond has bowed to intense pressure to give the NHS more money in Wednesday’s budget, but produced less than half the £4bn the health service’s own boss said it needed to look after patients properly next year.

A payment of £1.6bn for the NHS in England in 2018-19 will see its budget rise to £126bn, rather than the £124.4bn originally planned. Similarly, it will receive £900m more than planned in 2019-20 to help it withstand the pressures of coping with the increasing demand for care. However, both are one-off payments, not permanent additions to the NHS’s baseline budget.

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Universal credit wait reduced to five weeks

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 17:27:55 GMT2017-11-22T17:27:55Z

Tories welcome changes to hardship loans and housing benefit but Labour calls for welfare rollout to be paused and fixed

Universal credit claimants will only have to wait five instead of six weeks for their first benefit payments after Philip Hammond bowed to pressure to ease hardship caused by the new welfare system.

Related: Autumn budget: the day's biggest winners and losers

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Hammond’s ‘make-or-break budget’ wasn’t bold – just more of the same | Aditya Chakrabortty

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:27:00 GMT2017-11-22T19:27:00Z

The chancellor had a choice, an economic stimulus or reprising George Osborne’s austerity. He chose very badly

Philip Hammond is going nowhere – or so he wants you to think. For months, the chancellor has faced a guerrilla campaign from his cabinet colleagues and backbenchers for his sacking and replacement by someone more Brexity, someone more spendy; someone more, well, happy. Wednesday’s budget was his response to all the back-biting and poison briefings. Hence the opening optimism about a Britain “fit for the future”. Hence the jibes at plotter-in-chief Michael Gove and his “economicky” terms. Hence the attempt to craft a budget that told a coherent story about a country with less money but lots of pluck, and a government unveiling the biggest housebuilding programme in a generation. Headline-grabbing policies, personal pugnacity and a tank full of mediocre jokes – these are the classic signs of a chancellor trying his best to reverse out of a dead end.

Related: Help for housing or a kick in the teeth for the young? Our writers on the budget | Matthew d’Ancona, Faiza Shaheen, Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee and Frances Ryan

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‘I’ve run out of tears’: inside London’s temporary housing crisis - video

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 07:26:42 GMT2017-11-22T07:26:42Z

Connect House in Mitcham, London, is a converted office block in the depths of an industrial estate that is temporarily home to vulnerable people, families and young children. We meet two young mothers who tell us what daily life is like there. An estimated 120,540 children with their families live in temporary accommodation across England, a  figure that has risen 37% since 2014.

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Loneliness: the second cruel stigma Britain inflicts on disabled people | Frances Ryan

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 08:00:24 GMT2017-11-23T08:00:24Z

The idea that we are different and don’t want to work, laugh in a pub, or go on a date is far too common. The result, for far too many, is stark isolation

Increasingly, I feel lucky to leave the house. That’s a strange feeling for someone to have, particularly someone in their early 30s. As a millennial, I know I should be concerned with my nonexistent pension or ever diminishing chance of buying a home – and I am, really. But as a disabled person, I’m aware that nowadays even basic parts of a normal life can’t be taken for granted: going to the office, meeting friends in the pub, even regularly seeing another human being.

Related: Britain’s hidden scandal: the disabled people trapped in their own homes | Frances Ryan

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Jeremy Hunt accused of 'astonishing failure' after GP numbers fall by 1,190

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 18:56:53 GMT2017-11-21T18:56:53Z

NHS figures show drop of 1,193 family doctors in past year, despite pledge to increase numbers by 5,000 by 2020

The number of GPs in England has fallen sharply in the past year, despite a government pledge to increase the supply of family doctors by 5,000.

The total number of full-time equivalent GPs working in England dropped by 1,193 in the year to September, figures from NHS Digital show.

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Can councils stop bookmakers’ push into poor areas? Don’t bet on it | Nell Lewis

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 13:00:21 GMT2017-11-21T13:00:21Z

Local authorities feel powerless to prevent the rise of betting shops and fixed odds machines, even when they refuse planning permission

In the runup to Christmas, Bradford’s imposing city centre is littered with festive lights. They give a little cheer to a somewhat run-down Victorian shopping district dominated by building societies, banks, charity shops, and, more recently, a growing concentration of betting shops. There are 11 in barely a 250m radius, with the corner of Broadway and Bank Street the epicentre: a William Hill, a Paddy Power, a Ladbrokes and another William Hill are all next to each other.

Related: The Tories don’t have the guts to scrap fixed-odds betting terminals | Dawn Foster

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Hundreds of rough sleepers in Manchester to be offered homes

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 18:17:16 GMT2017-11-21T18:17:16Z

Social impact bond backs Andy Burnham’s pledge to eradicate local homelessness with cash for 270 homes and support plan

At least 200 of Greater Manchester’s most entrenched rough sleepers will be given new homes, and the support needed to stay in them, after a £1.8m grant from an ethical investment fund.

Under the scheme, financed by the social impact bond, 15 of Greater Manchester’s housing providers, as well as two private-rented sector partners, have offered 270 properties for homeless people. The plan forms part of the new Greater Manchester Homes Partnership.

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Doctors 'overprescribe drugs due to fears of facing complaints'

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 00:05:05 GMT2017-11-22T00:05:05Z

Survey suggests four-fifths of medics who have been subject of complaint or litigation start practising more ‘defensive medicine’

Patients are being put at risk because doctors are giving them drugs they do not need and sending them for unnecessary surgery to avoid a complaint being made against them, research has revealed.

Medics are so scared of being complained about that they are also giving patients more tests than their symptoms merit and not performing procedures that involve more risk than usual.

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Mortuary errors 'avoidable if bodies treated like living patients'

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 00:05:15 GMT2017-11-24T00:05:15Z

Many serious mistakes – including identity mix-ups – could be avoided, according to study of 132 incidents reported in England

Serious mistakes made in mortuaries – including identity mix-ups - might be avoided if the deceased received the sort of management standards given to the living, according to a study.

Postmortems on the wrong bodies, and even people being buried or cremated by the wrong family, are some of the errors spotted by researchers who looked into 132 incidents reported in England to a national NHS database between 1 April 2002 and 31 March 2013.

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Children with mental health problems 'guaranteed' treatment in four weeks

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 20:49:25 GMT2017-11-23T20:49:25Z

Exclusive: Leaked government paper reveals plan for waiting time cap – but cuts mean it cannot be rolled out for four years

Children with anxiety and depression will be guaranteed treatment within four weeks in a new effort to improve mental health care, but lack of NHS staff and funding means the plan cannot be fully introduced until 2021.

A leak from the forthcoming green paper on children’s mental health, due to be published in early December, reveals that for the first time, the government will introduce a maximum waiting time for youngsters needing such treatment.

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Conservatives will break NHS funding pledge, Labour claims

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 19:49:24 GMT2017-11-23T19:49:24Z

Government is not promising enough money to meet pledge to increase real-terms funding for NHS in each year of parliament, Labour says

Labour has accused the Conservatives of breaking a manifesto pledge to increase real-terms funding for the NHS in every year of this parliament by not promising sufficient extra funds in the budget.

An analysis carried out for Labour by the House of Commons library shows that despite the chancellor, Philip Hammond, announcing an extra £2.8bn in day-to-day funding, real-terms funding per head is set to fall in 2018-19, and remain flat for two years after that.

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Campaigner: I received rape and death threats after gender-neutral speech

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 16:27:49 GMT2017-11-23T16:27:49Z

Mental health campaigner Natasha Devon describes online abuse she received after calling for gender-neutral language in schools

The leading mental health campaigner Natasha Devon says she has been sent rape and death threats after a speech to headteachers in which she advocated the use of gender-neutral language in schools.

Devon, who was axed from her role as the government’s mental health tsar after criticising education policy, came under attack after she addressed the Girls’ Schools Association’s annual conference in Manchester this week.

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Labour criticises delays to universal credit changes

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 14:04:31 GMT2017-11-23T14:04:31Z

Measures announced in budget will not be introduced until as late as April, leaving some families facing a tough Christmas

Opposition parties and charities have criticised budget measures to improve the rollout of universal credit after it emerged that the changes will not be introduced until as late as April.

In his budget speech, Philip Hammond announced a £1.5bn fund to assist people moving to the benefit, promising a reduction of the six-week wait to five, easier access to initial loans and a two-week bridging system for housing benefit.

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Women-led startup turns domestic abuse survivors into entrepreneurs

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 12:00:01 GMT2017-11-23T12:00:01Z

Financial insecurity keeps women trapped in violent relationships. FreeFrom, a California not-for-profit, wants to break the cycle

A month ago Christine and her children were living in a shelter for survivors of domestic violence.

Now she lives in her own apartment and runs a business selling aromatherapy products on the side while working as an admin assistant.

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Experts urge use of salt alternative in food products

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 07:00:23 GMT2017-11-23T07:00:23Z

Scientists claim using potassium-based equivalents to sodium would have a positive impact on the British public

Substantial amounts of salt could be removed from food after the government’s scientific advisers recommended that replacing it with potassium-based equivalents instead would improve public health.

A committee of experts has urged ministers to ask food producers and supermarkets to look into how they can replace sodium with what is known as “potassium-based sodium replacers”.

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Crossing the threshold: how Victoria's assisted dying law finally made history

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 05:40:37 GMT2017-11-23T05:40:37Z

There have been more than 50 attempts to pass voluntary euthanasia laws in Australia. There are reasons Victoria succeeded while so many failed

In the early hours of Tuesday 25 March 1997, the Australian Senate overturned the world’s first voluntary euthanasia law by just three votes.

Public reaction to the disallowance of the Northern Territory’s 1995 laws was furious, talkback radio inundated with callers angry that politicians, strong-armed by churches, were so out of touch with public opinion. A letter writer to the Sydney Morning Herald wished a key opponent of the NT’s scheme, the then little-known Victorian MP Kevin Andrews, “a long and excruciatingly painful life”.

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Our shameful policy of locking up young people | Letters

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:44:25 GMT2017-11-22T18:44:25Z

Frances Crook of the Howard League for Penal Reform says we should be closing down our youth prison system, not expanding it; David Scott says England and Wales stand virtually alone in the EU in the use of child life sentences

Shauneen Lambe is right that our child prisons are a disgrace and that they are harming children (Youth prisons don’t deter criminals. They enable them, 21 November). The answer is to close them down, not to look to other countries that have similar failing institutions. She points to Diagrama, an organisation that runs child jails in Spain, and has been trying to enter the lucrative UK child incarceration market. I have visited some of its jails in Spain and saw Victorian education delivered in bleak and remote establishments. There was nothing we should copy.

It was misjudged of the commissioner of the Metropolitan police to abuse an invitation to speak at a charity’s AGM and call for more children – in effect more black boys – to be incarcerated and for longer. We have gone down that path for two centuries and it has been a disaster. It was all the more bizarre as police forces round the country are successfully reducing child contact with the criminal justice system and there is a good-news story to tell. All experience and research shows that arrest, prosecution and incarceration of children leads to worse outcomes for the child, for victims and for the taxpayer.
Frances Crook
Chief executive, the Howard League for Penal Reform 

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The truth about who really picks up the tab for care home provision | Letters

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:43:14 GMT2017-11-22T18:43:14Z

Diane Wall writes that the privatisation of care homes means there is no limit what they can charge when demand is so high

Your article (Soaring care home costs mean you now pay £34,000 a year, 18 November) fails to give an accurate account of the financial obligations of self-funders. This happens all too often across the media. Local authorities do not “pick up the tab” when a person’s assets fall to £23,250. In fact, LAs continue to take £1 per £250 on a sliding scale until a person’s assets reach £14,250. At this point a care home resident is allowed to hold on to the remaining sum. However, their contributions do not end there as a council will claw back any pensions, state or private, while also expecting families to pay top-up fees. My mother has severe dementia and has been in a nursing home for over four years and has paid over £250,000, having been compelled to sell her two-bedroom flat and use her savings.

One of the major problems is the privatisation of care homes as there is no limit to what they can charge a self-funder when demand is so high. This inevitably means that a person’s resources diminish quickly and then the LA has to step in. A few years ago I became aware of newspaper advertisements around the world encouraginge people to invest in UK care homes as they’d be assured of a 8% return on their stake. Yes, there is a compelling need for a concrete plan on the future of social care, but it must re-examine the whole structure on which provision is founded. Our elderly must not be treated as mere commodities but with the dignity and fairness they deserve.
Diane Wall
Sidcup, Kent

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I got a 'don't block my drive' note on my ambulance: this is what happened next

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 13:07:42 GMT2017-11-23T13:07:42Z

Crews are used to getting these messages but the tweet of this one spiralled out of control

My ambulance made headlines this month because someone left a note on the windscreen saying, “You may be saving lives, but don’t park your van in a stupid place and block my drive”. A colleague tweeted a picture of it that went viral.

We noticed it after arriving at hospital with a patient in a critical condition. It had been our first job of the day and when we had pulled up outside the property, people were waiting outside to meet us. I could tell from the expression of one man that he was very concerned. We weren’t going to be at the scene for long. The patient was vomiting blood. I told my colleague to get a stretcher.

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For public services and public sector staff this is a bankrupt budget | David Walker

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 14:16:53 GMT2017-11-22T14:16:53Z

The chancellor shows no understanding about what makes housing, local government or other public services work

This is a bankrupt budget. Not in the strictly financial sense, though how much more threadbare core public services can become without collapsing and causing social mayhem the next few years will prove, if the government lasts. Even with faltering economic growth, public spending is to go on falling as a proportion of GDP.

It’s bankrupt in ideas, in understanding, in preparedness to examine what has been happening to public services.

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To get people off the streets, Philip Hammond, help homeless people rent

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 10:05:39 GMT2017-11-22T10:05:39Z

Only two in 10 private landlords would consider renting to someone who is homeless, but the chancellor can solve this crisis by supporting help to rent

Imagine you are homeless. Because social housing in our country is shrinking one of the only ways you can get a home is by privately renting.

But you have escaped domestic violence; perhaps you have lost your job or been through a relationship breakdown and found yourself in a downward spiral with little support. You certainly have no money for a deposit and a private landlord is highly unlikely to rent to you.

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What England needs is more affordable houses, not universal credit | Peter Hetherington

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 07:30:14 GMT2017-11-22T07:30:14Z

The botched rollout of universal credit has led to £1.3m in council rental arrears in Newcastle, the city where I, Daniel Blake was set. Ministers are making the housing crisis worse

Across the road from where Daniel Blake pleaded for fairness with jobcentre staff in Ken Loach’s 2016 film, a real human drama is unfolding in Newcastle upon Tyne’s Citizens Advice Bureau. Since becoming the largest city to pilot universal credit last March, rent arrears with Newcastle council’s housing provider have gone through the roof. At the last count, they stood at £1.3m. Some tenants have run out of cash, leaving the bureau to pick up the pieces.

Think about that: at least 2,400 people in rental arrears in a medium-sized city, with a growing economy, thriving digital sector, two universities and a rich cultural offer. It could be anywhere in England. Newcastle’s experience with universal credit and the consequent impact on social housing – and the shrinkage it is inflicting on the private rented sector – should be a warning to the rest of the country as it is rolled out.

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Ray James: ‘I want those still in care to tell their truths to people like me’

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 14:00:22 GMT2017-11-21T14:00:22Z

Six years after the Winterbourne View abuse scandal, Ray James’ new job is to ensure people with learning disabilities can move on from long-stay units

Ray James wants to feel uncomfortable. It’s the best way, he thinks, to make health and care leaders take action to break the logjam that keeps almost 2,500 people with learning disabilities and autism in specialist hospitals in England six years after the Winterbourne View scandal. The Panorama exposé of systematic abuse of patients so shocked the nation that ministers promised to close such places down.

James, 52, has been appointed the first national learning disability director at NHS England, with a brief to do whatever necessary to make progress on that pledge.

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Finance trumps patients at every level – UK healthcare needs an inquiry | Aseem Malhotra

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 09:25:38 GMT2017-11-21T09:25:38Z

The healthcare system faces a crisis of trust; ill-informed doctors and poor research are harming patients

The healthcare system is facing failure, rooted in an epidemic of misinformed doctors and patients.

During a recent keynote lecture at the British Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation annual conference, I gave the example of a man who had had a heart attack and been given statins and whose months of disabling muscle pain resolved within a week of stopping taking them. His elation was cut short when his GP told him he must never stop his statin or he could die. When the audience was asked to guess what his risk of death was from stopping the pill for two weeks, the first response was 25%. There were gasps when I revealed it was actually between zero and one in 10,000.

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Tech revolution is coming to healthcare - GPs must be part of it | Richard Vize

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 09:55:22 GMT2017-11-20T09:55:22Z

Smartphones offer an opportunity to get information into the hands of those who need it most; complaining from the sidelines is futile

The launch of the GP at Hand app-based primary care service in London has been met with accusations that it is damaging the NHS.

The service is being run by a practice in Fulham, but people across central London are able to move their GP registration there. It offers video consultations 24/7 and face to face appointments at five clinics so far. It uses technology provided by Babylon Health, which bills itself as “the world’s first AI-driven healthcare service”.

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Dear chancellor, it's time to end public spending austerity | Gareth Davies

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 08:13:24 GMT2017-11-20T08:13:24Z

Philip Hammond has little room for manoeuvre on public services, but needs to act on housing and health, as well as letting councils know where they stand

By early afternoon on 22 November, we will know the chancellor’s answers for next year to the two eternal questions of public spending – how big is the pie and which services are getting bigger slices?

On the first question, the evidence from the general election in June and more recent surveys of public opinion suggests that people are noticing the impact of the long squeeze on public spending on the services they and their families use. Public support for further spending cuts in frontline services has reduced even if this means delaying the planned elimination of the annual deficit.

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Want to fix the housing crisis? Give councils more borrowing powers to build

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 07:32:23 GMT2017-11-20T07:32:23Z

Don’t blame the 92% of English councils that haven’t built enough homes. Their hands have been tied by central government

England is not building enough homes. Recently released estimates of housing need show that of the 265,936 homes needed in 2015-16, only 189,650 were built – a 29% shortfall.

The greatest shortfall is in building what’s needed most: affordable housing. Our recent report found that 92% of local authorities aren’t building enough, with significant consequences for those who most need it.

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Bullies everywhere delight in coming up with new insults | Catherine Bennett

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 00:03:45 GMT2017-11-19T00:03:45Z

Whether abuse is in the classroom, the media or the trans debate, it represses free speech

Among the highlights of the just-concluded Anti-Bullying Week, a schools event since 2004, was the launch by Prince William of a taskforce on the prevention of cyberbullying and its first video – What to do in the event of a banter escalation scenario.

“Stop, speak, support”, is its advice to young people who witness online bullying, with an emphasis, as Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, explained, on encouraging their peers to seek help from a trusted adult, “because bullying doesn’t go away on its own”.

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Countdown to Public Service Awards 2017 awards night

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 11:07:28 GMT2017-11-09T11:07:28Z

This year’s awards night on 28 November, hosted by actor Sally Phillips, will celebrate innovation and achievement in public service

Preparations are in full swing for the Guardian Public Service Awards, which take place on 28 November in central London.

The evening will celebrate the achievements of the most innovative public servants and projects. An audience of 280 people is expected to attend, including shortlisted candidates in all nine categories , such as care, finance, recruitment and HR and housing, and the shortlisted candidates for public servant of the year, as well as VIPs invited from public services around the country.

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Guardian Public Service Awards 2017: the shortlist

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 09:42:00 GMT2017-09-25T09:42:00Z

The shortlisted projects and teams in each of the eight categories in this year’s awards

The judges have met and deliberated and we are delighted to now announce the shortlisted projects and teams in each of the eight categories of this year’s Guardian Public Service Awards.

The winners and runners-up will be announced at our awards ceremony on 28 November 2017 and a special supplement will be published online and in the paper on 29 November 2017.

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Guardian Public Service Awards 2017: key dates & FAQ

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 07:06:54 GMT2017-06-14T07:06:54Z

Full timeline for the awards and all your questions answered

14 June 2017: Awards launch
31 July 2017: Extended deadline for entries - entries close at midnight
25 September 2017*: Shortlist announced. Voting opens for Public Servant of the Year.

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Guardian Public Service Awards 2017: categories and criteria

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 07:07:29 GMT2017-06-14T07:07:29Z

Our judges are looking for the very best teams and projects from central and local government, housing, health, social care and the voluntary sector

Now in their 14th year, the Guardian Public Service Awards, supported by EY, aim to showcase the improvements and innovation underway across UK public services and recognise brilliant ideas, techniques and measurable impact.

This year the Guardian’s Society networks, which serve communities of dedicated staff working in housing, health, social care, the voluntary sector,criminal justice and central and local government, and SocietyGuardian, have set out once again to recognise and reward excellence across public services.

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Type of alcohol determines whether you become merry or maudlin – study

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 06:30:12 GMT2017-11-22T06:30:12Z

Spirits are associated with confidence and red wine is linked to relaxation – and researchers hope findings will help people consider alcohol’s emotional effects

While indulging in booze can inspire cheerful merrymaking in some, for others it can lead to a tearful journey to the bottom of the glass. Now researchers say the emotions people feel when drinking could be linked to their tipple of choice.

An international survey has revealed that spirits are often associated with feelings of energy, confidence and sexiness – but on the flip-side anger and tearfulness – while red wine is the drink most commonly linked to relaxation, but also tiredness.

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Scotland's minimum pricing for alcohol to take effect in May 2018

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:42:59 GMT2017-11-21T15:42:59Z

Shona Robison announces plan to fix level at 50p a unit, aiming to reduce hospital admissions by 8,254 in first five years

Scotland’s minimum pricing policy for alcohol, to be fixed at 50p a unit, will come into force on 1 May 2018, the Scottish health secretary has announced.

In a statement at Holyrood, Shona Robison said ministers were keen to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) as soon as possible and would be unveiling a consultation paper on its implementation next week.

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Budget boost for NHS to fall well short of management demands

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 22:22:34 GMT2017-11-20T22:22:34Z

Philip Hammond is set to provide emergency funding but health service bosses say it does not go far enough

Philip Hammond is to give the NHS an emergency cash injection in the budget, though the chancellor will disappoint health service bosses by increasing funding by far less than they believe is needed.

Hammond is understood to be preparing to unveil a plan to give the NHS up to £6bn by 2022 for three different purposes.

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City of Sydney sparks anger after publicising anti-vaccination event

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 06:10:06 GMT2017-11-19T06:10:06Z

Labor’s Tanya Plibersek criticises ‘idiocy’ of online event listing, which has since been taken down

The City of Sydney council has been criticised for publicising an anti-vaccination event on the “what’s on” part of its website, with politicians and doctors demanding it be removed.

The $15 “Let’s talk about vaccines” information night is scheduled for Monday and promises to answer questions such as: “Government, media and the medical community are pushing more and more vaccines on us. Why?”

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‘We give people their humanity back’: inside Croatia’s pioneering mental health centre

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 00:04:46 GMT2017-11-19T00:04:46Z

It was the oldest asylum in the Balkans. Now the doors are unlocked and patients are living new lives in the community

High walls still surround the oldest asylum in the Balkans, an 18th-century building pocked with the artillery scars of last century’s civil war, but the gates are no longer locked. Handles have been replaced on internal doors and bars removed from windows.

“The jail,” said Darko Kovaoic, a 53-year-old poet with schizophrenia who lives here, “has broken open.”

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‘Take these children seriously’: NHS clinic in the eye of trans rights storm

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 00:03:45 GMT2017-11-19T00:03:45Z

A specialist NHS centre in London is helping thousands of young people who are having difficulties with gender identity

At a time when transgender issues occupy the centreground of today’s culture wars, a clinic in an unpreposessing 1920s office block in north-west London has found itself on the frontline.

The Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), based at the Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust, is the only NHS-run clinic that specialises in helping young people experiencing difficulties with their gender identity.

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Letters: We need to find a strategy for supporting family carers

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 00:01:45 GMT2017-11-19T00:01:45Z

Ministers and employers are recognising the importance of 6.5 million unpaid carers, but have yet to produce concrete plans

I welcome your call for a bigger debate about the extent and limits of familial responsibility (“Family life is changing as never before”, Editorial, last week). This debate must be informed by the experiences of the 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK.

The numbers of people providing unpaid care rose by 16.5% between 2001 and 2015 and increased most sharply for those caring for 20 or more hours per week. Despite what we sometimes hear from politicians, we are a society caring more, not less.

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Hospitals attack ‘barking mad’ NHS target to manage winter crisis

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 21:00:42 GMT2017-11-18T21:00:42Z

Official edicts to banish long trolley waits and treatment in corridors are deluded, say trusts

Health service chiefs have been declared “barking mad” for ordering hospitals to ensure no patient is treated in a corridor or languishes on a trolley for hours when this year’s winter crisis hits.

NHS England’s instructions, intended to avoid a repeat of hospitals’ descent into the sort of meltdown seen last year, also say that patients should not have to wait more than 15 minutes in the back of an ambulance outside an A&E unit as they wait to be handed over to hospital staff.

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Losing a child to suicide is devastating. Schools can help prevent these tragedies

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 08:00:26 GMT2017-11-18T08:00:26Z

At least 200 children take their own lives each year in the UK. Teachers are in a unique position to support vulnerable pupils, but more awareness is needed

  • Harry Biggs-Davison is a former headteacher and trustee of the charity Papyrus

The tragedy of losing a child is unimaginable. Losing a child to suicide is worse. Those who have endured such horrors will know the grief is utterly excruciating. It’s no wonder that parents who have lost children in such a way become serious risks of suicide themselves.

My son Patrick was 25 when he took his own life, although I believe his suicidal thoughts began in childhood. It’s distressing to think that an average of four schoolchildren take their own lives every week in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The majority are teenagers, but some are still in primary school – and because the official statistics don’t recognise suicides by children under 10, that number is likely to be even higher.

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Why is the government waging a war against disabled people? | Peter Beresford

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 13:19:26 GMT2017-11-23T13:19:26Z

Ministers’ social care and welfare reforms represent a deliberately prejudiced, vicious attack on a significant minority of the population

A recent United Nations report on its inspection into the UK’s record on disabled people’s rights was described as a “17-page-long catalogue of shame” by one commentator, who wrote:

Over the past seven years, cuts to benefits, social care, the legal system and local authority funding have effectively put decades of slow, painful progress into reverse.

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What can social services learn from Sweden's giant-killing football manager?

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 09:34:57 GMT2017-11-22T09:34:57Z

Graham Potter – who has taken Östersunds FK from the Swedish fourth tier to its premier league and Europe – has advised social welfare staff on leadership and teamwork

Careers can take unexpected turns. When I started social work training in Manchester at the end of the 1970s, I would never have imagined that I’d spend the bulk of my professional life in Sweden. Today, I am the director of social services in Trosa, a town south of Stockholm.

When footballer Graham Potter was turning out for a string of English clubs, including Shrewsbury Town, which I’ve supported for 50 years, little can he have expected to end up managing Östersunds FK, a club he has taken from obscurity to fame in this season’s Europa League.

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Family courts are a revolving door for too many parents | Paul Burstow

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 09:24:52 GMT2017-11-20T09:24:52Z

Family drug and alcohol courts can help break the patterns that blight children’s lives; this innovation should be shared

How do we upgrade the family justice system so that it disrupts patterns of family violence, drug abuse and mental distress, which blight children’s lives, at great human cost and expense to the taxpayer?

These behaviours of violence, drug abuse and mental distress are passed down from generation to generation. They are amplified by traumatic childhoods, social isolation and social injustice. Standard care proceedings fail to address them.

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I help children cope, but too many are being failed as the system crumbles

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 09:53:28 GMT2017-11-18T09:53:28Z

My small charity team provides vital early help for vulnerable children, but devastating cuts mean we are being left to pick up the pieces when crisis hits

When a teenage girl came to our early intervention service recently to help her to work through past domestic violence, it soon became clear she was in a volatile and potentially dangerous situation, with continuing abuse at home.

We made a safeguarding referral and she and her family were quickly assigned a social worker while we kept working with her; but it’s very worrying that without our service, this could have been missed.

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Government plans to reform England's social care are an opportunity missed | David Brindle

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 12:49:54 GMT2017-11-17T12:49:54Z

Long-awaited green paper will be published by next summer, but will focus just on care for older people

At last we have some details of the government’s long-awaited consultation on reform of long-term care. But let’s be clear: this will not be a social care green paper.

Plans for the consultation were announced on Thursday in a written statement to parliament by Damian Green, the first secretary of state. He did call it a green paper – something that had been in doubt – and said it would be published “by summer recess 2018”. Recess is likely to be late July.

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NHS faces even worse winter crisis than last year, watchdog warns

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:39:47 GMT2017-11-16T14:39:47Z

NHS Improvement says failure of hospitals to free up beds means it will struggle to cope with busiest months of the year

The NHS is in an “extremely challenging” position with winter approaching because hospitals have failed to free up enough beds, the health service regulator has warned.

Hospitals are missing key waiting time targets and ending up in the red because wards remain so full they cannot admit new patients, NHS Improvement (NHSI) said.

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Millennials struggling to make ends meet | Letters

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 18:28:44 GMT2017-11-21T18:28:44Z

Sam Webb says it’s unlikely he’ll ever own his own home. Róisín McLaren says you can’t build a life on a zero-hours contract. Boomer Naomi Clayton says she went without food and furniture to afford her first house

Sajid Javid’s comments reported in Peter Walker’s article (‘£90k is a lot of avocados’: Javid defends millennials who can’t afford a home,, 16 November) could not be more accurate. As a 24-year-old, I am so often forced to listen to my elders’ indignation for my choosing to take a holiday, or have a meal out with friends when every penny I earn should be saved for a house. When you consider increasing prices and decreasing availability of property in the UK, along with the banks’ appetites to lend being lower than ever, it’s unlikely I will ever own my own home. Perhaps I just need to accept that thousands of us are destined to spend the rest of our lives throwing all of our money at the people who own the properties we rent from them while they complain about how irresponsible we are.
Sam Webb
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

• Have you heard about the massive discounts available for the under-25s? Unfortunately not; in reality the only thing reduced for us is our wages. Under-25s are excluded from the pitiful “national living wage”. From 21-24 we can be paid as little as £7.05 per hour, and for 18-20 a shocking £5.60 for doing exactly the same hours in exactly the same job. Even working full-time a 24-year-old might get as little as £14,500 per annum. And we’re far more likely to be on a zero-hours contract. You can’t build a life on that. We want to move out, start families, make our own way in the world. We’ll never do that while being exploited as cheap labour for big retail and catering businesses. It’s time to fight for a real living wage for all.
Róisín McLaren
West Calder, West Lothian

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One in seven councillors in English rental hotspots are landlords

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:38:58 GMT2017-11-20T15:38:58Z

Findings raise questions over whether dual role makes councils less inclined to regulate standards in private rental sector

Hundreds of local councillors in England’s rental hotspots are landlords or own second properties, including more than a third of members in some town halls, analysis for the Guardian has revealed.

More than 300 councillors in the 40 boroughs with the largest proportion of private homes for rent own multiple properties. One in seven elected representatives in the areas are landlords, according to declarations of interest.

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Councils to spend £1bn on commercial property amid housing shortage

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 18:00:09 GMT2017-11-17T18:00:09Z

Exclusive: Expert estimate suggests figure local authorities are on course to lay out this year could instead be used to fund 8,000 council homes

Councils are on course to spend more than £1bn on commercial property this year, investing more in shopping centres, country clubs, hotels, offices and other assets than in building council houses, figures show.

Town halls in England and Wales spent £758m buying up commercial property in the first eight months of this year, according to property market data from Savills, but are only building 1,730 council houses a year, government figures for 2016-17 show.

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As a polygamist community crumbles, 'sister wives' are forced from homes

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 10:00:00 GMT2017-11-17T10:00:00Z

With the outside world descending on fundamentalist Mormons in Utah and Arizona, families struggle for basic needs: ‘Everything just shut down’

In an isolated, rural community in a far southern corner of Utah, oversized houses stand testament to a fundamentalist Mormon sect whose followers believe that plural marriage, as they call polygamy, can lead to eternal salvation.

Amid a dramatic landscape of copper-red mountains and achingly blue skies, women wear modest, ankle-skimming dresses and keep their hair long so they can anoint and wash their men’s feet with their locks in the afterlife. A dozen “sister wives” might be married to a single man, and they all raise their children by him together. Their life in the hardscrabble region, where unpaved roads predominate, has always been half a century behind the rest of the US.

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Building more homes in London won't solve the country's housing crisis | Jonathan Manns

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 08:45:44 GMT2017-11-17T08:45:44Z

There is little incentive to build houses where they are needed most, across the whole of the country, not just London. We need a proper national plan

  • Jonathan Manns is director of planning, Colliers International

Theresa May has pledged to take “personal charge” of the government’s housing strategy, announcing new reforms to help fund housing association home-building, while in two weeks’ time, the mayor of London is set to release his draft London plan, increasing the capital’s housing target by 55% to 64,935 new homes a year.

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First world war hero’s descendant pays £840,000 for medals

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 21:56:12 GMT2017-11-23T21:56:12Z

Buyer is offering decorations for museum display and sale proceeds will go to charity projects across the globe

The descendant of a war hero has bought his great-uncle’s Victoria Cross and other medals for £840,000, so they can be shared with the public.

Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza paid a world-record price for the collection at auction, 100 years after the VC was awarded to V-Adm Gordon Campbell.

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It’s called effective altruism – but is it really the best way to do good? | Loose canon | Giles Fraser

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 16:34:29 GMT2017-11-23T16:34:29Z

The reduction of morality to a data-driven calculation has proved especially attractive in an age where Stem disciples make so much of the cultural running

Giving to charity goes up at Christmas time. Many of us, secretly repulsed by our gluttonous orgy of collective servitude to next February’s landfill delivery, yearn for a better use for our money. Bombarded by advertisements, sometimes a thought peeps though the fog of amplified desire: what if we used our money to do some good in the world rather than fill it with more and more meaningless crap? But how to make the most effective difference?

In a central London pub this week, I joined a hundred or so young people who meet up regularly to talk about precisely this: what might a data-driven approach to doing good look like? The effective altruism movement emerged around the start of this decade in Oxford. The big idea is to encourage a broadly utilitarian/rationalist approach to doing good, and it is particularly aimed at graduate higher earners who have more money to give and who thus, on a utilitarian calculus, can achieve more. This approach has proved particularly attractive to those with backgrounds in maths and computer science, and chapters of effective altruists have sprung up in Silicon Valley, New York and London, with many pledging at least 10% of their income to charity.

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Charity leaders - budget leaves sector sidelined in post-Brexit Britain

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 17:27:30 GMT2017-11-22T17:27:30Z

Philip Hammond’s budget has done little to help the voluntary sector face an uncertain future, according to charity leaders

There had been hopes of clarity around how the government plans to use between £1bn and £2bn in dormant assets, whether the Charity Commission’s annual grant would be increased, and if pressure on the government to consider tax reform to better support charities would pay off. There was none.

Instead, leaders across the voluntary and charity sector have expressed concern about the future role of charities in post-Brexit Britain and the impact on the sector of a downturn in living standards:

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From firefighters to detection dogs - your public service heroes in pictures

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 11:19:23 GMT2017-11-22T11:19:23Z

For this year’s #OurDay tweetathon on 21 November, we asked Guardian readers to share their pictures of a day in the life of local public staff. Here are just a few of our favourites

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The political crisis in Northern Ireland is bad for charities. Why don't we protest?

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 14:47:56 GMT2017-11-21T14:47:56Z

There’s been no devolved government in Northern Ireland since January 2017, paralysing the voluntary organisations that should be championing change

  • Nigel McKinney is director of operations at Building Change Trust

In mid-October, at the AGM of CO3, the Northern Ireland third sector leaders’ organisation, where leaders had gathered to discuss the future of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector here, one of the speakers asked why we weren’t all out on the streets, protesting.

It was a rhetorical but pertinent question, given that has been no devolved government in Northern Ireland since January 2017 because the DUP and Sinn Féin cannot come to a power-sharing agreement. Later, another member asked how many of us believes the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland is well positioned to achieve change. Out of an audience of around 100 people, five cautiously put up their hands.

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Charities received record £1.83bn from £1m-plus donors last year

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 18:56:53 GMT2017-11-20T18:56:53Z

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge has encouraged donations, research by Coutts and University of Kent finds

Rich people, foundations and companies in the UK donated a record £1.83bn to charities last year, as high profile philanthropy schemes such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge have encouraged more wealthy individuals to give away a portion of their fortunes.

Research by Coutts, the private bank used by the royal family, and researchers at the University of Kent found that 310 UK people and organisations made donations of £1m or more last year. The number of £1m-plus donations increased from 189 in in 2007, when Coutts produced the first edition of the Million Pound Donors report.

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How to repair our environment, one species at a time | Patrick Barkham

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 15:51:05 GMT2017-11-20T15:51:05Z

Bringing back rare beetles and butterflies might sound self-indulgent, but it proves that individuals can make an impact

The swelteringly hot summer of 1976 was the last gasp for the chequered skipper, a dynamic little butterfly that once buzzed along the rides of the ancient royal hunting forest of Rockingham in Northamptonshire.

Related: Funding boost to help save England's rarest species from extinction

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Hull’s year of culture: ‘We look at our city with new eyes’

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 07:00:54 GMT2017-11-19T07:00:54Z

The real story of Hull’s year as City of Culture is how it’s transformed the lives of local people. Here they discuss 2017’s highlights – and what its legacy might be

In July 2016, Sheila Annis and her daughter Caron Mincke saw an ad for volunteers for Hull UK City of Culture. “We fancied having a go,” she says. “But we didn’t think for a minute we’d be picked.” Nevertheless, they answered it, and soon afterwards, somewhat to their amazement, they were invited to an interview, given uniforms to try on, and photographed. “And then we got an email. We were so shocked. They wanted us. We thought they’d want someone more… professional, someone who knew what they were doing.” How did being chosen make them feel? “Ecstatic,” says Mincke. And it was catching. Now Mincke’s daughter, Leanne Ayre, wanted in, too. “I began to suffer badly from Fear of Missing Out,” she says. “When they went to the KCOM Stadium [home of Hull City football club] to do a lap in their uniforms and hand out flags [part of efforts to promote City of Culture], I was jealous. So I signed on as part of wave two.”

Mincke and Ayre, who are both teachers, have always been keen theatregoers, though as Mincke notes, this wasn’t something she grew up with: “We were a working-class family,” she says. “We went to museums – they were free. But the theatre was too expensive.” Annis, though, worked in a fish and chip shop until her retirement, for which reason it is fair to say that it is on her that the last year has had the most transformative effect. “I’m 75,” she says. “I looked after my children, and helped out with my grandchildren; I looked after my mum, who was in a wheelchair, until she died. I worked in the fish shop for 47 years, until I was 67. So when this came along, I thought: right, I’m going to do something for myself. Someone said to me: ‘You’re doing it for the people of Hull, not yourself,’ which is true, in a way. But oh, it has brought me out of my shell. When I was a child, art was just a picture on a wall. Now I go to the Humber Street Gallery [a new space in Hull’s Fruit Market] every week, and I love it.”

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Why my council pension fund is divesting £1.2bn from fossil fuels

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 07:23:18 GMT2017-11-13T07:23:18Z

Local authorities invest £16bn in fossil fuel companies. In Southwark, we will no longer do this

Data released on 9 November shows that the UK’s local authorities invest more than £16bn into companies that extract oil, gas and coal. Collectively, the country’s local government pension funds have nearly £3,000 invested in fossil fuels for every pension fund member. Southwark has decided we will no longer do this.

In December 2016, Southwark council pension fund made a landmark commitment. Following more than a year of consultation, deliberation and work with community groups we announced a decision to divest the £1.2bn fund from fossil fuels.

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The people who keep local UK services going - share your pictures

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 12:55:16 GMT2017-11-15T12:55:16Z

To celebrate the 24-hour #OurDay tweetathon on 21 November, we want to see your pictures of the workers and volunteers who keep your community running

Since 2010, central government has cut its grant to councils by more than 25%. By 2020 there will be a shortfall in cash of nearly £6bn.

Local government is under fierce attack. All councils have had to slash jobs and reduce services. The number of people working for local government is now at its lowest level since 1999, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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Divorcing parents could lose children if they try to turn them against partner

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 19:00:10 GMT2017-11-17T19:00:10Z

Measures being trialled to prevent ‘parental alienation’ feature penalties including permanent loss of contact with child

Divorcing parents could be denied contact with their children if they try to turn them against their former partner, under a “groundbreaking” process being trialled by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).

The phenomenon where one parent poisons their child against the other is known as parental alienation, the ultimate aim of which is to persuade the child to permanently exclude that parent from their life.

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Spirits down: proof that gin makes you sad

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 13:01:00 GMT2017-11-22T13:01:00Z

The drink’s melancholy reputation has been backed up by a survey from Public Health Wales, although four out of 10 drinkers claim it makes them feel sexier

Name: Gin.

Age: 300 years old.

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Up to 75,000 benefit claimants were underpaid for years

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 22:57:34 GMT2017-11-17T22:57:34Z

Mistake in payment of employment and support allowance could cost up to £500m to correct

Tens of thousands of disability and sickness benefit claimants may have been underpaid and it could cost up to £500m to correct the error.

The Department for Work and Pensions confirmed it had identified errors in the payment of employment and support allowance (ESA) that could affect 75,000 people who transferred to it from incapacity benefits.

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'They're just trying to live': Denver clears homeless camp despite controversy

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 00:34:13 GMT2017-01-27T00:34:13Z

The city cleared a large encampment amid freezing weather, just months after a viral video of police confiscating blankets from the homeless sparked an outcry

A large homeless encampment was cleared in Denver on Thursday amid temperatures of -5C (23F), risking further controversy over the city’s approach to homeless people struggling with winter weather.

As in other western cities, activists are up in arms over rules that they say criminalize homelessness. Denver, whose homeless population is estimated at 3,700, banned “urban camping” in 2012. But in November, police faced intense criticism after a video that showed them confiscating people’s blankets and other outdoors gear, with bad weather imminent, went viral.

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'Devil's breath' aka scopolamine: can it really zombify you?

Wed, 02 Sep 2015 17:54:28 GMT2015-09-02T17:54:28Z

The substance has been blamed for thousands of crimes in South America. Now there are reports of the incapacitating drug being used in street robberies in Paris. From use by Nazis to obstetricians, it certainly has a colourful history

One of the most enduring hoaxes you might hear in a backpacker hostel is that of the drug-soaked business card: someone hands you their card, and the drug is instantly absorbed by your skin. You fall into a zombie-like state, where you will do anything for your attacker, from empty out your bank account to pull a trigger on someone.

The drug is burandanga, or scopolamine, derived from nightshade plants, and there are countless stories about how criminals in Colombia and Ecuador use the drug, which is said to remove a person’s free will, to assault victims or rob them. It is also known as “devil’s breath” and has been described as “the most dangerous drug in the world”. It’s hard to know which are urban myths and which are genuine. The US’s Overseas Security Advisory Council warns travellers in Quito about the dangers of falling victim to a scopolamine attack, and refers to “unofficial estimates” – it doesn’t say where this figure is from – of 50,000 scopolamine incidents there every year.

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'It's just mistake after mistake' – stories from the universal credit catastrophe

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 18:22:27 GMT2017-11-20T18:22:27Z

It was introduced to simplify benefits and encourage people to work. Yet from a bungled rollout to Kafkaesque rules and the infamous six-week payment delay, universal credit has caused untold misery. John Harris meets people who have had their lives turned upside down. Photograph by Mark Pinder for the Guardian

Sue hit her lowest point at the end of 2016. Unable to buy food and behind with her rent, she phoned the finance company about the debt on her car. She and her family live in a town between Bristol and Bath, the kind of place where getting around with three children – not least to the nearest jobcentre, which is nine miles away – makes having your own transport essential. But she hadn’t met her repayments for three months.

“The lady on the line said, ‘You sound really down – are you OK?’” she recalls. “She could hear I was distressed. And I basically said: ‘No – I’m going to go upstairs and slit my wrists.’ She said: ‘Don’t do that – stay on the line. I’m going to put you through to someone you should talk to.’ It was a counsellor. And I spoke to them for nearly two hours.”

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'Thanks for blocking my driveway': paramedics reveal abuse they face

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 16:49:10 GMT2017-11-13T16:49:10Z

West Midlands ambulance service says crews regularly targeted after note left on vehicle as staff battled to save man’s life

The ambulance service whose paramedics were left a note complaining their vehicle was blocking a driveway as they battled to save a man’s life has repeatedly been the target of similar abuse, it has emerged.

Officials have warned about the frequency of attacks against ambulance workers after the incident, which took place in the Small Heath area of Birmingham last Friday.

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Failures in Rotherham led to sexual abuse of 1,400 children

Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:47:00 GMT2014-08-27T07:47:00Z

Report says failings in political and police leadership contributed to gang rape and trafficking in South Yorkshire

Blatant failures of political and police leadership contributed to the sexual exploitation of 1,400 children in Rotherham over a 16-year period, according to an uncompromising report published in the aftermath of allegations of gang rape and trafficking in the South Yorkshire town.

Written by Prof Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work, the investigation concluded that the council knew as far back as 2005 of sexual exploitation being committed on a wide scale by mostly Asian men, yet failed to act.

Continue reading...Rotherham, where 1,400 children were abused over a 16-year period. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the GuardianRotherham, where 1,400 children were abused over a 16-year period. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

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