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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 Mar 2017 06:45:44 GMT2017-03-24T06:45:44Z

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

State pension age must rise again, says report

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 06:11:18 GMT2017-03-23T06:11:18Z

Those aged around 40 should expect to work at least until the age of 68, with the future of the triple-lock also thrown into doubt

Millions of people in their late 30s and early 40s look set to have to work for an extra year after an official review recommended pushing up the state pension age (SPA) more quickly than previously planned.

The independent report said the SPA should rise to 68 by 2039 instead of 2046. It also recommended that the state pension “triple lock” is withdrawn in the next parliament.

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What do we mean when we say ‘white working class’?

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:00:05 GMT2017-03-23T07:00:05Z

A new report says that the term – now favoured political shorthand – is employed for divisive purposes by the left and the right. So does it have a use, or does it simply turn poorer Britons into ‘moon specimens’?

At my primary and secondary schools in the 1980s and early 90s, we were all working class. We lived together on a peripheral estate outside Birmingham; our parents did routine jobs or were out of work; and, at 16, we were pretty much all expected to leave or go “to the tech” to do childcare or mechanics. These experiences and assumptions were not that different whether we were white, black or brown, because the fact of being working class in a working-class area gave us a sense that our destinies were largely shared.

Related: ‘White working class’: the label that seeks to divide and rule | Faiza Sheheen

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In Liverpool, 20 Tory cuts have brought a city and its people to breaking point | Frances Ryan

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 06:12:05 GMT2017-03-23T06:12:05Z

Adding up the impact of slashed benefits and a 58% reduction in central funding, the council says it’s England’s poorest wards that are being hit again and again

In Liverpool, austerity is visible: boarded-up libraries, closed-down day centres and shut nurseries. But, as in countless cities and towns across the UK, the bleakest of its marks are hidden behind closed doors: the young mum skipping meals to pay the rent because of the benefit cap, or the cancer patient kept awake by fear he’ll be found “fit for work”.

Related: Cuts that squeeze the life out of Liverpool | Letters

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Brexitland: People can’t find homes. No wonder they were angry | Owen Jones

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 06:01:03 GMT2017-03-23T06:01:03Z

As he continues his journey around leave-voting areas, Owen Jones sees how right-to-buy fuels anti-migrant myth-peddling and prejudice in east London
Brexitland: ‘Too many foreigners – way, way too many’
Brexitland: Pessimism is toxic in Britain’s coastal towns. But decline isn’t inevitable

“As a local mum, there’s no way you can get on a housing register anymore,” says Fay. It’s a familiar story of what happens when government puts markets ahead of people’s needs.

Mould was growing on the walls of Fay’s ageing home; but she was told her son’s disability was not extreme enough to be classified a priority. The council housing in the east London borough of Barking and Dagenham simply isn’t there: with the failure to replace stock sold under right-to-buy, what remains is reserved for those most in need. And Fay does not qualify.

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Europe's treatment of child refugees 'risks increasing radicalisation threat'

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 10:00:32 GMT2017-03-22T10:00:32Z

Highly critical report from Council of Europe says current system is unable to cope with sheer number of children fleeing conflict

Europe’s “abysmal” treatment of refugee children, who have made up about a third of those seeking asylum on the continent over the last two years, will increase the danger of their later radicalisation and drift into criminality, a damning report from the Council of Europe has said.

A system that allows the sexual and physical abuse of children in overcrowded detention centres, where they are often separated from their families, will only condemn Europe to trouble in the future the report warns.

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Four 'supersized' prisons to be built in England and Wales

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 00:01:20 GMT2017-03-22T00:01:20Z

Justice secretary announces plan to create 5,000 prison places in east Yorkshire, Wigan, Rochester and Port Talbot

The justice secretary is to announce plans to build four new “supersized” jails in England and Wales, creating a total of 5,000 modern prison places.

Sites at Full Sutton in east Yorkshire, Hindley in Wigan, Rochester in Kent and Port Talbot in south Wales have been earmarked for development as part of the government’s £1.3bn programme to transform the prison estate.

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Private companies could pull out of probation contracts over costs

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:03:11 GMT2017-03-21T15:03:11Z

Interserve Justice and MTCnovo tell MPs they may consider quitting if Ministry of Justice review does not deliver changes

Two of the private companies that provide 50% of probation services in England and Wales have confirmed to MPs they will have to consider quitting if a Ministry of Justice review fails to deliver improvements.

Interserve Justice and MTCnovo, which have contracts worth more than £150m a year to run “community rehabilitation companies”, have told the Commons justice select committee that their finances are unsustainable. “Our work is going up, our payment is going down,” said Yvonne Thomas, director of justice at Interserve.

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The food stores with an appetite for change | Patrick Butler

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 07:30:29 GMT2017-03-22T07:30:29Z

More than 4 million people in Britain regularly go a whole day without eating. For just £2.50 a week, food clubs are filling their cupboards

Over two hours before the Brinnington Local Pantry opens, Christine arrives to take her seat at the head of the queue. She says she doesn’t mind waiting in line for food: friends and neighbours will join her there, it’s pretty much a social occasion, and anyway, it’s worth getting in early to get the best choice. “The pantry is a lifeline for me; I don’t have much money. If I didn’t have this I would not have food on some days, there’s many a time I would have gone without.”

Related: UK throwing away £13bn of food each year, latest figures show

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Access to nature reduces depression and obesity, finds European study

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 14:08:15 GMT2017-03-21T14:08:15Z

Trees and green spaces are unrecognised healers offering benefits from increases in mental wellbeing to allergy reductions, says report

People living close to trees and green spaces are less likely to be obese, inactive, or dependent on anti-depressants, according to a new report.

Middle-aged Scottish men with homes in deprived but verdant areas were found to have a death rate 16% lower than their more urban counterparts. Pregnant women also received a health boost from a greener environment, recording lower blood pressures and giving birth to larger babies, research in Bradford found.

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A proper analysis of autism is long overdue | Letters

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:30:20 GMT2017-03-23T18:30:20Z

Excellent news that the Sesame Street puppet with autism is female, helping to correct the myth that autism rarely affects girls and women (What a children’s puppet can teach us all, 21 March). I hope that, in addition to being female, “Julia” will have significant special educational needs relating to problems with language and learning: 50% of individuals with autism have this “triple whammy”. Despite this, research into the linked language and learning difficulties that so frequently co-occur with autism is sparse.

There is an unanswerable case for the value of people with “high-functioning” autism to society, where their particular talents enable them to make significant contributions to academic subjects such as computer science or theoretical physics. For these people, also, it is possible to achieve good quality of life. These two facts argue against attempting to prevent or cure autism itself. By contrast, the additional problems of language and learning cry out for research into their prevention or alleviation.
Professor Jill Boucher
Department of psychology, City, University of London

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Why I lie to my GP about my drinking | Letters

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 18:29:54 GMT2017-03-23T18:29:54Z

While it is accepted that the regular output of research into drinking can add to our understanding of the problem, the credibility of using GP records must be questioned (Moderate drinking is good for the heart, 22 March). In my experience, and from talking to others over a number of years, very few of those who admit to drinking alcohol provide accurate information to their GP regarding consumption. I am 63 years old and have drunk alcohol most of my adult life. I drink 30 to 40 units per week and have done for years. I don’t smoke, exercise and eat sensibly. My heart function is fine and my liver function is normal but if I told my GP how much I drank it would be received with incredulity and a good telling off. So I don’t. There are very many people like me who accept that you can’t have a reasonable discussion with a doctor about “moderate” drinking and therefore lie about their consumption. If we are to have a proper debate we need to stop looking at alcohol consumption in terms of sensible drinkers as good and all others as bad. Until we do you will always have a massive cohort of drinkers like me who are not represented because we have chosen to keep our GP happy.
Ian Mitchell

• Join the debate – email

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Decades of TB progress threatened by drug-resistant bacteria, warn experts

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 11:27:35 GMT2017-03-23T11:27:35Z

Rise of multi-drug resistant strains of tuberculosis could derail global efforts to eradicate the disease, according to a new report

The rise of multi-drug resistant bacteria threatens to overturn decades of progress on tuberculosis (TB), experts are warning.

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Moderate drinking can lower risk of heart attack, says study

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 23:30:48 GMT2017-03-22T23:30:48Z

Drinking in moderation helps protect heart, with study finding it lowers risk of many conditions compared with not drinking

Moderate drinking can lower the risk of several heart conditions, according to a study that will further fuel the debate about the health implications of alcohol consumption.

The study of 1.93 million people in the UK aged over 30 found that drinking in moderation – defined as consuming no more than 14 units of alcohol a week – had a protective effect on the heart compared with not drinking.

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Informal mental health carers in Australia 'contribute $13bn a year'

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 19:02:33 GMT2017-03-22T19:02:33Z

Unpaid care worth 1.7 times more than governments invest in mental health services, researchers say

Informal mental health carers are contributing $13.2bn annually by caring for people with mental illness – 1.7 times more than Australian governments invest in mental health services each year, a report from the University of Queensland has found.

The report, The Economic Value of Informal Mental Health Caring in Australia, was commissioned by community mental health service provider Mind Australia and will be launched at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday.

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Pay poor countries for NHS staff they train | Letters

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 18:16:42 GMT2017-03-22T18:16:42Z

Recruiting NHS staff from other countries saves the British taxpayer the very substantial costs of training them.

However, the proportional financial cost to poorer source countries is much greater than our saving. John Holme (Letters, 21 March) mentions Malawi as one source for NHS staff: six years ago a study published in the BMJ estimated the loss of returns to Malawi just for doctors then working in rich, predominantly white countries, at $2.16m. Of those countries, it was the UK that benefited most, with a net transfer of wealth from nine sub-Saharan countries struggling with HIV/Aids of $2.7bn.

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It's good to talk: pupils gather for world's largest mental health lesson

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 09:54:30 GMT2017-03-22T09:54:30Z

More than 500 teenagers take part in event, which aims to raise awareness and help remove the stigma surrounding issue

“Talking about mental health does not make you weak,” the world’s largest mental health lesson has been told. Til Wykes, a clinical psychologist, told an audience of more than 500 13-18-year-olds from around the country: “We want to get people to come to treatment early because if they come early, they recover faster and they recover better.”

The event on Tuesday at Hackney Empire in east London, compered by the 4Music presenter Maya Jama, was designed to teach children and young people about what mental health is, how to protect it and deal with problems when they arise. Officially recognised as the Guinness World Record for the largest-ever mental health lesson, with 538 young people present, the hope is that it also raises general awareness about the issue among young people and helps combat the stigma surrounding it.

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Sir Ian McKellen and Susan Sarandon back Picturehouse cinema boycott

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 07:00:28 GMT2017-03-22T07:00:28Z

Actors among leading figures from TV and film industry who have signed letter to demand living wage for staff

Susan Sarandon and Sir Ian McKellen are among more than 25 actors and screenwriters urging the public to boycott the Picturehouse cinema chain, and Cineworld who own it, over its workers’ pay and conditions.

The 24 cinemas in the Picturehouse chain, which are in cities including Liverpool, Bradford, Oxford and London, sell an upmarket boutique experience to its clientele, who pay up to £16 for tickets while some staff are on zero-hour contracts without sick pay and other benefits such as parental leave.

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New Alzheimer's test can predict age when disease will appear

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 06:00:27 GMT2017-03-22T06:00:27Z

Test based on 31 genetic markers could be used to calculate any individual’s yearly risk for onset of disease

Scientists have developed a new genetic test for Alzheimer’s risk that can be used to predict the age at which a person will develop the disease.

A high score on the test, which is based on 31 genetic markers, can translate to being diagnosed many years earlier than those with a low-risk genetic profile, the study found. Those ranked in the top 10% in terms of risk were more than three times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s during the course of the study, and did so more than a decade before those who ranked in the lowest 10%.

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Trying to help a disabled girl seeking asylum brought my staff to tears

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 10:42:49 GMT2017-03-23T10:42:49Z

Maryam had severe cerebral palsy and her family were in dire need but we couldn’t get support for them

Jane and Helen are highly experienced therapists. They have come straight to my office door from their home visit to a teenage girl, Maryam, with severe cerebral palsy, and both are on the edge of tears. Maryam and her family are recently-arrived asylum seekers. The family home has a leaking roof and toilet, the children have no toys, no spare clothes and there is no bedding. Maryam cannot walk and she has no wheelchair or supportive seat. She has to be carried by her dad. The family have no transport and no one speaks any English.

Jane and Helen have been there all morning with an interpreter, trying to assess Maryam, her needs and the home environment. Years without therapeutic intervention have left her body twisted and contracted. It’s a complex, slow and difficult process. They’ve tried to find some help for the family through a charity, but the family have been turned down. They are distressed by what they’ve seen and by their own limitations and they want me to help.

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Industrial strategy risks leaving millions stifled and stuck | Liam Booth-Smith

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:57:40 GMT2017-03-22T08:57:40Z

It’s time to support the 36 million people who don’t live in big metropolises. The industrial strategy needs to be locally led by towns and small cities

All towns and cities in England should be asking; what does the government’s industrial strategy mean for us?

The government’s focus has been on making a success of a small number of big cities – but there are 36.1 million people who don’t live in them, on the outside looking in. It’s time to change that.

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‘The rate of drug-related deaths is at scandalous proportions’ | Anushka Asthana

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:29 GMT2017-03-22T08:00:29Z

New psychoactive drugs will add to the problem if we don’t deal with them properly, says Lord Carlile, chairman of Addaction

On 11 September, 2001, hours before terrorists hijacked four planes and ploughed them into New York’s twin towers and the Pentagon, murdering almost 3,000 people, Lord Carlile of Berriew accepted an appointment as Britain’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. From then on, stories of danger, threats and tragedy dominated his professional life during a decade in the role, as attacks spread and counter-terrorism efforts proliferated.

Related: Drug-related deaths hit record levels in England and Wales

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How Finland solved homelessness | Interview: Juha Kaakinen

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 07:26:28 GMT2017-03-22T07:26:28Z

The Nordic country is the only EU state not in the midst of a housing crisis. Juha Kaakinen of the Y-Foundation explains how Housing First works

This week’s report by EU housing organisation Feantsa has found every country in the EU in the midst of a crisis of homelessness and housing exclusion – with one exception: Finland.

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Good social workers are invaluable. So let’s give them proper support | David Brindle

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 09:29:02 GMT2017-03-21T09:29:02Z

Research reveals that some think social workers are there to pop to the shops for you. It’s time to restore some prestige

About three in every 10 people in Britain think social workers help with household chores like cooking and cleaning, with personal care like washing and dressing, and with childcare. Two in 10 reckon they will nip to the shops for you. Asked to choose from a given list of professionals they consider important providers of mental health support, 69% of people identify psychiatrists and 65% GPs – but only 41% pick social workers.

Related: The secret life of a social worker: you just have to get used to letting people down | Anonymous

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My ambulance crew is forced to put a plaster over society's failure

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 10:09:22 GMT2017-03-20T10:09:22Z

Cuts to public services mean we visit people who don’t need medical help and cardiac arrest calls go unanswered

However good the NHS is, it is not a lot of things; it isn’t social care, it isn’t a hotel and it most certainly isn’t a miracle worker. I work as an emergency care assistant on ambulances at the weekend. I can see the amazing things the health service does, but also why it sometimes appears to be falling apart at the seams. The NHS is stretched to breaking point every day. There are a lot of reasons for this and some of them are easy to see.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been called to patients who aren’t really patients at all. They are desperately in need of help, but not medical help. They need social care. Or social housing. They need their basic needs to be met, but not an ambulance crew. It’s just that there is no one else who they can call on a Sunday afternoon when, for example, they are at the end of their tether. When the loneliness hits hard, the prospect of not seeing a friendly face for another week is more than they can bear.

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The government must give councils the power to pull local buses out of crisis

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 06:50:29 GMT2017-03-20T06:50:29Z

Nearly £30m has been cut from supported bus budgets this year, and 500 routes reduced or withdrawn - local authorities need support and funding

The trouble with transport is that headlines tend to go to big infrastructure projects, while everyday local transport, which is what matters to most people on a daily basis, tends to slip under the radar or be treated as a purely local issue.

Related: This bus bill is just the ticket to create access to education and jobs

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I am a legal aid lawyer for people facing eviction - they are the real Daniel Blakes

Sat, 18 Mar 2017 09:25:35 GMT2017-03-18T09:25:35Z

From the care leaver paying £650 a month to live in a shed to the tenant with one light bulb, I never get used to the stories – and they are increasingly desperate

I’ve been a legal aid lawyer for 28 years and I’ve just had my first shed case. The tenant, a 22-year-old care leaver, had a video on his phone of the place he lived in. The small screen showed the outside of a shed he shared with the rats at the bottom of his landlord’s garden. He was paying £650 per month.

Inside was worse. There was no heating and very basic bathing facilities. He told me the plumbing didn’t work properly and the toilet was frequently blocked. His only cooking appliance was a microwave. It was cold and damp and it was summer. All was fine until he lost his job and his landlord wouldn’t let him claim benefit. How could he – it was a shed.

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Downplaying Brexit to overseas investors won't help UK housing crisis | Dawn Foster

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 06:31:02 GMT2017-03-17T06:31:02Z

At luxury property jaunt Mipim, Brits are desperate to keep money flowing into UK housing. But Brexit will still see an exodus of construction workers

It’s that time again: La Croisette in Cannes is thronged with yachts and men in suits barking into their phones on the beach. Mipim, the world’s luxury property conference, has descended on the south of France boasting that the delegates pack away more champagne than the film festival.

Last year, as I traipsed from yacht to yacht battling seasickness and constantly being mistaken for a waitress, the atmosphere was bullish. Then, the prospect of leaving the European Union wasn’t remotely on the cards, and people remained convinced that London’s luxury property boom would last forever. This year, mercifully, I’m in England not France, but those on the ground say they’re battling to make the case for the UK, with cities, local authorities and housing associations trying to convince people to invest in post-Brexit Britain.

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I hate restraining mental health patients but often it's the only option

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 10:31:11 GMT2017-03-16T10:31:11Z

Sarah needed medication but could not see that she was unwell. Restraint in her case was planned and not some awful mistake

People imagine mental health nurses like me as kind and gentle, as mother figures in uniform. What they don’t see is the harm we do to our patients: we lock them away, we restrain them and we take away their freedom. We do this in line with the law and we firmly believe we are doing the right thing. We are not “nice”, but when I look at my colleagues, I see strong, selfless, determined heroes.

I wish I could offer service users something better: a peaceful outdoor space, their own room, something less clinical than easy wipe armchairs. Most of them do not even agree that they are unwell and this deeply felt sense of injustice permeates the ward.

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Declaring my cancer on First Dates has helped others | Annie Slater

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 06:50:28 GMT2017-03-22T06:50:28Z

The Channel 4 reality dating show didn’t lead to love, but Marie Curie asked me to share my experiences and raise awareness of its daffodil appeal

I always confuse people who meet me. This is because even when I’m feeling awful, I look perfectly healthy. So as I sat across from my date I had to tell him the truth – even with the cameras rolling.

Related: My awareness campaign helped get 40 people to sign up as organ donors

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Womb cancer risk grows with extra waist weight, study suggests

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 00:01:20 GMT2017-03-22T00:01:20Z

Every increase of 0.1 units in the ratio between waist and hip raises the risk of developing the disease by 21%, researchers say

Women who have a higher waist to hip ratio could have an increased risk of womb cancer, a study suggests.

Researchers writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that for every increase of 0.1 units in the ratio between waist and hip, the risk of developing the disease increased by 21%.

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NHS delays leave thousands facing long wait for wheelchairs

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 22:00:17 GMT2017-03-21T22:00:17Z

Campaigners call for equality of access for disabled people as first official figures point to ‘postcode lottery’ in provisions

Thousands of disabled people face long delays to receive an NHS wheelchair, the first official figures on the subject show.

Related: Wheelchairs have come a long way – shame the NHS hasn’t | Lucy Webster

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Dawn Butler stood up for deaf people. But we need more than gestures | Letters

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 18:39:30 GMT2017-03-21T18:39:30Z

The Labour MP Dawn Butler made an unprecedented contribution to parliament last week by asking a question in sign language (Why I stood up for British Sign Language in parliament, 17 March). Demonstrating so publicly that the views of deaf people should be represented in the Commons is a valuable act in itself.

However, the rights of deaf people do not simply start and end with a single signed question. Deaf children all too often fall behind their hearing peers in school because of insufficient support. Councils are cutting vital services that deaf children rely on. The government’s NHS reforms have left audiology services uninspected and unaccountable. And as Butler rightly points out, British Sign Language – an indigenous language that has been in use for centuries in this country – does not have its own legal status in Britain. So while it is an important step for deaf people to see BSL being adopted by our parliamentarians, it also shines a light on how much work lawmakers still have to do to support the deaf community in the UK.
Susan Daniels
CEO, National Deaf Children’s Society

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Why do clinicians and managers struggle to work together?

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 07:30:07 GMT2017-03-21T07:30:07Z

We asked NHS staff to share their personal experiences of this fragile relationship. The results are surprising

With an army of more than 1.5 million staff, a £116bn budget and millions of patients to look after, it’s crucial that the NHS is well managed. But three years ago the landmark Francis report warned of serious problems. “Clinicians must be engaged to a far greater degree of engagement in leadership and management roles,” it said. “The gulf between clinicians and management needs to be closed.”

Has the relationship between clinical and managerial staff improved since then? Last year, research by the Nuffield Trust suggested financial pressure was compounding the problem, with many staff worried that “relationships are likely to deteriorate over the coming year”. The report concluded: “There is a long way to go.” We asked clinicians and managers to share their personal experiences of this fragile relationship.

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Tooth extractions on toddlers rise by a quarter in 10 years

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 00:01:00 GMT2017-03-21T00:01:00Z

Surge in dental surgery on young children triggers call for action on oral health education and sugar intake

The number of tooth extractions on children aged four and under in English hospitals has risen by almost a quarter over the past decade.

NHS data obtained by the faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) shows there were 9,206 extractions within the age group in 2015-16 compared with 7,444 in 2006-07 – a 24% rise.

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Three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely, survey finds

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 00:01:00 GMT2017-03-21T00:01:00Z

Individuals and firms urged to look for signs after results of poll carried out for Jo Cox commission on loneliness

Almost three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely and more than half of those have never spoken to anyone about how they feel, according to a survey carried out for the Jo Cox commision on loneliness.

The poll by Gransnet, the over-50s social networking site, also found that about seven in 10 (71%) respondents – average age 63 – said their close friends and family would be surprised or astonished to hear that they felt lonely.

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The role of industry in childhood cancers | Letters

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 18:46:24 GMT2017-03-20T18:46:24Z

With childhood cancer being a controlling factor in tackling daily life, and having been forced to defy a very poor prognosis myself, I feel a need to respond to your letter about Brexit’s impact on children with cancer (14 March). Glenis Wilmott MEP states that 1,700 children are diagnosed with cancer, of which over 250 die, annually in the UK, and that their only chance of survival may lie with being on a clinical trial, due to lack of treatments.

Cancer treatment is dreaded by adults, but is much worse for a child, with the consequences of treatment often casting a shadow for the rest of their lives. With a 40% increase in child cancer in less than 20 years, surely we have to refocus and ask politicians at all levels to take responsibility for their decisions in allowing industries which increase risks and known causes of cancer, such as air pollution. The unborn child can be 1,000 times more vulnerable than a grown man to environmental pollutants, and yet recently activists against fracking have been deemed irresponsible.

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Long live the diverse, multicultural NHS | Letters

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 18:45:57 GMT2017-03-20T18:45:57Z

NHS staff | Gendered language | Wasted coffee cups | Article 50 | Oddly named meals

During a recent 10-day stay in a London hospital I impertinently asked each of the 49 people who came to my bedside where they were from originally. Ten were British, five Portuguese, four Spanish, three Philippino, two each from India, Ghana, Somalia and Finland, and one each from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Ireland, Romania, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Brazil, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zaire, Malaysia, Mauritius, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Iran and Nigeria. These figures should mean something to politicians. They certainly meant a great deal to me and to my fellow ward-mates.
John Holme

• On page 29, Balancing the Bookshelves calls for better gender balance in children’s books (18 March), including not assuming animal characters to be male. Page 33: Natalie Nougayrède writes of “the inalienable dignity of mankind”. Page 38: “cameraman” (but on page 47 “camera operator”). Would it be too much to ask this paper to practise what it preaches?
Sylvia Rose
Totnes, Devon

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Has your immigration status affected your care from the NHS?

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 15:33:59 GMT2017-03-20T15:33:59Z

We’re interested in hearing from undocumented migrants and asylum seekers who have had problems with accessing NHS care. Share your experiences

Hundreds of pregnant women without legal status are avoiding seeking NHS antenatal care because of growing fears that they will be reported to the Home Office or face high medical bills, according to charities that work with vulnerable migrant women.

The Guardian has seen letters from one NHS trust sent to women with complex asylum claims warning they will have their antenatal care cancelled if they fail to bring credit cards to pay fees of more than £5,000 for maternity care. These letters contravene NHS guidelines, which state that maternity care should never be denied.

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My daughter is not deemed 'disabled enough' to get free parking | Nicky Clark

Wed, 22 Mar 2017 10:24:09 GMT2017-03-22T10:24:09Z

My learning disabled daughter was denied a blue badge when her benefits changed. This government is redefining disability – with no right of appeal

When my daughter Emily was three years old, she was diagnosed with learning disabilities and autism. At 10, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. This year, she will be 20.

When Emily starting receiving disability living allowance, she got a blue parking badge, which helped her in many ways. Her lack of complete cognitive understanding can cause her to become overwhelmed when we’re out in public. Yet as with all 19-year-olds she loves to go shopping, to the cinema and for day trips. The close proximity of a disabled parking space made these trips much easier for her and for us.

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Anger on Red Nose Day

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 15:00:09 GMT2017-03-21T15:00:09Z

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Why relationships are key to good social work | Sarah Gillinson

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:53:16 GMT2017-03-21T08:53:16Z

Positive interactions between social workers and families are essential, but too often policies and practices act as a barrier

Sitting around a table at a children’s centre in Essex are three families. With cups of tea in hand and their children playing next door, they share experiences of being parents and the role professionals have played in supporting them. In particular, who do they trust? Which relationships have made the difference?

The conversation was part of a project run by Essex county council, which aimed to enhance “relational capability” across the county’s early years, with support from us here at Innovation Unit and OnePlusOne.

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Social work in Zambia: 'Children have the right to love and security' | Rory Truell

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 00:05:00 GMT2017-03-21T00:05:00Z

World Social Work Day offers an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the profession’s transformative work with families and communities

“All children have the right to be loved,” Joseph, a Zambian social worker, told me as our bus navigated one of Lusaka’s bumpy, dusty streets.

When we cleared the maze of people eking a living on the streets and turned to the entrance of Empowerment Village, Joseph explained: “Every child here belongs to a family, the village was established with a charter stating that all children need love, respect, and security.”

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MPs slam funding crisis and 'postcode lottery' of children's services

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 22:00:48 GMT2017-03-20T22:00:48Z

Report finds under-funded social services stretched to brink of collapse, and huge differences in treatment of youngsters

Children’s social services are being engulfed by a funding crisis in which nine out of 10 local authorities are struggling to meet their legal duties and families face a postcode lottery, a damning report has concluded.

The inquiry by MPs, led by a former Conservative children’s minister, Tim Loughton, has found “wildly different approaches” in the ways that councils intervene and how likely they are to take children into care.

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Why are social workers so reluctant to celebrate their achievements? | Harry Ferguson

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 09:17:34 GMT2017-03-20T09:17:34Z

Criticised by the media, government and even some within the profession, social work needs a culture that recognises all the good its staff do

Social work is forced to exist within what I call a “deficit culture”, criticised from all sides by the media, government, inspectors and even some in the profession itself. This results in a narrative about social work that says whatever it does is not only never good enough, but inept, shameful, oppressive, even naive. So let us begin to consider here what its opposite, an affirmative culture that celebrates all the good that social workers do, would look like.

For the past nine years I have been researching social work practice by shadowing practitioners as they work. What I see suggests that every day in this country, social workers perform countless acts that make a real difference to the lives of thousands of people. Acts that involve kindness, compassion, courage, resilience, intelligence and extraordinary levels of skill and wisdom to protect hurt and vulnerable people. They sit with the troubled in their pain, with the sick and the dying, and help those consumed by grief after losing loved ones. They speak for the poor and dispossessed. They heal.

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Care contracts cancelled at 95 UK councils in funding squeeze

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 07:28:41 GMT2017-03-20T07:28:41Z

Quarter of private firms at risk of insolvency after struggling to deliver services on funding offered, investigation finds

Ninety-five UK councils have had home care contracts cancelled by private companies struggling to deliver services on the funding offered, an investigation has found.

As a result, a quarter of the UK’s 2,500 home care providers were at risk of insolvency, and almost 70 had closed down in the past three months, according to the BBC’s Panorama programme.

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Homelessness at crisis point in all EU countries – except Finland

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 14:30:31 GMT2017-03-21T14:30:31Z

Report on ‘alarming evidence’ of rising homelessness singles out UK for criticism while warning that one in 70 Athens residents are homeless

A European housing body has warned that homelessness and exclusion from housing has reached crisis point in the majority of countries in the EU. European Union.

Feantsa, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, has released its second report on housing exclusion in Europe, in conjunction with French housing charity Fondation Abbé Pierre. The report highlights “alarming evidence of rising homelessness” and calls for EU member states to put eliminating homelessness at the core of their social policy agendas.

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Entire homelessness agency could be eliminated by Trump's budget cuts

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 22:13:51 GMT2017-03-16T22:13:51Z

Shuttering the agency and cutting funds for low-income housing remind experts of Reagan’s deep spending cuts that ‘ushered in a new age of homelessness’

While much of the attention given to Donald Trump’s budget proposal has focused on dramatic cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency and the state department, amid the many cuts in the plan is the elimination of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (Usich).

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City-dwellers are prone to depression – are high-rises to blame?

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 10:59:43 GMT2017-03-16T10:59:43Z

Residents of high-rise blocks tend to suffer from more stress, mental health difficulties and neurosis

Prof Colin Ellard was walking past the rows of new-build towers that dominate the west of central Toronto when he had a sudden realisation. “I was struck by how dark, sombre and sad these new urban canyons made me feel,” he says.

Ellard, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo in Canada who studies the impact of places on the brain and body, wanted to know why he felt like that – and if others felt the same.

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Despite Northern Ireland impasse there is hope on housing | Paddy Gray

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 10:21:00 GMT2017-03-15T10:21:00Z

Neither major party wants a return to direct rule, so it is likely they will work together to improve housing in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland we are well used to political uncertainty and disagreement. The current impasse is not new.

We have had periods before of the assembly being suspended and direct rule from Westminster being implemented. We also had the same usual sectarian onslaught in the run up to the election calling for votes to keep the “other side” out. But there has been a profound change in the political landscape over the past 10 months since our last election. For the first time since the island was partitioned nearly 100 years ago, unionists do not have a majority and Sinn Féin is now only one seat behind the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), still the largest party, reducing the deficit from 10 at the last election.

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Trapped: the growing number of disabled people unable to leave their homes | Frances Ryan

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 07:30:24 GMT2017-03-15T07:30:24Z

Crisis in housing for those with disabilities leaves 1.8 million people stranded in unsuitable accommodation

In Brighton and Hove, Robert Carver’s wheelchair sits empty at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Carver is a tetraplegic as a result of a degenerative neurological disease – he is unable to move any of his limbs other than his lower left arm – but for the last five years, he has been living in a second-floor council attic flat with no lift access. It means that not only does he have no way to get his wheelchair into his home but, in order to get himself in and out of the flat, he has to be physically pulled up two flights of narrow stairs by his personal assistant. “I’m dragged around like a piece of meat,” says Carver, 33.

It can take him almost two hours to get out of the flat for hospital appointments and the process is also dangerous. Carver’s disability means he has not got the strength in his back to hold himself up – in his words, he “just flops” – which means, as his assistant tries to pull him carefully, Carver often falls down the stairs. “I’ve smashed my shoulder, knee, face. Every part of my body. I’ve sprained my wrist, had gashes on my head,” he says. “I can’t feel my legs, so I can’t feel what damage I’ve done there.”

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Clare reaches out

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 15:00:04 GMT2017-03-14T15:00:04Z

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Charities could lose a third of staff if they don't get a grip on digital skills

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 07:36:05 GMT2017-03-23T07:36:05Z

Our new survey reveals half of UK charities don’t have a digital strategy and fear losing out on fundraising income if training and funding aren’t improved

The government has signalled its intention for the UK to lead on technology: its digital strategy, published earlier this month, commits to training millions of people. Yet little has been done to map the current state of digital skills in charities.

Earlier this year we surveyed the sector for our charity digital skills report on how charities are using technology and the challenges they face. Almost 500 charity professionals from a range of organisations across the UK responded. The results are worrying.

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How can I leave my job in ad-land and use my skills to do good?

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 07:00:30 GMT2017-03-20T07:00:30Z

I enjoy working at my large agency but despair at selling people rubbish when I could be making their lives better

Twice a week we publish problems that will feature in a forthcoming Dear Jeremy advice column in the Saturday Guardian so that readers can offer their own advice and suggestions. We then print the best of your comments alongside Jeremy’s own insights.

I’m a strategic planning director at a large advertising agency, with 10-plus years’ experience, primarily in global fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). I feel I am wasting my life selling rubbish to people who don’t need another variant of shampoo, another type of insurance or another format of a painkiller.

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Abolishing trustees will not solve the charity governance crisis | Shivaji Shiva

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 06:40:29 GMT2017-03-20T06:40:29Z

Painting charity trustees as inept, meddling do-gooders is unfair and unjustified. They bring skills and passion to boards – and do it all voluntarily

Painting charity trustees as inept, meddling do-gooders is both unfair and unjustified.

Over 20 years as a charity lawyer, and almost as long as a charity trustee, I have worked with hundreds of trustees. Abolishing them and making charities more corporate, as one chief executive suggested recently, is not the answer to the supposed governance crisis facing the third sector. The real answer lies in better cooperation between the trustees and senior management team, and a shared approach to decision making.

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Patel to defend aid budget as famine crisis spreads

Sun, 19 Mar 2017 00:05:00 GMT2017-03-19T00:05:00Z

The minister, who suggested in 2013 that the Department for International Development be scrapped, said the world was looking to Britain for leadership

Priti Patel, the international development secretary, will make her most robust defence of Britain’s aid spending on Monday when she announces an “intensifying” of efforts to tackle poverty and disease abroad.

In a speech that will be cautiously welcomed by those who feared her appointment last year risked a dismantling of the department and its work in the developing world, Patel will pledge her commitment to the UK’s humanitarian role. She will also call on leading aid charities to become more vocal at a “momentous” time, with the possibility of four major famines.

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How a £1 million inheritance slipped from our family’s grasp

Sat, 18 Mar 2017 07:00:32 GMT2017-03-18T07:00:32Z

Challenging a will is never easy, whether the money has been left to an animal charity or a private school. A court ruling this week has made it even more of an uphill struggle

When Sybil Jenazian died last year it was no surprise that her estate was worth a tidy sum. Her Armenian father had made a fortune in the Lancashire cotton trade and left most of it to Sybil. But soon after her death her family were shocked to find that Sybil had changed her will in 2012, leaving the bulk of the money – believed to be more than £1m – to a local £11,000-a-year private school.

A bitter dispute between the family and Manchester High School for Girls since then is just one of a growing number of battles, many involving legacies to charities, that have ballooned as soaring property values have pushed up the value of inheritances.

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Girls from poorer families in England struggle to afford sanitary protection

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 16:42:36 GMT2017-03-17T16:42:36Z

Charities, campaigners and teachers report scale of the problem, saying more must be done to tackle stigma

Girls from low-income families across England are struggling to afford sanitary protection, with many teachers buying tampons for their students or seeking help with supplies from charities and voluntary groups, the Guardian has been told.

Charities, campaigners and teachers say that the problem is happening in cities and rural areas across the country, describing girls missing school, using donations, or wearing makeshift protection during their period.

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What I wish I could tell my boss: 'You only care about yourself'

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 07:00:03 GMT2017-03-17T07:00:03Z

The charity worker: you have wasted public money on faux consultants and paying out hefty sums to ex-workers

When I joined the charity, it was exciting and different. Everyone was so committed and dedicated to the cause, which was inspiring.

But in your attempt to transform the organisation, you have made it worse. You have closed our unique services that people relied on. Now we no longer offer anything different.

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Charities should not interfere in family feuds over wills | Russell Hargrave

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 06:44:02 GMT2017-03-17T06:44:02Z

A huge error of judgement has been made by the three animal charities that fought to overturn a daughter’s win over her estranged mother’s will

In 2002, Melita Jackson did something that thousands of people do each year. She drew up a will and left her money to charity.

Jackson’s £500,000 estate was split between three animal charities when she died: Blue Cross, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. But this was the just beginning of a very complicated story. It has taken 13 years, and a ruling from the highest court in the land, finally to see it resolved.

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The Chokeables has saved babies' lives – here's how we made it | St John Ambulance

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 07:10:54 GMT2017-03-16T07:10:54Z

The St John Ambulance video, which teaches parents how to save a choking baby, has won charity film of the year

So far, we know of 54 babies whose parents say they wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for The Chokeables, St John Ambulance’s first aid film teaching people how to help a choking baby in just 40 seconds.

We’re delighted our film has won charity film of the year, announced at Bafta on 15 March. So what’s the secret of its success?

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How do you feel about the government sharing our personal data? - livechat

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 11:10:45 GMT2017-03-21T11:10:45Z

We may want efficient government – but not if it means sharing more information. Join our livechat on this paradox, 12:30-2pm, BST, 30 March 2017

In October 2016, the digital economy bill began its progress through the UK parliament, including, as a Guardian editorial noted, a big shift: when it becomes law, the public’s personal data will be shared across departments without specified safeguards.

For some, this is an essential move towards making the government more efficient. Others are concerned that government departments will be able to pool data collected without having put in place robust privacy protections, and fear that public sector bodies may end up following the “data free-for-all” that exists in the private sector.

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City of Culture: the woman striving to make Paisley a contender

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 06:50:02 GMT2017-03-17T06:50:02Z

Scotland’s largest town wants to be UK City of Culture 2021 and has cross-party support - but is steering clear of some tricky referendum politics

Once famed for making the Paisley pattern, Jean Cameron’s hometown has become a poster child for UK deprivation, with the Guardian calling it “tumbleweed town”.

But Cameron, a well-known face on the Scottish arts scene, wants to replace stock images of boarded-up shops and rundown estates with something positive and hopeful as she leads the campaign for Paisley to be selected UK City of Culture 2021. And yes, she knows Paisley is a town, not a city, but the rules permit Scotland’s largest town, home to 76,000, to qualify.

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There's more to a 24-hour city than pubs and clubs

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 06:43:01 GMT2017-03-16T06:43:01Z

Like London and Buenos Aires, cities can move their nightlife away from drink-dependent culture - if councils and businesses work together

After years of unregulated growth, it looks like the good times may be over for those in the UK who make their living from people going out at night-time.

Young people are drinking less and the number of nightclubs across the UK has nearly halved, from 3,144 in 2005, to 1,733 in 2015. In those 10 years, London has lost 40% of live music venues (pdf) and 50% of nightclubs.

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Fighting fake news: societies using technology to search for truth

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 06:45:23 GMT2017-03-15T06:45:23Z

From the Czech Republic to Taiwan, public bodies are combining technology and human expertise to tackle fake news

Fake news has been accused of influencing election results and giving rise to populist movements. Is there anything governments - and citizens - can do to fight back?

Some interesting responses to the fake news phenomenon are now in place around the world. The Czech government’s interior ministry, for instance, has opened a Centre Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats in a bid to fight fake news. The centre was set up after 40 Czech language websites emerged containing false stories, predominantly about migrants. Specialists working for the centre are attempting to counter false information via a dedicated Twitter account, as well as a website devoted to communicating the government viewpoint. The Interior Ministry now wants to work with Facebook to stop the spread of fake news ahead of parliamentary elections in October.

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Which country has the world's best healthcare system?

Tue, 09 Feb 2016 07:00:13 GMT2016-02-09T07:00:13Z

We look at how patients pay for healthcare around the world and the general standard of care they might expect

Healthcare is a costly item in national budgets, but who gets the best value for money, and who the best outcomes? We compare the systems in some of the world’s leading countries for healthcare.

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Calls for ibuprofen sale restrictions after study finds cardiac arrest risk

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 09:55:07 GMT2017-03-15T09:55:07Z

Over-the-counter drug linked to 31% increased cardiac arrest risk, with the figure rising to 50% for diclofenac, says research

There have been fresh calls for restrictions on the sale of the painkiller ibuprofen after another study found it heightens the risk of cardiac arrest.

Taking the over-the-counter drug was associated with a 31% increased risk, researchers in Denmark found.

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Deaf couple angry with hospital over lack of interpreter during birth of son

Sun, 19 Jan 2014 15:17:08 GMT2014-01-19T15:17:08Z

Couple says University College hospital, London, failed to provide them with information hearing patients would receive

A deaf couple have criticised a hospital for failing to provide them with a sign language interpreter during the traumatic birth of their son, which they say left them uninformed and added to the ordeal.

Hulusi Bati, 32, and Nadia Hassan, 28, claim the lack of communication, both during the birth and Hassan's 10-day stay at University College hospital, London, post-birth, amounted to discrimination, as they were not given the information that a hearing patient would have received. The British Deaf Association (BDA) said the case reflects the experience of many deaf people within the NHS, two out of three of whom have asked for an interpreter at a hospital appointment and not got one, according to a 2012 survey.

Continue reading...Hulusi Bati, Nadia Hassan and their five-week-old baby Yusuf. Photograph: Graham Turner for the GuardianHulusi Bati, Nadia Hassan and their five-week-old baby Yusuf. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

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Record numbers of EU nurses quit NHS

Sat, 18 Mar 2017 16:26:00 GMT2017-03-18T16:26:00Z

Staffing crisis worsens as workers fear being unwelcome after Brexit

The number of EU nationals registering as nurses in England has dropped by 92% since the Brexit referendum in June, and a record number are quitting the NHS, it can be revealed.

Related: Nursing degree applications slump after NHS bursaries abolished

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Starved, tortured, forgotten: Genie, the feral child who left a mark on researchers

Thu, 14 Jul 2016 11:00:19 GMT2016-07-14T11:00:19Z

More than four decades after she appeared in a Los Angeles County welfare office, her fate is unclear – but she has changed the lives of those who knew her

She hobbled into a Los Angeles county welfare office in October 1970, a stooped, withered waif with a curious way of holding up her hands, like a rabbit. She looked about six or seven. Her mother, stricken with cataracts, was seeking an office with services for the blind and had entered the wrong room.

But the girl transfixed welfare officers.

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The 1930s were humanity's darkest, bloodiest hour. Are you paying attention?

Sat, 11 Mar 2017 08:00:29 GMT2017-03-11T08:00:29Z

A decade haunted by mass poverty, violent extremism and world war gives us one crucial advantage: the chance to learn the era’s lessons and avoid its mistakes

Even to mention the 1930s is to evoke the period when human civilisation entered its darkest, bloodiest chapter. No case needs to be argued; just to name the decade is enough. It is a byword for mass poverty, violent extremism and the gathering storm of world war. “The 1930s” is not so much a label for a period of time than it is rhetorical shorthand – a two-word warning from history.

Witness the impact of an otherwise boilerplate broadcast by the Prince of Wales last December that made headlines: “Prince Charles warns of return to the ‘dark days of the 1930s’ in Thought for the Day message.” Or consider the reflex response to reports that Donald Trump was to maintain his own private security force even once he had reached the White House. The Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s tweet was typical: “That 1930s show returns.”

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The hippy is back: not so cool if you remember it the first time round

Sat, 18 Mar 2017 08:30:34 GMT2017-03-18T08:30:34Z

From womb workshops to naked retreats, the Instagram generation are embracing hippy 2.0. But is it the real deal?

Were you raised by hippies? Tell us about your experiences

It’s a sunny afternoon and I’m sitting cross-legged with my eyes closed, introducing myself to my womb. “Hello, womb,” I say, inwardly, and wait for a reply. Seven other women are in a circle with me, doing the same as a Spotify playlist of chimey chillout music plays in the background and incense burns. We are in Chloe Isidora’s house, taking up her living room. Isidora, a former fashion editor turned spiritual practitioner, is leading a “womb wisdom circle”. We are all here for different reasons, mine being a mixture of curiosity (my womb and I have not been, shall we say, getting along) and a desire to discover more about what I’ve come to think of, in the past couple of years, as the “neo-hippy”.

When I was growing up, it was desperately uncool to be a hippy. I wouldn’t say my parents were hippies exactly, but they were certainly influenced by some of their ideas. I spent my early childhood living in cooperatives. My mother would purify the house with sage, did yoga, visited reiki healers and read tarot cards (before she stopped, from fear she was allowing in too much “negative energy”). And last time I saw my dad, he was wearing a tie-dye Grateful Dead T-shirt.

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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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Tsimané of the Bolivian Amazon have world's healthiest hearts, says study

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 16:15:14 GMT2017-03-17T16:15:14Z

Heart attacks and strokes are almost unknown amongst the Tsimané thanks to a high carbohydrate, low protein diet and active lifestyle, say researchers

A high carbohydrate diet of rice, plantain, manioc and corn, with a small amount of wild game and fish – plus around six hours’ exercise every day – has given the Tsimané people of the Bolivian Amazon the healthiest hearts in the world.

It may not be a life that everyone would choose. The Tsimané live in thatched huts with no electricity or modern conveniences. Their lives are spent on hunts that can last for over eight hours covering 18km for wild deer, monkeys or tapir and clearing large areas of primal forest with an axe, as well as the gentler pastime of gathering berries.

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Smoking shisha: how bad is it for you?

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 19:59:01 GMT2011-08-22T19:59:01Z

It is growing in popularity but some experts say a single shisha session is the same as smoking 200 cigarettes

For Jawad Rezavi, 26, smoking shisha is the perfect way to unwind in an evening. "After a long day, I'll go to a shisha lounge. It relaxes me. In the same way that some people will enjoy a glass of red wine or need a cigarette to keep going while they're working, I like to enjoy my shisha. If I don't do it, it feels like I'm missing something."

Shisha, the origins of which are disputed (some say India, others Persia or Turkey) is a glass-bottomed water pipe in which fruit-flavoured tobacco is covered with foil and roasted with charcoal. The tobacco smoke passes through a water chamber and is inhaled deeply and slowly; the fruit-flavoured tobacco tastes smooth and smells sweet, enthusiasts say, making it an enjoyable and unrushed experience.

Continue reading...Jawad Rezavi: "It relaxes me." Photograph: Teri Pengilley for the GuardianJawad Rezavi: "It relaxes me." Photograph: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian

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Autism linked to vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy, researchers find

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 03:21:48 GMT2016-12-14T03:21:48Z

Study finds pregnant women with low vitamin D levels at 20 weeks more likely to have a child with autistic traits

The important role vitamin D plays in early life is back in the spotlight after Australian researchers noticed a link between a deficiency during pregnancy and autism.

The study found pregnant women with low vitamin D levels at 20 weeks’ gestation were more likely to have a child with autistic traits by the age of six.

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