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Electoral Reform Society criticises Conservative voter ID plans

Tue, 23 May 2017 08:27:43 +0000

The Electoral Reform Society have challenged plans in the Conservative manifesto to introduce voter ID across the UK as "overbearing and counterproductive". The Electoral Reform Society have challenged plans in the Conservative manifesto to introduce voter ID across the UK as "overbearing and counterproductive". Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “This pledge risks making our democracy even more unequal. As we’ve said before, mandatory voter ID is a sledgehammer to crack a nut  – there is simply not enough evidence of voter fraud in the UK to justify such a dramatic change to Britain’s democratic traditions. “The introduction of voter ID is something that has to be thought about very carefully – because there’s a substantial risk that this could raise barriers to participation and put people off voting. “There’s clear evidence that strict voter ID rules in some US states disproportionately disadvantages ethnic minority voters and already-marginalised groups. And where they aren’t strict – as in Sir Eric Pickles’ proposals – they offer the worst of both worlds: making it harder for most people to vote while not preventing those who really are trying to defraud the system from doing so. “The experience of photographic electoral ID in Northern Ireland is more positive – but there, ID is provided for free. The Pickles review proposals are instead a watered-down form which wouldn’t necessarily reduce fraud. For example, allowing the use of non-photographic (and perhaps easily-forgeable) utility bills would mean the change could actually do more harm than good. “The UK has an international reputation for running elections with integrity and openness. It would be wrong to risk throwing that reputation away by making it harder for people to vote, without thinking about the consequences or how to improve our democracy and turnout alongside it. “There are other things that can be done to limit potential fraud, without damaging participation. Clearer guidance and better training of election staff and Returning Officers are changes everyone can get behind, while other suggestions to introduce stronger powers against voter intimidation and to make it easier to launch ‘election petitions’ to report fraud are very much worth discussing. “Let’s look at more positive reforms before making overbearing and counterproductive changes that raise barriers to our democracy.” * The Conservative manifesto states: “The British public deserves to have confidence in our democracy. We will legislate to ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting, to reform postal voting and to improve other aspects of the elections process to ensure that our elections are the most secure in the world. We will retain the traditional method of voting by pencil and paper, and tackle every aspect of electoral fraud.” * Read Eric Pickles' review here  * Electoral Reform Society http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/ Ekklesia's General Election theme for 2017 is #Vote4CommonGood. This will be explored by writers and researchers from different perspectives and backgrounds, as well as analysis of the different party manifestos in relation to the principles and policies we have advocated for many years. [Ekk/4] [...]



Millions join hearts and minds to pray for end to famine

Tue, 23 May 2017 06:26:47 +0000

On 21 May 2017,  the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine, millions of people from faith communities, organisations and neighbourhoods across the world prayed, tweeted, posted and talked face-to-face about the urgent action needed to aid 20 million people facing famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria. On 21 May 2017,  the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine, millions of people from faith communities, organisations and neighbourhoods across the world prayed, tweeted, posted and talked face-to-face about the urgent action needed to aid 20 million people facing famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria. Standing with those caught up in the crisis, people prayed for peace, and for a galvanised international response to what the UN has called the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. Led by the World Council of Churches and the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Global Day of Prayer brought an emotional outpouring of love and hope that crossed world borders via social media, news headlines and quiet circles of prayer rippling out from churches everywhere. Responders, residents, relief workers, families – many have loved ones either caught up in the crisis or responding to it. The Global Day of Prayer comes days before the Group of Seven (G7) meets in Italy to discuss, among other issues, global food security. The number of people globally in need of food assistance has risen 35 per cent in the last year, from 80 to 108 million people. Christians were asked to pray for the mobilisation of funding to meet the funding gap for the aid response (only $1.3 billion of the $4.9 billion needed for an international aid response has been received); for more to be done to foster peace; and for the drivers of extreme hunger (including climate change) to be addressed. The WCC General Secretary, the  Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said: “We can extend this prayer to all of our sisters and brothers who are in need of food to sustain their lives.” He added, “We can make a difference in this situation. Let us stand together and reflect. Let us pray and act to respond to this crisis.” Tveit concluded, “The world is one family, praying and responding together, to end famine, to end violence and to bring peace. To ensure that there is sufficient and nutritious food for all, to live life to its fullest.” In East Africa, the South Sudan Council of Churches encouraged all churches in the country to join the global prayer event. Famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan. Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia are at imminent risk of famine. Below is just a sampling of stories and quotes shared on 21 May. Responses continued to be posted, turning the Global Day of Prayer into a lasting response that has great potential to bring about change. David Beasley, new executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) based in Rome, urged people to observe the Day of Prayer as he travelled. “Just left Jordan and now in South Sudan. Pray and hope for peace”, he tweeted. Dozens of people also shared a quote from WFP country director, Joyce Luma, in South Sudan: “Humanitarian assistance alone is not enough. If conflict continues, the scale and intensity of needs may escalate and outstrip the ability of relief agencies to meet them.” Angelo Achuil, faith and development coordinator for World Vision South Sudan said: "Christians in South Sudan have been praying for peace and safety – and for their children to have a future free from violence. Congregations are desperate for an end to the starvation, conflict and displacement that are tearing apart their communities. They are grateful for the prayers of the global church and want people of faith to continue praying. But they also want them to cry out to their leaders to bring justice and peace and to provide the emergency aid that will help them survive this crisis. They feel like the world has forgotten them.” The Uniting Churc[...]



Draft UN nuclear weapon ban released

Tue, 23 May 2017 06:14:00 +0000

The first draft of the United Nations treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons was released in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday.

The first draft of the United Nations treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons was released in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday (22 May. 2017) Elayne Whyte Gómez, the Costa Rican ambassador who is presiding over negotiations of the historic accord, presented the text to diplomats and members of civil society, before answering questions from the media.

The draft was developed on the basis of discussions and input received during the first round of negotiations, held at the UN headquarters in New York from 27 to 31 March 2017, with the participation of 132 nations. The negotiations will resume on 15 June and continue until 7 July, with the draft as the basis.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapns (ICAN) has welcomed the release of the draft as an important milestone in the years-long effort to ban these indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction in light of their inhumane and catastrophic impacts. Once adopted, the treaty will constitute a major step towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

The draft provides a solid basis for a strong, categorical prohibition of nuclear weapons. ICAN expects further constructive debate on certain provisions as the process moves forward, and will be campaigning to ensure the strongest possible treaty. The organisation says it is confident that the treaty can be agreed by 7 July.

“We are particularly happy that the text is rooted in humanitarian principles and builds on existing prohibitions of unacceptable weapons, such as the conventions banning biological and chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions,” said Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN.

Nuclear-armed and nuclear alliance states should engage constructively in these discussions, she said. “Whilst they will be able to join the treaty once it has been agreed, failure to participate in the negotiations undermines their claims to be committed to a world without nuclear weapons.”

“Nuclear weapons are morally unacceptable. They are intended to kill civilians indiscriminately”, Ms Fihn said. “Their continued existence undermines the moral credibility of every country that relies on them. A treaty to ban them, as a first step towards their elimination, will have real and lasting impact.”

* Read the Draft Treaty here

*ICAN  http://www.icanw.org/

[Ekk/4]




Amnesty human rights warning over Trump visit to Saudi Arabia

Mon, 22 May 2017 08:52:07 +0000

Amnesty International USA has released a response to the news that President Trump has finalised an arms deal with Saudi Arabia during his trip to the country. Amnesty International USA has released a response to the news that President Trump has finalised an arms deal with Saudi Arabia during his trip to the country. Eric Ferrero, Amnesty International USA communications director, said: “This deal has President Trump throwing gasoline on a house fire and locking the door on his way out. There is damning evidence that war crimes have been committed by the Saudi-led coalition and continuing to arm Saudi Arabia fuels serious human rights violations that are causing overwhelming civilian suffering in Yemen. President Trump finalizing this deal while simultaneously banning travel to the U.S. from Yemen is an unconscionable move.” Amnesty International had  previously voiced concern about the absence of human rights on Trump’s Saudi agenda and on his foreign trip as a whole: “The world will be watching as President Trump meets with leaders of other states with records of trampling on human rights in the name of national security. We fear this ‘new partnership’ could lay the foundation for further erosion of human rights in the region and far beyond,” said Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA executive director. “President Trump will also meet with leaders of countries who are hosting huge numbers of refugees from Syria. They must use the opportunity to voice their concerns about Trump’s attempts to slam the door on people fleeing violence and persecution, and demand that the USA does its fair share to alleviate the global refugee crisis.” In a recent visit to Saudi Arabia, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter terrorism concluded that Saudi Arabia had failed to take concrete steps to investigate possible war crimes committed by its own forces in the conflict in Yemen. Meanwhile, the United States remains the biggest supplier of arms to Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International has documented a wide array of violations of international law by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, including the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. The coalition has carried out relentless airstrikes, killing and injuring civilians and destroying civilian homes, property and infrastructure in indiscriminate attacks and attack on civilian objects. Several of these attacks, some of which amount to war crimes, used US. arms. “The United States continues to fuel serious human rights violations that have caused devastating civilian suffering in Yemen, through arms transfers to Saudi Arabia” said Huang. “There is damning evidence that war crimes have been committed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. The United States must immediately halt all arms transfers to members of the coalition for use in Yemen and push for an independent and effective investigation into the numerous violations documented in this forgotten war.” The UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter terrorism also concluded in May 2017 that the country’s terrorism laws did not comply with international standards, and that Saudi Arabia “must stop using counter-terrorism legislation against people peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.” Amnesty International has documented a continuous and systematic crackdown by authorities in Saudi Arabia against human rights activists, dealing heavy blows to the last vestiges of the country’s embattled civil society. Activists are being detained and prosecuted, based on vague and overly broad charges using anti-terrorism legislation and laws designed to stifle peaceful criticism. Those detained, on trial or serving prison sentences include several members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, an independent human rights organisation formed in 2009, whic[...]



Homelessness 'stain' on Scotland, says former Church of Scotland Moderator

Mon, 22 May 2017 08:30:22 +0000

A former Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly has said the scale of homelessness in Scotland continues to be a “stain” on the nation’s character and consciousness. A former Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly has said the scale of homelessness in Scotland continues to be a “stain” on the nation’s character and consciousness. The Very Rev Dr Russell Barr said the situation was “galling” and there should be “no room” for homelessness in 21st century Scotland. He urged commissioners at the annual gathering, which started in Edinburgh on 20 May 2017 , to “speak with one voice” to send a clear message to political leaders who appear to lack the will to eradicate the societal scourge. Dr Barr told the General Assembly that in the year to March 2016, official statistics showed there were 34,662 homelessness applications to Scotland’s 32 local authorities of which 82 per cent - 28,226 - were assessed as homeless. He said the figures were “little different” from what they were 25 years ago when he established Fresh Start, an Edinburgh-based charity which helps people who were homeless turn a new tenancy into a home. Dr Barr added that the proportion of applications assessed as homeless had increased steadily from 72 per cent in 2004-05. A total of 5,751 pre-school and school aged children were registered as homeless as of September last year – a 17 per cent increase on 2015. Speaking in the presence of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Princess Royal, Dr Barr said: “Homelessness has been one of the themes of my year. “Although there is much to be proud of not just in Scotland’s past and its present – we are in large part an open, welcoming, inclusive, humane and tolerant society – the numbers of people homeless continues to be a stain on our nation’s character and consciousness. “Whether in New York, Toronto, London, or throughout Scotland, I have visited a number of projects, many of them church based, supporting people who are homeless. “I have spoken at conferences, written articles, appeared on radio and television, consulted with a whole range of homelessness charities, engaged with civil servants. "And as every national or local politician I met would confirm, including Her Majesty the Queen, I have taken every opportunity to raise with them the issue of homelessness.” Dr Barr said the number of young people presenting as homeless was “disturbing”. “You will not see these children sleeping rough, although we all see the numbers of people sleeping rough on our streets is steadily increasing,” he added. These children and their families are in temporary accommodation. The length of time being spent in temporary accommodation is increasing – 24 weeks in 2016 as compared to 18 weeks in 2014 and 23 weeks in 2015.” Dr Barr questioned the impact being homeless was having on children’s education, health and sense of well-being. "The galling thing is that it need not be like this,” he added. “All the research has been done, the causes identified as well as the policies and processes needing to be put in place to resolve it.The one thing missing is the political will. Whatever the constitutional future holds for Scotland, I hope the General Assembly will speak with one voice in saying this is unacceptable, this needs to change and there should be no room for homelessness in 21st century Scotland.” * Church of Scotland http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/ [Ekk/4] [...]



Quakers mark an anniversary in Friends House

Sun, 21 May 2017 21:27:30 +0000

Quakers in Britain are marking the first Yearly Meeting in Friends House, London, which was held ninety years ago..

Quakers in Britain are marking the first Yearly Meeting in Friends House, London, which was held ninety years ago..

In 1911, London Yearly Meeting – now Britain Yearly Meeting – set up the Special Premises Committee to review office capacity in Devonshire Square. They opted for a purpose-built office and in 1923 Yearly Meeting Trustees made an offer of £45,000 for a suitable site at Euston's Endsleigh Gardens.

Today, Friends House is the venue for Yearly Meeting and has thriving conference facilities, centred on the large meeting house, known as The Light, along with the library, offices, smaller worship space, award-winning restaurant and café. It is run on sustainable and ethical grounds. The Dalai Lama and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi have addressed peace rallies there.

The Quaker architect of Friends House, Hubert Lidbetter, won the RIBA bronze medal in 1927 for the best building erected in London.

Construction of Friends House began in 1924 and the first Yearly Meeting there was in 1927 when Quakers were concerned about education, temperance, the Peace Testimony and their work among miners following the coal dispute.

According to the Quaker weekly The Friend, the opening meeting for worship began at 5pm on Thursday, 20 May. The Swarthmore Lecture followed, given by Harry T. Silcock. The large meeting house was packed, says The Friend. “The main floor [was]understood to hold 700 and the galleries a further 600. Every seat was occupied and fully 200 more sat on steps, stood at the back, crowded round doorways and even climbed on to the roof and listened in to the window tops."

Yearly Meeting 1927 wrote this concluding minute: “Meeting this year in our new house in London, with some thought of all that we have left behind, and much more for all that is before us, we have faith, that as we keep tender to the leadings and guidings of God, and surrender ourselves to them as they come, He will open to us fresh service for the world.

"The business of the Yearly Meeting being concluded we separate intending to meet in London at the appointed time next year, if the Lord permit." The clerk was Roger Clark.

Yearly Meeting is the occasion when Quakers in Britain come together to worship, make decisions and spend time as a community. Already 1327 have booked to attend Yearly Meeting Gathering 2017 at the University of Warwick in Coventry.

* More about The Light here

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Many more to fund own social care if Conservatives win

Sun, 21 May 2017 20:54:29 +0000

Many more to fund own social care if Conservatives win

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Only one in four people with long-term mental illness in work, says TUC

Sat, 20 May 2017 07:05:00 +0000

Only one in four (26.2 per cent) people with a mental illness or phobia lasting for 12 months or more are in work, according to a report published by the Trades Union Congress. Only one in four (26.2 per cent) people with a mental illness or phobia lasting for 12 months or more are in work, according to a report published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to coincide with its Disabled Workers’ Conference on 18 May 2017 The report, Mental health and employment, contains new analysis of official employment statistics, which finds that while four in five (80.4 per cent) non-disabled people are in work, people with mental illness, anxiety or depression have substantially lower employment rates: Only one in four (26.2 per cent) people with a mental illness lasting (or expected to last) more than a year are in work. Less than half (45.5 per cent) of people with depression or anxiety lasting more than 12 months are in work. The TUC is concerned that this suggests employers are failing to make adequate changes in the workplace to enable people with mental illnesses, anxiety or depression to get a job, or stay in work. Mental health problems can often be 'invisible' to others, so a lack of mental health awareness amongst managers and employers is also likely to be a factor. The employment rate for disabled people is increasing, but too slowly for the government to reach its target of halving the disability employment gap by 2020. The TUC estimates it will take until 2025 for those classified in official figures as having long-term depression and anxiety, and until 2029 for people classified as having long-term mental illness. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s simply not good enough that so few people with long-term mental health problems are able to stay in work.Not only is the economy missing out on the skills and talents these workers have, but having to leave your job can worsen your mental health. “The next government and employers must do more to support people with mental health conditions. Simple steps like giving an employee paid time off to go to counselling appointments can make a huge difference. “All over the country, union reps are helping working people who have mental health conditions. They help with getting bosses to make reasonable adjustments, so that people can stay in work. And they negotiate better support from employers for workers who become ill or disabled. It’s one of the many reasons why everyone should get together with their workmates and join a union.” The TUC is calling on the government and employers to take the following action to help eliminate the disability employment gap: Workplace policies Employers have a legal obligation to put in place reasonable adjustments for disabled workers. For people experiencing mental health problems, this could include time off for counselling or other medical appointments, changes to their role, moving their workplace or allowing for homeworking. An employer may adjust the sickness absence policy for disabled staff where time off is related to a disability. This is in recognition that some disabled people may have different and higher forms of sickness absence and the policy needs to be adjusted accordingly. As stigma remains a huge barrier, it may be useful to consider suitable awareness-raising exercises which could include working with trade unions, disabled staff and mental health charities on awareness-raising sessions at lunchtime. Employers should create a workplace wellbeing policy which looks at the issue of mental health holistically. This can include information on regular breaks, reducing workplace stress, the importance of physical activity, and signposting to relevant agencies. On mental health, like other disability issues, [...]



Brazilian politicians call for closure of Indian Affairs Department

Fri, 19 May 2017 09:22:46 +0000

An inquiry established by Brazilian parliamentarians who represent the powerful agribusiness lobby has just published a report calling for the closure of the Indian Affairs Department, FUNAI. An inquiry established by Brazilian parliamentarians who represent the powerful agribusiness lobby has just published a report calling for the closure of the Indian Affairs Department, FUNAI. Its findings have been met with outrage and incredulity in Brazil and beyond. Francisco Runja, a Kaingang spokesman said: “Killing off FUNAI is tantamount to killing us, the indigenous peoples. FUNAI is a crucial institution for us; our survival; our resistance; and it’s a guarantee of the demarcation of our traditional territories.” The report attacks indigenous leaders, anthropologists, public prosecutors and NGOs, including Survival International, the global movement for the rights of tribal people. It alleges that FUNAI has become a “hostage to external interests” and calls for dozens of its officials to be prosecuted for backing what it calls “illegal demarcations” of tribal territories. On 16 May 2017, a group of 50 Indians was barred from attending the session in congress which was discussing the inquiry. The inquiry took 500 days and the report is over 3,300 pages long.Survival International describes it as is a blatant attack on indigenous peoples and a crude and biased attempt to destroy their hard-won constitutional rights. It was headed by politicians representing Brazil’s powerful agri-businesses who have long coveted indigenous territories for their own financial gain. One member, congressman Luis Carlos Heinze, received Survival’s 'Racist of the Year' award in 2014 following his deeply offensive remarks about Brazilian Indians, homosexuals, and black people. Another member, congressman Alceu Moreira, called for the eviction of tribal people attempting to reoccupy their ancestral lands. The increasingly hostile, anti-indigenous climate in many sectors in congress is fuelling violence against indigenous peoples. Last month, 22 Gamela Indians were injured following a brutal attack at the hands of local landowners’ gunmen. FUNAI has suffered severe budget cuts, which have resulted in the grounding of several teams responsible for protecting uncontacted tribes’ territories. This effectively leaves some of the most vulnerable people on the planet to the mercy of armed loggers and land grabbers. The organisation has been greatly weakened. Many staff have been made redundant, and political appointees now run key departments. In the last five months, it has had three presidents. Earlier this month the second president, Antonio Costa was dismissed. In a press conference he strongly criticised President Temer and Osmar Serraglio, the Minister of Justice, stating that they “not only want to finish off FUNAI, but also public policies such as demarcation of [indigenous] land… This is very serious.” Yanomami shaman and spokesman Davi Kopenawa said: “FUNAI is broken… it is already dead. They killed it. It only exists in name. A nice name, but it doesn’t have the power to help us.” * More about FUNAI here * Survival International http://www.survivalinternational.org/ [Ekk/4] [...]



Analysis highlights constituencies with high working age poverty

Fri, 19 May 2017 09:03:32 +0000

New analysis has highlighted the parliamentary constituencies where high levels of working-age poverty are likely to exist, ahead of June's general elect It also highlights how issues such as low wages and skill levels are trapping millions of people in poverty. New analysis has highlighted the parliamentary constituencies where high levels of working-age poverty are likely to exist, ahead of June's general elect It also highlights how issues such as low wages and skill levels are trapping millions of people in poverty. In a campaign dominated by Brexit, the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is urging the parties to use their manifestos to offer a bold programme of domestic reform to ensure prosperity and opportunity reach all parts of the UK. JRF's Working Age Poverty Risk Index scores constituencies across Great Britain from 0 to 10 (where 0 is the lowest risk and 10 the highest), and is calculated using a combination of out-of-work benefits and in-work tax credit recipients. The analysis found: Nine of the seats in the 100 with the highest poverty risk score are marginal seats, where a swing of less than five per cent is required for it to change hands: Peterborough, Walsall North, Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Burnley, Torbay, Vale of Clwyd, Hastings and Rye, Halifax, Dewsbury. The seats with the highest poverty risk score are: Bradford West, Glasgow North East, Birmingham Hodge Hill, Bradford East, Birmingham Hall Green, Blackburn, Blackley and Broughton, Nottingham North, Blackpool South and Birmingham Ladywood. The seats with the lowest full-time wages amongst low earners are: Blackpool North and Cleveleys, St Ives, Doncaster Central, Blackpool South, Mansfield, Dwfor Meirionnydd, Birmingham Erdington, Lincoln, Bradford West and South East Cornwall. The seats with the highest proportion of workers with low skills (below five GCSEs A* - C or equivalent): Birmingham Hodge Hill, Bradford West, West Bromwich West, Wolverhampton South East, Birmingham Ladywood, Walsall North, Warley, Leeds East, West Bromwich East and Bradford East. Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of JRF, said: “Our analysis shows poverty affects every constituency in Britain, from Conservative districts to Labour industrial heartlands. It means millions of people, including working families, are struggling to make ends meet. This election campaign needs to be go beyond Brexit and ensure prosperity and opportunity reach all corners of the country. “The next government has a historic opportunity to transform the prospects of the UK, but there is a danger Brexit negotiations could suck the oxygen out of the reforms we badly need to see at home. Over the next Parliament, the focus should be on making sure that people can improve their prospects and get on at work, that pay and productivity rise in all parts of the UK, and people’s incomes keep pace with the cost of essentials. “The vote to leave the EU highlighted the deep divisions that exist across the UK, with too many people and places left behind by the country’s economic success. The parties must use their manifestos to address these concerns.” To do this, JRF is calling for manifestos to: Offer better support for adults who want to improve their prospects through retraining. 3.5 million adults have no qualifications and the UK lags in international league tables for literacy and numeracy, creating serious knock-on effects for national productivity. In England, a shop worker or lorry driver over the age of 25 who already has a level-two qualification is not eligible for public assistance to update their skills or change occupation even if they are experiencing in-work poverty Deliver a better deal for the parts of the UK that have[...]



Armenians and 'The Promise': our revenge is our survival

Thu, 18 May 2017 12:21:45 +0000

Armenians and 'The Promise': our revenge is our survival

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Rowan Williams urges UK to look outwards in time of change

Thu, 18 May 2017 08:57:46 +0000

As the  60th anniversary of Christian Aid Week is marked, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and Chair of Christian Aid, Dr Rowan Williams, has urged the country not to turn inwards but to look outwards as Britain forges a new relationship with the world.

As the  60th anniversary of Christian Aid Week is marked, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and Chair of Christian Aid, Dr Rowan Williams, has urged the country not to turn inwards but to look outwards as Britain forges a new relationship with the world.

 He said: “Britain's political and social landscape is in flux. We face great choices about the soul and future of our nation. For many it is a time of uncertainty and fear, for others an opportunity for change and optimism. But I believe that all of us as individuals can play a vital role in shaping our nation. We can choose to turn inwards and struggle more and more urgently to protect ourselves; or we can look outwards, recognising that our good is bound up with that of others.”

 On the UK aid budget he said:  “We British are famously known for standing up for the underdog and standing firm when things get tough. We do not only look out for those less fortunate than ourselves; we want to meet halfway those working hard to stand on their own two feet. Effective aid is not about creating dependence but helping people become valued partners and co-workers for a safe and equitable world.

 “The British public are rightly proud that our great nation hasn't turned its back on the world's poorest people.  As we enter the election period and discuss the future of our country, debate the terms of Brexit and our relationship with the EU, as we also form our new relationship with the world, it is time to wear our aid budget as a badge of honour – one that sets a standard for others to follow.”

* This year, Christian Aid marks 60 years of Christian Aid Week and is inviting people to join them in standing in solidarity with refugees around the world.  You can help to change the lives of refugees fleeing conflict and crisis by donating online here or texting ‘GIVE’ to 70040 to give £5. 

* Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




Charity warns that many in employment miss out on welfare benefits

Thu, 18 May 2017 08:36:11 +0000

The national poverty charity Turn2us is warning that many people in employment are missing out on welfare benefits to which they are entitled.

The national poverty charity Turn2us is warning that many people in employment are missing out on welfare benefits to which they are entitled.

Over 1.8 million calculations were made over the last year using the online Turn2us Benefits Calculator by people trying to work out what benefits and tax credits that they could be entitled to. A survey of those who used the calculator found that 40 per cent were employed. The charity says that this highlights the high numbers of people who are in work and struggling financially, but unsure of the help to which they are entitled.

The survey of 22,000 of those who used the Turn2us Benefits Calculator also found that almost four out of five (78 per cent per cent) said that their financial situation had declined over the last year. Turn2us is stressing how crucial it is that people receive the welfare benefits and tax credits that they are entitled to.

The survey found that Working Tax Credit was the third most frequently identified benefit by the Turn2us Benefits Calculator (Housing Benefit is most frequently identified and Council Tax Support is the second). Working Tax Credit is money provided to boost the income of working people who are on a low income. It does not matter whether you are working for someone else or are self-employed. Working Tax Credit counts as income when working out entitlement to other benefits and cannot be claimed by Universal Credit claimants.

Calling on those in work to make sure that they are receiving the help that they may be entitled to, Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us, said: “Just because you are working doesn’t mean that you aren’t eligible for support. There is a range of help that you could be eligible for, from Working Tax Credit to Housing Benefit.

“Please take the time to check what you make be entitled to as it could make a significant difference to your life.”

Turn2us has also emphasised the importance of anyone struggling with accessing benefits to seek its help.. It says that it can help people understand and access their entitlements.

* Turn2us https://www.turn2us.org.uk/

[Ekk/4]




UN study finds one in three European adolescents overweight

Thu, 18 May 2017 08:17:52 +0000

Citing eating habits, physical activity and sedentary behaviours, the United Nations health agency launched a new publication yesterday at the European Congress on Obesity in Portugal which revealed a rising number of obese adolescents in many countries across Europe. Citing eating habits, physical activity and sedentary behaviours, the United Nations health agency launched a new publication yesterday (17 May 2017) at the European Congress on Obesity in Portugal which revealed a rising number of obese adolescents in many countries across Europe. “Despite sustained efforts to tackle childhood obesity, one in three adolescents is still estimated to be overweight or obese in Europe, with the highest rates found in southern European and Mediterranean countries,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, Regional Director for Europe of the World Health Organiation (WHO). Noting with particular concern that the epidemic is on the rise in eastern European countries, where historically rates have been lower, she called for ambitious policy action to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target to halt the increase in childhood obesity. “Governments must target efforts and break this harmful cycle from childhood into adolescence and beyond.” The latest WHO study, Adolescent obesity and related behaviours: trends and inequalities in the WHO European Region, 2002-2014, points to evidence suggesting that up to one in three boys and one in five girls aged six to nine is now obese. Childhood obesity is considered one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century, according to the study. Globally, around one in 10 young people aged five to 17 is overweight or obese – with rapidly increasing levels in recent years. According to the publication, “the primary causes of overweight and obesity can be traced to energy-related behaviours – physical activity, sedentary behaviour, eating behaviour and sleep – which contribute to an energy imbalance between calorie intake and energy expenditure.” While trends have previously been reported on separately, this study compiles together the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) data on obesity and obesity-related behaviours – reviewing the latest evidence and studying the range and complexity of influences on childhood obesity. The health consequences of excess body weight are well documented. As the report points out, obesity increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnoea and cardiovascular disease. It also diminishes adolescents' quality of life and is related to various emotional and behavioural problems. Additionally, the chronic nature of obesity can limit social mobility and perpetuates an intergenerational cycle of poverty and ill health. Many inequalities in obesity and related behaviours exist, with young people from lower socioeconomic groups generally reporting worse outcomes. The study also notes that longitudinal studies have found that obesity early in life relates to less educational attainment and lower incomes in adulthood – even after differences in childhood socioeconomic position (SEP) are controlled. Furthermore, low SEP in childhood increases the risk for becoming obese in adulthood over and above the impact of adult SEP on obesity. “Most young people will not outgrow the condition: about four in every five adolescents who become obese will continue to have weight problems as adults,” the study emphasises. The HBSC survey is a WHO collaborative cross-national study which monitors the health behaviours, health outcomes and social environments of boys and gi[...]



Church of Scotland to host politicians at hustings event

Wed, 17 May 2017 17:04:47 +0000

The Church of Scotland will hold a public hustings event during its annual General Assembly with representatives from the five main political parties.

The Church of Scotland will hold a public hustings event during its annual General Assembly with representatives from the five main political parties.

People's Politics: GE 2017 will be open to the 900 commissioners attending the annual gathering in Edinburgh as well as to the general public. The Moderator Designate, the  Rev Dr Derek Browning will chair the discussion.

The five political parties at People's Politics: GE 2017 will be represented by:

  • · Ian Blackford (Scottish National Party)
  • · Iain Gray (Scottish Labour)
  • · Patrick Harvie (Scottish Green Party)
  • · Alex Cole-Hamilton (Scottish Liberal Democrat)
  • · Jeremy Balfour (Scottish Conservative

The event, which will take place from 4:30pm-6pm on Wednesday 24 May in the General Assembly Hall, will present the politicians with three personal stories via short videos.

Each of the 90-second clips will end with a question for the panel, followed by an opportunity for audience members to ask their own questions.

The videos will feature: the Rev Anita Stutter talking about the impact of Brexit on EU nationals; Deborah Leddie, from the non-profit WEvolution, discussing her experience of the welfare system; and the Rev Tamu Ina Maramba from Sumba, Indonesia talking about climate change.

The Rev Dr Richard Frazer said: "So much has changed in the political world over recent years that people are left uncertain and frequently anxious and divided about what the future might hold.

"As the General Election approaches it is more important than ever that we model a different type of politics, a politics that listens to the voices of those whose voice often goes unheard.

"This People's Politics event is an opportunity for our politicians and for all of us to hear these voices and collectively consider how we can work towards a society in which all may flourish and encounter life in all its fullness."

* Tickets are available from Eventbrite  here:  People's Politics: GE 2017

* Church of Scotland http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/home

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Ekklesia's General Election theme for 2017 is #Vote4CommonGood. This will be explored by writers and researchers from different perspectives and backgrounds, as well as analysis of the different party manifestos in relation to the principles and policies we have advocated for many years.