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News Briefing and Comment


CPAG responds to new poverty statistics

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 12:22:20 +0000

Child Poverty Action Group says government cuts to support are leaving families with too little to live on. Today (22 March 2018) the government released figures for Households Below Average Income. The figures show: 30 per cent of children (4.1 million) in poverty for second year running after housing costs (AHC) 67 per cent of poor children are in working families (AHC) Risk of poverty for self-employed couples with children up from 30 per cent to 33 per cent (AHC) Risk of poverty for children in lone parent families up from 47 per cent to 49 per cent (AHC) Risk of poverty for children in families with three or more children up from 39 per cent to 42 per cent (AHC) Child Poverty Action Group points out that, although the percentage of children in poverty is at 30 per cent for the second year running, the number of children in poverty in fact rose by 100,000 in 2016-2017. Responding to today’s statistics, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham said, “It's bad enough that for a second year running our child poverty rate is at 30 per cent, largely driven by social security cuts, but for hard-pressed families there is worse to come.   We are only half way into a four-year freeze on children’s benefits that is hitting family budgets very hard.   Child benefit alone will lose 23 per cent of its value over the decade so low-income families are losing core support as prices rise. “Four million children are below the official poverty line in 2016-2017, 67 per cent of them in working families.   How many more children will follow before the Government accepts that cuts to vital financial support are leaving families with too little to live on?  “The Prime Minister entered Downing Street with a pledge to protect the living standards of ordinary families.   Today's official child poverty figures show the Government is in denial on child poverty.   If the Government is to make good on its pledge of support for struggling families, ending the punitive freeze on benefits for working and non-working families must be a priority. “Absolute poverty measures show what people today are living on in relation to a fixed median income in the past - currently pegged to 2010-2011. It should always fall as we move away from that point in time, that’s the bare minimum we can expect.  Focusing on absolute poverty tells us nothing about how many people are drifting further away from the middle today.  The problem we have is that 4 million children are in poverty, and some of the children due to be hit hardest by cuts – those in single parent families or families with more than two children – are seeing their risk of poverty rise. “All serious academics and economists, including the IFS, project that child poverty will rise by a further 1 million by 2021/22.  A serious policy response is required to fill the current policy vacuum on child poverty and children’s life chances.  “Today’s figures should sound a warning bell that if we fail to invest in children we will damage the life chances of a generation and the long-term prosperity of the country.” Poverty figures quoted are for relative child poverty, measured as children living in households below 60 per cent of median income, adjusted for family size, after housing costs. * Households Below Average Income statistics are here  * Child Poverty Action Group [Ekk/6]     [...]

Supreme Court to hear Libya torture secrecy challenge

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 09:42:45 +0000

The Supreme Court will today hear a landmark challenge to attempts by the Government to conceal the role of a top MI6 officer in illegal renditions to Libya.

The Supreme Court will today (22 March 2018) hear a landmark challenge to attempts by the Government to conceal the role of a top MI6 officer in illegal renditions to Libya. Five Supreme Court Justices, including the President and Deputy President, will consider the scope of controversial powers for the first time, after Boris Johnson applied to keep key details secret.
The challenge is being brought by Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar who were kidnapped, tortured by the CIA , and rendered to Libya with the knowledge and assistance of MI6 in 2004. The couple are challenging the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to charge a former senior MI6 officer, Sir Mark Allen, over his involvement in their ordeal. (
The Foreign Secretary, as the minister responsible for the foreign intelligence service, has applied to hold parts of the case behind closed doors under controversial and draconian powers in the Justice and Security Act 2013. Mr Belhaj and Ms Boudchar, their lawyers, journalists and the public would all be banned from attending these hearings.
These powers were granted by Parliament solely for use in non-criminal proceedings and the Supreme Court will be asked to rule that they cannot be used in a legal action relating to a potential prosecution of an MI6 officer. 
Cori Crider, attorney for Mr Belhaj and Ms Boudchar at Reprieve, said:  “A former top MI6 officer should not be able to avoid accountability to the public by hiding behind powers that were never intended for this purpose. The government hopes to whisper in the judge’s ear about the real reason Sir Mark Allen was let off the hook for his role in the rendition of a pregnant woman and her husband. But criminal matters were explicitly excluded from the Justice and Security Act, and rightly so. With something this serious we, the British public, have a right to demand justice is done .”

Solicitor Rosa Curling, from the Human Rights Team at Leigh Day, who is representing the couple, said: “Mr Belhaj and Mrs Boudchar began their legal action in this country because they believed it was a fair, open and transparent legal system in which they could seek justice for their kidnap and torture. I hope this hearing will see their belief in the UK justice system was well founded and that cases relating to criminal causes or matters cannot be closed off from open justice .”

* Reprieve


Peacebuilding is everyone's business, say Quakers

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 07:20:59 +0000

The Quaker Council for European Affairs has just released a hands-on manual making the case for peacebuilding and offering many practical tools which can be used by all sorts of organisations and individuals.

Relations around the world are becoming more tense. A new Quaker resource offers realistic steps towards creating lasting peace.

Quaker Council for European Affairs has just released a hands-on manual called Building Peace Together. It makes the case for peacebuilding and offers many practical tools which can be used by all sorts of organisations and individuals.

The pack includes advice and guidance on:

  • peacebuilding principles
  • finding the issues that cause conflict
  • steps to avoiding future conflict.

These are all needed when countries or groups start to talk. There are 80 real-world examples of the tools in action. The pack also includes exercises to get people thinking and questioning.

The peacebuilding tools are arranged into 11 sections. These sections cover the same areas as government ministries and include justice, environment and education.

The work it promotes aims to include as wide a range of people as possible. The aim is to come up with long-term plans for keeping the peace.

Who can use the pack?

  • professional peacebuilders
  • policy makers
  • individuals who want to build more peaceful societies.

Olivia Caeymaex, QCEA Peace Programme Lead, said: "At QCEA we are engaging directly with the governments and institutions who decide how to respond to security challenges around the world. Building Peace Together is designed to show policy makers that peacebuilding is not wishful thinking. This new resource includes 80 real examples of where peacebuilding has succeeded across 11 sectors of government. Peacebuilding really is everyone's business."

Julian Egan, International Alert said : “This report comes at a critical time. Since 2010 more conflicts have been starting and less are being resolved. We need to change the way we work. This means dealing more with the root causes of conflict. Building Peace Together highlights that peacebuilding does work and importantly, how we should go about it. Critically, it illustrates the important and practical role that people working on education, health, justice, security and other areas can and are playing in contributing to more peaceful societies, dispelling the notion that peace is something niche or that is limited to governments and peacebuilding organisations. Only together can we foster a more peaceful and prosperous world."

* Read Building Peace Together 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


UN chief urges promotion of tolerance, inclusion and respect for diversity

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 07:13:08 +0000

People worldwide are being encouraged by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to think about how they can better promote tolerance, inclusion and respect for diversity. People worldwide are being encouraged by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to think about how they can better promote tolerance, inclusion and respect for diversity. The UN chief made the appeal in a speech to the General Assembly in New York on ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March 2018. "It is time all nations and all people live up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognises the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race", he stated. Mr. Guterres said while there has been progress since the Declaration's adoption 70 years ago – for example, in the advancement of the rights of women, children, indigenous people and persons with disabilities – there is still far to go in ending discriminatory attitudes, actions and practices. He listed pressing issues such as gender inequality; the "alarming rise" in xenophobia, racism and intolerance, and a resurgence in far-right political parties and neo-Nazi viewpoints. Refugees and migrants are also being denied their rights, in addition to being falsely vilified as threats to the societies they seek to join, he continued. "So, on this International Day, let us all consider how we can better promote tolerance, inclusion and respect for diversity in all nations and among all communities" the UN chief said. "Let us work to eliminate messages of hatred – the concept of 'us' and 'them'; the false attitude that we can accept some and reject and exclude others simply for how they look, where they worship or who they love." Like the Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also looked to the landmark Declaration in his address to the gathering. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein highlighted how discrimination against individuals affects society as a whole. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights warns very clearly that if rights are not protected, conflict may follow," he said. "Experience has repeatedly demonstrated that discrimination, intolerance, prejudice and scapegoating not only lead to disastrous splintering within societies, endangering national cohesion; they also frequently generate threats to regional peace and lead to a conflict." The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination  commemorates the lives of 69 people killed during a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa on that day in 1960. They were among thousands protesting laws that required black citizens to carry a type of internal passport known as a passbook which restricted their movements: a manifestation of the then apartheid system which upheld racial segregation. As the UN chief pointed out, apartheid "was ultimately – and thankfully – consigned to history" after Nelson Mandela was released from prison and later ascended to the presidency. Mr. Mandela, who died in 2013, was the first democratically-elected president of South Africa and the country's first black head of state. While the UN observance provides an opportunity to reaffirm rejection of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, Mr Guterres was saddened that these attitudes persist in countries and among communities around the world. "A stark and tragic example lies in the egregious treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar", he said, referring to the ethnic minority community whose members have been fleeing to Bangladesh by the thousands to escape persecution. * United Nations [Ekk/4] [...]

National Audit Office investigation into errors in Employment and Support Allowance

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 07:12:53 +0000

A National Audit Office report details how the DWP has underpaid tens of thousands of ill or disabled people by thousands of pounds each. Since 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions has underpaid an estimated 70,000 people who transferred to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from other benefits, according to a National Audit Office investigation. The Department estimates it will need to pay a total of between £570 million to £830 million more ESA than it previously expected by the end of the 2022-23 financial year. The error related to people who may have been entitled to income-related ESA but were instead only awarded contribution-based ESA, and therefore may have missed out on premium payments. The average underpayment is likely to be around £5,000 but some people will be owed significantly more. A review of a sample of 1,000 cases suggests that 45,000 claimants  entitled to the enhanced disability premium only may be owed around £2,500 and that around 20,000 claimants who are entitled to the severe disability premium may be owed around £11,500 each. A small number could be owed around £20,000. The Department has committed to correcting its error and paying arrears by April 2019. It has redeployed staff to review around 300,000 cases, at a cost of around £14 million, to identify people affected and pay arrears where due. Eligible claimants will only be paid arrears as far back as 21 October 2014, the date of a legal tribunal ruling. The Department estimates that there may be approximately £100 million to £150 million of underpayments accrued before 21 October 2014, which it cannot pay, in addition to the £340 million it will pay for the period after 21 October 2014. The error happened because the Department’s process for converting people’s benefits to ESA did not reflect its own legislation, which from 2010 obliged the Department to assess people’s entitlement to both income-related ESA and contribution-based ESA on conversion. In practice it did not always do this. It took several years for the Department to realise the significance of the error. The Department identified the issue in individual cases at least as early as 2013. However it did not recognise the issue as systemic until early 2014 when staff identified the error as a major cause of ESA underpayments in preparing its 2013-14 financial year fraud and error statistics. In June 2014, the Department issued new advice designed to prevent further errors occurring but did not take steps to assess existing cases. The Department later updated its formal guidance in February 2015. This guidance improved the process for people in the ESA ‘support group’ for those with the most limiting illnesses and disabilities but the NAO found it did not cover people in the work-related activity group (who are required to undertake activity such as training or CV skills courses). From June 2014 and throughout 2015, the Department did not address existing errors. During this time, two key Upper Tribunal cases helped to clarify the law on ESA claims, including conversion cases. The Department did not recognise at the time that the first of these decisions on 21 October 2014 should have triggered a formal exercise to identify people whose legal entitlements might be affected. Similarly, a further decision in June 2015 prompted discussion but no clear action. From May 2016, the Department’s fraud and error team prompted the Department to take action after identifying an ongoing and significant issue with underpayment of ESA premiums. However, in the first briefing to Ministers on this issue in February 2017, the Department recommended undertaking further analysis and seeking further legal advice, while reserving its position on the potential response. In July 2017, the Department recognised that it had a legal responsibility to identify t[...]

UK 'should not try to divide and conquer EU27'

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 07:07:12 +0000

A new report says the 27 EU member states are likely to remain united in their approach to the Brexit negotiations, but it is essential for the UK to understand the differences in their views. Ahead of this week’s European Council, a new report says that while the 27 member states are likely to remain united in their approach to the Brexit negotiations, it is essential for the UK to understand the differences in their views.  Published on 21 March 2018 by the Institute for Government, Negotiating Brexit: the views of the EU27 argues that the Government must work with the UK’s allies in the EU to make the case for the future relationship it wants. But any attempt to ‘divide and conquer’ will backfire.   To strengthen the UK’s alliances, the Government needs to show that it understands the individual interests of each member state. The paper looks at the trade, migration and domestic political priorities of each of the 27. It finds there are some clear areas of convergence between UK and member states’ interests which the UK can use to build support. But Brexit does not top the agenda for most member states. They are more concerned with internal EU wrangles (over the budget, Eurozone reform and migration), external pressures (from Russia on security to the US on trade) and domestic political debates. At the same time, they are getting used to the changing dynamics of an EU without the UK. Many member states – from Denmark and the Netherlands in the west, to Hungary and Poland in the east – continue to view the UK as a key ally. These and other member states will support a close relationship between the UK and the EU. But groups of member states have different priorities, which the UK must recognise when formulating a negotiating strategy. For example: Driven by France and Germany, the member states who support greater EU integration will prioritise the stability and unity of the EU27 over minimising the economic costs from Brexit. Traditional allies, including the Netherlands, the Scandinavian member states, Ireland and the Baltics, will want a close trade relationship with the UK. But some face domestic Eurosceptic forces – and they need to show that leaving the EU is not a solution to Eurosceptic concerns. They will also want to maintain the integrity of the EU, including its single market, and will not want to waste too much political capital on securing the best deal for the UK.   Eastern member states, particularly the Visegrád Four (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), support a close relationship with the UK on trade and security. But their priority will be getting a good deal for themselves from the next EU budget; they may not want to be at odds with France and Germany. Jill Rutter, Brexit programme director at the Institute for Government, said, “From the EU budget negotiations and Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for reforms, to Russian aggression, there are many issues unrelated to Brexit that are taking up member states’ time. A successful UK negotiating strategy needs to start from this point and not assume Brexit is as much of a preoccupation for them as it is for us.” Tim Durrant, report author, said, “The March Council meeting will be a key moment in the negotiating process, where the EU27 look set to agree their priorities for the next phase. The UK must recognise the different interests of the member states while avoiding the impression that it is seeking to divide and conquer. Government ministers attempting to build relationships with the EU need to make concrete proposals that recognise the interests both of individual member states and of the EU as a whole.” * Read Negotiating Brexit: the views of the EU27  here * Institute for Government https://[...]

European Commission digital tax plan is 'a nail in the coffin for OECD tax rules'

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 06:54:27 +0000

The Tax Justice Network has welcomed the European Commission’s new measures to combat tax abuses in the digital economy – in particular, the intention to ensure taxes are paid in the places where business is done, and where profits are really made. The Tax Justice Network has welcomed the European Commission’s new measures to combat tax abuses in the digital economy – in particular, the intention to ensure taxes are paid in the places where business is done, and where profits are really made. For the last decade, some of the worst offenders in the world of corporate tax dodging have been the digital giants, companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. These companies present a particular problem for governments, in that so much of their business takes place online, making it easier for them to locate their profits offshore. The main announcement is the introduction of a ‘Digital Services Tax’. This short-term measure will apply a three per cent tax on the revenues of companies related to specific online services, introducing the concept of a virtual ‘permanent establishment’ so that companies become taxable in jurisdictions where they have users – even if there is no employment or tangible assets. An analysis for the Tax Justice Network of several major digital services companies operating in Europe reveals that such a tax would be roughly equivalent to an effective corporation tax rate of around 10 per cent. The European Commission estimates that digital services companies currently pay an effective tax rate of just nine per cent, whilst companies operating in the rest of the economy pay an effective rate of 23 per cent. However, there have been many well publicised cases demonstrating how some companies have used accounting tricks to get their tax rate down to close to zero. As such, the new measures will set a limit, preventing the most extreme abuse. In addition, the Commission has announced a longer-term aim to align profits of digital companies much more fully with the location of their real economic activity. In keeping with the ongoing work to introduce a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base in the EU, such a measure would ensure that taxable profits were allocated in proportion to EU members’ share of activity. This confirms the intention of the EU to break, comprehensively, with the OECD’s international tax rules – which require adherence to economically illogical transfer pricing rules, with profit divided between multinational groups’ subsidiaries on the basis of contrived, theoretical ‘arm’s length prices’. Alex Cobham, chief executive of the Tax Justice Network, said, "The European Commission’s digital tax directives are a welcome step. Not only do they put an immediate limit on the scale of these companies’ tax abuses, but they also set the course for the radical shift in international tax rules that we have campaigned for since our formal inception in 2003 – namely, the abandonment of the arm’s length principle and the switch towards unitary taxation of multinationals." Liz Nelson, a director of the Tax Justice Network, said, "The EU is flexing its muscles, acting against OECD norms to protect its tax base, because it has the power to do so. But the whole world needs to make that shift, so that lower-income countries too can protect their tax base and support the progressive realisation of human rights to which the UN Sustainable Development Goals framework commits us all. Ultimately, this requires that tax policy be set in an international forum, breaking the rich countries’ hegemony, in order to allow all countries to act against multinationals’ tax abuse." * Tax Justice Network [Ekk/6] [...]

Lancashire women in protest march to fracking site

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 06:45:25 +0000

Lancashire women have taken part in a peaceful walk and silent protest at the Cuadrilla fracking site in Preston.

On 21 March 2018 Oscar-winning actor and writer Emma Thompson joined dozens of Lancashire women on a peaceful walk and silent protest at the controversial Cuadrilla fracking site on Preston New Road. Emma Thompson was in Preston to show solidarity with local women who have been opposing Cuadrilla’s plan to frack in the area for years.

Lancashire county council voted against the controversial drilling technique in 2015 but was subsequently overruled by the government.

The protest march, led by women in white clothes, started from Maple Farm at 10.30am and arrived at the Preston New Road site at 11, where a 15-minute silent protest took place followed by singing, dancing and speeches from Emma Thompson and Tina Rothery of the anti-fracking Nanas.

The demonstration takes place at a delicate time for the fracking industry. Seven years after their first attempt to frack in Lancashire, Cuadrilla said they are gearing up to start fracking in 2018. However, the shale industry has also been facing a series of setback right across the country.

In Yorkshire, Third Energy were forced to put their fracking development on hold as they await the outcome of a government probe into their finances. Seven fracking companies have seen their plans rejected by local council since the start of the year, while the government has revised down its forecasts for the industry’s development in the near future. 

Joining the march, Emma Thompson said, “It’s so inspiring to be here with these brave and determined women who have been opposing fracking for years. They speak for a community whose voice was first ignored then shouted down by the Westminster government.

“And what’s happening across the country shows these women were right. Seven years from the first frack, all we have are a pile of broken promises and some holes in the ground. Council after council have been rejecting fracking, and projects have been delayed. The future of this industry is so uncertain ministers have all but stopped talking about it. Fracking is a dud – it’s time to move on.

“Ministers should stop wasting time and energy imposing fracking and its imaginary benefits on local communities and focus instead on the real jobs and investment clean energy sources like offshore wind can create.”

* Greenpeace UK


Report on behaviour management of children and young people in custody

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 06:34:29 +0000

Inspectors say the management of children and young people in custody is too often overwhelmingly punitive, and the response to poor behaviour is to become locked in a negative cycle of ever greater restriction. Fewer children and young adults have been in custody in recent years but the lives of those remaining have been “significantly impacted by deteriorating behaviour” that has not been tackled, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. Current behaviour management schemes have been ineffective, particularly, in reducing violence, which is at historically high levels in all types of institution. Mr Clarke said: “The impact of poor behaviour by others on those who wish to make progress in education, training and rehabilitation can be severe.” HM Inspectorate of Prisons has published a new thematic report – Incentivising and promoting good behaviour – based on a review commissioned by the Youth Justice Board and focusing on children held in secure training centres (STCs) and young offender institutions (YOIs), and young adults aged 18–20 held in YOIs. The review looked at the “fundamentally important issue of the relationships between those detained and the staff charged with their care.” Mr Clarke said: “Those relationships are crucially influenced by staff turnover, which can lead to a lack of consistency in approach, staff shortages and, all too frequently, a lack of sufficient time out of cell. The issue of inconsistency in behaviour management is important as it damages the all-important element of trust in the relationship.” Inspectors found that “far too often the rewards and sanctions associated with behaviour management schemes were focused on punishment rather than incentive, and were prone to generate perceptions of favouritism. Too often, during inspections, we have seen rewards and sanctions schemes that are overwhelmingly punitive, and the response to poor behaviour is to become locked in a negative cycle of ever greater restriction.” The review reached other key conclusions: Time out of cell: A combination of staff shortages and increasing levels of bullying and violence had led to many young people spending long periods of time in their cells with little to occupy them. Young people and staff agreed more time out of cell would have the greatest impact on promoting positive behaviour. Interventions for young people who display the most difficult behaviour: The proportion of children and young people in custody who have been convicted of more serious offences has increased. The report noted: “Too often we find institutions which accept poor behaviour as unavoidable instead of setting and maintaining high standards. However, there are now some young people within the estate who do not respond positively to existing behaviour management schemes and who require a higher level of support than is currently offered.” Bullying and violence: Witnessing or experiencing bullying and violence are part of everyday life for young people in custody. Young people from a black or minority ethnic background: They were less likely to report being treated fairly by the rewards and sanctions scheme than white young people. “As young people from a black and minority ethnic background make up a large proportion of the population in custody it is important that the reasons for these perceptions are understood and addressed to improve behaviour”. Peter Clarke said, “Institutions holding children and young adults have undergone notable change over recent years as the population of both groups has reduced. While this reduction is welcome, there is evidence from inspection that outcomes for those that remain have been significantly impacted by deteriorat[...]

Seeking truth and freedom in a post-truth world

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 12:14:58 +0000

Seeking truth and freedom in a post-truth world


How do Christians and others of good faith speak truthfully and act justly, with freedom and responsibility, in a world which seems increasingly charcaterised by the manipulations and distortions of power?


In this extended essay, author, academic and retired bishop Dr David Atkinson considers such questions in the light of the ground-breaking work of philosopher Michael Polanyi - thereby introducing his thinking afresh to contemporary audiences.

In his two-part article, Dr Atkinson aims to help the churches, in particular, to think about how they understand themselves and the nature of their vocation in a ‘post-truth’ world. First, he introduces the life and work of Michael Polanyi and two key themes in his thought: The Way of Discovery and the personal component in all knowledge and the key role of A Society of Explorers. In the second part of the essay, these insights are related to a number of areas of Christian speech and action and the church’s witness. 

This material has also been published on the website of Fulcrum, to whom we extend cordial thanks and acknowledgments. 

Read part one here: and part two here: (both *PDF Adobe Acrobat files)


© David Atkinson is a respected writer and academic.  After three years research in organic chemistry, he trained for ordination in the Church of England.  The longest part of his ministry was as Fellow and Chaplain of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, after which he was Canon Chancellor at SouthwarkCathedral,  Archdeacon of  Lewisham, and Bishop of Thetford in Norwich Diocese.  He retired back to Southwark in 2009.  David has lectured at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and in USA, Hong Kong and South India.  He has written a number of books on biblical, ethical and pastoral themes,  most recently on climate change. His forthcoming book, Rediscovering Hope, will be published in 2018 by Ekklesia. 

Media Files:

Support falls short for vulnerable older teenagers, says Children's Society

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 08:22:31 +0000

The Children's Society says older teenagers facing serious risks including child sexual exploitation and mental health issues are missing out on vital support. Tens of thousands of older teenagers facing serious risks including child sexual exploitation and mental health issues are missing out on vital support according to a new report. The Children’s Society found that help is too often falling short for many of the 58,000 children aged 16 and 17 who are not in care but are designated as ‘children in need’ by councils. The charity’s new report, Crumbling Futures, found that support often disappears completely when they turn 18 because in most cases there is no statutory requirement for councils to offer young adults support. It includes data from councils which shows that many of these young people face challenges in their lives, including problems which are less prevalent in assessments of younger children such as mental health issues, sexual exploitation and drug-use. The report finds how problems experienced by 16-17-year-olds often persist when they turn 18 based on new analysis of the Understanding Society survey, which asks teenagers about their well-being over a number of years One young person told the charity: “We are still kids, we all still need help.  Just because we’ve lived with our parents longer than people in care did, doesn’t make any difference.  We are still left on our own not knowing what to do.  So I do not know why it’s so big a gap between support?  I think it is ridiculous to be palmed off at 18.” The Children’s Society is calling for the Government to broaden its newly announced review of support for children in need and to consider how 16-17-year-olds can be better supported into adult life. While the review is focusing on improving how well children in need do in education, the charity wants it to look at all aspects of their lives where help is falling short. The Children’s Society says councils should be required to plan for young people’s transition to adulthood and to address their health, housing, employment and safeguarding needs, as well as their education and skills – with consideration given to extending key services to the age of 25. The report, part of the charity’s Seriously Awkward campaign, is also recommending that child in need and child protection plans agreed when a young person is 16 or 17 should last until the age of 18. Crumbling Futures highlights that the different situations faced by 16-17-year-olds, including living independently for the first time, moving into employment or training, or claiming benefits, are often not dealt with adequately by professionals, who may mistakenly consider these young people as being old enough to look after themselves.  Issues like homelessness and poverty are not identified in assessments of children referred to social services meaning they may not get the help they need to address these problems. Matthew Reed, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society, said: “Approaching adulthood can be a difficult, awkward, time for many teenagers, but it can be even tougher if young people don’t get the help they need to deal with serious issues in their lives. “Help for vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds who are not in care too often falls short then disappears from the age of 18 as they continue to struggle with issues including mental health, sexual exploitation, poverty and homelessness. “The Children’s Society wants to see better support for children in need as they prepare for adulthood and a comprehensive package of help after they turn 18 - with councils given the additional money they need to deliver this. “O[...]

Time to scrap Council Tax, says Resolution Foundation

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 07:03:47 +0000

The Resolution Foundation says an entirely new system genuinely based on a proportion of a property’s value is now desirable and feasible. Council tax is outdated, regressive, and, despite being notionally based on the value of homes, functions in many ways like a poll tax – exactly the type of tax it was introduced to get away from – says the Resolution Foundation in a major new report. Home affairs, the 18th report for the Foundation’s ongoing Intergenerational Commission, looks at how residential property is currently taxed ­– largely through council tax and stamp duty ­­– and options for reform. The Foundation notes that the hugely unpopular poll tax (the Community Charge) was pronounced a failure and abolished in 1991, in large part due to the unfairness of a flat rate tax where families generally paid the same amount irrespective of the value of the property they lived in. But new Resolution Foundation analysis shows that council tax today shares many of the features of a poll tax, in particular in having only a very weak link to property values. This is because council tax operates within wide bands with a single band covering significantly different property values; has only very small gaps between bands compared to differences in property values; and because regional variation has allowed some areas with more expensive properties to charge lower tax rates. Wide bands: Among band A homes in the North East the lowest-value tenth of properties were worth £65,000 or less in 2015-16 while the highest-value tenth of properties were worth at least £130,000. Given they face the same tax bill, this results in effective council tax rates (tax as a proportion of property value) at least twice as high at the bottom of the band as at the top. Small gaps between bands: Typical council tax bills are only 3.3 times higher for the most expensive homes in band H as for the cheapest in band A (£2,595 and £775 respectively). By contrast, typical property values were nearly seven times as high (£750,000 and £110,000 respectively). Local variation on rates and severely out-of-date valuations: Local areas with high-value properties can opt to charge low council tax rates, causing vast regional disparity. Coupled with faster house price growth in the South of England than elsewhere since properties were last valued 27 years ago, this means that the typical effective tax rate was around three times as high in the North East as in London (0.7 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively). The Foundation notes that the poll tax-like structure of council tax means it is highly regressive. Someone living in a property worth £100,000 pays around five times as much council tax relative to property value as someone living in a property worth £1 million. This is exactly the kind of result that opponents of the poll tax wanted to avoid and in stark contrast to income tax, which increases with incomes in a progressive way so higher earners pay a higher average tax rate. Even more severe inequalities are evident when focusing on individual homes, even those that are of similar sizes and very close to each other. The problems above, and especially the failure to update the property values used to decide which band a property falls into since 1991, can make a mockery of the idea that council tax is linked to property values. For example a three-bedroom flat for sale for £2.1 million in Battersea, London Borough of Wandsworth, faces a council tax bill of £700 per year. Walk just one mile away and a three-bedroom flat in Lambeth, for sale at less than one-fifth of the price (£400,000), faces a council tax bill of £1,160 per year,[...]

Living standards crisis far from over, warns TUC

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 07:02:05 +0000

Analysis published by the TUC shows the UK is set have the worst wage performance of any advanced economy in 2018.

Commenting on inflation figures releaded by the Office for National Statistics on 20 March 2018, which show CPI inflation down at 2.7 per cent, Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC)  said: “Britain’s living standards crisis is far from over. Today’s fall in prices may ease the pressure a bit. But working people will still be worse off at the end of this parliament than before the crash.

“The government must up its game. Millions of workers haven't had a proper pay rise in years. Unless ministers invest in the infrastructure and public services needed for better-paid jobs, the UK will remain at the bottom of the league for real wage growth.”

Analysis published by the TUC shows the UK is set have the worst wage performance of any advanced economy in 2018.

* In December 2017 TUC published analysis of OECD forecasts, which found that the UK is set to see real wages fall by 0.7 per cent in 2018, ranking last in a list of 32 countries. The analysis can be read here



Reduce working hours to improve teacher retention, suggests new research

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 06:51:28 +0000

New research finds that excessive workload is one of the main barriers to retention in the teaching profession. According to a new study by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), teachers work the longest hours at 50 hours per week during term time, followed by police officers (44) and nurses (39). Working long hours over prolonged periods, as teachers are doing, can create pressure and stress, with potential negative effects on health and well-being, all of which may impact on staff retention. The research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, looks at how the teaching profession compares to nursing and policing – two of the other large and important public sector professions. Pay caps and job pressures have reportedly fuelled staff shortages across the public sector. Using Understanding Society survey data, NFER examined how full time teachers compare to full time nurses and police officers. Comparing the characteristics of each profession’s workforce, earnings, hours worked and job satisfaction, the research found that working hours is still a matter of concern for teachers. It shows that the long hours that teachers work during term time exceed the amount of extra holiday time they may receive. Even after taking account of school holidays, full-time teachers still work the equivalent of 45 hours per week. The study also found that teachers’ average hourly pay (in real terms, after adjusting for inflation) has decreased by 15 per cent since 2009/10. Over the same period, average hourly pay has fallen by four and 11 per cent for nurses and police officers. However, despite longer working hours and a background of falling real-terms pay, teachers remain satisfied with their jobs and incomes, but not with their amount of leisure time. According to the analysis: 47 per cent of teachers said they were satisfied with their amount of leisure time in 2015-16, the lowest of the three professions, while 43 per cent said they were dissatisfied. 78 per cent of full time teachers said they were satisfied with their jobs in 2015-16, which is lower than full time nurses’ job satisfaction rates, but higher than full time police officers. 79 per cent of teachers said they were satisfied with their income levels. Nurses and police officers are less satisfied with their income levels than teachers. NFER Chief Executive, Carole Willis, said of NFER’s findings: “This is an important piece of research to gain insight into whether the difficulties faced in recruitment and retention are unique to teaching or common to other professions in the public sector. Our analysis shows that long working hours is one of the main barriers to improving teacher retention, an issue that is consistent with our previous reports in this series, and that working hours have been increasing over the last five years. Therefore, we recommend that further work to reduce the working hours of teachers should be a priority for school leaders and the Government.” Josh Hillman, Director of Education at the Nuffield Foundation said: “Without action to reduce working hours, financial incentives to attract new teachers will be limited in the extent to which they can tackle the supply crisis, as teachers will continue to leave the profession in high numbers. Recent recognition by the Secretary of State of the need to address teacher workload is welcome, but this research shows that a more ambitious action plan is required, particularly in the context of rising student numbers.” Commenting on the findings, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said, “This[...]

Struggling families disqualified from justice despite Supreme Court verdict, says Law Society

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 06:29:15 +0000

A new report from the Law Society says families in poverty are being denied help to fight eviction, tackle severe hosuing direpair and address other life-changing legal issues. Poverty-hit families are being denied vital help to fight eviction, tackle severe housing disrepair and address other life-changing legal issues, says a new report from the Law Society of England and Wales. Last summer the Supreme Court declared that employment tribunal fees were unlawful because households on low incomes were expected to sacrifice an acceptable living standard to afford legal costs. The same effect is being meted out by an excessively restrictive formula that determines whether someone is entitled to civil legal aid. Law Society president Joe Egan said, “No-one in modern society should have to choose between accessing the justice system and a minimum living standard.” “The financial eligibility test for civil legal aid is disqualifying people from receiving badly-needed legal advice and representation, even though they are already below the poverty line.”* He was speaking on the publication of a new report commissioned by the Law Society and produced by Professor Donald Hirsch of Loughborough University. The report finds that people on incomes 10 per cent to 30 per cent below a minimum living standard are being excluded from legal aid. The Law Society is asking the government to restore the means test to its 2010 real-terms level, and to conduct a review to consider what further changes are required to address the problems exposed by this report. Joe Egan said: “This report is hard evidence that people with less income than they need, some below the poverty line, are unable to get the help that they need through legal aid in order to access justice. “The position has been getting progressively worse, because the means test thresholds have been frozen since 2010, while the cost of living, of course, has not. Action is long overdue.” Further hardship is caused by the fact that, even for people on the lowest incomes who rely on means-tested benefits, there is a capital means test that treats the equity in their homes as funds available towards legal costs. Joe Egan added: “We are calling on the Ministry of Justice to review the means testing regime in accordance with their obligations under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). We are also asking that they exempt those on means-tested benefits from capital assessment.” Professor Hirsch said: “Millions of households in Britain today struggle to make ends meet, even when they include someone in work, often because of part-time, low-wage or irregular earnings. Yet in general, the legal aid system requires working people to pay their legal costs, either in full or by making a contribution that low earners would find hard or impossible to afford. “Those who are out of work are generally covered by legal aid, but may be excluded if they own their homes. The assumption that someone could sell their home to cover a legal bill is out of line with other forms of state means-testing – such as help with care costs, where the value of your home is ignored if you or your partner still live in it.” Campbell Robb, chief executive of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said, “As a country we believe in justice and compassion, but it is simply unacceptable that millions of people are unable to access legal support because they live on a low income. “We all face life-changing events which can pull us into poverty, such as a divorce or leaving hom[...]