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Poll finds majority in Northern Ireland support equal marriage

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 11:19:51 +0000

A new poll released by Northern Ireland polling and market research company, Lucidtalk, indicates that a majority of the population are in favour of same-sex marriage.

A new poll released by Northern Ireland polling and market research company, Lucidtalk, has revealed that a majority (61 per cent) of the population are in favour of same-sex marriage. This includes 91 per cent of those who support republican parties, and 93 per cent of those who support neither republican nor unionist parties. Northern Ireland Humanists has again called for same-sex marriage to gain legal recognition.

In 2016, a vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly ended with a majority in favour of legally recognising same-sex marriage, but this outcome was blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) using what is known as the ‘petition of concern’, a veto mechanism originally implemented to prevent republican and unionist political parties from passing laws to harm one another.  In the 2017 Northern Ireland Assembly elections, the DUP won 28 seats, two short of what it would need to block same-sex marriage again without support from other unionist parties. However, the Northern Ireland Assembly has yet to re-convene following the collapse of power sharing between the unionist DUP and republican Sinn Féin.

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the United Kingdom which does not give same-sex couples the right to marry. In 2013 and 2014, both the UK Parliament and Scottish Parliament passed laws to legalise same-sex marriage. This was followed in 2015 by a constitutional referendum in the the Republic of Ireland which showed 70 per cent for marriage equality.

Humanists UK and Northern Ireland Humanists is currently taking a legal case to secure legal recognition for humanist marriages in Northern Ireland. 

Boyd Sleator, Northern Ireland Humanists coordinator, said, "A majority of people in Northern Ireland support marriage equality, and so do a majority of our elected representatives. The only reason same-sex marriage is not already legal in Northern Ireland is due to a veto power in the hands of a few legislators with a religious agenda. However, we remain optimistic that change is around the corner, and Northern Ireland Humanists is working hard to ensure that, if Northern Ireland can get the Assembly working again, that same-sex marriage legislation will be passed."

Humanists UK


Understanding of homelessness needs to change, says Crisis

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 07:34:49 +0000

A study has revealed that the public's understanding of homelessness is limited to stereotypes, placing responsibility on individuals rather than broader social and economic forces.

The housing and homelessness sector needs to change the way it talks about homelessness if it is to convince the public that it can be ended, according to a new report published by Crisis and partners from across the sector.

Conducted for Crisis by the FrameWorks Institute, the study shows that the public hold a specific view about who is ‘really’ homeless and how they came to be there, and that both the homelessness sector and the media play a role in supporting these perceptions.

It reveals that while experts see homelessness as a range of insecure housing situations, with some groups at greater risk than others, the public tend to equate it with rough sleeping and certain ‘typical’ images – the middle-aged male rough sleeper with poor mental health, the young person kicked out of the family home or the woman fleeing domestic violence.

The report warns that this limited view prevents people from seeing homelessness as a broad social issue that affects many kinds of people. Instead, they see homeless people as victims or outsiders who become homeless through poor choices or bad luck ­– causes that are seen as individual and inevitable. Consequently, any link with poverty, a lack of affordable housing or wider social forces is almost completely lost.

The study shows how the sector and media often support and encourage these views by telling incomplete stories, thus undermining any calls for wider social change. Drawing on an analysis of sector and media communications, it shows how rough sleeping was by far the most frequently discussed type of homelessness, while more than half of sector and media stories failed to mention a systemic cause of homelessness, and 17 per cent of sector stories omitted any kind of solution.

Based on the findings, the study outlines a series of recommendations for the sector to change how it talks about homelessness, with a view to shaping a better public understanding, including work to:

  • Challenge the public’s image of a ‘typical’ homeless person;
  • Discuss the social and economic conditions that shape people’s experiences;
  • Talk about the societal impact of homelessness as well as the individual;
  • Encourage the belief that collective action can drive change

Download the report Finding a Better Frame: How to Create More Effective Messages on Homelessness  in the United Kingdom here

* Crisis


Irish student acquitted after four years in Egyptian prison

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 06:59:59 +0000

Irish student Ibrahim Halawa was arrested in 2013 for taking part in a protest. He has been acquitted following a mass trial involving almost 500 defendants.

An Irish student who was a juvenile when he was arrested has been acquitted at an Egyptian mass trial, four years after his arrest at a protest.

Ibrahim Halawa from Dublin, was 17 when he was arrested with hundreds of other people in 2013, as part of a crackdown on protests in Egypt. He has been held in pre-trial detention since then, and has reported being regularly tortured. (

Ibrahim was tried as an adult alongside 493 other people, despite having been a juvenile at the time of his arrest. The mass trial – one of several to have taken place since 2013 – was frequently postponed in the last four years. Hearings of the trial were criticised for failing to meet basic standards.

The Irish government has said it has received assurances from Egypt’s President Sisi that Ibrahim will be returned to Ireland following the verdict.

Maya Foa, Director of the human rights organisation Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim Halawa, said, “Today’s verdict is long overdue. Ibrahim was arrested as a child for the ‘crime’ of attending a protest, tortured, and tried facing the death penalty alongside adults in an unfair mass trial. For years, these court proceedings – which were designed to punish political dissent – made a mockery of justice. The Irish government and others, like the UK, must now not rest until Ibrahim is at home in Ireland. The wider international community – including the EU, which helps to fund Egypt’s courts – must also call urgently on Egypt to end its use of patently illegal mass trials.”

* Reprieve


UN to launch nuclear weapons ban treaty on 20 September

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 18:31:50 +0000

On Wednesday 20 September 2017, a nuclear weapons ban treaty will open for signature at the United Nations.

On Wednesday 20 September 2017, a nuclear weapons ban treaty will open for signature at the United Nations.
The ground-breaking document, backed by 122 states, aims to make the abolition of nuclear weapons a reality. Campaigners will deliver thousands of letters to Downing Street on Wednesday calling on Theresa May to sign the ban treaty.
Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary, said: "The anti-nuclear weapons movement across the world has been working towards this day for decades. The earliest CND placards called on our leaders to ban the bomb and abolish all nuclear weapons.
"As a result of that sustained campaign, and tireless efforts from the states that have brought this to fruition, a ban treaty will be launched at the United Nations today.
"In these turbulent times – when there is a real possibility of nuclear war – it is very inspiring to see the international community – the majority of world states – taking matters into their own hands to make progress on building a nuclear free world.
"That's why it's absolutely vital that Britain backs this multilateral attempt to kick start nuclear disarmament. We must not turn our backs on the world on this historic day."

CND campaigners will deliver thousands of letters addressed to Theresa May at 10 Downing Street at 3.30pm on Wednesday 20 September – the exact time that the treaty opens for signature in New York. The letters call on her government to support the nuclear weapons ban treaty.



Citizens Advice renews its call for Universal Credit to be paused

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 07:47:55 +0000

Citizens Advice has reiterated its call for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be paused and problems with the benefit fixed, as new figures from the Department for Work and Pensions confirm payment delays and rent arrears. Citizens Advice has reiterated its call for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be paused and problems with the benefits fixed, as new figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show one in five people applying for Universal Credit are waiting longer than six weeks for their first payment. Further DWP research, published on September 15 2017, shows people on the new benefit are falling into rent arrears, with over two in five saying this was due to problems with the benefit.  In August the equivalent of 12 per cent of people applying for Universal Credit turned to Citizens Advice for support. Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy said, “These figures confirm Citizens Advice research showing that Universal Credit risks pushing people further into serious debt. “The DWP’s own evidence shows more than one in five people applying for Universal Credit are waiting over six weeks for their first payment, and that many people say they are falling behind on their rent as a result. “It is clearer than ever that the government must pause the roll-out of Universal Credit and fix the problems with this benefit.” In a report published last week, ( Citizens Advice analysed over 50,000 cases where it has helped people with their debt problems and found that for those on Universal Credit:  79 per cent have priority debts such a rent or council tax, putting them at greater risk of eviction,   visits from bailiffs, being cut off from energy supplies and even prison - compared to (69 per cent) on legacy benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance or Housing Benefit.    Two in five (41 per cent) have no money available to pay creditors as their monthly spend on essential living costs is more than their income.  Typically people on Universal Credit only have around £3 a month left to pay creditors. It is urging the government to ensure no one applying for Universal Credit waits longer than six weeks for an income, and that anyone who needs it gets a payment within two weeks that they do not need to repay. Universal Credit was introduced in 2013, aiming to simplify the benefits system, to make transitions into work easier, and make every hour of work pay. It’s there for people on low incomes or not in work to help them meet their living costs. Universal Credit is for people both in work and out of work, disabled people and those with a health condition, single people and those with families, people who own their homes and people who rent. It replaces six means-tested benefits and tax credits with one benefit. This is paid in arrears, as a single household payment, on a monthly basis. It is designed to use Real Time Information from HMRC to respond to changes in income, gradually reducing the UC payment as earnings increase to ensure work pays. The six benefits it replaces are:      Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)      Income-based Employment Support Allowance (ESA)      Housing benefit (HB)      Income Support (IS)      Child Tax Credits (CTC)      Working Tax Credits (WTC) Universal Credit is being rolled out gradually across the country, one job centre at a time. Everywhere in the country either operates a 'live service' or 'full service'. Live service areas are places where a limited version of Universal Credit is in place only for certain people (eg single adults not in work), so as to test the system on  on those with simpler claims.  ‘Full’ service has been developed[...]

Two Myanmar journalists detained in Bangladesh

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 07:25:31 +0000

Two Myanmar photojournalists, Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat have been arrested in Bangladesh while reporting on the escalating Rohingya refugee crisis.

Two Myanmar journalists arrested in Bangladesh while reporting on the escalating Rohingya refugee crisis should immediately be released and charges against them dropped, watchdog Global Witness has urged.

Minzayar Oo, an internationally recognized photojournalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Guardian and National Geographic, and his colleague, photographer Hkun Lat, are being charged under Section 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and Section 177 and 419 of the Bangladesh Penal Code for alleged “false impersonation” and providing “false information”. The photographers have been accused of reporting on tourist visas and face up to five years in prison if found guilty.

They entered Bangladesh in early September to report on the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the influx of nearly 400,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees from neighbouring Myanmar. They were detained on 7 September while on assignment for the German publication GEO magazine and were reportedly denied bail this week.

“We are deeply concerned that journalists are being prevented from doing their jobs and urge the Bangladeshi government to release Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat as a matter of urgency,” said Paul Donowitz, Myanmar Campaign Leader at Global Witness.

“The current crisis in Rakhine State is driving hundreds of thousands of people into Bangladesh as refugees. It is crucial that journalists and those documenting their plight are allowed freedom to access and report on these issues without fear of intimidation or legal repercussions.”

Minzayar Oo is an award-winning journalist known for highlighting human rights and environmental issues in Myanmar. Hkun Lat is an up-and-coming Kachin photographer who has worked with him on a number of projects.

The men's lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua has been unable to speak to the journalists and could not account for their welfare. Mr Barua said that a number of Bangladeshi constitutional and legal provisions had been violated in this case, including custodial proceedings.

* Global Witness


UK aid charities issue joint statement on crisis in Myanmar

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 07:05:47 +0000

A group of UK international aid charities have issued a statement on the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar..

A group of UK international aid charities have issued a statement on the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.

“Action Against Hunger UK, ActionAid UK, Christian Aid, Save the Children UK and the International Rescue Committee UK strongly condemn the attacks carried out on 25 August. We are deeply concerned by the spiralling violence that has followed across Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State. We are also concerned about reports of extensive loss of life of civilians and the immense suffering that is producing the displacement of thousands of people from their homes and livelihoods. The Myanmar government has a responsibility and obligation to protect all of the civilian population without distinction. Violence is not a long-term solution to the challenges faced by all populations in Rakhine State.

“As humanitarian actors, we remind all parties of their responsibility to exercise restraint, avoid the targeting of civilians and prevent the further escalation of conflict in the area. It is also crucial that Myanmar national and local authorities facilitate access for UN agencies and international, national and local NGOs able to provide aid and immediate relief to the civilian population affected by the ongoing military and police operations. We are particularly concerned about reports of the impact that the conflict and displacement is having on women and girls. The Bangladesh government and local authorities should continue to ensure the safe passage of people fleeing the violence and providing aid to refugees upon arrival.

“As UK based INGOs we call on the British government to press for an end to violence and to use its international influence to encourage the Government of Myanmar to fulfil its obligations regarding ensuring humanitarian access and the protection of all civilians. Further we call on the UK and other donors to urgently make funds available to respond to the needs of those who have been displaced, in particular the estimated four hundred thousand people who have crossed into Bangladesh.”

* Action Against Hunger UK

* Action Aid UK 

* Christian Aid

* Save the Children UK

* International Rescue Committee UK


Is low pay the result of government policies?

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 12:14:26 +0000

Is low pay the result of government policies?

read more

Welcome news on jobs 'not filtering through to pay packets'

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 07:06:44 +0000

The UK jobs market continues to perform strongly but it is failing to filter through into wages as the pay squeeze continues, says the Resolution Foundation, responding to the latest labour market figures.

The UK jobs market continues to perform strongly but it is failing to filter through into wages as the pay squeeze continues, says the Resolution Foundation,responding to the latest labour market figures.

Employment hit a new record high in the three months to July, while unemployment and economic inactivity reached fresh lows. The quality of job creation is positive too – full-time employee roles account for 92 per cent of net job creation over the last 12 months.

The Foundation notes that the civil service has recorded its biggest annual increase in employment since 2009, which is likely to be due to hiring by departments bulking up in preparation for Brexit. By contrast employment in local government is at its lowest level since records began in 1999.

The positive news on jobs has failed to translate into pay packets. While the pay squeeze eased to -0.4 per cent off the back of inflation easing in June and July, the increase in inflation last month suggests that the pay squeeze could tighten again in the coming months. The Foundation notes too that average weekly wage remains £16 a week below its pre-crisis peak in 2008.

Stephen Clarke, Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The UK jobs market continues to perform strongly. The fall in inactivity is particularly encouraging as it shows more and more people are being drawn into the labour market.

“However, the welcome news on jobs is failing to feed through into pay packets. And with the pace of inflation increasing again there is a risk that the pay squeeze could get worse before it starts to gets better.

“The scale of our long-standing pay disaster means that wages are still £16 a week lower than their 2008. Unless things improve we could be looking at 15 years of lost pay growth.”

* Resolution Foundation


Many ready to observe World Week of Peace in Palestine and Israel

Sat, 16 Sep 2017 07:12:25 +0000

From a photo 'exhibition of hope', to worship resources, to an opportunity for people and churches to share their personal expressions of hope, the World Council of Churches is offering an invitation and accompanying resources to celebrate the World Week of Peace in Palestine and Israel on 17-24 September 2017.

From a photo 'exhibition of hope', to worship resources, to an opportunity for people and churches to share their personal expressions of hope, the World Council of Churches (WCC) is offering an invitation and accompanying resources to celebrate the World Week of Peace in Palestine and Israel on 17-24 September 2017.

In a letter of invitation, the WCC General Secretary, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, reminded people that despite 50 years of occupation and despair, hope prevails for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.

“The World Week of Peace is yet another opportunity to remind the world about the unsolved conflict in Palestine and Israel and to show solidarity with peace-seeking people suffering under occupation”, wrote Tveit.

On Monday, 18 September, a '12 faces of hope' exhibition will open at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, featuring 12 Palestinians and Israelis who all are victims of the occupation.

The week will hold other many expressions of peace as people across the world unite in actions to create a common international public witness for just peace in Palestine and Israel.

The week is arriving on the heels of other landmark stepping stones on a pilgrimage of justice and peace for the Middle East, including joint prayers for justice and peace in the Holy Land, held in Jerusalem on 5 June, and WCC Peace Consultations with global church leaders, which took place in Beit Sahour two weeks later.

During the World Week of Peace, on Thursday, 21 September, the International Day of Prayer for Peace will be observed.

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches


Government refuses to adopt Lobbying Act reforms

Sat, 16 Sep 2017 06:43:11 +0000

The government has said it will not reform the Lobbying Act, despite the recommendations of an independent review.

The Cabinet Office has said it will make no changes to the Lobbying Act. Charity bodies are concerned this amounts to a blanket rejection of recommendations made by a government-commissioned review, led by the Conservative peer Lord Hodgson.

This comes just weeks after over 100 charities sent a letter to Tracey Crouch, Under-Secretary of State for Civil Society, strengthening calls to overhaul the Act. Charities working to help people in the UK and globally have repeatedly called for Lord Hodgson’s recommendations to be implemented.

Vicky Browning, CEO of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) said, "Charity leaders will be dismayed by the Cabinet Office's decision to ignore wholesale Lord Hodgson’s recommendations to reduce campaigning restrictions. This decision is in direct contradiction with the views of not only Lord Hodgson but the cross party Lords Select Committee on charities and over 100 charity leaders from across the country." 

"Lord Hodgson insisted that his reforms would ensure the clarity and definition of campaigning boundaries. Without them, the Lobbying Act's restrictions remain deeply intimidating. If these restrictions remain in place they risk dampening the confidence and ability of charities to speak out about the biggest social, political and economic changes this country has seen for over half a century. 

“The prime minister has time and again stressed the importance of civil society to our country. In making this decision, Cabinet Office minister Chris Skidmore has also said he wants to convey a clear message that the government is not anti-charity or against civil society being involved in the democratic process. However at the moment actions are speaking much louder than words.

“We will continue to work in partnership with organisations including Bond, NCVO, CAF, NAVCA, the Small Charities Coalition and more to challenge this decision.”

The Hodgson review, Third party election campaigning: review can be read here 



Minimum wage is leaving younger workers behind, says TUC

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 07:17:57 +0000

The TUC  warned that the national minimum wage risks leaving younger workers behind, as it gave evidence to the Low Pay Commission yesterday. An increase to the minimum wage will come into force in April 2018, but the new top rate will only apply to workers over 25. The Trades Union Congress (TUC)  warned that the national minimum wage (NMW) risks leaving younger workers behind, as it gave evidence to the Low Pay Commission (LPC) yesterday (14 September 2017) An increase to the minimum wage will come into force in April 2018, but the new top rate will only apply to workers over 25.  The TUC is calling for: the top rate of the minimum wage to be extended to all workers aged 21 and above the rates for 16 to 20-year-olds to be increased, and for more resources for enforcement to ensure the new higher rate is being paid to all who qualify.  As the 21-24 rate is growing more slowly thant the amount paid to older workers, TUC analysis reveals that the gap between the pay of people in this age group and those over 25 has widened by more than £400 a year. The TUC published research last week that one in eight working people are skipping meals because they cannot afford to eat, and will also warn the LPC today that the proposed rise in the NMW will not be enough to combat in-work poverty.  The TUC argues that with high levels of employment and record corporate profits, employers can afford a strong increase in the minimum wage, and that the LPC should be bold in its recommendation of a new rate to government.    The TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: "Minimum wage pay rates aren’t increasing fast enough and the government’s target of £9 an hour by 2020 now seems a fantasy. Younger workers deserve to be treated fairly. Why are 21 to 24-year-olds getting less pay than their colleagues for the same work, when they face the same expenses as other adults and are highly productive?  "The minimum wage needs a serious boost in the coming years, especially for younger workers. With employment, the economy and earnings set to grow next year, employers will be able to afford a decent rise. And higher rates will need to be properly enforced to be meaningful. I’d also encourage more employers to adopt the real Living Wage standard. Not only will it be good for their workers, but to help attract and retain talent" On pay, the TUC wants to see:  The LPC go beyond the government’s target of 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020 for workers aged 25 and above, and get the NMW rate to £10 as quickly as possible. 21-24 year olds be paid the full NMW rate (including the 'national living wage' supplement). The rates for younger workers should narrow the gap between adults and younger workers as quickly as can be sustained. The apprentice rate should be raised to the level of the young workers rate. The apprentice rate should only apply to those undertaking intermediate level apprentices who are aged 16-18 and to 19-20 year olds in the first year of their apprenticeship.  * Read the TUC submission to the Low Pay Commission here *TUC [Ekk/4] [...]

US urged to sanction officials who abuse protesters

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 07:02:17 +0000

Rights groups have urged the US to use a new type of sanction against foreign officials accused of rights abuses – including Saudi judges who have recently sentenced protesters to death. Rights groups have urged the United States to use a new type of sanction against foreign officials accused of rights abuses – including Saudi judges who have recently sentenced protesters to death. A group of 23 NGOs – including Reprieve, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights First – have asked the US to use the Global Magnitsky Act, passed in December 2016, to apply individual sanctions against a list of rights-abusing officials in 15 countries. In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the rights organisations urge the US to use the Act against the judges at Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court, as well as against the Chief Of Public Prosecution in Bahrain, and two senior police officers in Egypt, among others. The letter comes as it emerged that a juvenile protester, Abdulkarim al-Hawaj, is facing imminent execution in Saudi Arabia, after the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) convicted him on the basis of a false confession extracted through torture. Mr al-Hawaj was 17 when he was arrested in the wake of protests and tortured by Saudi security forces. He is the latest in a series of juveniles to be told that their executions are imminent after they received death sentences for protest-related offences at the SCC. The SCC’s judges have repeatedly sentenced peaceful protesters to death in secret hearings, on the basis of false confessions extracted through torture. Several protesters have already been executed after SCC trials in the Kingdom, including at least one juvenile. In Bahrain, police have repeatedly targeted attendees at nonviolent political demonstrations, and then tortured them into making false confessions to violent acts. Bahrain’s Chief Prosecutor has overseen the use of the statements to secure death sentences against torture victims, three of whom were executed early this year. Several more people arrested in the wake of protests face imminent execution on the basis of forced statements, including a father of three, Mohamed Ramadhan. In Egypt, thousands of protesters, journalists, and others are held in poor prison conditions. The UN Committee Against Torture recently concluded in its 2017 report that “torture is a systematic practice” in the country. Among those being held is Irish student, Ibrahim Halawa, who was arrested aged 17. Ibrahim faces the death penalty on protest-related charges in a mass trial alongside 493 co-defendants. He has reported regular torture in Egyptian prisons. Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve, said: “The officials named in this letter are accused of grotesque rights abuses that fly in the face of American values – from torture and forced ‘confessions’ to executions of children and the use of the death penalty to suppress free speech. This Act gives President Trump a smart way to target the worst abusers – including the Saudi judges that passed death sentences to young protesters like Abdulkarim al-Hawaj, who face imminent execution. The White House must use these powers to hold to account the individuals responsible for gross human rights abuses, and to save the lives of innocent young people like Abdulkarim.” * Read the UN Committee Against Torture report here * Read the NGOs' letter to Rex Tillerson here * Reprieve [Ekk/4]   [...]

Benefits system 'leads to ill-health and isolation for disabled people'

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 06:54:37 +0000

More than three quarters of people with long-term conditions said their assessment for Personal Independence Payment had made their health worse, and half had lost some or all of their support. A benefit designed to support disabled people is making their health worse and leaving them isolated, according to new research from over 80 organisations. In a survey of over 1700 people with long-term conditions including Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and mental health problems, more than three quarters (79 per cent) of respondents said their assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) had made their health worse due to stress and anxiety. It is the first time that PIP, which is designed to help people with extra costs caused by long term ill-health or disability and replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA), has been evaluated in this way. The organisations that make up the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) warn that although PIP is a lifeline for disabled people when they can access it, the findings provide clear evidence that in too many cases, the assessment process is failing people at every turn and having a devastating impact on their health. As part of their report Supporting Those Who Need It Most?, the DBC surveyed more than 1,700 people and found that applicants are facing unnecessary barriers to accessing the support they need, including: Almost three quarters (71 per cent) of respondents found the PIP application form ‘hard’ or ‘very hard’ and 11 per cent of respondents were unable to complete it at all Over half (58 per cent) of people said that assessors did not understand their condition Two thirds (64 per cent) of people who saw their claim form felt it ‘badly reflected’ the answers they had given in their face-to-face assessment As a result of this flawed assessment process, people are losing out on vital support with half (50 per cent) of respondents saying they were receiving less money under PIP than they were previously entitled to under DLA, or they had lost their award completely. The report warns of the devastating consequences this is having, including people: becoming more isolated (40 per cent) struggling to pay for food, rent and bills (35 per cent) not able to get to medical appointments (26 per cent) The report also shows that the number of decisions being overturned at appeal is increasing. In 2013/14, 26 per cent of decisions were changed in favour of the applicant. In the fourth quarter of 2016/17 this had increased to 64 per cent. The DBC say this suggests the assessment process is failing to make accurate decisions first time around, leading to further stress for the applicant. In addition, it is estimated people face a 17-week wait for their appeal without access to the financial support they desperately need. Diane Barrett from Battersea, South London was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2008. She was receiving the highest rate of Disability Living Allowance for seven years but after her  reassessment for PIP she was told her needs had changed and she lost the £57 a week she was receiving to pay for a mobility car. She had to take her case to a tribunal to get the decision overturned. Diane said, “I was absolutely gobsmacked when the letter came. To be told I had improved when I’m living with a condition that is only going to get worse was horrible. “Without the allowance I couldn’t have a car which had a massive impact, it totally took my independence and my lifeline away. I find it hard to use buses and have fallen a couple of times when I’ve tried so it was quite scary. “It also made [...]

Amazon Indians plead for help after 'massacre'

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 09:22:16 +0000

Brazilian Indians have appealed for global assistance to prevent further killings after the reported massacre of uncontacted tribespeople, and have denounced the government cuts that left their territories unprotected. Brazilian Indians have appealed for global assistance to prevent further killings after the reported massacre of uncontacted tribespeople, and have denounced the government cuts that left their territories unprotected. Paulo Marubo, a Marubo indigenous leader from western Brazil, said: “More attacks and killings are likely to happen. The cuts to FUNAI’s funding are harming the lives of indigenous people, especially uncontacted tribes, who are the most vulnerable.” (FUNAI is Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency). Mr Marubo is the leader of Univaja, an indigenous organisation defending tribal rights in the Uncontacted Frontier, the area with the highest concentration of uncontacted tribes in the world. COIAB, the organisation representing Indians across the Brazilian Amazon, denounced the massive cutbacks to FUNAI’s budget that has left many tribal territories unprotected: “We vehemently condemn these brutal and violent attacks against these uncontacted Indians. This massacre shows just how much the rights of indigenous peoples in this country have been set back [in recent years]. “The cuts and dismantling of FUNAI are being carried out to further the interests of powerful politicians who want to continue ransacking our resources, and open up our territories for mining.” Unconfirmed reports first emerged from the Amazon last week that up to 10 uncontacted tribal people had been killed by gold miners, and their bodies mutilated and dumped in a river, says Survival International, the global movement for he rights of tribal people. The miners are reported to have bragged about the atrocity, whose victims included women and children, in a bar in a nearby town. The local prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation. The alleged massacre was just the latest in a long line of previous killings of isolated Indians in the Amazon, including the infamous Haximu massacre in 1993, in which 16 Yanomami Indians were killed by a group of gold miners. More recently, a group of Sapanawa Indians emerged in the Uncontacted Frontier, reporting that their houses had been attacked and burnt to the ground by outsiders, who had killed so many members of the community that they had not been able to bury all the bodies. All uncontacted tribal peoples face catastrophe unless their land is protected. Survival International is campaigning to secure their land for them, and to give them the chance to determine their own futures. Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “The decision by the Brazilian government to slash funding for the teams that protect uncontacted Indians’ territories was not an innocent mistake. It was done to appease the powerful interests who want to open up indigenous lands to exploit – for mining, logging and ranching. These are the people the Indians are up against, and the deaths of uncontacted tribes won’t put them off. Only a global outcry can even the odds in the Indians’ favour, and prevent more such atrocities. We know public pressure works – many Survival campaigns have succeeded in the face of similar odds.” * More about the Uncontacted Frontier here * Survival International [Ekk/4] [...]