In January, Aditya Chakrabortty pointed out that though statistically the UK is enjoying a recovery, in reality: “this has been a recovery for owner-occupiers in London and the south-east. It has locked out those without big assets, such as the young, and those renting in the capital. It has penalised the poor. And it has impoverished those who have been forced on to zero hours or bogus self-employment”.

He described the recovery constantly announced by Conservative speakers as so partial, so patchy and so dedicated to putting money in the pockets of the already wealthy that it makes a mockery of Theresa May’s speech about a “shared society”.

Welfare cuts have not only affected people with disabilities, as we recently recorded, but also a larger swathe of the public. Since 2010, under this government and the coalition, Theresa May’s actions speak louder than her words:

  • Under her term as Minister for Women and Equality, Theresa May’s edicts downgraded the provision for carers, children in need and vulnerable people. This policy continues.
  • DWP fit-for-work assessments are now causing mental health damage to 62% of people the department sanctions.
  • Reduced central funding means that as many bus services have been ‘axed’ people on those routes who don’t own a car now have problems getting to work or hospital.
  • The Independent Living Fund has been cut; in some areas 88% of people have seen their care packages reduced by up to 50%.
  • In 2010 Ms May suspended the registration scheme for carers of children and vulnerable people – to the distress of people hoping to find a trustworthy carer for their child or a vulnerable family member.
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for sick and disabled people in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) has been cut by a third. This will affect 500,000 people.
  • Theresa May scrapped the former Labour Government’s proposed “go orders” scheme to protect women from domestic violence by banning abusers from the victim’s home.
  • Without accessible or affordable transport, due to benefit cuts or closure of bus routes, adults in ‘just about managing’ [JAM] families are less able to travel to work or to medical and other appointments.
  • As Home Secretary Ms May closed the previous Government’s “ContactPoint” database of 11 million under-18-year olds designed to protect children in the wake of the Victoria Climbié child abuse scandal.
  • 51,000 disabled people lost Motability vehicles, which were vital for them to live independently.
  • Frequent administrative inefficiency, a twenty-year phenomenon in this country under both Labour and Conservative governments, includes losing documents causing delays in payment to those with no savings, who then go cold and hungry.
  • Personal Independence Payments (PIP) from 164,000 people living with mental health issues. And the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has reduced or stopped PIP for nearly half (45%) of all claimants (unpublished figures accessed by FOI request).
  • Ms May’s Investigatory Powers Bill has authorised the state to employ private companies to design hacking technology which can ‘create openings’ in devices, leading to the theft of financial and personal data, creating further problems.

Theresa May promises a government for the ‘strugglers’ – but many prime ministers have made appealing promises which were never kept and this brief overview of Ms May’s record does not inspire confidence.

 

 

 

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WMNEG meeting:

Thursday 27 July, 5-7 pm

 

A discussion on a book by

Green Party MEP, Molly Scott Cato;

Green Economics: An Introduction to Theory, Policy and Practice

introduced by Robert Kornreich, Kings Heath 

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH

 

All welcome. 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire

 

 

 

 

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Cuts protest during the last Prime Minister’s Questions session before parliamentary recess. Support given by Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Green leaders, Jonathan Bartley and MP Caroline Lucas.

British Medical Association calls for an end to a system harming the most vulnerable in our society

In their evidence to the Fifth Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), the BMA repeated its 2012 call for government to end it “with immediate effect and replace it with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to the weakest and most vulnerable in our society”.

Research by disabilities campaign group found more than 80 cases of suicide directly linked to billions of pounds in benefit cuts. Many other deaths have been indirectly linked to this regime:

  • In 2014, it was reported that David Clapson, a diabetic, had been found dead in his home. His benefits had been cut, he had no food in his stomach and the fridge that stored his insulin was not working because there was no credit on the electricity card.
  • A senior North London coroner spoke out, highlighting his inquest verdict that ‘Mr A’s’ suicide was triggered by a ‘fit for work’ assessment.
  • In 2010 Coroner Tom Osbourne blamed the death of Stephen Carré on a decision by the Department for Work and Pensions that the Employment and Support Allowance claimant, who was clinically depressed, was fit for work following a work capability assessment.
  • The suicides of Michael O’Sullivan and Julia Kelly, were also blamed on the result of work capability assessments by their respective coroners.

An academic paper, published in the BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in which examined 149 English council areas, found that nearly 600 suicides in England may be associated with the government’s “fit-for-work” tests. Oxford and Liverpool researchers looked at three years’ data and also found the Work Capability Assessments could be linked to a rise in mental health problems. The BBC reports that the study found the areas with most WCAs showed the sharpest increases.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) refused to reveal their peer reviews of suicides linked to the sanctions

Disability rights campaigners, mental health charities and the families of claimants who killed themselves, or died after cuts to benefits, have argued that 49 DWP secret investigations or “peer reviews” into the deaths of claimants should be published.

In April (2016) a decision was made by the First-tier Information Rights Tribunal that, pending any appeal by the DWP or the Information Commissioner’s Office, the government would have to hand over details of the circumstances of 49 deaths concerning claimants on benefits. The DWP was given five weeks to resolve the matter.

In May, following the successful legal challenge – John Pring v IC & Department of Work & Pensions – the DWP released the peer reviews of these cases but with many key words blacked out (redacted) and a Labour spokesman accused the Government of “rewarding failure” – giving new contracts to Capita and Atos.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities finds that UK welfare reforms have led to “grave and systematic violations” of disabled people’s rights. Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green rejected the UN report’s findings 

Changes to benefits “disproportionately affected” disabled people, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) found. The investigation was launched after receiving evidence from disability organisations about an “alleged adverse impact” of government reforms on disabled people. UN committee members visited London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast in October 2015 to identify any gaps in human rights protection for disabled people. As part of its inquiry, the CRPD also looked at a range of recent welfare reforms and legislation including the Welfare Reform Act 2012, Care Act 2014, and Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016.

The BBC reported the UN inquiry’s conclusion that changes made to housing benefits and criteria for parts of the Personal Independence Payment, combined with a narrowing of social care criteria and the closure of the Independent Living Fund, “hindered disabled people’s right to live independently and be included in the community”.

2017 update: continuing the cruel cuts to those on low incomes and generous treatment of those already wealthy 

More than 160,000 people initially denied PIP have had this decision overturned since the benefit launched in 2013, according to DWP figures,

ITV News: the Motability charity, which allows disabled people to pay for specially adapted cars, from their benefits, reports that 900 people a week are having cars, scooters and even motorised wheelchairs taken from them – some losing their jobs as a consequence.

Motability also reports that 51,000 people have been taken off the scheme after a reassessment for personal independence payments (PIP) since it was launched in 2013 – 45% of all cases. 

The benefits budget is being repeatedly cut to pay for the ‘bailouts’ following the banking crisis and people are stripped of disability benefits or having them reduced by half. This is causing pressures which can leave them too sick to work, too poor to support themselves and too tired and frightened to appeal against these damaging decisions.

Even in comfortable ‘middle England’ the number of people who find this victimisation shameful and seek radical political change is growing.

 

 

 

Political Concern has recorded many instances of rewards for ethical commercial or financial failures. A typical example filed two years ago starred Lin Homer and John Manzoni. Now political figures are coming to the fore. Number 30 was health minister Jeremy Hunt.

Four years after the first report we read of two further rewards for former MP Jacqui Smith, who lost her Redditch seat after incorrectly claiming expenses and was later appointed chair of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust.

Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart was quoted in the Birmingham Post at the time as saying “It looks to me as if we are rewarding failure and I have raised this with the Health Secretary”.

Earlier in July this year, Ms Smith was appointed by the Department for Education to chair the board of the new Sandwell Children’s Social Care Trust and – regrettably – today it is reported that she has now been elected Chairman of The Lunar Society.

What conclusions can the public draw?

 

 

 

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A volunteer with the project has drawn our attention to the visit of a group of teenagers from Chernobyl who will be welcomed to Solihull this summer for a four week recuperative holiday, organised by Chernobyl Children’s Project Solihull Group (CCP). This year’s hosting marks the 31st anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

Youngsters aged between 13 and 15 from the CCP are in remission after treatment for brain tumours, leukemia, Hodgkins lymphoma, Wilm’s tumour, melanoma & neuroblastoma. They will travel from Belarus accompanied by a doctor and interpreters. While in the borough, fresh air and uncontaminated food will boost their damaged immune systems helping them to recover.

Each year a different group of children and accompanying adults are met at Manchester airport to stay for two weeks with host families and a further two weeks staying together in residential accommodation where local people volunteer to provide meals. Many trips and enjoyable activities have been planned for them. The children come from different areas and met for the first time recently at the Belarussian Embassy in Minsk, where they were granted visas to travel to the UK on the 29th July. They’ll be accompanied by interpreters Ira and Student Alina who will be returning to Solihull for a third time and this year they will be joined by first timer Doctor Tanya.

Last year they visited Barry Island

And Warwick Castle

 

This year CCP Solihull have received donations from many individuals, groups and companies; enabling us to bring the children to the UK. They have also held some successful fundraising events, including the recent Ladies Lunch which raised £2708. These gifts will not only bring the group to Solihull, but also improve the lives of disabled children and support cancer and hospice care in Belarus.

Anyone wishing to help with this year’s holiday, or wishing to make a donation, please contact Kath Ruane at kenkath.ruane@gmail.com 

Kath Ruane

Solihull Group Co-ordinator CCP (UK)

 

 

 

 

 

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This upbeat article was omitted from the depressing daily e-alerts sent to the Murdoch-owned paper’s online subscribers, but – thanks to David Bailey’s retweeting – it will now reach others, including readers of the Brummie.

Bournville, one of the smallest parks

Jonathan Leake and Rhal Ssan report that, according to Ordnance Survey (OS), it is one of Britain’s greenest cities. The OS studied all publicly accessible green spaces, ranging from municipal golf courses, allotments and parks to the smallest playgrounds and found that green spaces cover 15.6% of the city, including 93 parks, 242 play areas and 18 golf courses.

Cannon Hill Park in Edgbaston

Birmingham (“Glum Brum? No”) has had a reputation since the industrial revolution of being a dour centre of manufacturing. Not any more.

The OS (“normally among the least political of government agencies”) has released not only the maps but also the underlying geospatial data, showing the number, types and total area of green spaces by local authority, constituency or even around a planned housing development.

Matt Thomson, head of planning at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “This data will be especially valuable to communities preparing neighbourhood plans, helping define areas needing protection or where green space is lacking.”

The paper stressed that OS data would be valuable to other campaigners, quoting Jane Edwards, a local campaigner (Schools Liaison Officer, Trees for Life?), as saying that green spaces in the city were threatened by dereliction due to lack of maintenance.

 

 

 

 

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Young people in the West Midlands considering a manufacturing and engineering apprenticeship and their parents are invited to attend an open day at the EEF’s manufacturing and engineering at the Technology Hub in Aston, Birmingham.

From aerospace to automotive to robotics, EEF will connect best in class employers with young people to discuss a range of apprenticeships in a wide range of sectors. As well as getting a tour of the multi-million pound facility, the open day will offer people the opportunity to talk to trainers and current apprentices to find out what the training offers.

EEF currently trains 300 apprentices at the centre and is aiming to increase this to 400. Christine Chapman, centre manager, said: “Engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships provide a highly-skilled career in a sector which is thriving right across the West Midlands and beyond. Employers have a strong demand for skills of this type and this day presents an ideal opportunity for young people and their parents to see the training centre in action and to discuss career options with a variety of employers.”

Check EEF’s apprenticeship vacancies database to keep an eye on available positions or ring 0121 331 3930

EEF was formed in 1896 as the Engineering Employers’ Federation and merged in 1918 with the National Employers’ Federation. In November 2003 the EEF rebranded itself from the ‘Engineering Employers’ Federation’ to ‘EEF The Manufacturers’ Organisation’.

 

 

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Learn more about renowned botanist world traveller Ernest Wilson, trained at Edgbaston Botanical Gardens, next Monday evening, at 7.30.pm at Earlswood Village Hall, Valley Rd, Earlswood, Solihull B94 6BZ

Ann Turner will give a lively account of her extensive research into the life of plant collector Ernest Wilson, who lived in Shirley and was educated at Birmingham Municipal Technical School (now Aston University).

Her search began when she wondered Dove Tree Court retirement apartments in Shirley got its name.  Ernest Wilson who was sent to China to track down the rare Dove Tree, sometimes known as the Handkerchief Tree (below).

It took two years for Wilson to find one, and that was hanging over a cliff edge. When he was returning to England, with his specimens his boat was wrecked, but he managed to save this precious plant.

Finding that no-one she knew locally had heard of this remarkable man, she and her husband Malcolm embarked on a ‘wonderful journey’, completed only a couple of weeks ago after travelling to London and finding the house where Ernest Wilson lived with his family, while he was working at Kew Gardens.

A wide range of contacts made included contacts with the Arnold Arboretum in Boston USA (where all his records are kept), and Mount Royal cemetery, Montreal Canada (where he and his wife are buried).

 

 

 

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 Royal College of Surgeons’ dean points to ‘sweet habits’ as first teeth are removed

It has been reported that NHS data obtained by the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) shows there were 9,206 extractions within the age group in 2015-16 compared with 7,444 in 2006-07 – a 24% rise. The figures prompted calls for parents, the government and the food industry to take action to reverse the alarming trend.

Prof Nigel Hunt, dean of the RCS’s Faculty of Dental Surgery, said: “When you see the numbers tallied up like this it becomes abundantly clear that the sweet habits of our children are having a devastating effect on the state of their teeth.

Hundreds of children are having their first teeth extracted as hospital treatments hit their highest level in six years in Birmingham.

There were 1,464 hospital admissions for teeth extractions for children from the Birmingham CrossCity CCG in 2015/16, the highest number since at least 2010/11, and up from 795 in 2014/15. In Sandwell and West Birmingham, the number of hospital admissions for teeth extractions has also hit a six year high, at 141 in 2015/16, up from 33 in 2014/15.#

The numbers have increased sevenfold since 2010/11

In 2010/11 there were 208 hospital admissions for tooth extraction. Included in the admissions were 297 for children aged between one and four to have multiple teeth extracted, the highest number since at least 2010/11, as well as 730 admissions for children aged five to nine, the highest number since at least 2010/11.

Ingesting fluoride at best ‘controversial’: at worst, causing some damage to health

A report by Birmingham Professor of Epidemiology, K.K. Cheng and Dr Trevor Sheldon published in the BMJ deemed the practice ‘controversial’.

More recently, corresponding author Professor Stephen Peckham, University of Kent commented on research he and two co-authors had undertaken and published in the BMJ: “We found that practices located in the West Midlands (a wholly fluoridated area) are nearly twice as likely to report high hypothyroidism prevalence in comparison to Greater Manchester (non-fluoridated area).

Last year Ian Wylie reported that around one million people in Birmingham are supplied with artificially fluoridated water. But its average number of extracted or filled teeth is 1.17, higher than the national average. Across the West Midlands, where water has been fluoridated since 1964, there has been a 300% rise in children under the age of 10 being admitted to hospital for multiple Mars, Cadbury, Kellogg’s and Nestlé teeth extractions in the last five years.

Post-script: The Times reports that a representative of leading brands including Mars, Cadbury, Kellogg’s and Nestlé (aka ‘food giants’) told their journalist that they would reduce sugar content in food and drink but not to the government’s timescale.

 

 

 

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The sketchy reports on the dispute about the refuse collection changes on the BBC and Birmingham Mail websites have been supplemented by welcome information from Jacqui Kennedy, Corporate Director for Place.

She explained that this action is being taken because the council is facing significant financial challenges following six years of cuts to local government funding.

Taking refuse collection ‘in-house’ – dispensing with 200 expensive agency staff

Jacqui continued: “It is extremely important that we move away from relying on expensive agency staffAt the moment 200 out of 595 employees in refuse collection are hired from agencies. We intend to replace agency staff with up to 246 full-time staff employed directly by the council. All of these new permanent employees will enjoy the associated benefits that come with working for the council such as pension, holiday entitlement and sick pay”. The Mail adds that overtime will also go and the number of binmen will be increased by 152.

Agreement with the unions is sought as waste collection crews will be required to shift from a four day week of just over nine hours per day to a five day week of just over seven hours per day. Joint development of the detailed plans needed to make these proposals work is important.

Jacqui points out that over 40% of material in our bins is food waste. Last year, UK households wasted around 20% of all the food they buy – but there has been a 17% reduction since 2007, according to Food Waste Facts.

Visitors to this site come from many British regions and other countries – last week’s stats (right). A Gloucestershire reader recommends their food waste collection which began in 2016. Though some Birmingham gardeners already compost such material, other residents could make good use of a similar facility.

A Stroud newspaper recorded in 2016 that two weeks into the scheme 232 tonnes of food waste from 52,000 residents had already been collected – more than the weight of a blue whale.

Even the most careful householders have eggshells and orange peel to place in the small kitchen food waste bin provided – and the less careful dispose of ‘leftovers’ and unused, decaying food. These are emptied into a larger bin (right) kept outside. The bins are collected once a week and taken to an aerobic digester. In a few weeks it is turned into gas used in the grid and the residue is put on the fields as fertiliser.

“A great example of the renewable circular economy”, according to Green councillor Simon Pickering.

 

 

 

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