Category Archives: Society

‘We must stop learning disabled people being dumped in waste bins of life’

As a new report paves the way for the closure of Winterbourne-View-style units, where 2,600 people with learning disabilities are being treated, their families are fighting to bring them home

Every morning, 17-year-old Tianze Ni crosses off another day on his calendar at the Middlesborough hospital unit where he has lived for the last six months, 200 miles away from his family in Fife, Scotland.

In Northampton, 19-year-old Stephen Andrade-Martinez has spent a year-and-a-half in a similar special unit, 80 miles from his London home. His parents visit once a week – by appointment only – for a maximum of two hours.

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UK lung cancer survival rates among worst in Europe

Study of data from 67 countries shows that with breast cancer survival, by contrast, the UK is now up with the bestLung cancer survival rates are worse in every part of the UK than in most of Europe and other wealthy countries, while breast cancer surv…
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Ebola victims’ bodies left in hospital doorway by protesting burial teams

Health workers in Kenema, Sierra Leone, say they have not been paid their hazard allowance for seven weeks Continue reading…
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Google launches ‘smart’ spoon to help steady shaking hands

Hi-tech invention aims to help sufferers from essential tremors and Parkinson’s disease and can reduce shaking by 76%

Drones, self-driving cars, robots, balloons providing internet access – Google is stretching a long way from search. Now the company has added a “smart” spoon to its portfolio of hi-tech products.

Google has started promoting its Liftware spoon, a utensil that uses hundreds of algorithms to sense how a hand is shaking and makes instant adjustments to stay balanced.

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Iain Duncan Smith questioned by MPs about universal credit: Politics Live blog

Rolling coverage of all the day’s political developments as they happen, including Tristram Hunt’s speech saying Labour would tell private schools to help state schools or lose £700m

4.03pm GMT

[This] just confirms that universal credit is rolling out at a glacial pace. It’s just another example of Tory welfare waste.

Does the secretary of state actually have as a principle that promises, like pie crusts, are made to be broken? Because every promise he has made at that despatch box with regard to the cost of implementing and rolling out universal credit has been broken. So is today’s semi-statement merely more porkie pies in the sky?

I’ve taken my own children to an A&E department at the weekend precisely because I didn’t want to wait until later on to take them to see a GP and I think we have to recognise that society is changing and people don’t always know whether the care that they need is urgent or whether it is an emergency, and making GPs available at weekends will relieve a lot of pressure in A&E departments.

3.54pm GMT

Here is some more reaction to Tristram Hunt’s speech.

From Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders

My concern would be that effective partnership needs to be based on mutual trust and I don’t think you can coerce people into partnership. There are great benefits to partnerships and we would like to see more developing and to build on the very good practice that’s going on some areas. But we would have concerns about forcing it.

The business rate will certainly be a big driver of practice but what we would prefer to see would be independent schools and state schools working together to find the best ways of working together.

I was really pleased to hear [Hunt] state that the independent sector can learn a lot from the state sector because that hasn’t come over anywhere and actually the state sector adds an awful lot of value in a way that is not often recognised.

I don’t think Tristram Hunt can have the full picture. Partnership work goes on in every charitable school in the country and any attempts to impose a narrow criteria on schools could very well jeopardise the excellent work that’s already in progress.

The danger is that implementing this policy idea will waste more taxpayers’ money setting up yet another quango to police what is already being done. It’s ridiculous.

3.21pm GMT

Philip Hollobone, a Conservative, asks what evidence there is that UC is changing job-search behaviour?

Duncan Smith says people are doing many more job searches, and are going into work more quickly. That confirms his belief that people want to work, he says.

3.15pm GMT

Peter Bone, a Conservative, says it is rare to have a secretary of state with so much passion about his subject. And so much ability too. Labour want UC to come in earlier because it is such a good idea, he says.

And he says it is good to see two able backbenchers on the opposition benches. That seems to be a reference to the two Ukip MPs.

3.11pm GMT

Duncan Smith says the opposition is in amnesia. It has forgotten that it crashed the economy.

UC will deliver a better income and better support to claimants, he says.

3.09pm GMT

Duncan Smith says UC will bring fraud and error down.

3.08pm GMT

Duncan Smith says, when he was in opposition, he used to support a programme if he thought it was really good.

3.05pm GMT

Labour’s Yvonne Fovargue says UC is being piloted in her area. There are reports that more single people are using food banks because of problems get their payments.

Duncan Smith says the problems are being sorted out. Jobcentre staff can advance payments if necessary.

3.03pm GMT

Duncan Smith says Reeves’ statement was “miserable”. Labour hate the idea that the government is doing this. If they talked to claimants, claimants would tell them this was the best thing that could happen, he says.

3.02pm GMT

Labour’s Sheila Gilmore says 61% of current claimants are under 24. They are the simplest claimants, she says. When will Duncan Smith admit there are some “very serious” problems with implementation?

Duncan Smith says Gilmore should be in favour of the DWP trying to roll this out properly.

3.01pm GMT

Julian Lewis, a Conservative, asks how UC will affect migration.

Duncan Smiths says UC is a different kind of benefit. So people who are out of work who come to the UK will not be able to claim it. Money will not go to their families, he says.

2.59pm GMT

Margaret Hodge, the Labour chair of the public accounts committee, suggests that Duncan Smith is playing a political trick in making a statement one day before a National Audit Office report comes out.

Duncan Smith says he is only making a statement because Labour tabled a UQ.

2.58pm GMT

Duncan Smith says people are now coming into jobcentres asking to go on UC because they have heard, via word of mouth, that it is good.

2.57pm GMT

Labour’s Glenda Jackson says Duncan Smith treats promises, like pie crusts, as something to be broken.

Duncan Smith says it makes sense to roll this out slowly. This test and learn approach will in future be copied when other programmes are introduced, he says.

2.56pm GMT

Dame Anne Begg, the Labour chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, asks Duncan Smith to confirm that only the simplest cases are on UC at the moment. There have been 20,000 claims a year. But there are 250,000 jobseeker’s allowance claims every month. How will UC be able to handle this volume?

Duncan Smith says, when claimants find their circumstances change, they stay on UC. So it is not true to say it is only dealing with the simple cases.

2.52pm GMT

Duncan Smith is replying to Reeves.

He says 40,000 people have claimed UC. Some 20,000 have made the claim and received it.

2.48pm GMT

Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, is responding to Duncan Smith.

UC is being rolled out at “a glacial pace”, she says. This represents Tory waste.

2.41pm GMT

Duncan Smith says 3m households are set to gain from UC.

The plans to deliver are on track, he says.

2.39pm GMT

Iain Duncan Smith is making his statement now.

He says the government’s priority is the “safe and secure” delivery of universal credit (UC).

2.31pm GMT

Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, will be making a Commons statement soon about the latest universal credit roll-out.

He was not planning a statement. Labour tabled an urgent question, but this would have meant that David Cameron’s statement would have been delayed (UQs come before statements in the Commons) and so Duncan Smith offered a statement.

I believe that any future [NAO] reports will show that not only does this produce value for money … Right now it’s value for money; right now the programme, I believe, is value for money.

2.05pm GMT

Stephen Dorrell, the Conservative former health secretary, and chair of the Commons health committee until this summer, has announced that he will stand down at the general election. After that he will take up a job as a health policy consultant with KPMG.

On his blog Guido Fawkes says the KPMG job, and the need for Dorrell to observer a “cooling off period” between holding office and going to work in the private sector, explains Dorrell’s decision stand down as the select committee chair.

1.40pm GMT

Tristram Hunt’s proposal has won the backing of Damian McBride, Gordon Brown’s former communications chief. McBride applauds “Hunty”, as he calls him, in a post on his blog.

I can’t see people buying the class war criticism over a proposition that seems so thoroughly reasonable, and yet Lib Dem and Green floaters will love it.

1.28pm GMT

Around 80% of any benefits will come from the removal of non-tariff barriers, but there is growing concern about what might make up the remainder and whether it would be a levelling up or down of labour standards.

The combination of that means the cumulative tightening over the forecast period is likely to be less than previously thought.

1.00pm GMT

And here’s a statement from the NASUWT teaching union on the Tristram Hunt proposals. Like the NUT (see 12.55am), it is broadly supportive without endorsing the specific details of the plan.

Mr Hunt’s speech highlights the fact that private schools already benefit from taxpayer subsidies and that they should have a role to play in contributing to meeting the needs of all children and young people …

The public has a right to expect all political parties to be setting out clear expectations for all schools, including academies, free schools, voluntary aided or local authority maintained schools, to be working together effectively in the interests of all children and young people.

12.55pm GMT

Here’s a statement from the National Union of Teachers, broadly welcoming the Labour plan for private schools.

Whilst the independent sector retains a privileged tax and charity status it is incumbent upon schools in that sector to share their resources with other local schools.

12.51pm GMT

Mark Beard, the head of University College School, the private school in north London where Tristram Hunt was educated, isn’t impressed by today’s speech from its Labour alumnus. “Isn’t it time for Labour to come up with some new, helpful initiatives rather than espousing what some might deem an offensive bigotry?” Beard told the Daily Telegraph.

12.43pm GMT

You can read all today’s Guardian politics stories here. And all the politics stories filed yesterday, including some in today’s paper, are here.

As for the rest of the papers, here’s the PoliticsHome list of top 10 political must-reads, and here is the ConservativeHome round-up of all today’s political stories.

More voters believe that Ukip is most in touch with the views of the white working class than Labour is, according to a poll that will stoke fears over Ed Miliband’s ability to connect with his party’s traditional supporters.

The YouGov survey was conducted after Mr Miliband dismissed a frontbencher for a “disrespectful” tweet of a house draped in England flags with a white van parked outside. Asked which party was most in touch with the views of white working-class people, 21 per cent chose Labour and 27 per cent Ukip. The margin was even greater among white working-class people themselves, at 20 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.

[Farage] said that there was “no doubt it is men in battalions moving towards us” in areas where Ukip was not a known political force.

He said: “Women were being a bit more guarded, a bit more sensible.

12.33pm GMT

Mark Reckless, the new Ukip MP for Rochester and Strood, has just asked a question during health questions in the Commons. It was virtually impossible to hear it because he was being heckled so aggressively by Conservative MPs.

UPDATE: A colleague tells me Labour MPs were heckling too.

12.12pm GMT

The Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity, has welcomed Tristram Hunt’s initiative, but called on all parties to go further. This is from Sir Peter Lampl, the trust’s chairman.

Our research has shown that by age 42 a privately educated student will earn nearly £200,000 more than one who is state educated, and that private school students are 55 times more likely to win an Oxbridge place than a pupil from a state school on free school meals.

Building and strengthening independent state school partnerships which we started with the government in 1999 can help break down these barriers and improve opportunities for pupils to access specialist teachers, good university links and first class sports facilities.

11.55am GMT

The Resolution Foundation has an interesting report out today setting out what we know about the spending plans drawn up by the three main parties for after the election.

Or, to be more precise, it focuses on what we don’t know. It accuses all three main parties of refusing to be open about the scale of public spending cuts, or tax rises, that will be needed.

Political parties have a point when they say that the uncertainty over the public finances makes it impossible to provide complete detail on their fiscal plans. But the gap between the scale of consolidation implicit in their plans and what the electorate has been told to date is just too large. The electorate shouldn’t be subjected to another largely empty fiscal debate like it was at the last election. Currently we are facing a candour deficit as well as a fiscal one.

11.41am GMT

In his speech Tristram Hunt compared the Independent Schools Council unfavourably with Fifa, in relation to its record on transparency. (See 11.10am.)

As the Telegraph reports, Barnaby Lenon, the ISC chairman, was equally complimentary about Hunt when they both appeared on the Today programme this morning. He accused Hunt of talking “patronising nonsense”.

I share with Dr Hunt his ambition to ensure that all pupils, whatever type of school they go to, can aspire to great things, but pointing the finger at independent schools is a 1980s view of education …

Does Dr Hunt think that when Mr Chips from the independent schools drifts in to teach a bit of History at the local state school because his head has told him to under instruction from Dr Hunt that this is going to transform the relationship between state and private school? I think it’s patronising nonsense.

11.29am GMT

For the record, here are today’s YouGov GB polling figures.

Labour: 34% (up 1 point from YouGov on Sunday)

11.10am GMT

Most of the key points in Tristram Hunt’s speech were released overnight, or featured in the Labour party briefing note put out this morning. But there were also a few fresh arguments worth flagging up.

We are not interested in becoming embroiled in the politics of removing charitable status.

Forget for a second that this approach has always failed – its real problem is a lack of ambition.

Some might argue that the expansion of English private schools into Singapore, China or Abu Dhabi represents an admirable flex of our soft power muscle.

But I think British taxpayers would have some pretty serious questions if it emerged they were footing the bill.

Some might argue that private schools are contributing in all kind of ways to Britain’s education system.

Benefits that reach far beyond their own walls.

10.54am GMT

Here’s the full text of Tristram Hunt’s speech.

10.43am GMT

And here are two blogs about Tristram Hunt’s initiative.

The private schools will argue that is an unacceptable level of state interference, some on the left will claim that it doesn’t go far enough and that abolition of charitable status or even of private schools themselves would be preferable.

I have sympathy with the latter view. If we weren’t starting from here, no one in their right mind would devise a school system in which parents who can afford to pay £12,000 per year per child for a day school place, and upwards of £27000 for a boarding place, would be able to buy their children this sort of privileged elite education.

10.38am GMT

Here is some Twitter reaction to Tristram Hunt’s proposals.

From Sam Freedman, a former special adviser to Michael Gove and director of research at Teach First

Main problem with Hunt plan is that it assumes all private schools have things that state schools need/want. Which they don’t.

View on Hunt private school plan: end the tax relief; give the money to state schools; but don’t create a hideous new partnership audit.

Also to Telegraph types shouting “class war” + to Guardian types thinking it’s a blow for socialism – it’s 3% of fee income. Small beer.

Labour is at its best when tackling entrenched and unaccountable privilege. Hunt’s proposals are in that tradition

1/ Now private schools cater for so many foreign children it’s quite right for UK govt to get tough with them on tax break

2/ But need to think about unintended consequences. If Labour privatises independent sector, ie moves it from charitable to company status

3/ Then likelihood is that all bursaries, partnerships and other kinds of support will dry up. Cost to state of replacing them will be…

4/ greater than benefits it gains from end of tax break. But much more significantly, being privatised will transform attitude of indy…

5/ sector, making it much more business focused and aggressive in chasing market share. Will change its business model and go after mid-

6/ -market share. Irony is that charitable status is main thing that’s kept indy sector to 7% of the market cos it has no incentive to grow

7/ With charitable status gone there are huge incentives to raise capital, set up new schools and try to grow market share. We know demand..

8/ for indy schools far outstrips supply, so main consequence could be flight *away* from state sector of better off kids, with all the

9/ negative effects for state sector that go with that. This is happening in lots of developing countries. No reason to think why a

10/ privatised indy sector here wouldn’t do the same. Biggest losers could be least well off cld denied exposure to better performing peers.

Interesting that Hunt specifically says a few indep school bursaries not enough. As in HE, the juice may be in partnerships and outreach.

49 years ago Labour lunching Public Schools Commission to force Eton et al to share facilities with state schools. Tout ca blinking change..

Can’t think of anything more reasonable than expecting a charity to behave like a charity. Totally support tax pressure on private schools.

The modesty of private schoolboy Tristram Hunt’s plans. Paddington Bear’s a bigger class warrior

Private schools must play their competitive sport against state schools, @TristramHuntMP announces. Good Labour mass appeal policy finally..

Stand by for shrieks of outrage from self-serving private school using media re @TristramHuntMP measured sensible move re private schools

Labour planning to get rid of tax breaks for private schools. Or we could just abolish them altogether. Along with grammar schools.

What I proposed in August last year: Strip private schools of £136m in rate relief, urges Labour MP

If educating children is a public good it should either be tax deductible or, as it is now to some extent, at least tax sheltered.

Or rebate parents the average cost of a state education if they go private.

Miliband doing that ‘point and tax’ thing again: #KlassWar

Grammar schools and assisted places allowed poor kids to get on. Not crumbs off the table from private schools as Labour want.

Surely @TristramHuntMP should explain why private schools have charity status in the 1st place. If Labour had would simply revoke it

9.53am GMT

Tristram Hunt has now released a briefing note with more extracts from his speech, and new details about how his proposal to penalise private schools if they do not help state schools will work.

Here’s the Guardian story based on what was released overnight.

It baffles me that we can have private schools loaning a sports pitch to the local comprehensive once or twice a year yet completely refusing to play them at football or opening up their halls and amphitheatres yet unwilling to engage in a debating competition.

Social enterprises such as Debate Mate have shown how rewarding and relatively easy it is to set up debate clubs in high disadvantage state schools. And it is hardly difficult to join the local sports leagues.

Labour will legislate to make Business Rates Relief payable only when schools meet a tough new Schools Partnership Standard which will require them to:

I realise that to some this may seem an unnecessarily tough test. But that is not because I want to penalise private education but because I want to make sure we break down the barriers holding Britain back.

I passionately believe we deserve an education system where the majority of young people enjoy the same access to excellence as the privileged 7 per cent; where disadvantaged pupils no longer feel any anxiety or insecurity at aspiring towards success because they feel success belongs to them; and where our children experience equality of opportunity rather than just learn it is one of our core values.

There can be little doubt that Britain is an increasingly divided country. I want to talk about one of those sources of division within British life. A divide that has become emblematic of a country run for the benefit of the privileged few not the many. The divide between private and state education.

If we are to prosper as a country, we need to be a more equal country. If we are to make the most of the wealth of talent that exists in every school and every community, we need to give every child a chance.

9.23am GMT

Tristram Hunt has previewed his speech with an article in today’s Guardian.

Here’s an extract.

There is unfinished business in this. “The public schools are saved,” reflected Rab Butler, 70 years ago, of his 1944 Education Act, “and must now be made to do their bit.” Ever since then we have been wrestling with just what “their bit” entails. It defeated even Anthony Crosland as education minister. “Now what are we going to do about those damned public schools?” he asked a group of heads in 1965. Before opting for the depressingly obvious. “I suppose we must have a royal commission, something like that.”

Labour has acted most effectively in bridging the public-private divide. When last in government, we scrapped the assisted place scheme to fund smaller infant class sizes, nationalised a number of private schools and urged the Charity Commission to take a much closer look at the public benefit activities of private schools. Thanks to opposition from the Independent Schools Council (ISC), that strategy collapsed in the law courts and since then the Tories have done nothing to breach this Berlin Wall in our education system.

9.05am GMT

It’s a heavy-duty day at Westminster, with the long-awaited report from the intelligence and security committee into the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby coming up, Iain Duncan Smith talking about universal credit on the Today programme, and Labour’s Tristram Hunt announcing punitive proposals for private schools that do not do their bit to help state schools. But let’s with something a bit more fun – the Sun’s splash about the former Tory cabinet minister, David Mellor.

Unlike Ed Miliband, Mellor clearly feels no need to parade his deep admiration and respect for members of the British working class. The Sun has a story about a row he had with a taxi driver during which Mellor appeared to set a new standard for arrogant “Don’t you know who I am?” unpleasantness.

A former cabinet minister has said he regrets losing his temper, after being recorded launching an expletive-ridden tirade at a taxi driver following a visit to Buckingham Palace with his partner who had just been awarded a CBE.

David Mellor, a QC and former Conservative MP, called the cab driver a “sweaty, stupid little shit” during an argument about the route he wanted to travel on Friday.

Tuesday’s The Sun front page Shut up! You stupid, sweaty little git #tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers

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Posted in Benefits, Education, Iain Duncan Smith, Labour, Politics, Private schools, Schools, Society, Tristram Hunt, UK news, Universal credit, Welfare, World news | Comments Off

People with vaginas have needs – but making their baby-cannons smell of fruit is not one of them

It wasn’t true, but the story that Sweet Peach Probiotics wanted to re-aroma women’s vaginas said a lot about men’s attitudes

In the midst of last week’s reports that an Uber executive suggested hiring researchers to invade the privacy of (and potentially blackmail) a female journalist, Silicon Valley was also fielding a secondary, seemingly sillier scandal: a startup called Sweet Peach Probiotics, which aimed, according to reports, to fix women’s gross vaginas by bioengineering them to smell like chemically simulated peaches. Naturally, both stories raised the hackles of feminists and other wild radicals who believe in such controversial women’s rights as “critiquing a popular car service” and “having a vagina-smelling vagina”. It was, I imagine, a discouraging few days for sexism-in-tech denialists. (Good.)

But chin up, tech bros! The PR gods threw you a lucky break this time. Not only did Sweet Peach’s founder clarify that the company has zilch to do with Febrezing anyone’s baby-cannon – it’s actually tailoring microbes to optimise the balance of vaginal flora and fauna, a service that could have a democratising effect on reproductive healthcare for low-income and uninsured women – she’s also a totally 100% legit actual female feminist! PHEW. “I don’t think women should have vaginas that smell like peaches, or anything like that,” she clarified emphatically to Inc.

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IRA members under investigation over claims of child abuse

Irish public broadcaster RTE reports 30 names have been passed to them of alleged sex offenders Continue reading…
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Funding crisis leaves Newcastle facing ‘impossible cuts’ and social unrest

Leader of city council says ‘embers of unrest are starting to smoulder’ with many authorities on brink of financial collapse

The long read: is saving Newcastle a mission impossible?

The city of Newcastle is already seeing the first signs of social unrest because of funding cuts that threaten to make provision of many public services “completely untenable” by 2017, the council’s Labour leader has warned.

Nick Forbes, who has run Newcastle city council since 2011, said his local authority is already heading towards the realm of “impossible cuts” to social care, including transport for disabled children, but he is determined not to be in the first or second wave of councils that “goes down”.

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Spanish schools clamp down on smartphones in classrooms

Teachers’ complaints of interruptions, cheating and cyberbullying has led one region of Spain to ban pupils’ phones in class Continue reading…

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Tamara Green on Bill Cosby assault: ‘He was like a spider, sitting there waiting’

As allegations of sexual assault and rape mount against one of America’s most storied celebrities, Green recounts to the Guardian the night she claims Cosby assaulted her in the 1970s

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