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Ali Middle

‘Go big or go home’ to heal north-south divide, No 10 told

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From the Guardian

Boris Johnson’s government has been told to “go big or go home” if it is to truly “level up” the country and heal social division, with the former head of the civil service warning that transport investment alone will not eliminate the imbalances between London and the rest of the UK.

Bob Kerslake, who ran the civil service from 2011 to 2014, issued the ultimatum as head of the UK2070 commission, an independent inquiry into the deep–rooted geographical inequalities within the UK.

“Levelling up can’t just be about transport; it’s about skills, research and development, education and places, as well as local economies,” he said, before a report on Thursday detailing the findings of the 18-month inquiry.

You can read the rest of the article here (opens in a new tab)

You can read the report here (opens in a new tab)

Soaring funeral costs forcing low-income families into the arms of loan sharks

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From Welfare Weekly

Everyone wants to give their loved-ones a good send-off when their life comes to an end, but the ever-rising cost of funerals is forcing some families into taking desperate measures that can have a huge impact on their financial security for years to come.

An investigation by The Mirror (opens in a new tab) reveals how the rising scourge of “funeral poverty” has resulted in some families turning to high-cost lenders, and in some cases even loan sharks, in order to afford funeral costs, with the growth in so-called “paupers funerals” seemingly fuelled by inadequate benefits support.

Recent research by the insurance firm Sunlife found that funeral costs have rocketed by 62% in only a decade and more than double 2004 prices.

The Mirror reports that some council-run crematoriums continue to hike up prices. For example, Cardiff City Council have increased prices by eleven times the rate of inflation – an 14.3% rise in the last year alone.

You can read the rest of the article here  (opens in a new tab)

Promoting sexual safety through empowerment

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This report from the Care Quality Commission looks at how adult social care services keep people safe from sexual incidents. It also looks at how services can support them to express their sexuality.

Stakeholders told the CQC that sex is often treated as a taboo subject. Providers, staff and families can be reluctant to raise issues. This can affect people’s wellbeing. It also means predatory behaviour can be missed or normalised.

The notifications they looked at told them what types of sexual incident providers had reported. They also told them things like who was involved and what the providers did in response to the incidents.

The report concludes:

  • a lack of awareness of good practice in sexual safety and sexuality can place people at risk of harm
  • a culture must be developed where people and staff feel empowered to talk about sexuality and raise concerns around safety
  • as the regulator, we have a strong role in making sure people using services are protected and supported.

The report gives detailed recommendations for providers and leaders in adult social care, as well as for themselves as the regulator.

For more information go to the CQC (opens in a new window)

What are health inequalities?

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From the King’s Fund 

Health inequalities are avoidable, unfair and systematic differences in health between different groups of people. There are many kinds of health inequality, and many ways in which the term is used. This means that when we talk about ‘health inequality’, it is useful to be clear on which measure is unequally distributed, and between which people.

This report from the King’s Fund covers

  • What are health inequalities?
  • Inequalities in life expectancy
  • Inequalities in healthy life expectancy
  • Inequalities in avoidable mortality
  • Inequalities in long-term health conditions
  • Inequalities in the prevalence of mental ill-health
  • Inequalities in access to and experience of health services
  • Pathways to health inequalities
  • Interactions between the factors driving health inequalities
  • Conclusion

You can read the report here   (opens in a new tab)

Health Equity in England: Marmot Review 10 Years On

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Life expectancy has stalled for the first time in more than 100 years and even reversed for the most deprived women in society, according to a landmark review which shows the gap in health inequalities is yawning even wider than it did a decade ago, in large part due to the impact of cuts linked to the government’s austerity policies.

Sir Michael Marmot’s review, 10 years after he warned that growing inequalities in society would lead to worse health, reveals a shocking picture across England, which he says is no different to the rest of the UK and could have been prevented.

The report shows that health has worsened in many of the “red wall” constituencies that backed Brexit and returned Boris Johnson’s government to power by voting Conservative for the first time. Voters in the new Tory-held seats can expect to live for 60.9 years in good health life, fewer than in both the long-held Tory seats (65 years) and the Labour seats (61.4 years).

Boris Johnson’s government has promised to “level up” those areas. To do that, says review, they will need to take immediate action to stop the deterioration in health.

You can read the full report here  (opens in a new tab)

National Trust launches year of action to tackle ‘nature deficiency’

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The National Trust is launching a series of activities to help people engage more with their natural surroundings, as new research released by the conservation charity, shows those with an active ‘engagement’ with nature are more likely to help tackle the nature crisis.

This includes a new weekly guide to every day nature connection and a public awareness campaign, including billboards by roads and in railway stations, on the first day of spring.

The launch comes a day after Parliament debated the Environment Bill – the Government’s flagship new law to help restore nature.  And, last October, the State of Nature report revealed why this is needed as 41 per cent of species are in decline since 1970 and that 15 per cent of species are under threat from extinction, painting a bleak picture for wildlife in the UK.

But, new research published today by the conservation charity shows that; those who make small, every day connections with nature are much more likely to take action to protect it.

Some of the simple actions to help nature that were examined in the study include putting food out for wild animals such as birds, making homes for wildlife, planting pollinator plants and picking up litter.

Moreover, simple activities such as actively listening to birdsong, smelling wildflowers and watching butterflies and bees are activities that are strongly linked with taking action.

However, research shows that only a fraction of the population take part in these simple pleasures – with figures also worryingly low among children.

The research, undertaken together with the University of Derby, revealed when questioning children that, in the past year:

  • 90 per cent infrequently or never watched the sunrise
  • 83 per cent infrequently or never smelled wild flowers
  • 77 per cent infrequently or never listened to birdsong

For more information go to the National Trust (opens in a new tab)

Buy now, pay later ‘growing fast’ amid debt fears

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From the BBC

Buy now, pay later services for online shoppers are growing at 39% a year, a report says, despite worries that young consumers are sleepwalking into debt.

Operators such as Klarna and Afterpay allow customers to delay payment or buy through interest-free instalments.

Convenience and the ease to make snap purchases are behind their popularity, according to the report by payment processors Worldpay.

But consumer groups say many young people are ignoring the debt risks.

Klarna has announced that seven million people have used its services in the UK, twice as many as a year ago.

You can read the rest of the article here (opens in a new tab)

Adults to be automatically enrolled as organ donors under new law

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From the Independent

All adults in England will be automatically enrolled as organ donors unless they choose to opt out, under a new law due to come into force in May.

MPs are set to approve the system “deemed consent” on Tuesday as part of a bid to boost the number of transplants on the NHS.

It is estimated that the opt-out method, known as Max and Keira’s law, will lead to an additional 700 organ transplants each year by 2023 and cut down the list of 5,200 people waiting for life-changing surgery.

If parliament approves the change, the date of 20 May will mark the point at which all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to donate their own organs when they die – unless they explicitly state otherwise or are in an excluded group.

To read the rest of this article go to the Independent  (opens in a new tab)

You can track its progress here  (opens in a new tab) You can find out more here  (opens in a new tab) or here on the NHS website  (opens in a new tab)

Private children’s social care company debts putting children’s care at risk

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Six of the 10 largest independent groups of providers of children’s residential and fostering placements had more debts and liabilities than tangible assets last year raising concerns about their viability, research published by the  Local Government Association on 27th February reveals.

The LGA, which represents councils across England and Wales, is concerned this is placing the stability of placements for children in care at risk, particularly as the private children’s social care providers offering the most homes for children increasingly operate using a private equity model which relies on large debt to drive growth.

It is calling for greater national oversight of companies providing homes for children in care, like the role the Care Quality Commission (CQC) holds for adult social care provision.

The collapse of adult care home provider Southern Cross in 2011 led to a legal duty for the CQC to monitor the financial health of the “most difficult to replace” adult social care service providers. However, no such duty exists for children’s social care providers.

While councils provide some of their own fostering and children’s home places for children in their care, nearly three in four children’s homes and almost a third of fostering places are now provided by private organisations.

The research for the LGA – by Revolution Consulting – also shows that in just three years, eight of the biggest providers merged to become the three largest groups. In addition to worries about debt levels, councils are concerned about the impact of such consolidation on children’s placements, with no system in place to track the impact of such mergers on issues such as quality and children’s outcomes.

For more information go to the LGA website (opens in a new tab)

Government campaign launched to improve disabled passengers’ journeys

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The Department for Transport has launched the ‘it’s everyone’s journey’ advertising campaign to highlight how we can all play a part in making public transport inclusive. The campaign is being supported by more than 100 partners, including First Group, WHSmith Travel and the Alzheimer’s Society.

As 1 in 4 disabled people say the attitudes of other passengers prevent them from using public transport, the campaign will encourage everyone to reflect on how common, and often unconscious, behaviours can impact others and what we can all do to create a more considerate environment for passengers.

The government will also shortly be announcing 124 stations across Great Britain which will benefit from a share of a £20 million government investment for accessibility improvements. The enhancements – funded through the Access for All programme (opens in a new tab) – will include new lifts, accessible toilets and customer information screens.

For more information go to the Government website (opens in a new tab)

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