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Play is a fundamental right for children, yet schools are reducing the time available for it.

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The British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology says in its position paper that unstructured play, led by children themselves, is critical to encouraging wellbeing and development.

Dr Gavin Morgan, Chair of the DECP, said:

“The benefits of play for children, including older children, have been well documented by educational psychologists, and it is crucial that this part of their development isn’t taken away as a punishment for misbehaviour or to complete unfinished work.

Play improves physical and emotional wellbeing, and creates stronger relationships between peers, within families and across wider communities.

The DECP strongly advocates for children’s fundamental right to play, both during their school day and in their lives. We encourage all educational psychologists to use the influence they have to challenge practices which restrict or reduce access to play, and advocate initiatives which promote it.”

A recent study of schools across England found an average reduction in break times of 45 minutes for those aged 5-7 and 65 minutes for those aged 11-16 since 1995, and 60 per cent of schools which responded to the survey reported that children might be forced to miss an entire break or lunch period due to misbehaviour or to catch up with work.

Other factors including the closure of play facilities, increasing use of technology and social media, and worries about safety are limiting children’s access to play.

The DECP calls for all children and young people to have access to free, high quality opportunities for play in their local area, particularly for groups who may experience exclusion from play such as disabled children, those from minority communities and those living in poverty.

You can read the report as an online pdf here (opens in a new tab)

UK’s official rough sleeping numbers ‘far lower than reality’

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From the Guardian

The government has been accused of dramatically under-reporting the scale of rough sleeping following council data showing numbers almost five times higher than Whitehall estimates.

On the eve of the housing ministry’s annual snapshot of rough sleeping, which last year said that 4,677 people slept outside, the council data showed almost 25,000 people slept rough in 2019.

The figures were obtained directly from councils using the Freedom of Information Act. They relate to people sleeping rough at least once during the year. The government uses a different method, taking a snapshot count on one night.

On Wednesday the Labour party called for the UK Statistics Authority to launch an investigation into the accuracy of government data, which it said were “seriously misleading”.

The government’s snapshot for 2018 shows that there were 45 rough sleepers in Oxford. But over the whole of 2019 the local council said 430 people were recorded as sleeping rough at least once, according to the data gathered by the BBC. In Manchester the government’s figure was 123, while the council’s total was 679.

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

You can read the Government rough sleeping snapshot here (opens in a new tab)

Prime Minister sets out new measures to end rough sleeping

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The Prime Minister has announced an extra £236 million to help get people off the streets and appointed an independent adviser to lead an urgent review into the causes of rough sleeping.

The new funding will go towards offering Housing First style ‘move on’ accommodation for up to 6,000 rough sleepers and those at immediate risk of rough sleeping, to give them stability and certainty over the long-term.

Dame Louise Casey has been appointed to undertake a review into rough sleeping that will provide the Government with advice on additional action required to end rough sleeping within this Parliament.

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

‘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)

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