Posts Tagged ‘Health and safety’

Sunday News Review

03/07/2011, 04:55:45 AM

War on the homeless

Deep-seated concerns within Government over the Chancellor’s plan to cap benefit at £500 a week per family have been laid bare in a leaked letter apparently seen by The Observer newspaper. The letter, from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’s private secretary to his opposite number in the Prime Minister’s office, will be deeply embarrasing to the coalition. It suggests that the estimated £270m saving from the cap may end up as a net loss, because 40,000 people could be made homeless. In addition, it suggests, half the 56,000 affordable homes the Government expects to be constructed by 2015 will not be built because developers will not be able to recoup enough money from tenants. Both Downing Street and the Communities department have already mounted a damage limitation exercise. A spokesman for Mr Pickles said: “We are fully supportive of all the Government’s policies on benefits. Clearly action is needed to tackle the housing benefit bill which has spiralled to £21bn a year under Labour.” And a Downing Street spokesman said: “The entire Government is behind the policies on welfare and housing benefit. The bill has been growing enormously in recent years and needs to be tackled.” Nonetheless, Labour will seek to capitalise on what it sees as confusion and division at the heart of Government. Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne is quoted by the newspaper as saying: “We were assured by ministers that costs wouldn’t rise. Now top-level leaks reveal the truth. – Sky News

The warning came in a letter from the private office of Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and appears to reflect deep concern in his Department for Communities and Local Government over the plan to cap total household benefits at £500 a week. Written by Mr Pickles’ private secretary, Nico Heslop, to his opposite number in 10 Downing Street and obtained by The Observer, the letter warns that the estimated £270 million annual savings from the plan could be wiped out by the cost to local authorities of rehousing families who can no longer afford to pay for their accommodation. Far from contributing towards the Government’s deficit reduction programme, the scheme could end up generating a “net cost” to the Exchequer, it says. And it warns that the welfare cuts will put at risk at least half of the 56,000 affordable homes to rent which the Government hopes will be built by 2015, as contractors doubt whether they will be able to recoup their costs from tenants. – Daily Telegraph

In case you did not remember (27.02.2011)

The Tories have a new policy on homelessness: make it illegal. That is the extraordinary intention of a Conservative flagship council. Worse, they want to ban Salvation Army soup kitchens. Westminster city council, the richest and most powerful council in the UK, is proposing a new bye-law to ban rough sleeping and “soup runs” in the Victoria area of London. The proposed new bye-law will make it an offence punishable by a fine to “sleep or lie down”, “deposit materials used as bedding” and to “give out, or permit another to give out, food for free”. If these proposals are passed, they will also prohibit companies with a proud record of corporate social responsibility from doing good things. Companies like Pret a Manger, who have, very quietly, for many years, given away their unsold food to London’s homeless. If the Tories get their way, companies like Pret will be forced to throw the food in the bin. Remember, this is the council of Lady Porter. – Labour Uncut

Jog on jobsworths

Misguided “jobsworths” are preventing children from enjoying traditional playground games through the over-zealous application of health and safety laws, says the watchdog for the legislation. Judith Hackitt, head of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), accusedschools and councils of using health and safety rules to avoid providing activities that might cost money or expose them to being sued. She said children’s play and education had been damaged, with some playgrounds becoming joyless no-go areas, while science lessons had been hampered by bans on practical experiments. Hackitt warned the HSE would challenge bureaucrats who attribute “daft decisions” to ban innocuous activities to safety rules. Warning that “the gloves are off”, she said the rules were wrongly blamed for decisions to make children wear goggles when playing conkers and ban running at a pancake race. “The creeping culture of risk aversion and fear of litigation … puts at risk our children’s education and preparation for adult life,” she told the Telegraph. “Children today are denied – often on spurious health and safety grounds – many of the formative experiences that shaped my generation. Playgrounds have become joyless, for fear of a few cuts and bruises. Science in the classroom is becoming sterile and uninspiring.” – the Guardian

Education Secretary Michael Gove will today reveal a streamlining of guidance which has hit children’s chances of enjoying activities from science ­experiments to pancake races. The shake-up, with rules cut from 150 pages to just eight, means teachers will no longer have to fill in lengthy “risk assessment” forms before school visits.  Instead teachers will need only to tell parents of a planned ­activity and give them the chance to withdraw their child rather than fill in a consent form. “Daft” orders which compelled youngsters to wear goggles to play conkers and banned running at pancake races will also be binned. Mr Gove said: “Children should be able to go on exciting school trips that broaden their horizons. That is why we are cutting unnecessary red tape.” Judith Hackitt of the Health and Safety Executive ­accused schools and council ­officials of “daft ­decisions”, often as cover to cut the cost of special activities. She said: “Children are denied – often on spurious health and safety grounds – many formative experiences. Playgrounds have become joyless for fear of a few cuts and bruises. Science in the classroom is becoming sterile and uninspiring.” But teaching union NASUWT said the decision could increase legal action against teachers. – Daily Mirror

Lets find common ground

Last Christmas, I met a lady called Mary Ryan at a party and her story about her mother has haunted me ever since. Paula Ryan was widowed 50 years ago and struggled to bring up her four children as a single parent. She was far too busy to think of her old age. Her priorities were making sure she worked hard to put food on the table and teaching her children the right values. She never asked for help from the State. Mary told me that even though they were poor and entitled to free school dinners, her mother was too proud to let the children have them. In her old age, she could look back with pride on her achievements: four successful children, her own house and savings, a lifetime of doing the right thing. Tragically, this admirable woman was struck down, aged 63, by Alzheimer’s, a condition a quarter of the people reading this will probably develop. As the disease progressed, it became impossible for her to live independently and she moved into a care home. Her children found her somewhere that was nice, although expensive. She was expected to survive between four and seven years. Most people still believe a woman in these circumstances would be cared for by the State. They couldn’t be more wrong. A report published tomorrow will highlight the challenges we face. Currently, if you have housing, savings or income of more than £23,250 in total, you are charged the full cost of your care.   Fortunately, Paula Ryan is made of strong stuff and has just celebrated her 80th birthday. Unfortunately, this has meant her children have used up all her savings and had to sell her house. Her care has cost the family more than £300,000. Mary told me her mother would be horrified if she knew the family had spent their inheritance but, naturally, her welfare came before any other consideration. – Emily Thornberry, Daily Mail

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