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All-For-One and One-For-All

 

Jessie May Peters

First Published: September 24: 2015
Regine Humanics Foundation Ltd
The Humanion UK Online Daily

 

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UK: New Three-Tiered Lockdown After December 02: Tiered System Should Not Tear Apart the Communities: The Politicians Must Remember That the Virus Is Still Present Real Strong and Dangerous: Unified Fight Back Must Remain the Vital Focus Resolve and Concentration

 

|| Thursday: November 26: 2020 || ά. The Government has proposed the country to fall back to the earlier three-tiered system of various kinds of lock down, Tier One, Tier Two and Tier Three, where the third being the most stringent, following the ending of the current full national lock down, on December 02. This means that different parts of the country will fall back onto these three tiers, depending on the assessment of the Government with regards to the available data as to where the virus stands. There are much concerns, debates and views about which area to get into which tier and for how long and politicians are seeking to lobby for their own areas. It is not a time to lobby with opinion, interests focus and dogma but to remember the fact that the virus remains real, present, surging and dangerous as the country enters the winter and, therefore, science, evidence and pragmatism must find way. The Government must remain committed, focussed and invested on these three points: science, evidence and pragmatism.

Because it has been, almost, a year the virus has been rampaging people’s lives and livelihoods and has killed thousands and infected millions and still going strong and surging and, it is, almost, certain that winter stands to make it stronger, not weaker. Anger, fury, unhappiness or things like that do not figure is science for one begins a trial and one follows the processes and records data without opinioneering, frustration, anger, fury etc. Once the trial comes to an end one gathers, collates and brings together the data and makes an analysis, assessment and evaluation in order to ascertain what can be made out of them as definitive truth or laws etc. Who can be found, that likes being dictated and made to suffer harms and infections, face the risk of death, long term health issues, lose their livelihoods etc? No one likes that but the virus did not ask our permission nor does it care for our anger or fury or frustration or suffering and bereavement.

We must, therefore, keep on fighting it with not whatever comes to mind or hand but with the tried and tested tools of following science, reason, evidence and pragmatism, albeit, it is difficult, challenging, even, often times, annoying, infuriating. Regardless of how the Government has handled the pandemic the fact remains this that it is this Government, that is in office and it is this Government, that has the power, responsibility and duty, to do what must be done and they are seeking to do their best and they are not super human but human only. They have made much muddle but no one can accuse them of deliberately doing that for no Government had faced the Pandemic like this one before. Further, it is the easiest for scientists, researchers and learning workers to keep on doing what they do because they do not have politics, always poisoning their science but politics is difficult-complex and is neither a science, as physics is nor, mathematics, as calculus is but. a ‘poisonously’ opinioneering and doggedly political business where comes interests, dogmas and, again, opinioneering etc.

But this is the Government and it is seeking to do what it sees fit. Should they be followed: whether one likes it or not there is no other alternative other than people to gather round and work together for this virus is not going to go away anytime soon. And, despite everything, there remains the fight against this virus because it has not stopped infecting, making ill and killing us in large numbers, to bring it down, to weaken it and defeat it for everyone’s sake. And no one can on their own, alone, do it; not the Government, not the Opposition, neither the local governments nor the bodies of the whole of the NHS. It has to be done together by unifying the entire people, entire country, all regions, all communities and localities and everyone working together: not pinioneer but resolutely remain grounded in science, reason, data, evidence and pragmatism.

It is, therefore, dangerous to bring about politics and politicising in it and make it about localities, communities, seeking to fight each other and begin a political mudslinging, political poisoning. Area this and area that, who is in tier one or tier two or three, these are counter-productive. Must we remain resolute and keep working together, keeping focus and resolve for the winter is here and, as already state, the winter is not a friend of people, of humanity, with physiologies, that are weakest in the cold season but, it can be terribly friendly to the virus. The UK must face, accept and unite for the Winter War against this dangerous virus and with the vaccines lining up to reach reality, may be, the country and the world, are daring to hope to look towards a far better spring than the last one in the new year. Time to keep focus, keep resolve and dig in with grit: united and fighting.

The following is the list of areas in all the three tiers as per the government current assessment. The decisions on which area goes into which tier are primarily based on five key epidemiological indicators: case detection rates in all age groups, case detection rates in the over-60s, the rate at which cases are rising or falling, positivity rate, the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken and pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.

The indicators are designed to provide a full picture of what is happening with the virus in any area so that suitable action can be taken.

Tier 1: Medium alert

South East
Isle of Wight

South West
Cornwall
Isles of Scilly

Tier 2: High alert

East of England
Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes
Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough
Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea
Hertfordshire
Norfolk
Suffolk

East Midlands
Northamptonshire
Rutland

London
All 32 boroughs plus the City of London

North West
Cumbria
Liverpool City Region
Warrington and Cheshire

South East
Bracknell Forest
Brighton and Hove
Buckinghamshire
East Sussex
Hampshire, including, Portsmouth and Southampton
Oxfordshire
Reading
Surrey
West Berkshire
West Sussex
Windsor and Maidenhead
Wokingham

South West
Bath and North East Somerset
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole
Devon, including Plymouth and Torbay
Dorset
Gloucestershire: Cheltenham, Cotswold, Forest of Dean, Gloucester, Stroud and Tewkesbury
Somerset: Douth Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor
Wiltshire and Swindon

West Midlands
Herefordshire
Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin
Worcestershire

Yorkshire
City of York
North Yorkshire

Tier 3: Very High alert

East Midlands
Derby and Derbyshire
Leicester and Leicestershire
Lincolnshire
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire

North East
North East Combined Authority:
County Durham
Gateshead
South Tyneside
Sunderland
North of Tyne Combined Authority:
Newcastle upon Tyne
North Tyneside
Northumberland
Tees Valley Combined Authority:
Darlington
Hartlepool
Middlesbrough
Redcar and Cleveland
Stockton-on-Tees

North West
Blackburn with Darwen
Blackpool
Greater Manchester
Lancashire

South East
Kent and Medway
Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)

South West
Bristol
North Somerset
South Gloucestershire

West Midlands
Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton
Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull

Yorkshire and The Humber
East Riding of Yorkshire
Kingston upon Hull/Hull
North East Lincolnshire
North Lincolnshire
South Yorkshire
West Yorkshire
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The National Audit Office Investigation Into the Government Procurement During the COVID-19 Pandemic: There Are Standards That the Public Sector Will Always Need to Apply If It Is to Maintain Public Trust

 

 

 

 

|| Thursday: November 19: 2020 || ά. The National Audit Office:NAO has published its Report on the investigation Into the Government Procurement During the COVID-19 Pandemic, yesterday, Wednesday, November 18. This investigation sets out the facts, relating to government procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic up to July 31, 2020. The investigation came because concerns have been raised about the risks to public money, that could arise from greater use of this regulation.

In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, public bodies have needed to procure enormous volumes of goods, services and works with extreme urgency. On March 18, the Cabinet Office issued information and guidance on public procurement regulations and responding to the pandemic. This guidance noted that public bodies were permitted to procure goods, services and works with extreme urgency, using regulation 32:2:c under The Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

This sets out the various options available to public bodies, if, they have an urgent requirement for goods, services or works due to an emergency, such as, COVID-19, including, the use of direct awards to suppliers without any competition. Concerns have been raised about the risks to public money, that could arise from greater use of this regulation. For example, NAO has received over 20 pieces of correspondence from members of the public and members of Parliament, raising concerns about the transparency of contracts, being awarded during the pandemic, potential bias or conflicts of interest in the procurement process and that some contracts may have been given to unsuitable suppliers.

This investigation sets out the facts relating to government procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic, covering the period up to July 31. It covers: the need to procure goods, services and works quickly, the regulations, that apply to this and roles and responsibilities: Part One; procurement activity during the pandemic: Part Two; and management of procurement risks: Part Three.

This investigation covers procurement by government departments and their arm’s-length bodies but does not cover procurements, carried out by NHS trusts, NHS foundation trusts and local authorities on their own behalf. This work does not evaluate the value for money of the contracts, awarded over this period. It is part of a wider programme of work, related to government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the months following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 in the UK, government awarded around £18 billion of contracts using emergency procurement regulations to buy goods, services and works to support its response to the pandemic. Government was having to work at pace, with no experience of using emergency procurement on such a scale before and was developing its approach at the same time as procuring large quantities of goods and services quickly, frequently, from suppliers it had not previously worked with, in a highly competitive international market.

This procurement activity secured unprecedented volumes of essential supplies necessary to protect front-line workers. The NAO had a separate report on the supply of PPE, that looked in detail at the extent to which demand for that equipment was met and the value-for-money achieved. While government had the necessary legal framework in place to award contracts directly, it had to balance the need to procure large volumes of goods and services quickly, with the increased commercial and propriety risks associated with emergency procurement.

NAO has looked in detail at a sample of contracts, selected on a risk basis. Although, it has found sufficient documentation for a number of procurements in the sample, it, also, found specific examples where there is insufficient documentation on key decisions or, how risks, such as, perceived or actual conflicts of interest have been identified or managed. In addition, a number of contracts were awarded retrospectively or, have not been published in a timely manner.

This has diminished public transparency and the lack of adequate documentation means NAO can not give assurance that government has adequately mitigated the increased risks arising from emergency procurement or applied appropriate commercial practices in all cases. While NAO recognises that these were exceptional circumstances, there are standards that the public sector will always need to apply, if, it is to maintain public trust.

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New Long-Term Household Debt Crisis Is Inevitable Without Urgent Intervention: New Report on Corona Virus Impact on Lower Income Households

 

|| Thursday: November 12: 2020 || ά. A new Report by Stepchange, a debt charity, finds levels of coronavirus-related household debt have hit £10.3bn. The Charity is urging further targeted support to prevent millions succumbing to long-term financial difficulty. The latest research shows levels of household borrowing and arrears attributable to coronavirus have soared since the start of the pandemic, an increase of £04.3bn, 66% rise since May.

The Report, ‘Tackling the Coronavirus Personal Debt Crisis’, has found the number of people affected by coronavirus, who are in severe problem debt has risen to 01.2m, nearly, doubling since March, with a further three million at risk of it. The Report warns that with coronavirus restrictions set to hamper economic recovery for months to come, the country is facing a new and unprecedented debt crisis unless the government implements a clear, preventative plan to tackle it.

The Report commissioned national polling in September, updating and extending a survey, conducted in May, to understand how coronavirus has affected personal finances six months into the pandemic in Great Britain. The results show 14.9 million people, 29% of the adult population, have experienced a negative change of circumstance due to COVID-19, such as, unemployment or redundancy or furlough with a reduction in salary.

Among this group 07.1 million have fallen behind on essentials or borrowed to make ends meet, averaging £1,365 arrears and £1,577 in debt per adult affected. The report finds the safety nets in place for those affected by coronavirus are not proving effective. Of those, who have made an application for Universal Credit since March, 24% are in severe problem debt and 28% are showing signs of financial difficulty.

Meanwhile, 17% of those, whose financial situation has been negatively impacted, have experienced one or more indicator of hardship since March, including, having had fewer than two meals a day for two or more days and having rationed or gone without basic utilities, such as, electricity, heating or water for five or more days. The Report, also, shows that financially vulnerable groups, who were at high risk of difficulty and hardship at the outset of the crisis are over-represented among those, affected by coronavirus.

Since March, 25-34-year-olds have been most at risk of both falling behind on essential bills and borrowing to make ends meet and of experiencing one or more forms of hardship, while families with dependent children, particularly, single parents, have been squeezed by falls in income and additional childcare costs.

Financial difficulty is, also, unsurprisingly, associated with low household income, with twice as many people with an income between £10k and £20k having fallen behind or borrowed to make ends meet as those with an income between £50k and £60k, while three times as many have experienced hardship.

In response to this growing crisis, the Report is calling on the government to urgently develop plans, that go beyond the current crisis management response to a recovery strategy, that puts people swept into debt at its heart. The Report has identified three pillars of a strategy to underpin the country’s economic recovery.

::: The government and regulators must extend and strengthen protections for those, experiencing financial difficulty during the pandemic.

::: More than three million people, negatively affected by coronavirus have fallen behind on essential bills, such as, council tax, rent and utilities since March, despite support mechanisms in place. 

::: With some of these mechanisms coming to an end and restrictions and social distancing set to continue well into next year, the government and regulators risk leaving millions more at risk of aggressive enforcement action, eviction and insolvency unless they update and extend protections.

The Report details how by tabling measures, including, extending the Government’s council tax fund and suspending bailiff collections activity. It is calling for targeted government funding to help households struggling financially due to COVID-19. The funding would pay for interest-free loans, with re-payment contingent on income, to help struggling households address coronavirus-related arrears and debt safely.

The Report estimate that there are nearly three million people, affected by coronavirus, who are now at high risk of long-term debt problems. As a matter of necessity, the government should act to help financially vulnerable people in this group, through the creation of targeted funding, that provides no-interest loans with deferred, income-contingent repayment to help the following three groups of households: Households with unmanageable priority arrears; Households, who will be forced to into survival borrowing to make ends meet; Households, who have had to borrow to pay for essentials due to coronavirus

The government should put in place a more effective safety net for those, experiencing financial difficulty by expanding local emergency support and ensuring households have sufficient income to make ends meet. It is clear from the data that current safety nets are not protecting those, who need it most. 24% of people, who have made a Universal Credit application since March are in severe problem debt and 28% are showing signs of financial difficulty.

The Report sets out how government can prevent hardship more effectively through targeted investment in the social safety net, including, by maintaining the £1,000 uplift to Universal Credit:working tax credit from April next year, extending the uplift to disability and legacy benefits as soon as possible and by suspending non-priority deductions to repay debt from Universal Credit.

Commenting on the Report, Mr Phil Andrew, CEO of Step Change, says, “This Report paints a picture of a nation sleep-walking into a debt crisis. Despite a bold initial reaction to the pandemic, the government and financial services sector’s toolkit of responses has not evolved and the result is a spiralling number of people, being plunged into debt due to Covid-19. And the worst is yet to come.

This winter, a second national lockdown will drive unemployment, reduced hours and rising energy bills, all of which is hampering economic recovery. Without a bold, long-term vision for those, financially affected by the pandemic, there is a real danger of lasting economic and social damage, that will deepen inequality, jeopardise the government’s levelling-up ambitions and act as a drag on economic recovery.

Strengthening short-term protections like furlough will buy time for those, experiencing temporary financial difficulty. Now we need to see the Government provide targeted funding, that can enable households to exit safely from coronavirus debt. Concentrating support in this way can reduce the hardship and damaging impact of long-term debt on health, mental health and the economy, as well as, countering the impact of coronavirus on inequality.”

Read the Report

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 £01.57 Billion Government Investment to Protect Britain’s World-Class Cultural Arts and Heritage Institutions

 

|| Sunday: July 05: 2020 || ά. The Future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will be protected with emergency grants and loans. The funding will, also, be provided to restart construction work at cultural and heritage sites, paused as a result of the pandemic Britain’s globally renowned arts, culture and heritage industries will receive a world-leading £01.57 billion rescue package to help weather the impact of corona virus, the government has announced today. And it is a welcome intervention and wise investment in keeping alive the pulses, beats and strides of the soul of the people in the cultural and heritage landscapes of the country for these sectors and comes at an existentially challenging time. The Humanion absolutely is delighted that the Government has shown vision in coming up with this package because life is infinitely far more than bread and butter, which was that Mr David Cameron and Mr George Osborn thought life was about all along their time in power and, it is, absolutely and infinitely far more and far beyond the capabilities of the left-over life’s remnants, that are viruses, to destroy, let alone, defeat. The Old Man may have gone to the sea but he shall not get drowned or defeated by some sharks; he shall strive and he shall stride and he shall fight on and reach the shore, bringing in the catch to the harbour for people to see: that no one and nothing can defeat humanity, even, if, they succeed in destroying it. That epic fight is what human existence is about.

These sectors in the cultural, arts, heritage, music world and others are the proof that the soul of the people and the nation is still alive and going and these funding will keep on providing that means to the agencies and organisations to keep these beating hearts going despite the pandemic. Yes, the virus has unleashed havoc and brought about infinite sufferings and taken so much of life and so many thousands of lives but it can not, it must not and it shall never be allowed to touch the soul of the people, soul of the nation, that must keep on beating with hope and love: with infinite hope and infinite love for that infinite love and infinite hope, regardless of how desperate things get, make a home, suitable enough for life and living the life. Thousands of organisations across a range of sectors, including, the performing arts and theatres, heritage, historic palaces, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinema will be able to access emergency grants and loans. The money, which represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture, will provide a lifeline to vital cultural and heritage organisations across the country hit hard by the pandemic. It will help them stay afloat while their doors are closed. Funding to restart paused projects will, also, help support employment, including, freelancers working in these sectors.

Many of Britain’s cultural and heritage institutions have already received unprecedented financial assistance to see them through the pandemic, including, loans, business rate holidays and participation in the corona virus job retention scheme. More than 350,000 people in the recreation and leisure sector have been furloughed since the pandemic began. This new package will be available across the country and ensure the future of these multi-billion-pound industries are secured.

The Prime Minister Mr Boris Johnson said, ‘’From iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country.    This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down.’’

Mr Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, said, ‘’Our arts and culture are the soul of our nation. They make our country great and are the lynchpin of our world-beating and fast-growing creative industries. I understand the grave challenges the arts face and we must protect and preserve all we can for future generations. Today we are announcing a huge support package of immediate funding to tackle the funding crisis they face. I said, we would not let the arts down and this massive investment shows our level of commitment.

Mr Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said, ‘’Our world-renowned galleries, museums, heritage sites, music venues and independent cinemas are not only critical to keeping our economy thriving, employing more than 700,000 people, they’re the lifeblood of British culture. That’s why we’re giving them the vital cash they need to safeguard their survival, helping to protect jobs and ensuring that they can continue to provide the sights and sounds that Britain is famous for.’’

The package announced today includes funding for national cultural institutions in England and investment in cultural and heritage sites to restart construction work paused as a result of the pandemic. This will be a big step forward to help rebuild our cultural infrastructure. This unprecedented package includes: 

 £01.15 billion support pot for cultural organisations in England, delivered through a mix of grants and loans. This will be made up of £270 million of repayable finance and £880 million grants.

 £100 million of targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.

£120 million capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England which was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new funding will, also, mean an extra £188 million for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, £33 million, Scotland, £97 million and Wales, £59 million.

Decisions on awards will be made working alongside expert independent figures from the sector, including, the Arts Council England and other specialist bodies, such as, Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute. Repayable finance will be issued on generous terms, tailored for cultural institutions to ensure they are affordable. Further details will be set out when the scheme opens for applications in the coming weeks.

The government is finalising guidance for a phased return of the performing arts sectors, that will be published shortly. The government is working with the sectors to get it back up and running as soon as it is safe to do so and is being guided by medical experts.

Mr Alex Beard, the Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, said, ‘’The Royal Opera House warmly welcomes the newly announced package of Government support for the arts sector. This is a vital next step on the road to recovery for the industry and will help to support and sustain the UK’s vibrant arts ecology through this crisis. There is much to achieve over the coming months and this package of support will be a catalyst for unlocking the extraordinary creativity embedded in the UK’s world-renowned creative industries.

Over the months ahead we will need to draw all on our collective ingenuity and determination to adapt to the realities of re-opening our theatres. We now look forward to the future and celebrating the return of our artforms, our community of staff and artists and importantly, welcoming our audiences back to the Royal Opera House.’’

Ms Nicola Benedetti said, ‘’This significant investment demonstrates a dedication to humanity that gives us all hope during times of unimaginable uncertainty. We will continue to ensure we tell the greatest tales of our past whilst creating a bold vision for our future.’’

Mr Neil Constable, CEO, Shakespeare’s Globe, said, ‘’We at Shakespeare’s Globe welcome this significant investment from the Government in our world-leading theatres and cultural institutions. As an independent charity, The Globe needs support throughout this difficult time and will now have the opportunity to plan to reopen fully by early 2021. We will of course be taking opportunities, if social distancing allows, to reopen earlier, and until then this investment allows us to offer our world-class performances and education online for audiences and students across the world, before safely bringing our actors, creatives, staff, and visitors alike together in our wonderful iconic theatres.

Mr Julian Bird, the Chief Executive, Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said, ‘’The government’s announcement of a £1.57bn package of support for the arts, culture and heritage sector in the UK is hugely welcomed, for the theatre and performing arts sector, we have worked intensively with DCMS and HMT to seek this clear commitment to our world-leading industry and we thank them. Venues, producers and the huge workforce in the theatre sector look forward to clarity of how these funds will be allocated and invested, so that artists and organisations can get back to work as soon as possible. Our industry’s united ambition is to be able to play its vital role in the nation’s economic and social recovery and this investment will allow us to do so.’’

Sir Ian Blatchford, the Chair of the National Museums Directors Council, said, ‘’This is welcome news for the museum sector, both in the scale of funding and as a strategic commitment to our role in the life of the country.’’

Mr Mark Cornell, Group Chief Executive of Ambassador Theatre Group, said, ‘’I am thrilled to see the government intervene in such a decisive fashion to protect our nation’s cultural capital. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Treasury and DCMS have demonstrated their significant commitment to the arts. The Job Retention Scheme was a major supporting initiative, and this substantial financial package is another key milestone. No doubt this will give institutions across the arts, culture and heritage sector a welcome shot of confidence.’’

Mr Mark Davyd, Music Venue Trust, said, ‘’Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes this unprecedented intervention into Britain’s world class live music scene. We’d like to thank the Secretary of State and the team at DCMS for the opportunity to work closely together throughout this crisis to develop genuine solutions to the challenges faced by grassroots music venues. This fund provides the opportunity to stabilise and protect our vibrant and vital network of venues and gives us the time we need to create a plan to safely reopen live music.

Lord Grade said, ‘’This announcement is more than a life line for the arts in these challenging times, it represents an unprecedented investment. It demonstrates that this government understands the importance of our cultural assets and activities. Given the many calls on the public purse in this crisis, it will come as a massive relief to the sector, public and private. Three cheers.’’

Playwright Mr James Graham, said, ‘’I am so incredibly grateful that the government has listened to the outpouring of not only concerns but also of great passion from audiences and artists over the threat to a much-loved part of our national life. Theatres and live performance venues play a vital economic and social role not just in places like London’s West End, but in every town and city across the country, and I am so relieved that Oliver Dowden, DCMS, and the Treasury recognise that this is a prize worth saving and celebrating.’’

Mr Andrew Lloyd Webber said, ‘’This news is truly welcome at a time when so many theatres, orchestras, entertainment venues and other arts organisations face such a bleak future. I know how hard Oliver Dowden has worked to secure this support. It is absolutely critical that Britain’s cultural sector is restored to health as soon as possible, and I look forward to seeing the details of the rescue package and working further with Oliver and the Government to get all of Britain’s theatres, both large and small, open as soon as possible.’’

Ms Ruth Wilson said, ‘’I and everybody in the arts community have been hoping for this response from our government and we are incredibly grateful. This will be an extraordinary lifeline to everyone in the industry, from the actors to carpenters, to stage door managers, to musicians, make-up artists and all the freelancers that are the beating heart of our profession. The Arts are such an important part of the British economy and our society and whilst we know there are still challenging times ahead, this provides the opportunity for the industry to get back on its feet and come back stronger.’’

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UK Criminal Justice System Is Failing Disabled People: Urgent Systemic Reform Is a Must: EHRC

 

|| Wednesday: July 01: 2020 || ά. The Equality and Human Rights Commission:EHRC UK says that the criminal justice system is failing and leaving disabled citizens bewildered. Having recently produced interim findings in response to the corona virus pandemic EHRC has published further materials warning the criminal justice system is failing those with learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorders and brain injuries and needs reform in order to ensure a fair trial for all.

As it launches the full findings of its inquiry into whether the criminal justice system treats disabled people fairly, the EHRC says that the system is not systematically recognising the needs of disabled people, meaning defendants and accused people risk not being able to participate properly in the legal process. It, also, explains that there is an over-representation of people with learning disabilities and mental health issues within the system, that the government has failed to document, that those accused aren’t routinely provided with adjustments they need to participate in the justice process and that too many legal professionals do not have adequate training to, appropriately, deal with impairments.

Highlighting that increased digitalisation of the system threatens disabled people’s access to justice, as it risks them being, even, less able to understand what is happening and communicate, than when they are participating in person, EHRC stresses the urgency of reform of the system to meet disabled people’s needs, in turn improving it for all court users.

Mr David Isaac, the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said, “A non-discriminatory criminal justice system, that everyone can participate in, underpins our society. It stands for democracy, equality and the rule of law. It should give us all the chance of a fair trial, no matter who we are. But disabled people, often, face barriers to understanding their situation and making themselves properly understood to others. 

This can result in them feeling bewildered by the system and treated unfairly, which puts their right to a fair trial at risk. Clearly, the system needs a redesign. The UK and Scottish Governments need to make it a priority to understand the needs of disabled people in the system, giving serious consideration to our findings and recommendations and commit to making our criminal justice systems fair for all.”

Alongside its findings, the Report makes five accompanying recommendations to the UK and Scottish Governments and relevant agencies:

::: ensure departments and executive agencies address gaps in the collection, monitoring and analysis of disability data and ensure that there is clear regulatory oversight to monitor their effective participation

::: in England, the Ministry of Justice:MoJ and HMCTS should establish a clear evidence base on the impact of court reform for disabled defendants and address existing barriers for disabled defendants before any further measures are introduced or extended

::: develop early and effective screening for all defendants and accused people and give consideration to how screening might work for those, involved in criminal proceedings where the route does not involve the police and or custody

::: in England, NHS England should consider introducing universal screening by NHS LandD services, building on existing best practice and learning from current politics

::: ensure timely access and sharing of information

::: in England, NHS England should ensure that they have mechanisms in place to enable appropriate sharing of case-specific information with HMCTS’s case management IT systems on identified needs and recommended adjustments

::: support the duty to make reasonable adjustments and respect fair trial rights

::: in England, the UK Government should implement the recommendations for legislative reform in Chapter Two of the Law Commission Report on Unfitness to Plead to give defendants a statutory entitlement to intermediaries and other special measures.

::: ensure initial professional qualification training for law students includes disability awareness, all relevant codes of conduct and standards are amended to, specifically, include disability awareness as a professional requirement and disability awareness is a mandatory element of continuing professional development for those, working in criminal law

The full findings from the report are as follows:

::: The justice system is not designed around the needs and abilities of disabled people and reforms in England and Wales risk further reducing participation

::: Impairments that may require adjustments are not always identified; this is a barrier to effective participation

::: Adjustments are not always made for disabled people because information about their impairments is not passed on

::: The existing framework to provide adjustments to secure effective participation for disabled defendants and accused people is inadequate

::: Legal professionals do not consistently have the guidance or training they need to be able to recognise impairments, their impact, or how adjustments can be made

EHRC launched its ‘Does the Criminal Justice System Treat Disabled People Fairly’ inquiry in March 2019. Its purpose was to respond to significant concerns from charities, lawyers and the families that people with mental health conditions, cognitive impairments and neuro-diverse conditions are experiencing discrimination and being put at risk of miscarriages of justice due to a lack of support in the criminal justice system.

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COVID-19: UK Fiscal Path: A New Approach From the Scottish Government

 

|| Monday: June 29: 2020 || ά. The Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Ms Kate Forbes MSP has published this new Paper, Corona Virus COVID-19: UK Fiscal Path: A New Approach. This Paper sets out ten principles the Scottish Government believes the UK Government should follow to support the UK economy and public finances as the country begins to recover from the impacts of coronavirus.

COVID-19 has presented Scotland and the UK, as much of the world, with a twin health and economic crisis with a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable in society. The Scottish Government does not have the full suite of fiscal powers to respond to the economic challenges we are facing. As such, either the UK Government must take steps to respond to these challenges or, provide the Scottish Government with the powers and responsibilities to deliver the response the people of Scotland need.

The purpose of this Paper is to set out how the Scottish Government believes the UK Government should navigate the UK economy through what is expected to be the deepest economic recession in living memory. It requires a new approach. This Paper sets out ten principles the Scottish Government believse the UK Government should follow to manage the UK’s public finances and ensure the strongest possible economic recovery for all the UK countries whilst reducing inequalities. All of these refer to areas where responsibility remains reserved to the UK Government and that the Scottish Government can not implement without further powers.

Both the UK and Scottish Governments have provided unprecedented support to help protect jobs and enable businesses to survive. As the country moves into the recovery phase from the pandemic, government has a key role to play in ensuring the economic recovery helps build a society, that is fairer and greener. As demand from the private sector has weakened, now is the time for the public sector to lead the way in stimulating the economic recovery.

The UK Government’s overall fiscal stance is still a key factor, determining the Scottish budget. A large proportion of the Scottish Budget is still determined by the block grant, received from the UK Government via the Barnett formula. In addition, the Scottish Government has virtually no borrowing powers to support additional spending on day-to-day public services.

As the country emerges from the greatest economic shock of a lifetime, it is essential that fiscal rules do not constrain the fiscal policy response, thereby, weakening the economic recovery and doing more harm to the long term fiscal position. Instead, it is required that a bold and radical new approach from the UK Government, with fresh thinking on how to aid the recovery and deliver a fairer and greener economy, that puts well-being at its core, while ensuring sustainable public finances.

Internationally, the focus of the fiscal response is beginning to shift from immediate emergency assistance to fiscal policies to kick start the economy. The crisis is inevitably leading to an increase in public debt. This debt will need to be managed down over a long period and in ways, that aid, rather than hinder, economic recovery. Businesses and households will need the support of the banking and financial system to recover from the crisis.

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COVID-19: Unless Reason Science and Evidence Find Leadership the UK Shows All Signs of a Disastrous Summer Leading Towards a Dark Autumn and Even a Darker Winter Ahead: It Is Time to Stand Up and Show Leadership

 

|| Saturday: June 27: 2020 || ά. As lockdowns are being taken off and everything begins to open, signs are not very promising in the UK, where people have paid far too much by any count: infection spread, suffering and surviving with on-going further complications and the high deaths. Because of the long isolation of people under the lockdown and the expected but sudden change in weather people have gone out in their drones across the seaside, creating nightmare like scenarios, particularly, in the southern cities and towns, which have shocked everyone and the impact and aftermath of that sudden surge of people, all illegal ‘parties’ and the rubbish they have left behind are things, that the leaders of this country must ponder about seriously.

This is not acceptable in this on-going pandemic because these kinds of mass gatherings and situations can not but offer the virus all the support it needs to spread further and wider. However, this is not a public order issue and the Police can not be expected to ‘enforce’ law on such a massive and all-out break in public order but it is a leadership issue. The government must show leadership, decisiveness and clarity of what must be done and that can only be done by strict observance of reason, science and evidence. People would go with that because over the lockdown people of this country have gone with that and supported the national efforts to try and bring down the virus infections and spread but people will not go with lack of leadership, contradictions and messy hyperboles. The pandemic has not gone away and across the world there are signs that the virus is spreading as fast and as wide as ever as places begin to open up again.    

However, from our observation yesterday around some parts of London there were people everywhere and those, queuing outside shopping places and supermarkets were seen abandoning social distancing and there was hardly anyone, who was wearing any masks or any other protective items, such as, gloves. There were people everywhere as they would have been seen before the pandemic. It felt like, as, if, either the government or some tooth fairy had texted everyone, saying that it was okay to go out, as, if, the pandemic was a thing of the past! Except, the pandemic is still going and infections are still spreading.

There were shops, take aways and restaurants open for delivery and collections and people could be seen huddling inside shops or at the doors and workers, working without any protective gears, no mask, no gloves and no one was stopping anyone to do so. This stands to wipe out what has gone in over the long-suffering months of this pandemic. This risks the people spreading the virus everywhere and those, working without any protective gears, risk getting infected themselves and they are preparing food and drink like that so that wider members of the public stand facing the same risk. this is absolutely a situation, that the UK government can not keep on overlooking. The lockdown has not yet been lifted for much of the other parts of the economy, for some sectors, which should begin early next week but things are showing all signs of a breaking up of the resolve simply because the ‘leadership’ has been crumbling, whatever was there to begin with and the message got lost and the hurry in opening up is eating away into the application of reason, science and evidence. History has taught us wherever and whenever we fail to follow reason, science and evidence we paid the highest of price.

The virus, may be, invisible but, it is real and it has not gone away and this virus is still mighty with the world still unable to find a vaccine, that offers comprehensive protections nor is there any way to stop or treat the infection. It is, therefore, still going round and it has all arsenal in its belt to keep on going. The economy needs to open up but it can not be done so with risking lives. Were the virus infection to rise again and to begin killing thousands of people every day what would that mean about this ‘opening us of this economy’? Yes, the economy should be open but not at a cost to lives and people’s safety and well-being for the economy is for life and for people.

But what has been seen over the last few days tells us that we are faced that way unless the government wakes up and takes a hold of this situation. The people have given their whole-hearted support, despite their reservations as to how the government has failed and handled this pandemic, with the lockdown, self-isolation and suffering and deaths and all that followed. The country’s NHS and all other emergency services have shown extra-ordinary courage, commitment and dedication and the country is where it is today because of all that courageous hard works, dedications, sufferings and sacrifices of both the emergency and key working services and the public made. However, now it appears that the country is headlong jumping back onto the same path, as, if, there has not been a Pandemic and life has turned into ‘normal’. It has not done so: the virus is still out there and it is still transmitting!

There are many reports in the UK that work places are getting large infections, many of which are poultry and meat factories, supplying supermarkets etc and with ‘small’ work spaces. Work spaces must be made safe and employers of all types and all sizes must be made to ensure that they have done their utmost to ensure workers are protected and working, using proper PPE.  This does not offer much support for much hope. Things have improved, despite the high deaths and all-engulfing infections and suffering across the UK; however, if, what has been witnessed over the last few days are anything to go by, this summer does not bode well. The government and those in the driving seat must wake up and get a hold of the situation. Yes, the economy and society can not be left shut forever but forgetting the pandemic and the high price the country and the people have already paid would be a disaster and a catastrophe. It is time to stand up and put a break. The UK has paid far too much already and no one wants to see a nightmare summer, leading us towards a dark autumn and, even, a darker winter. The way forward is as it has always been: follow the course of reason, science and evidence and inspire people’s trust and faith so that everyone follows what ought to be followed.

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Over 250 Faith Leaders Call on the UK Prime Minister to Give Child Refugees Sanctuary

 

|| Thursday: June 25: 2020 || ά. More than 250 faith leaders have written an open letter to Mr Boris Johnson, asking him to commit to offering child refugees a safe route to asylum in the UK. The signatories to the letter include the former Archbishop of Canterbury and over 20 Church of England bishops, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, over 30 rabbis, representing Reform, Liberal and other Jewish denominations, the former President of the Hindu Forum of Europe, the lead Catholic Bishop for Migrants and Refugees and   numerous senior leaders from the Baptist, Methodist, United Reformed, Salvation Army and Quaker traditions across the UK.

“Even in challenging times,” the signatories write, “the UK has always remained a place of sanctuary for those seeking refuge, from the Kindertransport to the more recent Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme, and we urge you to build on this proud tradition by urgently resettling some of the world’s most vulnerable children.” The letter was organised by the charity Safe Passage in the wake of an announcement by the UK government that the 480 places available to child refugees under the ‘Dubs Scheme’ had been filled. MPs voted to establish the route to sanctuary in 2016, to help bring children safely to the UK from horrendous conditions in the Calais Jungle and Greek camps but the government insisted on capping the scheme at 480 places.

The decision by the Government to give safe passage to fewer than 500 unaccompanied child refugees has dismayed faith leaders and campaigners, who argue that without a safe and legal route, children will be more likely to fall into the hands of smugglers or traffickers. The charity Safe Passage estimates that over 10,000 children have arrived in the UK in lorries since 2010.

Highlighting the plight of unaccompanied children on the Greek islands, the letter asks the Prime Minister to meet with faith representatives to discuss the urgent need to continue the relocation of vulnerable children from Greece. These children, ‘have escaped war, persecution, and poverty only to find themselves now trapped in desperate conditions, with little or no access to the most basic necessities’, they write.

The letter goes on “Inaction in the face of such deprivation and suffering is not an option. Now, more than ever, the UK must step in and offer sanctuary to children in urgent need.” The signatories, also, congratulate the Prime Minister on the UK’s recent bilateral work with the Greek government, which resulted in 47 refugees being transferred from Athens in London to join family in the UK, describing the rescue operation as a ‘true example of the UK’s humanitarian leadership’.

IPSOS Mori polling recently found that 79% of the British public support child refugees being able to join parents in the UK and over half support them being able to join siblings, aunts, uncles or parents. However, after the transition period ends, from January 01, 2021 EU rules on family reunion will no longer apply in the UK.

The signatories to the letter call on the Prime Minister ‘to ensure child refugees can continue to reunite with their family members in the UK after the end of the transition agreement’. Ms Beth Gardiner-Smith, CEO of Safe Passage said, “We are inspired and grateful that so many faith leaders stand shoulder to shoulder with child refugees. Last winter, the government gave repeated assurances in Parliament that it was committed to helping child refugees join their relatives in the UK but it has now published a Brexit negotiating position, that would replace concrete family reunion rights with a watered-down, discretionary system. There is a clear moral case for the UK to take leadership of this issue and provide safe and legal routes for child refugees.”

Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, said, “We’ve all been more conscious than ever in these last few months of the cost of isolation, and how much more painful this is at a time of sickness and vulnerability.  There are still thousands of unaccompanied children isolated in refugee camps and holding centres, especially in the Greek islands, who are more at risk than ever at this time of pandemic disease, and who urgently need safe and legal means of settling in secure environments. 

We are simply pleading with the Prime Minister to honour the best traditions of this country and the commitments made by previous governments, and to respond to the Europe-wide challenge to guarantee safety and welcome for them.  They need the same security and love that our own children need.  And we need to show what we all hope is true, that our moral compass as a country has been strengthened and not weakened by the trials we have been going through.”

The letter has been sent to the Prime Minister in the same week in which MPs in Parliament debated an amendment to the Immigration Bill, which seeks to protect family reunion and relocation for unaccompanied children in Europe. The amendment has so far been opposed by government.

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The Office for National Statistics Index of Private Housing Rental Prices UK: May 2020: UK Private Rental Prices Increased by 09.2% Between January 2015 and May 2020

 

 

|| Wednesday: June 17: 2020 || ά. The Office for National Statistics:ONS has published its Index of Private Housing Rental Prices, UK: May 2020 today. Private rental prices, paid by tenants in the UK, rose by 01.5% in the 12 months to May 2020, unchanged since April 2020. Private rental prices grew by 01.5% in England, 01.2% in Wales and 0.6% in Scotland in the 12 months to May 2020. London private rental prices rose by 01.2% in the same period. The UK annual private rental price growth has been on an upward trend since late 2018. However, focusing on the long-term trend, between January 2015 and May 2020, private rental prices in the UK increased by 09.2%.

Private rental prices paid by tenants in the UK increased by 01.5% in the 12 months to May 2020, unchanged since April 2020. For example, a property, that was rented for £500.00 per month in May 2019, that had a rent increase of the average UK rate would be rented for £507.50 in May 2020. Growth in private rental prices, paid by tenants in the UK, has, generally, slowed since the beginning of 2016, driven, mainly, by a slowdown in London over the same period. Rental growth has started to pick up since the end of 2018, driven by strengthening growth in London.

In the 12 months to May 2020, rental prices for the UK, excluding, London increased by 01.6%, unchanged since April 2020. London private rental prices increased by 01.2% in the 12 months to May 2020. The Association of Residential Letting Agents:ARLA reported in their Private Rented Sector Report, February 2020 that demand from prospective tenants fell in February but still hit a record high for the month of February.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors:RICS May 2020 Residential Market Survey reported that tenant demand was down over the month and landlord instructions continued to fall sharply. These supply and demand pressures can take time to feed through to the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices:IPHRP, which reflects price changes for all private rental properties, rather than only newly advertised rental properties.

In England, private rental prices grew by 01.5% in the 12 months to May 2020, unchanged since April 2020. When London is excluded from England, privately rented properties increased by 01.7% in the 12 months to May 2020.  Private rental prices in Wales grew by 01.2% in the 12 months to May 2020, up from 01.0% in the 12 months to April 2020.

Rental growth in Scotland increased by 0.6% in the 12 months to May 2020, down from 0.7% in the 12 months to April 2020. Scotland's rental growth has remained weaker than that of the rest of the UK since August 2016.

The annual rate of change for Northern Ireland in May 2020, 02.6%, was higher than that of the other countries of the UK. Northern Ireland data have been copied forward since March 2020; the next update to Northern Ireland data will be in the release published on September 16, 2020. The Northern Ireland annual growth rate has remained broadly consistent, around, 02%, since 2018. However, in recent months there has been an increase in the annual growth rate.

All UK countries experienced a rise in their private rental prices between January 2015 and May 2020, with rental prices in England and Northern Ireland increasing more than those in Wales and Scotland across the time series

The largest annual rental price increase in the 12 months to May 2020 was in the South West, 02.5%, down from 02.6% in April 2020 and the East Midlands, 02.5%, up from 02.4% in April 2020. The lowest annual rental price growth was in the North East where rental prices increased by 0.8% in the 12 months to May 2020, followed by the North West, which increased by 01.0%.

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The Office For National Statistics: Labour Market in the Regions of the UK: June 2020

 

 

|| Tuesday: June 16: 2020 || ά. The Office for National Statistics:ONS has published its Labour Market in the Regions of the UK June 2020. For the three months ending April 2020, the highest employment rate estimate in the UK was in the South East, 79.5% and the lowest was in Northern Ireland, 71.6%.  For the same three months, the highest unemployment rate estimate in the UK was in the North East, 05.2% and the lowest was in Northern Ireland, 02.3%; a joint record low unemployment rate.

For the same period, the highest economic inactivity rate estimate in the UK was in Northern Ireland, 26.7% and the lowest was in the South East, 17.9%.    Between December 2019 and March 2020, the largest estimated increase in workforce jobs in the UK was in the East of England at 35,000, while the largest decrease was in the South East at 61,000. In March 2020, the region with the highest estimated proportion of workforce jobs in the services sector was London at 91.8%, while the East Midlands had the highest proportion of jobs in the production sector at 13.2%.

The highest average estimated actual weekly hours worked, for the 12 months ending December 2019, was in London at 33.8 hours and the lowest was in the North East at 30.9 hours; for full-time and part-time workers, it was highest for both in Northern Ireland, at 38.4 hours and 17.0 hours respectively.

The data in this bulletin come from the Labour Force Survey, a survey of households. It is not practical to survey every household each quarter, so these statistics are estimates based on a large sample.

Labour Force Survey estimates presented in this bulletin are based on interviews, that took place throughout the period from the start of February to the end of April 2020. Consequently, around, half of the interviews relate to the period prior to the implementation of corona virus: COVID-19 social distancing measures. Interviews in the final week of March and the whole of April relate to the period, following the government closure of schools, introduction of lockdown and announcement of measures aimed at protecting businesses and jobs.

The International Labour Organisation:ILO definition of employment includes those, who worked in a job for at least one hour and those temporarily absent from a job. Workers furloughed under the Corona Virus Job Retention Scheme or who are self-employed but temporarily not in work have a reasonable expectation of returning to their jobs after a temporary period of absence. Therefore, they are classified as employed under the ILO definition.

The Regional Labour Market Summary

The estimates for employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for February to April 2020 and a comparison with the previous quarter, November 2019 to January 2020. Comparing non-overlapping periods, February to April 2020 with November 2019 to January 2020, provides a more robust short-term comparison.

Employment measures the number of people, aged 16 years and over, in paid work and those, who had a job, that they were temporarily away from. The employment rate is the proportion of people, aged between 16 and 64 years, who are in employment. The employment rate estimate for people, aged between 16 and 64 years, for the UK was 76.4% for the period February to April 2020. This is a decrease of 0.1 percentage points compared with the previous quarter, November 2019 to January 2020.

The UK region with the highest employment rate estimate was the South East at 79.5%. The highest estimated rate for the same period last year was in the South West at 80.2%. The next highest employment rate estimate for February to April 2020 was seen in the South West at 78.9%, followed by the East Midlands at 78.1%.

The region with the lowest employment rate estimate was Northern Ireland at 71.6%, followed by the North East at 73.9%. The lowest estimated rate for the same period last year was in the North East at 70.7%. The largest increase in the employment rate estimate, compared with November 2019 to January 2020, was in the North East at 02.1 percentage points, followed by Yorkshire and The Humber at 01.0 percentage point. The unusually large increase in the North East took its employment rate and level to a record high.

The largest decrease in the employment rate estimate, compared with November 2019 to January 2020, was for the South West at 01.0 percentage point, followed by the West Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland, all at 0.7 percentage points. The North West and Wales were largely unchanged compared with the previous quarter.

Over the year, the region with the largest increase in the employment rate estimate was the North East at 03.2 percentage points, followed by the East Midlands with an increase of 01.8 percentage points. Scotland saw the largest decrease in the estimated employment rate at 01.7 percentage points, followed by the East of England and the South West, both with a decrease of 01.2 percentage points.

Work job measures the number of filled jobs in the economy. The estimates are mainly sourced from employer surveys, such as, the Short-Term Employment Surveys:STES and the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey:QPSES. Workforce jobs is a different concept from employment, which is sourced from the Labour Force Survey:LFS, as employment is an estimate of people and some people have more than one job.

For March 2020, there were an estimated 35.83 million workforce jobs in the UK; this is 289,000 more than a year ago, March 2019 and 35,000 more than last quarter, December 2019. Workforce jobs increased in nine of the 12 regions of the UK between March 2019 and March 2020. The largest estimated increase of 94,000 was in London, followed by Scotland at 67,000. The largest estimated decrease was seen in the South East, at 71,000. Compared with last quarter, December 2019, only eight out of 12 regions of the UK saw an increase in workforce jobs, the largest being in the East of England, at 35,000. The largest estimated decrease was in the South East at 61,000.

For March 2020, the East Midlands had the highest proportion of jobs in the production sector at 13.2%, while London had the lowest proportion at 03.2%. This is because London has primarily service-based industries within its region, such as, financial and administrative sectors. For the services sector, London had the highest proportion at 91.8%, while Northern Ireland had the lowest proportion at 78.0%. The services sector currently accounts for 83.8% of the total workforce jobs in the UK.

Statistics for usual hours worked measure how many hours people usually work per week. Compared with actual hours worked, they are not affected by absences and so can provide a better measure of normal working patterns. For example, a person, who usually works 37 hours a week but, who, was on holiday for a week would be recorded as working zero actual hours for that week, while usual hours would be recorded as 37 hours.

For the period January to December 2019, the UK region with the highest estimated average actual weekly hours worked for all workers was London at 33.8 hours, followed by Northern Ireland at 33.5 hours. The North East had the lowest number of hours worked at 30.9 hours. The UK region with the largest increase in the average hours worked, compared with the same period of the previous year, January to December 2018, was the South East with an increase of 0.6 hours. The largest decrease in the average hours worked was in the North East with a decrease of 0.7 hours.

The region with the highest average actual weekly hours worked in full-time jobs was Northern Ireland at 38.4 hours. This is a decrease of 0.1 hours compared with the same period of the previous year, January to December 2018. The regions with the lowest average actual weekly hours worked in full-time jobs were the North East and East of England, both at 35.9 hours. For part-time jobs, the region with the highest average hours worked was Northern Ireland at 17.0 hours and the region with the lowest was the South West at 15.8 hours.

For men, the region with the highest average hours worked was Northern Ireland at 38.2 hours and for women, it was London at 29.5 hours. The largest difference in average hours worked between men and women was in Northern Ireland, where men worked on average 09.9 more hours per week than women. The largest overall change compared with the same period of the previous year, January to December 2018, was seen for women in the South East, where the average hours worked increased by 01.0 hour to 27.5 hours. In comparison, for men, the largest change was in the North East, where the average hours worked decreased by 0.9 hours to 34.9 hours per week.

The region with the largest difference in total hours worked between men and women was London, where men worked a total of 32.0 million more hours than women. The region with the smallest difference was the North East, where men worked only 05.0 million more hours than women. The North East saw the largest decrease in total hours worked compared with the same period of the previous year, January to December 2018, while the South East saw the largest increase in total hours.

Unemployment measures people without a job, who have been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and are available to start work within the next two weeks. The unemployment rate is not the proportion of the total population, who are unemployed. It is the proportion of the economically active population, those in work plus those, who are seeking and available to work, who are unemployed.

Regional estimates for the unemployment rate are volatile, which needs to be allowed for when considering the pattern of change over time. The unemployment rate estimate for people, aged 16 years and over, for the UK was 03.9% for the period February to April 2020; this is largely unchanged compared with the previous quarter, November 2019 to January 2020.

The UK region with the highest unemployment rate estimate for February to April 2020 was the North East at 05.2%, followed by the West Midlands at 04.8%. The region with the lowest estimated unemployment rate was Northern Ireland at 02.3%, which was a joint record low for the region, along with a joint record low unemployment level. This was followed by the South East, South West and Wales, all with an unemployment rate of 03.0%.

The largest increase in the unemployment rate estimate on the previous quarter, November 2019 to January 2020, was seen in Scotland at 01.1 percentage points, followed by the West Midlands at 0.3 percentage points. It is too early to say to what extent the unusually large increase in the estimate for Scotland is part of a longer-term trend or, influenced by sampling variability.

The largest decrease in the unemployment rate estimate was in the North East at 01.0 percentage point, down from 06.2% to 05.2%. This was followed by Yorkshire and The Humber, with a decrease of 0.7 percentage points and the North West, East Midlands and Wales, all with a decrease of 0.3 percentage points. The South West was largely unchanged compared with the previous quarter.

The region with the largest increase in the unemployment rate estimate over the year was Scotland at 01.3 percentage points, followed by the East of England at 0.7 percentage points. The largest decrease was in Wales at 01.3 percentage points, followed by Yorkshire and The Humber at 01.0 percentage point. The South East remained largely unchanged compared with the same period last year.

Economic inactivity measures people without a job but, who are not classed as unemployed because they have not been actively seeking work within the last four weeks and:or they are unable to start work within the next two weeks. Our headline measure of economic inactivity is for those, aged between 16 and 64 years. The estimated economic inactivity rate for people, aged between 16 and 64 years, for the UK was 20.5% for the period February to April 2020; this is an increase of 0.1 percentage points compared with the previous quarter, November 2019 to January 2020.

The UK region with the highest estimated rate was Northern Ireland at 26.7%, followed by Wales at 23.2%. Northern Ireland, also, had the highest economic inactivity rate, at 26.4%, in the same period the previous year. The current estimated rate in Northern Ireland is 06.2 percentage points higher than the UK rate. The region with the lowest estimated rate was the South East at 17.9%, followed by the South West at 18.5%. The region with the largest increase in the economic inactivity rate estimate on the previous quarter, November 2019 to January 2020, was the South West at 0.9 percentage points, followed by Northern Ireland at 0.8 percentage points and the West Midlands at 0.7 percentage points.

The region with the largest decrease in the economic inactivity rate estimate compared with the previous quarter, November 2019 to January 2020, was the North East at 01.3 percentage points, followed by Yorkshire and The Humber and London, both at 0.6 percentage points. The unusually large decrease in the estimate for the North East resulted in a record low level and rate of 22.2%.

Over the year, the region with the largest increase in the economic inactivity rate estimate was Wales at 02.3 percentage points, followed by the South West at 01.0 percentage point. As seen with the quarterly estimates, the region with the largest decrease in the inactivity rate estimate compared with last year, February to April 2019, was the North East at 02.8 percentage points, followed by London at 01.9 percentage points.

For the period January to December 2019, the local authorities with the highest employment rate estimates in the UK were Torridge at 90.9%, Adur in West Sussex at 90.4% and Eden in Cumbria at 89.2%. Middlesbrough was the local authority with the lowest rate at 62.9%, followed by Barrow-in-Furness at 63.3% and Nottingham at 63.9%.

For the period January to December 2019, the local authorities with the highest unemployment rate estimates in the UK were Birmingham at 08.2%, followed by Middlesbrough at 07.6% and Hartlepool and South Tyneside, both at 07.5%. The local authorities with the lowest rates were Eden in Cumbria at 01.5%, followed by South Lakeland at 01.6% and Hart in Hampshire at 01.7%.

The jobs density of an area is the number of jobs per head, of resident population, aged 16 to 64 years. A high jobs density would represent an employment centre, where people commute to for work. A low jobs density would represent an area with fewer jobs, where people would commute from for work.

In 2018, the highest jobs density estimate in Great Britain was the City of London at 110.11 and the lowest was Lewisham at 0.40. Westminster, 04.28 and Camden, 2.17, both in London, were the next highest jobs densities. The highest jobs density estimate outside London was Watford at 01.80. After Lewisham, the lowest jobs densities were East Renfrewshire at 0.45, followed by East Dunbartonshire, Redbridge and Waltham Forest, all at 0.47.

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UK Citizens Residing in Finland Could Apply for Residence Rights Under the Withdrawal Agreement in the Autumn

 

 

|| Monday: June 15: 2020 || ά. As a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, UK citizens living in Finland must submit a separate application for the right of residence in Finland under the Withdrawal Agreement. The Finland Government has submitted a proposal regarding this to the Finnish Parliament on Thursday, June 11.

According to the proposal, UK citizens with a registered EU right of residence in Finland must apply to exchange the previous registration, based on the right of residence in the EU for the right of residence under the Withdrawal Agreement. The purpose of the application procedure is to verify that the applicant has the right of residence under the Agreement.

A permanent EU right of residence requires that a person has resided in Finland for a period of five years. Those, who have a certificate, demonstrating their permanent EU residence right, would not be required to apply for a right of residence under the Withdrawal Agreement. Application would, nevertheless, be recommended for those in this situation so that they, too, could demonstrate their right of residence as conveniently as possible when going about their business in Finland and at the Schengen external border. Application would be free of charge for these applicants.

The proposal will affect, approximately, 5,000 UK citizens, living in Finland. After having been granted a right of residence under the Withdrawal Agreement, UK citizens could continue their stay in Finland after the transitional period ends at the end of 2020. The right of residence would be granted for life. It would only be valid in Finland.

The Act is scheduled to enter into force on September 01, 2020. The aim is to enable applicants for the right of residence under the Withdrawal Agreement to be able to submit their applications to the Finnish Immigration Service from October 01, 2020 till June 30, 2021. The application period has been extended by three months from the date originally planned.

At this point, it is sufficient for UK citizens to register their right of residence in the EU and such registrations are accepted for the time being. Instructions on how to register are available on the website of the Finnish Immigration Service. The provisions of the withdrawal agreement must be enacted nationally

The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU entered into force on February 01, 2020 and is directly applicable law in the EU Member States. However, the Withdrawal Agreement contains provisions, the implementation and application of which must be decided separately by each Member State. The aim is now to enact a law on the implementation and application of the provisions on the right of residence in Finland.

According to the Withdrawal Agreement, the permit procedures must be quick and user-friendly and the fees for processing applications must be reasonable. Further provisions on processing fees will be laid down separately in the Ministry of the Interior’s Decree on Fees Charged for Services Provided by the Finnish Immigration Service.

Inquiries: Jarmo Tiukkanen, Chief Specialist, tele: +358 295 488 606: email:  jarmo.tiukkanen @intermin.fi

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A Quarter of Pregnant Women Have Faced Discrimination at Work During the Pandemic: New TUC Survey

 

|| Sunday: June 14: 2020 || ά. A quarter of pregnant women have faced discrimination at work during the corona virus outbreak, according to a new TUC Survey, published on Wednesday. A new poll of more than 3,400 women, who have been pregnant or on maternity leave during the Covid-19 pandemic found that one in four, 25%, had experienced unfair treatment at work, including, being singled out for redundancy or furlough.

Of those surveyed, low-paid pregnant women, earning less than £23,000 a year, were much more likely, 28%, than women on higher salaries, 17%, to have been forced to lose pay and stop work. Pregnant women told the TUC that they were required to take sick leave when they were not sick, to take unpaid leave, to start their maternity leave early or to leave the workplace, because their employer did not act to make their workplace safe for them.

All of these actions are illegal, says the TUC. Pregnant women have the right to be suspended on full pay, if, workplace risks to their health can not be removed or reduced or suitable alternative work is not available. The TUC poll exposed a range of health and safety concerns for women, who have been pregnant during the corona virus outbreak: One in four, 25%, of those surveyed told the TUC that they felt unsafe at work and two in five, 42%, responding to the poll said that they had not had a workplace health and safety risk assessment.

Of those, who had a risk assessment, almost, half, 46%, said that their employer did not take the necessary action to reduce the risks identified, which is against the law and a quarter, 25%, said that the risk assessment did not include the additional risks posed by Covid-19

The TUC is calling on the government to take action now and change the law to protect new and expectant mothers’ health and safety: Employers are already required to undertake a Covid-19 risk assessment, which should take account of additional risks to anyone, who is pregnant or a new mother The government should now change the law to require employers to undertake individual written risk assessments when they are informed that a woman, who works for them is pregnant, has given birth in the past six months or is breastfeeding. Assessment of risk should involve discussions with the woman involved and, if, any risk is identified then it must be removed

Enforce the law: The government should make it clear to employers that, if, the risks, facing a pregnant worker can not be removed and there is no alternative work available, pregnant women have the right to be suspended from work on full pay. The Health and Safety Executive should enforce the law through spot checks and should encourage pregnant women to raise concerns with them, anonymously, if, necessary. Employers, who break the law should be subject to the full range of penalties, including, fines.

TUC General Secretary Ms Frances O’Grady said, “Work should be safe for pregnant women and new mums. But our research has uncovered shocking levels of pregnancy and maternity discrimination during the corona virus outbreak. Employers are routinely flouting health and safety law. This puts women’s lives and the health of their unborn babies at risk.

Ministers must require every employer to do an individual risk assessment for every pregnant woman and new mum. If, it’s not safe for women to keep working, employers must suspend them on full pay. Employers must stop illegally selecting pregnant women and new mums for redundancy. And bosses, who break the law should be fined.”

Ms Sarah, not her real name, who is expecting her baby soon, told the TUC, “I felt the environment was unsafe for my unborn child. I initially approached my line manager, who told me, ‘a senior manager’ had completed a risk assessment for me and I was fine to continue working. This senior manager knew nothing about my medical history or the history of my pregnancy, including, it already being high risk.

I involved my obstetrician and occupational health to have a full and proper risk assessment completed, tailored to myself as should be for all pregnant workers and eventually after around 10 days of fighting I was allowed to remain off work.”

Ms Leila, not her real name, is currently on maternity leave. She told the TUC, “I worked in a residential home. Some residents were physically violent on a regular basis but, I was not assigned the residents where I would be less at risk. I worked for as long as I could but definitely risked mine and my baby’s health and safety and left at 32 weeks. I had reduced my hours, which meant a reduced salary. The attitude towards pregnant women in the health and social care sector is awful, you’re seen as an inconvenience and will be pushed to leave by being made to perform as you would have pre-pregnancy. You are seen as lazy, if, you ask for help with moving and handling heavy loads, residents in floor hoists. You will be made to feel an annoyance, if, you ask to go to the toilet more often than usual. It’s frightening how ingrained this attitude is.”

Ms Anya, not her real name, is in the second trimester of her pregnancy. She said, “I was being told that my public-facing role would be enforced and I could not refuse to do the job. The ward had Covid-19 patients and six members of staff had taken unwell with the virus. I’ve had several consecutive miscarriages before this pregnancy.”

Ms Charlotte, not her real name, is in her third trimester. She told the TUC, “My boss insisted that I come into the office after the government had announced that pregnant women were on the vulnerable list. I suggested working from home, which is completely possible but, he wouldn’t allow it. I had to take unpaid leave because I was too scared to go into the office.”

Ms Zara, not her real name, is in the third trimester of her pregnancy. She said, “There was no other option. In my current job, other people were being furloughed but I couldn’t due to missing the deadline. My new job, that I started in March deemed it safe for me to work but I did not agree, so I had to take unpaid leave or continue working but I did not want to take that risk.”  

Ms Emma, not her real name, is in her third trimester. She told the TUC, “I asked for work from home, which had been an option previously. I was told it was my choice to not come into the workplace as the government guidance was not law and, therefore, was told to take sick leave or holiday or come in as normal. Social distancing was not possible in the workplace.”

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UK Government Extends the Furlough Job Retention Scheme Until October

 

 

|| Tuesday: May 12: 2020: Writing || ά. In a boost to millions of jobs and businesses, Mr Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of Exchequer, said the furlough scheme would be extended by a further four months with workers continuing to receive 80% of their current salary. As the economy begins to reopen it is necessary to support people to get back to work. From the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff.

The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month. Mr Rishi Sunak said, ‘’Our Corona virus Job Retention Scheme has protected millions of jobs and businesses across the UK during the outbreak and I’ve been clear that I want to avoid a cliff edge and get people back to work in a measured way. This extension and the changes we are making to the scheme will give flexibility to businesses while protecting the livelihoods of the British people and our future economic prospects.

New statistics published today showed that the job retention scheme has protected 07.5 million workers and, almost, one million businesses. The Scheme will continue in its current form until the end of July and the changes to allow more flexibility will come in from the start of August. More specific details and information around its implementation will be made available by the end of this month.

The government will explore ways through which furloughed workers, who wish to do additional training or learn new skills are supported during this period. It will, also, continue to work closely with the Devolved Administrations to ensure the scheme supports people across the Union. The Chancellor’s decision to extend the scheme, which will continue to apply across all regions and sectors in the UK economy, comes after the government outlined its plan for the next phase of its response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Scheme is just one part of the government’s world-leading economic response to corona virus, including, a package for the self-employed, loans and guarantees, that have so far provided billions of pounds in support, tax deferrals and grants for small businesses.

Today the government is, also, publishing new statistics, that show that businesses have benefitted from over £14 billion in loans and guarantees to support their cashflow during the crisis. This includes 268,000 Bounce Back Loans worth £08.3 billion, 36,000 loans worth over £06 billion through the Corona virus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and £359 million through the Corona virus Large Bsiness Interruption Loan Scheme.

Mr Mike Cherry, the National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said, ‘’The Job Retention Scheme is a lifeline, which has been hugely beneficial in helping small employers keep their staff in work and it’s extension is welcome. Small employers have told us that part-time furloughing will help them recover from this crisis and it is welcome that new flexibility is announced today.

BCC Director General Mr Adam Marshall said, ‘’The extension of the Job Retention Scheme will come as a huge help and a huge relief for businesses across the UK. The Chancellor is once again listening to what we’ve been saying and the changes planned will help businesses bring their people back to work through the introduction of a part-time furlough scheme. We will engage with the Treasury and HMRC on the detail to ensure that this gives companies the flexibility they need to reopen safely.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said, ‘’The Chancellor is confronting a challenging balancing act deftly. As economic activity slowly speeds up, it’s essential that support schemes adapt in parallel. Extending the furlough to avoid a June cliff-edge continues the significant efforts made already and will protect millions of jobs. Introducing much needed flexibility is extremely welcome. It will prepare the ground for firms that are reawakening, while helping those who remain in hibernation. That’s essential as the UK economy revives step-by-step, while supporting livelihoods. Firms will, of course, want more detail on how they will contribute to the scheme in