Working Links: Biggest Crisis For Probation Services As Company Collapses

Working Links, one of Britain’s biggest providers of probation services which have managed the rehabilitation of offenders for years have gone into administration. Inspectors have criticised Working Links for mishandling its operations to boost profit. Furthermore, problems have been rising ever since Working Links became responsible for running 3 CRCs (Community Rehabilitation Companies) which were awarded contracts in 2015 to supervise low and medium-risk offenders.

Working Links provide probation services in England and Wales. The private company announced its collapse into administration on Friday. The company have been going through financial difficulties and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said they have been aware of the company’s financial strain since last year.

Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon MP, responded to the news that Working Links has gone into administration:

“Our probation system is clearly broken. This is yet another public service severely damaged by Chris Grayling and the Conservatives’ obsession with privatisation. We need a probation system that prioritises keeping the public safe rather than boosting the profits of private companies. Labour is fully committed to returning the probation system to the public sector. The Tories must now do likewise.”

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen:

The Government has been warned about this since the beginning of the privatisation programme. The MoJ said Working Links services would be handed over to Seetec in the meantime. Seetec is a public and business service provider and is also responsible for managing community rehabilitation centres in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

It is no surprise that Chris Grayling MP, the former Secretary of State for Justice was responsible for privatising the care of low-to-medium risk offenders as part of his reforms. The government has been criticised on numerous occasions for mishandling the situation as they have been advised to terminate the contract between the Ministry of Justice and Working Links. Our probation system is broken at the moment due to the privatisation of a service which should have always been in public ownership. The collapse of Working Links also affects thousands of working individuals who have been told not to attend work anymore. Amongst those workers are young adults doing their apprenticeship in both customer service and retail. The Inspectorate of Probation, which inspects this provision for the government, rated the centres covering Dorset, Devon and Cornwall as inadequate. The HM Chief Inspector of Probation published a report into Dorset, Devon and Cornwall CRC which you can read further in the link below:

https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation/media/press-releases/2019/02/ddcrc/

 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP Should Quit Or Be Sacked, Says Labour

 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling MP has been facing heavy criticism since last year when it was uncovered that he had awarded a £14m contract to a company called Seaborne Freight. This contract had been awarded in case of a no deal. Seaborne Freight planned to run ferries between the Port of Ramsgate in Kent, UK and Ostend in Belgium. This company did not seem reliable as it was revealed that not only did they not have any ships but there was also no record of hiring them. The Department for Transport (DfT) has now confirmed that the contract has been cancelled.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “Following the decision of Seaborne Freight’s backer, Arklow Shipping, to step back from the deal, it became clear Seaborne would not reach its contractual requirements with the Government. We have therefore decided to terminate our agreement.”

Labour is now calling for Chris Grayling to be sacked.

Final Comment From Editor- Heidi Boahen

This is hugely humiliating for the Department for Transport and also our country. Chris Grayling MP has previously defended his decision despite the criticism received last year. He insisted that the right decision has been made. However, it has now backfired and the contract has been scrapped. Chris Grayling decision to award the contract was never going to work. This, however, has allowed discussions to be had both online and in the media to how this arrangement was made in the first place. It was also revealed in early January that Seaborne Freight has copied the terms and conditions from a food company.  

Does this further indicate that our current Ministers are incompetent in doing their job? Irrational decisions have been made in the past however, this seems to be the most embarrassing one at the moment. Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald MP has also responded to the news that the Seaborne Freight contract has been cancelled:

As we predicted, the Seaborne Freight contract has been cancelled. This cannot go without consequence. The Chris Grayling catalogue of calamities grows bigger by the day. This contract was never going to work but this Secretary of State, true to form, blunders from one disaster to another.Whilst Theresa May needs the few friends she has right now, we cannot have this incompetent Transport Secretary carry on heaping humiliation after humiliation on our country. He has to go.

Brexit Turmoil: London Based EU Medicines Agency Relocate to Amsterdam.

 

The EMA, European Medicines Agency has closed its headquarters in London, Canary Wharf to relocate to Amsterdam. This shut down will cause a loss of  900 jobs and after 24 years of operating the headquarters lowered their European national flags on Friday night.

The EMA has for many years operated to protect and promote public health through monitoring and evaluation.  However, with the UK exiting the European Union by the end of March, the EMA was forced to close down because pharmaceuticals regulation should be practised in member states. 

Its relocation has forced many to come to the realisation that Brexit will have an effect on various organisations across the UK.

The EMA tweeted the following from their official Twitter account with over 39 thousand followers:

Today, EMA staff lowered the 28 EU flags and symbolically said goodbye to their London offices. Guido Rasi expressed his thanks to the UK for its contribution to the work of the Agency and for having been a gracious host of EMA since 1995.

 

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

We are finally starting to see how Brexit will affect businesses and organisations in the near future. So far we have solely been informed about predictions and what experts have projected to happen to the UK once we have officially exited the EU in March. However, we are now slowly seeing the Brexit turmoil affecting organisations within the country. Here we have the EMA HQ closing down due to Brexit which indicates a great loss for not only London but also the whole of UK. For many years the UK has been benefiting from EMA’s operation through monitoring and protecting public health. Additionally, the loss of 900 jobs will have a greater effect on the UK’s labour force and it is safe to state that we should expect many more individuals losing their jobs due to Brexit. The relocation of EMA may be good news to Amsterdam however, for the UK this is a significant loss.

 

NHS is financially unsustainable, says NAO

 

The NHS continues to be in crisis. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), the NHS is financially unsustainable. The Prime Minister’s plan to increase the NHS budget by £20.5 billion by 2023-2024 may not be sufficient enough to cover services such as social and mental health care.

According to NAO additional funding has been provided, however, it has been spent on existing pressures within the healthcare service. The Head of the National Audit Office Amyas Morse says:

The NHS has received extra funding, but this has mostly been used to cope with current pressures and has not provided the stable platform intended from which to transform services. Repeated short-term funding-boosts could turn into the new normal, when the public purse may be better served by a long-term funding settlement that provides a stable platform for sustained improvements.

In 2016-2017, the NHS received an additional £1.8 billion in Sustainability and Transformation Fund which also intended to give the NHS stability, to improve and transform performance and services in order to achieve a sustainable healthcare system. 

Although the fund has assisted in the overall financial improvement, the NHS is still struggling to achieve targets with its high demand and restricted budget.

Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth MP, responds to the NAO’s report on NHS financial sustainability:

The Tories have spent nine years running down the NHS, imposing the biggest cash squeeze in its history, with swingeing cuts to public health services and the slashing of social care services.

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

The NAO report has come as a surprise to some as the news of an additional £20.5 billion was the Government’s proposed solution to the NHS crisis. However, the NAO report indicates that the money may not be sufficient enough as other areas of the health service have been neglected for years.  This is a great indicator that simply throwing money at a system is not a solution. There needs to be a strategic plan to improve a system that the majority of public members rely on. Waiting times continue to slip and there is an increasing problem with the workforce. The NHS cannot work for the public if it does not have the right amount of workers.

These are the same issues we had for years yet, we still have no solution.  As previously reported NHS Leaders were forced to delay publication of long term plans due to the Brexit chaos. The current Government’s focus is not its people.

The Government needs a reminder of what the NHS set out to do when it was established in 1948 following the Second World War. The principles were to provide a universal and comprehensive service. Currently, the NHS is failing at providing a comprehensive service however, this is not because they refuse to but because they do not have the necessary backing from the Government to provide the public with an efficient service.

Universal Credit: U-turn on two-child benefit cap is not good enough

Amber Rudd

 

The Government has pulled a U-turn on the Universal Credit two-child limit. Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has announced that the extension of the two-child limit on Universal Credit will be scrapped.

In general, families with children claiming Universal Credit receive additional financial support if the child was born before April 2017. However, if a family were to have more than two children born either on or after April 2017, the family will not receive additional financial support. The Government had planned to start applying the two-child limit to families with children born before April 2017. This has now been scrapped due to its unfairness.

 

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

It is unfair to make an announcement of a potential change to a system which many low-income families rely on. Many families in the UK are in poverty and are struggling to cope financially on a monthly basis.

Although many families will be relieved to hear the announcement, families who have more than two children born after April 2017 will not be too happy. Universal Credit is supposed to be a system which supports low-income families and not put them into further deprivation and poverty. I suggest the cap should be scrapped across the board to make it completely fair. I believe Universal Credit is failing many families going through hardship in the UK.

Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary has announced:

Labour will scrap the social security freeze and get rid of the two child cap, which everyone, including the Work and Pensions Secretary, knows is deeply unfair

 

Homeless People Need Help, Not Punishment: Labour Party To Repeal Law Criminalising Rough Sleepers

 

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn have announced that the next Labour government will repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824. The Vagrancy Act 1824 is an Act of Parliament which makes it an offence to sleep rough or beg. Anyone who is found to be sleeping rough or begging in public can be arrested.

Labour will say that the priority should be to support the less fortunate and to not criminalise them. The legislation creates further austerity and has a very hostile approach when it comes to dealing with homelessness in this country. Reports have stated that those convicted under the Vagrancy Act can be fined up to £1, 000 and can leave those convicted under the act with a two-year criminal record.

Labour has committed to ending rough sleeping with a plan to reserve 8,000 homes for people with a history of rough sleeping.

Jeremy Corbyn MP said:

The next Labour government will make ending homelessness a priority. We want to build a society which doesn’t walk by on the other side when we see someone in need.

 

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

According to homeless link’s latest publication of research in January 2018, 4, 751 individuals are estimated to be sleeping rough on any one night. This indicates an increase of 15 % from 2016- 2017. 600 homeless people have died in England and Wales last year according to official figures.  

In addition, over 300, 000 people are currently homeless in the UK according to Shelter. It is, therefore, no secret that austerity has taken over the UK and the current Conservative government does not seem to understand the importance of keeping the need of the people first. Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire who has also been the MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup since 2010, has recently stated that the government policies such as welfare cuts are not to blame for the rise in homelessness but rather the breakdown of families and drug use are. As much as there are many factors that contribute to being homeless, it is ignorant to state that the policies created under the current government have not contributed to the rise in homelessness, with figures even stating the number of people sleeping rough has more than doubled since 2010.  The Housing Secretary’s comment has angered many homeless people but also people who are not homeless. They understand that many who are homeless do not want to be and just need the right support system.

It has been reported that a homeless man died on the street after collapsing outside parliament this week. As it seems now, the Labour Party is the only party willing to set up a plan to overcome this crisis. To help the many who are neglected by the current government.

NHS Leaders Forced To Delay Publication of Long Term Plan Amid Brexit Chaos

 

NHS bosses have been forced to delay the publication of the health service’s most important document as of yet; the long-term plan. The document elaborates how the NHS plans to spend the introduced £20.5bn budget increase in the next few years. It was due to be published in the week commencing the 17th December 2018 as  Theresa May committed to increasing the NHS’s budget by £20.5bn a year, by 2023-24. The Prime Minister told NHS England to produce a plan, however, this publication of document has been postponed until January 2019.

The chaos surrounding Brexit at the moment hinders ministers to consider the plan in its entire depth. Nonetheless, ministers have been warned that the £20bn will not be sufficient to pay for all the improvements they would like to see as there are many issues within the NHS that needs to be improved. One common problem would be the lack of staff which leads to further issues in providing a public health service. It has been reported that thousands of nurses and other health professionals have quit the NHS mental health service with two thousand mental health staff leaving a month, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Services are struggling to cope with an increase of individuals seeking help for mental health such as anxiety, and other disorders and a lack of staff to provide an efficient service.

In addition, patients are continuously unhappy with the long waiting list and the A&Es being overcrowded on an annual basis.  Jonathan Ashworth MP, the Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary said:

“This is a government dismally paralysed by the ongoing Tory civil war over the Brexit shambles. It will be an utterly embarrassing failure of leadership if the health secretary can’t get an NHS plan published because of the ongoing squabbling”.

 

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

The NHS has been heavily criticised for the inefficient service it has been providing the public. Criticism of the waiting lists getting longer, not being able to get an appointment in a short period of time,  staff shortages and the poor quality of services, to name a few criticisms. It is, therefore, fair to say that we need urgent action now and the delay in publishing this important document simply because the government cannot decide on who should be their leader and cannot internally agree on a Brexit deal is unfair. This government is unable to take anything forward at the moment. Other departments should not be put on a backburner. Brexit should not be the be-all and end-all for this country. We have to move on.

The NHS spending document is set to be published in January.

UK Government Blocks SNP Paying Settled Status Fees For Public Sector Workers

Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of SNP has stated that the UK Government will not allow Holyrood ministers to pay the £65 settlement status fees for European citizens who are working in Scotland’s public services.

The First Minister said at the Health and Social Care Scotland conference in Glasgow that the UK Conservative Government will not allow third-party payments, which forces EU citizens to pay the fee upfront. This comes as a surprise as the First Minister has already promised her government would cover the cost for EU public-sector and NHS workers living in Scotland.

Circa 13,000 EU nationals currently work in the health and social care sector in Scotland. However, reports have indicated that there is already a drop in job applications for the health sector.

The Home Office spokesman stated: “The EU Settlement Scheme will make it simple and straightforward for EU citizens to get the status they need”.

Editor’s final comment- Heidi Boahen

This hostile environment created by Theresa May herself and her party have put many European citizens living in the UK in fear. It almost seems as if the current Government wants to purposely put barriers in place which consequently forces Europeans to leave the UK. We are already seeing a number of Europeans leave the UK and it is no surprise as new policies do not seem welcoming. Nurses, Doctors and other NHS staffs should be valued and protected at all times. It is simply unfair for Europeans who have lived in the UK for a long time to have to pay a fee to prove their right to be in this country. As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, it has to shift their focus on uniting the United Kingdom and not segregate the British nation further with hostile policies.

Rail Chaos Continuous: Chris Grayling’s Failure To Deliver An Efficient Rail Service

The UK has experienced a significant increase in fare prices which many argue is not justifiable. Campaign for Better Transport has called for a fares freeze in January and wrote to Theresa May in June outlining passengers day-to-day train journey experiences. However, this seems to not have had much of an impact as another fare increase has been introduced for the near year. It was therefore not surprising when there was a public uproar over the 3.1 % increase in rail fares which will add hundreds of pounds to commuters’ travel in 2019.

To add to commuters’ concern, the introduction of this years’ new train times in May has not been a success with many passengers still complaining about the lack of punctuality. It has been announced that hundreds of new train services are to be introduced across the UK from Sunday, following the lack of cohesiveness with the latest introduced train times. However, some changes to train networks such as Northern, Great Western and South Western networks have been delayed until next year May.

Editor’s final comment- Heidi Boahen

Passengers pour over £10 billion a year into the rail industry alongside significant government investment, yet they are not receiving a service that is their money’s worth. It is fair to state, the Department for Transport is in need of a new Secretary. One who will take control and one who puts the passengers’ needs and concerns at the centre of all decisions.

I, therefore, agree with Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald when he said there is a lack of concern for the interests of passengers and that the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has failed at his job to provide a decent and reliable train service. Many will be affected by the inconsistency of the train times, the lack of consideration for train networks in North of England and the consistent increase of rail fares which the average person living in the UK will struggle to afford. Trains should be run as a public service and not run for profit. As Andy McDonald MP said, “To deliver reliable services, we need an integrated network that acts in the interest of passengers, which requires the operation of trains to be brought under public ownership”.

Matt Hancock Accused Of Breaking Ministerial Code

The Labour Party has written to Theresa May demanding an investigation after it has been revealed Health Secretary Matt Hancock has potentially broken ministerial code. The Conservative MP has been representing West Suffolk since 2010 and was appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in 2018. Matt Hancock has been accused of breaking ministerial code by endorsing a private healthcare company.

An interview with the MP of West Suffolk appeared in the Evening Standard which also had financial support from a firm called Babylon. The article was published on Tuesday and featured the Babylon logo and stated that the firm was the newspaper’s partner.

Hancock has shown admiration for the company’s GP at Hand app, which allows users to have visual consultations with doctors via their smartphone. He was quoted “this technology allows more resources for the people visiting GPs directly”.

Justin Madders MP, Shadow Health Minister has stated that Hancock repeatedly promoted the app and the company and has therefore breached a vital section of the Ministerial code. He has been accused of breaching sections 7.12 and 7.13 of the ministerial code. The code states that ministers should not ‘normally accept invitations to act as patrons of, or otherwise offer support to, pressure groups, or organisations dependent in whole or in part on government funding’.

A final comment- From Editor- Heidi Boahen

As an MP, it is his duty to represent his constituency and as a Secretary for Health and Social Care, it is Hancock’s duty to not only do what is best for his department but to also follow Miniserial codes by all means.

It has been stated that Matt Hancock was not aware that Babylon would sponsor the article which could be a possibility as a representative from the Evening Standard has stated that Matt Hancock was approached for an interview, and he agreed. However, this issue requires further investigation by the Prime Minister. If the Department of Health and Social Care is working towards a tech ecosystem within the NHS then this has to be done in such a way that it follows guidelines and codes.