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Special Investigation: Society’s Reluctance to Acknowledge the Scale of Child Sexual Abuse and a Lack of Political Support for Its Survivors is Keeping the Vulnerable At Risk

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/06/2024 - 10:14pm in

This investigation was first published in the May 2024 print edition of Byline Times

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The lack of support for survivors of child sexual exploitation is a major reason why vulnerable women are susceptible to far-right groups offering support, experts told Byline Times.

Cuts to council budgets have impacted child social care services provided by local authorities – even as demand has increased. Byline Times has previously reported on the crisis in children’s homes that has seen private equity firms, and even the Qatari Government, make hundreds of millions of pounds from putting vulnerable children in unsafe accommodation. In at least one case, staff failed to stop at-risk children from being sexually abused by men in the area.

Mental health support is another area under huge pressure. 

The risk of CSE survivors attempting suicide can be as much as six times greater than in the general population, but no ring-fenced, long-term, specialist support is provided by government or the NHS. To access even general mental health support, CSE survivors face a waiting list with nearly two million others.

Most survivors, or children at risk of abuse, are forced to rely on a patchwork of charities – some government-funded, some not – to help deal with their trauma. But these charities are themselves struggling. 

A number of those Byline Times spoke to for this investigation said charities are struggling to meet the record levels of need from a growing number of survivors while operating on shoestring budgets. Although the Government recently announced that it is doubling its funding for child abuse charities to £2.4 million, this amounts to just £22 for each of the 107,000 child sexual abuse cases logged by the police in 2022.

These problems help explain why the far-right is able to present itself as ‘filling the gap’ left by this lack of services with its own range of support for survivors. 

But it is often not just about financial support. According to several of the experts Byline Times spoke to, survivors of child sexual exploitation, and their experiences, have too often been disregarded by the Government, media, and police.

In many of the high-profile cases of on-street grooming – such as Rochdale and Rotherham, but also less well-known examples across the country – there have been systemic issues with how authorities have reacted to reports of abuse.

One report into the mass grooming of underage girls in Rochdale found that police had repeatedly failed to record evidence and testimonies of those who came forward begging for help. Authorities across the region then repeatedly failed to investigate for years after victims first came forward. Dozens of children had been sexually exploited at the hands of a gang of perpetrators operating in the area.  

Despite the press attention the issue has received in the years since, these systemic failings continue. One academic Byline Times spoke to said they had recently attended a meeting where police dismissed the testimonies of a CSE survivor as they were deemed to not be acting as upset as they should have been if they were actually a victim (despite lack of emotion being a common response to shock). 

“It is important to understand and address the reasons why some survivors and their loved ones might be susceptible to approaches from the far-right, which means thinking carefully about what they offer,” University College London’s Dr Ella Cockbain said.

Perhaps at the core of the problem is the fact that society still struggles to get to grips with the scale of child sexual abuse being perpetrated. One in 10 children – and one in six girls – are estimated to experience sexual abuse before the age of 16. Even that figure, authorities believe, is likely to be an underestimate.

Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s former lead on child sexual abuse, said: “It’s far too common. I always say that it’s the pandemic that will outlive the pandemic we’ve just been through. By focusing on the exploitation of it, we mustn’t minimise the fact that it occurs and its impact.”

Diverting Focus From Survivors To Perpetrators

For some experts, this cuts to the core of why the narrative of ‘Muslim grooming gang’ persists, even as the evidence calling into question its credibility has become clear.

“We can’t cope as individuals by accepting that, actually, this can happen to my child, my niece or nephew, or could be perpetrated by someone we know,” Helen Beckett, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Central Lancashire, told Byline Times.

“It’s much easier to think of it as a problem ‘out there’ that affects ‘other people’. So the ‘grooming gangs’ idea fits into this othering narrative – that it’s other people over there doing this who are not like us.”

The “societal stigma and silencing” around child sexual abuse, she said, leaves us unable to contemplate, let alone discuss, its existence and scale, unless we are able to project it elsewhere, as something alien or imported.

This can have serious repercussions for society as a whole. But, more than anything, the biggest victims of that failure are sexual abuse survivors themselves. 

The experts Byline Times spoke to warned that, by solely focusing on Asian grooming gangs, thereby ignoring the scale of abuse elsewhere in society, a “hierarchy of abuse” is created. When everyone, from the media to the police, begin to place greater focus on ‘cracking down on Muslim grooming gangs’, it fails other survivors – “whose abuse is overlooked because it doesn’t fit that narrative”.

Afzal said that he has been contacted by lawyers who have struggled to get the police to open criminal cases into perpetrators of child sexual exploitation who are not from Muslim or south Asian backgrounds. He said he has also been told of social services training programmes in which at-risk children are solely told to avoid getting into cars with south Asian men. 

“You’re almost giving them a false sense of reassurance that, if they don’t hang around with certain people they won’t be abused, even when eight out of 10 sex abusers in prison are British white men,” Afzal told Byline Times.

Following Suella Braverman’s comments last year about the threat of Muslim groomers, a coalition of charities and experts in child protection – including the NSPCC and Victim Support – wrote an open letter, stating that narratives based on “misinformation, racism and division” were putting children at risk by drawing attention away from other sources of sexual abuse.

Better funding and serious reforms to the policing of sexual abuse, statutory requirements to offer prolonged psychological support to survivors, and a huge uptick in government funding for charities and support services were all floated as potential solutions to the crisis.  

But doing any of that would also require coming to terms with how, as a society, we have enabled this – through our refusal to acknowledge the scale of child sexual abuse and address it with the funding and support people need.

One of the biggest tragedies of the ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ narrative, according to survivors Byline Times spoke to, is that it redirects the focus from survivors onto the race or religion of the perpetrator – and reinforces the very stereotypes that survivors face as a barrier to being heard in the first place. 

“I was abused by all men and the police didn’t give a f**k about any of them,” Lara (not her real name) said. “Because it’s not about how the police saw those men – it’s about how the police saw me. That’s what it was about: how the police see young women from working-class backgrounds.”

Special Investigation: ‘The Far-Right Is Cynically Taking Advantage of Child Sexual Exploitation Survivors’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/06/2024 - 10:12pm in

This investigation was first published in the May 2024 print edition of Byline Times

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Survivors of child sexual exploitation are being exploited by groups linked to the far-right, taking advantage of a lack of support for these vulnerable individuals, to further an anti-Muslim agenda around grooming gangs, a five-month special investigation by Byline Times has found.

This newspaper has spoken to survivors of CSE who were promised paid-for therapy, and were aware of others offered food, televisions and new clothes, by groups with links to the far-right, which then pushed survivors to speak out about their experiences of abuse at rallies.

The practice was described as “grooming” by both survivors themselves and several leading academics Byline Times spoke to.

Members of one group in Hull, with links to multiple neo-Nazi organisations and campaigners, told one survivor that child sexual exploitation was being carried out by “p***s”. After leaving the group, she faced a litany of violent threats and intimidation from its members.

Despite evidence, produced by the Home Office itself, showing that individuals from no single background or religion are more likely than another to commit child sexual exploitation crimes each year, narratives around ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ have become normalised among politicians and media outlets on the right.

Nazir Afzal, a former Crown Prosecution Service lead on child sexual exploitation and the prosecutor in the Rochdale paedophile gang case, told Byline Times that this is part of a wider pattern of the far-right weaponising the issue of ‘grooming gangs’ to further its own aims – with the narrative being used to recruit growing numbers of members and justify anti-migrant and anti-Muslim protests.

This investigation has uncovered that the far-right has been able to exploit a lack of prolonged support for often ignored survivors of child sexual exploitation by government and charities – which helps to explain why survivors are susceptible to any support such groups claim to offer.

Grooming and Threats

Lara (not her real name) did not know what to expect when she was told to attend a meeting by United Hull. 

Having attempted to access NHS mental health support for “years and years”, a friend and another survivor of child sexual exploitation had told her that the group would be able to get her “long-term therapy and justice”. 

She was desperately in need of support to combat the depression and suicidal feelings that were the result of the trauma of her abuse – abuse she said was never properly addressed by the police or other local authorities.

Despite not knowing much about the group, Lara decided to go along. 

“I remember when I was getting in the taxi, I was literally praying, because I was finally going to get some help,” she told Byline Times. “I got to this pub, went in, and there were just lots and lots of men. They were there with a big banner.”

One of the men eventually approached Lara, telling her how “brave” she was for attending the meeting. He said the group would be able to organise psychological support for her. 

But the reality of United Hull’s political beliefs quickly became more apparent. 

Lara said: “They were saying abuse by Asian men was an Islamic thing, and that it was an attack on our country and our British values.” As she had been abused repeatedly by men from a number of different backgrounds and ethnicities, the narrative did not sit well with her.

“I remember going out for a cigarette and texting my mate to say ‘I don’t know about this’. And this guy came out and said ‘you’re a survivor aren’t you?’ and I said ‘yes’. And he said ‘we all know it’s the p***s doing this’.”

Lara decided to cut ties with the group. But, in the months and years since, she told this newspaper that she has seen a growing number of child sexual exploitation survivors in the area join it in search of support, justice and validation. These women have had therapy sessions paid for, received financial support, and been gifted televisions, trainers, new tracksuits, and more. Several eventually spoke out about their experiences of abuse at rallies.

Since CSE survivors are afforded lifelong anonymity by the courts, in order to give them complete control over whether they speak out or not, several experts expressed serious concerns about the potential re-traumatising impact of survivors speaking out at these rallies.

Byline Times understands that some of the women left the group after becoming aware of its political leanings.

Last year, multiple members and a leader of United Hull attended a rally held in Hull by the far-right group Patriotic Alternative. 

Videos of the event show United Hull members standing on the other side of a police cordon chanting about refugees being “invaders”. They also screamed abuse at a CSE survivor who attended a counter-protest. Videos show that she is called a “c***” and a “bitch” repeatedly, and subject to thinly-veiled threats about the men knowing who she is and telling her to step away from the protection of the police.

Despite being a survivor of child sexual exploitation, Lara said she was called a “paedophile sympathiser” by far-right organisers of the rally for vocally opposing the idea of paedophile rings being a Muslim-specific problem. 

“I’m scared in the house, these men know where I live,” she said. “Every time I think I’m going to do something about it, I think ‘they know where I live’.”

United Hull did not respond to Byline Times’ questions. The group has previously denied having far-right leanings. This newspaper understands that at least one leader of the group who was at the Patriotic Alternative rally left after his attendance was revealed.  

A Wider Pattern

The story of United Hull is not the only one Byline Times was told.

Nick Lowles, founder and director of anti-extremism charity Hope Not Hate, said this type of targeting is a pattern he had encountered all too frequently as the “far-right have repeatedly exploited survivors for their political and personal gain”. 

“In Telford, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as ‘Tommy Robinson’, has made a small fortune recounting the stories of young women sexually abused in the town,” he told Byline Times, citing findings from the biography he wrote on Yaxley-Lennon, Tommy.

“No convictions have resulted from his exposés and several of the women have experienced severe trauma resulting from his films, with little or no support offered. Worse still, at least two of Lennon’s aides have had sexual relations with survivors in Telford, one becoming involved in a violent and abusive relationship.”

Representatives for Tommy Robinson did not respond to Byline Times.

Last year, Nigel Bromage, founder of far-right deradicalisation charity Exit Hate and a former neo-Nazi, said that many of the more than 600 people the charity had worked with had a history of being victims of abuse. 

“A lot of these really young girls have gone to the far-right for protection – which they have got – but then they've simply been misused and abused themselves,” he told the Media Storm podcast.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, known as 'Tommy Robinson'. Photo: PA/Alamy

John North, another former member of the far-right, told the podcast that it targeted people perceived as having “vulnerabilities that they can exploit” when trying to recruit members. That could go beyond survivors of sexual abuse to include those with neurodiversity, people who are socially outcast, come from broken homes, or have just been through a divorce. 

“As much as you don’t want to give these guys credit, it is very, very, very dangerous to just stereotype [the far-right] as being a bunch of drunken idiots. They’ve looked into, researched, and studied ways of radicalising people,” he said.

Anti-fascist protestor Dr Louise Raw, a victim of childhood abuse, was called “a n*nce and rape apologist” and sent death threats by the far-right, for speaking out against its rallies.

When Yaxley-Lennon held a rally in Telford on grooming gangs, Raw was one of the counter-protestors. In a speech, she shared her experiences of abuse with the crowd. “I was just so angry about the far-right claiming to be the ones who care about victims and anti-fascists being labelled ‘paedophile protectors’,” she said.

Dr Raw told Byline Times that a friend who had been subject to “years of grooming” was contacted by several prominent far-right figures with promises to raise money for her to receive therapy. When their political persuasions became apparent, she tried to cut ties. 

“At this point, these ‘caring’ and ‘victim-supporting’ people began to threaten her and say she should kill herself and that her children should be drowned,” Dr Raw recalled. “The far-right is cynically taking advantage of child sexual exploitation survivors. They are using victims to further their racist agendas.”

Labour Won’t Stick to Conservative Spending Plans, Ed Miliband Confirms

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/05/2024 - 11:19pm in

The most senior Labour figure yet has confirmed that the party will not follow Conservative spending plans if elected later this year.

Speaking to Byline Times, Shadow Climate Change and Net Zero Secretary – and former Labour Leader – Ed Miliband addressed concerns that the party might not promise enough to inspire voters, claiming that its plans are both realistic and necessary.

It comes as Labour faces criticism from some on the left of its new ‘Six Steps’ plan, launched on Thursday, which focuses on "economic stability" over, for example, investment in infrastructure and growth. 

At the campaign launch in Barnet, north London, Miliband refuted this – outlining Labour's commitment to providing 40,000 additional NHS appointments per week and 6,500 more teachers, aimed at reversing current crises in those sectors. 

The Doncaster MP rebutted the idea Labour might ‘under-promise’ and fail to inspire people, saying: “No, because I think that what we're offering is absolutely where people are… If we think about what's happening in our schools, and kids being taught in crumbling school buildings with a lack of teachers, we're going to start to turn that around. 

“But the reason I say start to turn that round, is I think if we tell people that this can all be done overnight, people will say ‘we don't believe you’, and they'd be right not to believe us. What we're actually saying is 'this will take time'. But we're not saying that because we're not going to change things.”

He added that the party was “being realistic” but “also promising real change”. 

And he pointed to plans for more police, teachers and nurses, saying: “All of these things are real, they're concrete, they're costed, and they will make a difference to people's lives.”

Miliband also became the most senior Labour figure so far to confirm that Labour would not adopt Conservative spending plans if elected.

“We have got different spending plans to the Conservative Party," he told Byline Times. "Take what we're doing on teachers, that's extra investment. And then [take] education… or £8 billion pounds that we're investing in GB energy from the windfall tax. 

“We have different choices, different priorities.” 

Pressed on whether the party would refuse to sign up to Conservative spending plans, he added: “We're not signing up to their plans. We've got our plan.”

In 1997, Labour committed to stick to existing Conservative Party spending plans for the first two years, to suggest to voters that it could be trusted on economic spending. 

Miliband also claimed that Labour’s proposals on public services and green projects are "fully funded" and not reliant on high economic growth.

Labour says that increased teacher numbers would be funded by VAT on private school fees, and the new public energy company, GB Energy, would be financed through a windfall tax on large oil and gas companies. NHS improvements would come from closing non-dom tax loopholes.

Miliband contrasted Labour's funding strategies with what he described as the Conservative Party's "unfunded commitments," such as the proposed £46 billion National Insurance abolition which the Government says it wants to happen "when conditions allow". Miliband said: "We are absolutely clear how it’s being paid for."

But mirroring the Conservative Party’s line on Rishi Sunak’s stated aim to abolish National Insurance, Miliband added that Labour’s aims to allocate 2.5% of GDP to defence will come only when it’s financially feasible: “We are only going to promise what we can absolutely deliver."

Responding to Labour's Six Steps, a spokesperson for left-wing Labour group Momentum said: "Britain has big problems, and they require big solutions. Sadly, these fixes fall desperately short of the bold policies needed to fix the Tories' broken Britain, from mass building council housing to renationalising our public services. Worse still, Starmer is failing to break with the Conservatives' disastrous austerity dogma.

"Faced with similarly huge challenges in 1945, the post-war Labour Government brought sweeping change and investment to a country on its knees. Britain needs a real Labour alternative today, too."

If you have a political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com.

HM Revenue and Customs Phone Line Failure as Customers Spend 798 Years On Hold

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/05/2024 - 8:54am in

Customers calling the HM Revenue and Customs tax helpline spent 798 years on hold in 2022-23 because the agency’s new digital service has flopped with the general public, the National Audit Office (NAO) reveals in a report published today.

The average wait to talk to an advisor has more than quadrupled from five to 23 minutes since 2019.

Customers with tax queries were expected to contact HMRC online rather than use the telephone as part of a government efficiency drive to cut down civil service jobs and save public money.

But the report reveals HMRC has not yet done enough to raise awareness of its digital services, increase customers’ confidence in using its online offering or understand how effectively these services meet customers’ needs.

Meg Hillier MP, Labour Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: “By law, taxpayers must engage with the tax system. But for its part, HMRC’s performance in picking up the phone to customers has hit an all-time low. Its digital by default approach is trying to force customers to engage online.”

 While digital services are useful for simple tax queries they were not designed to deal with more complicated ones where a person has to speak to an advisor.

As a result, advisers were spending much longer on the phone with each customer and dealing with fewer people, leaving people on hold while they dealt with each query.

Advisers answered 22% fewer calls in 2022-23 compared with 2019-20, but these took 21% more time to handle on average, from 11:24 minutes in 2019-20 to 13:48 minutes in 2022-23. In total, advisers spent 4.7 million hours handling calls in 2022- 23, 6% less than in 2019-20.

Figures for the last financial year are not yet complete but estimates for the first 11 months show number of calls answered in 2023-24 fell to 16 million, out of 36.5 million attempts.

HMRC has estimated that 72% of calls in 2023-24 were caused by ‘failure demand’, which includes calls caused by HMRC’s process failures or delays, customers chasing progress and customers’ errors. This proportion has increased from 65% in 2018-19.

The crisis in handling calls appears to date from huge efficiency savings ordered to save money by Rishi Sunak, when he was chancellor, and which were doubled when he became PM.

 The report says: “HMRC was asked by HM Treasury to make annual efficiency savings of £75 million in customer services by 2024-25. HMRC doubled the required savings to £149 million in response to government’s efficiency and savings review in 2022-23. However, HMRC has found it difficult to achieve its efficiency targets: by 2023-24, it achieved £53 million of savings, £22 million short of its revised targets.”

Meanwhile, in February 2024, the Committee of Public Accounts concluded that HMRC had not been given the resources from HM Treasury to meet the service standards HMRC has committed to deliver,

HMRC is not expected to meet its efficiency savings target this year either.

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “HMRC’s telephone and correspondence services have been below its target service levels for too long. “While many of its digital services work well, they have not made enough of a difference to customers, some of whom have been caught in a declining spiral of service pressures and cuts. “

 “HMRC must allow more time for these services to bed in and understand the difference they make before adjusting staffing levels.”

An HMRC spokesperson said:

“While customer service standards on our phone lines are still not where we want them to be, we’re making strong progress in our efforts to improve our customer service and additional funding has been confirmed by the government this week.

“Millions more people used our highly-rated online services last year – saving them waiting on the phone and freeing up our advisors to deal with those people who need extra support. We continue to encourage people to deal with us online or via the app where they can, and we are working to provide even better, easier and always-available online services.

 “But, as we have recognised, these changes need to happen at a speed and in ways that our customers are comfortable with.”

Department of Health Sets Aside £21 Billion for Negligence Cases – But Has No Idea if Situation is Getting Better or Worse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/05/2024 - 9:01am in

MPs have criticised the Department of Health and Social and the NHS for presiding over huge sums in clinical negligence claims, amid the ministry’s failure to audit its spending for the second year running.

The Department of Health and Social Care 2022-23 Annual Report and Accounts reveals that it has had to set aside £21 billion for known cases of clinical negligence, with maternity services being one of the worst areas.

It states that the department spends £3 billion a year on maternity services but paid out £1.1 billion in claims for 2022-23. It describes the pay-out – costing a third of the amount to provide the service – as “eye-watering".

“Each claim is a tragedy for the people involved," according to the report. "Yet, the department does not know whether the number of clinical negligence claims across the NHS as a whole are increasing or decreasing.

"The NHS does not benchmark well on clinical negligence compared to many similar health systems, and the department and the NHS recognise that huge improvements need to be made.” 

The MPs’ findings chime with a report by NHS watchdog, the Care Quality Commission published in February 2024, which found that people’s experiences of maternity services have deteriorated during the past five years.

“The cost of clinical negligence to the NHS in England relative to the population served is significantly higher than those of similar health and social care systems," the report states. "In 2018-19, it was higher than the combined equivalent costs in the health systems of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Sweden.”

The report is highly critical of the failure by the department and the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to account and audit the billions of pounds they spend, and the lack of planning for another pandemic.

Labour's Dame Meg Hillier MP, chair of the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, said: “The proper safeguarding and robust accounting of how taxpayers’ money is spent is not an optional extra. The fact that UKHSA’s accounts have been unable to be properly audited for two years in a row – a very rare occurrence for a public body – is deeply concerning.

“But our report also raises wider issues speaking to the DHSC’s grip on spending, and illustrate ongoing and tragic failures experienced by people using the health service. The Government is spending billions on clinical negligence claims. An effective plan to reduce these costs would be an effective plan to reduce clinical harms, but such a plan does not yet exist.”

UKHSA – which is responsible for keeping the UK safe from pandemics – has failed to produce adequate financial reports for two years and does not have an inventory of stock it purchased for COVID, according to the report. It also has no plan yet on how to tackle future pandemics.

The Department of Health and Social Care is behind in getting NHS trusts audited – similar to the fate of local councils previously reported by Byline Times – and could only produce these accounts at the end of January 2024, some 10 months after the end of the financial year.

At one stage, 23% of the 212 NHS trusts missed deadlines to produce accounts and MPs believe it could take the ministry until 2029 before they will able to produce audited accounts on time.

NHS England is also criticised for overpaying suspended GPs by £1.3 million and only being able to recover £33,000 from them.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We do not recognise a number of claims within this report, and it is wrong to conclude that UKHSA’s financial controls are weak.

“Negligence claim volumes are decreasing in the NHS, and we are committed to boosting patient safety within the NHS, especially in maternity settings and we have made improvements in this area.

“Furthermore, we took swift action to procure PPE at the height of the pandemic and continue prioritise pandemic preparedness with UKHSA, to ensure the UK is best-placed to tackle future health emergencies.” 

Women’s homelessness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/04/2024 - 11:03pm in

I’ve just published Chapter 8 of my open access textbook. This new chapter focuses on women’s homelessness.

An English summary of the new chapter can be found here: https://nickfalvo.ca/womens-homelessness/

A French summary of the new chapter is here: https://nickfalvo.ca/litinerance-chez-les-femmes/

All material related to the textbook can be found here: https://nickfalvo.ca/book/

Women’s homelessness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 27/04/2024 - 11:03pm in

I’ve just published Chapter 8 of my open access textbook. This new chapter focuses on women’s homelessness.

An English summary of the new chapter can be found here: https://nickfalvo.ca/womens-homelessness/

A French summary of the new chapter is here: https://nickfalvo.ca/litinerance-chez-les-femmes/

All material related to the textbook can be found here: https://nickfalvo.ca/book/

The NHS is Now So Under-Pressure People Want to Pay for Treatment, Poll Reveals

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/04/2024 - 12:36am in

Just weeks after a damning survey revealed that less than a quarter of people are still satisfied with the NHS, a new poll has found that just more than a third think people should pay for some services.

Byline Times previously reported how public satisfaction with the NHS and social care had plummeted, according to a survey by The King's Fund and the Nuffield Trust – with just 13% of people questioned thinking it was acceptable.

A poll by Omnisis/WeThink for Byline Times recently asked participants if the NHS should be free at the point of use or if there should be charges for some services. A striking 31% of respondents said they believe there should be charges, with 69% saying that it should remain free.

When asked if private healthcare companies should have greater involvement in the NHS, 39% agreed. Just under a third, 29%, said that private firms should maintain the same level of support, and 32% wanted them to have less to do with the health service.

Last month, NHS consultant David Oliver questioned in Byline Times whether 'stealth NHS privatisation was happening in plain sight', making the case that the World Health Organisation defines it as occurring “where non-government bodies become increasingly involved in the financing or provision of health care services”.

To further his point, Oliver noted that dentistry, community pharmacy, and eye-testing had been provided by the private sector for many years, along with support services, such as catering, car parking, cleaning, security and maintenance, and records storage. NHS trusts are also saddled with debts from the private finance initiative (PFI) for building and maintenance of facilities, he wrote.

When asked if things had worsened since 2010, the Omnisis/WeThink results echoed the findings of the analysis by The King's Fund and the Nuffield Trust in the past year’s British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA), with 67% of participants saying that their experience of the NHS had got worse since 2010.

The earlier survey found that less than a quarter of people were “very or quite satisfied” with the NHS. Satisfaction levels peaked in 2010, in the last year of the New Labour Government, when seven out of 10 people said they were satisfied with it.

The top reasons for respondents’ dissatisfaction were long waits for GP or hospital appointments (71%); staff shortages (54%); and a view that the Government does not spend enough on the health service (47%).

Almost half of respondents (48%) would support the Government increasing taxes and spending more on the NHS, with that view most prevalent in people with the highest household income. While 42% felt that taxation and spending should remain the same. Some 6% wanted cuts.

The BSA results came just weeks after the annual NHS Staff Survey which mirrored public attitudes. It revealed that 30% of respondents felt burnt out by their work, and 34% found it emotionally exhausting.

‘Media Attacks on NHS Translation and Diversity Spending Completely Miss the Point of the Health Service’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/04/2024 - 10:16pm in

This week, the Express published an article headlined 'taxpayers billed £100 million for NHS translators – could pay for 3,000 nurses'. The story completely missed the point of what the health service does.

The standfirst went on to explain that taxpayers "pick up the bill" for translation and interpretation" to ensure that the NHS can be "accessed in languages other than English”.

Given health and healthcare access inequalities, surely spending money to ensure people get the right care they need is a good thing – not to mention a legal requirement.

The Express article published on 2 April about NHS spending on translators

The Express packaged the story to suggest that it had uncovered a scandal. It included data revealed through Freedom of Information Requests (FOI) to 251 NHS trusts and 42 integrated care boards, which “routinely convert standard hospital and health literature into languages including Romanian, Arabic, Urdu, Bengali and Punjabi”.

The article included comments from a Reform Party spokesman, claiming that translation and interpretation services "were simply not necessary" and that artificial intelligence apps, such as Google Translate, could do the job – or that patients could use family members to translate for them.

The Express article followed the Mail’s report last week on National Trust cafés selling “woke scones” (made with margarine and not butter). It was another example of 'stories’ aimed at stirring up problems, rather than solving them.

The Mail article published on 31 March on 'woke scones'

Helping those in need be heard appears to be a bizarre issue to weaponise in manufactured 'culture wars’.

For starters, the total NHS spend in England for the last financial year was more than £180 billion, with a further £20 billion in local government spending on social care. So £100 million on translation might sound like a big number, but it is a tiny fraction of expenditure and would make little dent in nurse staffing across all NHS organisations.

Citizens or legal residents who don’t speak fluent or even basic English are, just like people with hearing loss, learning disabilities or cognitive impairment, as entitled to NHS care as the rest of the population. And there is already considerable evidence that they are not getting it, with health and healthcare access inequalities between different ethnic communities.

Denying people written information in their own language will only make matters worse.

When people who are sick, scared, vulnerable, distressed or have symptoms to discuss, treatments to understand, or complex psychosocial factors to explain, how can the quality and safety of the care they receive be improved if they can neither express nor understand key information?

There are also legal considerations. To provide valid consent to treatment in common law, patients must have sufficient information about the details, risks, potential harms and benefits of a proposed treatment (which could in some cases involve major surgery, powerful drugs or admission to intensive care). Language barriers must be overcome to make this a reality.

The Mental Capacity Act states that all reasonable efforts must be made to establish decision-specific capacity for treatment or care – which may include overcoming language barriers.

If patients lack capacity, then speaking to those closest to them is a key part of establishing their best interests for further decision-making. Again, this may require translators or clear written information in their first language. We do this for people with hearing loss via written communication or sign language.

Regulatory codes of practice for healthcare professionals are also clear that we must treat people equally, irrespective of characteristics including race, religion or nationality.

Using AI translation apps of variable reliability has its limits in a time-critical or emotionally-charged and challenging situation. And relying on family or friends to translate isn't always possible as not every patient is accompanied. If they are discussing personally sensitive or intimate information, they may be inhibited from doing so. If there are safeguarding concerns regarding abuse or neglect one could suspect the person translating of being coercive when doing so.

The thinly-veiled xenophobia and racism being whipped up by the Express (even against people who pay tax and National Insurance contributions and have precisely the same entitlement to care as native and confident English speakers) is part of a wider set of 'wedge issues’ being pushed by right-wing media outlets and sections of the Conservative and Reform parties.

They share a similar fixation with 'woke’ diversity managers or diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) policies in the NHS or other public services. Several Government ministers have lined up to call for a 'war on waste’ to remove such posts and policies.

Steve Barclay, when Health Secretary in 2023, wrote to integrated care boards in England instructing them to stop recruiting staff as dedicated EDI managers, arguing that the money should be spent on “frontline staff” instead.

The Express has published a number of articles lamenting 'wokery’ in the NHS – including, in January in a story headlined 'NHS spends £40 million on woke non-jobs that could pay for 1,150 nurses'.

Last year, the Spectator ran a FOI-based story showing that, out of an NHS workforce of around 1.5 million people, there were only 800 employees in dedicated EDI roles – yet called for those roles to be abolished.

Again, those employed in such posts account for a small fraction of 1% of the entire NHS workforce or spend. Their presence is de facto required due to the Equality Act and Equality Duty on public organisations and protections in employment law.

NHS organisations do have a very diverse workforce, yet there is clear evidence of ongoing and endemic discrimination towards minorities within it. There is also consistent evidence of discrimination and care inequalities between different ethnic and socio-economic groups the NHS serves.

The idea that a focus on EDI is somehow a bad thing and a distraction from real work, or that organisations should not employ a small number of people to oversee it, is not so much a dog-whistle as a wolf-klaxon. It is a classic distraction from the real issue – the 14 years of Conservative-led mismanagement of health and social care and of wider public health.

This decline has been well-documented by the Institute for Government think tank; as well former King’s Fund chief executive Professor Sir Chris Ham, who set out in expert detail the rise and decline of the service from the late 1990s through to the 2010 election and the current crisis in performance and public satisfaction.

Blaming our NHS crisis on the cost of translation and interpretation services, and diversity and inclusion managers, foments hostility against people from ethnic minorities, white people with poor English skills, and even those with full entitlement to use our public services and who contribute towards their costs.

They aren’t all rich enough to pay for their own personal translator or digitally equipped enough to auto-translate NHS information documents into their own languages.

I don’t see commentators on the right arguing against hospitals in France or Spain finding translations for ill white British expats or embassies around the world employing translators to help British citizens who have found themselves in a spot of bother with the local law. I wonder why.

Taxpayer to Pay for Radon Crisis at Prison Owned by Duchy of Cornwall – Despite Government Giving It £1.5 Million a Year in Rent

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/03/2024 - 8:00pm in

Taxpayers will foot the bill for making HMP Dartmoor safe from deadly radon gas – despite the Government paying the Duchy of Cornwall £1.5 million a year to rent the jail, Byline Times can reveal.

This newspaper revealed in January that 96 inmates in two of the six wings of Britain’s oldest jail – owned by Prince William – were being “temporarily” evacuated over fears of poisoning from the gas, which kills 1,000 people annually.

It was later reported that the number had increased to 196 inmates amid work to "permanently reduce" radon levels in the category C prison to ensure staff and prisoner safety.

While a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was unable to say how much or long it would take to fix the issues, a Freedom of Information request by Byline Times has revealed that the entire bill – expected to be several million pounds – will be paid for by UK taxpayers.

While the Duchy of Cornwall receives a considerable sum from the Government to use the prison – and has a 52,450-hectare estate, mostly in the south-west of England, worth more than £1 billion – it will not contribute to repairs.

A MoJ spokesman said that was not a condition of the lease.

The Duchy of Cornwall did not respond to a request for comment.

Radon is the UK’s second-biggest cause of lung cancer behind smoking. The colourless, odourless, gas is present at the 640-prisoner jail due to the decay of uranium in the granite of its bedrock and walls built using the igneous material.

The MoJ said no inmates or staff have suffered adverse health effects at HMP Dartmoor, which houses a museum attraction in its old dairy, visited by 27,000 tourists a year who pay £4 per adult to enter. It does not turn a profit.

The evacuation follows several years of radon monitoring and comes in spite of the introduction of additional airflow and ventilation measures to combat the problem. Byline Times understands pumps will be installed under the prison in Princetown, Devon, to extract the radon and allow the cells to return to regular use.

HMP Dartmoor was set to close due to its underfunded and crumbling state before a Government U-turn in 2021.

Staff shortages had previously led to prisoners being locked in for up to 23 hours a day, with a lack of capital investment causing “safety and security issues for prisoners and staff”, according to the MoJ.

The MoJ declined to say where prisoners had been moved to, but it is another headache for the beleaguered department, which has overseen a sharp rise in inmate numbers since 1990 – a situation described by Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor in December as a “time bomb”.

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