Archived News

November 2016

Keep the Paralympic legacy alive!

With memories of the most successful Paralympic Games of all time still fresh in everyone's mind, a national disabled people’s charity is urging non-disabled people to do their bit to keep the Paralympic flame burning.

The Saint or Sinner Quiz, rolled out by charity Revitalise to coincide with the Paralympics, found that 6 out of 10 non-disabled people use disabled toilets and are showing no signs of stopping, with 1 in 5 saying they had "done it loads of times and really don't see any harm in it". The study also found that more than 1 in 10 non-disabled people use disabled parking spaces either sometimes or habitually.

Revitalise is citing a study by the charity Scope in the run-up to the Rio Games, which found that, even though 78% of disabled people thought the 2012 London Paralympics had a positive effect on people’s attitudes to disability, only 19% thought Britain was a better place to be disabled than it was four years ago. Revitalise is therefore calling for positive action to preserve the Paralympic legacy in order to reverse this trend.

In March this year, a House of Lords Select Committee Report made 54 separate recommendations to the Government in order to strengthen the Equality Act, but so far the Government has acted on only one. In July this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission alleged that disabled people were still being treated like "second class citizens", while Revitalise’s own research has added weight to the argument that society is only paying lip service to the needs of disabled people.

The charity believes that the aftermath of the successful Rio Paralympics presents the perfect opportunity for non-disabled people to contribute to the Paralympic legacy and add to the groundswell of pressure on policy-makers to back up the good intentions of the Equality Act with meaningful legislation.

To achieve this, Revitalise is urging non-disabled people to take on board the philosophy of Team GB, whose success is based on many small improvements adding up to one seismic change. So, the charity suggests, if non-disabled people simply make one or more small adjustment to their own habits, they will be helping to create a more inclusive and equitable society for disabled people.

Revitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds commented: "We've just witnessed the most successful Paralympic Games of all time and legacy is now the word on everyone's lips. Our Saint or Sinner Quiz was designed to explore the habits of non-disabled people and help them do their bit to keep the Paralympic flame burning.

"So, in the warm glow of the Rio Games, if we as individuals can just make one or more small adjustment to our habits, we will be going a long way towards creating a better, more respectful world for disabled people and truly keeping the Paralympic legacy alive!".

Children's homes are criminalising children

Children living in children's homes are being criminalised at excessively high rates compared to other boys and girls, including those in other types of care, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform. In 2014, there were 5,220 children living in children's homes, making the number of children going into care at its highest point in 30 years.

Research by the charity suggests that there is a systemic problem across England and Wales that leads staff to resort to the police, often over minor incidents that would never come to officers' attention if they happened in family homes. Police data indicates that some forces have been called thousands of times in the last three years. In 2013 the House of Commons Justice Committee heard one example of officers being asked to attend a children's home to investigate a broken cup.

The findings are published in a Howard League report, Criminal Care: Children's homes and criminalising children. It calls for more support to be given to looked after children during their teenage years so that they are not pushed into the criminal justice system by homes that are supposed to be helping them.

The report draws on Department for Education statistics, which indicate that about 4 per cent of children aged 10 to 12 who live in children's homes have been criminalised, rising to more than 19 per cent among children aged 13 to 15.

The report states: "The children who are being criminalised whilst teenagers are the same children who, when younger, were sympathetically viewed as vulnerable, innocent and highly deserving of society's help and protection.

"There appears to be a 'tipping point' around the age of 13, at which time these children lose society's sympathy and, rather than being helped, they are pushed into the criminal justice system."

Police have raised a number of issues with the Howard League that may explain why the rate of criminalisation of children in children's homes is so high. Forces told the charity that private contractors running children’s homes had used police cells as respite to cover staff shortages and because staff were not trained and competent to deal with children's behaviour.

Police suggested that they were picking up the pieces of a "social care deficit", and that children were being pushed into the criminal justice process rather than receiving the support they needed from local authorities and children's homes.

Police also suggested that, when children in care were arrested, private children’s homes often refused to take them back. Although there was a reasonable expectation that the home should let the children back in, this was more likely to happen at midday the next day than at four in the morning.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “These children have been taken into care because they are in dire need and their parents cannot, or will not, look after them.

"They are wonderful young people who have had a really bad start in life. They deserve every chance to flourish."

Flexible retirement needs employer support

Around half (51%) of all employees now expect to retire at age 65 or later, or not at all, according to a recent global survey into retirement expectations. However, the report from Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement (ACLR) in collaboration with Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS) shows that workers face a significant obstacle: few employers have employment practices to support them.

More than half of employees surveyed said they envisioned a flexible transition to retirement. Their vision was to continue to work to some extent in order to keep active, or for financial reasons or because they enjoyed the work they did.

There were international variations in the mindset of working beyond traditional retirement age. For example, in Japan, 43% of survey respondents aspired to continue working past retirement compared to only 15% in France. However, the overwhelming majority said their employers failed to offer the opportunity to shift from full-time to part-time working arrangements.

"The concept of retirement is changing rapidly", said Catherine Collinson, executive director of ACLR and president of TCRS. "As people live longer and in good health, retirement is becoming a more active life stage, with more people looking for the opportunity to combine work and leisure."

Collinson acknowledges that, while many workers have retired the notion of fully retiring at age 60 or 65, the successful extension of working lives is a complex issue. Workers in jobs that involve manual labour, for example, may find it more difficult to continue in their current profession.

Employers need to promote an aging-friendly work environment and culture in which workers of all ages can thrive, says Collinson. Employers should also be aware of the value of retaining older workers who, despite the lack of pre-retirement assistance from employers, are nevertheless loyal. "A flexible retirement, which offers workers the ability to pursue their own personalised transition, can create opportunities to work longer, continue earning income, and stay active and involved in society. Moreover, a new flexible retirement can create a win-win situation by serving as a powerful tool to help solve the government, social security, and employer-related retirement issues resulting from an aging population.

"Employers may be overlooking the opportunity to tap into the knowledge, skills, and loyalty of older workers. By adopting business practices to support a flexible retirement, employers can benefit from improved succession planning and the ability to optimize their workforce management," maintains Collinson.

Keepcool and enjoy summer

Independent Age, the charity for older people, is encouraging friends and family to look in on their elderly neighbours during the heat wave and offers the following tips:

1. Check the temperature – If you think their home feels uncomfortably hot, suggest they draw the blinds or curtains to help keep the rooms cooler.
2. Offer a drink – Check they have had enough to drink, especially cool drinks such as water and fruit juice. Suggest avoiding alcohol and limiting caffeine, as those could contribute to dehydration.
3. Check the signs – Look for signs of heat exhaustion, such as tiredness, nausea, feeling faint or sweating heavily. Call NHS 111 for advice.
4. Go shopping – See if they need anything from the shops that could help to keep them cool.
5. Stay inside in the middle of the day – The hottest time of the day is from 11am to 3pm. Encourage your friend or family member not to do too much during these hours and remind them to take necessary precautions if they need to go out, such as wearing a hat and sunscreen and bringing a bottle of water.
6. Understand their medication - If they’re taking medication that affects the amount of fluid they can drink, encourage them to speak to their GP about coping in hot weather.
7. Find out more – Look at the Independent Age website for more tips for keeping cool during a heat wave.

Reducing imprisonment of women

A UK offenders' charity is heading a nationwide drive to reduce the number of women who are sent to prison for minor non-violent or first offences.

Two thirds of women sent to prison are mums, says the Prison Reform Trust (PRT), with the result that over 17,000 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment every year. This has a devastating impact on the life chances of these children, who as a result are more likely to experience homelessness, disruption to their family and home lives, problems at school and local authority care. Women released from custody are known to be more likely to reoffend, and reoffend quicker, than women serving community sentences.

Fewer than one in ten women leave custody with a job to go to, most face mounting debt and struggle to find safe housing for themselves and their children. One woman former offender with an eight-year-old boy said: "Once you come to prison you've got that hanging over you for the rest of your life… it's like a stigma. It follows you around. It's hard to get a job, a bank account when you can't prove the last 3 years of your history... little things like that. Having a criminal record is always going to affect your life."

The PRT's three-year UK-wide programme 'Transforming lives: reducing women's imprisonment' will promote more effective, early intervention and non-custodial responses to women in trouble. It will encourage the use of police diversion initiatives and cost-effective community sentences to help women to take control of their lives, care for their children and address the causes of their offending. It also works to ensure that the voices of often-marginalised women are heard in the corridors of power.

Jenny Earle, director of the PRT's programme, said "We need to listen to women with experience of the justice system and take seriously the mounting evidence that short periods of imprisonment are particularly destructive for women and the families who rely on them."

Juliet Lyon, Director of the PRT agreed that the wasteful imprisonment of women has a devastating impact it on the lives of their children and families. "Most of the solutions to women’s offending lie outside prison walls in treatment for addictions and mental health problems, protection from domestic violence, safer housing, debt management, education, skills development and employment."

Click here to listen to BBC Radio 4 Womens Hour coverage: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01kksqw#playt=0h11m24s

Disclosure scheme victory a step forward

A High Court which declared the Government's criminal records disclosure scheme incompatible with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, is being welcomed as a positive move. However, many believe this is only a step forward in revising what is currently an inflexible system which holds people back from rebuilding their lives.

The recent judgment relates to the rule that anyone who has more than one conviction on their criminal record – regardless of the minor nature of the offences, how long ago they were committed and the person's circumstances at the time – is required to disclose them forever when applying for certain types of work that involve standard or enhanced checks. Although, the judgement does not have any immediate impact on the current DBS filtering scheme, the decision is being hailed as a positive outcome for supporters of its reform.

The case was brought by Human Rights Specialists, Liberty, on behalf of a client referred to as P, seeking voluntary work as a school's teaching assistant. In August 1999, P was charged with shoplifting a 99p book. She was bailed to appear before a Magistrates' Court 18 days later, but failed to attend and was therefore convicted of a second offence under the Bail Act 1976. In November 1999, she was given a conditional discharge in respect of both offences. P’s two convictions relate to a very specific and short period of her life, and she has no subsequent criminal history of any kind. At the time, she had untreated schizophrenia – a condition which was later diagnosed and treated.

P now wishes to work as a teaching assistant and has sought voluntary positions in schools. However with each application she is required to disclose her two convictions, which has the effect of leading to the disclosure of her medical history.

Liberty argued that this breached P's rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, and that the system is arbitrary and disproportionate, and requires urgent reform to allow for greater consideration of individual circumstances. Lord Justice McCombe and Mrs Justice Carr declared the rule unlawful under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which relates to the right to a private and family life, but were not convinced that further reform would be workable.

Christopher Stacey, Co-Director of Unlock, says he is delighted with the court's decision which stands to affect many thousands of people with convictions. He also maintains a more flexible system, which considers individual circumstances in cases of old and minor convictions, should be introduced. However, Stacey says he is optimistic. "These shortcomings have been recognised by the High Court and we are excited about the improvements which will follow. They will not only benefit those with convictions to move on positively with their lives but it will also contribute towards building a fairer and more inclusive society."

Charity calls for end of breach of licence custody recalls

Increases in the 'revolving door syndrome' together with deteriorating prison conditions have led to a leading UK charity to call for the removal of prison recalls as a consequence of a breach of licence.

In its evidence to the United Kingdom Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, the Howard League argues that its proposal, which would not require new legislation, would considerably ease prison numbers and help people genuinely wanting to make a fresh start but struggling to comply with licence conditions.

Thousands of people have been recalled to custody in recent months, putting additional pressure on prisons already struggling to cope with chronic overcrowding, rising numbers of instances of violence and deaths behind bars and deep budget cuts.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Why are we sending men and women back to prison when they have not committed new crimes?

"Far from transforming rehabilitation, privatising the probation service and making more people subject to licence conditions has sped up the revolving door, returning people to prison and putting more pressure on a system that fails everyone.

"Removing the possibility of recall to custody would be a more sensible way to help people who are struggling to comply with their licence conditions."

New crimes would continue to be dealt with separately through the usual channels, but other community penalties could be imposed for breaches of licence that do not amount to a criminal offence.

The Howard League points out that the reasons for recall are often vague and would be of no interest to the authorities if a person were not on licence. They include: failing to be 'of good behaviour', 'failure to keep in touch' and 'drugs/alcohol' amongst others.

The organisation's submission also suggests that there are "real risks" that recall decisions could be motivated by financial factors now that the majority of the probation service has been sold to private companies. It raises the concern that companies could be encouraged to trigger recall as early as possible to avoid investing in people who they think are doomed to fail.

However, the Ministry of Justice maintains that is misleading to compare the increases in recalls with statistics from the 1990s. "Public protection is our priority and offenders on licence must comply with a strict set of conditions. If these conditions are breached they face going back to prison," says a MoJ spokesperson.

"Safety in prisons is fundamental to the proper functioning of our justice system and a vital part of our reform plans."

Children'shomes are criminalising children

Children living in children's homes are being criminalised at excessively high rates compared to other boys and girls, including those in other types of care, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform. In 2014, there were 5,220 children living in children's homes, making the number of children going into care at its highest point in 30 years.

Research by the charity suggests that there is a systemic problem across England and Wales that leads staff to resort to the police, often over minor incidents that would never come to officers' attention if they happened in family homes. Police data indicates that some forces have been called thousands of times in the last three years. In 2013 the House of Commons Justice Committee heard one example of officers being asked to attend a children's home to investigate a broken cup.

The findings are published in a Howard League report, Criminal Care: Children's homes and criminalising children. It calls for more support to be given to looked after children during their teenage years so that they are not pushed into the criminal justice system by homes that are supposed to be helping them.

The report draws on Department for Education statistics, which indicate that about 4 per cent of children aged 10 to 12 who live in children's homes have been criminalised, rising to more than 19 per cent among children aged 13 to 15.

The report states: "The children who are being criminalised whilst teenagers are the same children who, when younger, were sympathetically viewed as vulnerable, innocent and highly deserving of society's help and protection.

"There appears to be a 'tipping point' around the age of 13, at which time these children lose society's sympathy and, rather than being helped, they are pushed into the criminal justice system."

Police have raised a number of issues with the Howard League that may explain why the rate of criminalisation of children in children's homes is so high. Forces told the charity that private contractors running children’s homes had used police cells as respite to cover staff shortages and because staff were not trained and competent to deal with children's behaviour.

Police suggested that they were picking up the pieces of a "social care deficit", and that children were being pushed into the criminal justice process rather than receiving the support they needed from local authorities and children's homes.

Police also suggested that, when children in care were arrested, private children’s homes often refused to take them back. Although there was a reasonable expectation that the home should let the children back in, this was more likely to happen at midday the next day than at four in the morning.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “These children have been taken into care because they are in dire need and their parents cannot, or will not, look after them.

"They are wonderful young people who have had a really bad start in life. They deserve every chance to flourish."

Black Caribbean men make the best husbands!

Black Caribbean men have come out tops when it comes to doing their share of housework, according to first ever study of how domestic chores are organised across different ethnic households in Britain.

The study from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex found that, unsurprisingly, women from backgrounds spend significantly more hours on housework than men (an average share of 70% of everyday chores). Education was proved to be significant, with women with a degree or in paid employment, doing a lower share than those without jobs or qualifications.

However, the research also showed that Black Caribbean men have the least traditional attitudes to gender roles, picking up around 40 per cent of the housework - over 7 hours a week, against their white counterparts’ average of 6 hours. Indian men came second in taking on a fairer share of routine housework, while Pakistani men however, report spending the fewest housework hours and the lowest share of housework of all groups.

Professor Heather Laurie said: "We found both differences and similarities among ethnic groups, but were surprised to see that in multi-cultural Britain today white British couples are not necessarily the most modern and egalitarian in their outlook on housework. In particular, black Caribbean men have the least traditional gender-role attitudes of all groups."

Researchers suggested this could be due to a strong history and culture of black Caribbean women being in paid employment, combined with the experience of racial inequality, which has led them to be more critical of gender inequality than other ethnic groups.