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  • UN urges Iran to stop violating international law by executing juvenile offenders

    During the first month of 2018, three people – two male and one female –have been executed in Iran for crimes they committed when they were 15 or 16 years old.

    Noting a surge in the number of juvenile offenders being executed in Iran, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has urged Iran “to abide by international law and immediately halt all executions of people sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were under eighteen.”

    Already, during the first month of 2018, three people – two male and one female –have been executed for crimes they committed when they were 15 or 16 years old. This compares to the execution of a total of five juvenile offenders during the whole of 2017. A fourth juvenile offender, who was believed to be on the point of being executed on Wednesday 14 February, has reportedly received a temporary reprieve of two months. A number of other juvenile offenders are also believed to be in danger of imminent execution in Iran, with a total of some 80 such individuals reported to be currently on death row, after being sentenced to death for crimes they committed when they were under eighteen.

    “The execution of juvenile offenders is unequivocally prohibited under international law, regardless of the circumstances and nature of the crime committed”, said Zeid. “The imposition of the death penalty on people who committed crimes when they were under 18 is in clear violation of Iran’s obligations under two international treaties that is has ratified and is obliged to uphold – namely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

    “I am sad to say that Iran violates this absolute prohibition under international human rights law far more often than any other State,” he said. “No other State comes even remotely close to the total number of juveniles who have been executed in Iran over the past couple of decades.”

    The UN Human Rights Chief also noted that Iran ascribes criminal responsibility to girls as young as nine years old, whereas boys are not considered criminally responsible until they reach the age of 15.  He described the discrepancy between the two genders as “wholly unjustifiable on every level,” and the application of the death penalty to any person, female or male, under 18 as “illegal and unacceptable.”

    The three juvenile offenders subjected to the death penalty in January were:

    • Mahboubeh Mofidi, who was 16 years old when, with the help of her brother-in-law, she allegedly killed her husband, who had married her when she was just 13 years old. She was 20 at the time of her execution on 30 January.
    • 18-year-old Amir Hussein Pourjafar who allegedly raped and murdered a young Afghan girl when he was 16
    • 22-year-old Ali Kazemi who was just 15 when he allegedly committed murder.

    The UN Human Rights Office is particularly concerned about the fate of Abolfazl Chezani Sharahi, whose planned execution in Qom on 17 January was postponed  for unknown reasons (he is believed to have been scheduled for execution at least four times in all for a crime allegedly committed when he was 15); and Hamid Hamadi, whose trial is widely considered to have been grossly unfair, is also believed to be at risk of execution at any moment for a crime allegedly committed when he was 17. He is believed to have been scheduled for execution at least five times.

    Omid Rostami, whose scheduled execution along with 12 other people on 15 January in Karaj was postponed after the family of his alleged victim agreed to pardon him in exchange for diyah or ‘blood money,’ is still at risk if his family fails to raise the required funds within two months.

    The High Commissioner noted that there had been some partial improvements in relation to other aspects of the application of the death penalty in Iran, most notably a bill amending the drug-trafficking law that was approved by the Guardian Council in October 2017. As a result of this amendment, some drug offences that were previously punishable by the death penalty are now subject to a prison term, although the mandatory death sentence is retained for a wide range of drug-related offences.

    The amendment provides for retroactive applicability, which means that all people currently on death row for drug-related offences which are no longer punishable by the death penalty, should see their sentence commuted. The Deputy Head of the Justice Committee of the Parliament has stated that about 5,300 inmates were on death row for drug crimes, and the High Commissioner calls for the swift establishment of modalities for the review of all cases of individuals sentenced to death under the drug-trafficking law, and that the review should follow the principles of transparency, due process and ensure effective legal representation of all those sentenced to death.

    Successive High Commissioners for Human Rights have urged Iran to stop all violations of international law relating to the death penalty, in particular the absolute prohibition of the application of the death penalty for juvenile offenders, and impose a moratorium on all executions with a view to ending the use of the death penalty altogether.

    The minimum age of criminal responsibility in Iran is nine lunar years for girls and 15 lunar years for boys, and the amended Islamic Penal Code retains the death penalty for boys and girls who have attained these ages.

    * Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/Home.aspx

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  • Legal challenge brought on behalf of 11 men detained indefinitely in Guantánamo Bay

    The Trump administration has filed a response to a major legal challenge brought on behalf of 11 men detained indefinitely in Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial.

    The Trump administration filed a response on 16 February 2018 to a major legal challenge brought on behalf of 11 men detained indefinitely in Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial. The human rights organisation Reprieve assists four of the men involved in the legal action.

    The administration’s response asserts that detention at Guantánamo is not arbitrary because the Periodic Review Board (PRB) process gives detainees the chance to be cleared for release. This is despite the fact no detainees have been cleared since President Trump took office in January 2017. At the same time, the response argues that the Government can continue to detain those men previously cleared by six federal agencies through an administrative process.

    The administration’s lawyers go on to claim that detention at Guantánamo is not ‘indefinite’ but ‘indeterminate’.

    Responding, Katie Taylor, Deputy Director of Reprieve, said: “The Trump administration’s position is typical of the logical and legal vacuum of Guantánamo. On one hand Trump’s lawyers argue the Periodic Review Board is an adequate protection from arbitrary detention, though not a single person has been cleared by the PRB since he took office. On the other hand, they argue the five men, including Abdul Latif Nasser and Towfiq Bihani, previously cleared for release by six federal agencies can continue to be detained forever. And in the latest example of Guantánamo nonsense, we are now told that detention at Guantánamo is not indefinite, but rather ‘indeterminate’, as if that somehow makes all the difference to the 31 men who remain locked up without charge or trial.”

    * Reprieve https://reprieve.org.uk/

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  • Oxfam announces comprehensive action plan to stamp out abuse

    Oxfam has announced a comprehensive plan of action to strengthen safeguarding systems across the organisation and stamp out abuse, including asking leading women's rights experts to lead an urgent independent review of its culture and practices.

    Oxfam has announced a comprehensive plan of action to strengthen safeguarding systems across the organisation and stamp out abuse, including asking leading women's rights experts to lead an urgent independent review of its culture and practices.

     The plan was agreed on 15 February 2018 by Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima in partnership with Oxfam GB Chief Executive Mark Goldring and directors across the international confederation. The wide-ranging package of measures includes:

    • The immediate creation of a new global database of accredited referees - designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff. Oxfam will not be issuing any references until this is in place.
    • An immediate injection of money and resources into Oxfam's safeguarding processes, with the number of people working in safeguarding more than doubling over the coming weeks and annual funding more than tripled to £720,000.
    • A commitment to improve the culture within Oxfam to ensure that no one faces sexism, discrimination or abuse, that everyone, especially women, feels safe to speak out, and everyone is clear on what behaviour is acceptable or not.

    Oxfam is also committing to publish its 2011 internal investigation into staff involved in sexual and other misconduct in Haiti as soon as possible, after taking steps necessary to prevent witnesses being identified. The names of the men involved have already been shared with the authorities in Haiti.tion. The wide-ranging package of measures includes:

    a new independent High-Level Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change, comprised of leading women's rights experts, which will be able to access Oxfam records and interview staff, partners and communities it supports around the world. 

    Winnie Byanyima said: "What happened in Haiti and afterwards is a stain on Oxfam that will shame us for years, and rightly so. In my language: "Okuruga ahamutima gwangye, mutusaasire." It means "From the bottom of my heart I am asking for forgiveness."

    "Of course words are not enough. I've agreed a plan of action with Mark Goldring and Oxfam's board of international directors. Right now I have two utmost priorities for Oxfam: continuing to provide support to the millions of vulnerable people we work with around the world, and learning vital lessons from our past mistakes to make sure such abuse and exploitation does not happen again. Mark is absolutely the right person to implement these changes in the UK."

    Mark Goldring said: "People put their trust in Oxfam and we betrayed that trust. What happened was a disgrace and we are absolutely committed to rooting out abuse across the organisation. We are doubling the number of people who work on safeguarding to make sure we are living up to our responsibility to protect staff, volunteers and the communities we support around the world. An independent commission is being established which will review our entire operations and tell us what we need to change about our culture and practices.

    "It's vital that we act to prevent those guilty of gross misconduct from simply moving onto another organisation and potentially harming other vulnerable people. Within Oxfam, we're are urgently setting up a new database of people authorised to give references with an immediate freeze on references until that is in place.

    "These problems cannot all be solved by Oxfam alone, and we will work with the government, Charity Commission, women's rights organisations and others in the sector to implement urgent reforms."

    The High-Level Commission will operate at arms-length from Oxfam and shape its own approach. Names will be announced within a few days. Oxfam will provide the resources it needs to do its job effectively, across the confederation, including full access to records, staff as well as partners and communities supported by the organisation. As part of the Commission's work, it will create an historical record about cases of sexual misconduct and abuse of power that is as complete as possible, which will be made publicly available.

    * Read a summary of the action plan here

    * Oxfam https://www.oxfam.org.uk/

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  • Study finds GP funding in England has unfair London bias

    New research led by University of Manchester data scientists reveals that primary care funding in England is not distributed according to local health needs.

    New research led by University of Manchester data scientists reveals that primary care funding in England is not distributed according to local health needs.

    THey say that GP practices in London where the population is relatively young, receive disproportionately more funding, despite dealing with the lowest level of health needs in the country.

    London, they calculate, has a median of 0.38 health conditions per patient based, on a measure of 19 well-recorded chronic conditions.

    In contrast, the North East and North West of England have 0.59 conditions per patient and 0.55 conditions per patient, the highest and second highest health needs in England respectively.

    The median for England is 0.51 health conditions per patient.

    Both regions receive considerably lower funding per patient than they should, especially the North West, according to the research team from The Universities of Manchester, York, Keele, Michigan and Dundee. This is particularly relevant for Greater Manchester and its devolved health and health social care spending, which is estimated to be £2 billion in deficit by 2020, on current trends.

    The team also reveal that when health care needs, deprivation and age are taken into account, rural areas receive £36 more compared to urban areas, per patient each year.

    The £36 figure is more than a quarter of the median annual primary care spend per patient in England, which was £134 in 2015-16, excluding the cost of prescriptions and drug dispensing.

    Practices in rural England tend to look after an older but relatively healthier, more affluent and smaller population, while enjoying similar levels of staffing, when compared to the more hard-pressed practices in urban areas.

    The study, led by Manchester’s Professor Evangelos Kontopantelis, is the first to evaluate if primary care funding in 2015-16 matched health care needs at geographical areas with an average of 1500 people.

    The team examined data from 7,779 GP practices in England, covering 56,924,424 people, over 99 per cent of the population registered with primary care, and publish their findings in the journal BMC Medicine on 17 February 2018.

    To measure health needs, the team created a chronic morbidity index (CMI), calculated as the sum of 19 chronic condition registers in the Government’s 2014-15 Quality and Outcomes Framework, divided by the total practice population.

    By linking funding per person with the overall health needs for the 19 conditions, the researchers say the current funding arrangement for GP practices – known as the global sum allocation or Carr-Hill formula – is unreliable and out of date.

    The formula, they argue, may excessively favour practices in rural areas, while patient need - one of the factors on which payment adjustments are made – is based on a single dimension of morbidity – Long-Standing Illness – from the 1998-2000 Health Survey for England.

    Numerous calls have been made over the last decade for the formula to be reviewed, and it is expected to be reviewed by the Government this year.

    Professor Kontopantelis said, “If as a society we want a healthcare system which is fair, then we must fund it according to need, and ideally account for the impact of deprivation. This study shows that the current allocation of resources to primary care does not do that.

    “The strength of the study lies in the quality of the databases and their sizes. We investigated the whole of England: that’s over 55 million people served by a universal health system.”

    Tim Doran, Professor of Health Policy at The University of York, said, “The present funding formula does not provide an equitable distribution of resources across the NHS. It is especially unfair to the North West and North East of England.

    “The Carr-Hill formula, which is used to allocate NHS funding, is based on a range of data, some of which are inaccurate, unrepresentative or out of date. As a result, the formula does not accurately reflect the health care needs of local populations.

    “New data sources could provide a fairer allocation of resources.”

    * Read Chronic morbidity, deprivation and primary medical care spending in England in 2015-16: a cross-sectional spatial analysis  here

    * The University of Manchester http://www.manchester.ac.uk/

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  • Boris Johnson's speech and the hallucinatory world of British exceptionalism

    Boris Johnson's speech and the hallucinatory world of British exceptionalism

    read more

  • UNHCR 'dismayed' at Hungary's approach to asylum-seekers, refugees and NGOs

    UNHCR calls on the Government of Hungary to withdraw a proposed bill that would deprive refugees of vital support from NGOs and civil society.

    The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has expressed its dismay over recent additional restrictions at border crossing points in Hungary, which have further reduced access to the territory for asylum-seekers and refugees. It also called upon the Government of Hungary to withdraw a proposed bill that would deprive people fleeing war, violence and persecution of vital support from NGOs and civil society.

    For the past few weeks, UNHCR has observed that the Hungarian authorities are, on average, only allowing two asylum-seekers a day to enter the country through the two 'transit zones' at the border with Serbia.

    Since asylum-seekers who attempt to cross the razor-wire border fences are automatically removed, Hungary has practically closed its borders to people seeking international protection, in clear breach of its obligations under international and EU law.

    UNHCR also has serious concerns at three new legislative proposals submitted by the Hungarian government to the Parliament on 13 February 2018. These proposals clearly target organisations that support the arrival or stay of asylum-seekers and refugees.

    “Seeking asylum is a fundamental human right. People should have access to seek protection and no one should be punished for helping those who seek asylum”, said Montserrat Feixas Vihé, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Central Europe.

    As Government support for asylum-seekers and refugees in Hungary has dwindled over time, the role of NGOs has become even more critical.

    “NGOs play an essential role in advocating for rights and the rule of law, as well as for the delivery of assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers, including medical and psycho-social care, housing, education, employment and legal aid. NGOs complement the work of governments. Their important work should be facilitated, rather than hampered”, Feixas Vihé added.

    Hungary has become increasingly restrictive towards asylum-seekers and refugees in the last years. The building of physical barriers at the border and the introduction of restrictive laws and policies have increased the suffering of people who have often fled unbearable conditions in their countries of origin.

    UNHCR urges the Hungarian Government, as an EU Member State, to ensure access to its territory for people seeking international protection.

    UNHCR also calls on the Hungarian Parliament not to adopt the proposed legislative package. It is crucial that Hungary remains committed to protecting refugees and asylum-seekers, including by facilitating the essential role and efforts of qualified civil society organisations.

    * UNHCR http://www.unhcr.org/uk/

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  • Call for ICC to investigate Libya's forced displacement of Tawerghan residents

    Armed groups and civilian authorities in the Libyan coastal city of Misrata are blocking thousands of people from the town of Tawergha from returning to their hometown after seven years of forced displacement, says Human Righrs Watch.

    Armed groups and civilian authorities in the Libyan coastal city of Misrata are blocking thousands of people from the town of Tawergha from returning to their hometown after seven years of forced displacement, Human Rights Watch said on 16 February 2018. Two men have died following strokes since 1 February, in the deteriorating conditions for families stranded in makeshift desert camps that lack adequate health facilities.

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, should investigate those implicated in possible crimes against humanity against the Tawergha community, as part of her continued efforts to address ongoing grave abuses in Libya, says Human Rights Watch.

    “Misrata militias and authorities who are barring 40,000 forcibly displaced people from returning to their homes after seven years of living in squalid conditions are being cruel and vindictive,” said Sarah Leah Whiston, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities in Tripoli should act to ensure that people already on their way to Tawergha reach it in safety and help them to rebuild their lives.”

    On 1 February, the Misrata forces blocked thousands of people from Tawergha from returning to their town. The effort to return followed a long-anticipated decision by the United Nations-backed Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) to initiate the return process, based on an agreement brokered by the UN between representatives from Misrata and Tawergha that provided for reconciliation between the communities and compensation for victims on both sides.

    Misrata militias forcibly displaced at least 40,0000 Tawerghans from their town in 2011 as collective punishment for their support of the deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi, and alleged abuses by some Tawerghans against Misrata residents. Since then, the Tawergha community has been dispersed around the country in makeshift camps and private housing.

    Thousands of people have tried to return since 1 February. Human Rights Watch spoke on the phone on 2 February 2 and 12 February  with Emad Ergeha, an activist and media spokesman for the Tawergha Local Council, the main body representing the displaced Tawergha community and coordinating relief. He said that when Tawerghans tried to reach their village on 1 February, armed groups from Misrata burned tyres, harassed people and shot in the air to intimidate them.

    The Tawerghans were forced to retreat from checkpoint 14 and an area known as Industrial River road, on 1 February  and again on 4 February. During the latter incident, armed groups from Misrata injured Itimah Mohamed Jebreel, a woman from Tawergha, inside a relative’s car, Ergeha said.

    Ergeha said that the families were stranded in newly erected makeshift tent-camps east of Tawergha. In Qararet al-Qatef, 35 kilometres east of Tawergha, between 240 and 300 families were staying in tents provided by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). An additional unknown number of people were staying with friends or relatives in the nearby town.

    In Harawa, 280 kilometres southeast of Tawergha, an unknown number of families were staying in 20 to 25 tents, he said. People were also staying in a mosque and a social gathering hall in the town, provided by the municipal council. In Bani Walid, 100 kilometres southwest of Tawergha, 55 newly arrived families were added to the 230 families there who have been displaced from Tawergha since 2011.

    “Libyan authorities and the UN both have critical roles to play in challenging these spoilers from Misrata”, Whitson said. “After accepting a generous compensation package, it’s deplorable that the Misrata groups are still trying to violently sabotage a long-negotiated agreement.”

    Ergeha said that the number of people in the camps has fluctuated as many families have gone back to Tripoli and other cities, given harsh weather conditions, poor sanitation, lack of health care, and poor living conditions. He said that two men suffered strokes and died in separate incidents. He said that Al-Shaali Abunab died on February 1 in Tripoli Medical Centre, 245 kilometres from where he had been staying. Imhamed Ahmed Baraka, died in the town of Tarhouna on 12 February after suffering a stroke  two days earlier, Ergeha said.

    On 13 February, a fire broke out at around 10 pm in one of the tents in Qararet al-Qatef, after families attempted to cook dinner, according to Ergeha. The incident resulted in two women from Tawergha suffering minor burns, he said.

    On January 31, the Misrata Military Council, the Misrata Association of Families of Martyrs and Missing, and the Council of Elders of Misrata issued a statement opposing the anticipated return of Tawerghans on 1 February and seeking a postponement, claiming that parts of the UN-brokered agreement between the parties had not been fulfilled.

    Human Rights Watch spoke by phone on 12 February with Abdelrahman al-Shakshak, head of Tawergha’s Local Council and lead negotiator on behalf of Tawerghans. He said that some people in Misrata opposed the return of Tawerghans despite the agreement and the transfer of 25 per cent of the compensation promised by the GNA as a first installment to victims from both sides. The agreement was to provide 463 million Libyan Dinars (US$348 million based on the official exchange rate) as compensation, according to an interview with Shakshak on the online news site Al Wasat, of which Tawerghan victims are to receive 170 million Libyan Dinars.

    Shakshak said that the Government of National Accord had also made payments to the Interior Ministry, Ministry of Local Governance, and to the forces aligned with the government in the central region to facilitate the return.

    Tawerghans have attempted to return to their hometown on several occasions since their forced displacement, but have been prevented each time by Misrata militias, who accuse them of fighting on the side of Gaddafi’s forces during the 2011 conflict and of committing war crimes in Misrata. Militias, mostly from Misrata, ransacked Tawergha in 2011, demolishing and burning many buildings in that city. Since 2011, armed groups from Misrata have been responsible for a range of abuses against Tawerghans, including shooting at camps of displaced Tawerghans, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and torture.

    There has been a lack of accountability for crimes committed against Tawerghans. Libyan authorities have prosecuted only crimes attributed to Tawerghans, convicting them mostly for killings and unlawful possession of weapons, sentencing those found guilty to jail and even imposing death sentences. No one, in particular from the militias, has yet been prosecuted for the forced displacement of Tawerghans or other serious abuses against them.

    The UNHCR  Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement provide that displacement should be limited in time and should not last “longer than required by the circumstances.” International law further stipulates that civilians forcibly displaced from their homes during a conflict should be allowed to return home as soon as possible without conditions.

    Certain abuses committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population, including torture, arbitrary detention, and forced displacement, may constitute crimes against humanity. The UN International Commission of Inquiry on Libya concluded in its March 2012 report that Misrata militias had committed crimes against humanity against Tawerghans and that the deliberate destruction of Tawergha “has been done to render it uninhabitable.”

    The ICC prosecutor has a mandate to investigate crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide committed in Libya since February 15, 2011. Human Rights Watch’s research in Libya since 2011 has found rampant violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including mass long-term arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, forced displacement, and unlawful killings. In the face of mounting atrocities, Human Rights Watch has called on the ICC prosecutor to urgently expand her investigations into ongoing grave crimes by all sides, including possible crimes against humanity.

    Bensouda has said that the Libya situation continues to be a priority for her office and that she will not hesitate to seek new arrest warrants should the evidence support doing so. Given the serious crimes committed in Libya and the challenges facing the authorities, the ICC’s mandate remains crucial to ending impunity in Libya. The UN Security Council, which gave the ICC a mandate in 2011, together with ICC member countries should ensure the court has the political backing and resources to fully and fairly provide justice for the worst international crimes in Libya, Human Rights Watch said.

    “The ICC Prosecutor should commit to investigating those implicated in serious crimes against the people of Tawergha”, said Whitson. “Libyan authorities are at the same time obligated to allow this displaced community to return home in full security and without risk of reprisal.”

    * Human Rights Watch https://www.hrw.org/

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  • Barnardo’s becomes partner in development of digital resource for care leavers

    Barnardo's is partnering with the CareTech Foundation on a £1 million project to develop a ground-breaking digital resource to support young people leaving care.

    Barnardo's is partnering with the CareTech Foundation on a £1 million project to develop a ground-breaking digital resource to support young people leaving care.

    Such young people face a variety of challenges as they transition into adulthood, including feeling lonely and finding it hard to make a home for themselves. It is all too easy for them to become isolated and find difficulty accessing available opportunities.

    In partnership with the app developer FutureGov and with the support of the CareTech Foundation, Barnardo's is developing a UK-wide innovative digital resource focused on the needs of care leavers.

    It will feature content on:

    • Information and advice on living independently such as what to wear for work, how to cook for themselves and what support they are entitled to
    • Convenient access to, and reminders about, their Care Leaver Pathway Plan
    • The ability to check in quickly and conveniently with support workers rather than making phone calls or having face-to-face meetings
    • Access to tools to complete tasks as an adult, including collecting benefits, applying for a council house and keeping receipts

    Javed Khan, Barnardo's Chief Executive, said: "We are extremely excited about this partnership with the newly formed CareTech Foundation and their support of our work with young people leaving care.

    "Barnardo's has been keeping children safe, supporting them with an education and helping them to achieve their dreams for more than 150 years. Care leavers remain some of the most vulnerable young people in our society with figures showing 40 per cent aged 19-21 are not in education, training or employment.

    "Barnardo's hopes to design an app that will help young people to access information in a way that truly works for them, providing immediate access to helpful information and producing data that will help us to evaluate how digital resources can reduce crisis points among young people.

    "Barnardo's ambition is to be a digital leader in the sector and so we embrace technology's potential to drive new ways of delivering better outcomes for more children. We are therefore grateful to the CareTech Foundation for part-funding this innovative project and would urge other funders to come forward to help us improve outcomes for young people leaving care."

    The project is expected to last between three and four years. Around 1,000 care leavers will benefit from the digital resource each year, with scope for many more to be supported.

    Barnardo's hopes and expects the new resource will lead to the following outcomes:

    •Care leavers reporting improved self-confidence in seeking solutions and problem-solving

    •Care leavers reporting improved access, support and self-reliance to access help

    •Young people and professionals reporting a reduction in crisis management at critical stress points

    •An improvement in the uptake of Employment and Training opportunities, budgeting and financial management skills and support services

    As part of the partnership, CareTech staff and service users will be directly involved in the testing and development of the new digital resources. The Foundation will also give opportunities to CareTech staff to volunteer with Barnardo's.

    The CareTech Foundation is donating £300,000 towards the project and hopes other philanthropic organisations will join them to make the project a success.

    * CareTech Foundation https://www.caretechfoundation.org.uk/

    * Barnardo's http://www.barnardos.org.uk/

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  • Citizens Advice calls for integration of advice services in mental health settings

    Eight out of 10 mental health staff said that dealing with a patient’s practical issues left them with less clinical time to treat their mental health issues, Citizens Advice has found.

    Eight out of 10 mental health staff said that dealing with a patient’s practical issues left them with less clinical time to treat their mental health issues, Citizens Advice has found.

    Over half (57 per cent) reported the proportion of time they are spending on non-health issues has increased compared to last year.

    Citizens Advice conducted a survey of 244 mental health practitioners who deliver NHS England’s Talking Therapies programme. These services provide treatment of anxiety disorders and depression in England.

    Nearly all (98 per cent) respondents said they had dealt with a patient’s non-health problems during an appointment in the past month.

    The most common problems mental health staff are assisting with are debt and money problems, unemployment and work, housing and welfare.

    Mental health staff reported these problems had a negative impact on their patients’ ability to manage their mental health, complete a course of treatment and ultimately recover. More than half of those surveyed reported increased stress as a result of dealing with these non-health problems.

    Mental health staff reported they have spent appointment time helping patients with these problems through:

    • budgeting or debt management plans
    • contacting public services/agencies of the patient's behalf
    • providing supporting letters
    • assisting patients complete benefits applications
    • contacting creditors on the patient's behalf

    Citizens Advice helped over 100,000 people who reported having a mental health problem in 2017. Citizens Advice data shows clients with mental health problems are more likely to face  multiple, complex problems compared to the average client. In 2017, clients with mental health problems had an average of 5.3 issues per client, compared to 3.8 problems per client overall.

    In the past two years, Citizens Advice has seen an increase in the number of clients with mental health problems, including an 11 per cent increase in those who require advice on benefits.   

    CItizens Advice is calling for advice services to be integrated in more mental health settings to alleviate the pressure on frontline mental health staff and to better support the needs of people with mental health problems. Roughly a third (34 per cent) of respondents had access to an integrated advice service within the mental health setting.

    Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: "If you're living with mental health problems, everyday issues like managing your money, dealing with your landlord, or applying for benefits can be much more difficult to manage. But if these issues aren’t addressed, they can often escalate and make mental health problems worse - creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to break free from.

    “Providing people with practical support is essential to make sure these problems don't spiral out of control, but this should not be the job of already stretched mental health professionals. To reduce pressure on frontline NHS staff and better support people with mental health problems, advice services should be available in mental health settings as a matter of course.”

    One of the mental health practitioners surveyed by Citizens Advice said: “There is always a certain amount of [practical problems] in therapy but it has become entirely unmanageable. Very often my entire assessment and subsequent intervention will be related to social or financial issues. That is not our role, can be stressful and is an expensive use of health care practitioners’ time.”

    Dr Jed Boardman, Lead for Social Inclusion, Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “In order to stay mentally healthy, we all need enough money in our pockets, a decent roof over our heads, some valued work, and a supportive environment.  People with mental health problems need all of these to aid their recovery, as well as engagement with effective therapies.

    “The effects of the present lack of advice services available for people with mental health conditions, as highlighted in the report, are exacerbated as mental health professionals try to do their job in the context of increasingly stretched resources. Integrating advice services in mental health settings is one important means of improving the lives of people with mental health conditions and the mental health workforce.”

    Simon Crine, Director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute said: “We at Money and Mental Health welcome this important new research from Citizens Advice. As our own research has shown, too often mental health professionals find themselves sorting out debt and money issues at the expense of doing their day job.  Integrating debt advice into mental health services would be a win-win for mental health professionals and people with mental health problems.”

    * Citizens Advice https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

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  • More than 423,000 homes with planning permission waiting to be built in England and Wales

    More than 423,000 homes have been given planning permission but are still waiting to be built, according to new research published today by the Local Government Association.

    More than 423,000 homes have been given planning permission but are still waiting to be built, according to new research published by the Local Government Association (LGA).

    The study, commissioned by the LGA and carried out by industry experts Glenigan, shows the backlog has grown by almost 16 per cent in the last year.

    In 2015/16, the total number of unimplemented planning permissions in England and Wales was 365,146, rising to 423,544 in 2016/17.

    The figures also show that developers are taking longer to build new homes. It now takes 40 months, on average, from schemes receiving planning permission to building work being completed – eight months longer than in 2013/14.

    The planning system is not a barrier to building. Councils are approving nine in every 10 planning applications, and granted planning permission in 2016/17 for 321,202 new homes - up from 204,989 new homes in 2015/16.

    The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, says the new analysis underlines the need for councils to be given greater powers to take action on unbuilt land which has planning permission.

    It says councils need powers to act on uncompleted schemes, including making the compulsory purchase of land easier where homes remain unbuilt, and to be able to charge developers full council tax for every unbuilt development from the point that the original planning permission expires.

    The Government should also accept the calls of the LGA and Treasury Select Committee and scrap the cap on council borrowing so that councils can quickly build additional new homes that are affordable.

    Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Housing spokesman, said, “These figures prove that the planning system is not a barrier to house building. In fact the opposite is true. In the last year, councils and their communities granted twice as many planning permissions as the number of new homes that were completed.

    “No-one can live in a planning permission. Councils need greater powers to act where housebuilding has stalled.

    “To tackle the new homes backlog and to get the country building again, councils also need the freedom to borrow and invest in desperately-needed new homes, as recognised by the influential Treasury Select Committee last month.

    “Our national housing shortage is one of the most pressing issues we face. While private developers have a key role to play in solving our housing crisis, they cannot meet the 300,000 housebuilding target set by the Government on their own.

    “We have no chance of housing supply meeting demand unless councils can get building again.”

    * Local Government Association https://www.local.gov.uk/

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