Home Office returns cannabis oil for boy’s epilepsy treatment

From The Observer: The Home Office has backed down over its refusal to release medicinal cannabis oil that it had confiscated from the family of a severely epileptic boy.

Sajid Javid said he had used an exceptional power as home secretary to issue a licence for Billy Caldwell to be treated with the oil as a matter of urgency.

Billy’s mother, Charlotte Caldwell from County Tyrone, said her family had “achieved the impossible” in getting the oil back, and criticised the “dreadful, horrific, cruel experience” her son had suffered.

Billy’s cannabis oil was confiscated at Heathrow on Monday. It contains a psychoactive substance called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is illegal in the UK but available elsewhere, and had kept his epilepsy at bay.

After it was taken from him, Billy suffered two seizures that other medicines could not control and he was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital by ambulance on Friday.

Following Billy’s admission, the Home Office came under intense pressure to allow him to be prescribed the medicine that had successfully controlled his seizures for 300 days.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Ministers U-turn on housing benefit axe for 18-21-year-olds

From BBC News: Ministers have reversed a 2014 move stopping people under the age of 21 automatically getting housing benefit.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said the change would “reassure all young people that housing support is in place if they need it”.

It was estimated that 10,000 young people would have been hit by the move.

Ms McVey said that in return for the benefit “young people in return will have a Youth Obligation – an intensive package of labour market support for 18-21 year-olds looking to get into work”.

[Read full article on BBC News website…]

Toby Young resigns from the Office for Students after backlash

From The Guardian: Toby Young has stepped down from the Office for Students less than 24 hours after the universities minister robustly countered criticism of his appointment.

In a statement posted on the Spectator website on Tuesday morning, Young, a champion of free schools, said: “My appointment has become a distraction from its vital work of broadening access to higher education and defending academic freedom.”

The Office for Students (OfS) chair, Sir Michael Barber, welcomed the news, which came after a backlash against the appointment, with questions about Young’s suitability for the role. Barber said Young had “reached the right conclusion”.

Barber added: “Many of his previous tweets and articles were offensive, and not in line with the values of the Office for Students. Mr Young was right to offer an unreserved apology for these comments and he was correct to say that his continuation in the role would have distracted from our important work.”

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

May drops manifesto promise to allow foxhunting vote

From The Guardian: Theresa May has confirmed that she has ditched plans that would have allowed the end of the ban on foxhunting, in the latest attempt to repair the Conservatives’ reputation on animal rights.

The decision to include a vote on the repeal of the foxhunting ban has been blamed by some Tory MPs as contributing to the party’s disastrous result. During the election campaign, Labour officials said the foxhunting pledge had helped them enormously on the doorstep.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Government announces £1.5 billion U-turn on Universal Credit

From Metro: The Government has bowed to pressure on the controversial Universal Credit roll-out. During his 2017 Budget announcement, Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced that a £1.5 billion package will be allocated to deal with the issues and delays caused by the controversial roll-out of the one size fits all benefit.

[Read article on Metro website…]

Theresa May performs major U-turn on plans to cap housing benefit

From The Guardian: Theresa May has dropped plans to cap housing benefit for social housing and supported accommodation, which had been blamed for an 85% decline in new homes being built for vulnerable people.

In a major climbdown, the prime minister told MPs in the Commons on Wednesday that it would no longer roll out welfare changes that would have resulted in people living in sheltered accommodation having their housing benefit capped in line with private sector rents. The changes were set to save the Treasury £520m by 2020.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Universal Credit helpline charges to be scrapped following challenge by Jeremy Corbyn

guardian uc charges scrappedFrom The Guardian: The Universal Credit helpline will be made free, along with other Department for Work and Pensions numbers, after Jeremy Corbyn last week challenged the government over the 55p-a-minute charge for people using mobile phones to get help.

David Gauke, the work and pensions secretary, told MPs that all charges would be abolished by the end of the year.

The move is a victory for Corbyn after he asked Theresa May about the issue at prime minister’s questions last week. Read more

Tory ministers drop ‘misguided’ plans to privatise NHS Professionals

From The Guardian: The government has abandoned plans to privatise an NHS employment agency it owns that supplies doctors and nurses to hospitals to ease their understaffing.

Labour welcomed what it called “a major U-turn on a misguided policy from a government with no solution to the workforce crisis in the NHS”.

Ministers decided last year to sell off a 75% stake in NHS Professionals, which is fully owned by the Department of Health. The move sparked widespread concern and criticism from MPs, doctors and health unions, who argued that the sale was foolish given the seriousness of the NHS’s worsening staffing crisis.

NHS Professionals, which was set up by the last Labour government, plays a key role in the NHS. It supplies doctors, nurses and other staff to about a quarter of hospitals at much cheaper rates than those charged by profit-making NHS staffing firms and saves the cash-strapped NHS £70m a year that would otherwise go to private firms.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Employment tribunal fees unlawful, Supreme Court rules

From BBC News: Fees for those bringing employment tribunal claims have been ruled unlawful, and the government will now have to repay up to £32m to claimants.

The Tory government introduced fees of up to £1,200 in 2013.

Government statistics showed 79% fewer cases were brought over three years – trade union Unison said the fees prevented workers accessing justice.

The Supreme Court ruled the government was acting unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced the fees.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The government has been acting unlawfully, and has been proved wrong – not just on simple economics, but on constitutional law and basic fairness too.”

Read more

Another Tory manifesto U-turn: Plans to axe free school lunches dropped by Theresa May

From Daily Telegraph: Ministers have dropped controversial plans to axe free school lunches and replace them with breakfasts for families on low incomes. The Conservatives were heavily criticised for the manifesto pledge to replace free school meals for all children in their first three years of primary school.

[Read full article on Telegraph website…]

UK’s U-Turn On Abortion for Northern Ireland’s Women

From Human Rights Watch: The UK government just took an important step in announcing – following a campaign and under pressure from parliament – that the National Health Service (NHS) will carry out abortions at no cost to pregnant women and girls from Northern Ireland who travel to England for the procedure. The decision follows a recent UK Supreme Court judgment that, under devolved health services, women living in Northern Ireland aren’t entitled to free abortions on the NHS in England.

But while the government announcement is positive, it is also a partial and unsatisfactory solution to a problem that should not exist. Women and girls should be able to access safe abortion in Northern Ireland, and the UK government has failed in its obligations to fulfil this right there for too long.

Abortion has been legal in most of the UK since 1967, but the law explicitly excluded Northern Ireland, where it remains criminalized except when the health or life of the woman is at grave risk – denying thousands of women their reproductive rights.

Read more

Queen’s Speech: Ground laid for dropping ‘dementia tax’

From BBC News: The Queen’s Speech has paved the way for the ditching of the controversial “dementia tax” in England, set out in the Conservative election manifesto.

The value of an individual’s home was to be taken into account for all types of elderly care under the plans.

The two-year government programme set out by the Queen promised reform, but stopped short of making specific pledges on the details.

It said full plans would be published and consulted on at a later date.

Campaigners welcomed the chance to re-think the policy after heavy criticism of it during the election campaign.

Critics said it was unfair as it meant those that needed the most care could face catastrophic costs.

[Read full article on BBC News…]

Tories’ pension plans torpedoed after loss of majority

From Sunday Post: Plans to slash the annual increase in the state pension have been torpedoed by the shock General Election result.

The Tories had been planning to kill off the so-called “triple lock”, which guaranteed at least a 2.5% hike in the lifeline payment with a less generous deal.

But with no majority Government and a hung parliament, it now means the controversial move will be blocked in a boost for struggling pensioners.

[Read full article on Sunday Post website…]

Tory Government U-turn over Budget plan to increase National Insurance

From BBC News: Plans to increase National Insurance rates for self-employed people – announced in the Budget last week – have been dropped.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has said the government will not proceed with the increases which were criticised for breaking a 2015 manifesto pledge.

He told MPs in a Commons statement: “There will be no increases in National Insurance rates in this Parliament.”

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn said the U-turn showed a government “in chaos”.

Mr Hammond had faced a backlash by Conservative backbenchers last week, who accused him of breaking a general election manifesto commitment not to put up National Insurance, income tax or VAT.

[Read full article on BBC News…]