Cash crisis forces children’s hospices in England to limit respite care

From The Guardian: Children’s hospices in England are in crisis and have started turning away families because of a lack of government funding and falls in corporate donations, charities have warned.

Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, which runs two children’s hospices in the south-east, will stop offering respite care from November to half the 500 local families who need it… The charity has had a 25% real-terms cut in its government funding since 2008, he said, and has been eating into its reserves since 2012. “Having to not offer services that we know are vital to really vulnerable families is very difficult for me and my staff. Respite care is a lifeline for these families. It gives parents a break. There is a chance that, without it, families will be torn apart.”

The campaigning charity Together for Short Lives will publish a report this week criticising the government for quietly reneging on its promise last December to increase its annual grant to children’s hospices to £25m. Children’s hospices in England, the report will say, now face a £13m funding gap because the government has repeatedly failed to increase funding when medical treatments advance.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Epilepsy patients left high and dry following PIP benefit reform

From The Guardian: Helen Purdon, 47, had been on disability living allowance (DLA) for 10 years, following a diagnosis of epilepsy, which means she has seizures every 10 to 15 days. She is unable to work and assumed her transfer to PIP would be seamless. But she was wrong. “It was unreal. My DLA stopped, which was around £400 a month. I didn’t get any money at all for months,” she says. “We couldn’t afford to put petrol in the car, we were living off pasta and beans.

Purdon’s case is all too common. According to the latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, more than half of existing epilepsy patients and two-thirds of new claimants are being denied disability benefits.

PIP was introduced in England, Scotland and Wales in 2013, replacing DLA. The benefit is supposed to cover some of the additional costs of having a long-term health condition, and is available to people in or out of work… But since PIP was introduced, 65% of claims from people with epilepsy who did not have DLA were rejected, while 54% of those in receipt of DLA were turned down for PIP, the second-highest refusal rate of all health conditions and double the national average. Of those who challenged the decision 78% won on appeal. According to Epilepsy Scotland, which obtained the figures, the benefit assessment system is flawed because it fails to take account of fluctuating conditions like epilepsy. Claims assessors focus too heavily on the type and number of seizures a person has, while ignoring other symptoms like memory impairment, confusion, anxiety and depression.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Chronically ill father hung himself after cruel DWP stopped his benefits, inquest told

From Welfare Weekly: A chronically ill father hung himself shortly after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) took the cruel decision to stop his lifeline benefit payments, an inquest has heard.

Kevin, from Leeds, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and mental health problems, was found dead by his daughter shortly before Christmas 2018.

An inquest into his death heard how the 48-year-old often struggled to breath because of his condition, but was still found “fit for work” following a medical assessment for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

His daughter, Leanne Dooley, is convinced that the DWP’s decision to stop her father’s benefit payments “led to him taking his own life”, due to being left in financial distress and unable to pay bills.

[Read full article on Welfare Weekly…]

“I just don’t want to feel like I’m letting them down”

From Channel 4 News: Parts of Britain are now said to have child poverty rates of 50%. Channel 4 News spoke to James and Naomi who struggled to provide for their children after losing their jobs and home.

"I just don’t want to feel like I’m letting them down.”

"I just don’t want to feel like I’m letting them down.” Parts of Britain are now said to have child poverty rates of 50% – we spoke to James and Naomi who struggled to provide for their children after losing their jobs and home.

Posted by Channel 4 News on Thursday, May 16, 2019

“You can’t really win”: 4m Britons in poverty despite having jobs

From The Guardian: Gemma struggled to make ends meet when taking home £399.69 a month for working 18 hours a week as a cashier at Betfred.

Even with tax credits and child benefit topping up her meagre wages, it was a constant struggle to pay for the essentials and Gemma fell behind on her bills. She was already receiving letters, phone calls, texts and emails threatening legal action over previous unpaid bills, as well as £400 of benefit overpayments that had to be repaid.

Official data released on Tuesday showed that unemployment remains at its lowest level since the mid-1970s but that means little to the 4 million workers in the UK like Gemma, who are living in poverty.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

School in Stockport to close early on Fridays for lack of funding

From The Guardian: A state school in Greater Manchester is to close early on Fridays from September and charge parents who cannot pick their children up at lunchtime, in what teaching unions said was a sign that schools are “at absolute breaking point”.

Vale View primary in Reddish, Stockport, is believed to be one of at least 25 schools in England to take the drastic measure of shortening the school week in order to cut costs.

Statutory pay rises had led to a £100,000 budgetary black hole and the headteacher said she was already making “double-figure” redundancies out of a staff of 90, Hannah said. Reneging on the early Friday closure would lead to more layoffs and bigger class sizes of up to 40 children, she warned.

From September, classes will finish at 12.45pm each Friday. Parents who will not be able to pick up their children early will have to pay £3.50 per child to cover the costs of an after-school club.

Governors said they had already cut almost £400,000 from the school’s budget since January 2017. Art therapy is due to stop in July, saving £9,500, and support for speech and language therapy has already been reduced by £16,000.

The school has saved a further £50,000 by cutting subsidies for school trips, £40,000 on support for pupils sitting their year 6 Sats exams, £100,000 on resources and £136,000 by not replacing teaching assistants when they left or retired.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Parents are starving themselves for up to a week to feed their children

From Welfare Weekly: Struggling parents are starving themselves for up to a week so they can afford to feed their children, a foodbank manager has claimed.

Matt Dobson, manager of Bristol Foodbank, says some parents, many of whom are in full-time employment, are arriving at the charity showing symptoms of hunger and starvation such as dizzyness because they’ve hardly eaten for an entire week.

He also claims that some parents are so hungry when visiting the foodbank that they devour the contents of food parcels in front of others and before leaving the center.

[Read full article on Welfare Weekly…]

Rail punctuality plunges to 13-year low

From The Guardian: Train punctuality has slumped to a 13-year low after a series of significant issues plagued Britain’s railway in 2018.

One in seven trains (14.6%) missed the industry’s public performance measure (PPM) of punctuality in the 12 months to 8 December, according to Office of Rail and Road figures.

This annual rolling average has not been worse since September 2005. PPM measures whether a train arrives at its final destination within five minutes of the scheduled time, or 10 minutes for a long-distance service.

Over the past 12 months, punctuality has been affected by extreme weather, errors in the launch of new timetables, strikes and signalling failures. Snow and ice crippled parts of the network when the “beast from the east” hit Britain in February and March, while rails buckled during a summer heatwave just three months later.

Passengers in the north and south-east of England endured weeks of chaos when new timetables were introduced on 20 May. Several operators have experienced disruption throughout the year owing to a long-running industrial dispute over guards on trains.

Punctuality has also been affected by infrastructure failures, with London Waterloo services hit by signalling faults.

The cost of many rail season tickets will increase by more than £100 next week as average fares go up 3.1%. There have been calls for prices to be frozen due to the poor performance of the industry.

[Read article on Guardian website…]

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