Don’t criminalise the homeless
THE LONDON Borough of Hackney is planning to fine people up to £1,000 for sleeping in doorways near popular tourist spots. No one is quite sure just how people who are homeless and destitute can be expected to pay such fines.
Homelessness charities have condemned the move, saying that it turns rough sleepers – who are often escaping lives of abuse – into criminals.
A similar protection order was proposed by Oxford City Council but the council backed off after a petition against the move garnered 72,000 signatures.
Matt Downie, of homelessness charity Crisis, said: “Rough sleepers deserve better than to be treated as a nuisance – they may have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or domestic abuse.”
This will also affect people who have been evicted because they could not afford to keep up with soaring rents in the private sector or from having their benefits sanctioned.
The measure will criminalise people for having lost their homes and simply for being poor.
Campaigners say: “It is absurd to impose a fine of £1,000 on somebody who is already homeless and struggling. People should not be punished for the ‘crime’ of not having a roof over their head – there is nothing inherently "anti-social" or criminal about rough sleeping.
“Criminalising rough sleeping privileges the appearance of Hackney and the convenience of customers over the damage caused to the vulnerable and homeless.”
London Ambulance Service under ‘special measures’
THE LONDON Ambulance Service (LAS) has been rated as inadequate and is the first service in the country to be placed under special measures.
England's Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, recommended on Friday 27th November that the LAS NHS Trust should be placed into special measures following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
A team of inspectors found that the Trust delivered services that were caring but that improvements are reportedly needed on safety, effectiveness, responsiveness and leadership.
The CQC found a shortage of trained paramedics, with some junior staff sent out on the front line with little supervision. Since May 2014 there had been a "significant" decline in the number of urgent calls attended in the target eight minutes.
The response time for the most urgent calls – which are supposed to be responded to within eight minutes – is the worst in the country according to the report.
Some black and minority ethnic staff also told the CQC that at times they felt “humiliated” and “ignored” by managers, with some claiming that they were overlooked for promotion.
Some of the ambulance stations inspected by the CQC were even found covered in black dust and so were medical supplies.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union Unison, which represents thousands of ambulance workers, said: “This is a shocking indictment of the lack of funding that has gone to the ambulance service over the last five years. This is a particular problem in London where demand has soared in recent years.
“Sadly the CQC action was entirely predictable. Unison has been warning for over a year that the chronic problem of underfunding, lack of staff and the knock-on effect placed on those who remain would lead to a crisis in London Ambulance.
“Poor workforce planning, lack of investment in staff and the stress of the job have led to a recruitment and retention crisis which the government has failed to address.
“Unison has tried to engage with LAS to address these issues to ensure the service is able to continue providing high quality care and support for Londoners.”
The CQC recognised staff were “overwhelmingly dedicated, hardworking and compassionate”, but noted that “some reported a culture of harassment and bullying”.
Prentis added: “The job of paramedics has changed significantly in the past few years and their clinical skills and responsibilities have not been reflected in their pay.
“Instead of addressing the reasons why so many staff are leaving, London Ambulance has gone out to recruit staff from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
“Unless the Government takes urgent action, staff will continue to work long shifts with no breaks to deal with the relentless nature of working in emergency services. This will mean more paramedics leaving London.”
London’s toxic air
HUNDREDS of thousands of London schoolchildren are being forced to breathe air that is so toxic it breaches European Union legal limits, according to a report published last week by Policy Exchange and King’s College.
The report revealed that 328,000 – nearly a quarter of all London schoolchildren – attend schools where nitrogen dioxide levels were above the annual permitted level.
They included more than 30,000 children in Westminster, 29,000 in Tower Hamlets, 28,800 in Southwark, 26,300 in Camden, 24,000 in Kensington and Chelsea, 23,700 in Lambeth and 20,100 in Hackney.
Around 58 per cent of children in inner London boroughs are affected.
While the problem in outer London is not as bad, tens of thousands of pupils are still breathing toxic air, significantly blamed on diesel fumes, which scientists say will shorten many of their lives.
Scientists say children are more vulnerable than adults to dangerous air pollution, partly as their lungs are less developed.
Richard Howard, author of the report, said: “The case for tackling air pollution in London is clear. London’s air is unhealthy to breathe. Children are particularly vulnerable to unsafe levels of air pollution.”
The study measured average nitrogen dioxide concentration 100 metres around a point in schools’ grounds.
Many schools have good air filtration systems inside buildings, particularly modern ones, but pupils are still likely to be at risk from pollution during break time as they make their way between buildings and on their journeys to and from school.
The study also found that 3.8 million people, or 44 per cent of the workforce, are employed in areas of London with nitrogen dioxide pollution breaking EU rules.
The worst areas are Westminster, 687,000, Camden, 368,000 and the City, 360,000. In Oxford Street, one of the capital’s pollution blackspots, the average nitrogen dioxide concentration in the year to August was more than 150 micrograms per cubic metre, nearly four times the legal limit, the report said.