Youth work and social care news from around the world

Links from around the world of youth work and social care:

Space photos show UK transforming from green to brown after heat waves

The usual verdant grasses surrounding Buckingham Palace and much of the British Open’s 176-year-old Carnoustie golf course have yellowed since May.

A lack of rain combined with near-record heat through the first half of the summer created this situation, and satellites images from the United Kingdom’s Met Office illustrate the expansive reach of the isles’ browning grasses.

Like the UK, much of the world — even Arctic regions — have been hit with extreme heatwaves or hot spells in the last couple weeks or longer.

Heatwaves, say climate scientists, would certainly happen regardless of whether or not human-caused climate change is a factor. But the planet has been warming at an accelerated pace for 40 years now, making heat extremes more likely.

So far this summer, the UK is on track to challenge 1995 as the driest UK summer in recorded history, Alex Deacon, a Met Office meteorologist, explained online. The same can be said for the UK’s heat since early June.

“It’s been quite remarkable if we take 2018 so far. We could be pushing records” he said.

Though it can be challenging to attribute any particular weather event, like a heatwave, to climate change, with improving measurements scientists have begun to a connect extreme weather events to the changing climate.

 

The UK prison system is in melt down

The UK prison system is in melt down.  Currently we have riots in prisons, high staff turnover due to assaults, and high suicide rates.

Riots in prison

Violence in prison seems to be on the increase.  Assaults behind bars increased by more than 34% to 23,775 – about 65 per day – in the 12 months to the end of June 2016.  The MoJ figures show an increasingly volatile situation in women’s prisons, with the number of assaults rising by 25% in a year.

The Ministry of Justice has explicitly acknowledged that staff cuts are a factor in the rising tide of violence in prisons in England and Wales.  The MoJ commentary on the prison safety figures states:

“The rise in assaults since 2012 has coincided with major changes to the regime, operating arrangements and culture in public sector prisons.  For example, restructuring of the prison estate, including staff reductions, which have reduced overall running costs, and an increase in gang culture and illicit psychoactive drugs in prisons.”

In recent months we’ve seen a murder in Pentonville prison, riots in Lewes, Bedford, Birmingham and  Swaleside and the Prison Officers’ Association stating that Hull prison is ‘on [the] brink of riot’ after inmates arrive from Birmingham.

High staff turnover

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) said that the National Offender Management Service, which oversees the country’s prisons, has classed 12 jails as “red sites”, meaning they do not have enough staff to operate a standard regime. A similar number are classed as “amber sites”, indicating they are also suffering acute staffing issues. The POA has estimated around 35% of the country’s prisons were experiencing some form of staffing problem.

Figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that in the past year the number of full-time prison officers has dropped by almost 600.

High suicide rates

The Howard League for Penal Reform said it had been notified of the deaths by suicide of 102 people up until 18 November – the equivalent of one every three days and breaking the record for frequency of suicides.

According to Frances Cook, the director of the Howard League:

“With five weeks remaining until the end of the year, it is already the highest death toll in a calendar year since recording practices began in 1978. The previous high was in 2004 when 96 deaths by suicide were recorded.”

Crook said:

“The number of people dying by suicide in prison has reached epidemic proportions. No one should be so desperate while in the care of the state that they take their own life and yet, every three days, a family is told that a loved one has died behind bars.

“By taking bold but sensible action to reduce the number of people in prison, we can save lives and prevent more people being swept away into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

Prison staff struggle to recognise mental health risk factors as shown in the case of Josh Collinson, aged 18, who was found hanged at Swinfen Hall young offender institution in Staffordshire on 3 September last year.  He had been transferred the previous day from Parc prison, in south Wales, where he had self-harmed on six occasions and been placed on a list of at-risk prisoners.

So what can be done?

One of the key issues is to lower the jail population.  As Kenneth Clarke, the Conservative former home secretary and justice secretary, Jacqui Smith, the Labour former home secretary, and Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem former deputy prime minister, have warned that the prison crisis will do “untold damage to wider society” if it is not addressed.  The prison population should be cut from its current level, around 85,000, to what it was in the 1980s, around 45,000, they say in a letter to the Times:

“To restore order, security, and purpose to our jails, ministers should now make it their policy to reduce prison numbers. We want to see the prison population returned to the levels it was under Margaret Thatcher, herself no ‘soft touch’,”

Secondly is to review sentencing policy and to explore tougher alternatives to prison, possibly involving “visible” work punishments in the community, as suggested by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice:

“If you are sending someone to prison for a very short time, the ability of the prison to cope with that person is limited in the current circumstances. It’s very important that you have real alternatives to prison. It’s important you have tough community sentences available … and this is something at which we really need to look.

“Should you have some really tough kind of work for [offenders] to do? Should you make the punishment visible? What’s essential is that you have a tough alternative to prison … These are things on which it would be good to have a proper open debate.”

Thirdly, young offenders up to the age of 25 should be kept out of adult prisons because of “irrefutable evidence” that the typical adult male brain is not fully formed until at least the mid-20s, MPs have said.

The House of Commons justice select committee says young adults, who make up 10% of the adult prison population but account for 30-40% of police time, should be treated differently by the criminal justice system and be held in young offender institutions with 18- to 20-year-olds.  The MPs say that the most recent evidence shows that young people are reaching adult maturity five to seven years later than they did a few decades ago, which is affecting the age at which most typically grow out of crime.

 

 

London’s aeroplane flights visualised

NATS London flights

Air traffic control company NATS handles 2 million flights in UK airspace every year, with 1.2 million of those arriving at or departing from one of the five main London airports.  That makes more than 3,000 flights daily on just six runways.

When those flight plans are turned into colourful trails, they merge into a mesmerising visualisation of aviation over a 24-hour period:

African Union: We cannot ignore the plight of Berkshire any longer

Responding to popular calls from the Daily Mail and Nigel Farage, African leaders met in Kinshasa yesterday to discuss the growing floods crisis in the United Kingdom:

Daily Mail floods

‘The images of knee-high water have shocked us all’, said Congo’s President Kabila, whose nation is currently recovering from the most brutal conflict in recorded history since the Second World War.

‘The [Daily] Mail and Mr Farage have made it clear that Britain’s international aid budget, used around the globe to combat AIDS, famine and female genital mutilation, is needed in High Wycombe.

‘Well, we can do one better’.

Governments across the continent have drawn up assistance packages to help the hundreds of Britons forced to sleep in poorly funded community centres, often for days at a time.

‘It is unimaginable’, said Kabila before the assembled statesmen in Kinshasa, ‘In Henley-upon-Thames for example, only one in twenty residents are millionaires. Imagine their insurance premiums’.

Following fears of sandbag shortages at Devon County Council, particularly of that drought-excluder kind, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania has stepped in, offering to drop several thousand sand bags ‘over a wide area’ from strategic bombers. Mauritania, a country which according the UN has between 10% and 20% of its population as slaves, was happy to help.

Eritrea Has Promised To Provide 103% of GDP To Help The UK

‘Hey, we’re in the Sahara’, said a spokesman for the ruling junta, ‘we’re basically made out of sand!’

Eritea floodsThe largest contribution has come from Eritrea. The Red Sea state, whose primary exports include nutmeg and ferrous waste, has promised to match David Cameron’s proposed flood defence fund of £700 million.

‘We are more than happy to help’, said Minister Isaias Afwerki, ‘expending our entire Gross National Product to protect Elton John’s Windsor mansion will be the honour of all Eritreans’.

Alongside state intervention, charities have moved quickly to respond. Professor David Akol of Juba University in Darfur has established Help For The Home Counties.

‘Who can put a price on a pair of waders?’ asks Akol in a moving advert currently broadcasting across the continent, ‘For just £159, a Sudanese farmer can give an IT consultant from Surrey a pair of Endura Stocking Foot Protectors. That’s just four months wages to remove dampness from someone’s life’.

Pleasure Yacht

IRONY: A Pleasure Yacht Succumbs To The Floodwaters

Half a dozen African countries have already offered to back financial aid with boots on the ground to oversee future defences. ‘It is clear’, concluded Kabila, ‘after similar catastrophes in 2000, 2007 and now 2014 that the British government simply lacks the logistical capabilities to stop water coming indoors’.

Meanwhile Syria’s Assad today announced a cease-fire in his nation’s multi-sided civil war to allow for ‘a whip round’ for Britons who have lost their second homes.

 It certainly made me smile!

Funny stories from around the world

Some more funny and random headlines from around the world:

Enough Food For Everyone IF Campaign

Enough Food If

The G8 world leaders are coming to the UK in June this year, as it’s the UK’s turn to chair the event.

To mark this, over 100 UK charities (many from faith groups) have got together for the ‘IF’ campaign.

Nearly one billion people go to bed hungry every night and two million children die from malnutrition every year. We’ve made progress in other areas, but hunger is still the great scandal of our age. All around the world, even in the UK, people are struggling to feed their families.

The campaign is based on four big ‘IF’ statements:

  • Enough Food For Everyone IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families feed themselves.
  • Enough Food For Everyone IF governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries.
  • Enough Food For Everyone IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and grow crops to feed people, not fuel cars.
  • Enough Food For Everyone IF governments and big companies are honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.

Here’s a video about what the campaign is about:

[youtube id=”Xi38ZtG4NhM” width=”580″ height=”337″]

To find out more, visit the Enough Food IF campaign website.

Responsive Prayer: No it’s the church actually

Church Actually

We used this responsive prayer by Krish Kandiah as part of our response to thinking about our local community at our Churches Together service for unity and prayer on Sunday, it worked really well, and maybe worth you keeping for a future occasion:

This was a “call and response” part of my sermon – I asked the questions and the audience replied “No its the church actually!”

Do you know who provides half of the parent and toddler support groups in the UK. Is it Surestart? No, it’s the church actually.

Do you know who provide the biggest network of debt couselling across the UK with 190 drop-in centres? Helping over 19 141 individuals last year alone? Is it Martin “Moneysavingexpert” Lewis? No it’s the church actually.

Who is it that donated 72 million hours of volunteer work to social initiatives last year estimating a contribution of 1.5 billion pounds a year? Was it the National Trust? No it was the church actually.

Do you know who will feed 100 000 hungry people this year in the UK is it the Redcross? No it’s the church actually!

Do you know who brought hospitals, schools, universities and democracy into our country? Was it the Vikings? No, it was the church actually!

Who invented Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Queen’s Park Rangers, Southampton, and Tottenham Hotspur Football clubs, was it the Football association? No it was the church actually!

When the doctors, the police and the social workers move out of an area and go and live somewhere else who is that moves in ? Is it Richard Dawkins and Militant Atheists? No it’s the church actually!

Who is it that is the hope of the world, is it NATO? No, it’s the church actually!

Books I have read: Only Half Of Me: British and Muslim: The Conflict Within

Only Half of Me - Being a Muslim in Britain

I finished reading Only Half Of Me: British and Muslim: The Conflict Within by Rageh Omaar last night.  I found it a fascinating read as he describes both the personal tensions and cultural tensions he has seen over his life and the way in which society makes big assumptions against British Muslims.

Following 9/11 and then the 7/7 London bombing society has become much more suspicious and negative towards British Muslims.  Omaar shows how this goes beyond what should be acceptable.  Having grown up originally in Somalia and then moving to Britain for a private education, he struggled to develop into an adult who straddled both his parents Islamic faith and the Western society in which he was living.

The point that I found most interesting was the sub culture of wealthy upper middle class Muslims moving to the UK to provide their children with a top quality education, sometimes staying, sometimes moving back to their country of origin.  In Omaar’s case with Somalia falling into civil war his family decided to stay in the UK and it was only as a reporter for the BBC that he went back to visit his homeland.  Alongside his own story, Omaar details the responses of a number of people who fled from oppression in their native land.

The book challenges the reader to a better understanding of Muslims coming to live in Britain.  But it does leave a number of key questions unanswered – there are positive challenges for how white British people can respond better to British Muslims, whereas there seems little in response as to how a British Muslim should engage with British society.

I feel as if Omaar has written part 1, but could write more suggestions as to how society could function better as a whole.

75% of homeless youth use Facebook and Twitter

Homeless Person

A recent study found that 75% of homeless young people use social networks to stay connected to others – a number comparable to that of university and college students.

The study, led by the University of Alabama’s Rosanna Guadagno, surveyed 237 college and 65 homeless young people that were an average of 19 years old.  A vast majority of both groups reported using social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook for at least one hour each day.

Over 90 percent of college students reported using social media programs for at least one hour every day.

Guadagno makes the argument that a “digital divide” in Internet access should be re-thought:

“To the extent that our findings show a ‘digital divide’ between undergraduates at a four-year university and age-matched participants in a program for homeless young adults, it is mainly in types of Internet use and not access to the Internet, and that divide is relatively minor.  Since it is clear that the proportions of undergraduates and homeless young adults accessing social networking sites are similar, we assert that the term digital divide is not descriptive of the young adult population.”

Another recent study from the University of Dayton found that homeless youth are closely linked to social media in their daily lives. They don’t only use such networks for social contact and equality, but as a means to solve practical daily issues.

Art Jipson, the head of the Dayton study, found that the homeless use social media as a place where all people are treated “equally,” and through a series of interviews, discovered that it can also be a medium to find social services, somewhere to sleep and their next hot meal.

I’d be interested to know if any similar research has occurred in the UK with the ever increasing group of sofa surfer teenagers.

Councillor in attack on food bank

Councillor Chris Steward

A senior York politician has sparked a furious row by saying there is no real poverty in Britain and people should not donate to food banks.

Chris Steward, a Conservative councillor, said living standards had surged, that there was no need for food banks, that they were an insult to starving people around the world, and that donating to them allowed recipients to spend more money on alcohol and cigarettes.

But his comments have been condemned by political opponents and The Trussell Trust, which runs 275 banks nationwide.  Chris Mould, the charity’s executive chairman, said more than 10,000 professionals nationwide were referring people to food banks and said: “He is making totally inappropriate assertions which I challenge him to back up with proper evidence.”

Coun Steward said on twitter that it insulted those in poverty to claim it existed in the UK. Asked to elaborate, he said Britain had relative poverty, like every country, but not absolute poverty.

He said:

“We have lots of poor people, but living standards have surged over the years. There is certainly no need for food banks; no-one in the UK is starving and I think food banks insult the one billion in the world that go to bed hungry every day and ignore the fact a child dies of hunger every three seconds.”

“The fact some give food to food banks, merely enables people who can’t budget (an issue where schools should do much more and I have said the council should) or don’t want to, to have more money to spend on alcohol, cigarettes etc.”

Mr Mould said Coun Steward was “poorly informed” and said living standards for people on low incomes had declined in recent years, with heating costs rising by 65 per cent in five years and the cost of basic food rising by’ 35 per cent. He said it was stereotyping to say those on low incomes were using money unwisely, saying there were many reasons why people found themselves in crisis.

Chris Mould said:

“He says there is no need for food banks; I am astonished by his assertion. What does he know? Where is his evidence? More than 10,000 front-line professionals, week in week out, are referring people they are trying to help to food banks.  They are seeing people from Cornwall to Inverness, York to Liverpool, and in increasing numbers they are referring people to food banks.  I am talking from an evidence-base of 10,000 care professionals who would argue with him. It is astonishing he would make an assertion like that.”

food bank

Mr Mould said nobody suggested people should not be distressed or outraged by unnecessary hunger elsewhere in the world, but said:

“It is clear that people in the UK who we meet have been going without meals when they arrive at food banks. They are going to bed hungry too. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but one of the most unequal in terms of income distribution in Europe.”

I found it amazing in this period of recession where most weeks there are major news articles on increases in poverty in the UK that a local politician would go as far to state there is no need for food banks.  As someone who has worked with young people and families for nearly a decade, I’ve helped them access food banks many times – they are incredibly valuable local tools.

What do you think?  Was Councillor Steward right to say we don’t need food banks?

———————– UPDATE ———————–

The York Press are now reporting that:

The York councillor who sparked an angry backlash by saying food banks were not needed has said he will visit one to see how they work.

Chris Steward, chairman of York Conservatives and councillor for Rural West York, made the offer after he came under fire for comments revealed in The Press on Thursday. Coun Steward claimed there was no real poverty in the UK.

He has since said on twitter that he would be happy to visit a food bank to work a shift.

York Labour councillor Dafydd Williams also yesterday invited Coun Steward to visit the York food bank at Gateway Church in Acomb, and called the councillor’s comments “ill-informed”. Coun Steward declined to add to his comments on twitter when contacted by The Press.

Blogger Malala Yousafzai Leaves Hospital After Taliban Attack

Malala-Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani blogger who was shot and severely injured by the Taliban in October 2012, was released from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  The hospital shared a video on YouTube of Malala leaving inpatient treatment.

Malala will continue her rehabilitation in the UK, living for a few weeks in her family’s temporary home in the Birmingham area.  The hospital says she will be readmitted to undergo reconstructive cranial surgery later this month.

Members of the Pakistani Taliban shot Malala on her way home from school in the Swat valley region of Pakistan on Oct. 9.

The then 14-year-old had previously won the country’s first Peace Prize for her progressive blogging about the importance of women’s rights and education. She was and remains the target of frequent death threats from the Taliban. One Taliban member said after her injury that she would continue to be the target of attacks until she is killed.

Malala was moved to the UK on 15th October to receive medical care four days after the shooting.  Her parents and two younger brothers have taken temporary residence in the UK while she is undergoing treatment.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=I_4CvtJoMrM]