Midwife shortage crisis forces 4 out of 10 maternity units to close

Four out of 10 maternity units were forced to shut last year because of a staffing crisis among midwives, a shock survey has revealed.

The disclosure is the latest blow to rock embattled Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt .

It comes after it emerged on Friday that NHS trusts in England have racked up a huge £930 million deficit in just the first three months of the financial year – twice as much as the same time last year.

One maternity unit had to close an astonishing 33 times in 2014.

The highest number of closures at a single unit this year was on 23 occasions, according to the UK-wide survey carried out by the Royal College of Midwives.

It warned that maternity units now faced an unprecedented challenge due to the high birth-rate, increasingly complex births and a crippling shortage of midwives.

According to the RCM survey, 41.5% of maternity units shut down at some point last year because they could not cope with the demand.

read more here: http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/midwife-shortage-crisis-forces-4-out-of-10-maternity-units-to-close/ar-AAfj9tN?ocid=spartandhp

The figure is up significantly on the 32.8% forced to close in 2014.

On average, maternity wards across the UK closed their doors 6.6 times in 2014 and on 4.8 occasions in 2015.

One Head of Midwifery who took part in the survey said: “The level of pressure everyone is feeling is now palpable. Worrying times.”

Another complained of working 60 hours a week – despite being employed on a 37.5 hours per week contract.

Almost a third of the senior midwives said they did not have enough staff.

At present, the NHS remains short of 2,600 full-time midwives in England.

And, an overwhelming 91.3% said their unit was dealing with more complex births than in the previous year.

Disabled woman died in fire at her home after her 24-hour care was stopped by NHS cuts

Mother-of-two Amanda Richards used to receive round-the-clock support party-paid by the NHS – until government funding was slashed

A disabled woman died in an horrific fire at her home after her 24-hour care was stopped by health cuts.

Mother-of-two Amanda Richards, 40, used to receive round-the-clock support party-paid by the NHS.

But after government funding was slashed, she was left alone in her house for two hours every day.

Wheelchair-bound Amanda was on her own when a blaze started by a cigarette tore through her home.

Firefighters discovered her body inside the gutted bungalow in December 2013.

A serious case review yesterday found healthcare cuts played a major role in the tragedy.

Read more here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/disabled-woman-died-fire-home-6598716

Law students had to help a man in debilitating pain fight being declared “fit to work”

Disabled claimants are increasingly vulnerable, with justice more difficult to access, and the need to be reassessed after being declared “fit to work”,

The first Paul Crane knew of having his benefits cut off was when his landlord called up to ask where the rent was.

It was the start of a harrowing time. After ten years of receiving support for debilitating pains – caused when gamma knife radiosurgery to repair a haemorrhage on his brain stem caused radiation damage to surrounding tissue – he had suddenly been declared “fit to work”.

Paul’s life has never been the same since the operation, which repaired the haemorrhage but left parts of his brain and spinal cord permanently damaged. Every day he is haunted by stimuli – light, noise, crowded places – anything that sets off his “excitable nerves” will leave him in agony with migraines, cause numbness and dizziness, or leave part of his face sagging. Even sneezing or tiredness can cause a traumatic flare up.

He says: “Tiredness causes pain and pain causes tiredness. I don’t socialise much, I’ve let people down too many times. I go fishing, which is my only relaxation but even that sometimes is too much”.

Over a decade of suffering and being prescribed a cornucopia of drugs – none of which have fully worked – Paul has learnt to live with the pain. But a new regime at the Department for Work and Pensions, which he says was “like the difference between black and white”, has been hard on him. This was when the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) replaced the Incapacity Benefit, and new work capability assessments (WCA) were brought in to test whether or not claimants were “fit to work”.

“It was as if they were trying to fail me,” he says, “like the system was designed to make me fail. I realised how lucky I had been before. The ESA people looked at me as if to say, ‘Oh God another scumbag’”.

When the news that he had been refused ESA hit him, Paul says he found himself in “a very dark pit”, confused and afraid of what would happen next.

“How could they come to this conclusion? I answered as truthfully as I could and they failed me. I’d just spent two weeks either in bed or on the sofa.”

It’s a painfully common story. Disability rights campaign groups such as the WOWPetition and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have been pressing the DWP to take notice of the plight of people like Paul, and are fighting for a comprehensive impact assessment of how changes to the benefits system and wider government spending cuts affect people with disabilities.

In August, after months of pressure, the DWP released the official figures for mortalities following “fit to work” verdicts between December 2011 and February 2014, revealing that 2,380 died in that period.

And even more damning, the Avon & Bristol Law Centre (ABLC) revealed that, of a hundred WCA appeal cases taken on by volunteer law students, 95 had been successful.

read more here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2015/09/law-students-had-help-man-debilitating-pain-fight-being-declared-fit-work

Half of all services now failing as UK care sector crisis deepends

Five years of funding cuts blamed for crisis threatening the welfare of elderly and disabled people

Nearly half of social care services visited by inspectors in the past year were found to be failing the frail and vulnerable, in what relatives and experts say is a symptom of the growing financial crisis in the sector.

An update given to the board of the Care Quality Commission last week showed that 41% of community-based adult social care services, hospice services and residential social care services inspected since last October were inadequate or required improvement. Of the 8,170 services examined, less than 1% (38) were outstanding and 58% (4,381) were good, according to the chief executive’s report, which was delivered last Wednesday.

The CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, Andrea Sutcliffe, told the Observer that the figures were extremely worrying. They will raise fresh concerns about the state of the sector after social care providers and council leaders warned in a joint submission to the Treasury last week that the fragility of the care sector was affecting their ability to perform their legal duties to elderly and disabled people.

Earlier this year, this newspaper revealed that the CQC was receiving more than 150 allegations of abuse of the frail and elderly in social care settings every day, prompting Sutcliffe to warn that a broken system was turning good people into bad carers as a consequence of poor working conditions, a lack of training and inadequate staffing.

There is also growing evidence of the crisis having an effect on the health system. A key part of the reason why Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, one of the NHS’s most prestigious hospitals, was put into special measures last week was that 200 of its beds were being occupied by patients who could not leave because there was a lack of social care in place to support them.

Last week’s appeal to the Treasury by providers and local authorities in advance of the government’s November spending review was made in recognition of the “unprecedented scale and severity of the financial challenges facing the whole of the social care sector”.

 Since 2010, cuts in council-funded adult social care have totalled £4.6bn, or 31% in real terms of net budgets. And these budgets will be cut by a further £500m this year.

Millions of carers risk illness working 100 hours a week as Tories slash care budget

A survey found family members are neglecting their own health and going with out sleep under the pressure of looking after their loved ones

Millions of unpaid carers are spending more than 100 hours a week looking after loved ones.

Almost four in 10 of the seven million in the UK have that workload, leaving them exhausted and isolated, the Health and Social Care Information Centre said.

It also found 17% did the job with no support and 15% neglected themselves by not eating or sleeping well.

The shock revelation comes as new figures show adult social care cash has been cut by 3% in real terms. Campaigners blasted councils and the Government and urged them to do more to help “suffering” carers.

Helena Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, warned that growing numbers of families were “providing more care with less support”. She said thousands of unpaid carers were “finding it harder to look after their own health, maintain relationships with others and have a life of their own alongside caring”.

She added: “Carers save the economy £119billion every year in the unpaid care they provide, yet their own health and wellbeing is suffering. As the Treasury finalises the spending review, the results of the survey should be a wake-up call that more funding is needed for support to back-up carers.”

The HSCIC survey of carers found almost one in five – 17% – had no support at all.

HSCIC statistician Katharine Robbins said: “This survey helps lift the lid on the lives of the many thousands of people who care for another adult as part of their everyday life. It shows a wide range of experiences of carers known to local authorities.”

Separate HSCIC figures found a fall in spending by councils, from £17.2billion in 2013/14 to £17.1billion in 2014/15. This was a 3% drop in real terms.


Depth of UK welfare cuts revealed in Sheffield case study

“Households with dependent children, when all the planned cuts have taken effect, will suffer an average loss of £1,690 per year. Lone parents with dependent children will lose over £2,000 per year”

by Simon Whelan
7 September 2015

Research conducted by two British academics offers a citywide snapshot of the large financial losses incurred by the working class under the coalition government.

The research by Professors Christina Beattie and Steve Fothergill of Sheffield Hallam University, “The Impact of Welfare Reform on Communities and Households in Sheffield,” documents the impact of welfare reform on the city’s population. It uses data from official statistics, including Treasury estimates and local social security figures.

While the report notes that the majority of the cuts were imposed by the 2010-2015 Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government, some of the cuts, most notably to Incapacity Benefits, are measures enacted by the previous Labour government. These have only recently taken effect. The latest cuts made to the incomes of the poorest by the new Tory government are yet to be catalogued by academics.

In total, these cuts amount to almost £10 per week off the income of every adult of working age in Sheffield. Sheffield has a population of approximately 560,000 and is Britain’s fifth most populous city.

The authors estimate that the city of Sheffield is losing almost £170 million in benefit income (equivalent to £460 per adult of working age living in the city) once all the government cuts (2013/14) make their impact felt.

The most vulnerable—the sick, the infirm and disabled—will suffer the biggest financial losses because of brutal cuts to Incapacity Benefit, which, just within Sheffield, amounts to losses of £42 million per year.

Workers struggling to survive on poverty wages whose income is subsidised through the Tax Credit scheme will suffer large financial losses, regardless of recent bogus claims of the impact of raising the minimum wage. The failure to link benefit increases to prices, rather than the annual rate of inflation, collectively costs millions in losses to the poorest sections of society.

Unsurprisingly, the impact of the cuts has been uneven across Sheffield, with inner city districts, overwhelmingly working class, hit hardest. Students and some middle class families with children have also been hit through the imposition of student fees and cuts to child benefit.

Households with dependent children, when all the planned cuts have taken effect, will suffer an average loss of £1,690 per year. Lone parents with dependent children will lose over £2,000 per year.

The devastating effects of the cuts are multiplied in households where members are sick or unable to work and affected by the slashing of Incapacity Benefit and cuts to Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit—not to mention the chronic failure of benefit rates to reflect the rising cost of living.

The report, commissioned on behalf of Sheffield City Council, covers the impact of cuts to existing benefits as well as that of new financial sanctions on the poor. These include the loathed “bedroom tax”, a cap on housing allowances based upon “under occupation” of a rented property.

Drastic cuts have hit council tax benefit, housing benefit, disability living allowance, incapacity benefit and child benefit. Benefits like Jobseekers Allowance and other income-based (means tested) benefits have risen just 1 percent, well below the rate of inflation. Cuts to working tax credit fall on households with one or more adults in employment.

The cuts documented by the research, when fully implemented nationwide, will save the government £19 billion. However, these cuts have already been superseded by further savage austerity mapped out by the Tories. These have not yet been the subject of in-depth research.

read more here: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/09/07/shef-s07.html

Cuts to council tax benefits have gone largely unreported – but the consequences are big news for Britain’s poorest

The axe has been devolved, with big consequences for Britain’s poorest families.

Next to headline- grabbing cuts like the ‘bedroom tax’ and the ‘benefit cap’, council tax benefit cuts have gone largely unnoticed.  But the 2.3 million people paying on average £167 per year more as a result of the cuts have noticed.   Big time – as new research published this week by Child Poverty Action Group and Z2K finds.

Just over £3 per week might not seem like a lot to most people, but for households on the very lowest incomes, it’s enough to bust already-stretched budgets.  Families are going to great lengths to make sure they keep up to date with their council tax payments. Stringent collection procedures mean that council tax is viewed as a priority debt and families would prefer to borrow money than fall behind on payments.

It used to be the case that council tax benefit protected people too poor to pay from council tax.  But in 2013 this changed. Out went this fully-funded national benefit. In its place came hundreds of local authority-run council tax support schemes (CTS). Worse, lower central government funding for these schemes amounted to a 10 per cent overall funding cut. Pensioners have been protected from this cut, meaning greater losses for the working age population.

Most councils, already reeling from cuts to their own core grant, felt they had no choice but to seek to plug this gap by levying minimum charges on residents previously deemed too poor to pay anything.

No surprise, then, that the change  has left people struggling with a bill that, until recently, everyone accepted they cannot pay. Our research finds that In London alone in 2013/14, 123,000 low-income households fell into arrears, 100,000 were summonsed to court and 12,000 dealt with the stress of bailiffs collecting their debt.  On top of these debts, London councils piled at least £8.5 million in court costs on households in arrears.

With one hand the Government is spending billions on raising  the personal tax allowance  – with  the stated aim of  taking low income workers out of tax (though the main effect is helping better off taxpayers) –  but with the other it’s increasing the tax burden on them through  council tax support cuts.   And most of the low income households affected by the latter earn far too little to gain from the former.


Read the rest of this article here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/cuts-council-tax-benefits-have-gone-largely-unreported-consequences-are-big-news