UK Government decision to close fund helping disabled people live independently ruled lawful

Iain Duncan Smith decided on 6 March this year to close the Independent Living Fund

Iain Duncan Smith decided on 6 March this year to close the Independent Living Fund

By @ShaunyGibson – Used to be @ ShaunyNews

A government decision to close a fund which would allow disabled people to live and work independently has been ruled lawful by a High Court. The decision to shut down the Independent Living Fund (ILF) by 30 June 2015 was made by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in March this year. The High Court was asked whether Duncan Smith had unlawfully failed to discharge his public sector equality duty (PSED) under the 2010 Equality Act by closing the fund.

The £320m ILF fund currently provides support to allow 18,000 disabled people to live and work in their community rather than residential care. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) previously warned that closure of the fund “will result in loss of dignity and independence for many ILF recipients”.

Judge Justice Andrews, sitting in the High Court, has ruled that the closure was lawful following an appeal, but added she knew the decision would be of “great disappointment” to some. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said following the decision the care system in the UK is now “on its knees.” He said: “Scope is very concerned about the closure of the Independent Living Fund, because it’s likely to lead to fewer disabled people being able to live independently. “Funding will be transferred to councils, but there will be no guarantee that the money will be used to support disabled people to live independently, or that former ILF users will receive the same levels of support, given the pressures on local authority finances. “The care system is on its knees. Chronic under-funding and year-on-year rationing mean that too many people that need help to get up, get dressed, get washed and live independently face a daily struggle for support.” “With its recent care reforms, the government has set out an ambitious vision for the future of social care. But if this vision is to become a reality, social care needs sustainable funding”.

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “This government is absolutely committed to supporting disabled people and we continue to spend around £50bn a year on disabled people and their services.”

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The UK will quadruple prison sentences for online abuse, trolls can get up to 2 years in jail





By Shaun Gibson : @ShaunyNews

The issue of online trolling is never too far awayfrom public debate, but the UK government is gearing up to tackle the problem head-on by quadrupling the maximum sentence for those convicted of online abuse.

The news comes hot on the heels of the well-publicized threats aimed at Judy Finnegan and her daughter on Twitter, after the TV presenter voiced a degree of support for a footballer who was set to be released from prison after serving two years for rape.

Now, as the Mail on Sunday reports , internet trolls who partake in vile abuse could receive anything up to two years behind bars as part of a renewed attempt to curb trolling.

“These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life,” said Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. “No one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media. That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence.”

An amendment to facilitate this new law will be made to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that is already going through Parliament.

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Scotland power shortage warning as coal plant faces closure

Unless National Grid can get someone else to deliver this service, you get voltage variability and frequency variability. That means your lights start dimming,"

Unless National Grid can get someone else to deliver this service, you get voltage variability and frequency variability. That means your lights start dimming,”

By Shaun Gibson @ShaunyNews

Scottish households could face dimmed lights and flickering TV sets in three years’ time because UK authorities are putting Scotland’s last coal-fired power plant at risk of closure, Scottish Power has warned. The company’s Longannet power station provides electricity for 2m homes and plays a crucial role in balancing electricity supply and demand to prevent shortages in Scotland. But rising green taxes and high network charges set by regulator Ofgem could make it unprofitable by winter 2016-17 and could force its closure, Scottish Power warned on Friday. If the plant is shut and no replacement built Scottish consumers will be at risk of interrupted electricity supplies, Neil Clitheroe, head of its retail and generation business, told the Telegraph. Closure would also be likely to heighten the risk of blackouts across the UK and force the National Grid to extend the use of emergency measures to keep the lights on, experts said.

But the loss of the plant would pose particular problems in Scotland because it has just two remaining fossil fuel-fired plants – Peterhead gas plant and Longannet. Unlike wind farms and nuclear plants, electricity output from these fossil fuel-fired power stations can be adjusted at short notice to manage voltage and frequency. “That determines whether your TV flickers, whether your lights dim, whether sensitive motors in a manufacturing plant maintain good running,” Mr Clitheroe said. Although power can be imported to and from England to manage large swings in demand, the fine-tuning requires a power plant within the region, he said.

Longannet power station

Longannet power station

Longannet was “essential for the smooth operation of the network” in central Scotland to and its closure would leave consumers at risk of power shortages, Mr Clitheroe warned. “Unless National Grid can get someone else to deliver this service, you get voltage variability and frequency variability. That means your lights start dimming. These services are essential for a consistent supply.” Mr Clitheroe argued it was unfair that Scottish power plants such as Longannet face far higher network costs than equivalent plants in England and said this should be reformed so that it can keep running.

The UK Government has launched a new subsidy scheme to keep old plants running by offering them retainer-style payments to guarantee their availability from 2018-19. But ScottishPower announced on Friday that it was not taking part because it did not provide enough certainty to outweigh the high network costs it faced in the intervening years. While coal plants are being phased out for environmental reasons, ScottishPower claims the networks policy would also deter new greener gas plants being built in Scotland. “To avoid closure within the coming years, changes to the plant’s financial situation must be achieved,” Mr Clitheroe said in a statement. “For many years we have argued that the transmission charging penalties imposed on Longannet are disproportionately high in comparison with other power stations in the south of England, some of which are actually paid a fee to remain connected. “The lack of any sensible regional flexibility in the current system penalises generators in Scotland, and discourages investment in new thermal power plants. “Simply to reach the 2018 delivery year, Longannet needs to pay over £120 million in transmission penalties. In comparison, if Longannet was located in the London area, the station would receive a fee of £4 million per year to stay connected.”

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Joan McAlpine: It’s time to take a close look at some of London’s lies over Scots oil wealth

Joan answers some hard hitting questions related to Scotland's oil

    • JOAN looks deeper in to the some Westminster’s claims regarding how Britain’s oil would be distributed if Scotland became an independent nation.

Does the oil belong to Scotland?

Yes. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) says oil revenue should go to the country in whose waters it was discovered. Professor Alex Kemp, of the University of Aberdeen, says 90 per cent of UK oil lies in Scottish waters but we need to be independent to get the revenue it generates.

Isn’t the oil running out?

No. UK Oil and Gas, who represent companies working in the industry, say there are 24 billion barrels left in the North Sea. That is why they are investing record amounts. Even the UK Government have conceded it could last another 50 years.

How much is it worth?

Around £1.5trillion. This could rise as world demand pushes up prices. The International Monetary Fund’s research team have predicted world prices could double by 2022.

Will we be too dependent on oil if we choose independence?

Even without oil, Scotland’s wealth is around the same as the rest of the UK, according to official figures. Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s say, even without oil, Scotland would be one of the most successful economies in the developed world. But the oil is a huge bonus and gives an independent Scotland a great head start.

What does that mean for me and my family?

We can create an oil fund by saving some of the tax – Norway, a country the same size as Scotland, has accumulated an oil fund of £500billion to be used for pensions, healthcare and investment in the future. The UK has failed to set up a fund and squandered our oil wealth.

But the UK Government say the Scottish Government have exaggerated the value of oil

They would say that, wouldn’t they? The highly respected Investors Chronicle magazine said the UK Government are underplaying the value of the North Sea oil because of the forthcoming referendum on independence.

Who else backs the Scottish Government?

Professor Sir Donald MacKay, the world’s foremost expert on oil prices, says the UK government are wrong and the Scottish Government are right. He said: “There is no hole in the Scottish Government’s oil predictions but there is a mountain of black gold missing from the UK Government’s.” The economic think tank N-56 said the figure for future tax revenues was six times more than the UK government claimed.

Is more oil being discovered?

All the time. This month Xcite Energy announced a major new oil find east of Shetland. The Bentley field will produce 700 million barrels over 35 years. The Clair Ridge Project to the west of Shetland is expected to produce 640 million barrels in the future. BP’s publicity video says Clair will make an enormous contribution to the UK economy for many years to come.

Why don’t I know this?

Good question. David Cameron made a secret visit to Shetland to see this important field. But the visit was hushed up along with the latest results of test drilling, which are rumoured to reveal even more oil.

Why would they bury a good news story?

A certain independence vote on September 18. It has even been suggested that workers on the field stand down till after the referendum.

Surely the UK Government are not involved in a cover up?

They have form. When oil was found in the 1970s, a report for ministers by the senior civil servant Gavin McCrone predicted an independent Scotland would be richer than Switzerland. That was kept secret for 30 years.

So they lied to us?

Denis Healey, the former Labour chancellor in the 1970s, admitted the value of oil was played down by Labour and Conservative governments to stop the Scots supporting independence.

How much did these lies cost us?

Around £300billion of oil tax revenue has gone straight to the London Exchequer since oil was discovered. Scotland didn’t receive a penny.

Anything else I should know?

Significant oil finds were made in the Clyde in the 1970s but the industry was blocked by the UK Ministry of Defence because they didn’t want anything interfering with nuclear submarines. Michael Heseltine, defence secretary at the time, admitted it this week.

Last weekend the Scottish Government created a taskforce to examine the potential of oil in the west. A Yes vote will mean the Ministry of Defence will no longer be able to block these developments.

What will independence change?

All the tax money from oil will stay in Scotland and be used for the good of the people who live here.

Ebola outbreak: Emirates becomes first major international airline to suspend all flights to virus-affected region

Just the start?

Just the start?

I was speaking to some friends on Skype earlier yesterday and we asked this exact question ‘How long till Countries close Air traffic or Airline stop flying to effected areas” Well here we are, I believe this will be the first of many. I live on a small Island and the Government in the UK have hinted about closing travel in and out of the UK

From the UK Government:

The UK government is closely monitoring the spread of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. This page will be updated regularly.
Ebola virus
An Ebola outbreak was confirmed in Guinea in March 2014 and quickly spread to Liberia.

Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a rare but severe disease caused by the Ebola virus. Ebola is highly transmissible by direct contact with organs or bodily fluids of living or dead infected persons and animals.

The UK government is closely monitoring the outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. This is the largest outbreak of the Ebola virus in recent times and there are no reports of British citizens being infected.

Should I be worried about this outbreak?
This is not an issue that affects the UK directly. We have experienced scientists and doctors – the Royal Free Infectious Disease Unit, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – and a lot of experience of dealing with dangerous diseases. The risk of this disease spreading fast in the UK is much lower because of that.

The UK government is taking precautionary measures and looking at capability but is confident that the UK has experienced people who are ready to deal with anything if it were to arrive here. Read the latest assessment of the outbreak in West Africa and an assessment of the situation in the UK by Public Health England. Following a meeting of government committee COBR, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: We’ve looked at how we are co-ordinating with our French and American colleagues under the World Health Organisation; we’ve considered what additional measures the UK could take to help control the outbreak in West Africa; and we’ve also looked at what measures we need to put in place on a precautionary basis in case any UK nationals in West Africa should become affected by the disease. We do not, at the moment, think this is an issue that affects the UK directly.

What are the arrangements at the border?
Border Force has been working closely with Public Health England and other agencies to ensure staff are prepared to deal with the threat of the Ebola virus.

As part of this planning, guidance has been issued to front line staff on how to identify and safely deal with suspected cases of Ebola that makes clear what steps need to be taken should a passenger arrive at the border unwell.

If a person is identified at the border as being a potential carrier of Ebola they will be immediately referred by a Border Force officer to a specialist medical care provider and reported to the Public Health England.

Travel advice
Travellers to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are advised to follow the health advice issued by the National Travel Health Network and Centre.

Get the latest travel advice for Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Government actions to help affected countries. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Department for International Development is making a £2 million package of assistance available to partners including the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières that are operating in Sierra Leone and Liberia to tackle the outbreak.

This latest round of funding is in addition to support the UK has been providing since the outbreak of the disease in February 2014. In Sierra Leone and Liberia the UK has been supporting agencies to increase awareness and understanding of the disease within the community, to improve treatment for those infected and to prevent its spread within and across borders. This includes working with the WHO to train health workers and provide the supplies they need to tackle the outbreak. The UK has also funded initiatives to improve public information, including radio messaging programmes, on the outbreak in Sierra Leone to help control the spread of the disease. In Liberia the UK has provided chlorine and other materials for hygiene and sanitising. Other organisations helping to contain the outbreak

International agencies such as Médecins Sans Frontières, UNICEF, WHO, the UN Population Fund, USAID and the Red Cross have all been on the ground helping the health services of the countries affected. The international community has contributed more than £2 million in aid, including £300,000 from the EU. Get the latest advice and information if you are a humanitarian aid worker. On 2 and 3 July WHO convened a meeting in Accra to coordinate regional activity and develop an Ebola virus response strategy. The UK government is supporting this process.


The Emirates airline has suspended all flights to Guinea in West Africa in a bid to prevent the further spread of the deadly Ebola virus.  The Dubai-based airline is the first major international airline outside Africa to impose a ban in response to the outbreak, which has so far killed more than 729 people across four countries. Described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as by far the worst outbreak ever recorded in the disease’s four-decade history, it originated in Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. A further case was reported after a man flew to Lagos, Nigeria – sparking fears the disease would be spread further by international air travel.

Emirates said its flights to Conakry, the capital of Guinea, were suspended from Saturday until further notice. “We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers, however the safety of our passengers and crew is of the highest priority and will not be compromised,” a statement read. The airline, which does not operate services to Sierra Leone or Liberia, said it would continue to provide flights to Dakar in Senegal. It said further decisions on West Africa would be “guided by the advice and updates from the government and international health authorities”.

The heads of state of the four countries affected by the outbreak met with Dr Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the WHO, to discuss the crisis on Friday. Dr Chan warned of the potentially “catastrophic consequences” of an outbreak “moving faster than our efforts to control it”, and the world leaders agreed to take stronger measures to ensure Ebola does not spread beyond the region. The Emirates’ ban follows the issuing of guidelines from both the WHO and International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has also seen several major airlines and airports begin screening passengers for illness. Nigeria’s largest airline Arik Air, which flies to a limited number of international destinations including London, has stopped flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone. And the pan-African airline Asky was suspended by Nigeria’s civil aviation authorities for bringing the first Ebola case, involving the Liberian diplomat and US citizen Patrick Sawyer, to Lagos.

Britain blindly violating disabled people’s human rights’

Jane Campbell said the report is ‘extremely worrying and deeply sad’ for the UK

The UK government is risking “systematic violation” of international human rights law in its treatment of disabled people, charities claim. Britain is a signatory to a binding UN convention on the rights of people with disabilities , and the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.

Report published by ‘JUST FAIR’

Human right the UK violate:

Austerity measures and welfare reforms such as the bedroom tax mean the rights of disabled people to independent living, work, and social security have been undermined, causing significant hardship, say campaigners. A report publishedby Just Fair , a consortium of 80 national charities including Amnesty International, Save the Children, and Oxfam, says the UK is in clear breach of its legal obligations.

Support structures for many disabled people have disappeared or are under threat as local authorities cut social care budgets, while cuts to benefits will leave many disabled people without crucial help for daily living. Jane Campbell, a cross-bench peer who is disabled said: “It is both extremely worrying and deeply sad that the UK – for so long regarded as an international leader in protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights – now risks sleepwalking towards the status of a systematic violator of these same rights.”

The government vigorously denied the claim. Disability minister Mike Penning said: “It is simply not true to say we are breaching our legal obligations to disabled people. We spend around £50bn a year on disabled people and their services and our reforms will make sure the billions spent give more targeted support and better reflect today’s understanding of disability.

“We are fixing a broken welfare system, which trapped tens of thousands of people on incapacity benefit for more than a decade with little done to see if their condition had improved and support them into work.” The report calls for a right to independent living to be enshrined into UK law, so that government and public bodies are obliged to ensure policies and practices support – rather than compromise – independent living.

Aoife Nolan, professor of International Human Rights Law at the University of Nottingham and a trustee of Just Fair said government policies were compromising disabled people’s human rights. “Not only do these policies cause significant hardship and anxiety, but they also amount to impermissible backward steps in relation to disabled people’s human rights, contrary to the UN human rights framework.” The report will be submitted to the United Nations, which is in the process of reviewing UK compliance with its obligations to the rights of disabled people