‘He should never have been discharged’: How Mental Health Patients Are Being Failed During Lockdown

A week after the country went into lockdown, Margaret went to collect her son Gary* from the psychiatric hospital in Portsmouth where he’d been detained under the mental health act. The day before, a member of staff at the hospital had telephoned to say they could no longer keep him there. When she arrived, the nurse waiting with him in the car park handed over his holdall and a small carrier bag containing his medication. The psychiatrist she’d met a few weeks earlier, when he’d first been ad

Life after lockdown: one man’s plan to get the UK back on its feet

Hundreds of volunteer ramblers are exploring the UK from their own homes as part of an ambitious plan to map all the country’s walking routes. The “Slow Ways” initiative aims to provide an online map of UK walking routes, so people can stomp safely from town to town rather than taking the car when the lockdown is lifted. Working remotely and in collaboration with Ordnance Survey, volunteers are using maps and other online tools to identify existing walking routes, information that will then be m

Hundreds of Detainees Have Been Released, but the Government Still Won’t Shut Detention Centres Down

Hundreds of people have been released from UK detention centres in the last two weeks following a push by campaign groups to protect detainees from Covid-19, but the High Court has rejected a bid to have the centres shut entirely. Human rights organisation Detention Action last week launched a legal challenge against the Home Office calling for detainees to be released, with the case heard at the High Court on Wednesday. Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said that while they were uns

Australian government was aware ‘robodebt’ programme unlawful, emails reveal – Government & civil service news

Civil servants administering a controversial welfare debt recovery system run by Australia’s Department of Social Services (DSS) received advice that their operations were unlawful, a string of newly released emails has revealed. The confidential email exchange, released to a Senate inquiry into the matter on Thursday, occurred between top officials working for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). On 19 November – the same day the government announced it was scaling back the ‘robodebt’ progra

Has Nigel Farage’s Climbdown Guaranteed a Tory Win in the South Coast’s Most Brexit Town?

“Are you here for the quilting group or the election?” asks an elderly lady on the gate of a church in a West Sussex seaside town. So begins my bizarre night at the only political event being held in the constituency of Bognor Regis and Littlehampton. I’m here to see each of the six parliamentary candidates answer questions from voters in this safe Tory seat which has been held by Nick Gibb since 1997. But even here it looked like the Conservatives could be in trouble when anger over the governm

‘It Absolutely Needs to Go’: We Asked People Affected by Universal Credit If It Should Be Scrapped

Jeremy Corbyn has said that if he is elected prime minister he will scrap the ‘cruel and inhumane’ Universal Credit system, and replace it with a £3 billion “emergency package of reforms”. As senior party figures meet this weekend to decide Labour’s manifesto, the exact iteration of the policy remains to be seen. But Corbyn has indicated that the benefit cap and two-child limit will be ditched immediately, the five-week-wait for new claimants will be cut down, while benefits sanctions – whereby

Universal Credit Is Riddled With Issues, but Have Some Flaws Been Deliberately Designed Into the System?

Pete* found applying for Universal Credit so difficult that he almost gave up. His son, Mike*, had to step in, spending up to 20 hours every week helping his dad keep up his claim. Pete, 65, a former painter and decorator, has no internet connection at his home in rural Kent and next to no computer skills. “His claim was all messed up at the start because he didn’t understand what was being asked of him,” says Mike. “When asked how he was looking for work he said he couldn’t look due to the loc

Downsizing for climate change: The tiny homes movement is growing in size | Natalie Leal

On a one acre plot in Bristol a collection of tiny houses will soon be springing up. This looks set to be the site of the UK’s first tiny homes community and as well as the self-sufficient homes there will be shared electric cars, allotments, an eco-launderette and a co-working space. This way of living could help to reduce climate change and potentially create a happier, more social community, co-founder of the Tiny House Community Bristol, Rachel Butler told local news site, Bristol 24/7. The

Weekend walk: an Autumnal stroll through Arundel

If you want to enjoy the best of what West Sussex has to offer then head to Arundel for this picturesque walk. Natalie Leal follows a route through the pretty medieval town, along the river Arun and into the spectacular countryside of the Norfolk Estate surrounding Arundel Castle Distance/Time: A circular walk of just over three miles taking about two hours. By car: Arundel is on the A27 between Worthing and Chichester. Follow the signs through the town to cathedral. The car park is a little

Universal Credit: Charity Food Banks Forced to Compensate for Failing Benefits System

Claire was referred to a charity food bank by her housing advice officer, who realised she wasn’t coping. She was falling behind on her rent and struggling to afford meals for her family. “The food bank was my only other option to get food for my kids and myself,” she says. Jobcentre staff had previously offered Claire a food bank voucher, but that meant catching a bus from her village to their office; without enough for a loaf of bread or a pint of milk, a bus ticket was out of the question.

Turkey to introduce national blockchain currency

The Turkish government plans to launch a central bank “blockchain based” digital currency within the next four years. The idea was included in The Eleventh Development Plan submitted to parliament by Turkish vice president, Fuat Oktay on 8 July. The document, presented to the Planning and Budget Commission, will serve as an economic road map for the government between now and 2023. According to cryptocurrency news publication, Coindesk, the development plan states that “blockchain-based digita

‘They should be chased out of town’: How a South Coast Council Is Failing Homeless People

Right now there are seven people living in the stairwell of a multi-storey car park in Bognor Regis. When you first enter there’s no sign of anyone, but after a couple of flights of stone steps you come to the first sleeping bag, next level up, another sleeping bag, up a few more steps and another pile of belongings, and on and on until you reach the top. From here there are views across the rooftops and chimneys of the small seaside town in West Sussex, to the South Downs beyond. But while peo

Turning protest to participation: civic tech in France

France’s ‘gilet jaunes’ movement prompted the government to launch a massive, tech-enabled consultation – and it’s attracted more people than the ongoing street protests. This week a Paris conference explored the power of civic technology; Natalie Leal reports The ‘gilets jaunes’ protests sweeping across France may be destabilising the country’s government and economy, but the response of French president Emmanuel Macron – a ‘Grand National Debate’ designed to gather public views on four key to

Irish government hosts blockchain hackathon to spark innovation

The Irish government last weekend hosted a blockchain hackathon, as part of its work to bring innovative technology into the public sector. The three-day event, called ‘Blockathon Ireland’, was hosted by The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in association with The Department of Finance. Its aim was to identify and explore solutions to public sector challenges using blockchain technology. Nine teams took part in the hackathon, competing for the top prize of €5000 by identifying innov

UK ‘fake news’ unit wins permanent funding

A UK government unit that works to tackle ‘fake news’ and disinformation has been given the go-ahead to continue on a permanent basis. According to PRWeek, the Cabinet Office confirmed the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) is “continuing operations” with funding now in place. Alex Aiken, executive director of the Government Communications Service, told PRWeek: “Last week I set out three government communication priorities for the year ahead – raising standards, strengthening our democracy and reassuri

People-led innovation project to help tackle policy challenges

A new initiative by two US think tanks aims to help public bodies explore innovative ways of consulting and engaging with communities, finding new answers to public policy challenges. The People-Led Innovation project was launched on Tuesday by GovLab and the Bertelsmann Foundation. Noting that citizens’ knowledge, insights and ideas often hold the key to the problems faced by governments, GovLab co-founder Stefaan Verhulst said the new tools will help officials consider “the most effective way
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