We’re here to guide you through the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up to the Life newsletter for daily tips, advice, how-tos and escapism.When they first met, on a blind date back in July 2016, Harry and Meghan found themselves bonding over a shared love of humanitarian work. Their third date was a “huge leap” because they found themselves, on Harry’s invitation, camping under the stars in Botswana, where the prince is a patron of the animal welfare charity Rhino Conservation Botswana. Meghan and Harry have their own particular areas of focus on matters of philanthropy and social change, but they also share a number of concerns. Meghan, for example, has been an advocate for women’s rights since long before she was married, and it seems Harry, too, has fully embraced identifying as a feminist.In a conversation presented exclusively by MAKERS, which, alongside HuffPost, is owned by Verizon Media, the Duchess of Sussex sat down with feminist icon Gloria Steinem for a little “backyard chat” in California. Sitting six feet apart, with the Duke and Duchess’ new Santa Barbara home standing majestically in the background, they talked about representation and the importance of voting, until the conversation turned, briefly, to Harry. View this post on InstagramA post shared by MAKERS Women (@makerswomen) on Aug 25, 2020 at 12:32pm PDT“Well,” Steinem said, “you can be a feminist and be masculine and a guy.”“Like my husband! I love that when he just came in he said, ‘You know that I’m a feminist, too, right Gloria? It’s really important to me that you know that,’” Markle said. “I look at our son and what a beautiful example that he gets to grow up with a father who is so comfortable owning that as part of his own self-identification. That there’s no shame in being someone who advocates for fundamental human rights for everyone, which, of course, includes women.”“And also that he is a nurturing father,” Steinem replied. “Because then your son will grow up knowing it’s okay to be loving and nurturing.”Harry being open about his feminism isn’t new, per se. In 2013, for example, at the Nepal Girl Summit in Kathmandu, the prince gave a speech about women’s empowerment. “While the unique challenges faced by girls is not a topic I have spoken much about in the past, I think it’s important to acknowledge something that has become obvious to me and is already known to everyone in this room: There are way too many obstacles between girls and the opportunities they deserve,” he said. “It cannot just be women who speak up for girls.Oh, and of course there was that time when a fan of the royal family, at Cardiff castle in 2018, told Markle that she thought it was “really lovely to have a feminist in the royal family,” to which Markle responded: “Thank you. [Harry’s] a feminist, too!”Markle has previously talked about wanting to raise her baby, regardless of its gender, to be a feminist. In 2019, when she was still pregnant with baby Archie, the Duchess joined a number of influential women on a panel for International Women’s Day. When asked how the pregnancy was going, she shared a moment that had recently moved her.“It’s funny, I’d actually been joking these past few weeks; I’d seen this documentary on Netflix about feminism and one of the things they said during pregnancy was, ‘I feel the embryonic kicking of feminism,’” she said. “I loved that. So boy or girl, whatever it is, we hope that’s the case.” View this post on InstagramA post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on Dec 31, 2019 at 12:15pm PSTAnd the following month, a source close to the couple said they were planning to raise their baby without gender stereotyping — that the nursery wouldn’t be filled with toy trains and cars if it happened to be a boy.Well, as it happened, they did have a boy, and, like Markle told Steinem, that boy seems to have a pretty good example of a father. During a roundtable discussion about gender equality in October 2019, at the One Young World Summit, Harry made a surprise appearance.“In terms of gender equality, which is something I have championed for a long time, I think that conversation can’t happen without men being a part of it,” Markle said. “You can’t have a conversation of women’s empowerment with just women….Thank you for letting [Harry] crash the party.” It's official - Prince Harry is a feminist, Meghan Markle revealed today. Jessica Phillips, 23, told Meghan she loved having a feminist in the Royal Family. pic.twitter.com/Ve2jguL5Yi— Jack Royston (@Jack_Royston) January 18, 2018Well, it looks like baby Archie will be growing up in a home with two beautiful examples of feminist parents — a home where the tough stuff, some of the most important social issues of our world, is tackled head-on, rather than avoided.Who knows how it’ll enrich his perspective on life when he grows up.Related... 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Black Caribbean pupils have fallen dramatically behind their white counterparts at GCSE level in the past five years in the wake of school budget and welfare cuts, a new report has found.The Education Policy Institute (EPI) found that Black children suffered disproportionately as progress on narrowing the “attainment gap” between richer and poorer pupils stalled for the first time in a decade.The think tank’s annual report said that disadvantaged children of all races were being penalised by inequality even before the impact of Covid-19 this year, when school closures were widely believed to have hit the less well off hardest.Researchers found that disadvantaged pupils in England are 18.1 months of learning behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs – the same gap as five years ago and the first time in years that the gap has not narrowed.It found that the rich-poor attainment gap in primary school – at 9.3 months – was actually now widening for the first time since 2007, when Tony Blair was in power.And progress in narrowing the gap for pupils with disabilities, special needs, in care or receiving help from social services has also stalled in the past five years.EPI chief, former schools minister David Laws, told HuffPost UK that the study suggested “an iron link between poverty and educational outcomes”.He warned that Boris Johnson’s claim to be “levelling up” the country could only succeed with a dramatic change of course.Among the most stark findings was a worsening of performance for Black Caribbean pupils at English and Maths GCSE.In 2014, the group was already 6.2 months of learning behind their white counterparts. But the figure soared to 10.9 months in 2019.By contrast, Bangladeshi children have dramatically improved their GCSE performance. In 2011 they were narrowly ahead of white pupils by nearly a month, but in 2019 they were 5.1 months ahead.Chinese pupils are nearly two years ahead of white pupils in attainment, while Indian pupils are a year ahead.Roma and Irish traveller children suffered the biggest gap, with upto three years behind at GCSE, but unlike Black pupils their performance has improved since 2011.Laws said poverty – and possibly welfare cuts – were most likely to be the cause. “It would be difficult to understand why ethnic prejudice or a change in the quality of schools or anything like that would have affected this group so rapidly,” he said.“We can see that nothing much was happening between Black Caribbean and White British [gaps] until 2015 and over the last four years they have basically fallen behind by a month of learning every year. This is a really short period of time.“To explain a change of that magnitude over a short period of years it’s difficult to think of anything other than relative economic circumstances that would explain it.“It could be that versus a white British population, their economic circumstances have fallen behind a lot, maybe more of them are dependent upon the welfare system and they’ve been suffering from the welfare expenditure [cuts].”EPI will conduct a separate review into the racial disparities. “While it is likely that poverty is contributing to some of these trends, there is also a need to understand the extent to which other societal and educational factors are creating and worsening inequalities amongst these groups of pupils,” it said.Disadvantage gaps are particularly acute in the North, West Midlands and parts of the South.In some areas, poorer pupils are over two full years of education behind their peers by the time they take their GCSEs, including in Blackpool (26.3 months), Knowsley (24.7 months) and Plymouth (24.5 months).In contrast, there are very low GCSE disadvantage gaps concentrated in London, where teachers tend to be paid more, funding per pupil has been higher and where the “London challenge” under Labour shared best practice.Tower Hamlets and Newham both low gaps, with 5.6 months each. Other relative successes were Ealing (4.6 months), Redbridge (2.7 months) and Westminster (0.5 months).Researchers also found that children suffering from long term poverty – defined as those on free school meals for over 80% of their time at school – have twice as worse a learning gap as others who spend a short time on the breadline.Those in “persistent” poverty have a learning gap of 22.7 months, compared to 11.3 months for poor pupils who are on free school meals for less than 20% of their time at school.Significantly, the proportion of pupils with a high persistence of poverty is on the rise. Since 2017, the proportion of pupils in this group has risen from 34.8% to 36.7%, a rise the study says “appears to be an important contributor to the lack of progress with the gap overall”.The report concludes: “This year’s annual report provides concerning evidence that progress in narrowing educational inequalities has ground to halt.“While educational standards and overall attainment has been maintained since the previous year (and even increased slightly at secondary school), the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their non-disadvantaged peers has stopped closing.“This was the worrying position from which the school system entered the many challenges of the pandemic and lockdown in 2020, which are widely expected to worsen disadvantage gaps.“The gap has now begun to widen across all three phases of education that we consider in this report – the early years, primary school and secondary school.”Laws told HuffPost UK that the findings were the “complete opposite” of the vision that Johnson used to win his big majority in the general election last year.“This could be the first government for 20 years that doesn’t level up but ends up with less social mobility and less opportunity.”He said that greater early years funding would make a big difference, as well as much greater catch-up funding for poorer areas. Under Johnson’s plans, Tory areas which traditionally got less cash will get more money as part of his “levelling up” plan.“While we don’t want poverty to be almost an excuse for poor educational performance, what we can see is there is an iron link between poverty and educational outcomes at a national level,” Laws said.“Reducing the gap at a time when there is rising child poverty would be very challenging and for Gavin Williamson to deliver more social mobility and a smaller gap, he would need education policy and wider social policy to be working in tandem. Which means not increasing levels of poverty through further real cuts in welfare expenditure.”Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “Today’s EPI report again shows that the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers continues to blight our education system. As our research shows, this gap is likely to have widened considerably as a result of school closures.”A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “Our £1 billion Covid catch up package will tackle the impact of lost teaching time, including a £650 million catch up premium to help schools support all pupils and the £350 million National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged students.“This includes up to £9 million available for the Nuffield Early Language intervention programme to support those who have missed out on early education at an essential time for their development.”The department added that it has committed £100 million to support remote education for disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils facing key points in their education.By the end of June over 202,000 laptops and tablets and over 47,000 4G wireless routers had been delivered or dispatched to academy trusts and local authorities.Related... 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The Great British Bake Off bosses have revealed the “massive sacrifice” the cast and crew made to ensure this year’s series could happen despite the pandemic. Kieran Smith, who is the creative director at the Channel 4 show’s production company Love Productions, detailed various behind-the-scenes secrets from filming, including how 120 people had to live in a self-contained biosphere for six weeks during the shoot so they did not have to socially distance. Speaking to Broadcast, Smith said: “So many people rely on Bake Off for work that we knew we had to work out a plan.”Smith worked with Love Productions’ managing director Letty Kavanagh to hire a South-East location in July, where all of the cast and crew lived alongside 80 members of the production team, 20 hotel staff, and around 20 “children, chaperones and dog walkers”.Prior to moving in to the hotel, people had to self-isolate for nine days and take three Covid tests to ensure they did not have the virus. The six-week shoot, which was described as “gruelling”, saw the team work on a “two days on, two days off” basis, while they also built 12 practise kitchens for the bakers to use on their days off. When filming, producers even worked out a way to transport people from the tent to the nearby hotel so no-one would need to use any public toilets. Smith and Kavanagh revealed that there was only one coronavirus scare during the shoot, which turned out to be a false alarm. “It was a massive operation,” Smith said. “It felt like the safest place in Britain.”He also said new host Matt Lucas, who replaced Sandi Toksvig to team up with Noel Fielding, had also slotted right into the show.“He was practically living with the bakers,” Smith said. “It felt like he had always been there.”On Wednesday, it was confirmed on Bake Off’s social media pages that filming on the 11th series had wrapped. View this post on InstagramA post shared by The Great British Bake Off (@britishbakeoff) on Aug 19, 2020 at 4:00am PDTFilming was originally due to take place in the spring in order for the show to begin airing this month. However, judge Paul Hollywood, who returned to the show alongside Prue Leith, previously told Radio Times that could “turn around the programme pretty quickly and still have it out in late summer or early autumn”. READ MORE: Great British Bake Off Has Already Resumed Filming 'In Deep Secret' Amid Coronavirus Changes Paul Hollywood 'Surprised' And 'Upset' By Sandi Toksvig's Bake Off Exit Sue Perkins Reveals 'Painful' Paul Hollywood Fall Out That's Left Her 'Devastated'
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Ben Cross, best known for his starring role in Chariots Of Fire, has died at the age of 72, following a short illness.The actor played British Olympic athlete Harold Abrahams in the 1981 film, which won four Oscars including Best Picture.News of his death was confirmed on Monday evening, with his representatives saying in a statement: “Ben passed away suddenly today following a short illness.“He had just finished shooting The Devil’s Light for Lionsgate and later this year will be seen in Last Letter From Your Lover in a leading role.”A post on his Facebook page, which said it was written by his daughter Lauren, said Ben had a “rapid decline” in the last week.It said: “I am utterly heartbroken to share with you that my darling father died a few hours ago.“He had been sick for a while but there was a rapid decline over the past week.“The press will be announcing his death soon, I just wanted you all, his most loyal and loving fans, to hear it from us first.“Thank you for all your support over the years. He really enjoyed interacting with you.”Ben was born Harry Bernard Cross in London in 1947. In 1970, he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (Rada) aged 22, and after graduating from he appeared in a minor role in 1977’s A Bridge Too Far alongside Sir Sean Connery and Sir Michael Caine.The same year he became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and performed in Privates On Parade.He found wider success in 1978 appearing in the play Chicago as Billy Flynn, the lawyer representing murderer Roxie Hart.That performance is widely believed to have earned him his role in Chariots Of Fire, which was based on the true story of two British men racing for Olympic gold in 1924.In the intervening years, he appeared as Malagant in 1995’s First Knight and Sarek in the 2009 Star Trek reboot.James Bond star Colin Salmon, who worked on The Devil’s Light alongside Ben shortly before his death, was among who paid tribute.Ben Cross and I were working together on#DevilsLight 12 days ago before he headed off to Vienna. It was good working with him, seeing his twinkle & his craft. He wrote songs for the Sinatra of Bulgaria, had so many stories & spoke in Bulgarian and German on set. Go Well Ben RIP.— Colin Salmon (@colinsalmon24) August 18, 2020At the beginning of my career, I met #Bencross while casting a feature. We shot a screen test at Pinewood Studios. I went to his home for dinner with his family. Ben Cross was a lovely man and talented actor. That movie never got made. But... what a classy guy. #RIPpic.twitter.com/slLAsXSAqH— Todd Holland (@ToddHolland3) August 18, 2020The magnificent Ben Cross as Harold Abrahams in ‘Chariots of Fire’ captured the burden of being an outsider, the hostility toward his Jewish antecedents & how even success is isolating: “With 10 lonely seconds to justify my existence.” You won gold - now rest from your running. pic.twitter.com/Wjene9yKxQ— Martin Bashir (@MartinBashir) August 18, 2020
Rapper Ceon Broughton has had his conviction for the manslaughter of his girlfriend Louella Fletcher-Michie overturned by the Court of Appeal.Fletcher-Michie, daughter of Holby City and Coronation Street actor John Michie, died after taking 2-CP during the music festival at Lulworth Castle, Dorset, in September 2017.She was found dead in the early hours of September 11, the day she should have celebrated her 25th birthday, in a wooded area at the edge of the festival site.Broughton, 31, of Enfield, north London, was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence and handed an eight-and-a-half-year sentence in March 2019, following a trial at Winchester Crown Court.Broughton challenged his manslaughter conviction and his jail term at a Court of Appeal hearing in June.At the appeal hearing, Broughton’s barrister Stephen Kamlish QC argued the conviction was unsafe because prosecutors had “failed to prove” that Fletcher-Michie would have survived had she received treatment by a certain point.He also argued Broughton’s sentence was “excessive” in any event.The jury at Broughton’s trial found him guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.He was also found guilty of supplying Fletcher-Michie with 2-CP at the festival.Broughton previously admitted supplying drugs to Fletcher-Michie at Glastonbury festival, in June 2017, and was in breach of a suspended prison sentence imposed for possessing a lock knife and a Stanley knife blade.Prosecutors told jurors during his trial that Broughton failed to take “reasonable” steps to seek medical help for Fletcher-Michie.They said he did not get help because he had been handed the suspended jail term a month earlier and feared the consequences. Related... Holby City Actor John Michie Branded Daughter's Killer 'Evil' Video Of Louella Fletcher-Michie And Boyfriend At Festival Where She Died Shown In Court
Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now. A former minister led calls for the government to rethink computer modelling that disproportionately downgraded the A-level results of poorer students. Tim Loughton, a former children’s minister, said in a post on his website on Friday he had urged education secretary Gavin Williamson to “look again” at the algorithm used by the regulator Ofqual in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown. The results sparked a furious backlash from youngsters, teachers and parents this week, after almost 40% of results were downgraded, with private school students benefiting in comparison to those at state schools. Though the number of passes and top grades increased overall, some students’ predicted marks were slashed by up to two grades. It has left thousands scrambling for a university place via clearing and many others blocked from taking up long-hoped-for places at top institutions. Loughton admitted “hugely disappointed students” were now in “extraordinarily distressing” circumstances, despite their hard work. He went on to say: “I have made the point to ministers that they should look at the algorithm again for those who have missed out on their place in further education, and also that assessed exams/mocks be the primary basis for appeal.”  Williamson made an eleventh hour concession on Wednesday to allow students to appeal and base their result on their mock exam grade if the final result was worse. It came after a major U-turn by the Scottish Government saw its downgraded results for Highers exams revoked. Thousands of young people also took part in a protest outside Downing Street on Friday, calling for Williamson to resign. Rob Halfon, chairman of the Commons’ education select committee, meanwhile, called on Ofqual to urgently meet with schools. “I am worried about it because some figures suggest that disadvantaged students have been penalised again,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.“I am also worried about further education colleges because they have been improving in recent years and yet they seem also to have suffered under this grading system.“If the model has penalised disadvantaged groups this is very serious and if it has disadvantaged colleges that has to be looked at. Ofqual will have to adjust the grades.”He later told HuffPost UK the government should “broaden the appeals system” and ensure that all charges for any appeal were scrapped.  He said: “The government needs to make it absolutely crystal clear, to universities particularly, that they have to be flexible, without a shadow of a doubt, given what has gone on.” Ofqual has insisted the algorithm was fair. Shadow education secretary Kate Green, meanwhile, warned there could be a “deluge” of appeals and it may prove impossible to get them all processed in time for September start dates. “I am concerned that if we have a deluge of appeals, which I think is quite likely given the fiasco we have seen over the last day-and-a-half, there just won’t be time for students to have those appeals processed and completed, and universities will fill up those places,” she told The World at One.She added: “As a one-off measure, we have to do something for these young people otherwise we are writing them off for the whole of their life chances.“I think it is right that this year we take exceptional measures, give those young people every possible opportunity to progress with their lives and make use of teacher assessments where we can’t be confident that algorithm and the government’s model has delivered fairness to very, very large numbers of students.”Related... Exclusive: Exam Board Gave Entire Classes Of Law Students Each Other's Grades Students March On Whitehall Demanding Gavin Williamson Be Sacked Over A-Level Fiasco Hereditary Tory Peer Suggests 'Grit And Perseverance' More Important Than A-Levels
Get the latest on coronavirus. Sign up to the Daily Brief for news, explainers, how-tos, opinion and more.An exam board is “urgently” investigating after it scrambled the grades of entire law classes, failing students who were tipped for the best marks and giving flying colours to the lowest performers.Pupils in at least two colleges received completely different results from the ones they had been expecting, while many others are still waiting to receive their marks – a day and a half after they were due.The cancellation of exams due to the coronavirus pandemic has meant BTEC Nationals – vocational qualifications that can be taken in place of A-levels – are basing this year’s results on completed assessments and teachers’ predicted grades. Teachers were required to submit their students’ grades in a list, ranked in order of best to worst.But HuffPost UK has learned the exam board, Pearson, somehow turned these lists upside down by mistake.Pearson, the body that runs BTECs, confirmed some students had received “incorrect” results and said it was working to resolve the issue “urgently”.One teacher told HuffPost UK the appeals process could take “several weeks” to be resolved, leaving her pupils “confused” and “upset”.Elizabeth, who teaches applied law, knew something was wrong the moment she received the results: her class of 48 students had received an average Merit grade for their BTEC results, while her previous classes had an 83% Distinction* to Distinction grade.“I knew there was an immediate issue, so I went into the list and I clicked on the student ranked number one and I saw she had been given a fail, then I went to number two and I realised they had been given a near pass.Our worst students have got the best grades, and our best students have the worst grades.“Then I went all the way down to the bottom to the student that I had ranked last, and that student had been given a Distinction* and I saw quite a few who had been ranked at the bottom had been given a Distinction – that’s when I realised they had flipped the entire list.”Elizabeth worried at first it was her who had made the mistake. Her next thought was how her students would react. “I know a lot of them were very anxious because they couldn’t complete the exam, they were worried that we were going to give them a bad grade. Then what next went through my head was, ‘Oh my God, they’re going to blame me.’”She turned to a Facebook group of other teachers to ask if any of them had experienced the same problem. “They all came back to me saying they had similar issues where BTEC had flipped the ranking that we had provided them with.“So our worst students have got the best grades, and our best students have the worst grades.”When she informed Pearson of the mix-up, she was told to appeal using the standard appeals process, which she says is “pretty complicated”. “What frustrates me the most is that now we have to fix a problem that the exam board made.“We now have to go for a really long process of an appeal that was not our fault and wait, on average, four weeks to get the response for something that should have been done correctly in the first place.”Since Thursday morning, she has received emails from her “confused”, “upset” and “discouraged” students “asking what they did wrong”. “It makes you feel bad when you know their real grades should actually be a lot better.”As a teacher, she felt she and her pupils had been “100% let down” by the exam board. “It’s infuriating because you’ve seen the students work so hard for the entire year and then when it’s supposed to pay off and when they’re supposed to get the reward, you’re meant to congratulate them on what they’ve done – but you can’t because it’s all confusion and it’s all gone wrong.“My biggest concern is if a teacher is not familiar with the BTEC course, they might not be aware there’s been a mistake and it could affect those students.“It could have a massive effect on where they then go on to with regard to the next stage of their lives, whether it be university or apprenticeship, et cetera.”Around 250,000 students completed BTEC Nationals last year, compared to about 300,000 who sat A-levels in 2018. Around 20% of university students in England are accepted solely on BTEC qualifications.HuffPost UK has spoken to another teacher at a separate college who said the grades her students received “bore absolutely no resemblance to our previous success in Applied Law, nor to our ranking that we sent to BTEC”. They were unable to comment further.A spokesperson at Pearson said: “As a result of additional quality assurance checks, we have identified some students who have received incorrect BTEC Level 3 National results. We are working closely with the students and centres involved to resolve this issue urgently and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.”It has also been revealed that BTEC students who were due to receive their results on Thursday morning are still awaiting their results in what some have described as a “shambles” and an “absolute nightmare”.I feel so powerless. Basically we’ve been fucked over.Pearson initially blamed the colleges for the delay, telling the Times Educational Supplement “a few centres didn’t meet our deadline for submitting grades”. But HuffPost UK has spoken to several colleges that categorically deny they missed any deadline.A representative at the City of Liverpool College confirmed their pupils had been impacted by the issue, and that the college had met all cut-offs for submission.Many pupils who have still not yet received their BTEC results are waiting with pending conditional university offers.Lucy Jackson, 18, said the situation had left her “very stressed and anxious and very frustrated” after a “sleepless night”. “The delay and possible downgrading on results mean I could miss out on a clearing spot. This could mean that I have to defer going to university for a year, which is not ideal.”Another parent told HuffPost UK their family was “really stressed out” by the experience. “I am angry for this generation of students,” one said. “They had to cope with teaching stopping suddenly and this is their future at stake.“As parents we have to support our children and I feel so powerless. Basically we’ve been fucked over.”A spokesperson for Pearson said: “We are aware that some BTEC students experienced a delay in receiving their results and we understand the frustration this must have caused. We are working closely with the students and centres involved to look into this urgently and provide their results as soon as we can.”Related... Students March On Whitehall Demanding Gavin Williamson Be Sacked Over A-Level Fiasco Exam Regulator Blames Teachers For A-Level Results Day Chaos How Entire Classes Of A-Level Pupils Had Their Results Downgraded
It’s now been over a week since news broke of a Conservative MP accused of rape by a former parliamentary aide.To date, the party have refused to suspend him, despite repeated calls from women’s groups, campaigners and fellow MPs. Chief Whip Mark Spencer said that the rape allegations against the MP were being taken seriously.Not seriously enough to warrant a suspension so that others could be safeguarded, it would appear.On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended his party’s decision not to suspend the MP as he was waiting for “police to decide whether they wanted to make charges”.In any other profession, anyone accused of serious sexual offences would face immediate suspension followed by an investigation.  The only message we are receiving is that the rights of the accused are above the rights of the alleged victim.Johnson’s continued refusal to suspend will not inspire confidence among either campaigners or survivors of sexual violence. The latest England and Wales rape statistics make for alarming reading. In the year 2019-2020, police recorded 55,130 rapes, but of this figure, only 2,102 resulted in prosecutions, with 1,439 convicted.If we compare the latest numbers against figures for the same period three years previously, the overall figure has increased by a third, yet convictions have halved.  This is not the first time the government has fallen short in its commitment to keeping women safe and holding perpetrators of sexual violence and abuse in positions of power to account for their misbehaviour. In 2018, I wrote about Theresa May restoring the whip to two MPs suspended following accusations of sexual impropriety so that she could win a no-confidence vote triggered against her by her own party.Of those two MPs, Charlie Elphicke has since been convicted of three counts of sexual assault against two women in 2007 and 2016.  Former MP Andrew Griffith, found to have sent some 2,000 texts to two young female constituents while a sitting MP, insisting they call him “Daddy” and demanding explicit photos of them, was allowed back in to help prop up May’s tenuous grip on power.  As a campaigner and activist, I have always been very vocal in my desire to see more women, especially from a BAME background, enter politics and make positive changes from the top down.Related... Charity Calls Out Westminster's Attempts To 'Close Rank' Around Rape Allegation Opinion: I May Destroy You Captures The Devastating Way The Justice System Fails Victims Of Sexual Assault Sadly, the more we are faced with stories such as this latest one, where MPs accused of serious sexual crimes are able to use their power to hide behind, the more difficult it is to promote Parliament as a safe and secure place to work in. That a culture of misogyny and impunity is allowed to thrive – with the “old boys network” acting to protect one another – will push more women out of politics and deter others from seeking a career in politics and public life.The latest accusation of sexual assault has been raised as a concern in a joint statement released by the Centenary Action Group, a UK based cross party coalition working to improve women’s representation in politics, The Fawcett Society, a charity campaigning for gender equality, and the Trades Union Congress.In addition to calling for the immediate suspension of the rape-accused MP, the statement is also calling for the appointment of an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor appointed by both the House of Commons and the Conservative Party to support the alleged victim. Our full demands can be found here.As a former employee of the House of Commons, I have a unique insight into how complicated and difficult it is to report your abuser, especially if they are a sitting MP.You are ostracised and often targeted by members of your political party, so-called friends will try to dissuade you from coming forward and scare you with stories of media witch-hunts, your mental and emotional health will take a real battering and, often, the end result will hardly justify the brutal fight for justice.Only two years ago, a House of Commons report found that nearly a fifth of Westminster staff had experienced some form of sexual harassment in a single year. Our Parliamentarians preside over the law on criminal assaults and workplace safety for all of us when their own Houses are not in order. Each time a victim comes forward to make a complaint, they are not only taking on their abuser, but also the very institutions that give the abusers their platform and power. These institutions should not be further used to give protection to the abusers.Until we change the culture of protecting those who choose to abuse their positions of power, we will never be able to truly hold them to account.Until both the Palace of Westminster and the Conservative Party take strong decisive action and suspend the aforementioned MP, at least until the police have concluded their own investigation, the only message we are receiving is that the rights of the accused are above the rights of the alleged victim. Some may argue that we have come a long way in the past five years in protecting women working in Parliament, with a new independent body set up to handle complaints of bullying and harassment by MPs in 2019, while Dame Laura Cox’s 2018 report helped shed a spotlight on some of the experiences that women like me went through.But it seems that these changes, although steps in the right direction, are not nearly enough when a person accused of rape can still continue to work and enter and leave a work environment that employs some 650 members of staff.  Until we change the culture of protecting those who choose to abuse their positions of authority and power after they are accused, we will never be able to truly hold them to account. And yes, this does mean starting with our government. Aisha Ali-Khan is a member of Centenary Action Group (CAG) and the co-organiser of Women’s March London.Related... Charity Calls Out Westminster's Attempts To 'Close Rank' Around Rape Allegation Senior Tory MP 'Arrested On Suspicion Of Rape' Senior Tory MP Accused Of Rape Will Not Be Suspended From Party Yes, Coronavirus Is A War. And Women Are On The Frontline
Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now. The rate of coronavirus infections in England has now “levelled off”, official figures published on Friday suggested.The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said it estimated there were around 3,800 cases per day between August 3 and August 9. This is compared to 3,700 new cases per day in the previous week.It comes as the government announced theatres, casinos and bowling alleys will be allowed to reopen in England from this weekend as Boris Johnson resumed easing of lockdown restrictions.From Saturday, socially distanced audiences will be allowed back into indoor venues, while wedding receptions of up to 30 people will also be permitted.Katherine Kent, the co-head of the ONS Covid-19 infection survey, said today: “This week’s estimate suggests that the increase in infections in England seen in July has now levelled off.”The ONS also revealed analysis of antibody data for England, published for the first time this week, showed a higher percentage of people in London have ever tested positive for antibodies to the virus than in Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands, the south-east and the south-west.There was not yet enough evidence to show differences between other regions of England.The data published today showed an estimated 28,300 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between August 3 and 9.This was the equivalent of about 0.05% of the population, or one in 1,900 individuals.The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.It comes after the government announced that people arriving in the UK from France after 4am on Saturday will be required to spend 14 days in self-isolation due to rising numbers of coronavirus cases there.The quarantine conditions will also apply to travellers returning from the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks and Caicos, and Aruba.The Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England detected a significant change in Covid-19 risk in all six destinations.Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said an estimated 160,000 holidaymakers are expected to try to return to the UK from France on Friday.Department for Transport officials said data from France shows that over the past week there has been a 66% increase in newly reported Covid-19 cases and a 52% increase in the weekly incidence rate per 100,000 population, indicating a sharp rise in infections.The latest 14-day cumulative figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show 32.1 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in France, compared with 18.5 in the UK.Related... ‘Don’t Kill Granny’ – Why These Grandmothers Love The New Coronavirus Slogan 9 Changes To The Coronavirus Lockdown Rules You Need To Know Today Quarantine When Home From France Or ‘Break The Law’, Warns Grant Shapps
Russell Howard failed to see the funny side when he spotted a member of the audience filming a recent comedy gig.The comedian stormed off stage just five minutes into the live performance in Bristol on Wednesday – but only after confronting the woman in the front row.During the set, Russell was trying out new material at the outdoor terrace of the Bambalan bar in the city when he stopped and told her “that’s literally the worst thing you can do”.According to BristolLive, he then told the woman to “live in the moment” and asked her if she would like it if someone started filming her at her place of work.The stand-up star told the audience of 45 people that comedians are a “dying breed” because they are fearful of people filming unseen content and uploading it to YouTube, which could ruin their act.He then informed the audience that he would be reverting to “safe material” at the gig, before telling the woman who had been filming that she’d “ruined it now”. “I was really looking forward to this gig,” Russ told the crowd before apologising, picking up his backpack from behind the stage area and heading for the exit.The woman in question then insisted she was only doing what others had been before being told “you were filming the whole fucking thing” by another audience member.Seriously... fuck phones at live events. It's the same with people watching football through their phone's camera. More interested in letting the followers know than actually enjoying themselves. https://t.co/vTlD5DKf7y— Sam Frost (@frosty920) August 13, 2020After the event, event organiser and compère Mark Olver said he should have been clearer about the rules around filming.“It’s important that when acts are trying out new material people should understand they don’t want video of it out there,” he said. “Sets at this kind of event are a work in progress. Most people understand this but I should have been clearer at the start of the gig in explaining it to people.“I totally get why Russell cut his set a bit short. He’s gutted and didn’t want to disappoint anyone but comedy is something you have to write in front of people and having a recording of that process out there in the world makes being creative really difficult.”A spokesperson for the comic told BristolLive: “Any comedian whose set is being recorded at a new material night would find it distracting.“The beauty of live performance particularly at this strange time is it’s intended for the room only.”READ MORE: Don't Look For The Next Female Comedy Trend - Just Go With What's Funny Inside The UK’s First Socially Distanced Music Festival Women In British Comedy Have To Work Twice As Hard For Quarter Of The Reward - When Will We Catch Up To The US?
Coronavirus has changed everything. Make sense of it all with the Waugh Zone, our evening politics briefing. Sign up now.Elderly vulnerable people and their families are being forced to lie about having coronavirus symptoms to get tests just so they can enter care homes, ministers have been warned.HuffPost UK has heard the story of one woman who was advised by her GP and social worker to lie about her 97-year-old mother having Covid-19 symptoms so she could access a government test that would allow her to enter respite care if the result was negative.Care industry figures suggested the case was illustrative of a wider problem across England amid fears that carers and vulnerable people who need to get respite care cannot access it.And care minister Helen Whateley has been urged by the Liberal Democrats to issue clear guidance so all those entering care homes from the community can get access to tests, to stop the virus spreading among vulnerable people.The government has been severely criticised for its policy on care homes in the early stages of the pandemic, following the deaths of thousands of residents.Currently, anyone with Covid-19 symptoms in the community can get a test.Care homes can also apply for coronavirus tests for residents and staff. Regular testing for staff (weekly) and residents (every 28 days) was also rolled out last month, and people entering care homes from hospitals are routinely tested.But the government’s testing guidelines make no mention of how people entering care homes from the community, particularly for respite care, can access a test if they do not have symptoms.HuffPost UK heard the story of one woman, Angela*, who was seeking two weeks of residential respite care for her mother to allow her and her sister a break from caring and the opportunity to go on holiday with family.The daughters had been left looking after their mother, who has vascular dementia, since the beginning of March after the pandemic forced the day care centre she attended to shut down.Angela was recently advised by her mother’s social care worker that her local authority would fund respite care for two weeks to allow the two daughters to go on a separate holiday.The care home Angela found for her mother said she needed to obtain a negative coronavirus test before entering the care home so other residents were not put at risk.But Angela was told on the government testing hotline that tests were only available to people in the community if they have coronavirus symptoms, meaning she could not place her mother in the care home.Her social worker and GP were then forced to advise Angela to lie about her mother having Covid-19 symptoms so she could access a test and get her mother into the care home.“I thought: this is awful,” Angela told HuffPost UK.“Here we are with social service and medical professionals having to advise you effectively to tell lies in order to get what is a perfectly reasonable request – a test to get an old person admitted to a care home.“I think the whole situation is completely mad and the emphasis on the eligibility criteria – where you are coming from rather than where you are going to – is just totally illogical in my mind.“I will have to do what is suggested, I suppose, or I pay a huge amount of money to get one done privately, but my mother is on pension credit and I really don’t see why we should have to pay a large amount of money to get a test done privately.“I have to lie. I was really incensed – I really resent having to do that.”Lib Dem health and social care spokesperson Munira Wilson, who has written to Whateley urging action, said: “The case for testing every resident before they enter a care home, whether that’s patients being discharged from hospitals or patients entering from the community, is unequivocal. “We need to make sure no one is forced to make up symptoms just to secure these vital tests. “Testing is a vital part of keeping people safe from this dreadful virus, and preventing it from spreading unchecked. “Ministers must issue clear guidance to ensure all care homes can access testing for all those coming into care.”Professor Martin Green, chief exec at Care England, said: “It is essential that community testing is prioritised in order that those in need of respite care are able to access it.  “Moreover family members that are full time carers may need a break and become unwell themselves unless they have access to respite care. “Testing is essential to provide confidence for individuals, service providers, residents and relatives”.Mike Padgham, managing director of St Cecilia’s care services in Scarborough, called for a “common sense” approach to allow routine testing for people entering homes from the community.“Obviously from a hospital or another care home it [testing] can be done, but not if you are in the community coming into a care home for respite,” he said.“Someone should be able to flex and change it so you could be admitted, because it’s for the person’s benefit.”He added: “I would hope people use common sense – if it’s about that person’s best interests and they need that respite care then someone should say that’s a valid reason for a test.”The Department of Health and Social Care is expected to publish new guidance soon.A spokesperson said: “Care homes shouldn’t refuse people who haven’t been tested as the care home itself will do a test.”*Name has been changedRelated... 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Ryan Reynolds has trolled his fans once again after launching his very own streaming service, with just one film in its catalogue.No prizes for guessing who’s in the starring role of that film either.The actor – who previously bought a stake in wireless carrier Mint Mobile in November 2019 – announced on Twitter: “Every tech company needs a streaming service.“So… introducing Mint Mobile +. The world’s most affordable streaming service!” Every tech company needs a streaming service. So… introducing Mint Mobile +. The world’s most affordable streaming service! pic.twitter.com/lSMzeurKp8— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) August 12, 2020Alongside the announcement was a 30-second montage from Foolproof, an oft-overlooked early offering from Ryan’s filmography.Foolproof is a Canadian heist film from 2003, and was one of the first times Ryan had a leading role on the big screen.We have to be honest, we probably won’t be taking advantage of Mint Mobile +, but if you’re curious about it, you’ll have to act quickly, with Ryan later tweeting: “Two minutes after launch and our crack data team has already determined Mint Mobile + should probably be shut down by the weekend. We’ll go back to focusing on premium wireless…” Two minutes after launch and our crack data team has already determined Mint Mobile + should probably be shut down by the weekend. We’ll go back to focusing on premium wireless…— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) August 12, 2020We have to hand it to Ryan, though, he really has gone all in with this one. Mint Mobile + genuinely does exist (for now), with the homepage looking like this…Brilliant.In addition to acting in films like Deadpool, The Proposal and Definitely, Maybe, Ryan is known by fans for his penchant for a spot of online trolling.This is usually at the expense of fellow actor Hugh Jackman, with whom he has a long-standing friendly rivalry, or his wife Blake Lively, who he frequently crops out of their couple photos.READ MORE: Ryan Reynolds Says Plantation Wedding With Blake Lively Is 'Impossible To Reconcile' The World's Highest-Paid Actor Is Revealed, As Forbes Shares Annual Top 10 Ryan Reynolds Helps Reunite Woman With Incredibly Special Teddy Bear
Donald Trump, a president whose persistent untruths and obfuscation led to a disastrous pandemic response that has left more than 165,000 people dead in the US, was asked if he regrets all the lies he’s told to the American people. He skipped the question.HuffPost senior White House correspondent S.V. Dáte asked the president during Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefing if, after 3½ years, “do you regret at all the lying you’ve done to the American people? All the dishonesties?”“That who has done?” Trump replied. “You have done,” said Dáte, who wrote at length about Trump’s “Ministry of Untruth” earlier this year. Trump paused and then moved on to the next question.Question: Do you regret at all the lying you’ve done to the American people? pic.twitter.com/FUh5jYHs0o— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) August 13, 2020In his report, Dáte noted that Trump’s stream of falsehoods across nearly every topic and in any setting is corroding America’s democracy as it normalises lies coming from the nation’s highest office.According to a running fact-check database by The Washington Post, Trump has made more than 20,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. Last month, as the tracker passed the shocking milestone, the project’s editor, Glenn Kessler, and fact-check reporters Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly wrote, “The notion that Trump would exceed 20,000 claims before he finished his term appeared ludicrous when The Fact Checker started this project during the president’s first 100 days in office.”In that time, its authors noted, Trump on average made fewer than five false claims a day. “But the tsunami of untruths just keeps looming larger and larger,” they said.The events of the past 15 months ― including Trump’s impeachment trial, the coronavirus pandemic that’s infected millions and shattered the economy, and nationwide anti-racism protests over the death of George Floyd and other Black men and women in police custody ― have filled an entirely new ballpark of falsehoods from the president, and the tally continues to climb.According to the database, he reached nearly a thousand false claims about coronavirus alone in just a matter of months. His persistent downplaying of the virus, suppression of warnings from experts and repeated pushes to prematurely reopen businesses, speculating that the virus will just “go away,” has contributed to a resurgence of Covid-19 in the U.S. that’s killing more than a thousand people each day.Related... Trump Appears To Admit Blocking Postal Service Funding To Undermine Mail-In Voting Covid-19 Has Killed 166,000 In The US. But Trump’s Worried About His ‘Perfect’ Hair A Brit's Guide To Joe Biden's New Presidential Running Mate Kamala Harris
In an interview with Billboard, Dolly Parton has voiced her indisputable support for Black Lives Matter as well as the importance of changing with the times.“I understand people having to make themselves known and felt and seen,” the 74-year-old Parton said, referring to the latest wave of racial justice protests sweeping the world.“And of course Black lives matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No!” The Queen of Country also explained her 2018 decision to rename the Dixie Stampede dinner attraction, a Southern-themed horse-riding and pyrotechnics show in Missouri and Tennessee, after it was called a “lily-white kitsch extravaganza that play-acts the Civil War but never once mentions slavery” in a 2017 Slate article.“There’s such a thing as innocent ignorance, and so many of us are guilty of that,” Parton said. “When they said ‘Dixie’ was an offensive word, I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to offend anybody. This is a business. We’ll just call it The Stampede.’ As soon as you realise that [something] is a problem, you should fix it. Don’t be a dumbass. That’s where my heart is. I would never dream of hurting anybody on purpose.” Parton dropped the word “Dixie,” often used to describe the American South during the time of slavery, about 2½ years before The Dixie Chicks followed suit in June, renaming themselves The Chicks. Other segments of the interview detail Parton’s role during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the singer’s donation of $1 million toward coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre and the release of her inspirational song When Life Is Good Again.“As the Scripture says, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’” Parton said. “So I look at my life with that every day and think that God expects it of me. ... If I can be an inspiration, then I want to be that. That makes me feel good.”Parton, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, made her debut in 1967 with her album Hello, I’m Dolly. Since then, the artist, actor and businesswoman has won a stunning nine Grammy Awards and received 49 nominations.Read the full interview here.READ MORE: Dolly Parton Will Read Bedtime Stories To Kids To Ease Coronavirus Fears 'I Could Tell Julia Roberts Had A Future': Olympia Dukakis On Steel Magnolias
US president Donald Trump appeared to admit he is attempting to undermine the country’s postal service by blocking funding for the agency, which is expected to deal with a rush of mail-in ballots during this election season.“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” he said Thursday in an interview on Fox Business. “But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”Trump has repeatedly spread conspiracy theories about mail-in voting and has suggested he’ll cast doubt on the results of the November election. States are working to increase their capacity for mail-in voting, as many Americans are expected to vote by mail this fall because of the Covid-19 pandemic.Election watchdog and voting rights groups are deeply concerned that Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting and the US Postal Service will result in increased voter suppression.At a press conference Wednesday, Trump gave similar reasons for why he would not approve emergency congressional funding for the cash-strapped and backlogged agency.“They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess, right?” Trump said. “Are they going to do it, even if they don’t have the money?”He also claimed the election would “be the great rigged election in history” and “one of the greatest frauds in history.”Related... Covid-19 Has Killed 166,000 In The US. But Trump’s Worried About His ‘Perfect’ Hair Trump Claims Americans Will ‘Have To Learn To Speak Chinese’ If Biden Wins US Election Trump On Biden Veep Pick Kamala Harris: ‘She’s Very, Very Nasty’
Tributes have been paid to the train driver, conductor and passenger killed in the Aberdeenshire train crash on Wednesday morning.The family of driver Brett McCullough said he was “the most decent and loving human being we have ever known”.A union official said conductor Donald Dinnie was “an amazing person” while the family of Christopher Stuchbury from Aberdeen also paid tribute to the 62-year-old who volunteered at a palliative care unit.The three men were killed after the 6.38am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street ScotRail service left the tracks south of Stonehaven on Wednesday.McCullough leaves behind wife Stephanie and three children.His family said in a statement: “Words cannot describe the utterly devastating effect of Brett’s death on his family and friends.“We have lost a wonderful husband, father and son in the most awful of circumstances. Brett was the most decent and loving human being we have ever known and his passing leaves a huge void in all our lives.“We would like to thank the emergency services for their heroic efforts in helping everyone affected by this tragedy and for all the messages of support and condolence we have received.”McCullough, who worked in ScotRail’s Aberdeen depot and lived near the crash site, was a former gas engineer who had been a train driver for seven years.Originally from Bromley, Kent, he moved to Aberdeenshire to marry his wife.STONEHAVEN INCIDENT - UPDATEThe three people who died at the derailment incident have been formally identified and can be named as Brett McCullough (45) - Driver; Donald Dinnie (58) - Conductor; Christopher Stuchbury (62) - Passenger. More at: https://t.co/vrZwnjGW9Mpic.twitter.com/wWoPzWd2Hc— Police Scotland (@policescotland) August 13, 2020Kevin Lindsay, Aslef’s organiser in Scotland said McCullough was servicing the gas boiler of an Aberdeen train driver when they started chatting about the job and he decided to join the railways.He said: “He was a dedicated train driver, who loved his job, and was very popular at the depot with his colleagues.“He was also a devoted family man who loved his wife and children – two girls and a boy. Brett thought the world of his family, and we all thought the world of him.”The family of Dinnie also said: “As a family we are devastated by the sudden and tragic loss of Donald, a loving and proud dad, son, partner, brother, uncle and friend.“No words could ever describe how much he will be missed by us all and there will always be a missing piece in our hearts.“It is so heart warming to see how many people have fond memories of Donald and I am sure they have plenty of happy and funny stories to tell.“He was a kind, caring and genuine person who was never found without a smile on his face. We know he will be deeply missed by all.“Together we thank each and every one of you for your kind words and condolences but we kindly ask at this time that we have the chance to grieve privately as a family.”Lindsay said the thoughts of his colleagues are with the families of McCullough and Dinnie, as did RMT senior assistant general secretary Mick Lynch.Lynch said: “On behalf of the union I want to send condolences, support and solidarity to Donald Dinnie’s family‎, friends and colleagues.“It is absolutely clear that he was much loved and highly respected by all who knew him and his death is a tragedy that has shocked our entire industry.“Donald’s branch, Aberdeen 1, have told me that ‎he was an amazing person. He lit up every room he walked into with his cheery banter and stories.“Many knew Donald for most of his railway career as a driver and a guard. He was very much a family man and a valued, active and proud member of the RMT.‎”The family of Stuchbury said he enjoyed volunteering in his spare time at Roxburghe House, a specialist palliative care unit run by NHS GrampianTheir statement said: “Chris was a much adored husband, son, dad, stepdad, granddad, brother and uncle and was a treasured and loved friend to many, including the Targe Towing Team where he was an integral and valued member of staff.“He also volunteered at Roxburghe House in Aberdeen during his spare time which he thoroughly enjoyed doing.“We are devastated by his death and we request privacy at this difficult time as we come to terms with our loss.”Related... Climate Change A Factor In Aberdeenshire Train Crash, Suggests Scottish Transport Secretary Three Dead And Six Taken To Hospital After Train Derails In Aberdeenshire
It’s no coincidence that in the week the UK dipped into the worst recession the country has ever seen, the government chose to redirect public attention to a small number of people crossing the British channel.Public mood suggests that the country wants answers to difficult questions, to understand the high death toll from coronavirus and the depth of the economic fallout. So, it’s no real surprise that the government is looking to find someone to blame.This is not a new tactic from the government. In a disturbingly regular cycle, when the news cycle is quiet, and the summer months are warm, the government turns its eye to the Channel.Related... Priti Patel Is Arguing With An Ice-Cream Company Over Migrant Crossings Using Navy To Stop Migrants Crossing The Channel Would Be 'Unlawful And Dangerous', Amnesty Warns Successive Home Secretaries have chosen this strategy, vilifying people who want nothing more than to live otherwise ordinary lives in safety, but whose only path is the dangerous journey across the Channel.When the public hears the stories of people granted refuge in the UK, they are sympathetic, understanding that fleeing war, persecution and hardship is a matter of life and death, and that being with the people you love is of utmost importance.Many of us have felt a fraction of this during the pandemic and can wholly relate – how many of us have desperately wished we could be with the people we love during lockdown? But what the government does not tell us is that the only difference between refugees in the UK and those in Calais, is 15 miles.The reality is these perilous journeys are a problem of the government’s making, one that has gotten progressively worse decade after decade.Where we can agree with the government is that these journeys need to end – no one wants these journeys to occur, least of all those forced to risk their lives on overcrowded dinghies and those providing services, support and legal advice. But the reality is that these perilous journeys are a problem of the government’s making, one that has gotten progressively worse decade after decade, and could be resolved with simple action.The government’s current proposals to “secure” the borders will do nothing to end dangerous crossings or curtail trafficking. We’ve heard all of this before – that it’s France’s responsibility, that the route should be made “unviable” and that that the Navy should “push people back” in breach of international refugee and maritime law.When the government abruptly closed camps in Calais in 2016, organisations on the ground warned that these strategies would push people away from oversight, and directly into the hands of traffickers. Similarly, a report from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in 2019 highlighted that “policy that focuses exclusively on closing borders will drive migrants to take more dangerous routes, and push them into the hands of criminal groups” – Priti Patel sat on this very committee.The region of Calais acts as a black hole, where a small but steady population of homeless and destitute people are trapped, vulnerable to people traffickers and smugglers, exposed to violence from the French authorities, denied support service and legal advice.Related... I’m An Asylum Seeker. Coronavirus Is Tearing Apart My Second Chance At Life Many have family or loved ones in the UK and are desperate to reach them but in most cases, it is physically impossible to apply for asylum unless you are on British soil.The only existing routes to apply from outside the UK include the Global Resettlement Scheme, which is limited to Syrian refugees and has currently been suspended – no one has been resettled since March, and the Family Reunion Reunification route, which is extremely limited in its definition of “family”. Earlier this year, the government closed the Dubs route so that even unaccompanied children in the EU cannot reach the UK safely. The only way to ensure that these journeys are ended is to introduce accessible and legal ways for people to apply for asylum or entry from abroad, so that they can travel here safely and don’t have to rely on people traffickers.This could include expanding or recommitting to existing routes, introducing a claims processing centre in France or establishing Humanitarian Visas. Safe and legal routes would be a far more simple and pragmatic solution than building higher walls, putting a blindfold over our eyes and our hands over our hearts.In the coming months, we can expect to see the government increase their dangerous rhetoric about those crossing, as a means to scapegoat migrants for their catastrophic failings.It will be migrants who are to blame for the lack of jobs, a drop in house prices, the decimation of the high street and long queues at the Jobcentre – when this couldn’t be further from the truth. At this precise moment, it is vital that we call for safe and legal routes of entry to the UK, ensuring that no one dies trying to reach what should be home. But it is equally important that we stand fast against dangerous rhetoric – the same rhetoric that placed responsibility for the last financial crisis on to migrants. A compassionate and practical approach must be championed by everyone who wants to end dangerous crossings once and for all.Minnie Rahman is public affairs and campaigns manager for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.Related... Refugee Resettlement Scheme Still Closed Despite Record Channel Crossings Priti Patel Accused Of 'Sabre-Rattling' Over Reports Navy Could Turn Back Migrant Boats Opinion: Britain's Citizenship Test Is Racist A Tory MP Has Suggested 'Taking Back Calais' As Solution To Migrant Crossings
Listen to our weekly podcast Am I Making You Uncomfortable? about women’s health, bodies and private lives. Available on Spotify, Apple, Audioboom and wherever you listen to your podcasts.The news that the UK is entering the deepest recession on record is enough to fill even the hardiest among us with dread.Those impacted by the recession of 2008 may already be replaying the struggle over in their minds, with a sense of growing fea over what could happen in the months, and years, to come. It’s a time to be kind to ourselves and to remember: we’re all in this together.It’s understandable to feel anxious – a recession impacts the economy and people’s lives, as Yuko Nippoda, psychotherapist and spokesperson for the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), explains. “Some people might lose their jobs, a recession can make it difficult to find a job, pay rises might stop or inequality can occur,” she says. “Lots of negative things happen.”“For some people it’s a matter of life and death. It is obviously natural to feel anxious for their future, and some people even feel in despair.”While there’s no quick-fix for dealing with the uncertainty surrounding economic challenges, there are coping mechanisms and strategies that can relieve some of the burden. Related... Oh, It’s Your First Recession? Here’s What You Need To Know Related... How To Deal With The Uncertainty Of Redundancy In A Pandemic I’m feeling anxious, what can I do?Nippoda says it’s important to follow trustworthy sources of information. “There is too much information circulating, some of which is inaccurate,” she says. “When we feel anxious, we tend to look for reassurance and go for any information that we want to hear. However, we need to be careful about random information as our life might be catastrophic if we follow fake news.”Psychotherapist Rakhi Chand, a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), agrees: “Not over-doing exposure to the news could be helpful.” Limit news notifications to your phone and try not to spend hours scrolling social media if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all. It might be useful to take five minutes and write down what kind of information you need and want to know – then investigate some trustworthy articles from financial specialists, suggests Nippoda. “Then, we will be able to find out more details of the trend, and deal with the situation more effectively,” she explains.Other coping strategies Chand recommends include: regularly exercising, getting a good night’s sleep each night, eating healthily, and being aware of what you need for self-care. All of these can help build resilience.“Being able to say no to things that aren’t what we actually want is also vital in maintaining resilience,” says Chand. This is important – if you’re increasingly worried about money and feel unable to say no to social events or things that will cost you more than you can afford, it will only add to your worries. A person’s financial situation understandably has a huge impact on their mental health – this is especially the case for people with existing mental health problems. A Money and Mental Health survey of nearly 5,500 people with experience of mental health problems revealed 86% said their financial situation had made their mental health worse.Related... How To Properly Start Saving Money In 2020 People hit badly by the previous recession may feel an even greater sense of despair over what happens next – especially as the last time will have been traumatic for some. If this is the case, reflect on how you survived previously, says Nippoda, remembering you have a reserve of strength to call on.“It is important to remember the positive things you did and use the resources for your future experiences,” she says. “This can lead to you having hope.”Chand agrees, adding: “Do what you can to prepare, but try consciously to let go of what is out of your control,” she says. “It’s a bloody hard thing to do, but try. Stay in the present as much as you can – think about managing the short-term rather than thinking too much into the future, if possible.”Activities like reading, seeing friends, going for walks, listening to music or taking a bath can help you to stay in the present.I’m seriously concerned about how I’ll copeA report on the 2008-2013 recession by the University of Bristol suggested economic recessions can lead to increased levels of mental illness, suicide and suicidal behaviour. Often, key stressors include job loss, financial difficulties, debt, loss of home and relationship stresses.There’s a big difference between feeling a bit anxious about what the future holds, and feeling suicidal or like there’s no way forward. If you’re in a bad place, it’s imperative to seek help – whether that’s speaking to someone you trust about how you’re feeling, calling your local NHS urgent mental health helpline, or, if you don’t feel like you can keep yourself safe, going to A&E where a team of trained mental health specialists can offer further support.Charities such as Samaritans, Papyrus and the Shout Crisis text line can also lend an ear if you don’t feel like you have anyone close to you to speak to. In some parts of the UK, crisis houses are available for people to stay in for a number of days during a mental health crisis – you can find one here.Speaking to others about how you’re feeling, or what you’re experiencing if you have lost your job or are worried about money, can be a relief – especially if you feel like there is no clear solution on hand.Helpful places to get advice during a recession include: the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), the Money Advice Service (try its money navigator tool), local Job Centres, debt advice agencies (find a free debt advisor here), and mental health charities like Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, and Young Minds – some of which can offer discounted therapy sessions. You can also get a limited number of therapy sessions for free on the NHS or pay to go private. Some charities, like Turn2Us, offer money grants for people struggling financially. “Talk to others, if at all possible,” says Chand. “Having spoken to many during lockdown, I repeatedly heard that difficulties were vastly assuaged because of connections.”Related... Sharmadean Reid Is Fighting For A Workplace That Actually Works For Mums How Young Londoners Really Feel About Plans To Scrap Their Free Travel There's A Reason Why Socialising Feels So Exhausting Right Now