Posts tagged "Sarah Teather"

Migrant children need more government support, says charity

Children’s Society tells MPs an estimated 120,000 children living under the radar in UK face destitution due to immigration policy

The government needs to do more to support an estimated 120,000 undocumented migrant children, who are living under the radar within the UK, the Children’s Society told MPs at a select committee hearing on Wednesday.

Enver Solomon, policy director with the charity, said “child protection issues are not being prioritised over immigration control”, and staff working both with these undocumented children and with asylum-seeking children, saw many situations where “immigration issues trump child protection issues”.

Because these children were not being supported by the state, there were very high levels of destitution among them, he said. “We have women who are pregnant who are unable to support themselves, or who have very young children, experiencing great hardship – parents not being able to buy enough food or nappies for their children, formula milk… This is very serious hardship,” he told the education select committee hearing on destitution amongst migrant and asylum-seeking children.

Around half of the estimated 120,000 undocumented children were born in this country to parents who do not have the legal right to reside here, he said, either because they have entered the country illegally, evading border controls or have overstayed their visa. “They have no recourse to public funds; they are in no-man’s land,” he said.

His colleague, Andrew Jolly, who works with the Children’s Society West Midlands destitution project, told the committee: “We have worked with mothers who have been forced into prostitution and transactional sexual relations because they need to provide food for their children.”

Damian Green, minister for immigration, said “destitution is very explicitly not used as a tool”. However, he added it was important for the UK to send a message to countries such as Afghanistan, from which children were being sent unaccompanied to try to live in the UK. He said that the streets in London were not “paved with gold” and that sending a child with traffickers, “halfway across the world, perhaps to die on the way, is not a way to increase prosperity”.

Sarah Teather, minister for children and families, said the law stated that these migrant children should be treated the same way as other children, but added: “If there is evidence of poor practice, then that is an issue we need to take up.”

“I am not comfortable with the idea of forcing people into destitution to encourage them to leave,” she told the committee.

The hearing was triggered by a Children’s Society report(pdf) on the subject, published earlier this year, which highlighted the difficulties faced by children in asylum-seeking families, whose parents do not have the right to work here, and can access only limited support from the state, and also by migrant children, sent unaccompanied to live in the UK.

In 2008, a legislation change determined children who are subject to immigration control should be granted the same rights as any other child in the UK, in accordance with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. But the Children’s Society report concluded that “children’s rights continue to be breached for the purposes of immigration control”.

“Young people and families become destitute because immigration policies purposefully restrict access to benefits, services, and the labour market, which prevents families from being able to pull themselves out of poverty,” the report states. “In many cases children and young people are deliberately being made destitute by the government’s policy of excluding these young asylum-seekers and migrants from support. For those young people and families whose claims have been refused but who are unable to return home, this policy is pushing them into alarming levels of deprivation.”

The charity expressed particular concern about young people who turn 18, and who subsequently disappear from care, because they are frightened about being forcibly removed from the UK.


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Posted by admin - July 5, 2012 at 14:01

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Childcare commission to consider longer school days

Commission will explore ways to cut childcare costs, seen by Downing Street as one of the most pressing issues for families

David Cameron is to announce a government childcare commission that will look at lengthening the school day and allowing childcare workers to look after more children at any one time, in an attempt to cut costs for parents.

Downing Street regards spiralling childcare costs as one of the most pressing issues facing families under pressure over living standards. The commission will be led by Sarah Teather, the children’s minister, and Maria Miller, currently minister for disabled people and tipped to join the cabinet as families secretary.

Downing Street said the commission would explore the effectiveness of government support, identify unnecessary red tape that increases costs without improving quality, and look at how to encourage childcare after school and in the holidays – so-called wrap-around care. At present such wrap-around care is not commercially viable in many schools.

It will also look at international examples including the Netherlands, which requires childminders to be part of an agency that is subject to inspections, rather than the system of checks on individual childminders in the UK.

The issue has been promoted by the Conservative backbencher Liz Truss, who has argued that the required ratio of one adult to every three children could be raised to 1:5 for children aged under five, without the quality of care being adversely affected. A change in the ratios might only apply in areas where there are no after-school clubs.

In a report in May, Truss claimed that while the number of nursery places had increased since 1996 the number of childminder places had dropped drastically, to 245,000 in 2010.

The shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, has been a supporter of a longer school day, although it would require complex negotiations with teaching unions.

Cameron said: “Working parents want to know that after school or in the holidays their children will be looked after in a safe, happy environment that is affordable. We want to do all we can to reduce the cost of childcare for parents, and make sure they can find and afford high-quality nurseries, after-school clubs and holiday schemes for their children.”

The prime minister believes that funding streams are too complex. Department for Education research shows that four out of 10 parents believe there is sufficient childcare in their areas for over-fives, but the UK has the highest per capita spending on childcare. There is no suggestion that additional tax breaks will be made available.

Later in the week the government will publish DfE-commissioned research into the quality and staffing for early years services. The government has significantly increased investment in early education, but funding streams are complex. The commission will look at whether some of this could be untangled so that it is spent more effectively.


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Posted by admin - June 20, 2012 at 07:50

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Childcare body ponders longer school days

Commission will explore ways to cut childcare costs, seen by Downing Street as one of the most pressing issues for families

David Cameron is to announce a government childcare commission that will look at lengthening the school day and allowing childcare workers to look after more children at any one time, in an attempt to cut costs for parents.

Downing Street regards spiralling childcare costs as one of the most pressing issues facing families under pressure over living standards. The commission will be led by Sarah Teather, the children’s minister, and Maria Miller, currently minister for disabled people and tipped to join the cabinet as families secretary.

Downing Street said the commission would explore the effectiveness of government support, identify unnecessary red tape that increases costs without improving quality, and look at how to encourage childcare after school and in the holidays – so-called wrap-around care. At present such wrap-around care is not commercially viable in many schools.

It will also look at international examples including the Netherlands, which requires childminders to be part of an agency that is subject to inspections, rather than the system of checks on individual childminders in the UK.

The issue has been promoted by the Conservative backbencher Liz Truss, who has argued that the required ratio of one adult to every three children could be raised to 1:5 for children aged under five, without the quality of care being adversely affected. A change in the ratios might only apply in areas where there are no after-school clubs.

In a report in May, Truss claimed that while the number of nursery places had increased since 1996 the number of childminder places had dropped drastically, to 245,000 in 2010.

The shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg, has been a supporter of a longer school day, although it would require complex negotiations with teaching unions.

Cameron said: “Working parents want to know that after school or in the holidays their children will be looked after in a safe, happy environment that is affordable. We want to do all we can to reduce the cost of childcare for parents, and make sure they can find and afford high-quality nurseries, after-school clubs and holiday schemes for their children.”

The prime minister believes that funding streams are too complex. Department for Education research shows that four out of 10 parents believe there is sufficient childcare in their areas for over-fives, but the UK has the highest per capita spending on childcare. There is no suggestion that additional tax breaks will be made available.

Later in the week the government will publish DfE-commissioned research into the quality and staffing for early years services. The government has significantly increased investment in early education, but funding streams are complex. The commission will look at whether some of this could be untangled so that it is spent more effectively.


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Posted by admin - June 19, 2012 at 08:46

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Privacy from state snooping defines a true democracy | Henry Porter

Government plans to allow email surveillance are among the most serious threats to freedom in the democratic world

As we welcome the glimmers of democracy in Burma and applaud the heroic struggle for freedom and rights in countries such as Russia, China and Syria, it beggars belief that Britain now contemplates a law that will allow police and security services to access data from every phone call, email, internet connection and text message, without a warrant.

The millions who suffer under dictatorships will be astonished that we are about to let slip – with so little protest – the freedoms for which they continue to sacrifice so much.

Privacy from state snooping is the defining quality of any true democracy.

If the bill that is reported to be in the Queen’s speech next month is made law, Britain will overnight become a substantially less free country, our status as one of the beacons of freedom seriously diminished. This is among the most serious threats to freedom proposed anywhere in the democratic world. It competes with the very worst of Labour’s authoritarian laws and the last government’s morbid obsession with personal information.

Those promoting the bill, which will allow GCHQ to conduct real-time surveillance of a person’s communications and their web usage, insist that the state only wants to know who’s calling who, and that the content of messages, emails and texts will remain private.

It is an assurance that should be treated with the greatest possible scepticism for two reasons.

The law of function creep means that oppressive measures passed to address terrorism and crime are invariably deployed in much less threatening contexts. For example, the spread of surveillance under the last government’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act resulted in local councils using counter-terror methods to mount undercover operations against fly-tippers and those suspected of lying in school applications.

Once the intelligence services and police have these powers to insist that internet and phone companies hand over our data without our knowledge, in a crisis it will be a short step for the same people to argue that they need to start reading our communications.

How long before messages between trade unionists or those legitimately engaged in protest are subject to routine interception by the authorities, because their activities trouble the state?

Already, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras monitor Britain’s major roads, and real-time surveillance is a feature of the system. If we let this come about without an act of parliament, the argument will go, there surely can be no real objection to allowing the content of our communications to be read.

Is it simply the predictable cynicism of the political trade that lets the home secretary, Theresa May, bring forward this measure, which is every bit as intrusive as Labour’s Interception Modernisation Programme, which conceived a vast silo of communications data?

I am not sure, but what I do know is that a few years back I sat on Liberty’s conference platform listening to May attacking Labour’s civil liberties record, just I sat next to the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, at parliament’s joint committee of human rights and heard him speak about the balance between liberty and security. Now he proposes a bill to let a minister close courts and inquests to the public, and allow the evidence to be heard in the absence of one party and his lawyers: secret justice, coalition-style.

These things ought to be a deal-breaker for the coalition because they go against everything the Lib Dems said they believed before the last election, and indeed against the coalition agreement itself, which placed an emphasis on privacy and civil liberties. These principles are quickly forgotten when plausible spooks come through the back door and invoke all manner of terrors.

Even so, it is surprising to see Nick Clegg, and such figures as Sarah Teather and Vince Cable bless, if only by their silence, a system of total surveillance that would be halfway acceptable to the Chinese and North Korean governments.

Perhaps one thing in the politicians’ defence is that both the surveillance bill and the proposal to greatly increase secret hearings were inspired by civil servants and agency heads, rather than politicians: this is the agenda of the unelected “deep state” officials who never have to go before the electorate and can run their affairs without being inconvenienced by too much public scrutiny.

Both bills, if they become law, will vastly increase state power, which is why officials have been lobbying for measures like these since well before the coalition was born. Politicians are there to defend us against such people, not to oblige them.

When the head of the office for security and counter-terrorism, Charles Farr, or the head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, make these suggestions, they should be told in no uncertain terms that they are unacceptable in a liberal democracy. Forgive me for being personal, Nick, but that is why so many civil libertarians backed you at the last election. You need to step up to the plate on this one.

Why not just let the state have all our information? Is it worth fighting in an age when Google and the phone companies know so much about us already? The answer comes from the German philosopher Wolfgang Sofsky, who wrote: “Privacy is the citadel of personal freedom. It provides defence against expropriation, importunity and imposition – against power and coercion.”

The more practical objection is that police and security services are capable of getting things wrong, as well as abusing a system that allows such power over ordinary citizens. There have been prosecutions of police officers for misuse of the police national computer and the ANPR surveillance system. Given the countless cases of police misconduct and present worries about the standards of Britain’s police, it is probably wise not to hand them such an intrusive tool.

The ability to trawl through phone and email records will throw up huge numbers of false positives, with the result that innocent people will come under intense scrutiny without having done anything wrong or even knowing why they are being monitored.

This surveillance system is the instrument of a Kafkaesque state that grants itself the right to universal suspicion, while enjoying the protection of a new law, brought in by a lawyer, that allows evidence of official misconduct to be heard in secret.


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Posted by admin - April 3, 2012 at 22:11

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Downing Street wary of ‘narrow approach’ to measuring child poverty

Spokesman says prime minister wants to look at wider set of measures but has no plans to abandon targets of previous government

Measuring child poverty by relative income is a “very narrow” approach that can fail to tackle deep-seated problems, Downing Street has said.

David Cameron’s spokesman said the prime minister wanted to look at a wider set of measures to assess poverty but had no plans to abandon the targets established by the last government.

The spokesman’s remarks came after the Times reported that Michael Gove, Oliver Letwin and the prime minister’s senior policy adviser, Steve Hilton, had drawn up plans to scrap the Labour target, which says children living in households with incomes of 60% of the median are deemed to live in poverty.

The plan was reportedly blocked by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrat education minister, Sarah Teather, who rejected any attempt to “fiddle the figures”.

Downing Street denied that Labour’s targets would be changed. The spokesman said: “We are not seeking to change anything.

“There is a target that is in legislation: 60% of median income. We have no intention to move away from that. We are just saying we should be looking at a wider group of indicators on this issue because we think that will help us design policy more effectively.”

But he added that there were flaws in assessing poverty only on income, saying: “We have made the point consistently that looking only at relative income is a very narrow way of considering the issues of poverty. And secondly, and potentially more problematically, it could drive policy in the wrong direction.

“So rather than trying to tackle some of the more deep-seated issues which are causing poverty, you get an incentive to simply make further income transfers which don’t necessarily get rid of that problem.

“So it is something we have already looked at and we have been very open about that. We are looking at other measures of poverty and social deprivation and thinking about social mobility more broadly.”

The Tories have long believed that setting what they regard as an arbitrary target for measuring poverty can distort policymaking, leading to a focus on those just below the 60% target.

The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has said that focusing just on income often does nothing to solve deep-seated problems in what he calls broken families. He believes targeting income can end up feeding habits such as drinking.

The prime minister shares such concerns, but believes it would be politically dangerous to abandon such the touchstone target on child poverty.


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Posted by admin - February 27, 2012 at 18:48

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