Something remarkable appears to be happening when it comes to public concern about immigration – British attitudes appear to be undergoing a turnaround.
Where once immigration was seen as the biggest problem for the UK, a negative force on national life, now it barely registers on the list of voter concerns, with polls suggesting increasing numbers believe it has had a positive impact on Britain.
For Emilia Koziol-Wisniewski, one of the first Polish workers to come to the UK after EU expansion 15 years ago, the 2016 referendum result was a low point.
“After the referendum, I was crying for days because we moved here to make our life here. Our home is here,” Emilia told me.
Emilia started a successful Polish food business with a factory in the small Herefordshire village of Marden.
But since the Brexit referendum campaign, she says, she has experienced abuse and racism.
“The comments were just vile, ‘Deport them’, ‘Get rid of them’,” Emilia tells me. “I think the Brexit referendum empowered people to say certain things.”
In February, Marden Parish Council had to make a public apology for a racist remark directed at the local Poles by one councillor during a meeting.
All the parish councillors have since undergone equality and diversity training.
But there are increasing signs of another, more positive, point of view on immigration in Marden.
“On the one hand, after the referendum, we had people who would be nasty in their comments.
“And then we would have people who would come to us and say, ‘It’s not in my name. I do apologise on behalf of my nation. I welcome you here,'” says Emilia.
Parish clerk Alison Sutton says the village has many residents originally from other countries “who live harmoniously in a large rural parish”.
She describes the racist remark as an isolated comment “which, whilst misguided, was meant as a compliment about Emilia’s entrepreneurship and hard work”.
In April, a regular Ipsos Mori survey for the BBC’s Crossing Divides season found immigration was a concern for 11% of people – the lowest level since 2001.
While in March, an earlier Ipsos Mori poll for the season – which focuses on bringing people together in a fragmented world – found that British adults expressing positive views about immigration’s impact outnumbered those with negative views.
The subject of immigration was not a big focus in the recent European elections.
That may be because political parties recognised how anxiety has dropped away.
So, what has happened? If the Brexit debate gave voice to the cultural anxiety of communities unused to foreign arrivals, there has been an even greater shift in attitudes in the other direction.
As the arrivals of the past 15 years have integrated, so general concerns about immigration have subsided.
Hostility ‘dying away’
Police had reported a spike in race hate crimes in Herefordshire, and in 2012 and 2013, Welcome to Hereford road signs were defaced to read “Poland”.
Marden is also home to Britain’s largest strawberry farmer, S&A Produce, which employs about 1,500 Eastern Europeans to help pick 8,000 tonnes of fruit each year.
The migrant workers in Marden are housed in a caravan park behind high hedges, but there are now efforts to encourage integration with the local community.
“We should start to refer to people as guest workers rather than economic migrants because as guests of our business they’re helping to make us a success and make the community a success,” says group managing director Peter Judge.
“We look to engage our staff to help in the local communities. Our workers refurbished a cricket pavilion and they volunteered to do this freely because they value being part of a community.”
The strawberry farm has invited a local English language teacher, Hugh Morris, to help migrant workers integrate into the British way of life.
“I sense there’s a tilting point where we’ve actually become more accepting,” Hugh suggests.
“We’re assimilating Eastern European workers into the community and it’s important that this continues. In the beginning there was a lot of hostility but now that’s died away.”
Hereford council has also decided to act to reduce local anxiety about EU migrants. It recently forged a twinning relationship with the Polish town of Jaworzno, and is working with local schools to remind people how the area was home to many Polish servicemen during World War Two.
“We feel that it is really important that we keep that friendship and the link going because we’re living in uncertain times when nobody knows what’s going to happen down the line,” Mayor Kath Hey says. “The little bits we can do within the city are fostering that real sense of community.”
That sense of shared community is vital to reducing tensions.
If foreign arrivals fail to assimilate, they will remain outsiders.
That is why there is some concern at government plans to require all but high-earning migrants to leave within a year of arriving, making it unlikely foreign arrivals will put down roots and integrate.
The lesson from Herefordshire is that the key to cohesion is for people from all backgrounds to meet and to mix.
Original article available here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48545143
More and more people are turning to surrogacy to start a family, yet the laws governing surrogacy came into effect in the mid-1980s and need updating, says the Law Commission.
The laws around surrogacy are outdated and should be improved to better support the child, surrogates and intended parents, the Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have announced today (06 June 2019).
Surrogacy is where a woman bears a child on behalf of someone else or a couple, who then intend to become the child’s parents (the intended parents). Surrogacy is legal in the UK, and is recognised by the Government as a legitimate form of building a family.
However, change is needed to make sure the law works for everyone involved. To reflect the wishes of surrogates and intended parents, the Law Commissions are proposing to allow intended parents to become legal parents when the child is born, subject to the surrogate retaining a right to object for a short period after the birth.
This would replace the current system where the intended parents must make an application to the court after the child has been born, and do not become legal parents until the court grants them a parental order. The process can take many months to complete.
This proposal for the creation of a new surrogacy process or “pathway” is one of several that the Law Commissions are now consulting on which aim to bring greater certainty, put the child at the heart of the process and provide comfort and confidence to both the surrogate and the intended parents. Other proposals include:
- The creation of a surrogacy regulator to regulate surrogacy organisations which will oversee surrogacy agreements within the new pathway.
- In the new pathway, the removal of the requirement of a genetic link between the intended parents and the child, where medically necessary.
- The creation of a national register to allow those born of surrogacy arrangements to access information about their origins.
The Law Commissions also ask a number of questions to open the debate on the important topic of the payments that intended parents should be able to make to the surrogate, while provisionally proposing that surrogacy organisations should remain non-profit.
Sir Nicholas Green, Chair of the Law Commission said: “More and more people are turning to surrogacy to have a child and start their family. We therefore need to make sure that the process is meeting the needs of all those involved.
“However, the laws around surrogacy are outdated and no longer fit for purpose. We think our proposals will create a system that works for the surrogates, the parents and, most importantly, the child.”
Lady Paton, Chair of the Scottish Law Commission said: “Surrogacy has become a significant issue in today’s society. The interests of all the parties involved must be properly regulated and protected. That is the focus of our proposals.”
Dustin Lance Black, surrogate father and campaigner said: “Without our wonderful surrogate and clear surrogacy law, we would not have been able to have our first child or begin building the family we’ve always wanted.”
“Good, clear law helps people make stronger, clearer decisions. Solid, definitive surrogacy law in the UK will have the power to keep surrogates, egg donors, intended parents, children, and families safe. This consultation is vital for ensuring the UK succeeds in building the best surrogacy law in the world. I hope as many people as possible can get involved and respond.”
The current system: Not fit for purpose
More and more people are turning to surrogacy to start a family, yet the laws governing surrogacy came into effect in the mid-1980s and need updating.
Currently, intended parents have to wait until the child has been born and then apply to court to become the child’s parents. The process can take many months to complete. This process doesn’t reflect the reality of the child’s family life, and affects the intended parents’ ability to take decisions about the child in their care.
Insufficient regulation makes it difficult to monitor the surrogacy process and those involved in it and ensure that standards throughout the process are kept high. There is also a lack of clarity around surrogacy payments. The law currently permits intended parents to pay ‘reasonable expenses’ to the surrogate, however this is unclear and difficult to apply in practice.
The new pathway to parenthood
The Commissions’ proposals for a new pathway for domestic surrogacies would overcome many of these concerns by allowing intended parents to become the child’s legal parents at birth. This would be balanced with the rights of the surrogate who would have a short period to object to the intended parents becoming legal parents at birth.
The new process would also require safeguards – such as counselling and independent legal advice – for those entering into the surrogacy arrangement. These would reduce the risk of the arrangement breaking down which can cause great distress for all involved.
A surrogacy regulator and regulated surrogacy organisations would oversee these arrangements and ensure standards can be monitored and kept high.
For surrogacy arrangements that do not qualify for this new regulated process, the Law Commissions are also proposing amendments to improve regulation of the existing parental order route which will make the law clearer, easier to apply and more cost-effective.
At this point, the Commissions are not putting forward any proposals around payments to the surrogate. However, as part of the consultation, the Commissions want to understand public views on surrogacy payments. The consultation therefore includes questions around the categories of payment that the intended parents should be able to pay to the surrogate, to seek a consensus on this issue.
Original article available here: https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/home-affairs/law/opinion/law-commission/104360/surrogacy-reforms-are-needed-improve-law-all
Campaigners describe ‘real sense of justice and vindication’ for vulnerable children, who can now bring claims for compensation against local authorities who fail to investigate and take action to protect them
A landmark judgment has ruled that local authorities can be sued if they fail to protect vulnerable young people and children in their area who are considered to be at risk, regardless of whether they are officially in care.
The Supreme Court has restored the right of children to sue for negligence where a local authority has failed to protect them from harm, overruling a previous Court of Appeal decision which gave social workers exemption from liability in such cases.
Campaigners said the ruling brought a “real sense of justice and vindication” for children at risk of possible sexual, physical or emotional abuse and neglect, who can now bring claims for compensation against local authorities who fail to investigate and take action to protect them.
Peter Garsden, a partner at Simpson Millar, who represented the two children’s charities involved in the litigation, said that following the conclusion of the legal action many abuse and negligence cases against local authorities that were put on hold pending a decision would now be able to progress – providing “much comfort” to the victims.
He continued: “This is a groundbreaking decision that has served to clarify the law as far as the duty of care that social workers have towards young people and children who are not necessarily in a care institution, but are known to be at risk.
“This decision affects some of the most vulnerable members of our society and we are delighted that those affected will continue to have access to the justice that they deserve in instances where they are let down by those they have put their faith in.”
The decision follows a UK Supreme Court hearing which took place last July relating to a case in which Poole Borough Council was accused of failing to protect two children in the care of their mother from the antisocial behaviour of neighbours.
Simpson Millar represented Article 39 and The Care Leavers’ Association during the hearing, both of which felt the need to intervene in the case in order to draw attention to the “terrible impact’” abuse can have on children.
Carolyne Willow, director at Article 39, which fights for the rights of children and young people who live in children’s homes, prisons and other institutions, said the charity was “incredibly relieved” by the ruling.
“We are particularly concerned about the continuing scandals of mistreatment in child prisons and local authorities’ failures to take robust, protective action,” she added.
David Graham, national Director of The Care Leavers Association, which provides supports care leavers of all ages, said the judgement would give care leavers a “real sense of justice and vindication, as well as financial compensation for harm that should never have happened”.
He added: “We hope the courts will now quickly deal with the backlog of cases from adults who were failed as children.”
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, said: “Looking after and protecting vulnerable children is one of the most important challenges that councils tackle every day, making sure they have the care, support and stability they deserve.
“We will consider today’s ruling carefully to assess any implications for local authorities.”
Domestic abuse: Female survivors ‘three times more likely’ to develop schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
‘Significant public health burden’ of leaving abuse survivors unsupported as study shows anxiety, depression and serious psychological conditions increased
Domestic abuse could play a much larger part in the UK’s mental healthcrisis than first thought after a study found women who experienced abuse were three times as likely to develop a serious psychological disorder.
The landmark study, led by University of Birmingham researchers, is the first to show schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as more common forms of mental illness like depression and anxiety, are increased among abuse victims.
But the findings also show abuse is significantly under-reported in NHS records, and this could undermine efforts to address patients’ mental health needs or direct them to support.
Estimates based on national Crime Survey data suggest one in four women has experienced some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime, but in GP records only 0.5 per cent of women have this recorded.
“The results show the significant public health burden of mental illness in this country,” said Dr Joht Singh Chandan, one of the study’s authors, at a briefing in London.
“That elevation of three times [increased risk], if we think almost a quarter of women in this country have experienced domestic abuse, we’re talking big numbers in terms of mental health demand in this country.”
For the study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the team used medical records from 18,547 UK women whose medical records made a note of abuse between 1995 and 2017.
They compared them to 74,188 women of a similar age profile who had no record of abuse.
The study found that that half of the women in the abuse group had a mental health diagnosis (49.5 per cent) compared to 24.6 per cent of women without a record of abuse at the start of the study.
When they removed these cases and looked at new diagnoses of mental illness over the 22 year study they found anxiety disorders were diagnosed at twice the rate among the group who had experienced abuse.
Diagnosis of depression, or “serious mental illness”, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, appeared at three times the rate.
The authors said the relationship was “not simple or straight forward” and mental illness may make someone more likely to become a victim of abuse as well as abuse causing psychological disorders.
They were not able to answer questions about the effects of abuse in men, because these are cases are even more poorly recorded.
But more needs to be done to identify and support those who have experienced abuse.
“We know that in primary care and [with] staff at GP practice there is often a lot that can be done for people who have experienced domestic abuse, but it’s not being highlighted to them,” Dr Chandan said.
Encouraging the police to share reports of domestic abuse with the NHS would be one way to improve reporting, as well as policies to prevent abuse, and earlier intervention for those who are victims.
The findings also raise the question of whether there should be more screening of young women being treated for mental health disorders.
“Do we need to think about asking them questions relating to their abuse?” Dr Chandan said.
“We hear everyday from women with mental health problems who have struggled to get the support that they need,” said Vicki Nash from the mental health charity Mind, who called on government to act on women’s mental health and domestic abuse.
“Too many women are not having their needs met by mental health services, which are also not using a trauma-informed approach.”
Original Article available here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/women-mental-health-schizophrenia-bipolar-disorder-domestic-abuse-a8947776.html
Councils in England fail to provide safe homes to around 1,960 households fleeing domestic abuse, Crisis found.
Domestic abuse survivors are being forced to choose between sleeping on the streets or returning to their abusers because of local authority rules, a damning report has warned.
Each year, councils in England fail to provide safe homes to around 1,960 households fleeing domestic abuse after deeming them not vulnerable enough for help, a joint investigation by Crisis and parliament’s group for ending homelessness revealed on Thursday.
This is because – under the current system – not everyone escaping domestic abuse is considered “priority need” for help finding permanent housing, they said.
“It’s beyond heart-breaking that people fleeing for their lives are being forced to choose between homelessness or returning to their abusers because the services that should have found them a safe home don’t consider them a priority,” said Labour MP Neil Coyle, who leads parliament’s group for ending homelessness.
“The current system of asking survivors to provide evidence of their vulnerability is incredibly insensitive and traumatic, and often impossible to do.”
MPs have heard “horrifying stories” of victims being asked to return home to gather evidence of their abuse, Coyle added.
One in five of Crisis’ female members have been made homeless by domestic abuse.
Earlier this month, Theresa May announced plans to ensure all abuse survivors have access to support in emergency refuges – but campaigners are calling for the Domestic Abuse Bill to be extended to guarantee victims a more permanent home.
Rebecca Pritchard, director of services at Crisis, said: “It’s simply not good enough that survivors are being forced to sleep rough or are ending up stuck in temporary accommodation unable to move on with their lives because they’re being refused help to find a safe settled home.”
The report comes on the same day the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman called on Oadby and Wigston Borough Council to pay a domestic abuse victim £500 in compensation after it refused to accept a homelessness application from her and her children.
A government spokesperson said: “We recently announced that for the first time ever, councils will be legally required to provide vital support in secure accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse and their children, and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire pledged over £90 million for this.
“This will end the variation in support and ensure that all families are able to recover and overcome their experiences.”
Original Article available here: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/domestic-abuse-homelessness-council-crisis_uk_5ceea047e4b07666546f4c4c?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACsBYDk2HIByC94HPNNvVNWyTNKtYYMCzs4snxbdacOg_VNPhjDvTkfn8RKOoPtKYb9CGmpZ0Mdlk5JdQGmVAu9miypHMyrhlrq0BgL8QeF8VlU3Mr2KZxfmn4AhaIR96CNXsYV1mKaGb6K0bYwuWiz8bf7v-V01ujhEbamB6KNC
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its review of the shortage occupation list (SOL) today, adding veterinarians, web designers and architects.
Today the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its review of the shortage occupation list (SOL). Alongside some occupations which have been added to the list – veterinarians, web designers and architects – many have been expanded to include all roles within that occupation.
This means the SOL will cover around 9% of jobs in the labour market, compared to one per cent under the previous list.
The committee has recommended broadening the SOL to include all roles in occupations such as medical practitioners, nurses, programmers and software development professionals. This recognises the increasing difficulty in filling such roles.
The MAC was asked to consider the addition of Northern Irish and Welsh SOLs to the existing UK list and Scotland-only SOL. In principle, the MACagrees that devolved SOLs should be created.
The MAC also recommends a review of what role the SOL would play in a future immigration system.
MAC Chair Professor Alan Manning said:
Today’s labour market is very different to the one we reviewed when the last SOL was published in 2013. Unemployment is lower and employers in various industries are facing difficulties in finding skilled people to fill their vacancies.
That is why we have recommended expanding the SOL to cover a range of occupations in health, information and engineering fields.
However, our recommendations are clearly only applicable under the current immigration system, while EU free movement remains. We are recommending a full review of the SOL once there is a clearer picture of what the future immigration system will look like.
The review’s other recommendations include:
- a consideration of medium-skilled occupations which may become eligible for the SOL in the future system
- the inclusion of Gaelic teachers in the Scotland-only SOL
- pilots to expand the evidence-base on what might work in migration policy for remote communities
- removing the restriction on chef visas, which currently excludes those offering a takeaway service. This is in recognition of the changing nature of the hospitality sector and with the aim of future-proofing the list
Much more needs to be done to safeguard children in domestic violence cases, writes Christina Blacklaws, president of the Law Society of England and Wales
As a former family law solicitor, your recent article on how the family courts treat victims of domestic abuse and their children (15 May) struck a chord with me. As you point out, research by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme found that four children have been killed in the past five years by parents with a history of domestic violence who were given access to them by the courts.
These tragic figures highlight a failure in the system. While the government’s draft domestic abuse bill marks an important step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to safeguard children in domestic violence cases.
The government’s cuts to legal aid in 2012 have left many victims of abuse unrepresented in court, often unable to argue their case. Updating the legal aid means test and reinstating legal aid for early advice will help to ensure that domestic abuse is identified at the earliest possible point and both victims and their children receive the access to justice they deserve.
President, The Law Society of England and Wales
Original Article available here: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/may/28/victims-of-domestic-abuse-need-legal-aid
The Home Office has “significantly reduced” the amount of data sharing it carries out with other agencies in the wake of the Windrush scandal, according to the chief inspector of immigration and borders.
In a report on the department’s approach to illegal working, David Bolt (pictured) says the Home Office had said in July 2018 that it would halt “proactive data sharing with other government departments and delivery partners for people of all nationalities aged over 30, initially for three months”.
“At the time of the inspection (late last year), this was still paused, with no indication of when it might end,” it says, adding: “Managers were taking a more cautious approach to the production and circulation of performance data, and this had affected morale.
“Meanwhile, proactive data sharing, engagement with partners, and operations were running at a significantly reduced rate.”
The report says the exposure of the wrongful treatment of British residents “fundamentally altered the environment in which immigration enforcement operated”.
Theresa May’s administration was rocked by the fallout from the “hostile environment” she introduced for undocumented migrants, many of whom were wrongly identified as being in the country illegally.
They were denied access to healthcare, employment and housing, with data was passed to the Home Office from schools, the NHS and the police for enforcement purposes.
UKAuthority reported last year how two schemes – immigration checks by banks using Home Office data and the NHS sharing patients’ details – had been suspended.
Fresh evidence for the scaling back of data sharing has been made public by a freedom of information response to the online publication Byline Times.
In 2016, before Windrush hit the headlines, data was shared between the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Home Office 54,874 times over a six-month period. But the website revealed that this total fell to just 3,470 occasions between November 2018 and April this year.
Zrinka Bralo, chief executive of the group Migrants Organise, told Byline Times she cautiously welcomed the development.
“I would like to think this is a sign that the Home Office is no longer prioritising it (the hostile environment),” she said.
In his report, Bolt acknowledges the “significant” effect on enforcement, as targets were abolished, removals of illegal workers fell and other agencies increasingly resisted helping immigration officers.
Enforcement teams faced growing attempts to disrupt their work, with threatening behaviour, verbal abuse and protests, it says.
Original article available here: https://www.ukauthority.com/articles/home-office-cuts-immigration-data-sharing/
The Guardian and Independent report on calls from the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration for Ministers to consider “scrapping controversial immigration fees” charged to children from families who cannot afford it and to refund profits from failed citizenship applications.
According to the Guardian, the inspector’s report says the Government should publish information on the negative social and equality effects of the Home Office’s fees policy.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
To reduce the burden on UK tax payers, fee levels take into account the wider costs involved in running our border, immigration and citizenship system, so that those who directly benefit from it contribute to its funding. The Home Secretary has committed to keeping fees under review.
However, we recognise that we have a duty to support the vulnerable. That is why we have fee waivers in place for those who need it most, including children and young people who have spent a significant amount of their life in the UK.
The new directorates that replaced the former UKBA have made progress in some areas but not across the whole business.
“The Home Office has started making significant changes since the Agency was broken up and has made progress in some areas. We would have expected greater progress by now though in tackling the problems we identified in 2012 in areas such as specific backlogs and IT. Among our recommendations is that the Department prioritize outstanding backlogs and act to prevent the cases that it classifies as unworkable building up into backlogs.”
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office
The two new Home Office directorates that have replaced the former UK Border Agency have had no significant performance falls during or after the split of the Agency. Improvements have been made in some areas, but not across the whole business.
In March 2013, the Home Secretary abolished the remaining Agency and brought its work into the Department under two new directorates: UK Visas and Immigration; and Immigration Enforcement.
New service standards introduced by UK Visas and Immigration have given customers greater transparency regarding the time taken to complete different types of visa application. The Department has also prioritized clearing backlogs of cases, and made additional resource available to do so.
Progress in clearing the backlogs varies, however. UK Visas and Immigration has cleared all straightforward cases in the areas of temporary and permanent migration but, as at March 2014, the Department had around 301,000 open cases. These comprise some 85,000 which are in hand and remain within the timescales for reaching a decision in the temporary and permanent migration area; and other specific backlogs, most notably over 25,000 claims for asylum.
According to the NAO, there is a risk that cases on hold are not dealt with in a reasonable time. These include asylum cases awaiting a decision and cases in the ‘migration refusal pool’, where the Department does not know whether those people who have been refused leave to remain have indeed left the country.
Poor IT means that the Department lacks the good quality information needed to run the business. The flagship Immigration Casework (ICW) programme was supposed to replace the legacy Casework Information Database and 20 other systems, but the ICW programme was closed in August 2013, having not delivered all the planned functions, the whole programme having cost £347 million. Caseworkers, therefore, still rely on a legacy system. Support contracts for vital legacy systems are due to expire in 2016, before the new Immigration Platform Technologies programme rolls out fully in 2017.
Staff across the directorates told the NAO of their concerns around data quality for cases. Some data is transferred manually from paper to IT systems, increasing the risk of errors.
Low morale and a fear of drawing attention to bad news were commonplace in the Agency and issues frequently surfaced only at crisis points. According to the NAO, senior managers in the new directorates are changing the culture inherited from the former Agency and, while still low, morale is improving.
Original article available here: https://www.nao.org.uk/report/reforming-uk-border-immigration-system-2/