Extinction Rebellion Protests Continue
London protests against climate change entered their third day yesterday. Environment activists continued to occupy four sites in the capital, blockading Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square and Oxford Circus. The protests have caused disruption on the city’s transport links, resulting in traffic delays and diversions around the blockades. Organised by campaign group Extinction Rebellion, the demonstrators hope to force the government to take action on climate change.
After the group threatened to disrupt London’s public transport yesterday, two protesters glued themselves to the roof of a train at Canary Wharf, bringing rail services at the station to a halt. At the request of the British Transport Police, Transport for London disabled the underground’s wi-fi network in a bid to limit the disruption. While London mayor Sadiq Khan has claimed to share the passion of those protesting, he expressed “extreme concern” about plans for disorder on the transport network, saying: “Targeting public transport in this way would only damage the cause.” Police have arrested approximately 400 people in connection with the protests since Monday. The demonstrations are expected to continue until next Friday.
PUPIL MENTAL HEALTH 'AT CRISIS POINT'
Over 80% of teachers in England have said pupil mental health has deteriorated in the past two years, according to a new survey of 8,600 school staff. Its findings show teachers are increasingly concerned about worsening mental health, anxiety and self-harm problems among pupils. Responding to the survey, some expressed a sense of powerlessness in combating the crisis, with one teacher claiming it was like watching “a slow-motion car crash for our young people”. Many teachers said there was a lack of support for dealing with the crisis: less than half claimed pupils had access to a school counsellor and only 30% reported access to a school nurse.
While over a third of surveyed teachers said they had received training in the past year to help support pupils with mental health problems, some complained it was inadequate. One teacher said: “Mental health first aid is a lip service. It does not make us mental health practitioners.” More than half of respondents said real-term funding cuts were hindering young people from accessing mental health support, with 51% blaming cuts to teaching assistants and 53% blaming the “exam factory” assessment system. The government has made addressing mental health problems among young people a priority, providing additional funding to extend services and train new support teams.
Chair of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) select committee Frank Field speaks out against the ongoing problems surrounding the underpayment of benefits. In February, the DWP admitted it had discovered an extra 30,000 cases where Employment Support Allowance had been underpaid – despite having published new guidance to resolve the problem.
Under the department’s latest estimates, the cost of compensating those underpaid between 2011 and 2014 now stands at £21m in 2018-19 and £19m in 2019-20. Field has warned the DWP it risks another a “serially botched operation” if it does not address problems surrounding the implementation of universal credit, which has left some families considerably worse off.
In other news...
PORN BLOCK ANNOUNCED FOR JULY
The government has announced the UK’s new porn block is to come into effect this summer. Starting 15th July, all commercial providers of online porn will need to carry out age-verification checks on site users. Under the new rules, all adult content will be blocked unless internet users prove they are aged 18 or older. Adults will be able to verify their age by buying a pass from a newsagent or entering their personal details into an online database. Any websites which fail to comply could face a UK ban or have their payment services withdrawn. The block has been drawn up by the government in an attempt to protect children from exposure to online pornographic content. While children’s charities have welcomed the new rules, digital rights campaigners have issued stark warnings over potential privacy risks, arguing: “Data leaks could be disastrous, and they will be the government’s own fault.”
INDONESIANS HEAD TO THE POLLS
The world’s third-largest democracy headed to the polls yesterday as the Indonesian elections got underway. Almost 193m people are registered to vote across the country’s 17,000 islands. Voting for the new Indonesian president and more than 20,000 parliamentary seats began at 7am local time on Wednesday – in what is considered one of the world’s most complex ballots. While the election’s official results are not expected until next month, a series of “quick counts” have suggested incumbent president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has taken the lead. However, this has not stopped his rival, ex-army general Prabowo Subianto, attempting to claim the victory – controversially declaring: “I will be and I already am the president of all Indonesians.”
MODERATE RED MEAT RAISES CANCER RISK
New research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology has found even moderate amountsof red and processed meats can increase a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer. At present, government guidelines recommend eating 70g or less of red or processed meats each day, due to known links to bowel cancer. However, the new research suggests that even those broadly in line with the guidelines – eating on average 76g of the meats each day – see their risk of developing bowel cancer rise 20% when compared to those eating roughly 21g a day. Discussing the findings, Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK said the government guidelines should be considered “general health advice”. Dr Sharp added: “This study is a reminder that the more you can cut down beyond this, the more you can lower your chances of developing bowel cancer.”
BRITS PUT IN LONGEST HOURS IN EU
A new study from the TUC has revealed British people work the longest hours in Europe. According to research by the unions group, full-time employees in the UK worked an average of 42 hours each week last year. By comparison, the typical EU worker works a 40-hour week – with those in Italy, Belgium and France working an average of 39 hours. Despite clocking in the longest working week, the UK has continued to lag behind in productivity ratings: in 2017, the UK’s output per worker per hour ranked just 14th in the EU. Discussing the findings, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said "Britain's long hours culture is nothing to be proud of. It's robbing workers of a decent home life. Overwork, stress and exhaustion have become the new normal.”
ALMOST ALL BRITS MAY RECEIVE MASTERCARD PAYOUT
A landmark ruling by the court of appeals could see almost every adult in the UK receive a payout from Mastercard. The court has ordered the Competition Appeal Tribunal to reconsider class action against Mastercard after it threw out the case two years ago. The case claims 46m UK consumers paid higher prices in shops for 16 years as a result of Mastercard’s excessive transaction charges between 1992 and 2008. The legal action has been brought by former financial ombudsman Walter Merricks, who believes the case could see billions of pounds returned to British consumers in compensation. In a statement, Mastercard said it “disagreed fundamentally with the basis of the claim” and pledged to fight the case all the way to the supreme court.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics have shown more women are now getting pregnant in their 30s than their 20s. In 2017, there were 395,856 pregnancies among women in their 20s and 398,284 among women aged 30 or older – with the number of older mothers surpassing that of younger mothers for the first time since records began. The rise in pregnancies among those aged over 30 has been put down to women spending more time in work and education before starting families, as well as the rising cost of having children.