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Applications open for government-funded security at places of worship

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Churches, mosques, gurdwaras and temples can apply today for the second round of funding under the Government’s Places of Worship Security Funding Scheme.

Places of worship have until 29th May to apply for funding, which can be used to pay for security measures such as CCTV, alarms, external lighting and perimeter fencing.

In order to qualify, places of worship must show evidence that they are vulnerable to a hate crime attack or have experienced one within the last two years.

The first round of support under the £2.4m scheme, which was announced by the Home Secretary as part of the Hate Crime Action Plan last July, was awarded in November. This saw 45 churches, 12 mosques, one Hindu temple and one gurdwara given a total of £405,000 to help pay for security measures.

Sarah Newton, Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, said: “Hate crime has a devastating impact on individuals and communities. It has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone, and this Government is determined to stamp it out forever.

“For people of all faiths, right across the UK, their place of worship is a refuge – and an attack on that place of safety can be deeply upsetting.

“This money will help prevent hateful attacks on our places of worship, and will make it easier to prosecute these despicable crimes when they do happen.”

This funding comes after the Home Office awarded over £300,000 under a separate programme worth nearly £1m to help nine community projects which are carrying out innovative schemes to help tackle specific types of hate crime.

Anybody interested in the Places of Worship Security Funding Scheme can find further information and apply online: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/places-of-worship-security-funding-scheme

 


The places of worship given funding

  •         A Mosque in North Lincolnshire, which has a history of attacks including criminal damage, hate mail, and hateful graffiti, was awarded £7,232.90 for CCTV, intruder alarms and door locks.
  •         A church in the West Midlands, which has experienced break-ins, vandalism and the defacement of religious texts, was awarded £10,012.80 for intruder alarms, CCTV and perimeter fencing.
  •         A Hindu temple in South West England, which has been subjected to hateful graffiti, was awarded £9,319.20 for CCTV, security lighting, and gated fencing.

 

32% increase in stalking offences prompts new government protection levels for victims

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Stranger stalking

  • Stalking Protection Orders to be introduced to help keep victims safe
  • One in five women and one in ten men will be victims of stalking in their lifetime
  • Breach of the new civil order will be a criminal offence carrying a jail sentence of up to five years
  • New £15 million fund to support victims of all forms of violence against women and girls

Stalking can affect anyone and shatters millions of lives, with as many as one in five women and one in ten men becoming victims during their lifetimes.

The Home Secretary Amber Rudd, announced her intention to introduce new Stalking Protection Orders on Wednesday 7th December, which will help protect victims at the earliest possible stage.

She announced plans for the new orders as part of a package of Government measures to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG), and is designed to intervene early to keep victims safe and stop ‘stranger stalking’ before it escalates.

Rudd said: “Stalking can have devastating consequences and I am determined that we do all we can to protect victims from these prolonged and terrifying campaigns of abuse that can last years, leaving many people too afraid to leave their homes and unable to get on with their lives.

“Four years ago this Government created specific stalking offences to ensure those responsible face justice. I want to go even further and offer protection at the first signs of stalking, stopping offenders in their tracks.”

The new orders will offer additional protection at an early stage for anyone who has not been intimate relationship with their stalker, helping those targeted by strangers, acquaintances or colleagues, as well as professionals such as doctors who may be targeted by patients.

They are being announced four years after the stalking offences came into effect in November 2012. There have already been over 2,000 prosecutions under the new offences, with 1,102 in 2015-16 alone. The new orders will provide additional protection against stalking before a perpetrator’s behaviour becomes entrenched and will help keep victims safe, including while evidence is collected prior to a prosecution.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Stalking and Harassment, Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said: “We want to stop stalkers in their tracks. In the last year, police have recorded 32 per cent more stalking offences and more perpetrators are now being prosecuted.

“The launch of stalking protection orders will help us intervene earlier and place controls on perpetrators to prevent their behaviour escalating while the crime is investigated.”

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Stalking protection orders form part of a package of Government action announced today (7 December) during the 16 days of action following the 25 November International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. The package includes measures to support all victims, boost early intervention and prevent offending.

A new £15 million fund will boost local provision of VAWG services to promote and embed the best local practice. A National Statement of Expectations has also been published, setting out requirements for local areas to ensure services put the victim at the centre and have a clear focus on perpetrators and early intervention.

The VAWG Service Transformation Fund will be open to Police and Crime Commissioners, local authorities and health commissioners to support community-based services and promote best practice. They will be encouraged to make joint bids for funding with women’s charities and VAWG service providers to encourage a joined-up approach with a focus on early intervention as well as crisis response.

Stalking statistics

  • One in five women and one in ten men will be affected by stalking in their lifetime.
  • According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales 4.6% of women and 2.7% of men aged 16-59 were victims in 2015/16 alone.
  • The National Stalking Helpline has responded to almost 14,000 calls since it was established in 2010, with over 3,550 so far in 2016.
  • In the year to June 2016, the police recorded 4,168 stalking offences, an increase of 32% since the previous year (3,166).
  • There have been over 2,000 prosecutions under the new stalking offences since they came into effect on 25 November 2012.
  • There was a record 12,986 CPS prosecutions for stalking and harassment in 2014-15, the highest volume ever recorded.

Government to invest £3.75 million in low-emission

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Transport Minister John Hayes has announced a £3.75 million scheme to encourage the uptake of low-emission motorcycles and scooters.

The grant will allow buyers of low-emission bikes to get discounts of up to 20 per cent of the bike’s retail price, up to a maximum discount of £1,500.

The scheme is part of a huge government investment in low-emission vehicles, which has also seen £30 million invested in charging infrastructure and £2 million awarded to organisations that use hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Hayes said: “No matter what mode of transport you need – a scooter to get to work, a car or a van to run your business – we are here to help you do it with zero emissions.

“The number of ultra-low emission vehicles on our roads are at record levels and new registrations have risen by 250% in just over two years. We are committing £35 million to help install new charge points and offer new grants as we aim for nearly all cars and vans on our roads to be zero-emission by 2050.”

Steve Kenward, CEO of the Motorcycle Industry Association, welcomed the investment, saying: “This opens the door to zero-emission transport to people who have not been able to afford electric cars, which tended to have been a ‘lifestyle choice’.

“Motorcycles and scooters are an extremely accessible form of electric transport and have the capacity to significantly reduce congestion, since they share all the advantages of riding a regular powered two-wheeler.”

Government cuts could lead to job losses and drop in standards

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DISAPPOINTED: Gurjit Singh, who owns and runs the Otley Pharmacy, says cuts could lead to a ‘reduction in service’ for customers

DISAPPOINTED: Gurjit Singh, who owns and runs the Otley Pharmacy, says cuts could lead to a ‘reduction in service’ for customers

Pharmacists ‘devastated’ at proposed cuts

With junior doctors preparing to stage their second walk out in as many months next week, a separate group of healthcare professionals are worrying for their futures as further government cuts threaten thousands of jobs.

Independent pharmacies across the UK could be hit by a six per cent funding cut as soon as October, equating to approximately £170million, according to the latest Department for Health figures.

Estimates suggest that between 1,000 and 3,000 pharmacies are at risk of closure if the cuts take place, leaving pharmacists, staff and their customers unsure about

Despite an online petition with over 40,000 signatures to date, discussions on the proposals will continue until March before the cuts are likely to be confirmed.

With pharmacies providing customers with much more than just a dispensary service, the ‘face of the NHS’ could soon be changing.

One local pharmacist and owner of Otley Pharmacy, Guljit Singh, says he worries for the future of his business when the cuts come in.

Serving hundreds of customers, the business is just one of thousands of independent pharmacies in the UK which is likely to be affected by the new budgets.

Explaining the impact on his business, he said: “I reckon it will ultimately mean a big hit to our profits which might mean reduced hours and possible pay cuts for staff.

“In turn, if I’m losing staff during the day, it could easily mean a reduction in service for customers.”

Gurjit has been running his pharmacy for the past three-and-a-half years.

He says he has quickly become a known face in the community and would be saddened to see business lost because of the cuts.

CONSULTATION: Mr Khan, of Khans Pharmacy in Leeds, wants more discussions about the cuts

CONSULTATION: Mr Khan, of Khans Pharmacy in Leeds, wants more discussions about the cuts

“It is a strange situation we are in,” he said. “The government say they want more people to use pharmacies so why are they cutting our funding?

“Sometimes you get the impression that the government would rather deal with just the bigger chains and that they are trying to push us out.

“We have the personal service here. We know a lot of our customers by name, we know their families, and are able to provide more tailored services as opposed to bigger chains where customers become just another number.”

The issues Gurjit raised were reiterated by Sandra Gidley from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

She said there were a ‘number of concerns’ which needed addressing before the government could implement such ‘life-changing’ cuts.

“We have spent a lot of time and energy encouraging people to come to pharmacies for health advice to cut pressure on A&E departments and GP services,” she said.

“Under the plans pharmacies could be forced to cut staff and have less capacity to give important health advice.

“The government must consider the capacity that the community pharmacy network provides to relieve pressures on GPs and A&E.”

Elsewhere, in Leeds, Khan Pharmacy is another independent pharmacy which is at threat of suffering financial losses should cuts come in.

CUTS: Over 11,600 independent pharmacies currently operate in the UK

CUTS: Over 11,600 independent pharmacies currently operate in the UK

Mr Khan, head pharmacist said: “We cannot afford to stop our services because so many people rely on us. We are being forced to just put up with it without any discussions.”

Consultations with the Department of Health and pharmacy and patient organisations are set to conclude on 24th March 2016.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are investing record amounts in the NHS, but the whole health and care sector must make efficiencies to fulfil the NHS's own five-year plan.

“We want to improve the way patients access their medicines, through click-and-collect as well as being able to see pharmacists in care homes, GP surgeries and A&E.

“There is no estimate of the number of pharmacies operating in coming years and with NHS England we are consulting on a scheme to give better support to isolated or rural pharmacies.”

 

Government’s anti-radicalisation strategy being branded “toxic”

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A former senior Muslim police officer has described the Government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent strategy as ‘a toxic brand’.

Dal Babu, who retired as a chief superintendent with the Metropolitan Police in 2013, said most Muslims are suspicious of the scheme and see it as something used for spying on them.

With an annual budget of £40 million, Prevent is one of four strands of Contest, the acronym given to the Government's multi-pronged counter-terrorism strategy.

But the programme, which is aimed at stopping people becoming terrorists, has come under the spotlight after hundreds of Britons are believed to have travelled to Syria to join Islamic State (IS), including three London schoolgirls who fled the UK last month.

Mr Babu, who was chairman of the Association of Muslim Officers within the Met, told the BBC: “Sadly, Prevent has become a toxic brand and most Muslims are suspicious of what Prevent is doing.

“This is unfortunate but a reality and the Government needs to develop a co-ordinated strategy to safeguard vulnerable children who are being groomed by IS.

“Many Muslims see Prevent as spying and those Muslim organisations who have taken Prevent funding have a considerable credibility gap within the Muslim community.”

Last year it was revealed that counter-terror officers had received 77 reports from families through the Prevent programme, some of which enabled police to catch aspiring terrorists.

But Mr Babu said there was a ‘lack of knowledge’ around race and faith issues which was ‘amplified considerably with  more junior officers who perform the role of implementing the Prevent strategy’.
Sir Peter Fahy, a vice president with the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), defended the Prevent programme and said parents must take responsibility for ensuring their children do not become radicalised.

“The prime responsibility for stopping young people from going to Syria, and thinking about that and being attracted by Isis, has to lie with parents,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“If there is one thing possibly we have made a mistake in Prevent, it is we have created the impression that somehow that is the job of the police.”

Sir Peter said it was difficult to measure the success of a programme aimed at preventing terrorism but ‘the success rate here is that no bombs have gone off’.

He added that many Muslim leaders recognised they had not given a ‘clear enough message’ that extremism and travel to Syria is ‘wrong’.

“They've realised they’ve given space for too many extremists to speak up for the Muslim community rather than others,” Sir Peter said.

“They absolutely realise it’s their responsibility to encourage and prevent young people from going to Syria.’

A Home Office spokesman said: “As a country, we must consistently challenge the twisted narrative of extremism.

“This Government fundamentally revised the Prevent strategy in 2011 to ensure it challenges terrorist ideology, supports people who are vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism and works with sectors and institutions where there are risks of radicalisation.

“Most importantly, we changed Prevent’s objectives so it also deals with non-violent extremism.”
He added that the Home Office was drawing up a new strategy which deals with ‘the whole spectrum of extremism’.

Plain packaging for cigarettes?

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The government is set to press ahead with a review of cigarette packaging, forcing tobacco firms to sell them in plain packaging in an effort to deter youngsters from smoking.

The Prime Minister David Cameron in July delayed plans to ban company branding on cigarette packets, a move that was strongly criticised by health campaigners. At the time he said that he wanted to first see the impact of a similar decision in Australia.

U-TURN: Prime Minister David Cameron announces new independent review of cigarette packaging amid calls for action to discourage young smokers

U-TURN: Prime Minister David Cameron announces new independent review of cigarette packaging amid calls for action to discourage young smokers

Branded packaging has been accused of encouraging children to smoke and moves are afoot in Europe to crack down on tobacco marketing.

Now, it is expected that Mr Cameron will announce the idea in the next few days.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in July that plain packaging would increase the impact of health warnings, stop consumers from thinking some products were less harmful, and make tobacco products less attractive for adults and children.

Shadow public health minister Luciana Berger said the Government should simply bring in a law now: “We need immediate legislation for standard cigarette packaging, not another review. The Government needs to stand up to the tobacco industry’s vested interests,” she said.

“The evidence to support standardised packaging is clear. The consensus is overwhelming. We don’t need any further delay while 570 children are lighting up for the first time every day.”

A study in Australia of 500 smokers showed that they found cigarettes in plain packs less appealing, and had become 80 per cent more likely to think about quitting at least once a day since the packs, which are a drab olive green and carry large health warnings, were brought in.

Australian health minister Tanya Pilbersek said in July that smokers also seemed to enjoy cigarettes less.

“While tobacco companies haven't changed the formula of their products,” she said. “We've had feedback from smokers saying their cigarettes taste worse since the government's required packaging to be plain.”

Six million people die every year from smoking and the toll is projected to rise to eight million by 2030, according to the WHO.

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