Justice: Closing Down Sale – Everyone must go!

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The campaign against proposed Legal Aid cuts and reforms continues.

Solicitors, Barristers, Chartered Legal Executives and everyone involved in the field of criminal law are invited to a meeting to discuss the MoJ’s latest consultation “Transforming Legal Aid: Next Steps”.

October 1st 2013 at 18:15 Camden Centre (opposite St Pancras Station).

Panel Speakers Include:- 
Des Hudson – The Law Society
Greg Powell – LCCSA
Bill Waddington – CLSA
Nigel Lithman QC – CBA
Carol Storer OBE – LAPG

Get your tickets at the LCCSA website.

Ed: Changing perceptions, shifting narrative

ImageI was in the hall to hear Ed and he done good.

The audience came out buzzing, fired up even. In some ways that is beside the point, because it will not be excited hardcore Labourists that will win the election, although that is a good start, it will be voter perception and media narrative.

In the weeks running up to conference people on the doorstep said to me ‘I like Ed but I don’t know what he stands for.’ Not any more. No one can ignore the welcome pledge to repeal the Tories’ cruel bedroom tax. The energy price freeze and extended childcare commitments will be popular with people struggling with the cost of living. No longer can people say they do not know where the Labour party is coming from. Perception is changing.

And right-leaning newspapers are in a bind. Nick Cohen sums it up:

“That wrenching sound you can hear is the noise of the Tory columnists slamming their gears into reverse.”

Where once newspapers preferred to portray Ed as ineffectual and ignorable, now they suggest he is someone dangerous and to be feared. They can’t have it both ways. The narrative has shifted.

Ed done good.

 

Free School Meals in Primary Schools – The Case for Universality

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Southwark council has recently joined Islington and Newham in rolling out universal free dinners in its primary schools.

There is good evidence that free school meals in primary schools have benefits for children and schools. An evaluation of pilot schemes by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and National Centre for Social Research found the introduction of free school meals led to significant improvements in the attainment of children from low-income backgrounds.

In addition only 1% of packed lunches meet basic dietary needs, according to a 2010 Leeds University study. Free school meals also help families on low incomes. Other research suggests better fed children are better behaved and have better concentration levels.

Islington councillor Richard Watts, who is leading a campaign calling for wider universal free school, says many families are finding the costs of school dinners difficult.

….research from the Children’s Society published earlier this year found that more than 60% of children living in poverty were either ineligible or failing to claim free school meals. “We are increasingly hearing of families on the breadline, who are not officially in poverty, but are struggling to cope,” says Watts.

Alex Smith says that universal free meals would have social as well as health and educational benefits.

The narrow eligibility of the current free school meals provision means that many children, including one million who currently live in poverty, do not currently qualify for the meals. Those million children fall marginally below the threshold for receiving the benefit. Extending that threshold to include those children clearly makes sense. But it also makes sense to do more. Because there is currently, with the means tested free school meals provision, a problem around claiming the benefit that means that even many families who are eligible do not claim them, for fear of being stigmatised. While the children themselves may not, in the early years at least, feel that they are being treated differently from the rest, the evidence shows that one in four children who are currently eligible for the benefit do not claim it.

It seems to me that there are lots of good arguments for free school meals for primary school children. It’s a worthwhile and important campaign.

How Government Slipped More Council Cuts under the Radar

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Government have not just moved the goalposts, they have moved the stadium.  

 

Theo Blackwell sets out how the government is reducing local council budgets even more than they previously said.

Once again government are front loading their cuts, and targeting more deprived areas….