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Cost of living payment: Households to start receiving second grant ahead of winter | UK News

Low-income households are set to receive a second £300 cost of living payment from today.

The payment will be made to people who get certain benefits, including universal credit, and will be paid directly into their bank accounts.

More than 8 million households across the UK will receive the second cost of living support payment after the first in the spring.

It is due to arrive in bank acounts between 31 October and 19 November.

If you are eligible, the payment will be sent out automatically and the same way you receive your existing benefits – so you do not need to apply or do anything to receive it.

The payments are tax-free, do not contribute towards the benefit cap, and do not impact on existing benefits.

A further payment is due to be made next spring, bringing the total to £900.

As the payments were rolled out, Rishi Sunak said: “I know that winter can be a particularly challenging period for many families across the country.

“That’s why we have put in place a package of immediate support for vulnerable households over the coming months.”

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Sunak and Starmer clash over cost of living

Who is eligible?

Those who are entitled to receive the payment are those on:

• Universal credit
• Pension credit
• Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
• Income-related employment and support allowance
• Income support
• Working tax credit
• Child tax credit

Most people will be paid through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) but those eligible solely through tax credits will be paid by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) instead.

HMRC will publish specific details of when payments will be made to these people.

The once wonder material reinforced aerated autoclaved concrete will cause chaotic start to academic year | Science & Tech News

During the post-war building boom of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, reinforced aerated autoclaved concrete (RAAC) was something of a wonder material.

Filled with bubbles of air, the material is about a quarter of the weight of normal reinforced concrete.

RAAC was seen as ideal for shaping into lighter, pre-formed concrete components used in the modern lego-like construction of many public buildings of the time.

Given its light weight, planks of RAAC were widely used to make the flat roofs – a key reason why the current situation is so dangerous.

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School buildings forced to close

In the 1990s, when the material was still being used, structural engineers discovered that the strength of RAAC wasn’t standing the test of time.

The porous, sponge-like concrete – especially when used on roofs – could easily absorb moisture, weakening the material and also corroding steel reinforcement within.

As it weakened, it sagged, leading to water pooling on roofs, exacerbating the problem.

RAAC made in the 1950s was at risk of failure by the 1980s, the report concluded.

About 30 years ago, it became known that the lifespan of RAAC in many of public buildings, including hospitals and schools was no greater than 30 years.

Yet it seems, not much happened.

Read more:
School buildings forced to close over concrete safety fears
School building collapse that causes death or injury ‘very likely’

A cross-section of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete
Image:
A cross-section of RAAC

Until 2018 when the roof of a primary school in Gravesend, Kent suddenly collapsed. Thankfully, it happened on a weekend and no one was injured.

The investigation into the collapse revealed the RAAC planks used in the roof had weakened with age. But also steel reinforcement inside it didn’t extend all the way to the ends where it was supported by the walls.

Not only was there a problem with the material, there were problems with construction too.

In government, work began to find out which schools (and separately, hospitals) were at structural risk due to RAAC.

Thankfully, the 104 schools we now know are at the greatest risk is only a small fraction of the 22,000 state-owned nurseries, primaries, secondaries and colleges in England.

It’s going to be a chaotic start to the academic year for teachers and pupils in those schools.

And it’s no surprise that many are wondering about chaos in the Department for Education.

This is a problem for which urgent action has been long overdue, yet the decision to take it has come at possibly the most disruptive time possible.

Labour would keep housing asylum seekers on barges – as Bibby Stockholm scheme to start ‘in coming days’ | Politics News

The Labour Party has said it would have “no choice” but to continue housing asylum seekers on barges and ex-military bases if it forms the next government.

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said Labour would “inherit a mess” from the Conservatives and that it would have to “deal with the infrastructure that we have”.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Kinnock said Labour would try to move asylum seekers out of hotels, barges and military camps as “quickly as possible”.

But he added: “The reality is, on day one of a Labour government, we have to deal with the infrastructure that we have in the complete, chaotic, shambolic mess that the Conservative government will have left us.”

Pressed on whether that meant Labour would still use barges, he said: “We will be left with no choice but to deal with the mess that we inherit.”

Mr Kinnock’s admission comes as the two parties trade blows over the small boat crisis in the Channel and as asylum seekers prepare to arrive on the controversial Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset “in the coming days”.

Sky News reported earlier this week that the first people were due to arrive on the vessel on Monday – from an original date of last week – following a series of delays around fire safety and working practices.

But asked about their impending arrival, immigration minister Robert Jenrick declined to give a date and said it would happen “in the coming days”.

The minister told Sky News the Home Office did not “routinely” provide dates for arrivals, citing “security reasons” – despite the previous briefings.

“We do care about the security of the individuals concerned and our staff and so we don’t routinely give out those dates, but it will be soon,” he said.

“We expect it to be in the coming days.”

Asked if the barge was safe to be used, Mr Jenrick replied: “I can absolutely assure you that this is a safe facility.

“And remember, this is something that’s been used before by other governments, by oil and gas workers. If it’s good enough for them, I’m pretty sure it’s good enough for the migrants.”

Mr Kinnock said he was “personally deeply unhappy” at the prospect of continuing to use the Bibby Stockholm, adding it was “the last thing that we would want to be doing”.

“The hotels are costing the British taxpayer £6m a day – that is money that could be channelled into far more useful causes in terms of our schools, our hospitals, helping to grow our economy.”

His rhetoric about the use of temporary accommodation for asylum seekers marks a change in tone from what Labour has previously said about the issue.

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has previously indicated she would not be able to immediately shut down the sites but was not explicit about what Labour would do if in power.

This weekend has seen a war of words escalate between the two parties over the small boats crisis.

Home Secretary Suella Braveman has accused Sir Keir Starmer in the Sunday Express of trying to “sabotage” the government’s plans with its links to charities and lawyers who oppose the scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda – a policy that is currently held up in the courts.

She said the Labour leader was “secretly delighted at his web of cronies’ schemes to block our plans to stop the boats”.

“He’s in this for political point scoring and doesn’t care about what’s good for the country or the British people,” she said.

Meanwhile, Labour has accused the government of “cooking the books” on the asylum backlog by “artificially removing” people from it to give the illusion of progress.

The party claims that there are around 6,000 missing asylum applications.

“If somebody misses one appointment, they’re immediately classified as withdrawn,” Mr Kinnock said. “It doesn’t mean that they’ve been processed either.

Read more:
Solicitors firms shut down after investigation into fake asylum claims
Social media giants to crack down on posts encouraging migrants to make journey

“It just puts people into limbo and effectively then people are just slipping into the underground economy. The government’s got no idea where they are and what they’re doing, and that is the opposite of the right way to run our asylum system.”

Mr Jenrick said the Home Office was in fact taking a “robust approach” to the backlog and that asylum was a “privilege”.

“If you abuse it, you should be treated appropriately,” he continued.

” If somebody doesn’t turn up to an interview or isn’t compliant with the conditions of their asylum bail, then we withdraw their case and we pass the file to immigration enforcement, who will then prepare to remove that individual.

“We don’t give people lots of second and third chances in that respect.

“I think what Labour, as far as I can tell, are suggesting is that we should keep offering people asylum over and over again, even if they don’t turn up to interviews -that’s wrong.

“If somebody doesn’t turn up, if they’re not compliant, then they should be from the country and their asylum claim withdrawn.”

Hospitals brace for large-scale disruption as nurses prepare to start 28-hour walkout | UK News

NHS services across England are bracing for more disruption, as nurses get ready to stage a 28-hour walkout over pay.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will begin their latest strike action at 8pm today, and will end it at 11.59pm on Monday evening, after voting to reject the government’s latest pay offer.

The union had earlier refused to agree to derogations (a level of essential care during industrial action), but later said it would grant some exemptions.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has called the latest walkout “disappointing” and accused the RCN of risking patient safety.

He said: “It is hugely disappointing some unions are escalating strike action this week – including the RCN, despite only a third of its members rejecting the government’s fair and reasonable offer on pay, which other unions accepted.

“The RCN’s decision not to provide any national exemptions from strike action including for emergency and cancer care, also risks patient safety, though I welcome the fact a number of local mitigations have been agreed for critical services.

“These strikes will put more pressure on the NHS and will be incredibly disruptive for patients.

“People should attend appointments unless told otherwise by the NHS, continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency and use NHS 111 online services for non-urgent health needs.”

General secretary of the RCN Pat Cullen said: “After a three-month pause, strike action by nursing staff regrettably recommences tonight.

“The government wants to bring NHS strike action to a close this coming week, but with several big unions – and nursing as the largest part of the NHS workforce – still in dispute, it has to do better.

“Only negotiations can resolve this, and I urge ministers to reopen formal discussions with the college over pay specifically. Nursing staff are looking for a fair settlement that shows the government values and understands their profession.

“We appear a long way from that currently, but I remind ministers it is entirely in their gift.”

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Exceptionally low staff numbers

Read more:
More teacher strikes loom
GMB votes to accept NHS pay offer after Unite rejection
Hundreds of Heathrow staff to strike in May

Original strike plan deemed unlawful

Nurses are set to strike this weekend after a High Court judge ruled on Thursday it would be unlawful for the industrial action to continue into Tuesday as originally planned.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay secured the court’s interim declaration after bringing legal action against part of the trade union’s proposed walkout.

It was deemed unlawful due to the initial mandate to strike, which lasts six months, expiring, meaning any action after 2 May could not go ahead.

NHS England warned that staffing levels for some areas of the country will be “exceptionally low, lower than on previous strike days”.

It is urging the public to use the health service wisely as hospitals prepare to cope with the bank holiday weekend, and said emergency and urgent care would remain the priority.

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NHS executive: ‘Strikes are disruptive’

Unions encouraged to accept pay offer

The latest action comes as health unions are split over whether to accept a 5% pay offer from the government.

The NHS Staff Council – made up of health unions, employers and government representatives – is meeting on Tuesday to discuss the offer.

However, the offer from the government has been described as “final”.

Unison and the GMB have both accepted pay offers from the government, with the RCN and Unite having refused.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen will be on Sophy Ridge On Sunday from 8.30am.

Samaritans helpline: 10,000 calls a day, but all of them start the same | UK News

Each call is unique and deeply personal, but they always start the same.

“Samaritans, can I help you?”

Thirty years ago, Pam Rutter saw an advert in her local paper asking for Samaritans volunteers.

“I thought I might make a good listener, so I decided to apply,” she told Sky News.

Cost of living calendar – reveal a different story every day

More than three decades later, she is still there, at the other end of the phone – and the Christmas season is no different.

“With the lights, the music, the decorations, the food, parties, it feels as if the world telling us that we ought to be joyful and generous and happy at Christmas,” said the Birmingham branch volunteer – who also works as regional director of the West Midlands.

“The whole world seems to paint a picture of that sort of Christmas.

“And that adds extra pressure if there are tensions within relationships, tensions within families – that is exacerbated by the fact that Christmas quite often means that more people are gathered in a small space all of the time and that causes its own tensions.

“Then the opposite end of the spectrum are people seeing this apparent jollity going on and knowing they are going to be alone.”

‘Discernable’ increase in calls

This year, she said there has been a “discernable but small” increase in the number of calls the team are getting.

“We really see all of human life, all of life’s experiences, and so the list of things that people talk to us about is enormous,” she said.

“And it’s usually headed up by relationships, family, mental illness, physical illness, loneliness, all the sorts of things really that people might be struggling with.”

With the cost of living crisis piling on the pressure, more people are turning to the volunteers with concerns about money.

“It’s really important to talk, rather than bottling it up, because talking can often be therapeutic,” said Pam.

“The mere fact that you’ve actually got the chance to say what is on your mind without interruption.”

‘We don’t know what happens next – and we have to live with that’

Even when the caller feels suicidal, Pam never knows what happens after they finish talking.

“I don’t know what the outcome of that call is. And we have to live with that – whatever the situation is, whether it’s somebody feeling suicidal, or something else.

“They go off and say goodbye at the end of the call, and we don’t know what happens next.

“And that is part of the reality of being a Samaritan – just being there in the moment, for the caller when they need to talk.”

But that’s what they are trained to do: “We are trained to just listen, even in their darkest hour when they are feeling really desperate.”

A man with a telephone

The organisation started almost 70 years ago as a dedicated place to help people contemplating suicide.

In the words of its founder, a vicar called Chad Varah, Samaritans was just “a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone”.

Today it has around 22,000 volunteers working at more than 200 branches across the UK and Ireland.

Every 10 seconds, Samaritans respond to a call for help.

And this Christmas, even amidst all the festivities, they’ll still be there.

Where to go for help over Christmas

If you are struggling this Christmas, whether it be with finances or your mental health, here are some places you can turn to for help.

Finances:

Turn2us

Turn2us is a national charity which tackles financial insecurity. It offers services to calculate what benefits you may be entitled to and runs a helpline to give support and information to people who don’t have access to the internet or find it hard to go online.

Their helpline: 0808 802 2000

StepChange

StepChange provides free, expert debt advice either online or via the phone. You can speak to them about your debts, and they will take a look at your financial situation and advise you on what you can do next.

Their debt advice helpline: 0800 138 1111.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice assists people with legal, debt, consumer, housing and other problems. It provides information on what help you may be able to get from the government or your local council to afford essentials like food and bills.

You can either go to a local Citizens Advice office or talk to advisers online, Monday to Friday.

The national phone service is open 9-5pm Monday to Friday: 0800 144 8848.

Relay UK – if you can’t hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say: 18001 then 0800 144 8884.

Mental health

If you think it’s an emergency, or you would like to speak to someone on the phone:

Samaritans

You can call the Samaritans helpline: 116 123.

Monday to Sunday at any time, calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

The Listening Place

The Listening Place offers face-to-face support in London for those who feel like life is no longer worth living. Unfortunately, it does not offer online support.

To book an appointment, call: 02039067676.

Peter Kay in tears as he gets standing ovation at start of comeback gig in Manchester | Ents & Arts News

Peter Kay was in tears after walking on to a standing ovation on the first night of his comeback tour on Friday night.

The comedian received a rapturous reception as he opened his gig at the Manchester AO Arena – the curtain-raiser for his first live tour for 12 years.

He appeared overwhelmed as the audience of thousands clapped, cheered and chanted his name for several minutes.

Kay leant against a stool before dabbing his eyes and standing up.

“Oh Jesus look at me, I mean what’s that all about… how am I supposed to do bloody comedy now?” he asked the crowd.

“I can’t believe I cried, where did it come from, all that emotion?” he reportedly added.

Kay, 49, looked noticeably slimmer as he returned to live duties after four years out of the spotlight.

His cancelled his last tour in December 2017 due to “unforeseen family circumstances” – a hiatus that had raised speculation about his health, but which remains unexplained.

The Bolton-born star looks set to make up for lost time and break his own record for the biggest-selling comedy tour, after recently revealing his comeback during an ad break for I’m A Celebrity…

He now has more than 100 arena dates scheduled around the country stretching into summer 2025, including a monthly residency of London’s O2 Arena.

The first reviews of the new show were positive, with the Manchester Evening News giving it five stars and calling it a “triumphant return” with “plenty of dazzling surprises” and a memorable finale.

“This show really did have it all,” wrote the reviewer.

“For the die-hards there was the knowing laughs to famous quips from years gone by. For those who have never seen him live before there were his hilarious musings on modern life.”

Fans also praised the show on social media, with Paul Greenhalgh tweeting: “Peter Kay tonight, was actually nervous for him thinking he might not be as good as he used to be.

“Ten mins in I can’t see or hear for laughing, man’s a genius.”

Shred posted: “Feel privileged to have seen @peterkay_co_uk tonight. What a comeback from the greatest comedian of all time. Legend.”