Ukrainians who sought sanctuary in the UK after Russia’s invasion will be granted an 18-month visa under a new extension scheme.
The first visas which granted people three years’ leave in the UK under programmes such as Homes for Ukraine, the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Ukraine Extension Scheme are set to expire in March 2025.
But the Home Office has said individuals under one of the visa schemes will now be able to apply to stay until September 2026 and have the same rights to access work, benefits, healthcare, and education.
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“This new visa extension scheme provides certainty and reassurance for Ukrainians in the UK on their future as this war continues, and we will continue to provide a safe haven for those fleeing the conflict,” Tom Pursglove, border minister, said.
“Families across the country have opened their homes and their hearts to the people of Ukraine, showing extraordinary generosity, including offering shelter to those fleeing from the horrors of war.”
More than 283,000 Ukrainians have been offered or extended sanctuary since the beginning of the invasion on 24 February 2022.
Within months of the beginning of the conflict, many British people offered to open up their homes to refugees who were fleeing the conflict.
For those that successfully registered to become a sponsor and were matched with a Ukrainian guest or family, they receive £350 a month for the first year their guests are in the UK and £500 for the second year.
Housing and Communities minister Felicity Buchan said she wanted to pay tribute to those sponsors across the country who have shown “extraordinary generosity”, but added more will need to come forward.
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“The government continues to provide them with ‘thank-you’ payments in recognition of their support,” she said.
“As more families arrive, we will need more sponsors to come forward. I encourage anyone interested in hosting to check their eligibility and apply as soon as they can.”
The UK also has an £11.8bn package of military, humanitarian and economic support for Ukraine in place.
Those who are in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine, the Ukraine Family Scheme, the Ukraine Extension Scheme and Leave Outside the Rules will be eligible to apply for the extension within the last three months of an existing visa.
The threat of fraud and cyber scams is a 365-days-a-year problem when it comes to online shopping.
But just as the rate at which retailers hit you with promo emails scales up at this time of year, so too does the risk of falling foul of criminals trying to access your bank account.
According to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), shoppers lost more than £10m to cyber criminals over last year’s festive shopping period.
With Black Friday sales under way and Christmas on the horizon, Sky News enlisted some cybersecurity experts to offer advice on how best to stay safe and avoid scams this year.
Spotting a dodgy email
A favourite tactic of fraudsters is to draw you in with an email that looks remarkably legitimate, seemingly offering an exclusive deal at one of your favoured retailers.
It is, as Mike McLellan of Secureworks puts it, a “classic scenario we’d expect to see around Black Friday”.
An important thing to look out for is the domain name of the sender’s email address – is it a close match, but with something slightly off? Think @amaz0n.co.uk, for example.
“On smartphones, that kind of detail is usually hidden,” advises Mr McLellan. “So tap on it and check where the email has come from.”
You should also keep an eye out for misspellings and odd formatting.
However, the NCSC has warned that criminals are likely to use increasingly accessible AI tools to produce even more convincing scam emails, websites, and adverts than usual.
If you’re at all unsure, it’s good practice to go to the website directly, rather than click on any links in the email.
Some scams may direct you to a retailer’s login page to enter your account information.
It could look perfectly normal, and you go ahead and pop in your username and password, while in the background, criminals capture that information and use it themselves.
Chris Bluvshtein, of VPNOverview, says: “Every website should have a valid security certificate, and you can tell by the little padlock icon next to the URL.
“If a website doesn’t have one of these, then don’t give your bank details or valuable information.”
These can be some of the hardest scams to notice yourself, but banks have become very good at alerting you to “unusual logins” and flagging any subsequent dodgy transactions.
“If you suspect something bad has happened, consider changing your password,” Mr McLellan says. “And checking your bank activity.”
Text message scams
Another classic of the Black Friday scam genre is a text message suggesting you have a parcel waiting with DHL, Royal Mail, or some other delivery provider.
“Quite often you will be expecting something when you get these texts – but again keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t look normal,” says Mr McLellan.
A good indicator that something is amiss is if the text asks you for payment and includes a bit.ly link.
You should not click on these.
The rise of ‘Qishing’
An emerging threat over the past year is an extension of phishing using QR codes.
Secureworks has dubbed it “Qishing”, when criminals use them to direct unsuspecting consumers to fraudulent websites that could steal their personal information.
Director of threat intelligence, Rafe Pilling, says: “We’re so used to seeing ‘scan this code’ to register, view a menu, order drinks or food to a table, or even enter competitions via the big screen at events stadiums, that consumers are thinking less about what they’re actually scanning.
“As the hype around holidays like Black Friday drives more urgency in consumer actions, we can expect to see more cyber criminals taking advantage with Qishing.”
Password managers and mobile payments
Modern smartphones and web browsers offer some useful baked-in features to help you stay safe.
Both have password managers and generators, which will come up with randomised options for you to lock your accounts and then store those behind a master password – or even biometrics like facial or fingerprint recognition.
Consider multifactor authentication as well, says Mr McLellan, for an extra layer of security.
Apple and Google Pay are good payment options if the retailer accepts them, as they protect your bank details.
“It’s best to use them instead of your debit card,” says Mr Bluvshtein.
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Avoid shopping on public networks
Black Friday promotions will often try to entice you with limited time deals, alerting you to them via an app notification, text message or email.
If one arrives while you’re out and about, it could be tempting to jump straight to it.
But shopping on public wi-fi networks, like those you might find at railway stations and on trains, is a bad idea, according to Mr Bluvshtein.
“Public wi-fi rarely has safety protocols such as passwords in place, and hackers can piggyback and steal unsecured banking details and sensitive information without you knowing,” he says.
What to do if you suspect you’ve been scammed
Even with the best will in the world, there may come a moment where you suspect the worst.
But try not to fret – there are steps you can take to limit the damage, or prevent any from occurring at all.
“Keep an eye on bank accounts and if you see anything unusual, get in touch with them,” says Mr McLellan.
“Banks have got very robust fraud controls these days – and that’s why it’s best to use credit cards if possible.
“If you think any of your online accounts have been compromised, change the password, and try not to reuse them across different retailers.
“We do recognise that some of these have a technical bar to them, but if nothing else, at least keep an eye on what’s happening and be vigilant about your online activity.”
Work has started as part of a “complex and difficult” operation to remove the Sycamore Gap tree from Hadrian’s Wall after it was felled in an act of vandalism.
The National Trust said workers were using chainsaws to remove branches ahead of the removal of the historic attraction, which is expected to take place on Thursday.
A crane will be used to lift the 50ft tree off the delicate Roman wall, before it is taken away from the area and put into safe storage at a trust site.
People are being urged to stay away from the area while the operation is taking place.
Andrew Poad, the site’s general manager for the National Trust, said it needed to be moved now to make the site safe for visitors and to preserve Hadrian’s Wall. Historic England previously said it had sustained damage when the tree fell on it.
“We’ve explored every option for moving the tree and while it isn’t possible to lift it in one go, as the tree is multi-stemmed with a large crown, we have aimed to keep the trunk in as large sections as possible, to give us flexibility on what the tree becomes in future,” he said.
“We’re encouraging people to stay away from the site while these complex and difficult operations take place.”
The stump, which could generate new shoots, will be kept in place and is currently behind a protective barrier.
Seeds have been collected – which the National Trust said could be used to grow new saplings.
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The much-photographed and painted lone sycamore, one of the most famous trees in the world and an emblem for the North East of England, was based in a dip in the Northumberland landscape.
There will be public consultation about what happens next at the site, which has UNESCO designation and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Northumbria Police arrested a boy aged 16 and a man in his 60s after the tree was felled a fortnight ago. They have been released on bail pending further inquiries.
“It’s not who you are but who you know” is a saying often used to explain why those with family connections to successful people seem to have a head start doing well in the next generation.
In the US this phenomenon has led Gen Z to coin a new tag “nepo babies” as they list those in showbusiness deemed to have been given a big helping hand by family connections.
Regardless of the talent they have displayed in their own work, the inference is that they got there in part because of nepotism – those in positions of power and influence favouring their relatives, literally from the Greek Nepos, nephew.
It will always be noted that the actor Kate Hudson and film director Sophia Coppola, say, are the children, respectively, of the actor Goldie Hawn and the film director Francis Ford Coppola.
With emotions ranging from contempt and jealousy to admiration and awe, social media has extended the list of nepo babies to sport and politics.
“In tennis the ‘nepo babies’ are everywhere” was the headline of an article in the New York Timesthis week. Nobody can deny that numerous members of the Roosevelts, Kennedys and Bush clans have made it to high office.
The phenomenon or, as many see it, the problem of nepotism extends to British politics.
Since 2010 the House of Commons library has been keeping a list of MPs related to other current or former members.
In the current parliament, elected in 2019, 49 MPs are listed. That amounts to one MP in 13, 7.5% of the total membership of 650.
It does not count those who may have close relatives in the House of Lords, or first cousins in either house.
Of those currently in the Commons related by blood to MPs past and present there are 17 grandchildren, great-grandchildren nephews, nieces, great-nephews and great-nieces; 13 sons; 4 daughters; 3 sisters; 2 brothers; and one uncle. Currently there are also seven wives and five husbands, though that is a matter of choice rather than genetics.
Some of these have multiple connections. The inclination to dynasticism is not confined to any party. The former Labour cabinet minister Hilary Benn has five links, including to his father Tony Benn, the staunch Republican, a grandfather, two great-grandfathers and a brother who has revived the family title, Viscount Stansgate, in the House of Lords.
Intricate nexus of family connections
The best-connected Conservative is the MP for the Cotswolds Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown who has forebears in the Commons sharing the same surname going back four generations.
The most intricate nexus of family connections centres on John Cryer, currently chair of the parliamentary Labour Party. He is the son of two Labour MPs – Bob and Ann Cryer – married to another one, Ellie Reeves, who in turn is the sister of the shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves.
Three Conservative ministers – Victoria Prentis, Victoria Atkins and Andrew Mitchell – are the children of former Tory Ministers. “Red Princes” on the Labour side include frontbencher Stephen Kinnock, son of former leader Neil and Mr Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, son of Doug, now Lord, Hoyle.
The Father of the House, the longest serving MP, Sir Peter Bottomley is married to a former Tory MP, Virginia, and the uncle of a Labour one, Kitty Ussher. Sir Patrick Jenkin, the chair of the Liaison Committee, is the son of Patrick, a former cabinet minister now in the Lords, and married to another peer, Anne, who has had a leading role in selecting Conservative parliamentary candidates.
The political connections game is not limited to Labour and the Conservatives. Great Liberal families include the Asquiths, Bonham-Carters and Grimonds, some of whom are still active in the Lords.
For the DUP Ian Paisley Junior bears the name of his father, a former MP, MLA, MEP and husband of a peer. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is married to Peter Murrell CEO of the SNP.
Social media has exposed people’s backgrounds and made it increasingly likely that they will be pigeon-holed for them.
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‘Magic circles’ of influence
Those who feel excluded from “magic circles” of influence are often resentful, especially when there is rivalry between circles – sometimes to comic effect.
The broadcaster Amol Rajan complained publicly about too many presenters at the BBC speaking with received-pronunciation accents, often picked up at private schools.
His Todayprogramme colleague Justin Webb, who went to private school, countered that he thought there were too many people at the BBC with Oxbridge backgrounds. Rajan is a Cambridge graduate, Webb went to the LSE.
Charges of nepotism are taken more seriously than such narcissism of small differences. Ian Wooldridge, the author of The Aristocracy Of Talent: How Meritocracy Made The Modern World,argues that “the march of progress can be measured by the abolition of nepotism”.
Few would challenge his contention that “it can’t be good for democracy if representative positions are hogged by people who belong to a narrow, privileged caste”.
Yet anyone who becomes an MP must pass successfully thorough democratic selection processes.
First by getting on a party candidates list, then by being selected, and finally by winning an election. The factionalism of politics can mean that it is not always an asset to have well-known antecedents.
For a high-profile position such as an MP, which is heavily dependent on personality, it would be almost impossible to go “CV blind” – unless unnamed candidates were interviewed unseen behind a screen like on the old TV show Blind Dateand at some orchestral auditions.
In many walks of life families want to pass a particular occupation or business down the generations. Children may get to know the ropes early. Speaker Hoyle says he first attended a Labour Conference as a babe in arms.
Long successions of nepo babies
In history the hereditary principle has frequently been the basis of social and political organisation. Monarchies, including the British Crown, are long successions of nepo babies, as are the aristocracies which often grow up under their patronage. Even the king-killer Oliver Cromwell made his son his heir as Lord Protector.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries British prime ministers came more often than not from the hereditary House of Lords rather than the elected Commons. Many prominent families also had control in constituencies effectively appointing family members as MPs.
Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the third Marquess of Salisbury, was the last prime minister to govern from the Lords, finally ending his third term in 1902. The keen meritocrat Ian Woolridge points out that the phrase “Bob’s your uncle” dates from Salisbury’s efforts ensuring that his nephew, Arthur Balfour MP was the next PM.
The Cecil family have rendered political services and held high offices at least since Queen Elizabeth I. The current Lord Salisbury, also named Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, was an MP and then a minister in John Major’s government.
He subsequently brokered the deal with New Labour, which kept seats in the House of Lords for a rump of hereditary peers, while drastically reducing their number. Viscount Cranbourn, the courtesy title by which he was then known, recused himself from standing to be one of the peers remaining in parliament.
It has not been, and nor will be, so easy to remove Westminster’s other nepo babies from their positions of power and influence, assuming that is what Meritocrats would like to do.
Gareth Southgate finds himself in a position of strength within the FA, despite falling far short of the target of winning the World Cup.
After England’s quarter-final defeat to France, Southgate made clear publicly he could step away.
Effectively, the FA was given the option of saying it was time for change in the dugout after six years.
During the week of uncertainty, it became clear there was no obvious candidate to succeed him – someone who could take England deep into a tournament like the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup and the last Euros final.
Southgate committing to seeing out his contract until 2024 is a relief for the FA, rather than the focus being on missed opportunities in Qatar.
The FA insisted Southgate has “always had our full support” and the hope will be he can end the trophy drought at Euro 2024.
First, they have to qualify.
Former England defender Gary Neville welcomed the news that Southgate was staying on.
“I think it’s the right decision,” he told Sky Sports News.
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“When I saw early last week it was going to be discussed in the new year I didn’t think that would work, letting it hang for so long.
“The fact it has come out is welcome, it puts it to bed and allows everyone to focus on the next 18 months.
“It means a succession plan can be put in place.”
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Southgate has won 49 of his 81 games as England manager, with 18 draws and 14 defeats, while England have scored 174 goals and conceded 57.
Only two previous managers have reached a half-century in the win column – World Cup winner Sir Alf Ramsey with 69 and England’s longest-serving manager Sir Walter Winterbottom, on 78.