Trade union leaders are to press ahead with plans for a national strike, involving up to 3 million public sector workers. Photograph: Dimitris Legakis/D Legakis Photography/Athena

Powered by article titled “Society daily 03.11.11” was written by Clare Horton, for on Thursday 3rd November 2011 12.30 Europe/London

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Today’s top SocietyGuardian stories

Pensions strike still on despite concessions
Deprived communities ‘being left behind’
New NHS regulator ‘risks failure’
NHS bill clause put on hold to stave off revolt
Lansley dilutes plans to give patients unfettered choice of GP
1,500 lung cancer deaths ‘unnecessary’
Divorced fathers will not get right to access
U-turn saves soup runs for homeless people
Lord Foster reveals £50bn Thames Hub project
European judges have no right to rule on prisoner voting, says Grieve
UK’s biggest music and drama lending library faces closure in Wakefield
Zoe Williams: Don’t blame the young when the jobs have vanished
Darra Singh: We’re not just a sounding board. We have a unique remit on the riots
All today’s SocietyGuardian stories

Other news

• BBC: English diet ‘could save 4,000’
• Children & Young People Now: Loughton blames ‘big personalities’ for lack of co-operation in youth sector
• Community Care: High social work caseloads blamed for council failings
• Independent: Half of Britons ‘think youngsters are violent’
• Inside Housing: DECC could rethink fuel poverty plans
• Cities quizzed on powers of elected mayors
• Public Finance: MPs call for clarity over councils’ public health role
• Telegraph: Lollipop men and women given hidden cameras to catch bad drivers
• Third Sector: People earning less than £32k ‘give higher proportion of their income than others’

On my radar …

• What can the NHS learn from healthcare in India? Former Blair health adviser Paul Corrigan poses the question in his latest blogpost, which predicts “what looks to be the enormous size of the Nicholson challenge will probably – in only a short time – be looked back on as the land of milk and honey”:

In England we are going to have an increase in people with long term conditions and we will not be able to treat them in the same way in which we do currently. We are going to have to deliver some parts of health care with an improvement in productivity that is two or three times what we have at the moment. We will have to do that because otherwise people who need treatment will not be able to get it.

In a short time we will find whether the NHS has the capacity to radically change the way in provides care, or face numbers of people not getting that care.

• Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, who were heckled as they spoke at the mayor’s annual Disability Capital event by campaigners angry over the government’s welfare reform plans and cuts to services. The Black Triangle Campaign blog reports that the pair managed to avoid giving an answer when asked why the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were being sponsored by Atos, the company contracted to carry out “fitness for work” tests. The post also says that former Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson has invited disabled people to contact her with their “views and opinions and cases” about the government’s welfare reform bill to inform her contribution to debates on the welfare reform bill:

She said the bill had made her “probably the most depressed I have ever been in my life as a disabled person”, and added: “We need to fight and keep making a difference and make the government listen.

(thanks to the Papworth Trust for the link)

• A social media campaign focusing on fuel poverty, newly launched by Turn2us, part of the national charity Elizabeth Finn Care, which is encouraging people to tweet the amount they pay for gas and electricity as a percentage of their household income. This information is then being plotted on an interactive map to show variations around the country. The latest government figures say 5.5 million UK homes are in fuel poverty – spending more than 10% of its income on energy. Turn2us wants to make sure that all those eligible for financial support such as benefits and charitable grants, are claiming what they can. The Turn2us director, Alison Taylor, said:

Following the announcement of rises in the price of gas and electricity by fuel giants over the summer there are millions of people out there anxiously holding their breath in fear of the arrival of their energy bills. Through this campaign, we want to highlight the worrying spread of fuel poverty across the country and ensure people are aware of the support available to them.

• Interesting new figures, obtained by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which reveal the true extent of the “red tape burden” of flexible working on businesses. A Freedom of Information request by the CIPD reveals that of a total 218,100 employment tribunal claims in 2010-11, just 277 were due to employers failing to observe flexible working regulations, and the majority of these claims (229) were successfully negotiated by Acas or settled out of court and, of the 48 that actually reached tribunal, just 10 were successful. Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at CIPD, said:

These figures … demonstrate beyond any doubt that the fears expressed about the impact of extending the right to request flexible working are grossly exaggerated. The right to request is not a burden on business but an example of ‘light-touch’ regulation that is more likely to support – rather than inhibit – business performance.
The reality is that businesses of all sizes are way ahead of the critics in the way they have responded to the legislation. An extension of the law is highly unlikely to lead to an avalanche of requests because most employers already recognise that flexible working is an integral part of the modern workplace and thus are happy to consider requests from any employee, even beyond the statutory minimum. Flexible working is not just for parents:
the UK’s aging workforce means older workers increasingly have caring responsibilities and will want more flexible routes to retirement such as reducing hours or job sharing, while flexibility is also key to helping people off sick with health problems make phased and lasting returns to work.

• The death of the almo? Jules Birch asks whether the end is nigh for arm’s length management organisations as some councils take theirs back in-house or ballot tenants to convert them into housing associations, in this post for the Guardian Professional Housing Network.

• Did you know that “mental health day/week” is the latest euphemism for throwing a sickie from work? A Twitter search for the term prompted this excellent post from blogger Paul Brook:

One of the great problems in raising awareness of mental illness is that people don’t want to talk about it. I was one of those people until recently, and completely respect that each person must handle their illness in the ways that suit them best. But if one good thing has come out of my own experience, it’s that I DO want to talk about it. I’ve kept it, unhelpfully, to myself all this time for fear that people wouldn’t understand, and that I would be stigmatised. I have come to realise, though, that the only ways to lift the stigma, to enlighten the ignorant, to improve understanding and to raise awareness, is to bring mental illness out into the open, where it can’t prey on people so easily.

I’m lucky to have a loving family, great friends and a supportive employer, but not everyone has these blessings. Many employers see mental illness as a weakness and place enormous pressure on their staff, not recognising that their own practices and demands are the cause of the illness in the first place. There is still support out there, though – GPs see a lot of people with mental health concerns and can help you in a number of ways. And there are excellent charities offering extra support and information, such as Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

• The impact of environment on health, the subject of a debate organised by the University of Sussex as part of its “Sussex Conversations” series. Chaired by former health minister Ben Bradshaw, the debate starts at 6pm at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London and can be followed on Twitter using the hashtag #sussexconvo

• Guardian cartoonist Ros Asquith, who was among the winners of the School Library Association’s first Information Book Awards, presented yesterday. The awards celebrate non-fiction for children and Asquith provided the illustrations for Mary Hoffman’s book The Great Big Book of Families, won the under-7s category. Meanwhile, a fascinating-sounding new book looking at the conflicting advice offered to parents was launched in London yesterday. The Claims of Parenting by Stefan Ramaekers, of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, and Judith Suissa, of the Institute of Education, University of London, looks at the day to day experience of being a parent.

On the Guardian Professional Networks

• Head of civil service risks becoming largely honorary post as a result of the decision to split the posts of head of civil service and cabinet secretary, writes Jane Dudman

• The health service needs to learn lessons on locating its services from supermarkets like Tesco, argues health policy analyst Roy Lilley

• Councils go commercial – authorities are seeking independence by making profits, finds Hannah Fearn

• The Department for Work and Pensions has awarded Accenture a contract worth to £350m to develop software including that needed for universal credit plans

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