New research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission sketches a troubling portrait of how disabled people across Britain are losing out financially under the Government’s welfare reforms.
Particularly disturbing is the sheer amount of money that families with disabled children are being deprived of – more than £5,500 per year. Such a stark statistic in isolation is concerning enough, but this is only half of the story.
When we marry this data with the continued cuts to services disabled children rely on, it couldn’t be clearer that the Government needs to intervene. We have seen more than one in 10 specialist teacher of the deaf posts lost to these cuts in the past five years, despite increasing numbers of deaf children on council caseloads.
With the right support, deaf children can do anything other children can. But at home and at school, support is being squeezed or suspended, or stopped altogether. Without an intervention from Government, a generation of deaf children are being let down and left behind.
Ian Noon, head of policy and research, National Deaf Children’s Society
Theresa May is betraying the will of the people
It would appear that Theresa May is inexorably undermining the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU by way of prevarication and allowing EU barriers to remain unchallenged. These techniques point to a progress that will inevitably leave the UK in the EU probably at a greater annual cost than previously.
As such it can only be regarded as political treachery against the electorate of the worst and most hypocritical kind. She may well have written and signed her own, and that of many others, political career death warrant.
We are not ready for driverless cars
The human brain has an enormous capacity to accumulate experience. This has enabled me, when driving on the motorway, to anticipate: that a man with a petrol can was going to run across the carriageway in front of me; that a car veering off on the hard shoulder would veer back onto the carriageway and stop in front of me; that the widening gap between two lights was a car approaching me in my lane.
Then there is the ability to respond to torrential downpours, snow, fog and gusts of wind and differentiating between hard and soft debris.
Artificial intelligence is based upon generalisations on large databases. It does not yet have sufficient detailed knowledge to replace drivers of cars. Until it does it should assist but not replace drivers. I would rather be the passenger in a driverless train or plane than on a road surrounded by driverless cars.
If we are to question young girls wearing the hijab, it needs to be done with sensitivity
I write with regards to the recommendations by Ofsted for inspectors in primary schools to question young girls regarding their choice to wear the hijab.
I’d like to make it very clear from the onset that nowhere in Islam is it required for young girls to wear headscarves. Only when they reach an age of full physical maturity is it required and this is generally in teenage years. Thus there is no Islamic requirement for any primary-aged girl to wear a headscarf.
If, however, a young primary aged Muslim girl wears a headscarf freely and out of her own desire after seeing her mother or elder relatives wear them, then this is something that is a personal matter and nothing wrong with it. If a girl is naturally inspired by her mother then this is something positive.
In terms of questioning schoolgirls why they wear a hijab – it cannot be right to ask very young girls who are aged just four or five or in early years such questions. This could easily confuse them, cause stress and even lead to mental health issues later in life.
As for older Muslim girls, in secondary school, if teachers ask them it should be done extremely sensitively and it should not be done in a way that makes them feel isolated or discriminated against.
Further, no school should take any action that could serve to make any Muslim child feel as though there is something wrong with their religion or culture.
Our voting system is anything but representative of the people
The German political system, Sean O’Grady writes, is “pretty much kaput”. In particular, he laments that Germany’s system of proportional representation is designed to “faithfully reproduce” the choices made by voters; choices he describes as “that mess”.
His words exemplify so much of what’s wrong with our own first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all politics, and explains why so many of us feel we’re ruled, not represented, by our Parliament.
The purpose of a democratic election is to produce a parliament that fairly represents the voters, so that decisions by a majority of MPs are on behalf of a majority of voters. Proportional representation provides this.
Our first-past-the-post system does not. As Canadian democracy campaigner Kelly Carmichael wrote last week: “Proponents of first-past-the-post do not recognise that elections should be about representation; they believe they are competitive dispute resolution mechanisms to determine which social faction deserves to dominate others.”
We may not envy the task German politicians now have of composing a government that reflects the majority, perhaps even requiring a new election. But we should envy the voters themselves, and the democratic system that faithfully reproduces their views in the Bundestag.
This system provides almost all voters with a voice in parliament, and ensures that governments represent a majority of those voters. I wish we could say the same about the UK.
Labour must campaign against Brexit
Your leader “There’s no such thing as a soft Brexit...” deserves the widest circulation and the highest praise as a forthright statement of the appalling situation this country is getting into.
While Boris Johnson and others clearly deserve the harshest censure, let us not forget that many Brexiteers feel they will succeed in their catastrophic enterprise because of the pusillanimous attitude and behaviour of the Labour Party.
Hiding behind “the will of the people” and with many of its ideologues believing that free of EU control we can build “socialism in one country”, it is Labour that has facilitated the triggering of Article 50 and which continues to peddle the myth that there is a Brexit that can protect jobs and living standards.
Is there any hope that Labour Party members who read your leader will take to heart the urgent need to force Labour to stand alongside Remain parties to halt this heinous act of self-harm, which will impact most severely on the very people whose interests Labour professes to defend?
Brian G Mitchell
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