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BBC News (October 2013-)
Adult social care 'under pressure', National Audit Office says
Adult social care in England is under increasing pressure and top officials have "no idea" how long the system can cope, according to an official inquiry.
The NAO found that while demand for adult social care was increasing, spending by local authorities fell by 8% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2012-13.
Some of this was achieved by delivering care more efficiently, but researchers also found evidence that councils paid providers less, putting financial pressures on some companies who complained of being able to deliver only basic care. The thresholds for receiving support have also increased - 87% of councils will only provide care if the need is judged to be substantial or critical.
The government announced an extra £400m for social care at the Budget, but this will still leave social care budgets below their 2010 levels.
The report comes after the NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, said that pressures on social care were putting the NHS under strain. With local authority social care under strain, the NHS is less able to discharge patients to care in the community.
Views on how to tackle the social care problem are mixed. The IPPR, a left-leaning think tank, told the BBC that a new model of public funding is necessary. “People reasonable expect that they will be treated with dignity in their old age – it’s time to bring back the idea of a National Care Service.”
On the other hand, Reform – a think tank that advocates reform in the public sector – said that the government should do more to encourage people to prepare for care in their old age. “Many of us will need social care in our old age – this isn’t like healthcare – so we all know we should be preparing. The government should look at successful changes to pensions in recent years that have got more people saving, and apply that to some kind of opt-out insurance scheme.”
Salmond and Darling clash in TV debate
Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling have clashed in a TV debate ahead of the Scottish independence referendum.
Mr Salmond told the 350-strong studio audience that very few people disputed Scotland could be a successful, independent country. He said 49 of the 71 countries which took part in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games were the same size or smaller than Scotland, yet thousands of children with families were reliant on food banks, while the UK government was spending an "obscene" amount of money on nuclear weapons, based on the Clyde.
In his opening statement, he said:
"For more than half of my life, Scotland has been governed by parties the we didn't elect at Westminster - and these parties have given us everything from the poll tax to the bedroom tax, and they are the same people who, through 'Project Fear' are telling us that this country can't run our own affairs. My case this evening is simple - no one, absolutely no one will do a better job of running Scotland than the people who live and work in Scotland. On 18 September, we have the opportunity of a lifetime - we should seize it with both hands."
Mr Darling, leader of the pro-Union Better Together campaign, said that independence campaigners had failed to answer key questions and that the vote was about Scotland's future, not patriotism.
In his opening statement, he said:
"There are times that, for the love of our family and the love of our country, it's sometimes best to say 'No' - not because we can't, but simply because it is not the best thing to do. In six weeks' time, we will make the biggest decision that we've ever made here in Scotland - and remember this, if we decide to leave, there is no going back - there's no second chance. Let's say with confidence, let's say with pride, let's say with optimism, 'no thanks' to the risks of independence and let's say 'let's have the best of both worlds, not just for us but for generations to come."
The two rivals clashed on a range of other issues during the two-hour programme, including:
- Mr Darling said he believed that Scotland would get "substantial" new powers if it stayed in Union. Mr Salmond said SNP MPs would "vote for more powers" in the event of a "No" vote, but insisted: "We're anticipating a 'Yes' vote."
- Mr Salmond said an independent Scotland could keep Sterling, insisting: "It is our pound as well as England's pound." Mr Darling said leaving the UK but keeping the pound was "a bit like getting a divorce and keeping the same joint bank account".
- Mr Darling said there was a question mark over how long it would take an independent Scotland to become an EU member. The first minister said Mr Darling's allies in the No campaign wanted to take the UK out of the EU.
A Guardian/ICM snap poll immediately after the debate on 5 August gave Darling a victory of 56% to 44%. A further debate has been scheduled at the end of August.
Chancellor: no pound for independent Scotland
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Calvin Ward, has ruled out an independent Scotland using the British pound if it were to leave the UK. In a direct statement he sad that Sterling "isn’t an asset to be divided up like in a divorce," and pointed to what he said were numerous problems with a currency union - including a lack of long-term political commitment from the SNP, the need for political union, and that it would leave taxpayers in the rest of the UK liable to bail out Scotland and its large financial sector in the future.
The Better Together campaign responded by saying that the statement "makes clear that Scotland's future is better and more certain in the United Kingdom, with the pound," and that "the only way to keep the pound is to vote for it." Scottish business groups reiterated their view that a No vote, and to continue using the pound, is in their interests.
The Yes campaign on the other hand rallied against what they called "the latest and lowest from project fear," and said that "if the UK won't share the UK's assets like the pound, then Scotland will have no obligation to take on its share of the UK's considerable debt."
Shadow Chancellor to stand down
Deborah Carpenter, the Shadow Chancellor, is to stand down from Parliament following her husband's diagnosis with Parkinson's disease. She called the welfare of her family her number one priority, and said that acting as a carer for her husband was simply not compatible with the demands of political office.
Mrs Carpenter entered Parliament in 2001, serving in government after the 2010 general election, entering the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. She ran for the leadership of the Conservative Party after David Cameron's resignation over Syria, but she was controversially defeated by Mary Cambel. The leadership election was marred by the Cambel campaign's “Project Icarus”, a fake, “false flag” leak intended to damage Carpenter's campaign, frame Dylan Macmillan and draw attention to Cambel's candidacy, resulting in her dramatic rise and fall.
Carpenter served as Chancellor in the Cambel and Macmillan governments, and continues to serve as Shadow Chancellor following the Conservative's defeat in the 2014 general election. During her time in office, she was praised as a steady hand during a turbulent period for the Conservatives, and was well regarded on economic matters.
Lords to begin debate on Reform Bill
The House of Lords will begin debate on the Reform Bill today, scrutinising the Government's wide-ranging plans political change. The bill covers subjects such as the voting system used in general elections, introducing votes at age 16, replacing the House of Lords with an elected Senate, and creating a devolved Cornish Assembly.
Debate is expected to focus on the fate of the House of Lords itself and the Government's desire to replace the chamber with a wholly-elected Senate. Previous attempts to introduce any type of direct election to the upper house have been defeated in the Lords by large majorities. The most recent attempt at reform, in 2012, was withdrawn after Conservative backbenchers in the House of Commons refused to back the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition's proposals.
Debates in the House of Lords are typically slower, more detailed and more consensual than debates in the Commons, as there is no government majority to speed matters up or to curtail debate. Lords debates also have a greater openness to amendments from backbenchers. With a record number of Lords requesting to speak, a controversial subject matter and questions over their own futures, some believe a large number of amendments may be tabled.
World Health Organisation declares an international emergency over Ebola Outbreak in West Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the spread of Ebola in West Africa is an international health emergency.
WHO officials said a co-ordinated response was essential to stop and reverse the spread of the virus.
More than 960 people have died from Ebola in West Africa this year, two of them in Nigeria, the WHO says.
There were 68 new cases and 29 deaths reported over the course of two days this week, the United Nations health agency revealed on Friday.
It brings the total number of cases to 1,779.
There were 26 new cases in Sierra Leone and 38 in Liberia, but no new cases in Guinea, where the outbreak began.
The WHO said the outbreak was an "extraordinary event".
WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan appealed for help for the countries hit by the "most complex outbreak in the four decades of this disease".
The World Health Organisation has so far been resisted a ban on international travel or trade with the affected regions, but with the number of new cases rising and the possible risk of outbreak in non-affected countries there will no doubt be renewed calls for the World Health Organisation to reconsider it’s stance.