By Clare Jerrom and Reg McKay
Applications for asylum fall to a seven-year
A sharp decrease in the number of immigrants seeking refuge in
Britain last month has led to the backlog in asylum applications
falling to its lowest level in seven years.
Last month 5,520 asylum claims were made, according to the home
office, the lowest monthly figure for two years. The decrease was
accompanied by a record number of asylum decisions taken by
immigration officials. The backlog has now fallen below 50,000 for
the first time since May 1994.
The Tories still claim the system to be in “chaos”. David
Liddington, Conservative home affairs spokesperson, said: “We can
still expect over 70,000 applications this year, the great majority
of which will be unfounded.”
The main cause of the fall is the reduced number of asylum
claims from Iranians, which dropped by 40 per cent from the
The main factor behind Britain’s shrinking asylum backlog
is increased activity of immigration officials. Last month 14,430
initial decisions on asylum were made. Most were refused, but the
proportion given refugee status or leave to remain in Britain rose
last month to 22 per cent.
Source:- The Independent Saturday 24 March
Back to school for abusive parents
Violent and abusive parents could be sent back to the classroom
alongside their children, according to education secretary David
In a package of measures designed to tackle discipline in
schools, Blunkett announced he would be looking at extending the
use of parenting orders – already used outside school to
combat crime – to similar circumstances within school.
Under the terms, parents who failed to deal with their
children’s bad behaviour or who are abusive themselves, will
be sent to school for parenting classes, Blunkett announced at the
annual conference of the Secondary Heads Association in Newport,
south Wales. Local magistrates courts would issue the orders.
In the most serious of cases, fines of £2,500 will be given
to parents who condone their children truanting.
Blunkett said: “If you give aggro to heads and teachers, if you
come on to school premises and you behave in a way which sets an
appalling example to your child and to others, if you prevent them
from being educated properly and if you refuse to co-operate in
making it possible for schools to do their work, we will take
action against you.”
Source:- The Guardian Saturday 24 March page 5
Driver ‘sealed fate of Chinese’
A Dutch lorry driver told a court on Friday how he could not
explain how the air supply to his lorry, which caused 58 illegal
immigrants to die, was cut off.
Sixty Chinese illegal immigrants hid in the back of Perry
Wacker’s lorry last June, in a bid to enter Britain
Port officials found 58 dead bodies in the lorry on its arrival
in Dover. Only two men survived.
Wacker is accused of 58 charges of manslaughter by
‘sealing the fate’ of the Chinese immigrants by closing
the only air vent on the side of the lorry to avoid detection from
Victor Temple QC prosecuting said the air vent was tied open
with string when Wacker started his journey in Rotterdam. Wacker
said that he didn’t use string, but the court heard how a
ball of string was found in the lorry’s cab.
Temple said the lorry stopped at a petrol station shortly before
arriving at Zeebrugge at 5:50pm.
“We know you could have closed the vent there,” Temple said.
Wacker replied: “I cannot give any answer if the vent was open
The court heard how the lorry driver said he was delivering the
tomatoes in the container to a Bristol address, but it did not
Ying Guo is jointly charged with Wacker on another count to
smuggle illegal immigrants into the country. Both accused deny all
The trial continues.
Source:- The Guardian Saturday 24 March page 8
Failed asylum seekers will be paid to go
Failed asylum seekers will be given cash to go home by the home
secretary, in a bid to alleviate the number of immigrants living in
‘Settlement payments’ of £400 will be given to
asylum seekers whose applications are rejected, as well as money to
pay for flights home.
Jack Straw has pledged to deport more failed asylum seekers who
go underground as opposed to obeying orders to leave the
Extra immigration staff have been recruited, and three
additional detention centres have been built, in a bid to stop
immigrants disappearing in the first place.
The £400 payment plan is likely to fuel rumours that
Britain is an asylum soft touch,
A pilot scheme has seen 700 failed asylum seekers leave
voluntarily, as another 70,000 have made new claims.
There is no official figure for the number of failed asylum
seekers living and working illegally in Britain, however,
immigration officials believe the number could be hundreds of
Source:- Daily Mail Saturday 24 March page 45
Revealed: Labour’s secret election
Labour campaign organisers have been issued with a 600-page
policy war book defining what is seen as ‘dangerous
questions’ during the forthcoming general election.
The document reveals that Labour fears attacks on policies
including political asylum, crime and Europe. It outlines
‘model answers’ for candidates to use when questioned
The book contains advice on nearly every issue candidates could
be questioned on, with a short, and more lengthy response.
The document admits that the government has met three of the
five pledges it said it would achieve. Class sizes are on track to
be cut to 30 for pupils aged five to seven by the end of the year.
Fast track punishment for young offenders will not be met until
spring next year.
The book urges campaigners to not dwell on the failures but
highlight the other achievements of the Labour government including
increases of child benefit, winter fuel payments and the working
families tax credit.
Source:- The Observer Sunday 25 March page 2
Fear grips old as care home closures rise
As 18 residential homes are closing a week, thousands of older
people are finding it increasingly difficult to find places for
At a time when the population of older people is rising faster
than ever, more than 15,000 beds were lost last year.
In affluent areas, booming property prices put pressure on care
home owners to sell. Most homes closed over the past year are being
converted to residential use.
Annie Stevenson of Help the Aged said: “It isn’t just
under-investment in social care services across the board causing
this. Chronic staff shortages, especially in areas of full
employment, are emerging as providers can’t or won’t
pay more than the minimum wage.”
Experts claim the sudden removal of older people from their
residential homes can cause illness, disorientation and even
Home-owners claim it is not only lack of public cash that is
causing closures, but minimum standards introduced with no extra
The chronic shortage of places is bound to lead to increasing
‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals, as older people are using
beds needed by other patients.
Paul Burstow, Liberal democrat spokesperson for older people,
said: “Why should people work in a care home if they earn less
there than in a supermarket?”
Source:- The Observer Sunday 25 March page 6
Immigrant fines hit Channel trains
The surging volume of illegal immigrants trying to sneak into
Britain will cause the Channel Tunnel goods trains to virtually
grind to a halt.
Government rules which make companies liable for £2,000
fines for each illegal immigrant found in its trains, will cause
EWS, the biggest shipper of freight through the tunnel, to
virtually abandon its daily services. It has already been fined
£186,000 since the law was introduced on March 1.
EWS is warning that if the level of fines continue, it will be
forced out of business, leaving the way clear for French freight
companies to take over.
Graham Smith, EWS’s planning director, said: “At this rate
we could be looking at £5 million of fines in a year, and you
just can’t carry on a business like that. Clearly we must be
given serious consideration to suspending services, because we
can’t face this kind of liability.”
Jack Straw, home secretary, extended the fining system for
lorries and cars to freight services after the scheme was alleged
to have led “almost overnight” to tighter security at ports. Straw
said that train operators would simply have to follow suit.
Source:- Sunday Times Sunday 25 March page 10
Blair pledge to Church leaders
The prime minister is to target the support of religious leaders
and church-goers by promising them a greater role in society if
Labour is voted in at the general election.
On Thursday, Tony Blair will visit the Christian Socialist
Movement to fight Tory attempts to claim they take religion most
William Hague has promised churches will get a special role in
community welfare projects, should the Conservatives be voted in.
Blair is to make a similar pledge.
Blair is likely to highlight that while 940,000 pupils attend
church primary schools, 150,000 go on to church secondary schools,
and is likely to announce government funding for 100 new church
He is expected to look at how churches can improve other
services including education an encourage activities to bring
Source:- Sunday Times Sunday 25 March page 7
Ray of hope shines for forgotten youngsters
A new centre will be opened in London next week using the
methods of Reuven Feuerstein, an Israeli professor of psychiatry
whose work has helped hundreds of severely handicapped
Private fundraising of £650,000 has enabled the
construction of The Hope Centre, alongside funding to pay teachers
and therapists who will work there.
The initial idea for the centre came from Peter Batkin and Harry
Simmonds, whose mentally handicapped children both attended Prof
Feuerstein’s institute in Jerusalem.
Feuerstein believes that many conventional tests, which diagnose
children as “never able to do this or that”, are deeply flawed.
His methods are controversial and at the core of his technique
is a process called “Meditated Learning Experience”.
Sara Keays’ daughter Flora was treated however, after
psychiatrists wrote her off as incapable of integration with
ordinary children, and incapable of benefiting from normal
education through her severe learning difficulties.
Keays regards the results as a little short of miraculous as it
transformed the child into a girl who was able to sit quietly.
The Hope Centre will see children aged 3-19 with a wide range of
learning difficulties including severe and complex language
disorders and autism.
Source:- Sunday Telegraph Sunday 25 March page 15
Adoption chiefs are advised to split up
Brothers and sisters should be split up when they are placed for
adoption, to make it easier for each child to find a suitable
adoptive family, a report has found.
Currently, the widely accepted practice is that adoption
agencies and social workers should place children in the same
family as their siblings.
But Jenny Lord, of British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering,
and co-author of the report ‘Together or Apart’, said
it was time to ‘unpick the prejudices’ surrounding the
practice of placements for siblings in the same home.
“There is a danger of looking at children as a ‘job
lot’ and of grouping siblings together rather than
differentiating them as individuals with different needs. Careful
assessments are needed to recognise that sometimes children do need
to be separated,” she said.
Lord continued to urge social workers to be more willing to
compromise if no suitable homes were available for a large sibling
group, although believed in many cases, it was beneficial to keep
The circumstances in which Lord believes the siblings should be
placed separately include intense sibling rivalry with one adopting
the role of bully, scapegoat or victim, or where boys felt they had
the right to dominate girls. Siblings that sexually abused the
other should be separated, and those who prompted each others
traumatised behaviour should not remain in the same families, she
Source:- The Times Monday 26 March page 5
Worst offenders face hi-tech crackdown
The most sophisticated tagging technology will be used on
Britain’s 1,500 most persistent young offenders, in a bid to
introduce “zero tolerance on yob culture”.
The government’s Youth Justice Board has developed the
£45 million programme to enable the offenders to receive round
the clock supervision and surveillance through the tagging. It aims
to keep Britain’s teenage tearaways out of custody and to
ensure they receive an intensive programme of education and other
activities to prevent them becoming career criminals.
The scheme will also provide help for drug and alcohol abuse,
mental health problems and support for parents.
Their movements will be tracked 24 hours-a-day and the teenagers
will have to phone in and confirm their whereabouts. If they go out
in the evenings or at weekends, they will be accompanied by a board
The first phase of the scheme will be introduced this week in
Britain’s most deprived areas.
Source:- The Guardian Monday 26 March page 3
Police fear drugs war is being lost as prices fall to
Britain is losing the war against drug dealers and traffickers
as the cost of street drugs have fallen to an unprecedented low,
the police intelligence service has revealed.
All of the eleven illegal substances studied including heroin,
cannabis and cocaine, were cheaper than at any time in the past six
years. The prices do not take into account the inflation rate,
making them even cheaper.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service’s findings
suggest that the quantities of drugs available in Britain are
greater than ever before despite the government’s much
trumpeted war on drugs.
The NCIS survey covers the average cost of drugs and found the
cost of cannabis had never been cheaper. Cocaine cost £65 a
gram, down from £82 in 1995. Ecstasy costs £9 per pill as
opposed to £15 six years ago.
David Martins, an NCIS drugs section analyst, said: “The single
most important fact is price, partly because it can affect sales
volumes. If the price is too high and the market is competitive,
sales may drop correspondingly.”
Source:- The Independent Monday 26 March page
Internet pair plan new adoption
The British couple involved in the “internet twins” case
admitted last night they were attempting to adopt more children
Alan and Judith Kilshaw are currently fighting for the custody
of Belinda and Kimberley, who they bought from a Californian broker
agency on the internet. The fate of the children is still being
decided as an American couple, who also bought the twins have
dropped their case, but the natural separated parents of the
children Aaron and Tranda Wecker both want separate custody of the
After reports that the couple were in negotiation to adopt more
children over the internet, Judith Kilshaw admitted she had
received ‘a tentative offer’ to adopt more
She said: “A Californian adoption agency has already got a
couple of kids lined up. All the paperwork is ready. All we have to
do is go.”
Top child law specialist Allan Levy QC is helping the Kilshaws
in their fight for the twins, who were taken into care in January,
to be returned to them, according to Judith Kilshaw.
Last week the couple returned to the high court to face
continuing proceedings launched by Flintshire Council to make the
twins wards of court.
A decision is expected next month.
Source:- Daily Mail Monday 26 March page 19
How social workers banished problems
Social workers’ leaders have claimed that social work
professionals should stop referring to the “problems” of those
people they aim to help.
Using the word “problem” creates a feeling of inequality between
social workers and clients, they claim.
The British Journal of Social Work said that other words that
should not be used include interview, assessment and
Social workers should ‘empower’ older people, as
opposed to ‘interviewing them’, it claimed. They should
not discuss ‘assessing ‘someone’s needs, but
‘advocate’ for them.
The advice from the journal run by the British Association of
Social Workers aims to influence the training of social
It was compiled by academics Jan Fook, Martin Ryan and Linette
In the journal they said: “It appears that we rarely use social
justice terminology to talk about our work. It is in our official
documents, but has not made its way into the everyday way in which
we speak about what we do.”
Source:- Daily Mail Monday 26 March page 22
Staff crisis leaves children at risk
Local authorities in Scotland are breaking the law and leaving
hundreds of children at risk due to staff vacancies.
Up to 10 per cent of young people identified as in need of
supervision by the children’s panel have not been allocated a
social worker by Glasgow Council, one of the few authorities to
compile such figures. In Glasgow a total of 211 children are
affected out of 2,500 cases while the number has been as high as
280. The city currently has 22 vacancies in children and family
services which employs around 250 people.
A working party set up by the Scottish executive concluded that
a reasonable time for allocation of social workers was 14 days.
Thereafter councils could be open to a legal challenge. Professor
Kenneth Norrie, an expert in child law at Strathclyde University
and a children’s panel member in Glasgow for the past 8
years, said: “I frequently sit on hearings where a child has been
in the system for nine months or more and a social worker
hasn’t been allocated.”
A spokesperson for Glasgow Council said that the children who
had not been allocated a social worker would receive “some kind of
Source:- The Herald Monday 26 March page 1