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Third of low-income households unable to pay bills, finds research

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Third of low-income households unable to pay bills, finds research

Nearly 4 million low-income households are behind on rent, bills or debt payments, up threefold since the pandemic hit, according to a study revealing the growing cost of the living crisis facing the UK’s poorest families.

A third of the 11.6 million working-age households in the UK earning £25,000 or less were found to be in arrears on their rent or mortgage, utility bills, council tax bills or personal debt repayments, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

The charity called for urgent government action to support families at the sharp end of pandemic-related financial pressures, including the reinstatement of the £20 uplift in universal credit, which was withdrawn earlier this month, and help with debts.

“Behind these figures are parents gripped by anxiety, wondering how they will put food on their children’s plates and pay the gas bill; young people forced to rely on friends to help cover their rent and avoid eviction,” said Katie Schmuecker, the JRF deputy director for policy and partnerships.

Meanwhile, the Tory-controlled District Councils Network (DCN), which represents 200 councils in English towns, has warned of a surge in homelessness this winter as a result of the end to government support measures such as furlough and the eviction ban.

A survey of district councils completed earlier this month found that just under three-quarters reported an increase in homelessness acceptances over the past four months, while nearly two-thirds said people they had housed during the pandemic had recently slipped “back in the homelessness cycle”.

District councils also reported increased numbers of families seeking support, and increases in the numbers of residents with severe mental health and other complex needs using council services. More than a third of councils reported significant increases in referrals to local food banks.

Phil King, a DCN spokesperson and the Conservative leader of Harborough district council in Leicestershire, said that without extra financial support for councils and struggling households, the government risked undoing much of the work it had done to tackle homelessness over the past 18 months.

He said: “The findings of this survey reveal the stark impact the pandemic and the ending of emergency support measures continues to have on households across the country.”

The JRF surveyed 4,200 UK adults in households in the lowest 40% of incomes earlier this month. The findings indicate that 3.8 million households are behind with household bills, 950,000 are in rent arrears, 1.4 million are behind on council tax bills, and 1.4 million are behind on electricity and gas bills.

A third of all low-income families are in arrears, up from 11% prior to the pandemic, it estimated. This rises to 44% of working-age households and 71% of younger households aged between 18 and 24. Families with children and black, Asian and minority ethnic households were particularly hard hit.

The JRF said there were signs the financial impact of the pandemic had “dragged families who were previously just about managing into arrears on essential bills”. Nearly 90% of households now behind on their household bills said that they were always or often able to pay all their bills in full and on time before the pandemic.

Families are facing a range of financial pressures over the coming months including rising energy and food bills and a rise in national insurance contributions next April to pay for the government’s social care reforms.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “We know the best route towards financial independence is through well-paid work, which is why our multi-billion pound Plan for Jobs is helping boost skills and opportunity, while universal credit continues to provide a vital safety net for millions.

“The Household Support Fund is helping the most vulnerable with essential costs through this winter, and is distributed by councils, who are best placed to ensure those in need in their local areas can be identified and supported as soon as possible.”

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Health

Group hails IG as mother accused Hospital of stealing Placenta

The Inspector General of Police, (IG) Kayode Egbetokun has received praises for the prompt arrest of suspects accused of stealing the placenta of a new born baby in privated hospital located in Kwara State. The suspects were taken from Ilofa to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital on Thursday.
In a statement signed by NHRC’s official, Mr Taiwo Adeleye said the arrest of the suspects was an important step towards securing justice for the families of Mr Rotimi Williams whose wife accused health officials at a private hospital of stealing the placenta of her new born baby.
The Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC),a coalition of 130 civil society groups spread across Nigeria on Thursday expressed delight at the arrest of the suspects by the police.
The group said it was aware of plots by some powerful individuals to clog the wheel of justice but was delighted that the IG has brought hope to the despairing family. It called for full investigation that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of all culprits.
Few days ago, Mrs Williams accused the management of Cottage hospital, Ilofa, Kwara State of failing to account for the placenta of her new born baby. In complaints lodged with the NHRC, Mrs Williams said a nurse, Mrs Alabi took the delivery, one nurse Adeloye cleaned up the baby while one Mrs Toyin, a ward attendant claimed she mistakenly threw away the placenta.
“In Nigerian agelong tradition, the placenta is linked to the spiritual and physical wellbeing of a new born baby. There is a customary and agelong way of burying placenta of which every medical staff is aware.The disappearance of a baby’s placenta is a source of eternal trauma for the parents and a prelude to impugn the future of the child based on timeless tradition and beliefs,” the NHRC said.
The Coalition said the placenta could be stolen for rituals, adding that stealing a placenta is like killing the child or using the child for ritual by other means The group said it would follow-up the case “day and night” to ensure justice is done. The NHRC said Mrs Toyin brought out the mother’s bags from the labour room but failed to take the placenta along.
The rights group said one Mrs Ayoni Awolusi in the course of the delivery, claimed she was to be on duty but was absent. The medical personnel expected to be on dury was Dr. Ajibola. NHRC said Mrs Williams put to bed around 7pm on Sunday May 12 but discovered the missing placenta very early on Monday 13th, May.
The group called on the IG to intensify the probe and ensure every one connected with the gory episode is brought to justice

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AstraZeneca withdraws COVID-19 vaccines from market as demand reduces

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca on Wednesday said it was withdrawing Covid vaccine Vaxzevria, one of the first produced in the deadly pandemic, citing “commercial reasons” following a slump in demand.

“As multiple, variant Covid-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines. This has led to a decline in demand for Vaxzevria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson added in a statement.

“We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

AstraZeneca rapidly developed the successful Covid-19 jab during the coronavirus pandemic which erupted in the first half of 2020.

Vaxzevria, developed alongside Oxford University, was at first offered at cost but Astra decided in late 2021 to sell it for profit.

But the world pivoted towards mRNA vaccines, particularly the one produced by US drugs giant Pfizer and German peer BioNTech, after rare blood-clot problems with Astra’s jab increased public hesitancy about taking it.

Sales collapsed further as global Covid restrictions were fully lifted worldwide and the world emerged from the global health crisis.

The AstraZeneca spokesperson said the group had begun the process from taking it off the market in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMA) region.

The company will work with other regulators globally to start market authorisation withdrawals for the Vaxzevria “where no future commercial demand for the vaccine is expected”.

The spokesperson said that, according to independent estimates, “over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone” and more than three billion doses were supplied globally.

“We are incredibly proud of the role Vaxzevria played in ending the global pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

“Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic. ”

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NMA lauds Police for arresting fake doctor in Lagos

The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has commended the Nigerian Police Force for arresting an alleged fake medical doctor.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Lagos, Dr Benjamin Olowojebutu, Chairman, NMA Lagos, said the arrest will strengthen the association’s fight against quackery in the medical profession.

Olowojebutu explained that medical quackery was a dangerous practice that posed a threat to the well-being of citizens and the delivery of quality healthcare in the state, and country.

“The arrest is a welcome development for the health sector; we would expose these quacks and ensure that Lagos does not suffer further morbidity and mortality from their nefarious activities.

“We are glad that our work on anti-quackery has started yielding progress as we are determined to weed out quacks from the medical profession,” he said.

The chairman pledged that NMA Lagos, with the support of the Ministry of Health, Health Monitoring and Accreditation Agency, HEFAMAA, and police, would eradicate quacks from the state.

According to him, the association would hold an anti-quackery summit soon, after which it would present a white paper to the Lagos State Government on anti-quackery.

Olowojebutu warned hospitals to refrain from employing staff whose certificates and licences had not been verified by the MDCN to safeguard the health of the populace.

The 37-year-old medical practitioner with suspected forged certificates was arrested by police at Skylink Medical Centre, Elepe-Ikorodu.

The police said they arrested the suspect, who claimed to be the managing director of the health facility, based on intelligence gathered by the command through members of the Elepe community concerning the activities of the suspect.

The police recovered two suspected forged certificates of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, after searching for the facility.

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