Friday, March 30, 2007

Britain: New concern at impact of record immigration

After 10 years of record immigration, the Government is to set up a high-level forum to assess its impact on communities. The move marks a significant change of approach by Labour, which has justified the four-fold increase since 1997 almost entirely on economic grounds. David Blunkett, a former Home Secretary, once said there was no obvious upper limit to the numbers that could come from outside the EU. But the Home Office said yesterday that it was establishing a Migration Impacts Forum (MIF) alongside another new body advising on skills shortages that immigrants might be able to fill.

The announcement was part of a package of measures that included the prospect of a 1,000 pound fine on families whose relatives failed to go home when their visas expired. It is already an offence punishable by a 5,000pound fine to retain a nanny who has overstayed. It also envisaged further curbs on forced marriage by raising the minimum age for bringing a spouse to the UK from 18 to 21. It will be a requirement for spouses to learn English before they can join their wife or husband.

Liam Byrne, the immigration minister, who will chair the MIF alongside Phil Woolas, the communities minister, said: "I want to make sure that when ministers decide how high the hurdle should be set, they have got a clear understanding of where in the British economy migration is needed and where it isn't. They also must have access to information about the impacts that immigration is having on communities. "We need to ensure that we are making decisions with our eyes wide open."

The forum will consider evidence that schools, hospitals, housing and transport infrastructure are all feeling the strain of a growing population. Doctors have complained that their surgeries cannot cope with the number of new patients now registering, largely from Eastern Europe. Many were women who were seeking assistance with a pregnancy or who were seeking an abortion.

Figures published today by Migrationwatch, which has campaigned for the wider impact to be considered, - suggest that at least 73,000 new homes would be needed every year to house England's rapidly growing immigrant population. Council chiefs have already warned the Government that local services are coming under huge strain as a result of unprecedented levels of immigration. Over an 18-month period, about 9,000 new National Insurance numbers were issued in Slough, Berks, of which just 150 went to British nationals. Yet the Office for National Statistics recorded only 300 international migrants settling in the area. Net immigration in 2005 was close to 200,000 - four times the number when Labour took office in 1997.

The latest measures foreshadow a new visa regime for tourists, whose length of stay could be reduced from six months to three months. Officials said only two per cent of visitors stayed longer than three months and these could be people who worked illegally or breached their visa terms.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: "It is high time that the wider picture was considered, including the widespread public concern that we are losing our own culture. "But this forum will be useless if it includes only the usual suspects from the immigration industry and employers who stand to gain from immigration."


NHS crisis is forcing cuts to maternity care, charity warns

Support for pregnant women is being cut because of the NHS's financial troubles, a healthcare charity has warned. The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) says it is receiving "increasing reports" that NHS antenatal classes, breastfeeding services and postnatal visits are being cancelled.

NHS antenatal classes have been cut or suspended in at least 10 areas in England and Wales, according to the NCT. These are Romsey in Hampshire; Worcestershire; Newham in London; Watford; Gwent in south Wales; south-west Kent; Nottinghamshire; Gloucestershire; Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire; and Wiltshire.

The NCT said it also understood that postnatal home visits have been stopped or are facing cuts in Wiltshire and in east and north Hertfordshire, which would mean new mothers have to travel to a clinic in order to receive after-birth care. An NCT spokeswoman said: "These cuts in maternity services may reflect a more widespread pattern. "The NCT is concerned that these short-term measures to ease financial deficits are having a negative effect on new parents and parents-to-be, preventing them from getting the information and support they need at this important stage in their lives."

The Department of Health (DoH) said it expected local NHS trusts to follow guidelines set down in the children's national service framework which says good antenatal care will include access to parenting education and preparation for birth "as classes or through other means".

A DoH spokesman said: "The soon-to-be-published maternity strategy will set out how we will achieve services that provide real choice and support for women in all settings, from antenatal care through to the early child years."



Muslim GPs fail to respect the confidentiality of Muslim women patients, Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, has claimed. Ms Hewitt, who represents a constituency in Leicester with a large ethnic minority community, said: "I have had Muslim women give me chapter and verse on very distressing breaches of confidentiality by Muslim GPs. "Some women patients feel they cannot trust their own GP. If they talk to him about a very difficult situation concerning domestic violence or sexual health problems they fear that he will share that with other members of the community." Ms Hewitt had touched on the issue earlier in a speech to the Fabian Society but elaborated her concerns in an interview in Pulse.

A report published last year by the Muslim Women's Network lends some support to Ms Hewitt's charges. It said: "Women did not trust professionals from within their own communities to be always bound by professional rules of confidentiality." The report is based on conversations with Muslim women throughout the country.

But Asian GPs reacted strongly to Ms Hewitt's remarks. Dr Vijoy Singh, chair of Leicestershire and Rutland Local Medical Committee, which covers Ms Hewitt's constituency, said: "No GP would break confidentiality because if they break it, they are liable to be sued. She's out of touch." Prakash Chandra, Local Medical Committee chairman in Newham, which has many Muslim residents, told Pulse: "It surprises me that Patricia Hewitt would make such a statement. This is not a problem I have come across."

A spokeswoman for the General Medical Council (GMC), which investigates complaints against doctors, said: "The GMC is aware that some groups of patients may have added concerns about the confidentiality of their personal information." In the past year, she said, 11 doctors had been referred to a fitness to practise hearing for allegations involving the intentional disclosure of patient information. A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association (BMA) said: "Breaching confidentiality is extremely serious and any doctor who does must be prepared to justify their actions to the General Medical Council."

Jo Haynes, editor of Pulse, said: "These are serious accusations. You would hope Patricia Hewitt has some firm evidence to back up her decision to single out Muslim doctors in this way." Ms Hewitt said: "This is not a direct accusation against Muslim GPs - it is a call for sensitivity from all parts of the health service."

Haleh Afshar, professor of politics and women's studies at York University and chair-woman of the Muslim Women's Network, said she believed that Ms Hewitt had been commenting on issues raised in its own report. "We said that this is a concern that is shared by all women, but the difficulty for Muslim women is that sometimes they don't have the option of going to a GP outside their community." Dr Reefat Drabu, a GP in Southampton, said that she found the accusations offensive. "I'm a Muslim doctor" she said. "Confidentiality is paramount not just for the GP, but for the whole practice. To breach confidentiality in my practice is a sackable offence."


What Britain's politically correct policing and gun restrictions have achieved: "Scores of worried parents are buying body armour for their children in a desperate attempt to keep them safe as street violence escalates. A firm that supplies stab- and bullet-proof vests to government agencies around the world has sold 60 jackets, at a cost of between 300 to 425 pounds, to concerned parents who have flooded the company with inquiries after several murders of teenagers on London streets. The company has received more than 100 calls from parents in the capital over the past few weeks. The company, VestGuard UK, usually gets one or two calls of this type per year. The fatal stabbings of Adam Regis, killed three days after 16-year-old Kodjo Yenga, are the latest in a series of violent incidents involving teenagers in recent months. One mother, whose 13-year-old daughter goes to a school where a pupil has been shot to death, has saved up to buy her child of the best vests available after she was targeted by a gang of older girls. She is now saving up for another vest for her 11-year-old daughter who has also been abused by the gang. Too scared to give her or her daughter’s real name, the woman, a chemical engineer, explained why she felt she had to resort to buying body armour. “My daughter is being attacked by girls who are much older than her and the problem is continuing. I have never seen them with a knife but you never know when they are going to use a gun or knife until it is too late. “The vest is very expensive and we do not have a lot of money but I have no choice. My daughter has been attacked five times in a few weeks and I would rather be safe than sorry... The mother has been to the police but nothing has happened." [She should say her daughter was racially insulted. That would produce a swarm of police immediately]

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