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The Friday Five (23/02/24)

Are you looking for the latest news across healthcare, social care, education, or recovery and criminal justice? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Welcome to the Friday Five – your one-stop shop for all the latest noteworthy news, neatly packaged into one easy and convenient read. So put the kettle on, sit down, and get informed on the latest news from these sectors.

1. Thousands of Health Workers Still Awaiting Payment  

There’s mounting concern in England as approximately 20,000 health workers, particularly those employed by social enterprises for front-line NHS services, have yet to receive a promised one-off payment of nearly £1,655, despite an agreement made last May. This sum was to accompany a 5% salary increase for NHS staff. Issues arose for workers in non-NHS organisations, initially excluded from the deal until a November decision to extend funding.  

However, delays persist as these employers await government funds to distribute the agreed sum, with no clear timeline on when this will be resolved. The situation has led to significant frustration among staff who have been pivotal in community health services during challenging times, exacerbating tensions and discussions around potential industrial action.

2. Menopausal Symptoms Can Be Considered a Disability, Watchdog Says

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has declared that menopause symptoms could be recognised as a disability, and employers may be liable for lawsuits if they fail to implement “reasonable adjustments” for affected workers.  

This guidance aims to clarify employers’ legal duties towards employees experiencing menopause, suggesting modifications like flexible working hours, rest areas, and relaxed dress codes to alleviate symptoms like hot flushes and sleep disturbances.  

The EHRC emphasises the significant legal and talent retention costs of non-compliance. Despite the potential for menopause symptoms to severely impact women’s work lives, many hesitate to seek accommodations due to fear of stigma. The EHRC’s stance highlights the need for greater understanding and support for women undergoing menopause in the workplace.

3. Home Education Rates Increasing, Per Schools Week Investigation

According to a Schools Week investigation, the rate of pupils transitioning from traditional classroom settings to home education in England has doubled. This increase is particularly pronounced in some of the nation’s most impoverished areas. While home education was once primarily a lifestyle choice for families, it is now increasingly seen as a necessity by parents disillusioned with the formal school system’s ability to meet their children’s needs.  

This shift is driven by concerns over unmet educational needs, including those related to mental health and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). The investigation highlighted a significant rise in home-educated pupils, with an estimated 140,000 children being taught at home during the 2022-23 academic year, marking a 12% increase from the previous year. Find out more from Schools Week here 

4. Report Shows Over One Hundred Staff Resigned from Prison in Nottinghamshire

Over 120 staff have resigned from HMP Lowdham Grange in Nottinghamshire following a report highlighting severe safety concerns that prompted government intervention. The prison, criticised for high levels of violence, self-harm, and drug use, also saw the seizure of 600 litres of illicit alcohol.  

The Prison Service has since assumed control, initiating improvements and appointing a new governor to address these issues. Despite these efforts, a recent inspection revealed ongoing challenges and a lack of significant progress on previously identified concerns.

5. Use of AI in Adult Social Care Must Be Responsible, Say Experts

Experts convened at the University of Oxford to discuss the responsible implementation of generative AI in adult social care, emphasising the potential benefits while acknowledging significant ethical concerns.  

The focus was on safeguarding human rights and wellbeing in social care settings, highlighting the absence of guidelines for the appropriate use of AI technologies like chatbots. A statement was issued urging the co-production of practical guidelines for AI’s deployment in social care, backed by over 23 organisations. Find out more here  

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Carry on reading