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HuffPost UK - Athena2 - All Entries (Public)
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    The announcement that Dame Laura Cox, a respected QC with significant experience in the field, was to lead an independent inquiry into bullying and harassment of House of Commons staff would normally be one that would be unequivocally welcomed.

    Yet, as the union that represents Clerks in the House of Commons, the group whose testimony to Newsnight prompted the inquiry, we find ourselves qualifying that welcome. 

    It’s not that we don’t believe Dame Laura is qualified or that she won’t be independent, far from it. It’s just that while Dame Laura might be new to these issues in the House of Commons, our members are not.

    The allegations aired in the excellent Newsnight investigation by Chris Cook and Lucinda Day reflect the experience of a number of our members who have tried and failed to pursue allegations of bullying and harassment as well as countless others who have given up trying.

    Parliament has many anachronistic traditions, often through some historical or constitutional significance. Self-regulation is one that still exists in many forms, founded in the desire to separate Parliament from the Executive.  Understandable, possibly even laudable, but the by-product has been a lack of oversight and the development of culture over many decades that, for some, manifests itself in a belief that they are untouchable.

    It is the culture that led to taxpayer-funded redecoration of duck houses and in this context has allowed, encouraged even, behaviour that has no place in any workplace, modern or otherwise. I say encouraged because it is clear that many politicians, prominent backbenchers, ministers, chairs of committees, party whips and the political parties themselves have been well aware of these behaviours. They have witnessed them, turned a blind eye and too often refused to challenge them when they were the only ones with the power to do so. Political expedience triumphed over the welfare of those whose job it was to help make Parliament work.

    Over many years now brave individuals - some supported by the FDA and other unions, some on their own - have sought to challenge these behaviours but have been thwarted at almost every turn. After a number of high profile cases ended without satisfactory resolution, a new policy was adopted in 2014 which had the potential for some independent oversight in the most extreme cases. The result of dogged determination and negotiation from unions, this was an improvement on the previous process but far from satisfactory.

    It was at this point some politicians cried foul: “How can any new policy deal with historical cases?”

    “How can they be investigated under a policy that did not exist at the time of the alleged incident?”

    So, the House of Commons wiped the slate clean and in doing so reinforced the point that few were serious about addressing these issues in any meaningful way. Bullying and harassment often follows patterns. In many cases it is systematic low-level undermining of individuals, comments or exchanges that in themselves can be explained away by culture, robust language or just being difficult.

    Wipe the slate clean and years of evidence is discarded, unable to be used as part of any complaint. The message to victims is clear: they will have to suffer further years of abuse before a complaint can be lodged. The message to the bullies is even clearer. Is it any wonder that since the new policy was Introduced in 2014, not a single member of staff has taken a complaint through to a formal process?

    That is one of the reasons why we stated publicly that our members have no faith in the current process and that any independent inquiry must look at individual cases. Not without difficulty, probably not without challenge by some Parliamentarians, but essential if staff are to have the confidence that something will finally change this time.

    Their refusal to concede this point, asking staff to make use of a system so obviously discredited that an independent inquiry has been set up to look at, owes more to Joseph Heller than it does to CIPD.

    The inquiry promises closure, its press release says it will “consider what options are available for resolving current or historical allegations,” but the terms of reference are silent on this.

    Closure comes with justice, not tea and sympathy, and Dame Laura can’t deliver the true justice that victims deserve if she is starting with one hand tied behind her back. 

    Dave Penman is General Secretary of the FDA union, which represents leaders across the public sector. He tweets as @FDAGenSec


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    Today, the Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell is set to visit Brook House detention centre near Gatwick Airport. This is notable for two reasons. Firstly, because only very few MPs take the time to visit people in detention. I was detained in Harmondsworth IRC for five months, and I never saw any elected official or a member of Parliament. We were calling out for someone from outside to come and see how we were being treated, locked up in cages. But no-one came and the message we got from that was that we were ‘out of sight, out of mind’, nobody cared. We were made to feel helpless and isolated, just the way the Home Office likes it.

    Secondly, it is notable that Mr. Mitchell is a Conservative MP. The present government have pushed the idea of detention as a deterrent with great enthusiasm for many years. Just in the same way the ‘Windrush scandal’ has revealed their willingness to put votes over basic humanity, so has indefinite detention become a central part of their commitment to make life a living nightmare for all migrants, whoever they are, whatever their right to remain in the UK.

    To Mr. Mitchell’s credit, he has publicly criticised detention as a ‘dystopian stain on our democracy’ and has pushed the Government to disclose the enormous financial cost of this broken system to the taxpayer. It is refreshing to see this when so many of his other party colleagues - not least the ex-Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis - continue to openly lie to the public, and themselves, about detention in the UK and its impacts. Whilst I have no interest in endorsing one political party over another when it comes to detention reform, it can sometimes feel like the Conservative party are the only ones left in the whole country with their heads still in the sand about the horrors of indefinite detention – everyone from the Bar Council to the UN agrees there should be a 28-day time limit as an urgent first step in addressing the government’s addiction to detention. Perhaps, staying away from the physical sites of this inhumane policy is a necessary part of denying that indefinite detention actually exists (which they do repeatedly, despite the evidence).

    Of course, going to visit a detention centre does not mean you will necessarily get an accurate picture of what detention is like, or how that centre normally runs. G4S and Home Office staff will likely be the ones showing Mr. Mitchell around. They will no doubt present a fairy-tale picture of good immigration control in practice: he will be introduced to the ‘right’ people and he will be taken down the ‘right’ corridors. It is very unlikely he will see evidence of the culture of abuse captured by the BBC Panorama documentary last year. As was the case when the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, and member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Stuart McDonald, visited Yarl’s Wood last month, the truth can only come via those who had or are experiencing detention themselves. Without their consultation, any such visit will be ineffective.

    If Mr. Mitchell does speak to those people inside Brook House, he will also be indirectly hearing from those inside Dungavel, or Campsfield, or Colnbrook, from people locked up indefinitely all over the country. This is because the experience of detention is not defined by the conditions of each centre but by the cruelty of the adverse policies that dictate them.

    The current Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into detention seem to have recognised this. The inquiry was first launched in response to the undercover footage of physical and mental abuse in Brook House, and was supposed to only focus on this detention centre alone. Then we saw the fourth death in the space of a year at Morton Hall and a month-long hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood, and the inquiry was forced to broaden their scope to include these detention centres as well. Representatives from Serco (Yarl’s Wood) and HMIP (Morton Hall) were brought in to give testimony before the Select Committee, and they said there is not much they can do given the Home Office’s policy to detain (at all costs). I believe private contractors are also complicit in this human rights and civil liberties disaster, but there is some truth in their statements. Even if they were to provide the best care in the world, it would be still be indefinite detention.

    The Select Committee has now decided to extend it to the detention estate as a whole. If it is carried out correctly, it will be a big surprise if it does not reach the same conclusion as the cross-party Parliamentary Inquiry on Detention report in 2015: that we need urgent and radical reform of the whole detention system. But any wider inquiry would also reveal that indefinite detention is not an aberration. It fits perfectly into a whole network of policies that make up Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’, which looks to target all migrants, however long they’ve been in this country. Immigration detention is directly linked to the restrictions on the right to rent, Go Home vans, reporting centres, the financial cost of making immigration appeals, access to healthcare, and many other restrictions designed to make life untenable for migrants in the UK.

    These policies not only destroy individuals’ lives with direct attacks on their dignity and welfare, they also damage the collective ideal of what it means to live in a shared society. That is why Mr. Mitchell’s visit to Brook House is an important symbolic step, and it is an especially welcome one for a Conservative MP. But it is also clearly not enough. Just like the ‘Windrush scandal’, if it is seen and framed in isolation, then nothing will really change.

    *Not the author’s real name


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    Atchoo! “Bless you,” says a colleague. “Thank you!” I reply. Thank you for your letter, Madam. Cheers for lending me that book. Thank you, grandma, for the delightful knitted jumper you gave me.

    Since moving from Naples to London nine years ago, I have heard – and used – the expression ‘thank you’ more times than I can count. From the moment I wake up in the morning, when the radio presenter thanks me for listening, through all my daily work emails politely signed “Thank you, Mariacristina”, to the evening food shopping, when I automatically say thank you as the cashier hands me back my clubcard.

    The practice of saying ‘thank you’ is a fundamental element in the way we interact with one another. You know where you stand when everyone’s saying ‘thank you’ – it’s hard to imagine any community running smoothly without it. Kate Fox, in her handy guide for foreigners like me, ‘Watching the English’, points out that in the UK, people typically say ‘thank you’ between three and five times in the course of a simple transaction.

    On the other hand, though, it has become so engrained that we often no longer think about why we’re saying it, or even take any notice of having been thanked. Our ears have become so accustomed to the words that perhaps we don’t even hear them anymore.

    Is saying thank you not meant to be a way of expressing genuine gratitude?

    Two years ago, for the first time, I started to wonder seriously about whether ‘thank you’ could still carry some weight beyond the everyday contexts. The issue was urgent: I was preparing to meet the man who had saved my husband’s life. I was desperate to find a way to show him how thankful I was for what he had done. As I searched for ideas on the internet, usually bursting with solutions to everything, I quickly realised that nobody could offer any advice on how to thank the individual who gave someone you love another chance at life.

    Could a simple, “thank you for saving my husband’s life” ever be enough after such an enormous gift?

    It was pretty certain that without the stem cells of a stranger my husband George would have not survived. The desperation and helplessness at the thought of losing him so early in our journey together had crushed me.

    The day we heard a potential donor was ready to give the gift of life through his stem cell donation, a bright light of hope cut through the heaviness of worries.

    We had both received an immeasurable gift: a new chance at life for my husband and more precious time together – writing a thank you note just did not cut it.

    It was two years after the transplant and we finally had a chance to meet his donor, Tim.

    I insisted he and his family come to ours for Sunday lunch. This was my answer: cooking Tim a Neapolitan feast would be my very personal way to show him how much his act of kindness meant to me. Italians always say it with food.

    I put everything into that meal: the most spectacular recipes, the very best ingredients – and all my love, gratitude and relief. When the day came, I had tears in my eyes as I tried to express everything that was bursting inside me.

    “What you did is something we will never be able to thank you enough for,” I said.

    “I just gave a helping hand to someone who needed me,” he replied.

    And in that moment, faced by the humility of a man without whose miraculous gift our story would have ended a long time before, I knew there was only one thing I needed to say. It would never be enough, but it would carry a meaning far beyond its worn-out everyday recital, saying in two words what two million would struggle to convey.

    “Thank you.”

    If you want to become a potential life-saver (and superhero!) like Tim, you can sign up to Anthony Nolan’s register (if you are 16-30), or join DKMS’ register (if you are above 30 years old).

    HumanKind is HuffPost’s celebration of kindness, featuring people who do incredible things for others or the planet – transforming lives through small but significant acts. Get involved by joining us on Facebook or telling us about the people who you think deserve recognition for their kind works. You can nominate them here or share your personal story by emailing natasha.hinde@huffpost.com.


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    Each morning after I’ve brushed my teeth, had a shower, and eaten some breakfast, I go to my wardrobe, put on my secret-identity-mask and get on my busy commute to work.

    At least that’s what it sometimes feels like for me and a good number of my friends who also grew up black and poor, but have also found themselves employed at a large, successful workplace.

    Trying to navigate the office can be difficult for anyone, but there is an added anxiety when social cues and conduct considered part of the fabric of office life, are your very first encounters with those behaviours.

    Even few years into my career there are still things I don’t understand: why does everyone else seem to have been skiing?

    Another is: would that person have called me aggressive if I wasn’t a black woman?

    I have been accused of aggression in a past workplace and in my current place of work. The most recent came in the form of an anonymous complaint from an external person and it also came as quite a surprise.

    There is a distinct racialised and gendered flavour to the word ‘aggressive’. Ask any black woman and I can guarantee that many would tell you the same thing.

    It’s things like this that lead to the feeling of requiring a dual personality.

    At work, you can end up being the most ‘professional’ version of yourself – speaking with a different tone and sanitising language, lest it be seen as vulgar; lowering your voice so not to attract any accusations of aggression; smiling politely while the third person in an hour asks you whether the new ’do on your head is “all yours”.

    But then you clock out and all seems to be fine again. You’re free to express your hair, views, and moods however you want, and not feel as if your colleagues are speaking a different language to you as they discuss their holidays in the Cotswolds or wood burning stoves.

    Well that is my experience. This freer, more HD version of my personality extends to social media. I was once told by somebody at work: “You’re so different online”, to which I replied: “No, I’m just different here.” My black female friends admit to me that they tone down their personalities at the office in order to avoid being labelled as loud or aggressive.

    However, they also want to be their authentic selves and end up using middle names or aliases as usernames on social media accounts. That way, we’re free to be as loud, boisterous, and joyful as possible.

    Fitting in at a respected legacy organisation can be a struggle. I don’t share the same experience, or come from the same background. Add to that an assertiveness and confidence that is misconstrued as arrogance or aggression, trying to be your authentic self at work can eventually become draining. Putting on a mask each day ends up feeling like it’s the best way to get through the day, and quite possibly the rest of your career.

    • Do you have an experience relating to this story? You can contact us on WhatsApp on +44 78968 04043.
    • This column is being published anonymously to allow the author to lift the lid on her experience in a high-profile organisation. 


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    Kim Kardashian has accused the media of pushing a mental health narrative around her husband Kanye West after he posted a stream of consciousness on Twitter, where he voiced support for Donald Trump

    The reality star claimed many people were trying to “demonise” her husband with their commentary on his tweets, where he has been painted as “erratic”. 

    During his social media spree, Kanye covered many topics including his fashion label Yeezy, his family and his support for the US president, who he called his “brother”. 

    Kanye West and Kim Kardashian

    In one tweet he wrote: “You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We both have dragon energy. He is my brother.”

    He also posted a Trump-signed Make America Great Again hat. 

    He then claimed Kim had instructed him to make it “clear to everyone” that he doesn’t “agree with everything Trump does”, adding he doesn’t “agree 100%” with anyone but himself.

    Kim then took to Twitter herself to slam how reports of Kanye’s tweets had been covered in the media, which also came amid a backlash from some of his fans for verbalising his support of Trump. 

    The ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ star was also quick to insist they had “very different views” on the president. 

    She wrote: “To the media trying to demonize my husband let me just say this... your commentary on Kanye being erratic & his tweets being disturbing is actually scary.

    “So quick to label him as having mental health issues for just being himself when he has always been expressive is not fair.

    “Yesterday it was announced that Kanye had parted ways with some business people and media outlets made this about Kanye’s mental health. Rather than just a simple business decision. So I’m glad he tweeted about the state of his company and all of the exciting things happening.”

    Kanye with Donald Trump

    She continued: “He’s a free thinker, is that not allowed in America? Because some of his ideas differ from yours you have to throw in the mental health card? That’s just not fair. He’s actually out of the sunken place when he’s being himself which is very expressive.”

    Speaking about Kanye’s support of Trump, Kim went on: “Now when he spoke out about Trump... Most people (including myself) have very different feelings & opinions about this. But this is HIS opinion. I believe in people being able to have their own opinions,even if really different from mine. He never said he agrees with his politics.

    “Kanye will never run in the race of popular opinion and we know that and that’s why I love him and respect him and in a few years when someone else says the same exact thing but they aren’t labeled the way he is and you will all praise them! Kanye is years ahead of his time.”

    She added: “Mental Health is no joke and the media needs to stop spitting that out so casually. Bottom line.”

    Meanwhile, Trump himself weighed in on the matter, thanking Kanye and calling his tweets “very cool”. 

    There had been speculation Kanye’s Twitter thread had lost him nine million of his 27 million followers, but this rumour has actually turned out to be false. 

    A Twitter spokesperson told The Verge: “We can confirm that Kanye’s follower count is currently at approximately 27M followers. Any fluctuation that people might be seeing is an inconsistency and should be resolved soon.”

    It is far from the first time Kanye has spoken about Trump positively, as during a live show back in November 2016, he said he would have voted for him, if he’d have voted in the last election at all. 

    “I told y’all I didn’t vote, right?” Kanye told fans during Saint Pablo tour. “But if I would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump.”

    He then urged African-Americans to “stop focusing on racism” because “this world is racist, OK?”

    Ten months later, Kanye met Trump in person to “discuss multicultural issues”, stating: “I feel it is important to have a direct line of communication with our future President if we truly want change.”

    Trump later told journalists he thought the rapper was a “good man”, adding they had been “friends for a long time”.


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    71 people lost their lives in the London tower block fire, which left a community traumatised 

    Ministers stand accused of ignoring swathes of Grenfell’s homeless by omitting from official figures those residents too traumatised to return to the area after the blaze last year.

    While Communities Secretary Sajid Javid regularly updates Parliament on efforts to rehouse those hit by the North Kensington fire, the Government’s headline figure refers only to survivors whose homes were destroyed by the fire, and excludes a further 128 households from the wider Lancaster West area.

    Many of this group are too traumatised to return to their former homes. Most lost a friend or relative in the blaze and watched the fire take hold from their window.

    While the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea local authority has a strategy to rehouse the 128 households - from Barandon Walk, Hurstway Walk, Testerton Walk, Treadgold House and Bramley House - and identifies them in a separate “wider Grenfell” strategy, the Government is not acknowledging their situation in the Commons. 

    Labour MP Emma Dent Coad accused Javid of “segregating survivors and the bereaved” and said as it was a disgrace that ministers were failing to account for them.  

    The Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it is “rightly” prioritising those who physically lost their home and accepted that those from the wider area cannot return home for “a variety of sometimes complex reasons”.  

    Emma Dent Coad, Labour MP for Kensington

    Dent Coad said of the revelation: “The government appears to accept that there are ‘priorities’ with the rehousing programme. 

    “In my opinion the ‘priority’ should be rehousing every single person who has been made homeless by the fire. It should not be a case of segregating survivors and the bereaved.”

    She added that as many people from the wider estate witnessed the blaze from their living room and kitchen windows, “the mental health impact of the atrocity is huge and it is no wonder that many from the wider estate feel that they cannot return to their original homes.”

    She said it was high time the government and RBKC rehoused “every single person impacted”. 

    Of the 128 households excluded from the government figure, 70 (55%) are still in temporary accommodation and 25 are in hotels/services apartments or staying with friends families. Thirty-three have returned home. 

    Justice 4 Grenfell, which campaigns for the victims of the fire, said RBKC had “continuously issued flawed data as a way of both ‘down playing’ what happened at Grenfell tower and also to renege on their statutory responsibilities.”

    In a statement to HuffPost UK, the group said the figures showed “this is business as usual for the Borough leadership team, who have treated the communities of North Kensington with contempt for decades, and failed to show any real humanity following the fire.” 

    A Government spokesman said: “The Council rightly prioritises rehousing those from Grenfell Tower and Walk who lost their homes in the fire. There are a total of 211 households in this situation. 

    “There are also a number of households from the wider Lancaster West estate who were either temporarily evacuated or decided to take up emergency accommodation following the fire. 

    “Whilst the majority of these households have returned home, a number do not currently feel able to for a variety of sometimes complex reasons.”

    A total of 71 people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire in June. 

    A judge-led public inquiry into what caused the disaster is under way. 


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    Starbucks is set to trial alternative solutions for plastic straws across 54 of its UK stores, testing public reaction to paper and biodegradable plastic straws.

    The announcement comes after a Starbucks employee launched a petition calling on her employer to ditch plastic straws. Stephanie Muttillo, from New Jersey, said the coffee chain had a duty to help tackle the growing problem of plastic waste. “I would like to see Starbucks, the company I work for, help lead the way to shrink our footprint on the planet,” she explained. 

    “Plastic straws are too lightweight to be recycled, and oftentimes are made out of the same plastic as styrofoam, which cannot be recycled. There are many alternatives to plastic straws. Many companies have started using compostable straws or paper straws.”

    Her online petition has gained more than 68,000 signatures at the time of writing.

    [READ MORE: Eco-friendlier alternatives to beat plastic straw bans]

    The trial will start in May and will initially launch across 54 stores in London and Manchester. 

    Alongside the announcement Starbucks revealed the results from the first six weeks of a three-month trial into reusable cups. A total of 35 stores have been implementing a 5p paper cup charge, with extra profits being donated to an environmental charity. Customers using reusable cups also receive a 25p discount. Results from the trial show reusable cup usage has increased by more than 150%.

    The new straw trial follows commitments from the likes of McDonald’s, Wetherspoons and Wagamama to phase out plastic straws in UK branches. 

    The news comes on the same day more than 40 of the largest UK businesses, including major supermarkets, have signed the UK Plastics Pact, agreeing to make all their plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. 

    In light of the move away from plastic straws, campaigners, including Michaela Hollywood, who has spinal muscular atrophy, have urged companies to ensure they are providing alternatives, such as paper straws, rather than banning them altogether, pointing out some disabled people reply on straws to drink.


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    If you’re a stationery addict, you know full well you don’t need an excuse like National Stationery Week to fill your drawers with even more unnecessary completely necessary notepads, pens, pencil cases and desk pads.

    But seeing as there is a week dedicated to it, it seems only polite that we join in and treat ourselves to brand-spankingly new desk accessories to fill ourselves with joy - Enjoy!

    Spring Desk Pad

    This isn’t just a notepad, this is a desk pad to ensure your weekly plans are in order (with some space for doodles). It’ll make you more organised, promise. 

    Price: £7.95. From: Oh Deer

    Inspirational Pencil Set

    If you want to feel empowered when you scribble or doodle, this stylish inspirational pencil set is for you. Be a warrior, not a worrier.  

    Price: £6. From: Not On The High Street

    List Pad

    Are you one of those people? You know the ones we’re talking about. The people who write things they’ve already done on their to do list, just so they can tick it off. Well, this list pad will be right up your street. 

    Price: £6. From: Dotty About Paper

    Rose Ballpoint Pen

    If there’s one thing that all stationery addicts know, it’s that you will *always* have a favourite pen. Don’t have one yet? Fawn over this rose-coloured beauty. 

    Price: £22.99. From: Crafty Arts.

    Floral Notelet Set

    When you have no lists to write and no plans to make but still want to put pen to paper, make someone’s day and write them a letter instead. 

    Price: £17.50. From: Stationery Treasure.

    Personalised Notepad

    You can never have enough notepads. But personalised notepads? Even better. 

    Price: £12.99. From: Papier

    Pastel Bulldog Clips

    Keep stray notes clipped together or mark out important points in your diary with these beautifully-coloured mini bulldog clips.

    Price: £2.75. From: Chroma Stationery

    A ‘List A Day’ Journal

    Keeping a journal can sometimes be a struggle if you don’t know what to write. This pad gives you small prompts each day (for the next 100 days) to inspire a list a day.  

    Price: £10. From: Paperchase

    Gel Pen Ink Set 12-pack

    Make your lists, notes, brainstorms and creative notes look beautiful with fine-tipped gel pens (no, they weren’t only cool when you were 12). 

    Price: £16.95. From: Muji

    Tropical Pencil Case

    No stationery guide would be complete without a pencil case and we love this bright and colourful tropical print from Oh Deer. 

    Price: £12.95. From: Oh Deer

    Also on HuffPost

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    In the waiting room for The Haven, there are no magazines or music playing; instead the walls hang abstract artworks and a screen shows ocean waves gently lapping at a shore. Great care has been taken to make this room a calming atmosphere and omit anything that may be triggering for those who pass through: victims of sexual assault and rape.

    One in four women and one in 10 men will experience sexual assault in the UK at some point in their lives. The Haven, based at King’s College Hospital in Camberwell, south London, provides crucial support to sexual assault victims, while also obtaining forensic evidence so perpetrators can be caught and prosecuted.

    When the centre first opened its doors in 2000 it catered to adults of all gender identities, but since - and heartbreakingly due to the demand for services - it has expanded to help adolescents and children.  

    The Haven is a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) in Camberwell, London.

    Following assault, clients referred to the service - either by themselves or police - will undergo a gentle two-minute forensic examination with a female examiner. They’ll also be given medical care, reassurance around pregnancy, and information and support going forward - all of which takes four to five hours. Afterwards they’ll receive several counselling sessions.

    The forensic exam can be especially difficult following such a traumatic event. “The examination shouldn’t be any more painful than a smear test, but following what’s just happened it can bring up all sorts of issues that make it that little bit harder to go through,” explains Jo Delaforce, Matron of The Haven. 

    Beforehand, a crisis worker will guide the client through what’s going to happen - a crucial process to ensure there are no surprises. “You want to know exactly what is going to happen to you: from the moment you walk through the door to the moment you leave,” says Jo. “It’s about building a rapport, that trust, supporting a client so they feel comfortable but more importantly making them feel in control - because whatever happened to them before they got there, it was out of their control.”

    On the day I’m there, the forensic suite and upstairs rooms - including the washroom - are off limits as a client has just arrived in need of support. The washroom is of particular significance as this is where many of the clients are able to finally relax after such a horrifying ordeal. They are given a wash-bag filled with toiletries including shampoo, shower gel, moisturiser, lip balm and mascara, and this simple act of humanity often means the world to them with many recipients bursting into tears.

    Crisis worker Teri Raymond, who deals mostly with self-referred clients, says she recently supported a client who arrived at the centre and was very distraught. “She’d come with nothing. She couldn’t go back home so she couldn’t get any clothing and didn’t have a wash bag or anything like that, Teri recalls. “I gave her a wash bag just before she went into the shower and she burst into tears. 

    “The tears were of happiness, not of sadness. She was very grateful. She felt quite dirty and just wanted a shower, so she was really happy that we’d given her this wash bag and was amazed at what was in it. She didn’t realise that she’d get so many products.”

    Volunteers spent a week packing 12,000 wash bags for victims of sexual assault.

    The wash bag initiative is a collaboration between Boots and The Haven. 70 volunteers spent one week packing up 12,000 wash bags which were then delivered to 47 sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) across the UK. The scheme is in its second year and despite being a relatively simple thing it is already making a huge difference.

    The project was originally established by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall and is part of a three-year agreement between Boots UK and SARCs to donate over 36,000 wash bags in total.

    Volunteer Imogen Wood says it’s “amazing” to see how a week’s worth of packing wash bags impacts lives: “To be able to give comfort and dignity back, it makes me want to go and work in a warehouse all day every day. Seeing the impact it’s having is really heartening.”

    Volunteers packing wash bags in the Boots warehouse.

    In addition to volunteers, crisis workers like Teri and Christine support people through such devastating ordeals 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Jo explains that many out-of-hours crisis workers are doing the role in addition to another full-time job.

    But, while supporting the victims is incredibly difficult, the knowledge that workers are helping makes it wholly worthwhile. Teri explains: “It makes us smile knowing that they came in here feeling distraught, crying and in crisis, and they’ve often left with a smile on their face.”

    Crisis worker Christine Murphy recalls a poignant story where a homeless man turned up at the centre for help. “When he arrived he was unkempt and wearing a hospital gown,” she explains. “After the forensic examination he was given a wash bag and used the washroom facilities. When he came out he looked like a completely different man. 

    “He said: ‘I feel human again’.”

    HumanKind is HuffPost’s celebration of kindness, featuring people who do incredible things for others or the planet – transforming lives through small but significant acts. Get involved by joining us on Facebook or telling us about the people who you think deserve recognition for their kind works. You can nominate them here or share your personal story by emailing natasha.hinde@huffpost.com.


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    If you’re looking for a unique baby name then why not look to the hundreds of countries, cities and states to find inspiration for naming your little one. 

    Sounds odd? Fear not, geographical names aren’t a new thing - think Brooklyn Beckham, Paris Hilton and India Hemsworth. Consider also that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West named their third child Chicago and it doesn’t seem to be a trend that’s slowing down. 

    So what are the most popular geographical names in the UK, according to recent official ONS records? Global Babies trawled through the data to find out.

    Top geographical names given to babies in the UK in 2016:

    1. Austin (given to 812 babies in 2016)

    2. Lincoln (given to 478 babies)

    3. Savannah (given to 432 babies)

    4. Hudson (given to 383 babies)

    5. Jordan (given to 256 babies)

    6. Chester (given to 248 babies)

    7. Phoenix (given to 244 babies)

    8. India (given to 240 babies)

    9. Rio (given to 237 babies)

    10. Brooklyn (given to 234 babies)

    11. Harlow (given to 290 babies)

    12. Milan (given to 203 babies)

    13. Preston (given to 171 babies)

    14. Sydney (given to 135 babies)

    15. Dakota (given to 115 babies)

    16. Devon (given to 113 babies)

    17. Iona (given to 104 babies)

    18. Santiago (given to 100 babies)

    19. Vienna (given to 90 babies)

    20. Indiana (given to 88 babies).

    To find out popular geographical names from the past 20 years, visit their website

    Also on HuffPost

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    Offences involving knives or other sharp instruments have increased by 22% year-on-year in England and Wales in 2017 

    Police forces across the country have recorded sharp increases in knife and gun crime, figures likely to fuel mounting concern over rising levels of violence.

    The findings are likely to place the government’s efforts to make Britain’s streets safer under even more scrutiny, as statisticians report a clear increase in “high-harm” violent offences. 

    Police forces logged 39,598 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in 2017, a 22% increase compared with the previous year, and the highest number registered since comparable records started in 2010.

    Official figures show police forces in England and Wales also recorded rises in homicide and robbery last year.  

    Offences involving firearms were also up, by 11% to 6,604 recorded crimes.

    Responding to the figures, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “These statistics show once again that crime, and violent crime in particular, is rising at an unacceptably high rate across the whole of England and Wales, including London.

    “This is clearly a national problem that requires national solutions from the Government.”

    John Poyton, CEO at youth charity Redthread said: “These crime statistics throw into sharp relief the urgent need to adopt a public health approach to tackling violence. This model combines resources from the police, health, education and the community to create a long-term attitudinal change in society, rather than treating violence just as a criminal justice issue.

    “We need to treat violence as a disease. Analyse the causes, diagnose the problem, look at what works to treat the symptoms and develop solutions.”

    The offences were disproportionately concentrated in London and other metropolitan areas, the Office for National Statistics said, but it added that the majority of police forces saw rises in these types of violent crime.

    The figures showed the number of homicides went up by 54, or 9%, to a total of 653, when cases linked to the Hillsborough disaster and last year’s terror attacks were excluded.

    In the overall category of “violence against the person”, there were 1.3 million crimes logged, a rise of a fifth on 2016.

    Recorded burglary and robbery offences went up by 9% and 33% respectively, while the separate Crime Survey for England and Wales showed a 17% jump in vehicle thefts.

    In total, police recorded 5.4 million offences, a 13% year-on-year rise.

    ONS statistician Alexa Bradley said: “Today’s figures show that, for most types of offence, the picture of crime has been fairly stable, with levels much lower than the peak seen in the mid-1990s.”

    Earlier this month Home Secretary Amber Rudd launched a multi-pronged strategy to tackle serious violence.

    But the blueprint – unveiled against a backdrop of rising concern following a flurry of killings in London – was overshadowed by a fresh row over police numbers.

    Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, responsible for Territorial Policing, said: “The Met continues to experience a very busy and challenging time against the backdrop of significant reductions in resources.”

    He added that the force was “strengthening local policing by bringing specialist officers closer to communities”, and said it would be increasing the number of neighbourhood officers.

    Sheldon Thomas, the founder of Gangsline, which runs outreach programmes with young men and women involved in gang culture, said ministers should be handing strategy over to those working directly with children and teens. 

    He said: “Don’t consult people like me at the end – come to us at the beginning. Pay us, give us the resources, and we will come up with a strategy and implement it.” 

    Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England and Wales, linked the figures to government cuts to youth services.

    She said: “Unfortunately it is not until news of young people’s loneliness or incidents like the recent knife crimes in London hit the headlines, the role of youth services is in the spotlight. But like all news cycles, this will pass and public outrage will simmer down, yet cuts to youth services will continue if local authorities don’t recognise its vital benefits to the development of young people.

    “Without drastic action to protect funding and making youth services a statutory service, we are condemning young people to become a lonely, lost generation with nowhere to turn.”


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    1. TARGET PRACTICE

    Home Secretary Amber Rudd really struggled through yesterday’s Home Affairs Committee session on Windrush. Given the huge interest in the subject, it was shocking just how little she knew or had been told (or demanded to be told) on basic questions. On immigration staff wanting ‘low hanging fruit’, on numbers detained or threatened with deportation, she seemed like a spectator not a player. Yvette Cooper, whose anger at PMQs powered one of her best ever questions to Theresa May (and she’s asked lots in the last 8 years), was suitably forensic as she chaired the committee hearing.

    Yet it was on the issue of targets for removals of illegal immigrants that Rudd is under most pressure today. Asked about regional deportation targets, she had replied ”I’m not sure what shape that might be in…that’s not how we operate…” Her chief immigration official Glynn Williams also told MPs such targets did not exist. Yet this morning it emerged a 2015 report by the independent chief inspector of borders confirmed that targets were set for voluntary departures. Diane Abbott has just been granted an Urgent Question on the topic, which may clash with the Home Secretary’s planned appearance as guest speaker at the Press Gallery lunch. On Today, Cabinet minister Matt Hancock gave the Government line that “it has never been Home Office policy to take decisions arbitrarily to meet a target”. That’s not a denial targets may have existed. 

    What was perhaps more worrying was the way Rudd just appeared to lack a grip of her department, or an ability to step back and see the bigger picture. She candidly admitted the latter point when asked why she hadn’t seen the pattern of repeated Guardian stories on the issue. The real difficulty for Rudd of course is that she is trying to change the culture set by her boss, one T May. When she said yesterday the Home Office must become ‘more human’, she was asked by John Woodcock which Home Secretary had made the department less human. “I can’t give a clear answer,” she replied. “You could,” he ventured, “but you choose not to, to protect the former incumbent.”

    The whole scandal has certainly dented Rudd’s leadership hopes, but the Sun reports how she’s still part of an under-the-radar battle with Michael Gove and Gavin Williamson to build big warchests from donors. Ostensibly, these are funds to help fight their seats, but many seem them as leadership cash. Gove has racked up £31k in nine months, Rudd has £23,500 and Williamson £10k. And in the Telegraph, Nigel Farage has endorsed Jacob Rees-Mogg as the Tories’ best hope as future PM.  The chatter continues.

     

    2. LEN ME YOUR EARS

    Judging by his combative New Statesman column, Unite chief Len McCluskey appears not to have read Jeremy Corbyn’s recent letters to the Jewish community, or his Evening Standard column, warning his party not to suggest it is a ‘smear’ on his leadership to raise the issue of anti-semitism. I say ‘appears’, as it could well be that Len has indeed seen Corbyn’s edicts and decided to deliberately flout them. Some may even think he’s been encouraged by parts of the leader’s office. Whatever, his attack on Labour MPs Chris Leslie, Neil Coyle, John Woodcock, Wes Streeting and Ian Austin - for “working overtime trying to present the Labour Party as a morass of misogyny, anti-Semitism and bullying” – has got the headlines he wanted. Crucially, the Unite boss talks about the need to hold MPs ‘to account’ and mandatory reselection, an issue that is the ticking timebomb in the party that may explode before the next election.

    After this week’s meeting with Jewish groups, a Labour spokesman stressed yesterday the leader’s willingness to tackle anti-semitism and uphold the agreed international definition of it. Yet the spokesman said backbenchers like Chris Williamson could share platforms with those suspended for anti-semitism but not yet finally found guilty of it (like Jackie Walker). Frontbenchers could not share such platforms because the party wanted to send a ‘strong message’ about the issue. Surely if a strong message was needed, all MPs would be told not to appear alongside those suspended?

    The sorry state of the party over the issue prompted a withering HuffPost blog yesterday from Labour’s former compliance unit chief Mike Creighton. He says anti-semites should be as relentlessly ejected from the party as Militant was in the 1980s. And he is scathing about Corbyn’s comms and strategy chief Seumas Milne, claiming “It took three conference calls with Seumas Milne and others over several tortuous hours (and John Mann chasing Ken around with a TV crew) to get agreement that Ken Livingstone should be suspended for the allegations of antisemitism made against him.” Creighton makes a wider point that Labour’s disciplinary culture is really down to the leader. In response, a Labour spokesman dubbed him a ‘disgruntled former staffer’ who was ‘politically hostile’ to the leadership.

    Meanwhile, the depressing fact that anti-semitism infects all parties is underscored once more today after a Twitter user spotted that a Tory candidate in Cambridgeshire has a truly appalling social media history,including one message that said he was ‘sweating like a Jew in an attic’. I’d guess that George Stoakley will surely be suspended at some point today. MP Lucy Fraser, who posed with him for a leaflet pic, won’t be amused either.

     

    3. MEANINGFUL HOPE

    There was yet another Lords defeat for the Government on its EU Withdrawal Bill last night, as Lord Lisvane’s amendment curbing Henry VIII powers passed with a whopping 128 majority. Yet again, it was a cross-party combo that did the damage, with 13 Tory rebels and crossbenchers voting by six to one for the change. Today, the Commons has its own symbolic vote on staying in the EU customs union, though with Government whips sending an abstain message out it will be the speeches not the result that we should watch for.

    The really Big Vote in the Lords comes on Monday, on an amendment giving Parliament a ‘meaningful vote’ on the PM’s Brexit deal with Brussels. This is known among peers as ‘Grieve plus, plus’, because it corrects some of the loose wording of Dominic Grieve’s amendment that passed in the Commons late last year. Crucially, it is drafted to avoid a ‘coalition of chaos’ whereby Tory Brexiteers joined Remainers to vote down May’s deal in the hope of crashing out of the EU with no deal at all.

    For all the talk of an October date for such a vote (if somehow approved in the EU Withdrawal Bill, or tacked onto the forthcoming Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill), many in Westminster expect it could come later in the year. Under one cunning plan, some ministers want to go as late as the first week of January, removing the practicality of forcing May back to the negotiating table. The danger with that is it cuts it very fine, given the rest of Europe has to ratify the plans.

    When David Davis was asked directly about all this yesterday, he studiously left open the idea that MPs could indeed force the PM to renegotiate a different deal. A resolution to approve the deal could be amended, he said. The Sun however points out that DD also said: “I do not expect the solution to that to be extension of membership of the customs union, I would view that on my part as a failure.” If it’s a failure, would he quit? And if so, would the PM have to force an effective confidence vote if MPs tried to bind her to a customs union? That’s still an open question.  Bloomberg reports May had a private meeting with ‘clean-breakers’ on Tuesday and agreed not to budge from her red line on a customs union.

     

    BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...

    Watch elite extreme sports runner Paul Robinson run the fastest ever mile…at the North Pole. They call it the ‘marathon’ and I’m sure it felt like one.

     

    4. CAPITAL PUNISHMENT?

    The local elections are exactly a week today and many Tories fear they will suffer pretty serious losses, particularly in London. The party hasn’t exactly been helping itself of late. In Haringey activists blundered by cutting-and-pasting a Labour tweet that said their candidates are ‘passionate about Labour values’. In Ealing, one local Conservative praised Labour’s ‘slick and comprehensive offer’. In Sunderland, a candidate has been suspended for Tweets that referred to a “fat goth girl” as a “mutant”, while another said that Diane Abbott looked like a “filthy, bulbous pig”.

    As it happens, Labour could be playing a poor expectations management game here. If they fail to take Barnet, let alone the very difficult Tory flagships of Wandsworth and Westminster, their other gains (turning some areas into Tory-free zones) could be overshadowed. The Tories are also quietly hoping to do better than many think outside London. Still, other Conservatives think a drubbing would be no bad thing. “Next week looks tough, very bad,” a minister confides to Iain Martin in his Times column, while accepting that May will probably stay for at least two more years. But Iain also has a telling remark from one regular visitor to No.10: “In all my years I have never seen anything like it, not even under Brown”. “It has the whiff of death about it,” says another source.

     

    5. BULLY FOR YOU

    Amid the rash of other news of late, there’s a risk that Westminster’s bullying and sexual harassment scandal has been overlooked but the fallout hasn’t gone away. The Indy reports today that plans are being considered for a new early warning system to spot MPs who might be bullying or pestering staff.  Officials would monitor data on MPs’ offices and if any showed a high level of staff turnover or repeated complaints that reached no conclusion, an intervention would be made. As I’ve said before, on the bullying front, it’s female MPs (some of them senior indeed) and not just men, who have notorious reputations.

    And yet, for staff hired directly by Parliament rather than MPs, so called ‘clerks’, there is real anger at this week’s decision by an independent inquiry to look at the ‘culture’ rather than individual cases. Dave Penman, who leads the First Division Association union of senior civil servants, has a must-read blog for HuffPost today on why that’s just not good enough. He says Parliament’s ‘Respect’ policy for complaints is woeful and says MPs’ sense that they are ‘untouchable’ is what unites expenses claims for duck houses with many turning a ‘blind eye’ to serious mistreatment of staff by their colleagues. “Closure comes with justice, not tea and sympathy,” Penman declares.

     
     

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    To pitch a blog post on HuffPost, email Charlie Lindlar or the blog team.


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    A Conservative council candidate who said he was “sweating like a Jew in an Attic” has been suspended by the party.

    George Stoakley, who is standing as a candidate in Fen Ditton & Fulbourn in Cambridgeshire at next week’s local elections, made the comment in 2013.

    In another tweet the 23-year-old said: “Some people call it aids, I just call it weaponised semen.”

    He also branded a girl a “faggot” for using Snapchat to film the X Factor final.

    In another tweet he said he would like to have Jeremy Kyle’s job so he could “shout at chavs all day”.

    Stoakley, who describes himself as a “Libertarian Conservative” has since protected his Twitter account from being seen in public.

    A Conservative spokesman said: “George Stoakley has been suspended and an investigation is underway”.

    Brandon Lewis, the Tory party chairman, today warned his local candidates the “difference between winning and losing is a handful of votes”.

    Writing on Conservative Home, he said: “Every weekend I post pictures on social media of activists across the country campaigning day and night, in the snow and the sun, to win votes.

    “A few extra hours this evening, this weekend, and on Thursday could be the difference between winning a seat, or a ward, or a council.”


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    On the 28 August 2017 The Times, a great ambassador for British journalism, press independence and accuracy, with an unrivalled heritage, ran a highly divisive, inaccurate and disturbing headline: ‘Christian child forced into Muslim foster care’.

    The piece was described, very accurately, by the head of the government inquiry into foster care, Sir Martin Narey, as dishonest”, and even a cursory look at the facts illustrated that the vulnerable child was being exploited for the sake of a human interest story. In an age of open Islamophobia for many it came as no surprise but nevertheless the story was able to open up a genuine window into contemporary British society, and some of the xenophobic views which have become increasingly acceptable.

    Despite the story being full of irony, with the child actually being of Muslim descent and involved a motion to place the child with her grandparent (also a Muslim), the fact it could take centre stage in a broadsheet like The Times was telling.

    The facts of the case are almost secondary, as the hysteria that emerged from the story stems from the idea that it would be absurd for a Muslim to care for a Christian child. Now is that really so absurd? Is it really so unimaginable that Muslims can provide warm, loving and caring homes for the most vulnerable children in our community? At a time when foster care services are struggling to manage the level of demand on them, and every good foster home is a much needed home, society would deem it was better not to place a Christian child, than to put the child with those evil, heartless, barbaric Muslims?

    The role of the media in how we perceive those we live with is clearly important, and what this story has shown is when we do not challenge inaccurate and false reporting, we all lose. If we continue to just simply accept the efforts of the wealthy racists and xenophobes who are gradually eroding the integrity of our press, we will be witnessing the destruction of what made our society so great in the first place. Despite this story clearly being Islamophobic and inaccurate, the little challenge it received in the peer community, was a shame on British press. Miqdaad Versi’s November 2017 article in the New Statesman may have been one of the only real responses, and this itself showed how it’s ok to taunt and discriminate the Muslim community in the modern day.

    At this point if we take a step back, is this story just bad for the inaccurate media reporting, or is it something more damaging? The reality is that the consequences of such a story have been far-reaching, and innumerable Muslims have been put off pursuing roles in foster care. The Muslim Foster Network has taken countless calls from potential foster carers from the Muslim community concerning whether they should continue journeys to become foster carers if they will be vilified simply because of their faith. Other Muslim foster carers who are caring for children outside of their faith have also expressed a fear and tension about potentially being targeted for being Muslim and hosting a non-Muslim child. The question for our society today must be: are these the pressures we want to pile on for those seeking to care for the most vulnerable children in the country? I think we would all agree not.

    I think its high time we recognise and challenge blatant discrimination in the press where it occurs, and engage the The Independent Press Standards Organisation, if required. We want a free press, we want independent journalism, but we also want to ensure a society that is fair, caring and stands with the vulnerable.


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    Facebook has revealed that despite two congressional hearings, a major data leak involving at least 80 million users and the hashtag #DeleteFacebook trending on Twitter, the company is making more money than ever.

    In publishing its quarterly financial earnings Facebook revealed that its revenue has grown to 11.9 billion dollars (£8.5 billion) for the first three months of 2018, a 49% increase on the same three months from last year.

    The company’s net income also increased by three billion dollars to 4.9 billion for the quarter. The vast majority of this will have come from adverts that you see on the social network.

    What’s perhaps most surprising about the figures is that despite the hashtag #DeleteFacebook trending on social media, Facebook has actually seen a rise in both its daily and monthly active users.

    Over 1.45 billion people now use Facebook every single day and 2.2 billion use it at least every month. Both figures represent a 13% increase over the same period from last year.

    During the earnings call the social platform’s founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the scrutiny the company was currently under.

    “Despite facing important challenges, our community and business are off to a strong start in 2018,” he said.

    “We are taking a broader view of our responsibility and investing to make sure our services are used for good.

    The latest results also revealed the company’s increasing reliance on mobile advertising as a key source of revenue.

    Revenue from mobile ads made up 91% of revenue for the quarter, Facebook said.

    Facebook has over the last number of weeks started rolling out a series of major changes to the way that it handles people’s personal data. New privacy tools have been implemented, along with heavy restrictions on the amount of information that third-party apps can gather on you.

    Zuckerberg himself has since appeared in front of two congressional hearings, both of which were widely criticised as being major wins for the CEO and founder who had to spend much of his time explaining the basic principles of how Facebook works to those asking the questions.

    Earlier this week, MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis announced he was filing a defamation lawsuit against the social network over claims that it published scam adverts from criminals using his name.

    On Thursday, the company’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer will face questions from MPs before a House of Commons select committee over Facebook’s business practices.


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    Google is improving settings on its YouTube Kids app to give parents more control over what their kids are watching. 

    The separate app for children, which launched three years ago, aimed to give kids a place to access videos, however there have been concerns over the access kids have to inappropriate content.

    In controls rolling out later this year, YouTube has announced parents will be able to manually approve videos their children can access through the app, giving them the opportunity to handpick ones they feel are appropriate. Also, starting this week, there will be the option for parents to change settings in the app so it only shows channels that have been vetted by human moderators - these will be collections of videos and channels from trusted channels, created by Google. 

    Parents have always had the ability to turn search off within the YouTube Kids app, but now, turning search off will limit this to channels that have been verified by the YouTube Kids team. 

    James Beser, product director for YouTube Kids, said: “From collections of channels from trusted partners to enabling parents to select each video and channel themselves, we’re putting parents in the driver’s seat like never before.”

    The NSPCC welcomed the new controls, but said it was “overdue”. “Parents should have the confidence that a platform designed for children only shows appropriate content, and that videos which some children might find distressing or upsetting do not slip through the net,” a spokesman said in response. 

    Some argue more could be done to improve the safety of the app. Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood said these controls “do not absolve Google of its responsibility” to keep inappropriate content out of the app.

    “Let’s not forget that most kids are watching the main YouTube platform, where they not only exposed regularly to inappropriate recommendations and content, but also ensnared by Google’s troubling data collection practices,” Golin told The Guardian.

    Find out more about the controls and how to use them here

    How do you ensure your children is being safe when on YouTube and online? Let us know, drop us an email at ukparents@huffpost.com. 

    Also on HuffPost

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    A six-year-old has received an outcry of support after a tweet explaining how bullies told the youngster: “You can’t play football, you’re a girl” was posted by her mum online. 

    Jessie Adams, from Derbyshire, was having a casual kick-about on the field at school during lunchtime but was told to stop playing because she was a girl after tackling another pupil. Her mum, Anna Adams, picked her up from school and was told her daughter had been visibly upset all day. 

    Within days of the mum’s tweet, the family were contacted by Sheffield United Ladies FC, who offered Jessie the chance to lead the team out as mascot in their fixture against Radcliffe.

    “I never expected it to go as far as it did,” said Anna, 32. “Sheffield United Ladies got in touch straight away and wanted to go to the school to speak to the children. Before we knew it, Jessie had lived her dream of leading out, not just Sheffield United Ladies, but England Women too.” 

    Jessie Adams with Millie Bright, a Sheffield player. 

    The six-year-old’s experience was noticed by the England Women’s national team. Jessie led out England Women at Southampton’s St. Mary’s stadium for the World Cup Qualifier against Wales on 6 April this year, which ended 0-0. 

    Family say the wave of support has helped Jessie’s confidence and she has gone from a quiet, shy girl to someone who slides in with “thunderous tackles” on a football pitch. Sheffield United Ladies FC are now even keeping close tabs on the talented, aspiring footballer. 

    Jessie’s mum explained: “Initially, we took the tweet down simply because we didn’t want people to get the wrong idea and think that we were trying to get freebies. I regret taking it down now because it has had such a positive impact for girls in football.” 

    Jessie Adams with SUFC Ladies team.

    Describing her daughter’s experience at school, Anna added: “Her teacher came out of the classroom and told me that she had been upset about not being allowed to play football. Jessie was told by peers that she wasn’t allowed to play football because she was a girl.

    “That’s pretty much what I said in the tweet I published – I was just so sad, but the responses to it were so positive. It all blew up in a couple of hours. It’s not just because she is a girl, people daren’t let her play because they are scared of hurting her. We did think she might not want to play again.”

    Anna praised her daughter’s school for supporting the family’s fight against the supposed “stigma” attached to girls playing football. Little Jessie’s interest in football is thanks to her dad who she watched matches with on television. 

    “She started going to a club called Little Kicks at a leisure centre put on the council to get children active and has loved it ever since,” added Anna. “She always has a ball at her feet and we have always said she is going to be a little footballer. 

    “We always tried to get her into clubs but because of her age and sex she hasn’t been accepted. She goes to Goals in Sheffield on a Wednesday, it’s called Sharp’s Shooters which is run by Billy Sharp.”

    Carla Ward, interim manager of Sheffield United Ladies, said: “Jessie’s story is one which we should all get behind and learn from during Girls Football Week.

    “Jessie is also extremely talented. We will be keeping a close eye on her.’’

    Also on HuffPost

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    Prince William may have just become a father for the third time, but he can’t rest on his laurels just yet - his brother, Prince Harry, has just named him as his best man when he marries Meghan Markle. 

    In a tweet on Thursday Kensington Palace revealed the wedding would be a family affair, saying: “Prince Harry has asked his brother The Duke of Cambridge to be his Best Man at his wedding to Ms. Meghan Markle.”

    The announcement was accompanied by several photos of the brothers. 

    The news will come as no surprise to some, as Prince Harry was best man to Prince William when he married Kate Middleton in 2011. 

    Kensington Palace confirmed the Duke of Cambridge is “honoured to have been asked”, adding that he is “is very much looking forward to supporting his brother at St George’s Chapel, Windsor on May 19th”.

    Having one designated best man actually goes against royal tradition. 

    Long-standing royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams previously told HuffPost UK: “In the past, royal grooms have been allowed to choose two supporters - the equivalent of two best men.

    “When Prince Charles married Diana in St Paul’s, he had his brothers Edward and Andrew.”


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    All parents will remember well the sleepless nights that come with the arrival of a new baby, and it seems no one is exempt from the tiredness.

    This is after the Duke Of Cambridge was pictured supposedly trying to stop himself from falling asleep during the annual Anzac Day service at Westminster Abbey yesterday.

    Just two days after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their third child, whose name is still yet to be announced, the father-of-three attended the ceremony with his brother Prince Harry and fiance Meghan Markle.

    During the readings, the Duke seems to be struggling to keep his eyes open and parents have taken to Twitter to send their support.

    Even people who aren’t parents are sympathising. 

    One person had a suggestion for him trying to stay awake next time. 

    We hope he manages to get a good night’s sleep soon. 


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    The whole internet was ablaze on Wednesday (25 April), when Kanye Westmade his most public pledge of support for US President Donald Trump yet.

    While Kanye has spoken favourably about Trump in the past - he even visited Trump Tower in the wake of the 2016 election result, and used the then-Republican-candidate as one of the nude celebrities in his shocking ‘Famous’ music video - his tweetstorm included his most explicit support for the POTUS yet, including the revelation he even has a signed ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball cap.

    Kanye’s posts were something that everyone had an opinion on, evidently including in the showbiz world. Here are some of the most notable celeb reactions to Kanye’s tweets...

    Which celebrities have unfollowed Kanye West?

    While the rumours that Kanye lost as many as 10 million followers in the wake of his tweetstorm proved not to be true, a whole lot of celebs appear to have still unfollowed him on the site, including former collaborators Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj.

    Other famous Twitter users who’ve seemingly had their fill of Kanye include Drake, Kim’s pal Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Rita OraMigos, Dua Lipa and Calvin Harris.

    Kim Kardashian

    Kim and Kanye at the VMAs in 2016

    As you may have read by now, Kim was quick to fire off her own tweets on the matter, insisting first of all that her husband doesn’t support all of Trump’s policies and beliefs (though she was careful to keep that side of things vague), while also slamming the media for perpetuating a narrative around mental health over the posts.

    Kanye later referenced this on his own page, insisting: “My wife just called me and she wanted me to make this clear to everyone. I don’t agree with everything Trump does.”

    In true Kanye style, he added: “I don’t agree 100% with anyone but myself.”

    What about the rest of the Kardashians?

    While Kim is standing by her man despite his latest backlash, it seems the rest of the family is feeling less up for the timeline clutter, with Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian both unfollowing him on Twitter, as well as Kylie Jenner.

    Various Kardashians and Jenners at Kanye's Yeezy Season 3 show in February 2016

    True to form, Kris Jennerfollowed Kanye in the wake of the backlash, truly playing up to her reputation as a lover of drama, while Kendall appears to still be following, according to the site DoesFollow.

    Chance The Rapper

    Chance The Rapper, who collaborated with Kanye on his most recent offering ‘The Life Of Pablo’, is facing a backlash of his own after sticking up for Ye and his political beliefs.

    Chance and Kanye embrace at the VMAs

    Like Kim, he was swift to point out that Kanye was not having any difficulties with his mental health, claiming that speaking to him a few days ago he was the “same Ye from the VMAs… and the [Hurricane Katrina] telethon”, before controversially adding: “Black people don’t have to be democrats.”

    John Legend

    A friend of Kanye’s (that double-date photo is still the stuff of our A-list dreams), John Legend posted a thread on his account seemingly referencing the controversy.

    Like his wife Chrissy Teigen, John then unfollowed Kanye on the social media site.

    Joseph Kahn (who works closely with *that* pop star who prefers her name to be excluded from certain narratives)

    When Kim posted her defence of Kanye, Joseph - who has been heavily critical of the ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ star in the past - was quick to post his own thoughts.

    He then undid his own argument when he noted: “You can always tell how much trouble Kim is in by how many shots of her vagina she puts out.”

    Classy.

    Jaden Smith

    Jaden is no stranger to grabbing headlines with his tweets, and appeared to express his disappointment in Kanye’s support for Trump when he wrote simply: “False idols.”

    The aspiring rapper and actor then unfollowed Kanye on Twitter.

    Janelle Monáe

    In an interview on ‘Ebro In The Morning’, Janelle said that while Kanye has inspired her in the past as an artist, she felt disheartened by his recent support for various conservative figureheads.

    “I believe in free thinking,” she explained, “But I don’t believe in free thinking if it’s rooted in or at the expense of the oppressed.

    “If your free thinking is used as fuel by oppressors to continue to express black people and minorities, I think it’s bullshit and it’s not OK. I will speak out against it and I will think freely and tell you that I don’t agree with you.”

    Janelle also tweeted a link to a clip of this interview, saying: “Quote me.”

    Have your say below...


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    Almost half of people mistakenly believe factors such as stress and food additives cause cancer, a new study has found.

    Researchers at University College London (UCL) and the University of Leeds surveyed 1,330 people in England and found that mistaken belief in mythical causes of cancer is rife.

    More than 40% wrongly thought that stress (43%) and food additives (42%) caused cancer, while one third incorrectly believed that electromagnetic frequencies (35%) and eating genetically modified food (34%) were risk factors.

    Meanwhile 19% thought microwave ovens caused it and 15% said drinking from plastic bottles did too, despite a lack of good scientific evidence.

    Stock photo.

    Among the proven causes of cancer, 88% of people correctly selected smoking, 80% picked passive smoking and 60% said sunburn.

    Belief in mythical causes of cancer did not mean a person was more likely to have risky lifestyle habits. But those who had better knowledge of proven causes were more likely to avoid smoking.

    Dr Samuel Smith, from the University of Leeds, said: “It’s worrying to see so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence.

    “Compared to past research it appears the number of people believing in unproven causes of cancer has increased since the start of the century which could be a result of changes to how we access news and information through the internet and social media.

    “It’s vital to improve public education about the causes of cancer if we want to help people make informed decisions about their lives and ensure they aren’t worrying unnecessarily.”

    Dr Lion Shahab, from UCL, said: “People’s beliefs are so important because they have an impact on the lifestyle choices they make. Those with better awareness of proven causes of cancer were more likely not to smoke and to eat more fruit and vegetables.”

    Clare Hyde from Cancer Research UK said: “Around four in 10 cancer cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes so it’s crucial we have the right information to help us separate the wheat from the chaff. Smoking, being overweight and overexposure to UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds are the biggest preventable causes of cancer.

    “There is no guarantee against getting cancer but by knowing the biggest risk factors we can stack the odds in our favour to help reduce our individual risk of the disease, rather than wasting time worrying about fake news.”


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    In an industry worth approximately $250million per year with over 100million visitors, there’s a serious dark side.

    I’ve just returned from documenting Thailand’s Wildlife Tourism industry. As an environmental photojournalist and filmmaker, I have spent the last decade observing the cruelty humans do to animals. Yet what I witnessed in Thailand was beyond the pale; a level of abuse that has no justifications. And the public needs to be made aware of it.

    Worldwide, more than 500,000 animals are suffering for the sake of entertainment. Many of them have been stolen from their families in the wild to lead a life in captivity. Here they are dressed up, humiliated and forced to perform on a daily basis. Behind the scenes they are beaten and forced to live in appalling conditions.

    The situation in Thailand is truly shocking. Alongside director Will Foster-Grundy, I saw oranguatans wearing bikinis forced to box one another, elephants so drugged they could barely walk, a gorilla living in a filthy cell at the top of a shopping mall and monkeys yanked around on chains, before being made to ride bikes or lift weights.

    During training, many of the animals will have been subjected to beatings, burned with cigarettes or electrocuted to make them completely submissive to their handlers. Many elephants will go through ‘The Crush’ as juveniles - a form of torture that literally breaks their spirits. It is one of the most horrific forms of animal abuse imaginable.

    Yet bizarrely, these shows also prove to be quite popular. Hundreds of tourists laughed and clapped and appeared to enjoy watching these beautiful, sentient animals forced to perform grotesque routines. We want the world to know that these scenes are far from amusing.

    But now we need the public’s help to spread the world. We want the millions of people who view these tourist attractions every year to be aware of the abuses that are happening in front of their eyes and behind closed doors.

    The lives of animals are at stake, which is why I’ve set up a GoFundMe to return to Thailand with a small crew to produce a documentary on the country’s cruel Wildlife Tourism attractions.

    You can help us out and donate here for now. But that’s just the beginning. If we’re successful we want to visit other countries and create a global platform so users can #raisetheredflag on cruel Wildlife Tourism. Review sites don’t always reveal the truth. We can stop animal abuse - but only if people vote with their feet.

    The goal of the film is to highlight the impact of irresponsible wildlife tourism. We will investigate how animals are mistreated: the training methods used, the unsuitable conditions they’re kept in, where they’re be sourced from etc. We will also introduce the people and organisations who who are tackling the industry, including the rescue and rehab centre Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, along with visiting some responsible operators who offer a blueprint for the industry.

    The goal is not to end all wildlife tourism - this will never happen - but to encourage better treatment of animals, whilst making the public aware of the broader issues. If tourists knew how an elephant was domesticated, for example, would they ever ride one again? That’s our role as documentary film-makers: to present the facts and then let the audience decide.


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    Kanye West is no stranger to causing a storm on Twitter, but his latest string of tweets have sparked some of the strongest reactions yet. 

    The rapper came under fire when he voiced his support for Donald Trump, but among his stream of consciousness were some thoughts that were actually pretty relatable to everyday life - something that the people of Twitter wasted no time in pointing out.... 

    1. “I no longer have a manager. I can’t be managed.”

    2. “Love is the most powerful force in the universe.”

    3. “Whenever someone mentions the word ‘fan’ to me it’s super manipulative. It’s like ‘don’t do or say this because of your fans’ My fans are fans of themselves.”

    4. “I feel calm but energized.”

    5. “I’m nice at ping pong.”

    6. “We’d be a strategic investor. Not just a VC.”

    7. “Burn that excel spread sheet.”

    8. “I follow the shade room. Please never try to play Ye.”

    9. “I’m nobody’s ‘client’.”


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    Over recent years the world of social media has opened the door to a new generation of makeup artists. For better or worse Instagram has been flooded with tutorials of a new one look fits all kind of makeup. Instaglam makeup is perfectly adapted to photograph beautifully under a halo light and with a soft blur filter; the thick, full coverage foundation, perfectly contoured, glowing with highlighter and heavy pigmented eyeshadow. For many of the professional makeup artists I know, the move away from traditional editorial makeup (aka Kate Moss on the cover of Vogue) sends a shudder through them. But for many others it’s opened a whole new world of opportunities. The question is: does our own professional opinion matter or should we be recreating what social media dictates? As of yet Instaglam hasn’t found itself featured amongst the fashion elite on the pages of Vogue, where brows are brushed and lightly filled rather then stencilled on, however flick through a gossip magazine of reality TV stars and Instaglam is about all you’ll see.

    As a professional makeup artist I work both with celebrities and with brides to be - there is a difference when applying makeup for different situations. TV is filmed under bright and harsh studio lighting so makeup needs to be heavier and thicker to look natural - however a lot of what I do comes nowhere near the thickness or heaviness of Instaglam. Instaglam itself looks amazing on Instagram (hence the name!) yet in person the makeup is obvious. For a wedding most brides I work with want to look amazing and like themselves in the photographs and in person in front of all their guests so a delicate balance between looking made up and the makeup not being obvious is needed. Many of the brides I work with come to us with images of celebrities who advocate the Instaglam look - such as Kylie Jenner - though when I speak to them about what they usually wear it’s often comparatively very little makeup at all. The truth is that Kylie, whatever you think about her, is very popular for her makeup look but many people don’t realise what that sort of look really entails in terms of quite how much makeup they would need to wear and how it would actually look in person, not on social media.

    My personal, professional opinion is that there is not one look to suit all faces; makeup should be unique and personal. We should feel empowered and confident once we have applied our makeup but we should not be hiding ourselves behind a mask. Many of the transformation videos on Instagram sadden me - beautiful women with what has been decided is an “imperfection” are covered in thick, full coverage foundation to create a blank canvas that looks like every other wearer of the Instaglam look. Step away from the world of Instagram and in the harsh light of day the Instaglam makeup looks like a another layer on the skin, unnatural and obvious. It shouldn’t be lost on us that many of the techniques favoured in Instaglam tutorials originate from those used in drag makeup where the purpose of the makeup is to cover and completely transform the face.

    It seems almost ironic that while there is a big push on positive body image to encourage a younger generation to embrace curvy, skinny, tall or short - that we are not all the same shape or size - we are also buying into such a one look suits all mask of makeup. If healthy and fit is sexy no matter the shape or size, if we should embrace our bodies no matter the imperfections, then shouldn’t we apply the same thought to makeup?

    When I thought about writing this blog post I wanted to write a piece that wasn’t one sided - that advocates that beauty is up to the individual and makeup should make you feel confident however that looks. I still believe that but like everyone in the beauty industry I’m caught in the middle of my own opinions and preference and the strong force that is social media. I want to create makeup that makes a person - be it a bride, celebrity on TV or just someone going into the office - feel amazing. I want them to feel that this is the best they’ve ever looked. I want to promote skin that looks like skin, that freckles don’t need to be hidden under full coverage foundation and in fact they’re beautiful, unique and should be embraced. But ultimately it should be down to the individual and if a full coverage foundation applied in multiple layers is what makes you feel the most comfortable and beautiful, I for one am not going to stop you and nor should anyone else.


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    “I’ve loved getting back into cycling because getting fresh air, getting out of the home (or office) and being in nature allows you to ground yourself and recharge instead of being sat in front of the TV.”

    Amanda Daniels, 42, recently started using her bike again after 19 years. She stopped riding after getting a job 60 miles away, which meant she was in the car for 120 miles a day. She didn’t have time to exercise as she was getting home late and her love affair with the bike seemed to dissolve. After going through a divorce and moving house, Daniels was inspired to take up the workout that she loved so much before. 

    She had her bike checked over to make sure there was nothing stuck or rusty, and was told it was good to go. Now she gets out every Saturday, often with her new partner. “Generally I now go for a four-20 mile bike ride on the weekend,” she says. 

    I wonder how many of us have an old bike stored away that hasn’t seen the light of day in months or even years. Whether it’s due to a lack of time, motivation or the questionable weather, we all have reasons as to why our bike is gathering dust in the garage.

    If you have a bike hidden away and have toyed with the thought of getting back on it now spring has arrived, check out the Big Bike Revival, a six-week campaign of events run by national charity Cycling UK in a bid to get as many people as they can back on their bikes this summer. 

    Starting on 24 April and running until 18 June, people across the UK are encouraged to get their bikes checked over and get out for a ride. The charity is holding free training courses and mechanical support sessions to ensure you get back on the road safely. Last year, they had 50,000 people take part and more than 13,000 bikes, destined for the scrapheap or left idle, were brought back to working use. And if you ask me, that’s pretty bloody good. 

    A cycling support session run free during the campaign. 

    Throughout my teenage years I had a bike in my parents’ garage that I never touched. When I moved out and I left the bike behind, so it got passed down to the kids of family friends. I got a new bike when I was 26 and, despite a few trips out that year, it spent the best part of 2017 sat in my dining room - barely ridden - taking up a good chunk of space. When I finally decided to take it out for a spin as a New Year’s resolution in January this year, the tyre was flat and the brakes were slightly dodgy. I took it to a local bike shop to get the tyres pumped, but it wasn’t until a local cycling instructor checked it over that he showed me there were a fair few other things wrong with it. To put it bluntly, it wouldn’t have been safe to ride. 

    Big Bike Revival is all about supporting people to get back into cycling says the campaign’s project manager Susan Keywood: “Most people who own bikes in the UK simply aren’t using them. The first problem is that these bikes are likely sitting a bit rusty and dusty in the shed, and people don’t know how to fix them up. By giving people a place where they can get on a good, safe bike, we can then also help overcome the other common barriers to cycling, such as lack of confidence.”

    Starting to ride again has not only given me a new way to exercise, but also a new hobby. I’ve found a way to destress, a new way to socialise with friends and found a supportive community that has motivated me to carry on. 

    Feeling inspired? Here’s what you need to do if you’re reviving your bike:

    Brian Pendlebury, who runs Ceracyclone, is a qualified cycle mechanic, cycle leader and national standard cycling instructor, took us through what he checks during the Big Bike Revival events. 

    - Tyre condition - look for any cracks, bulges and whether they are inflated ot not.

    - Brakes - check whether the brakes work: a quick pull on the brake level will indicate this. Push your bike forward while pulling the brakes so the back wheel lifts up off the floor. If this doesn’t happen, the front brake is inadequate. Do the same with the back brake. 

    - Chains - check they are oiled, not damaged and not too rusty

    - Pedals - check the pedals are not rusty, that they are moving and can spin, and that the pedal arms have no movement in the bottom bracket. 

    Pendlebury says while you certainly can do a basic bike check yourself, it’s definitely worth getting your bike checked (for free) during the campaign if you can, or heading to a local cycling shop if you’re worried it’s not safe.  

    Find a Big Bike Revival event near you on Cycling UK’s website here


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    Amber Rudd has admitted the Home Office has been using deportation targets, but claims she did not know about them. 

    The Home Secretary is fighting for her political life over the Windrush scandal which has seen people with the legal right to live in the UK being wrongly threatened with being deported.

    On Wednesday a 2015 inspection report emerged which showed a target of 12,000 voluntary departures was set by the department. The revelation came after Rudd told the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday: “We don’t have targets for removals.” 

    Hauled to the Commons to explain the confusion, Rudd told MPs: “Some offices are working with them. Unfortunately I was not aware of them and I want to be aware of them.”

    She added: “I have never agreed that there should be specific removal targets and I would never support a policy that puts targets ahead of people.”

    The confusion plunges Rudd deeper into hot water over the Windrush scandal, with Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, saying it was now time Rudd “considered her honour and resigned”.

    But Rudd rebuffed the demands, claiming: “I do think I am the person who can put it right,” she said.

    Asked if Theresa May still had confidence her home secretary, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Yes”.

    “The Home Secretary is working hard to address the concerns that have been raised in relation to Windrush to ensure they are addressed and put right,” the spokesman said.

    The spokesman added that the idea of governments setting removal targets went back “a number of decades” under both Tory and Labour government. 

    Rudd also failed to commit wholeheartedly to May’s controversial net migration target, although she rejected suggestions it was “stretching, if not impossible”.

    Asked by reporters at a lunch in Westminster if she still supported it, she said: “I’ll come back to you on that.”


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    An American woman gave birth alone in a hotel room in Turkey, with only YouTube tutorials to guide her through labour, after she doubted she was really pregnant.

    Tia Freeman, 22, who shared her extraordinary birth story on Twitter, was travelling from the USA to Germany on 7 March - via a connecting flight in Istanbul - to go on holiday when she started having contractions.

    Instead of going to a hospital or finding a doctor during her 17 hour layover to help her deliver her son, Xavier Ata, Freeman says that “in true millennial form”, she used the internet to help. 

    Freeman, who works for the American Air Force, says that when she first found out she was pregnant - by which point she was in her third trimester - she was completely in denial about what was happening.

    Primarily because she had been on birth control at the time, and secondly because she didn’t want to waste a summer holiday she had booked in advance. So instead of visiting a doctor she boarded the flight.

    During the 14 hour journey she started to feel unwell, saying: “I don’t know if it was the salmon, or it was just my time but out of no where I start cramping up. I’ve still got like an hour left before we land. I just knew I had food poisoning.”

    But when she landed and was queuing to go through immigration it got worse and worse. At which point she realised she was in labour. 

    Instead of calling for help, she filled up the bath in her hotel suite and set up her laptop so she could watch YouTube videos of childbirth.

    She says: ”It’s weird how focused a person becomes when they’re adrenaline starts going. Because at no point ever did I freak out. Like I just did what I had to do.”

    Using her timer on her iPhone she worked out that her contractions were only a minute apart at this point. 

    “Luckily it happened pretty quickly. I only had to push about 5-6x before a baby popped out. Lol now let me tell you babies are buoyant. That little joker said bloop and floated right on up to the top of the water,” she says.

    She then had to deal with the placenta, which was still inside her. Rubbing her abdomen, she waited for it to pass. 

    After she had cut the umbilical cord, she “cleaned up the bathroom, breastfed her baby and went to sleep.” The next morning she went to the airport to catch her next flight. 

    She says: “The doctors were shocked to hear my story. I made national news and people would stop us to take pictures all the time and a random elderly woman grabbed my boob as I was breastfeeding.”

    Turkish Airlines staff also bought her an outfit for Xavier, because she hadn’t had time to buy anything herself.

    When she got home, she had to tell her family that not only was she pregnant but she had already had the baby. 

    Well that is one birth story we haven’t heard before.


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    Kids will be encouraged to say “please” and “thank you” when talking to Alexa, after concerns the virtual assistant was promoting rudeness in children. 

    The new Amazon Echo will reinforce positive behaviour, by responding to their politeness with phrases such as “no worries” or “you’re welcome”. 

    The new feature - called ‘Magic Word’ - means there will be more interaction between Alexa and children. If a child asks: “What will the weather be like today please?”, Alexa may even say: “Thanks for asking so nicely” before answering.

    For now, the new additions are only available in the US, but many are hoping they’ll be rolled out to the UK.  

    Counsellor Yvette Winstone, who works with children and adults, feels this is a positive step towards encouraging kids to keep their manners, despite the growing increase in technology around them. “We are living in an age where technology is going to be part of our children’s lives; we cannot get away from this, it is everywhere,“ she tells HuffPost UK. “Working with this and incorporating learning social skills, communication and manners could be a positive use of using technology.”

    The changes form part of Amazon FreeTime, a new set of parental controls and family-focused features now that more and more kids are using the device.

    Other features include setting bedtime limits so kids can’t speak to Alex late, filtering music with explicit lyrics; and educational Q&A - where kids can ask Alexa questions about science, maths, spelling and definitions. 

    “Tens of millions of households already use Alexa, and we’re excited to introduce an entirely new way for kids to have fun and learn with Alexa,” said Dave Limp, Amazon Devices and Services. “With Echo Dot Kids Edition and FreeTime on Alexa, parents can have peace of mind knowing their kids are getting age-appropriate content, while they listen to music, ask questions, enjoy Audible books, use Alexa skills, and more.”

    Stephen Balkam, Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, said, “We are excited to see Amazon bring FreeTime to Alexa. The curated content and user experience has all been designed with kids, parents, fun and safety in mind. Amazon is creating another safe, kid-friendly experience for families.”

    Also on HuffPost

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    UK adults now spend the equivalent of an entire day every week online. We’ll just let that sink in for a moment.

    A new report by Ofcom has revealed figures on how the UK population accesses the internet and why from entertainment such as Netflix to looking on Twitter to find out new opinions on the topics we’re most interested in.

    Nine in ten adults in the UK now have access to the internet  - including 96 per cent of those under the age of 55.

    Search engines like Google are still the most popular destination for many of us when we’re trying to learn something new, however what Ofcom has noticed is a sharp increase in the amount of people who actually go to YouTube first.

    It will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that our favoured medium of accessing the internet is through our smartphones.

    This becomes even more apparent when you consider that on average, 16-24 year olds spend a staggering 34 hours online every single week.

    Continuing this trend that same age group said that their smartphone would be the one device they would miss the most while for those over the age of 55 that device is their TV.

    What’s perhaps just as interesting though is how we’re using the internet whether it’s for social media or keeping abreast of the latest news.

    According to the report, users who like using social media are now more likely to use WhatsApp than they are to use Facebook. This goes even further with more people saying that WhatsApp represents their online profile more than say their Facebook profile.

    Despite the phenomenon that is online fake news, Ofcom’s report highlights a really interesting trend in how we still consume our news.

    “People say they would turn first to the TV for each type of news they value. The exception is those who value an alternative viewpoint, who say they would turn first to social media.” explains the report.

    Despite that almost 80% of us value the fact that we can now pick up our phones and consume the news whenever we want.

    Finally, and perhaps on a slightly more positive note is the fact that despite all the negativity that can come with being constantly connected, the vast majority of us believe that the benefits of the internet still far outweigh any negatives.


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    With news this week that coffee shops are set to outstrip pubs, should we be worried? I think so.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hankering after those days of beer sodden carpets, sticky tables laden with glasses and air thick with tobacco smoke! That wasn’t an atmosphere conducive to a long and healthy life!

    Now, many pubs paint a different picture. Smoke-free, family-friendly and more of an emphasis on home-cooked food than pickled eggs and pork scratchings. They are more of a social hub than a drinking den… and with recent government guidelines saying there is no safe limit to alcohol consumption, it’s good that the focus is less on the booze than on a meal with friends.

    Of course, we can’t get complacent. Wine and beer are getting stronger (1), containing a higher percentage of alcohol than they used to. And wine-glasses are more likely to be bucket-sized (2) than the small glasses we used 20 years ago. So, we can end up drinking more than we should, if we don’t watch out. But in my opinion you need to walk into a coffee shop with your eyes open too.

    In my 15 years as a weight loss surgeon I saw people come through the door miserable with their weight and battling with life-threatening health conditions but carrying a syrup laden latte which they have just picked up from the coffee outlet within our very hospital (don’t even get me started on that one).

    The specialty coffees, laden with sugar-syrups and topped with whipped cream can contain a quarter of our recommended calorie intake which won’t help the nations bulging waistline. And almost invariably, the barista will try to tempt you with a muffin or other super-sized snack to go with it… adding several hundred calories more. Portion control doesn’t seem to be a priority in these places and yet it only takes a couple of hundred extra calories a day to add up to several pounds more on the scales at the end of a year. And the sugar content of many of these various hot drinks and cakes exceeds the daily recommendations of 6 teaspoons or 24g of added sugar per day. We now know that sugar provides calories without nutrients (3) and is increasingly recognised as contributing to health problems from type 2 diabetes to tooth decay.

    What about the caffeine?

    Well, actually, several studies show that caffeine can be good for us. It can increase mental alertness (4), improve sports performance (5) and may even help protect us against diseases like type 2 diabetes and fatty liver (6) But in excess of course, it can increase anxiety and tremors (7). Plus, it can reduce sleep if taken after lunch (8) – and we are struggling to reach the recommended 7-8 hours anyway. The maximum caffeine intake we should have is around 400mg per day and just one super-size coffee can pretty much hit that max.

    References:

    (1) Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2016 Can student health professionals accurately estimate alcohol content in commonly occurring drinks? Julia Sinclair and Emma Searle

    (2) Wine glass size in England from 1700 to 2017: a measure of our time BMJ 2017 Zorana Zupan, Alexandra Evans, Dominique-Laurent Couturier, Theresa M Marteau

    (3) http://www.sugar.ca/Nutrition-Information-Service/Consumers/Facts-and-Fiction-About-Sugars-and-Health/Nutritional-Value.aspx

    (4) Lieberman HR, Tharion WJ, Shukitt-Hale B, Speckman KL, Tulley R. Effects of caffeine, sleep loss, and stress on cognitive performance and mood during U.S. Navy SEAL training. Sea-Air-Land. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2002

    (5) Ivy JL, Kammer L, Ding Z, Wang B, Bernard JR, Liao YH, Hwang J. Improved cycling time-trial performance after ingestion of a caffeine energy drink. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2009

    (6) Sinha RA, Farah BL, Singh BK, Siddique MM, Li Y, Wu Y, Ilkayeva OR, Gooding J, Ching J, Zhou J, Martinez L, Xie S, Bay BH, Summers SA, Newgard CB, Yen PM. Caffeine stimulates hepatic lipid metabolism by the autophagy-lysosomal pathway in mice. Hepatology. 2013

    (7) Persad LA. Energy drinks and the neurophysiological impact of caffeine. Front Neurosci. 2011

    (8) Sleep Med. 2002 May;3(3):271-3.The effects of coffee consumption on sleep and melatonin secretion. Shilo L, Sabbah H, Hadari R, Kovatz S, Weinberg U, Dolev S, Dagan Y, Shenkman L.


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    A leading architect has claimed millennials don’t need living rooms, suggesting smaller living spaces would help us get on the property ladder.

    According to The Telegraph, Patrik Schumacher, who worked on the London Aquatics Centre built for the Olympics, said: “For many young professionals who are out and about networking 24/7, a small, clean, private hotel-room sized central patch serves their needs perfectly well.”

    But with landlords turning living rooms into extra bedrooms (for extra profit), many millennials are already renting places without shared living spaces and, shock horror, it hasn’t helped many of them buy a property.

    HuffPost UK spoke to five millennials who have lived in this situation to find out why they want living rooms to stay.

    Living rooms provide space to unwind

    Student Georgie Luckhurst lives in Cardiff with six housemates. The house has two bedrooms on the ground floor she believes would have originally been used as a living room, and says the current set-up means there’s no communal calm space. 

    “It rids the house of a proper spot to wind down and relax, as the kitchen certainly isn’t a relaxing place and one gets cabin fever when in your bedroom too long,” she says. “These things might seem trivial but as university students, third years in particular, having space to disassociate yourself from studying, cooking, cleaning and other responsibilities is really valued.”

    They stave off loneliness

    Fabianne Farahi, 25, from Northampton, previously lived in several houses without living rooms when she moved to London seven years ago. Recent research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found people who rent are among the loneliest in the UK, and the PR executive says lack of shared living space is a contributing factor.

    “It made it difficult to be social and to actually feel like I was living in a home, rather than a room like a hotel or Airbnb,” she says. “It then makes you feel a bit disconnected and recluse, especially if you are living with people you don’t know too, whereas a living room would help you get to be social and know each other better.”

    They allow you to compartmentalise your home life

    Sophie Green, 30, previously lived in a bedsit in London for six years, which she originally found advertised on Gumtree. The room included a bed, table and kitchenette in one space and was “all [Sophie] could afford] on her starting salary”. 

    “The worst thing was having no separation between where I slept and lived. I found I was constantly tired because I associated the room with sleeping. I barely cooked because there just wasn’t space,” she says. 

    They keep kitchen smells at bay

    Claudia Wright, 25, from Preston, previously lived in a renovated old people’s home in Wakefield with nine other people, because it was a cheap location in commutable distance to her job in Leeds. 

    The blogger, who now lives in London, says the only communal space was a kitchen with a TV on the wall, which wasn’t the least bit homely. “The kitchen was freezing so I never wanted to sit in there, the table was tiny, the chairs were not comfortable, and one of my housemates fried fish almost every day so the whole downstairs absolutely reeked,” she says. 

    They provide opportunities to be social

    Chiara Fiorillo, originally from Italy, is in her final year of university. The 21-year-old is studying in London and lives in a four bedroom house. The housemates are close and spend time together in each other’s rooms, but the lack of living room makes inviting others over impossible. 

    “When we want to organise parties or to invite other people over, we all have to squish in the kitchen which, even though it is a good size for the four of us, is not the best spot to host a large number of people,” she says. 


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    Over the last few weeks you may have started getting a lot of emails from brands or companies asking you to re-sign up to their newsletter or agree to their terms and conditions.

    If you’re wondering why this is all happening now, it’s actually for a really good reason.

    All these emails, while mildly annoying, are a side-effect of a brand-new set of privacy laws called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that will come into effect at the end of May.

    GDPR will be the biggest overhaul of data protection laws in the world and has been designed to create a unified set of standards that all companies must adhere to.

    The laws will govern how a company can collect data from you, ensure that any stored data is securely protected, and will give you the right to access that data at any point.

    This means huge changes for many organisations, but the changes for consumers will mostly centre around access to your online data.

    What does this all have to do with your Asos newsletter? Put simply, if a company has your email on file then that counts as personal data.

    That means that every company you’ve handed your email to now has to get your consent to keep that email on their records. Yes, having to reply to them all sounds like a massive pain, but if you want to clean out your inbox, a failure to consent also means your email will be deleted from their records.

    But what happens if you do still get your Asos newsletter? From 25 May, records of email addresses will be subject to much stricter privacy laws ensuring that they keep those lists secure and protected from criminals.

    That also means companies will now have to provide a clear and easy way for you to remove your email from their records. In short, no more hunting at the bottom of emails for the small print or getting lost in a website just to delete your shopping account.

    Finally it’ll also mean that along with your email address, you’ll have the right to ask any of these companies to send you any and all personal information that they have collected on you and to do it within 30-days.


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    Donald Trump phoned into Fox News on Thursday morning to lambast the “dishonest media” in an extraordinary tirade that had even the hosts looking uncomfortable.

    The President appeared to be riled up after former FBI Director, James Comey, spoke at a town hall event for CNN to promote his new book, which gives an insider account of his firing last year.

    During the monologue, Trump referred to “leakin’ lyin’ Comey”, revealed his secret for “looking good” and suggested he should receive positive media coverage in exchange for money.

    “People have to understand how dishonest the media is. And in all fairness to Fox, you guys don’t always treat me great, but you treat me fairly,” President Trump began.

    “It’s not like Fox is perfect for me, they’re not, they’re tough. But at least it’s fair.

    “When you look at some of the others like CNN, they’ll have a council of seven people and of the seven people every one of them is against me.

    “Where do they even find these people?”

    One of the hosts tried to interject to no avail, saying: “Excuse me Mr President but I would recommend you watch less of them.”

    “I don’t watch them at all!” the President shouted back, just seconds after giving a detailed description of their recent coverage.

    Barely pausing for breath, Trump then suggested he should get positive media coverage because of the money his show The Apprentice used to make.

    He said: “I’ll tell you what, I watched leakin’ lyin’ Comey last night and I hated to do it. Y’know, one of the reasons, people say ‘you’re still looking good Mr President, how do you do it?’

    Then it got a bit... weird. 

    “Well one of the things I’ve been able to do, which is something I never thought I had the ability, I would always watch, frankly now I don’t have time for two reasons. There’s too much and I don’t have time, but I would watch whether it’s good or bad, I would always watch, I have an ability, I don’t watch NBC anymore, they’re as bad as CNN, I don’t.. and by the way I made them a fortune with The Apprentice, think of that one. I made them and.. I made them a fortune.

    “You would think that these guys would treat me good, I made them a fortune, so they treat me horribly and they treat me falsely. And just one thing - I don’t watch things that I can put it out of my mind and I never ever thought that would be possible.

    “And you know what that does? It keeps you on the ball. It keeps you... you keep your sanity and it works very well.”

    Once again, one of the hosts, by this point looking distinctly uncomfortable, tried to stop Trump, saying: “Mr President can I ask you...”

    Ignoring her, he continued: “I did watch a liar/leaker and his performance by the way, was horrible and I will say this - Anderson Cooper was surprisingly tough and he did a good job.”


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    Amber Rudd has claimed the government is “still working” on its position on whether the UK will remain in the Customs Union after Brexit, despite Theresa May’s vow to leave it.

    The home secretary refused to be drawn on how she would vote on the issue if she were a backbencher, telling reporters at a Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch: “I’m committed to the government’s position, which to some extent we are still working on.”

    The remarks, which she quickly attempted to clarify, put her at loggerheads with the official government position and that of many of her fellow frontbenchers.

    She added: “We still have a few discussions to be had in a really positive, consensual, easy way among some of my cabinet colleagues in order to arrive at a final position.”

    Lib Dem MP Layla Moran was quick to seize on Rudd’s claims, claiming the home secretary was seeking “revenge” against the prime minister after she was forced to defend the government in the wake of the Windrush scandal.

    Speaking for the pro-EU group Best for Britain, Moran said: “Amber Rudd has let the cat out of the bag. The government at the highest level has no idea what their plan for the Customs Union really is.  They are utterly and completely shambolic.

    “After the week the home secretary has had, being the prime minister’s human shield, this feels and looks like revenge.  This comment will take the Windrush heat off her now for a couple of hours.

    “The government is an utter car crash.”

    Downing Street insists Britain will leave both the Customs Union and single market next year and Rudd later took to Twitter in a bid to clarify her position.

    The embattled Hastings and Rye MP also failed to commit wholeheartedly to Theresa May’s controversial net migration target, although she rejected suggestions it was “stretching, if not impossible” and contributed to the Windrush fiasco.

    Asked if she still supported the policy, which aims to cut net migration to below 100,000 a year, she said: “I’ll come back to you on that.”

    Rudd has been under intense pressure since the Windrush scandal, which has seen people with the legal right to live in the UK being wrongly threatened with being deported, came to light last week. 

    But on Thursday she said she was determined to remain in post, vowing to “sort out” the problems by compensating those affected and offering them support in accessing the legal documentation they need.


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    I’ve been in a lot of negotiations over the years.  I know what a good deal looks like.  I know how getting from point A to point B works.  I’m not sure I need to spell this out, at this stage, but our Brexit negotiations are not going well.  Alarm bells are starting to ring, not just for trade unionists, but for employers and entire sectors. 

    I am not an uncritical enthusiast of the European Union.  I voted ‘remain’ but I saw the flaws.  I didn’t want to vote for the status quo but, on balance, the risk to jobs and rights in the UK was too great to take such a risk.  Those fears are being played out.

    The biggest failure so far has been of the government’s own making.  Theresa May’s early decision to choose to leave the Customs Union has set a ticking time bomb underneath many workplaces especially in manufacturing.  The Prime Minister has not once sat down and genuinely listened to both employers and trade unions about the challenges her approach would present for each sector.  The irony was that at the point the government claimed to now support the idea of an industrial strategy, they failed to hear all those with a stake in the success of UK industry on the single biggest economic issue of our time. 

    As we know Ministers didn’t publish impact assessments on their preferred form of Brexit and worse still, they didn’t even commission them until their inactivity was dragged out of them by select committee chairs.  Ministers seem petrified at the inconvenient truth that some of their preferred plans would jeopardise decent, skilled, well-paid jobs.  The reality is it won’t be pin-striped suited Tories at Westminster who will personally pay the price of leaving the Customs Union, but our members grafting in ports, factories and warehouses throughout our manufacturing industries. 

    There is, of course, concern and a lot of attention at the prospect of what tariffs could mean on a range of industries.  They could harm the competitiveness of many goods we import and export, not least in the food and drink manufacturing sector.  But this is not the only problem.  The extra delays at ports ill-equipped to deal with new customs arrangements will be costly.  40% of the UK’s imports and exports are through the Port of Dover or the Channel Tunnel and the possibility of delays and regular gridlock could provide real and regular harm to supply chains across the country. 

    Less well discussed is the fact that many industries within the Customs Union have developed a clear and consistent set of common standards throughout Europe over the years from everything from transporting nuclear materials to ensuring consistent regulations for importing and exporting of chemicals.  It should be obvious that we can’t afford to diverge from these arrangements or lower standards but the government has not provided enough assurances. 

    We might mock Donald Trump’s doomed desire to build a wall between Mexico and the USA but, closer to home, our own government’s Brexit plans risk building hard borders of their own, not least between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  GMB has members on both sides of the border in Ireland where 30,000 people cross the border to commute to work each day.  The food and drink manufacturing industry provides valuable employment and wages to support local economies in the north and the south.  The government’s current proposed solutions are either unproven and untested anywhere on Earth or a ‘a complete fantasy’, depending on who you listen to.

    It is breath-taking to witness a government that was so obsessed with cutting ‘red-tape’ in the workplace, a few years back, when that involved undermining workplace rights, yet now wants to trigger the biggest avalanche of genuine red-tape in a generation.  The Tories once prided itself on the economy, yet it has its fingers permanently in its ears when asked about the likely consequences of its Brexit economic policies. 

    The EU is by far the biggest export market for every region and nation.  Our supply chains crisscross with other EU countries and unpicking this won’t be at all straight forward or always feasible.  Multinational companies with a big stake in European markets could find it easier to increase their investment in EU countries within the Customs Union and avoid all the hassle.  GMB will stand up to defend our members’ jobs every step of the way, but the government’s behaviour is making it harder to protect livelihoods.   A commitment to negotiating to be part of a Customs Union would give the green light to UK-based manufacturers to stay, invest and recruit.

    Labour’s stance on negotiating participation in a Customs Union is absolutely right and is supported by many in industry and trade unions including GMB.  We have a significant manufacturing sector in the UK employing over 2.5 million people and providing over £100 billion of earnings each year.  A vote for a Customs Union would, in reality, be a vote of confidence for UK workers and our manufacturing industry.  I call on all MPs from all parties to support this.   We want UK manufacturing to continue to play in the economic Champions League, but we can only qualify for this if our team is in a Customs Union.   


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    Not a drill: Donald Trump to visit Britain for first time since 2016.

    Donald Trump is set to face wave of protests when he visits the UK in July as Sadiq Khan warned the US President should expect to see Londoners exercise “their liberal values of freedom of speech”.

    On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump would make a “working visit” to the UK on July 13.

    As long-threatened protests began to be organised and politicians stated they would join in, Khan tweeted: “If he comes to London, President Trump will experience an open and diverse city that has always chosen unity over division and hope over fear.

    “He will also no doubt see that Londoners hold their liberal values of freedom of speech very dear.”

    The announcement of Trump’s trip comes after Trump was offered a state visit to Britain after he became president, which prompted a huge backlash and questions over whether it would actually happen.

    Trump’s statements, particularly his pledge to ban Muslims from travelling to the US when he was running for election, caused ire and revolusion in Britain.

    As president, he also stoked a war of words with Khan, calling the Mayor “pathetic”. Khan later said Trump was behaving “like a 12-year-old”.

    But the announcement of Trump’s visit showed how some senior British politicians have changed their tune on him.

    Boris Johnson, who said in December 2015 “the only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump”, tweeted the news about the now-president’s trip was “fantastic”. 

    British Ambassador to the US Sir Kim Darroch said he was “delighted” Trump would “hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister May” during his one-day visit.

    The one-day trip will be the billionaire tycoon’s first visit to Britain since 2016, when he flew into his Scottish golf retreat a day after the EU referendum.

    Trump’s visit will be on a Friday, potentially hampering efforts to mobilise protests.

    Biggest rally ‘ever’

    Despite the timing, a Facebook event dedicated to a protest had gained 28,000 attendees within an hour of the announcement.

    Campaigners have previously said Trump would face the biggest rally “ever seen”, should he come to the UK.

    The wording of Thursday’s announcement leaves open the possibility that Trump will not be treated to a full state visit, despite this being offered to him.

    A Number 10 spokesperson said: “The President of the United States will visit the UK on 13 July. He will hold bilateral talks with the Prime Minister during his visit. Further details will be set out in due course.”

    It’s not clear if Trump will meet Queen Elizabeth II.

    Downing Street had previously declined to comment on rumours Trump would make a summer visit to Britain.

    In January, Trump cancelled a visit to London to open the new American embassy, saying he ditched the trip because the US had got a “bad deal” on the construction of the new building.

    “Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!” he tweeted.

    However it was reported by Bloomberg that Trump had told May he would not visit the UK unless she could guarantee he would not face protests.

    Left-wing commentator Owen Jones, who has been vocal in his criticism of the US President, said he would be leading the protests.

    He told Sky News: “It’s time to speak out against the bigotry, the anti-Muslim hatred, and misogyny this man represents.

    “The majority of people in this country want a good relationship with the United States, but we abhor everything that Trump stands for.”

    Labour MP David Lammy asked: “Anybody any good at making placards?”

    Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat deputy leader and Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the “scaled-down trip must not be met with scaled-down protests”.

    She said: “Protesting against a man with dangerous, misogynistic and racist views is our responsibility. It is  our opportunity to stand in solidarity with all the people he has abused and denigrated.

    “When he comes to the UK the Liberal Democrats will be front and centre of the protests.”

    Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said “thousands of our supporters” will “very definitely be making our voices heard”.

    She added: “In the 15 months of his presidency, we’ve seen a deeply disturbing human rights roll-back – including the discriminatory travel ban, his reckless announcement on Jerusalem, and harmful policies on refugees, women’s rights and climate change.

    “Since moving into the White House, Mr Trump has shown an impatience bordering on intolerance toward peaceful protests, the media and even the democratic process itself.

    “So his visit to Britain will be an important opportunity to underline the importance of free speech and the right to protest.”


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    Since its inception we have supported – and still support – the key principles of Universal Credit. We agree that a simplified benefits system that is easier to navigate would help millions of people across the UK. We agree that work should always pay for those supported by this new benefit.

    But there is a third principle that must underpin our entire welfare state: it must provide enough money for those who need it to afford the basics – at the very least, food and shelter. As a nation, we expect no one should be left hungry or destitute. Illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job can happen to any of us. We owe it to ourselves to ensure sufficient financial support is there when we need it most.

    Yet figures and research we release today reveal that for more and more people, financial support from benefits is not enough for them to make ends meet. Instead of being helped back onto their feet, or being able to live a dignified life, people who need support are locked into debt, hunger, destitution and misery.

    Last year The Trussell Trust distributed a record 1.33million emergency food packages to people referred to our foodbanks, an increase of 13% compared to the year before. Where Universal Credit – the future of our benefits system – has seen full roll-out, demand for emergency food is rising even more sharply.

    Data gathered by our foodbank volunteers shows this acceleration in demand for emergency food is being driven by people who are not currently earning, and are meant to be supported by benefits. A survey of hundreds of people in foodbanks claiming Universal Credit shows that only 8% found their cost of living covered. For people with a disability, that number drops to just 5%.

    We collected stories of a stroke victim left with nothing when discharged from hospital as their benefits were stopped, a woman whose husband suffers PTSD with no money for the electric meter, a diabetic with no money to eat, even a mother who considered giving up her own two children while she waited for her Universal Credit to come in so that they could finally get some food.

    Tens of billions of pounds have been taken out of our welfare system in recent years and this process shows no sign of stopping. This year will see the biggest benefit cuts since 2012 with the ongoing benefit freeze, a two child limit for benefit claims, cuts to tax credits and rollout of Universal Credit which has lower entitlements for long term sick people and working families in particular.

    We see the consequences of these policy decisions every day in our foodbanks up and down the UK. Three quarters of households using foodbanks have someone with a health condition or disability. Families with children, especially single parents, are overrepresented – exactly the groups of people that are more likely to need the protection of an effective benefits safety net.

    With hundreds of thousands of men, women and children needing emergency food last year, the scale of this problem might seem insurmountable. But it was in large part policy decisions that got us into this situation, and it will be policy decisions that will be the driving force behind getting us out.

    In the last Autumn Budget the Chancellor announced £1.5billion was to be put back into the Universal Credit system to shorten waiting times and ease repayment of benefit advances. Recently it was announced that 18 to 21-year-olds would again be able to claim housing benefit.  Though not a silver bullet, these decisions from government will make a real difference to thousands of people who might otherwise have fallen into poverty and hunger.

    But we must go further.  Like any other vital emergency service, we need a benefit system that can be relied upon when we need it. There are actions that can be taken to move us towards that, starting with an end to the ongoing benefit freeze and better support for people claiming Universal Credit, which too often leaves people in deep financial crisis through poor administration and inadequate communication and support for claimants.

    Yes, Universal Credit should make work pay. Yes, the system should be simplified. But we must never lose sight of that third principle – a welfare state that protects everyone from poverty and hunger.

    Garry Lemon is Head of Media and External Affairs at The Trussell Trust


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    Nobody is ‘pro-abortion’ and I am as pro-life as the next person. But I have fought for the emancipation of women since the 60s. A woman’s right to choose is an extension of the emancipation of women from the old days.

    People seem to forget that in the 1960s in Ireland, if a married woman was ill and her doctor recommended a hysterectomy to save her life, she couldn’t have it without the signed consent of her husband. She would have had to go to England for a hysterectomy, the way women do nowadays for terminations. 

    I have spent 30 years attending women’s refuges and legally representing women in great distress. Often they had pregnancies which they couldn’t cope with because of their marital situation. They were being beaten up every night, being raped, and again, there was no such thing as marital rape then. Women in dire circumstances and it was just very sad. These things were designed to keep women down. They were mainly pushed by the Catholic Church and the governments of the time, which were practically entirely men.

    In 1997, I was running an abortion referral clinic in Dublin. One of my doctors was arrested and there was a protest outside saying I was a killer. It was being led by a woman I had helped with a crisis pregnancy in the 70s when it was illegal to give information on abortion. Not only that but I delivered her to and collected her from Dublin airport. So you have a lot of hypocrisy and ridiculousness.

    Abortion was made legal in the UK 50 years ago today, but just 70 miles across the sea, women with crisis pregnancies are still forced to get a boat or a plane. Abortion should be legal worldwide. The problem with Ireland is, we are still controlled to a certain extent by those men and women who suffered the total control of the Church in their early years and they’re finding it very difficult to break the shackles. I was fortunate enough that my mother made me discern between what was right and wrong and not be influenced by any church, just think through it yourself.

    We had the issue of divorce. They had the slogan “Hello Divorce, Goodbye Daddy” a load of shit, it never happened. Now divorce is an accepted part of Irish life, the same with the rights of the gay community to get married. Our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, he couldn’t have dreamed about becoming Taoiseach in the 60s, so we have come a long way.

    Women couldn’t have had terminations in Ireland, but in time to come it’ll be just something in the history of women’s rights. It’s all part of the emancipation of women and we have a right to continue on that road. Women should have totally equal rights in everything that men have. I say ‘cut the shit, let it in now’. It’s a woman’s right to choose, let’s get it over with.


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    Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson has announced that she is pregnant and expecting her first child with partner Jen Wilson in the late autumn.

    The couple will welcome the new arrival in late Autumn. Davidson, often touted as a future Tory Party leader, said she and her partner since 2014 are “exited and daunted” about the months to come and are “over-joyed” at the prospect of starting a family together.

    Davidson, 39, said the news does not change her political commitment or her plans to lead the Scottish Conservatives into the 2021 Holyrood elections, saying she is “simply doing what thousands of working women do every year”.

    The politician, who has made no secret of her desire to be a mother, found out in March that an IVF procedure had been successful.

    She said: “Jen and I are delighted to be able to say that we are starting a family. We weren’t sure that it was going to happen for us, but we’re really, really happy that it has.”

    Davidson, who says she has been affected by some morning sickness and fatigue during the early stages of her pregnancy, said it will be “business as usual” until she goes on maternity leave.

    She said: “We have a very busy few months ahead, and I look forward to throwing myself into events with customary gusto.

     

    “While it often goes unacknowledged, politicians have personal lives too, and I hope people will understand that I want to be able to combine my public role with a family life.

    “Jen and I are incredibly lucky in the support we have received from our family and friends over the past few months – and we know we can rely on them in the months and years to come. I’d like to thank them all again today.

    “We have always dreamed of starting a family and are pleased to be able to share our happy news.”

    Prime Minister Theresa May said on Twitter: “Wonderful news! I’m very happy for you and Jen.”

    Her deputy within the party, Jackson Carlaw, will hold the fort for a few months while she is on maternity leave, which she will share with Wilson.


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    For years I grew up reading the classic bed time stories and dreaming about ‘Prince Charming’ arriving on horseback to fight off the fire breathing dragon, armed with a modest sword and shield. He would sweep me off my feet and we would ride off into the sunset without a care in the world, and I simply couldn’t wait.

    The year is 2018, and I am a 42-year-old divorced single mother to two wonderful children. I am an award winning entrepreneur with two beautiful homes in London and Rome, and a bestselling book set to launch in the UK in May. So where is the fairy tale covering my story? Where is the tale of the strong minded woman who overcame the weight of oppression thrust upon her by a nation of chauvinistic bigots in Italy, to establish two international businesses and land herself on the Spear’s 500 as one of London’s most influential service providers for high-net-worth individuals?

    The ‘Prince Charming’ rhetoric is yet another product of our destructive tendency to construct unattainable dreams for our children to chase, only to be disappointed by the sobering truth of a murky reality. As a child, I would hide myself away in my room to indulge in the fictional tales of a princess dressed in the most spectacular of dresses, arm in arm with a tall, dark and handsome man. It was the perfect release to take me away from the struggles of an oppressive and often violent household. I yearned for my prince to arrive at my door and save me from my troubles, but it would transpire that the truth couldn’t be further away from the glitter laden, romanticised folk tale. Life would work out in a way that I never did make my way to the ball, and I learned to deal with that.

    But what can be said for the young girl who never came to terms with the realisation that the charming prince is nothing more than a figment of our imagination? This is why I believe that the traditional fairy tales, as harmless as they may seem, are actually extremely dangerous. They end up brainwashing the little minds of vulnerable and easily influenced girls in their formative years, building them up to ultimately fall when they discover that the prince doesn’t exist 99% of the time.

    I don’t want to sound like a spoil sport, and the fact that I am more than happy and proud to be a successful, single working mother, doesn’t mean that I have completely turned my back on a romantic happy ending. However, I do believe that it is now time that we changed the game and looked to create a new fairy tale for young children to dream about. Let’s invent new fairy tales based around the extremely intelligent woman conquering the world thanks to her innovation and drive. Let’s talk about the middle aged woman doing incredible things in the world through kindness and empathy. Let’s present new role models to our baby boys and girls, so that they grow up wanting to leave the world in a better place than they found it - instead of fixating around the idea that one day their foot will slide perfectly into the glass shoe, and they will fit into the size six dress. We should want our children to look past the fact that the princesses in fairy tales are always young, with perfect skin and perfect bodies. There are no other criteria – and this is wrong. We should not be conditioning our children’s minds to believe that they have to fit a certain look in order to be considered a princess, and we have a moral duty as parents to not fabricate such insecurities. We are living in an age where mental health amongst youth is rife, and much of this is to do with body confidence. Children see and hear of Cinderella frolicking around the ball like butter wouldn’t melt, blemish free with curves in all of the right places, and they see this as the perfect body image. Yet Cinderella was a cartoon, just as quixotic as the insecurities she created.

    I want young girls and boys to know that the fairy tales are not a true representation of reality, and the fact of the matter is that if we can’t find happiness and salvation within ourselves, then no prince can save us. We need to teach our children that they are their own magical prince, and they should learn to embrace their strengths and imperfections in order to achieve the ‘happy ending’. Instead of killing off the witch, who conveniently always seems to be cast as an old lady, we should teach our kids to kill the lack of confidence - because this is the real danger that they will face in their lives – not a woman waving a poisonous apple in their faces, as per the Sleeping Beauty script!

    My advice would be to be yourself, own independence and strive to make a positive impact in the world – the rest will come. If it doesn’t? Who cares?


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    When I saw the picturesque video of Kate Middleton standing outside the hospital doors holding her newborn baby in her arms for the world to see, looking fresh-faced, beautiful, and let’s face it, pretty much perfect, my first thought wasn’t, oh, how lovely!

    My first thought was that she must be knackered.

    I studied her immaculate makeup and perfectly styled red dress and imagined the team of people it must have taken to make her look so effortless before the big reveal. 

    Only, it couldn’t have been effortless. She’d just given birth.

    Your body, after all, doesn’t just ping back into shape hours later.

    Things ache, things leak, and things feel a little, different.

    I am all for body positivity and being proud of what you’ve got. Why hide it if you look or feel good? And Kate looks amazing. But bouncing back too quickly and having to keep up appearances is not realistic for most women out there.

    Why do we feel we must present ourselves as if we’ve just stepped out of a salon, not a maternity ward?

    I think I looked pretty fresh-faced after giving birth, but as far as the rest of me was concerned, you would not have found me looking so picturesque.

    You would have found me roaming the maternity ward wearing an old nightie, massive pads, and granny pants (not my gran’s, by the way, these beauties were all mine). What I’m trying to get at here is, I didn’t have the energy to be anything other than how I was. I was keeping it real. I think you have to - for the sake of your sanity.

    Having a baby is a huge deal both mentally and physically, and the last thing your mind and body need is to be overloaded with the pressure of your appearance. You don’t need to do anything other than look after your baby and yourself. Other stuff is just stuff, and it can wait. As for your body, just give it time - you’ll be surprised what will happen if you look after yourself mentally first.

    When I left the hospital I suppose you could argue I looked stylish. I was rocking a sexy pair of stockings - compression stockings to help stop blood clots, complete with a pack of self-inject needles so they didn’t happen post-birth.

    But I didn’t care.

    In fact, I remember standing in the corridor crying. Not because I looked less than glamorous, but because I realised I was standing in the same corridor that I’d stood in the year before after suffering two miscarriages.

    Only this time I was walking out with my living baby.

    Rocking the stocking and sandle look

    It wasn’t in front of the world’s press but it was a beautiful moment.

    It’s different for Kate, of course. She has a role to upkeep, but for those of us that don’t, please remember, it’s ok to look less than perfect. Because you already are perfect - just the way you are.


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     K E Y   P O I N T S

     

    • Amber Rudd is under pressure to resign as Home Secretary in the wake of the Windrush scandal.

    • The crisis has seen migrants who came to the UK after World War II and have a legal right to live here wrongly threatened with deportation by the Home Office.

    • Responding to the outcry, Rudd initially told MPs she did not know if anyone had been deported or not.

    • The home secretary then made matters worse when she claimed there were no government targets for how many people to deport - but it turned out there were.

    • Dragged to Commons to explain herself, Rudd admitted she had not known about the targets imposed by her own department.

    • Rudd, who campaigned for ‘Remain’ at the referendum, then got into more trouble after suggesting to a room of journalists in Westminster the UK may not leave the Customs Union after Brexit.

    • She then had to tweet a clarification of her comments and said she ‘should have been clearer’ that the UK would leave the Customs Union - as is government policy.

    S N A P   V E R D I C T  

    From HuffPost UK Deputy Political Editor Owen Bennett:

    It’s strange what leads to Cabinet resignations these days. Lying about looking at porn? You’re out, Damian. Holding meetings with Israeli officials without permission? You’re leaving on a jet plane, Priti. Undermining attempts to get a British woman freed from an Iranian prison? As you were, Boris. Heading up a department which may have actually deported British citizens who have every right to be here? Don’t worry, Amber, it’s fine.

    Yet just when it seemed that Amber Rudd had avoided the rather whack-a-mole approach to Cabinet discipline, she poked her head out again this afternoon to invite another bash from May’s mallet. Her suggestion that staying in a customs union with the EU after Brexit is still up for discussion – a claim swiftly denied by Downing Street – might be the matter which sees her shipped out of Cabinet.

    For May, Rudd’s latest gaffe might well be a godsend. Sacking the Home Secretary over the Windrush debacle would actually lead to more questions over why the Prime Minister is still in post. The wrong head has rolled, many will cry. Amputating her from Cabinet for not toeing the line on Brexit will be one way of stopping the Rudd infection of incompetence spreading to the rest of the Cabinet.

    But Rudd going over her Brexit comments might be the worst move of all. Oversee a regime which is ruining people’s lives: you can stay. Make a comment which annoys Jacob Rees-Mogg and Peter Bone: you’re out of here.

     

    R U D D’ S  C R I T I C S  

    W H A T  N E X T 

    Amber Rudd had been seen as a safe pair of hands, however her handling of the Windrush scandal has damaged her brand and likely damaged her chances of taking over from Theresa May as Tory leader. The outrage over the threats of deportations is unlikely to calm down soon, as Labour seek to exploit the row in the run up to next week’s local elections. The Opposition has scheduled a parliamentary debate on Wednesday designed to pile the pressure on Rudd and May over their immigration policy.


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    The family of Swedish DJ and music producer Avicii has issued a second statement about his death, in which they say he “could not go on any longer”.

    Avicii - real name Tim Bergling - was found dead last week in Muscat, Oman, at the age of 28.

    While his family has already shared a statement thanking the star’s fans for their support and kind messages in the wake of his death, a second was issued on Thursday (26 April), describing the singer’s final months.

    Avicii performing at a Swedish music festival in 2015

    They said (via Variety): “Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions.

    “An over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress.

    “When he stopped touring, he wanted to find a balance in life to be happy and be able to do what he loved most – music.

    “He really struggled with thoughts about Meaning, Life, Happiness. He could not go on any longer. He wanted to find peace.”

    Avicii

    The family’s statement concluded: “Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in; he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans but shunned the spotlight.

    “Tim, you will forever be loved and sadly missed. The person you were and your music will keep your memory alive. We love you.”

    Earlier this week, police said that Avicii’s death was not being treated as suspicious, with Variety claiming that a report into his death is expected in the coming days.

    Avicii topped the UK singles chart twice in his lifetime, with hits ‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘I Could Be The One’.

    He also worked behind the scenes on tracks for stars like Coldplay, David Guetta and Madonna.

    Useful websites and helplines:

    • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
    • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
    • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@themix.org.uk

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    Amber Rudd is under increasing pressure over the Windrush immigration scandal

    Users of a special hotline set up to help Windrush generation Britons have been left feeling “very upset and afraid”, an MP has claimed, as questions mount over whether the service is failing to help people who are anxious about their citizenship status.

    Gill Furniss said the line was “failing to deliver” on its mission to help people who came to the UK in the 1950s and 60s from the Commonwealth, some of whom are now being denied access to state healthcare, housing and have lost their jobs.

    The Labour MP said her office had taken at least two Windrush immigration cases, and claimants told her office they had called the hotline and had been asked to provide extensive documentation, and had mixed messages in promises made by Home Secretary Amber Rudd and their experiences when calling the hotline. 

    Rudd set up the hotline on April 16 to help those impacted by the scandal resolve their immigration status, but it has prompted data gathering fears and has been criticised for making claimants feel like it is their responsibility to prove their right to remain, despite having lived here in the UK for decades.

    The hotline has received 3,800 calls, the Home Office has said, with 1,364 identified as potential Windrush cases to be called back.

    It said 600 call backs had taken place, with 91 appointments booked as of Wednesday. 

    Furniss told HuffPost: “Amber Rudd had made it very clear that this is something that people should have every confidence to ring up, and that they would be given every help to actually prove the case. Not: ‘Here you are, the onus is on you to sort it out’.”

    One claimant, who is now working with Furniss’s office to resolve their case, called the hotline after being denied a passport.

    She was asked to produce a “list of information”, Furniss said, including her parents’ passports, school records, medical records “and so fourth... and she was just absolutely shocked... she did feel very upset”. 

    Furniss added: “This seemed like a golden opportunity but (the claimant) did feel like she was not been treated fairly or in the spirit of the promise that Amber Rudd had made.”

    Rudd has defended the hotline, and said on Monday: “A new customer contact centre will be set up to make sure that anyone struggling to navigate the many different immigration routes can speak to a person and get appropriate advice.

    “The centre will be staffed by experienced caseworkers who will offer expert advice and identify a systemic problem much more quickly in the future.”

    The Windrush generation arrived in the UK shortly before the passing of the British Nationality Act, which automatically gave them the right to remain.

    Many have since been treated as illegal immigrants because they are unable to provide evidence of their right to remain – a problem compounded by the Home Office destroying thousands of their landing cards.

    As a result of days of uncertainty around the hotline and who is manning the phones, an immigration lawyer currently representing a number of claimants suggested anyone calling the line should first seek legal representation. 

    Diana Baxter, a lawyer at Wesley Gryk Solicitors, said initially hotline calls were not being answered by Home Office staff, with call-centre workers taking messages so claimants could be phoned back by case workers. 

    Baxter said the people answering the calls “don’t really know or understand” the cases or the concerns of the callers. She questioned the Home Office advice to callers, which says they don’t need legal representation. 

    “It is certainly easier for me (to call the hotline) because I know what it is that I’m asking for and how to direct the conversation.” 

    Chai Patel, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, has also suggested claimants seek legal representation before calling. 

    Baxter said she is now backing calls for the re-introduction of legal aid, which was cut for immigration cases in 2013, in order to help Windrush claimants to get the help they need to resolve their immigration status. 

    “Experience tells us that the Home Office doesn’t always get decisions right and although they are going to be trying harder with this ... you can’t always trust that, that is going to be the case.” 

    The Home Office is yet to reply to a request for comment. 


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    If you like what you read, make sure you subscribe to our Commons People podcast here for even more analysis about what goes on in Westminster. 

     

    1) Amber Rudd Clearly Just Likes Being In The News 

    I said it last week and I’ll say it again: the customs union just won’t die. The latest Prince Charming queuing up to give it a kiss of life was Amber Rudd, who seemed to let slip to journalists at a Press Gallery lunch that the issue was still up for grabs.

    Asked if it was “more or less likely” the UK would stay in the customs union with the EU after Brexit, Rudd said: “I’m afraid I’m not going to be drawn on that - we still have a few discussions to be had in a really positive and consensual easy way with some of my Cabinet colleagues in order to arrive at a final decision.”

    Her claim that the topic was very much up for discussion was, understandably, met with anger by Brexiteers. Tory MP Peter Bone just about stopped short of calling for her to ousted, tweeting instead: “We cannot have Home Sec not supporting this key plank of Brexit!”

    The rumours of a betrayal kicked off over the weekend, and despite Downing Street repeating the line that the UK is leaving the customs union and not joining a new one, many are spooked.

    On Tuesday, Jacob Rees-Mogg said such a move would be political suicide.

    “Who would vote for us?” he asked, adding: “I don’t see how politically this is going to work…I don’t think it will happen in the first place but if it did it would be put right through ballot box.”

    Theresa May seems to be quite clear there will be no customs union with the EU, and in PMQs on Wednesday she said: “As regards being in a customs union, that means that we would not be able to negotiate our own trade deals around the rest of the world, and we want to be able to do that.”

    The suggestion from the BBC on Monday was that May would turn any vote on a customs union into a confidence vote, i.e. if you defeat this, I’ll call a General Election.

    Thanks to the Fixed Term Parliament Act, that is not technically possible, as she would then have to go back to MPs in order the get the support of the necessary two-thirds required to call a snap election.

    If she did make it into a confidence vote, it is more likely to be on her staying as Prime Minister. The threat to bring Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve and others into line wouldn’t be “defeat this and you’ll put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street”, it will be “defeat this and you’ll put Jacob Rees-Mogg in Downing Street.”

    2) Meanwhile in the Commons... 

    Thursday’s big debate on the customs union was something of an anti-climax.

    The Government kept up its practice of not voting in backbench debates, meaning it was difficult to get a sense of which Tories would be prepared to defy party orders and walk through the division lobbies with Labour.

    One of the most entertaining speeches during the three-hour debate came from former Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. Reflecting on the many things he had learnt since Brexit, the Remain-backer quipped:

    “Apparently the Windrush scandal is the European’s fault because they are in favour of people presenting papers, and that Brexiteers are very pro-immigration. I’ve learnt there’s no longer going to be a bonfire of regulations from the EU, that it’s actually alright we’re going to adopt all of the EU regulations.”

    Vaizey was not one of the 11 Tories that helped defeat the Government on ensuring Parliament had a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal in December, but in the Commons on Thursday he showed every indication he would be willing to tie the Government in to keeping the UK in a customs union in its negotiation with Brussels.

    Similarly, George Freeman, formerly Theresa May’s head of policy, was equally as vocal about his support of keeping the UK not just in the customs union but the Single Market as well.

    The size of the rebellion is growing, but its all very well doing it in a friendly, will they turn up for the big match?

    3) David Davis Insists He’s Not ‘Winging It’

    The key question is when will the vote on the customs union take place. Sir Keir Starmer generously offered to give up Labour’s opposition day debate on Wednesday to allow the Government to bring forward one of its Brexit-related bills to put the matter to be “once and for all”. May did not take up the invitation.

    Appearing before the Brexit Select Committee on Wednesday, David Davis suggested that pro-customs union MPs might not have to rely on amending minor bits of legislation to get their way – they could have an impact on the big one: the final deal.

    The Government had previously insisted the options available to MPs when it came to the deal was ‘take it or leave it’. But Davis hinted that the Government would listen to any amendment passed.

    The Brexit Secretary said in the autumn Parliament was likely to be presented with “a political declaration rather than a treaty draft” – suggesting it would be more a direction of travel document than a detailed map.

    Committee chair Hilary Benn asked Davis whether that motion put before Parliament would be amendable, receiving the reply: “If you can tell me how to write an unamendable motion, I will take a tutorial.”

    He added: “The government is unlikely to put a vote to the House which it doesn’t intend to take properly seriously. If the House rejects the proposed negotiation, that negotiation will fall.”

    Perhaps realising he had said too much, Davis declined to play Labour MP Stephen Kinnock’s game of whether the Government would go back to Brussels with its tail between its leg if the “political declaration” was amended, but it was definitely softer language than the previous ‘take or leave it’ declarations.

    4) It’s Starting To Get Real For Brussels

    It is the moment many cynics believed Brussels feared the most: making a Budget without the milk from the UK cash cow.

    The European Commission is drawing up its financial plan for the next cycle, which covers 2021 to 2027, and will have to do without the £13billion or so a year it gets from the UK.

    According to Bloomberg, Brussels will call for cuts in farm and regional aid, but ask for an increase in security spending. Member states will be asked to put more into the collective pot, but analysis by the Financial Times suggest that an increase in growth across the EU might mean the Brexit black hole is not as big as initially feared.

    Of course, that hole will be bigger and deeper if no deal is agreed between the UK and the EU, with the £40billion divorce settlement dependent on an agreement being reached.

    Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…

    At HuffPost we love a good blog, and here are the finest Brexit-penned entries from this week. Have a read, and if any of them provoke an urge in you to speak your brain, send a blog to ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.

    Armida van Rij on why, thanks to Macron, France is replacing the UK in the ‘special relationship’

    Libby Cherry on why young people are ‘reluctant’ Remainers and ready to be engaged

    Robert Glick on how the clock is ticking to get the best Brexit for small businesses


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    Dominic Raab's strict sandwich habit has gripped the media

    A politician’s sandwich choice has inadvertently enthralled Westminster.

    Housing minister Dominic Raab has been rocked by claims that the MP always buys the same baguette, a “superfruit” pot and a vitamin volcano smoothie.

    It has been dubbed “The Dom Raab Special”.

    An undercover Daily Mirror reporter got the scoop from a woman who works for Raab, who also reportedly sells sex on the side and suggested having sex in Raab’s office.

    But it was existential angst of buying the same meal every day that captivated Fleet Street.

    In a revelation set to make Raab’s lunch choice appear even more bland, Pret A Manger has told HuffPost the chicken caesar and bacon baguette, which he reportedly eats every single day, is in fact the chain’s most popular sandwich. 

    Pret A Manger confirmed the baguette is its best seller. “You may be interested to know,” a spokeswoman said, before making the big reveal.

    Pret had yet to confirm any hard data on how many of the sandwiches were sold each day – and what percentage of them Raab eats.

    The spokeswoman said the company would track down the data “asap”.

    She later confirmed the sandwich outsold the second most popular sandwich, the pole & line caught tuna mayo and cucumber, by 1,500 last week.

    A photo of the sandwich Dominic Raab eats every day in Westminster

    The New Statesman did an unscientific poll of its staff and found 52% bought the same lunch every day.

    As this article went live, the chicken caesar and bacon baguette was leading an online Mirror poll of Pret sandwiches.

    It is unclear whether Raab voted in it. 


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    The parents of Alfie Evans have pledged to work alongside doctors to give him “the dignity and comfort he needs”.

    His father, Tom, 21, also appealed to the family’s many supporters to end their protests and allow them to “form a relationship” with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and go on to “build a bridge and walk across it”.

    Police remained outside the hospital on Thursday after Alder Hey said its staff had endured a “barrage” of abuse.

    Earlier in the day, Evans said he and Alfie’s mother, Kate James, 20, hoped to have a “positive” meeting to discuss his son’s care with medics in Liverpool after they previously failed in an 11th-hour attempt to take the 23-month-old to an Italian hospital for treatment.

    He said there had been no deterioration in Alfie’s condition since he was taken off a ventilator and he was not in pain.

    Evans accused doctors of misdiagnosing his son and also vowed to return to court if the meeting did not go well.

    But he later told reporters that in his son’s interests he and Kate would now work together with his treatment team and praised Alder Hey staff for their “professionalism”. 

    Alfie has been at the centre of a life-or-death treatment battle, with his parents trying to block doctors from withdrawing life support in a sometimes acrimonious six-month dispute which has seen a series of court battles.

    In a statement, he said: “Our lives have been turned upside down by the intense focus on Alfie and his situation. Our little family along with Alder Hey has become the centre of attention for many people around the world and it has meant we have not been able to live our lives as we would like.

    “We are very grateful and we appreciate all the support we have received from around the world, including from our Italian and Polish supporters, who have dedicated their time and support to our incredible fight. We would now ask you to return back to your everyday lives and allow myself, Kate and Alder Hey to form a relationship, build a bridge and walk across it.

    “We also wish to thank Alder Hey staff at every level for their dignity and professionalism during what must be an incredibly difficult time for them too. Together we recognise the strains (that) recent events have put upon us all and we now wish for privacy for everyone concerned.

    “In Alfie’s interests we will work with his treating team on a plan that provides our boy with the dignity and comfort he needs.”

    Tom Evans speaks to the media outside Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital.

    Evans added that no more statements or interviews would be given by him on the subject.

    On Wednesday, chairman of the hospital trust Sir David Henshaw said in an open letter that staff had been the subject of “unprecedented personal abuse that has been hard to bear”.

    Judges have heard that Alfie, born on May 9 2016, is in a “semi-vegetative state” and has a degenerative neurological condition that doctors had not definitively diagnosed.

    Specialists say his brain has been “eroded”.


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    Usama Ghamhi jumped on the stage to confront the Tory candidates at the Kensington and Chelsea hustings.

    A Kensington and Chelsea council hustings event was abruptly stalled after a man who said he lost family in the Grenfell Tower fire stormed the stage.

    Usama Ghamhi, 24, accused the Tory candidates of ignoring victims of the blaze when he confronted them at the town hall-style meeting.

    Afterwards, he told HuffPost UK they “didn’t want to talk about” the tragedy. 

    Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Advance party candidates attended the debate on Thursday night.

    Held in Fox Primary School, in Kensington Place, it is believed to be the first time candidates from the local Conservative Party have attended a hustings in the northern part of the borough that includes the Grenfell estate.

    The audience were told at the outset that recordings were not allowed during the hustings and that only still images were permitted.

    The first hour of the debate was dominated by questions of pollution, schools and housing.

    But tensions began to escalate after a member of the audience tried to defend the council over its handling of the disaster, saying the fire “could have happened” in other parts of London, adding “the council done (sic) everything they could”.

    The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) has been plagued by accusations of incompetence since the fire broke out last year, killing 71 people.

    When the chair of the hustings tried to move on, Samia Badani, who is head of Bramley House Residents’ Association – a residential block which stands just metres from the charred tower – yelled out: “Why should we vote for you? You let 71 people die, you let 71 people die.”

    As the chairman tried to move the debate on to a separate topic, Ghamhi jumped on the stage and approached the Conservative candidates, repeatedly telling them: “Talk about Grenfell.”

    In between loud applause from the audience, Ghamhi said: “I’ve been there since the day of the fire, none of you have come to see me.”

    Organisers and the chairman stepped in to intervene as tensions continued to rise in the room, with the audience divided about whether Grenfell should be discussed in greater detail or not.

    Speaking to HuffPost UK outside the meeting, Ghamhi, 24, who looked visibly upset, said: “I’m from the area, I have family in there, I’ve lost family in there [Grenfell], I’ve been in the area every day, doing things for that area. We’ve gathered donations and made it a community centre and they [the council candidates] didn’t want to talk about it.”

    Soon after the meeting reconvened, Conservative candidates left the building. A reason was not given for their departure.

    The Conservative party failed to send representatives to two hustings events in the north of the borough earlier this month.

    One was held at Al Manaar, a Muslim cultural heritage centre, on April 12 and a second was hosted at Westway23 the following week.


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    The English Premier League has teamed up with Sky to encourage clubs and fans to stop using single-use plastics at football matches.

    The announcement is part of greater efforts from the organisation to tackle waste at games, which can individually generate up to 750,000 plastic bottles and seven tonnes of waste, according to the UK government. 

    Last week the environment secretary Michael Gove called on the Premier League to help tackle plastic pollution troubles in England, looking into schemes such as deposit return schemes for cups at matches. 

    They will be supported by specialist teams of plastics experts who are dedicated to helping businesses reduce single-use plastic usage.

    Richard Scudamore, executive chairman, Premier League, says: “We are extremely proud to be joining Sky Ocean Rescue in the fight to save our oceans.

    “As an organisation with a global audience we, and our clubs, are able to encourage people around the world to think and take positive action to reduce their use of plastic.”

    One club leading the way is Tottenham Hotspur. Its state-of- the-art new stadium, due to open next season, will be free from plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and its retail outlets will phase out standard 5p carrier bags.

    A handful of sport stadiums, such as Twickenham, have already introduced a deposit return scheme for ‘fan cups’, where supporters pay an extra £1 for their cup and then get the money back when they return it to the bar.

    And plastic balloons were banned at this year’s Commonwealth Games.

    The Premier League initiative follows an nnouncement made on Wednesday, where more than 40 of the UK’s largest businesses signed a groundbreaking ‘Plastics Pact’ committing to making 100% of packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. 

    The move is the first of its kind in the world and has united 42 household names including supermarkets such as Aldi, ASDA, Lidl, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Morrisons. 

    These businesses are responsible for over 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold through UK supermarkets.


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    “More of less straight after my daughter was born, I was struggling financially,” mum Rebecca Smith* tells HuffPost UK. “I began relying on credit to cover the essentials and it escalated over the course of last year. I am now in a debt relief order (DRO) as a direct result of maternity leave.”

    Rebecca shared her story with HuffPost UK after a study has found a quarter of parents need to use credit to fund their maternity or paternity leave. The research by credit report service Noddle found one in four (25%) rack up debts of over £2,700, despite making efforts to prepare their finances in advance. Over half of parents (53%) put aside savings of around £3,000, while others made a conscious effort to clear down existing debts before having kids.  

    Rebecca, 39, from Worcestershire, was made redundant when she was 12 weeks pregnant and tragically, in August 2015, her daughter was stillborn. Rebecca was entitled to Maternity Allowance (MA) and started working again in January 2016, however when she fell pregnant again her company had no obligation to pay maternity as she was a contractor.

    Her partner was made redundant during her second pregnancy. He didn’t find work for three months but while his income covered the essentials, she needed to work too. “We didn’t want to just be existing,” she says. Since her daughter has arrived, she says the opportunities for securing permanent, flexible work with a salary that does little more than cover childcare costs has been difficult.

    “I had to turn to StepChange for debt help,” she says. “I’m now in a DRO, I’ve been declared insolvent and it’s not a choice I made easily as it will have a huge knock on effect for me and my family for years to come.”

    Rebecca Smith* (who did not want to be named) is now in a debt relief order as a direct result of maternity leave. 

    As a consequence of maternity leave, many new parents are facing money worries on top of the challenges of caring for a newborn, with over half (53%) saying they were anxious about this during their leave. Over a third of parents (35%) returned to work earlier than planned in an effort to mitigate money worries, and half (48%) stuck to a very strict budget throughout their leave. Others relied on support from family and friends, used their overdrafts or even took on a second job. 

    Money struggles were apparent for mum Sarah Henderson, too, although her experience was slightly different. The 33-year-old mum from Liverpool had to return to work when he daughter was just nine months old. She’s self-employed, so is only entitled to Maternity Allowance (MA). “It was a struggle,” she says. “We ate through our savings and stretched my husband’s salary to the limit. Both of us had to use our overdrafts regularly - something we’d always sought to avoid. While I’d always envisaged taking a full year off and returning to work when my baby was one, we just couldn’t make it work any longer.” 

    Sarah, her partner and her daughter Iris. 

    Sarah was entitled to £140.98 per week for 39 weeks. At first, the family managed by using this to pay half towards the mortgage and for household bills, but things were difficult. “The problem is once you’ve used your overdraft, it’s very hard not to use it the next month so it became a bit of a vicious cycle,” she adds. 

    Before returning back to work, Sarah looked into whether she could take additional months off after her MA ended. “I saw the state of our finances on our online banking and realised we were pushing it as it was,” she says. “When it came down to it I just didn’t have a choice, I had to return to work when my MA was finished and that was that. I wasn’t remotely ready to leave my daughter with other people and I wasn’t in a good state emotionally to be working, let alone running my own business.” 

    For Krishma Patel, 32, from Ealing, London, she knew as soon as she fell pregnant that she would struggle financially. “It was an unplanned pregnancy, we had just bought our first house and we have a child in full-time nursery,” she says. “Maternity leave was very stressful, worrying about making ends meet is an added concern. We had to watch outgoings, purchase secondhand baby items and sell maternity/newborn gear privately to raise funds. I even looked into working from home opportunities such as Avon and data entry work.” Since giving birth in August 2017, she has been unable to make ends meet and will be returning to work early due to finances.  

    Going back to work earlier than planned is a reality for many new mothers, including Helena Stevens, 30, from Sussex. She has two children, born in August 2014 and February 2016. “Going from two, full-time salaries to one, while I was at home still trying to have a life and get out and do things with the girls, and keep my eldest in nursery so she was interacting with other children was hard,” she explains. “Nursery fees were a killer and got us into debt.”

    Helena says it was a struggle with both of her daughters, but more so with her second child, when she hadn’t been at her job long enough to claim maternity pay from her employer. “We’d been able to save lots for the first while we had two full time salaries coming in, but second time round there was no savings or back up money pots,” she says. After giving birth the second time, she had to go back to work early to get some money coming in to start paying off their debt before it got out of control, “It was more of a shock than we’d imagined,” she adds.

    Better maternity packages in companies could also help new mums - statutory really isn’t enough to feed and clothe a family." Helena Stevens

    The women believe there is a lot that could change to help relieve the stress of money struggles on maternity leave for women. Rebecca says firstly what needs to change is the fact maternity discrimination is rife among employers, as being made redundant was a spark that initiated her money issues. She also believes the changes in tax credits means working families are already squeezing income in those precious early days, “Aside from the emotional cost, the financial one has been huge,” she adds. “Our daughter is totally worth it but it’s a cause of massive embarrassment for me that it came to this. 

    For Sarah, she says there should be some parity between MA and Statutory Maternity Pay so that self-employed women get the first six weeks at 90% of their average weekly pay too. “Ideally, both types of maternity pay would be improved to better reflect actual salaries because maternity leave is exactly the time you don’t want money to be tight,” she adds.

    Helena adds that making it easier for woman to go back to work after having their babies is probably the most important. “I was lucky enough to have a full year off with my first but if I’d been able to go back part-time with a bit more flexibility then we could have avoided a lot of the initial debt,” she adds. “Better maternity packages in companies could also help - statutory really isn’t enough to feed and clothe a family.”

    Did you struggle while on maternity leave? Do you want to share your story? Get in touch by emailing ukparents@huffpost.com. 

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