Daily roundup: outdoor play, youth benefits, social work

Neil Puffett
Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hackney's Play Streets scheme to be rolled out borough-wide; Labour considers barring under 25s from claiming unemployment benefits; and social work leaders raise workload fears, all in the news today.

Hackney's Play Streets project allows residents to regularly close streets to traffic so they can play in them. Image: Hugh Warwick
Hackney's Play Streets project allows residents to regularly close streets to traffic so they can play in them. Image: Hugh Warwick

Hackney’s Play Streets scheme is to be rolled out across the borough, the council has confirmed. The decision follows a successful year-long trial involving more than 2,000 children. The initiative allows residents to close their streets for a few hours on a weekly or monthly basis so that children can play together near their homes.

Under 25s would be barred from claiming unemployment benefits under proposals being considered by Labour. The Telegraph reports that the party is interested in proposals by the Institute for Public Policy Research, due to be published this week, for a new means-tested “youth allowance” for 18 to 24-year-olds who are not in work or education.

Shrinking budgets, increasing demand and intensified media coverage of child protection cases are putting extra pressure on social workers. According to the BBC, Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, has warned that staff are under more pressure than ever before. He has called for greater support to help improve their professional confidence.

Much more must be done to help the UK's poorest families tackle problem debt, a Conservative-leaning think tank says. The Centre for Social Justice says the average UK household has debts of £54,000, including mortgages - nearly twice the level of a decade ago. It says the poorest 10 per cent of households have average debts that are more than four times their income, the BBC reports.

A survey of employers shows many believe more needs to be done by schools to develop young people’s verbal communication skills. The survey of 40 business leaders also found that only a third believe their junior recruits are very confident at expressing themselves verbally and more than half say too much time spent online is making the problem worse. AGL International, who carried out the survey, said lack of communication skills were jeopardising the careers of some young people.

Pupils at a school in Dorset are having to take a half-mile bus journey to school because the county council has deemed a road linking the school with the village to be “unsafe”. The BBC reports that a school bus service, started this term at Salway Ash Primary School,  takes children on the four-minute journey, at a cost of £250 per week. Parents have said they are “embarrassed” by the situation and want the council to construct a footpath.

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