Reply To: Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019

Home Forums Discussion Forum Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019 Reply To: Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019

Kim Sanders-Fisher

It seems this rotten Tory Government just cannot resist taking yet another malicious swipe at the youth of this country; does Boris Johnson and his corrupt cabal have a personal vendetta against young people? The opportunities stolen, the colossal hardship that lies ahead, the immense suffering levied on even the very youngest and most vulnerable in our society who go to school hungry: with their unconscionable decisions the Tory legacy of greed and shame should hang around their necks like the Ancient Mariner’s albatross. The compliant media habitually repeat his disgusting, deliberately dishonest lie; this vile PM has no intention of ‘lev…up’ so I will not repeat his words here. The horrendous impact as Tory policy starts their real agenda of ‘Decimating Down’, that has begun already with selective targeting of lockdowns, a renewed ‘harrowing of the north;’ it is destined to continue with the public sector pay freeze a clear demonstration indicating who will be forced to pay for all the relentless Tory squandering of public funds.

The Acadamization of our schools has already transformed our UK education system into a network of dysfunctional privatised profiteering conglomerates that syphon off vital education funds with obscene salaries paid to CEOs while parents are expected to ‘chip in’ to cover the basics. The devolved administrations still cover the cost of ‘EMA’ the Education Maintenance Allowance of £30 a week, a scheme to encourage children to stay on at school, but in England this was axed by the Tories who still prioritize total ignorance for the working poor. It was recently announced that the highly successful Union Learning Fund, that’s advanced the careers of millions of ordinary workers throughout this country for decades, will be scrapped; Tories don’t like the word ‘Union!’ Now with Brexit comes another crippling blow for our young people as the UK is wrenched out of the Erasmus program that not only supports academic further education in other EU countries it is continuing to expand to include multiple areas of skills training.

While some apprentice programs in this country are extremely well run, lumped in under the same general category of apprentice are a massive number of fake training programs that are little more that a shallow excuse to extort slave labour out of young people who can be paid as little as £4.15 an hour, even less than the already diminished minimum under 20 youth wage of £6.45. This relies on the support of parents, and the necessity to sacrifice independence and remain living at home, as such low wages do not allow any other option. Where such ‘trapped dependency is not possible due to lack of support, training cannot be considered. However, job roles that in the past never required a period of ‘training’ for shop assistant and serving ‘skills’ now qualify for this ‘exploitership scam.’ A study by think tank EDSK found that, “£235 million of levy funding has been used to deliver various ‘low-skill and generic jobs’ that are now counted as an apprenticeship, including working on a shop checkout and serving drinks in a bar.”

The BBC News Article entitled, “Warning over ‘fake’ apprenticeship courses” they say that, “Half of apprenticeship courses in England have been accused of being ‘fake’ by an education think tank. The EDSK report says the apprenticeship levy – paid by big employers – is being used on low-skilled jobs or relabelling existing posts, rather than training. Tom Richmond, the think tank’s director, said the apprenticeship scheme was ‘descending into farce’. But a Department for Education spokeswoman defended apprenticeships as becoming ‘better quality’. The apprenticeship levy is paid by large employers, who contribute 0.5% of their salary bill into the training fund. But since 2017, the report claims £1.2bn from the levy has been spent on jobs “offering minimal training and low wages” or on “rebadging” jobs already offered by employers as apprenticeships. In its first full year of operation, the levy raised £2.7bn and this is expected to rise to £3.4bn by 2023-24.”

BBC News say that, “Apprenticeship spending is too often used on ‘existing adult workers instead of supporting young people into the workplace’, the report warns. The education think tank says there is an insufficiently clear definition of what an apprenticeship should offer, so much so that the ‘brand itself has arguably become a meaningless concept’. It describes 50% of apprenticeship courses since 2017 as ‘fake’, saying they do not ‘relate to helping young people get started in a skilled job or occupation’. The think tank’s analysis says that £235m of the levy has been used to support ‘low-skill’ roles, such as bar staff, shop checkout workers and those in ‘basic office administration’. A further £551m has been used by firms for management training, with the report claiming this was often used for experienced staff rather than new recruits and could include the ‘rebadging’ of existing schemes.” The DfE said to meet compliance an apprenticeship must last “for a minimum of 12 months with at least 20% off-the-job training.”

This corrupt Tory Government have abandoned the very highly regarded Erasmus student exchange program claiming it will be replaced by a new scheme, which no doubt they will be heralding as “world beating.” Following the abysmal Tory track record in other ventures for squandering public funds on obscene private profiteering and gross mismanagement, this scheme is likely to cast shame on the brilliant man it will be named after: Alan Turing. In the Guardian Article entitled, “UK students lose Erasmus membership in Brexit deal, they say the, “Europe-wide scheme will be replaced with UK scheme named after computing pioneer Alan Turing. 1,890 Students and young people from Britain will no longer take part in the Europe-wide Erasmus exchange programme after the UK failed to reach agreement over its post-Brexit membership. Boris Johnson said the UK would instead establish its own scheme with ‘the best universities in the world’, to be named after the British computing pioneer Alan Turing.”

The Guardian report that, “Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said the government ‘decided not to participate in the Erasmus exchange programme’ after the two sides were unable to agree on the cost of Britain’s continued membership. The omission of Erasmus from the UK-EU deal ends a scheme that had offered student exchanges as well as school links, work experience and apprenticeships across Europe since 1987. Under the latest version of the scheme, Erasmus+, around 200,000 people have taken part including around 15,000 British university students each year. Adam Tickell, the vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex, said: ‘Leaving Erasmus is a real sadness, a scheme whose original foundations were laid at Sussex. Over the years the Erasmus programme transformed the lives of thousands of young people’.” But Boris could’t see the profit it it for his chums so he just threw it under the bus.

According to the Guardian, “In January, Johnson assured MPs there was ‘no threat to the Erasmus scheme.” Nine months ago in the Guardian Article entitled, “Quitting EU Erasmus scheme would ‘blow a hole’ in UK economy,” they warned that, “Education and business leaders point to lost income for country and opportunities for students.” They stated that, “Quitting the EU’s Erasmus student exchange programme would ‘blow a hole’ in the UK’s economy, taking away income of £243m a year and depriving 17,000 British young people of valuable work experience, according to a group of education and business leaders. The group, including further education colleges and universities, is calling for the British government to make clear that continued Erasmus membership is a high priority in its talks with the EU. Britain’s membership of the EU-wide exchange scheme known as Erasmus+ is to expire at the end of this year, alongside membership of the EU.” Sadly our ‘tin eared’ Tory Government simply wasn’t listening.

According to the Guardian even back then, “The government’s negotiating outline offered scant hope of continued full membership, saying only that it ‘will consider options for participation in elements of Erasmus+ on a time-limited basis, provided the terms are in the UK’s interests’. Universities UK International (UUKI), the umbrella group representing higher education providers, said membership of Erasmus gave a bonus to the British economy worth £243m a year, after subtracting membership costs from the £420m generated by EU students visiting the UK under the programme. It also said the 17,000 British students and young people who use Erasmus for work placements and study would also lose out, particularly students from disadvantaged backgrounds who would struggle to fund their travel and expenses without it.”

The Guardian report, “Joe Fitzsimons, the head of education and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said: ‘Many employers deeply value the kind of international experience the Erasmus scheme helps foster. Given the benefits it can bring students and businesses, maintaining access to Erasmus and wider EU research and education partnerships has been a priority for the IoD from the off.’ Emma Meredith, international director at the Association of Colleges (AoC), representing further education, said its data showed 85% of colleges were using Erasmus+ to find work placements that were not available with local employers, particularly for students in vocational subjects such as construction and social care. ‘For college students in some of the most deprived parts of the country, Erasmus+ helps to level up opportunity, experience and aspiration as well as ensuring that we are viewed as an open, tolerant and welcoming country to the rest of the world,’ she said.”

But the decision to bail on Erasmus will hurt the PMs favorite target, ‘Decimating Down’ on the poorest and most deprived young people in the UK. The Guardian revealed that, “An AoC survey found more than 90% of colleges would be unable to fund work placements for further education students if Erasmus is not extended or replaced. The director of UUKI, Vivienne Stern, said: ‘We know that disadvantaged and disabled students have the most to gain from an international experience. They will be the students who will lose the most if Erasmus+ falls by the wayside. ‘Yet I am worried that government isn’t committed to keeping the UK in Erasmus. Now is the time to commit to this unique programme that boosts not only students’ prospects, but those of businesses and the economy.’ The Department for Education has previously said the government ‘is committed to continuing the academic relationship between the UK and the EU, including through the next Erasmus+ programme if it is in our interests to do so’.”

Back then the Guardian warned that, “The UK’s post-Brexit membership of Erasmus is likely to hinge on the EU’s stance on the cost of continuing membership, and whether the EU ties it to another top priority: continued access for UK universities to the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme, which is worth billions of euros. Losing access to either the Horizon or Erasmus programmes would be a further blow for universities struggling with student recruitment difficulties, including potentially huge losses in international tuition fees caused by the coronavirus disruption.” Ultimately this shortfall in revenue will result in yet another increase in tuition fees for UK students who already pay some of the highest tuition costs in the world.

The Guardian revealed that, “A new report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) also suggests that the UK government will struggle to meet its targets for national research spending if universities suffer cuts to domestic or international fee income. ‘If the UK university sector is to continue thriving, then it is crucial that the chancellor recognises the interdependencies between teaching and research in the budget and subsequent spending review,’ said Nick Hillman, the HEPI’s director and the author of the report. ‘Universities roughly break even on teaching home students but make a big loss on research. They fill in part of that gap from the surplus on teaching international students. But they now face a looming large loss on teaching home students, for example because of tweaks to tuition fees in England. If that happens, they will have to use international student fees to subsidise home students and there will be less money for covering gaps in research funding’.”

For those seeking higher education, the LibDem Leader’s broken promise of ‘Free Tuition’ morphed into a huge burden of student debt as tuition fees soared under the Coalition Government. They are now over £9000 a year and rising, but Scottish students are spared this expense. Student Halls run by powerful property management companies add to the massive debt incurred just to get a degree. In 2020 the average rent was £126 per week, or £547 a month, but for students in London it was £182 a week, or £640 a month. Multiply that monthly amount by the six students who will be paying to share, so, £3282 or £3840 in London, and you can see why this cost is extortionate for what is very basic communal accommodation with a shared kitchen, but not a shared lounge. When students, offered “blended learning” at Universities all over the country, were then trapped in Halls due to Covid, but unable to break their 39-week contract to complete their remote learning at home, they felt very angry about being conned and exploited.

Tories removed the NHS Bursaries, creating a disgraceful situation where training to become a Nurse, Midwife, Paramedic or ODP required taking on that huge student debt while working an intensive 37.5hour a week totally unpaid apprenticeship! Study is on top of that work commitment in placement, which leaves zero time for earning money to supplement living expenses. A Government Petition was posted to, “Ensure Student Nurses are paid whilst on placement.” It requests: “Provide pay whilst student nurses are working on placement to earn a living for their family and increase mental well-being as working with covid19 for free is detrimental to the future nursing workforce. Without pay, nursing students are giving up, they don’t feel valued and barely have any time to work around the course to support their children or families. They have so many assignments on top of work life that they need payment during placement just to earn a living. To increase mental well-being and to ensure the nursing workforce remains stable.”

When the NHS refused to recognize my US qualification I was expected to retrain as an Operating Department Practitioner (ODP). At that time tuition fees were paid and you could just about squeak by on the NHS Bursary that was then around £6500 a year. The NHS Bursary, for which certain healthcare students were eligible, was what the Tory Government decided to eliminate despite the shortage of staff in all NHS specialty areas. However, due to intense pressure on staffing caused by Covid they had to relent. “The Government has announced that from September 2020 new and existing students studying this course will be eligible to receive a non-repayable grant of at least £5,000 each year. Further information is available on the Government’s website.” The clinical hours required for ODPs vary over the course, but average out at 1061 hours per year, so that £5000 grant represents a concession to paying students £4.71 an hour during their 37.5 hour clinical practice weeks. The Government’s full response to the Petition was:

“The Government recognises and fully appreciates the challenges that those studying to be nurses face. The Covid-19 pandemic has been unprecedented and healthcare students have been a key part of the phenomenal NHS response. Back in March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, the Government anticipated a reduced NHS capacity to support students on clinical placements and a need to increase the workforce capacity. As a result of this, arrangements were quickly made to give all nursing students the choice to opt-in to a paid placement. The response to this initiative was overwhelming, and the Government is truly grateful for the efforts and sacrifices made by healthcare students in these challenging times. Since the initiation of the opt-in paid placements, the Government was clear that this was a temporary arrangement, and that at the appropriate time, non-paid placements would resume. As planned, most paid clinical placements have now concluded, and the appropriate transition arrangements have been agreed for all students.

The Government greatly values healthcare students and fully appreciate that students need the opportunity to learn and develop their skills in a safe clinical environment. As part of their education programme, all nursing students are required to complete practice placements. Students are a valuable part of their teams and make a real difference to the patients that they care for, and this has been even more true during this pandemic. That said, students in clinical placements are required to be ‘supernumerary’. This means that there should be protections in place for student nurses so that they are an addition to the normal team and not employed to provide care. This ensures students have the time and support necessary to learn. The Government acknowledges and appreciates the unique characteristics of healthcare courses and greatly values the contribution that student nurses make to the NHS.

That is why the Government introduced the new, non-repayable, training grant of at least £5000 per academic year in September 2020, for all eligible new and continuing pre-registration nursing, midwifery and most allied health profession students studying at English universities. A further £3,000 is available to support eligible students studying in hard to recruit areas or those studying a specialist’s subject as well as support for childcare costs. This new grant of between £5-£8k is in addition to maintenance and tuition fee loans provided by the Students Loan Company. An additional £1000 for parental support allowance, Travel and Dual Accommodation Expenses (TDAE) and support for students facing financial hardship is also available through the Learning Support Fund grant introduced in 2017.This generous support package enables healthcare students to focus on their studies and placements and contributes to alleviating financial pressures students might be facing.

We want to ensure that the NHS employment offer continues to attract, retain and reward the dedicated and compassionate staff our NHS needs and that is why, nurses and other ‘non-medical’ NHS staff are employed on the Agenda for Change (AfC) national contract. Upon completion of their studies, newly qualified nurses are usually employed on Agenda for Change Band 5, with a starting salary of nearly £25,000. We recognise that no matter the measures put in place to ensure safety and quality of learning; the nature of this virus is that it will cause inevitable disruption. The government is keen to minimise disruption and have taken a range of steps to put in place specific measures for healthcare students. These measures include ensuring that students on placement have access to broadly equitable support as for NHS staff, including being classed as essential workers for the purpose of testing, access to appropriate PPE for placement duties and access to NHS mental health support. – Department of Health and Social Care.”

Initially this was to be limited, with the NHS Employers Website outlining an exception being made during the Covid crisis. It said, “Health Education England has issued a statement today (17 June) to provide some clarification around paid placements for student nurses and midwives who stepped up to help during the pandemic. Mark Radford, Chief Nurse, Health Education England. ‘We would like to thank all those students who were able to come forward to support the NHS at this challenging time. It has been hugely appreciated. To be clear it is absolutely untrue to suggest that student nurses and midwives are being made redundant, all student nurses and midwives are required to complete placements during their training. These placements are normally unpaid but to recognise the special circumstances and as part of the response to Covid-19 these hours have been paid and will be until the end of summer. NHS England has been provided with the funding for student salaries as part of the response to Covid’.”

Having received comprehensive training in the US as a Surgical Tech, I felt that the University component of UK NHS programs was cursory and haphazard. Well equipped clinical practice areas on campus were barely used, leaving students unprepared for practical aspects of the training relying far too heavily on overstretched NHS staff to teach on-the-job. It will be a rude awakening for students as Covid will not allow time for ‘gauk and learn’ training. We need a serious revamp of training as well as investment, but this is not a Tory priority because their immigration agenda will accelerate the morally bankrupt policy of, ‘scavenge, exploit and deport’ to access cheap labour trained in the developing world. That is the legacy of Brexit, trample on the ambitions, hopes and dreams of our young people by killing off opportunities. This destruction and exploitation has to end, we must challenge this corrupt Tory Government and fully Investigate the Covert 2019 Rigged Election that gifted them power. Act now to: Get The Tories Out! DO NOT MOVE ON!