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Chagos Islanders denied money from support fund

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Issue 2740
Chagossians protest in 2017
Chagossians protest in 2017 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Less than £12,000 of a £40 million fund set up to compensate Chagos islanders who were forcibly evicted from their home by the British government has reached those living here.

In four years the foreign office fund has distributed less than 1 percent of its budget in direct support.

Thousands of Chagossians were ­forcibly removed from their home on the Indian Ocean island by the British ­government in the 1960s.

The government has since admitted their treatment was wrong and a matter of “deep regret”. But it still allows the largest island, Diego Garcia, to be used as a strategic US military airbase.

Last week, the United Nations ­maritime court ruled that Britain had no sovereignty over the Chagos Islands.

The Foreign Office funding used so far has been spent on interpretation services for islanders many of whom depend on French creole translation, and modest support for community groups.

Money was also spent on scoping visits to the islands by government officials, with several hundred thousand pounds used for “heritage trips”.

Louis Amadis, whose mother was born in Diego Garcia, moved to Britain in 2004. Until the pandemic hit he was working at the check-in desks in Gatwick airport. When the first round of furlough came to a close, he was made redundant and he had to give up his flat.

Talking about the unspent support fund, Amadis said, “It’s really painful to be honest, knowing that we’re supposed to have this support, but we don’t have any of it, haven’t seen any of it.”

Charities have been handing out crisis grants of £50 to families who are struggling to buy food or pay for funeral costs. But they are expressed frustrated that the multimillion pound support fund is not being used.

The vice-chair of the UK Chagos Support Association, Stefan Donnelly, said, “It seems ridiculous that we’re giving out such meagre amounts, raised from small individual donations, when such a large fund committed to helping Chagossians is going unused.”

In 2017, the foreign office signed a memorandum of understanding with Crawley borough council over work to assess where these funds would be best allocated.

But the council abandoned the needs assessment the following year and returned almost £40,000, citing strains the research was putting on the council’s relationship with the Chagos Islanders.

Benefits errors caused death

A woman killed herself after a series of errors were made with her benefits claim, an inquest has found.

Philippa Day took an overdose In August 2019, and died from a brain injury weeks later in hospital.

An inquest into her death heard the 27 year old, from Nottinghamshire, was found unconscious next to a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions. It had been sent by Capita, the benefits assessment firm.

Assistant Coroner for Nottinghamshire, Gordon Clow, identified 30 “problems” with the way Capita and the DWP handled Philippa’s claims.

Philippa experienced agoraphobia.

On the day of her benefits assessment, she felt she “couldn’t cope” with leaving the house.

Clow said a “distressing and factually inaccurate letter was sent to Philippa” before her death, advising her that if she failed to attend the appointment “without good reason”, her claim would “likely” be refused. “It is significant she had the letter by her side at the time she took her overdose,” he said.

Her family said her weekly payments had been reduced to £60.

Solicitors for her family highlighted a phone call during which Philippa described the distress she was under to a DWP agent.

Reaching his conclusion, the coroner said, “The administration of Philippa Day’s benefits claim was characterised by multiple errors. As a result of errors made, Philippa Day’s income from benefits more than halved for a period of several months, causing her severe financial hardship.

“A decision was made in June 2019 to require her to attend an assessment at a centre.

“The distress caused by the administration of her welfare benefits claim left her suffering acute distress and exacerbated many of her other chronic stresses.

“Were it not for these problems it is unlikely Philippa Day would’ve taken an overdose.”

  • A four-year-old boy was referred to the government’s anti-extremism Prevent strategy after talking about the Fortnite video game at his after-school club. Some 624 under-sixes were referred to Prevent between 2016 and 2019 . During the same period, 1,405 children between the ages of six and nine were also referred to the scheme.

  • Andrew Cumpsty, former leader of the Tories on Reading council has joined the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). Ex-ministers and civil servants must get permission from the “revolving door” watchdog if they want to take on paid work in the two years after leaving office. Cumpsty is also chairman and founder of the Enterprise Forum, which acts as a link between the bosses and the Tories.

Bonus means benefit cut for NHS workers

Brutal regulations have led to some Scottish NHS workers deferring or refusing a £500 bonus in case it impacts on their benefits.

The bonus was promised to 391,000 NHS and social care staff in Scotland as a “thank you” for the work they have carried out during the Covid-19 crisis.

Managers have written to employees offering them the chance to opt out of the payment after it emerged it could impact on other benefits.

Low-paid health service workers receive government top-ups to wages from schemes including universal credit.

The Department for Work and Pensions confirmed the bonus—due to be paid this month—would be considered earnings, resulting in some payments being cut.

The refusal to make sure health and care workers receive the full cash is the fault of the Tories and the Scottish government.

This follows a scandal last year in Wales where a bonus for care workers was only a quarter of what it was promised.

Irish scandal survivor testimony destroyed

The destruction of audio recordings of the personal interviews given by survivors of mother and baby homes has added insult to the injury of the ongoing scandal in Ireland.

Survivors believe their stories, which they say are not reflected in the recently published report, will never be properly told as recordings of the accounts they gave to the Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation have been destroyed.

The Commission’s final report was published last month. Many survivors have criticised the report, in particular conclusions which state there was a lack of evidence of forced adoption and abuse, despite testimonies contradicting this.

There were no transcripts made of the evidence in the testimonies.

Things they say

‘I share the government’s ambition to make it a national mission to reopen our schools’

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader is apparently the leader of the opposition

‘I don’t think the opportunities of Brexit are about whittling away workers’ rights or trying to have a race to the bottom or trying to reduce wages’

Tory Kwasi Kwarteng says he halted a post-Brexit attack on of workers’ rights when he became Business Secretary

‘The British are amongst the worst idlers in the world… employment law discourages small business from taking a risk…The UK should do whatever we can to cut the burden of employment regulation’

Kwasi Kwarteng in the book Britannia Unchained

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