Nearly 19,000 women aged under 25 had their second abortion last year, new figures show.

The statistics published today by the Department of Health, also revealed almost 40,000 women aged under 20 had an abortion in 2010.

Overall there has been a slight rise in the number of abortions carried out in England and Wales.

Some 189,574 abortions were carried out in 2010, up 0.3 per cent on the 189,100 in 2009 and eight per cent more than in 2000 (175,542).

These abortions were to women living in England and Wales. Another 6,535 were to non-residents.

The last time there was a rise in the total number of abortions was between 2006 and 2007.

Dr Paula Franklin, director of clinical development at Marie Stopes International, said: ‘Although the numbers are similar to those of 2009, we are surprised not to see a further decrease in the number of abortions across England and Wales.

‘Improved access to counselling and advice, through services like Marie Stopes International’s OneCall, is allowing women to access a full range of information early.’

In total, 64,303 procedures were to women who had had at least one abortion previously.

Of these, 1,201 abortions were among girls under 18 who had undergone one previous abortion, while 79 were to girls who had had two or more.

Among those aged 18 to 24, 17,735 abortions were to girls who had one abortion previously while 3,453 were to girls who had had two previously.

Half of abortions last year were to women with partners while 26 per cent were to single women and 16 per cent of abortions occurred within marriage.

Some 3,718 were to girls under 16, which was slightly down on the previous year. Some 27,046 abortions were among women aged 35 and over.

The rate was highest in women aged between 19 and 20, but has dropped among the under-16s and under-18s.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘We welcome the continued fall in teenage pregnancies. Abortions are traumatic and stressful and should never be seen as a form of contraception.’

In total, 64,303 procedures were to women who had had at least one abortion previously.

The statistics also showed that almost 300 women aged 25 to 29 had had four or more previous abortions.

Overall, 77 per cent of abortions took place before 10 weeks gestation.

Age of woman No. of abortions 2009 No. of abortions 2010
Under 16 3,823 3,718
16-17 14,093 12,742
Under 18 17,916 16,460
18-19 22,151 21,809
20-24 54,749 55,481
25-29 40,634 40,800
30-34 26,701 27,978
35 or over 26,949 27,046
Total 189,100 189,574

Natika Halil, director of information for the Family Planning Association (FPA), said: ‘Over the last decade, we’ve seen significant achievements in abortion services. Most women are having abortions under 13 weeks and we’ve seen a substantial rise in early medical abortions.

‘Medical abortions are a much more straightforward and less invasive procedure for women.

‘The cost to the NHS is greatly reduced – especially relevant in the current economic climate. The next logical, clinically-safe step with early medical abortion is to allow women to have them at home.’

Across all ages, the abortion rate was 17.5 per 1,000 resident women aged 15-44, the same as in 2009 but more than double the 8.0 recorded in 1970.

The rate was highest in women aged between 19 and 20, but has dropped among the under-16s and under-18s.

Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said: ‘Abortion rates were falling under the Labour government because of its investment in contraceptive services and sexual health campaigns.

‘Abortion rates have levelled off and will now undoubtedly rise further because contraceptive services are being slashed nationwide.

‘The coalition Government has not protected provision of contraceptive services despite the fact they are cost-effective as well as being a basic human right.’

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas), said the fact that numbers had not decreased showed how difficult it was for women to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

She added: For many women abortion is a back-up to their contraception. It is a rational and ethical solution to the problem of a pregnancy that they cannot continue with.

‘We must do what we can to reduce the need for abortion while accepting that it will always be an important back-up for women whose contraception has failed, or whose circumstances have changed.’

However Michaela Aston, a spokeswoman for Life, said: ‘At Life we see every abortion as a tragedy, and we work hard to provide positive alternatives for women and their families who find themselves in what seem like impossible situations.

‘We are concerned that women are being rushed into abortion, as more and more women are having abortions earlier in pregnancy. It is vital that women are given time to think through their options.

‘We hope too that the Government will resist pressure to liberalise the law on home abortions. Such a move would further isolate women from networks of support, and risks trivialising abortion still further.’

The number of women claiming out-of-work benefits has hit its highest level since 1996, with public sector job cuts starting to bite last month.

Attempts by the government to nudge single mothers into the workforce have also pushed up the number of women claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), as they are stripped of income support once their children turn seven.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 474,000 women were receiving JSA in April. While the government took some comfort from the fact that total unemployment fell by 36,000 to 2.46 million in the three months to March, according to the broad International Labour Organisation measure, there was a rise of 12,400 in the more timely claimant count last month – with more than three-quarters of the increase among women.

It was the 10th consecutive month in which the number of women claiming out-of-work benefits had increased – although there are still more than twice as many men, 994,000, receiving JSA. The Department for Work and Pensions said part of the rise resulted from rule changes that have seen single mothers shifted on to employment benefits to encourage them to look for a job.

Since October, single mothers have joined the claimant count when their youngest child turns seven, down from the previous limit of 10. Single parents receiving JSA rose by 6,000 in March.

The DWP said the number of people receiving JSA was likely to go on increasing as incapacity benefit claimants were assessed for their readiness to work.

Since George Osborne announced the tightest fiscal squeeze in a generation last autumn, equality campaigners have been warning that the impact will be disproportionately felt by women, who make up much of the public sector workforce. Anna Bird, acting chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said women were acting as “shock absorbers” for the austerity measures.

“We are beginning to see the real impact of the government’s approach to cutting the deficit and, as we feared, women are bearing the brunt,” she said. “Combined with reduced benefits and increasing costs of childcare as state support dwindles, the lack of employment prospects risk rolling back women’s rights a generation.”

The figures also confirm that the pressure on household incomes is intensifying, as salaries fail to keep pace with rocketing inflation. While the inflation rate hit 4.5% last month, average pay rose by just 2.3% in the year to March.

The coalition may present itself, like all the main political parties, as pro-family, but it is mothers who have become the “shock absorbers” for the coalition’s cuts in welfare benefits and childcare provision, say critics.

From cuts to maternity grants and child benefits, to closures of Sure Start centres, childcare schemes and after-school clubs, it is women – particularly single mothers on low incomes – who bear the brunt of attempts to reduce the deficit.

The changes will affect women’s incomes and ability to enter the job market, critics say, and put many at risk of poverty. “The disproportionate impact of the cuts on women raises issues of fairness and calls into question the idea of society sharing the weight of national debt reduction,” said Abigail Davies, assistant director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing. “Overall the public spending cuts are known to impact disproportionately on single parent families, most of which are headed by women. Cuts to benefits and public spending, coupled with stricter job-seeking expectations for lone parents claiming benefits, will trap some women in an impossible situation.”

Benefit cuts that affect women include reductions in the childcare tax credit, the Sure Start maternity grant, and the health in pregnancy grant, and the freezing of child benefit rates for three years.

Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, said: “The targeting of family benefits for cutbacks in the last 12 months means women’s incomes have been disproportionately hit. For many women, child benefit was the only source of income they received directly, giving them independence and control over family spending. The coalition’s decision to end universal child benefit was therefore a particularly painful blow.”

There are concerns that single parents – most of whom are women – will also be unfairly affected by housing benefit reform. “This will require some families to move, which is expensive, unsettling, affects [children's] educational performance, and puts families into less economically successful areas with reduced employment opportunities,” said Davies. “Cuts to tax credits, Sure Start, after-school clubs and so on, create further barriers to employment for single parents.

“The government wants to encourage social mobility and tackle poverty, but these cuts do not create an environment which supports women or enables them to help themselves.”

Despite the government’s commitment to guarantee 15 hours a week free childcare provision, childcare support has been badly hit by local authority spending cuts. These have led to widespread cuts in Sure Start children’s centres and after-school and holiday play schemes. Although many councils have committed themselves to keeping centres open, most have reduced services drastically.

A survey of mothers using Sure Start centres, carried out in February by the Daycare Trust charity, found that 35% felt that the removal or reduction of services would leave them more socially isolated, and 32% felt it would be harder to see their midwife or health visitor.

Rake said there had been some positive policy developments for mothers over the past 12 months, such as proposals for shared postnatal parental leave, and to extend rights to flexible working. She added: “The government must deliver on these proposals if it is to make strides towards a truly family-friendly society.”

At least 80 Asian women who arrived in Britain in the 1970s were made to have ‘virginity tests’ by immigration staff.

Calls have been made for the Government to make an official apology after it was discovered the intimate examinations – used to ‘check the marital status’ of Indian and Pakistani women – were on a wider scale that originally thought.

The practice was banned in February 1979 after it was reported a 35-year-old Indian  teacher was examined by a male doctor when she arrived at Heathrow Airport to test whether she was a genuine wife-to-be who had not borne children.

The Home Office initially denied that any internal examination had taken place.

The unidentified woman told the Guardian newspaper: ‘A man doctor came in. I asked to be seen by a lady doctor but they said ”no”.

‘He was wearing rubber gloves and took some medicine out of a tube and put it on some cotton and inserted it into me. He said he was deciding whether I was pregnant now or had been pregnant before.

‘I said that he could see that without doing anything to me, but he said there was no need to get shy.

‘I have been feeling very bad mentally ever since. I was very embarrassed and upset. I had never had a gynaecological examination before.’

Details of the doctor’s examination were documented for the Home Office.

He wrote: ‘Penetration of about half an inch made it apparent that she had an intact hymen and no other internal examination was made … The only time she was bare chested was for the X-ray examination… The doctor told the immigration officer verbally that the lady had not had children and she was then given conditional leave to enter for three months as a fiancee.’

But the file also reveals that after the incident became public the woman was offered £500 to ensure she did not sue.

The payment, offered through her solicitors, was to be ‘in recognition of the distress she had been caused’ but she also had to agree ‘not to initiate any proceedings against the Home Office’.

It was emphasised that it was not ‘compensation’, which would have implied that immigration staff had acted improperly, and the then home secretary, Merlyn Rees, while expressing his ‘deep regret’ carefully, did not make an official apology to her.

The files were unearthed at the National Archives in London by two Australian legal academics.

The demand for an apology was backed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, which was involved in the original 1979 case.

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said: ‘These practices occurred thirty years ago and were clearly wrong.

‘This government’s immigration policies reflect the UK’s legal responsibilities and respect immigrants’ human rights.’
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The body of aspiring model Emily Longley, who grew up in Auckland in New Zealand, was discovered at an address in Bournemouth, Dorset, on Saturday morning.

Last Wednesday, the 17-year-old had shared her fears with friends on the popular social networking site.

She wrote: ”I have a stalker!!!”

The teenager went on later to post: ”Someone just called me and I was like ‘Who’s this?’

”And they were like ‘You don’t know me but I know everything about you’ and I was like ‘How did you get my number?’ and he was like ‘I’ll tell you when I see you’ and kept asking me out.

”So I hung up and they won’t stop calling.

”I’m really scared! Ha. It’s a private number as well. Some people need to get a life!”

On May 5 she posted that she was ”down and out”.

Two days later she was found dead at a bungalow in Queenswood Avenue.

An inquest into the death of the Brockenhurst College student was opened and adjourned by the Bournemouth, Poole and East Dorset Coroner today.

Police described the cause of Miss Longley’s death as ”undetermined subject to toxicology tests”.

Two Bournemouth men aged 19 and 17 were arrested on Saturday but have since been released on police bail pending further enquiries, a Dorset Police spokesman said.

Emily’s father, Mark Longley, said she apparently died in her sleep but the cause of her death remains a mystery.

”It is a huge shock to us, and Caroline (Emily’s mother) and I are going to England to try and find out what happened,” Mr Longley told the New Zealand Herald.

”She was a beautiful girl and full of life, it is so tragic.”

Friends of the teenager have set up the ”R.I.P Emily Longley” group on Facebook and hundreds of people have left tributes to her.

In one message on Facebook her father said: ”She was a real force for life.

”We all loved you honey. So much.

”It is so nice to see she was so loved. Thank you everyone for your kind words.”

Friend Chloe Berghan wrote: ”Emily, this is so unreal, I thought I’d be seeing you in fashion magazines modelling for Chanel, you are an amazing, beautiful and elegant girl and were too young to be taken from us. RIP xxx”

Emily, who had worked at Topshop, had been living in Bournemouth with a relative for around eight months after leaving New Zealand.

She had returned to visit friends and family last month and had only returned to the UK a month before her death.

Detective Inspector Neil Devoto, who is leading the investigation, said: ”I am appealing for anyone who witnessed anything suspicious or unusual in the area either this morning or during last night, and anyone who has any information regarding this incident, to contact police urgently.”

Unemployment figures published today reveal that one in five young people are unemployed, but women across all age groups are bearing the brunt of joblessness.

Unemployment hits women hardest (Reuters)

The Office of National Statistics’ labour market statistics bulletin reported that the number of out of work 16-25-year-olds reached 963,000 in the three months to February – an increase of 12,000 on previous figures published in January.

That the number of young people out of work remains high has renewed fears that a ‘lost generation’, unable to find work in the crucial early stages of their working lives, will emerge from the aftermath of the recent recession.

Unemployment hit the youngest section of this age group the hardest, with the number of unemployed 16 to 17-year-olds reaching 218,000 – an increase of 14,000 on the quarter. However, a TUC spokesman told Channel 4 News: “We wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from this younger age group, as the picture is more mixed.” A more reliable indication can be gleaned from the number of out of work 18-to-24-year-olds, which fell by 2,000 on the quarter to 745,000.

Indeed, overall, the figures for this age group are actually a slight improvement on those earlier this year, which showed the total number of unemployed young people to have reached nearly one million – the highest level of youth unemployment since records began in 1992. And across all age groups, the unemployment rate reduced from 8 per cent to 7.8 percent.

However, Ian Brinkley, director of socio-economic programmes at The Work Foundation, said that although these were “better figures than expected”, caution was necessary given that “serious underlying structural problems remain”. He pointed to unemployment among young people and also long-term unemployment among the over 50s as being cause for concern.

Women workers worst affected

In both these age groups, unemployment figures for women are higher than those for men. As ONS spokesman David Bradbury told Channel 4 News: “The pattern in recent months is that things are better for men and worse for women. This is different to the height of recession when men were most affected.”

Over the course of the last year, as the UK emerged from recession, female unemployment went up by 64,000, Mr Bradbury said, while male unemployment went down by 69,000. Click here for more on those figures.

‘Women are now re-entering the labour market in larger numbers in the hope of finding work’ – Tom Phillips, The Work Foundation

The TUC told Channel 4 News: “A recent TUC analysis found that since the recession young female joblessness had nearly trebled in the South West, and more than doubled in the North West, Yorkshire, West Midlands, South East and Scotland. With jobs in the public sector – a key career route for young women – starting to go over the course of the year, the figures are set to get even worse.”

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Female unemployment has been rising many months and the number of women out of work is at a level last seen in the late 1980s. What’s particularly worrying is that these figures come before public sector job losses really start to bite.

“With hundreds of thousands of jobs set to go in local government alone – where three quarters of staff are female – there are real fears that rising female joblessness could increase in pace.”

Tom Phillips, spokesman for The Work Foundation, said: “Women’s employment has started to recover, but women’s unemployment still went up, in contrast to men. One reason is that women are now re-entering the labour market in larger numbers in the hope of finding work. But the experiences of older and younger women differ significantly. Unemployment among young women between 18 and 24 is 16 per cent compared with just over three per cent for women over 50.”

Concern that public sector cuts will have a disproportionately adverse affect on women have already been voiced. According to the Fawcett Society, which campaigns and researches for issues of relevance to UK women, the majority of savings in the budget would ‘come from women’s pockets’ through the freezing of benefits and public sector pay freezes.

Up to 80 per cent of women in public sector jobs at risk

The Society, who issue a report tomorrow on the impact of the budget and the latest employment figures, argue that cuts in public sector funding and public sector jobs affect women disproportionately because women form the bulk of the workforce in the public sector. And within areas such as local government and the NHS (where women comprise around three quarters of the workforce) women are often concentrated into the lower-grade and insecure jobs which often take the first hit. For this reason the Fawcett Society estimate the actual percentage of women at risk from public sector cuts to be nearer 70 per cent, while the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development puts that figure at closer to 80 per cent.

Private sector no antidote

Anna Bird, spokesperson for the Fawcett Society told Channel 4 News that private sector employment is not ‘an antidote’ to public sector cuts. She points out that given the private sector has historically lagged behind the public sector in the pay gap between men and women, is slower to promote women at the top, and employs only 40 per cent of women in its workforce, even if jobs are created for women, the quality of those jobs may be somewhat poorer than their public sector counterparts.

As Mr Phillips noted: “Looking over the recovery so far women have been adversely affected by two trends – the drop in employment in the public sector and parts of the banking sector and weak employment growth in more traditional industries such as retailing and hospitality. These sectors all have above average shares of female employment. In contrast, manufacturing and high tech and professional services have seen some recovery in employment and these sectors all employ large numbers of men.”

The number of women claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has reached a near 15-year high as experts expect levels to continue rising amid public sector cuts.

Official data confirmed that while the overall level of unemployment dropped by 17,000 to 2.48 million, the numbers claiming job-related benefits rose.

The so-called claimant count increased by 700 last month to 1.45 million, including 462,300 women, the highest figures since October 1996, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Analysts said women were suffering higher unemployment levels because of public sector cuts where they tend to represent a higher proportion of the work force.

Vicky Redwood, an economist at Capital Economics, said: “It reflects the job cuts in the public sector as women are vulnerable to these. And that is even before the public sector cuts have really got going.”

She (SNP: ^SHEYnews) added: “More women may also be looking for work as they need to help pay higher household bills.”

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “While today’s unemployment figures are a welcome relief after a slew of poor economic data, not everyone will be sharing in the jobs cheer. Female unemployment has been rising many months.

“What’s particularly worrying is that these figures come before public sector job losses really start to bite.

“With hundreds of thousands of jobs set to go in local government alone where three quarters of staff are female there are real fears that rising female joblessness could increase in pace.

“Female unemployment is really hurting household incomes, which already under strain due to tax credit cuts and the growing gap between wages and living costs.”

Changes to the benefits system also mean women switched from income support to Jobseeker’s Allowance over the past two months.

Unemployment is predicted to reach 2.75 million by the middle of next year, by some economists.

Howard Archer, an economist at Global Insight, said: “Major job losses will occur in the public sector as the government slashes spending, and we doubt that the private sector will be able to fully compensate for this.

“We suspect that firms will be very cautious in their employment plans, reflecting slower growth and concerns that the intensified fiscal squeeze will hold back economic activity for an extended period.”

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said the figures were a ‘step in the right direction’.

“The fall in unemployment is welcome,” he said.

LONDON (AP) — Women and girls as young as 13 in Wales can get the morning-after pill free without a prescription from pharmacies, beginning Friday.

The legal age of consent for sex in Britain is 16, and some critics have slammed the policy as hypocritical and encouraging young girls to have sex.

The initiative is aimed at fighting teen pregnancy and was first announced last year by Welsh Health Minister Edwina Hart. She said new ways were needed for teenage girls to get access to emergency contraception. Wales has some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Britain, which in turn has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in western Europe.

The morning-after pill contains hormones that stop women from becoming pregnant if taken within about three days of having unprotected sex. It is not suitable for women with certain health conditions like a history of blood clots or liver disease.

The morning-after pill is already free to women across the U.K. if prescribed by their doctor or a sexual health clinic, but Wales is the first region to offer the pill for free without a prescription in its more than 700 pharmacies, though there are similar small-scale policies in parts of England and Scotland. If bought over the counter, the pill typically costs about 25 pounds (US$40).

Welsh officials said their plan focuses on preventing teenage pregnancies by offering sex education and condoms but that it is also necessary to introduce wider use of the morning-after pill.

“While (condoms) remain the best form of contraception, from 1 April, pharmacists in Wales will be able to provide the morning after pill to individuals and provide discreet counseling and advice on contraceptive use,” said the Welsh Assembly government. “Pharmacists have a key role to play in the reduction of unwanted pregnancies, especially when coupled with advice.”

Some critics called the initiative superficial and doubted it would have much impact on the teen pregnancy rate.

“This will be looked upon as a quick fix for girls,” said Josephine Quintavalle, founder of the Christian group Comment on Reproductive Ethics. “It gives them carte blanche to do whatever they want without talking to their parents.”

Elsewhere in Europe, the morning-after pill is available in Germany with a doctor’s prescription and is free for women under 20. In France, teenagers under 18 can also get the pill for free at a pharmacy without a prescription or their parents’ consent. In Scandinavia, the morning-after pill is available to teenagers over 16 in pharmacies but the age limit is not strictly enforced. The pill is free in youth clinics but must be paid for in pharmacies.

Women in their mid-Fifties unfairly affected by decision not to scrap increase in state pension age.

The House of Lords decision not to scrap the increase in the state pension age means half a million women will be retiring a year later than planned, and a more than 300,000 will have their retirement delayed by more than 18 months.

According to figures calculated by Saga, not a single man will be affected by the latest decision. In the decade from 2010 to 2020, women will see their retirement age increase by six years, while men will only face an increase of 12 months.

The decision has faced criticism as some feel the pension system already unfairly targets women, who traditionally are more reliant on the state pension as they have had less chance to build up a private pension due to breaks in their working life to bring up children and have lower incomes than men.

Dr Ros Altmann, director general of Saga, urged the Government to rethink its decision. She (SNP: ^SHEYnews) said: “The Government must think again. An amendment to the proposals, which would have seen any increase in women’s state pension age limited to a maximum of one extra year beyond the already accepted increases of 3, 4 or 5 years, was defeated by 226 votes to 214. There was clearly strong feeling that the Government is not acting correctly on this.”

The Government stated that it cannot increase men’s pension age before women’s due to EU law, but Saga say that instead increases for both men and women’s state pension age should be delayed until 2020.

Dr Altmann said: “Saga has been inundated with letters and emails from women desperate and furious about being betrayed in this way. Many explain that they have already retired to care for relatives, or that they are very ill and cannot keep working.

“These particular women had no chance to build up private pensions when they started working. Men of this age could join company schemes, but women working part-time were banned from company pensions. Yet the Government is making them bear the brunt of cost-saving measures designed to save money on pensions in the long-term.

“If life expectancy is increasing, then it is right that pension ages should rise, but it has to be done fairly, with sufficient notice for people to plan.”

One in four women will be living below the poverty line when they retire, a study reveals today.

Researchers found that 26 per cent of women who plan to retire this year will have less than £10,000 a year – or under £200 a week – to live on when they stop working.

The findings highlight the nightmare facing women who are paying the price for deciding to give up their jobs to bring up their children instead of staying at work and building up a pension.

An annual sum of £10,000 a year will barely cover the basics such as food, fuel and utility bills.

It is below the minimum income standard set by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which estimates somebody needs at least £14,400 a year to escape poverty.

By comparison, the average worker in Britain earns around £26,000.

The study, from insurance giant Prudential, which polled more than 10,000 adults, found women are far worse hit than men by pensioner poverty.

Only 12 per cent of men who retire this year will have to try to make ends meet on less than £10,000 a year.

The amount those surveyed will have to live on is based on their income from the state pension, any additional pensions and the income from any other savings. The full basic state pension is £97.65 a week. In the Budget last week, Chancellor George Osborne announced that the Government will introduce a flat-rate state pension for everybody of about £140 a week.

This is designed to help women who are facing pension poverty because they devoted themselves to looking after their children rather than building up their pension. More details of how this will operate are expected shortly.

Yesterday another report said the Government has triggered ‘an angry backlash’ with its legislation to increase the state pension age. The charity Age UK said it is being ‘inundated’ by ‘furious’ emails and letters from women who face working up to two years longer to get the pension.

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  • One million NHS staff earning over £21,000 will have to forego pay rises for two years
Nurses in need: Union bosses said health workers were already having to pay higher pension contributions

The pay of more than a million health workers is going to be frozen for two years, the Government confirmed today.

The freeze was first proposed in last year’s June Budget. It was confirmed today after Government said it had accepted the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body for 2011-12.

The decision is expected to save £3.3billion a year by 2015.

Unison said the announcement was a ‘bitter blow’ for nurses, paramedics, therapists and other NHS staff who were already facing increased pension contributions.

Low-paid workers such as cleaners, porters, healthcare assistants and cooks, earning below £21,000, will receive a rise of £250, but the union said this was ‘totally inadequate’.

However, the review body said they had noted the Health Department evidence ‘that an increase of £250 is all that can be afforded’.

Mike Jackson, Unison’s national officer, said: ‘The Government’s decision to freeze pay is another bitter blow for hard-working NHS staff.

‘The squeeze on NHS finance is already placing a heavy burden on health workers. They see jobs being cut, operations cancelled or delayed and patients suffering as a result.

‘It is completely unjust for the Government to make nurses, paramedics, therapists and skilled NHS staff the fall-guys for the financial crisis brought down on the country by the bankers.

‘The £250 is a totally inadequate token gesture designed to salve the conscience of coalition MPs. They know that health workers did not cause the crisis, that inflation is going up and that families, already struggling with mounting debts and rising inflation, will suffer because of their decision today.’

Mr Jackson said he expected widespread anger over pay at Unison’s health conference in Liverpool next month, adding: ‘The job cuts, cancelled operations and longer waiting times are deeply distressing for health workers and the pay freeze is likely to be the final straw.’

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘By taking tough decisions on a pay freeze, we have been able to provide a fair increase for the low paid. I am pleased the Pay Review Bodies have recommended a £250 uplift.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We welcome the report of the NHS Pay Review Body and accept its recommendations in full.

‘They will support continuing NHS service improvements and the position of lower paid NHS staff in the face of a tough economic climate They also achieve the Government’s commitment to protect those on low incomes.’
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Parenting and women’s rights charities have called on the prime minister not to weaken maternity legislation in next week’s budget, following reports that employers with fewer than 10 staff may no longer be obliged to offer the full amount of paid leave.

Leaked details of a new “growth strategy” suggest that the chancellor could propose a deregulation drive designed to assist small companies.

Maternity leave legislation is one area likely to be affected, and the government is said to be considering giving small employers the right to negotiate maternity and paternity leave arrangements individually with staff.

In response, 26 charities have signed an open letter to David Cameron, warning that the changes would have a negative effect on families – and undermine rights put in place to help parents “balance their family and work responsibilities and remain in the workforce during their childbearing years”.

The letter, signed by the chief executives of the Fawcett Society, the Child Poverty Action Group and the Family and Parenting Institute, continues: “We do not think it appropriate to exempt any employers from current statutory obligations to provide maternity and paternity leave.

“The needs of parents and their children do not vary with the size of their employers’ business.

“Parents who are not entitled to maternity or paternity leave are forced to choose between remaining in their job or caring for their children.

“In the current difficult employment market, parents who choose to take time off to care for their children risk ending up longterm unemployed.”

The charities cite research suggesting that paid parental leave has a positive impact on child and maternal health, and promotes breastfeeding.

It is not clear whether the proposals would be acceptable under European law, but the charities warned: “In an environment of rising unemployment and widespread pregnancy discrimination, employees are in a very weak negotiating position.”

More women than men are employed by smaller businesses, according to Ros Bragg, director of campaign group Maternity Action.

“Research into pregnancy discrimination has identified small businesses as a particularly problematic group and it is worrying that these changes are increasing so-called flexibility for a group which has real issues around compliance with anti-discrimination laws at present,” she said.

She believes the political debate over maternity leave is shifting away from focusing on its benefits to scrutinising its cost to business.

In a new report, Think Small First, the CBI has made a number of recommendations designed to help small businesses. It suggests allowing smaller firms to ask someone going on maternity leave to specify when they plan to return.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills would not comment ahead of the budget, which will be announced on 23 March.

Currently a woman is allowed up to a year’s statutory maternity leave, with six weeks at 90% of full pay and a flat rate for a further 33 weeks.

She also has the right to be offered her old job, or a similar position on the same salary and conditions, when she returns to work.

From April, fathers will be able to take up to 26 weeks of the leave previously reserved for mothers; they will also have access to statutory paternity pay, which is equal to the amount that would otherwise have been paid to the mother.

On Thursday UK teachers and school staff held the first of six strikes at Brecon High school in Powys. 800 students had been told not to attend their classes on the day of strike, over cuts.

The National Association of Schoolmasters/ Union of Women Teachers NASUWT said a number of job positions are to be cut.

The NASUWT criticized school governors for their mismanagement in financial issues. It said the governors had turned £100,000 surplus into a projected £650,000 deficit over three years and failed to tackle budget deficit, which was caused by the educational cuts.

“The school has taken very positive actions over the past three years to tackle an anticipated budget deficit, as the union very well knows. Teaching costs have been reduced by more than 10 percent despite year-on-year teacher pay increases.” said Paul Martin, chairman of governors.

“All vacant posts have been carefully assessed to see if there was scope to reduce staffing levels without the need to have compulsory job losses. As a result 12 vacant positions have not been filled and the school has been able to reduce its staffing levels by more than 10 since 2007,” Martin added.

Rex Phillips, of NASUWT, talked of the strike as a successful attempt. He says the strike was “solid and went well”.

“Now we’re waiting to see if the school and the local authority will come to the negotiation table to discuss this with us,” said Phillips.

Powys council has planned to cut a number of secondary education job positions. Under this proposal, schools will merge and sixth forms will be shut.

The second and third of the six strikes are to be held on March 30 and 31.

Gender selection is banned in Britain. But as this disturbing investigation reveals, thousands of couples get around the law by going abroad to get the baby they want.

Most parents are so grateful to have a healthy baby that the sex of the child is a secondary consideration. But what of those who are so desperate for a boy or a girl that they will go to any lengths to achieve it?

This investigation reveals that in the UK today there are thousands of British couples so desperate to choose the sex of their baby that they are prepared to undergo a controversial fertility treatment that is banned in this country and most of Europe on ethical grounds.

Balancing act: Critics claim the latest developments force doctors into 'playing God'Balancing act: Critics claim the latest developments force doctors into ‘playing God’

‘Family Balancing’, as it is known, enables would-be parents to select the sex of a child with almost 100 per cent certainty through a technique called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), which is carried out during IVF.

The practice is legal in most U.S. states, Russia and the Middle East, but in Britain it is regarded by regulators at the Human Fertilisation Embryo Authority as a step too far and, as such, is allowed only in rare medical situations.

Opponents say it involves doctors ‘playing God’ and is another step towards a future of ‘designer babies’, in which parents are able to select the physical traits of their offspring, such as height, hair and eye colour.

Opponents say it involves doctors ‘playing God’ and is another step towards a future of ‘designer babies’, in which parents are able to select the physical traits of their offspring, such as height, hair and eye colour.

Josephine Quintavalle, of the UK pro life campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), said: ‘This so-called family balancing is a dangerous path to go down. IVF was developed to address genuine infertility problems, not to facilitate discriminatory social engineering of this kind.’

However, with a healthy bank balance and no ethical doubts, you can hop on a plane and ignore UK laws.

One of the most popular destinations for the burgeoning gender selection tourism industry is the United States, where PGD is legal almost everywhere. And as I found out, PGD is only too easy to arrange, without even the need for a medical referral.

After five minutes on Google, I had identified several clinics close to Los Angeles. One quick phone call later and I was booked in for a $150 consultation at the prestigious Tyler Medical Clinic, just a stone’s throw from the exclusive shopping area of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Founded in the 1940s, it is one of the most trusted and respected fertility clinics in California: indeed, its website claims it is one of the most successful in the world.

Four days later, my ‘partner’ Michael and I found ourselves taking the lift up to the second floor of a plush office block. In a room furnished with comfortable sofas and stylish coffee tables, a receptionist handed me a clipboard with dozens of forms to fill in and sign, everything from agreements to go to arbitration in the result of any complaint to detailed medical questionnaires.

After a few short minutes, I was greeted by a smiling Dr Peyman Saadat, a warm Middle Eastern man with an impressive resume who ushered us into his corner office.

We posed as a married couple with a two-year-old son and explained we were interested in learning more about family balancing.

Dr Saadat gave us a brief biology lesson, complete with diagrams, then asked us both a few questions about the previous pregnancy and any history of sexually transmitted diseases.

Priceless: Most parents are grateful to have a healthy baby, regardless of its genderPriceless: Most parents are grateful to have a healthy baby, regardless of its gender

He then explained the two family balancing options we had, should we wish to proceed.

The first, and less reliable, is known as ‘sperm spinning’. It works on the principle that sperm which would create a female child is heavier than that which would create a male. Using a technique called Flow Cytometry, the sperm can be sorted by size, leaving two distinct groups.

After sorting, the sperm thought most capable of creating the sought after gender is introduced into the uterus in a procedure called Interuterine Insemination, in which sperm is deposited directly into the uterus at the time of ovulation.

The odds of a pregnancy actually occurring are about the same as in any given month of attempting to conceive naturally. The treatment improves the chances of producing a baby of the desired gender from 50 per cent to only 65 per cent.

As Dr Saadat pointed out, this is a simple method with few or no drugs required and a relatively modest price tag. The Tyler Medical Clinic charges around $1,600 for the process.

Only embryos of the desired gender are returned to the womb. The unwanted embryos are either discarded, frozen for use in the future, or can even be donated to childless couples.

But with a fairly low rate of pregnancy success and a 35 per cent chance of a baby who is the ‘wrong’ sex, parents can still end up disappointed.

‘This is for people who can accept the fact they may not end up with the baby of the sex they had hoped for,’ the doctor said. ‘If you are absolutely adamant you want one or the other, this is not a good choice.’

The more successful — and expensive — option is PGD, which Dr Saadat carries out two to three times a month.

PGD involves a cycle of standard IVF in which the body is stimulated with powerful drugs so that several eggs are produced. These are retrieved from the body when mature, and then mixed with the partner’s sperm in the lab.

After three days, the embryos are tested and scientists analyse chromosomes to identify sex. This is said to be 99 per cent accurate.

Then, only embryos of the desired gender are returned to the womb. The unwanted embryos are either discarded, frozen for use in the future, or can even be donated to childless couples.

I was told that for a woman of my age, 37, the chances of IVF working are around 40 per cent per cycle. If she does become pregnant, then she will almost certainly have a baby of the desired sex.

Controversial: As well as providing plenty of answers, modern science is also raising some ethical questionsControversial: As well as providing plenty of answers, modern science is also raising some ethical questions

Dr Saadat seemed relaxed about the issue of the procedure being banned in the UK.

‘There are some ethical issues raised in Europe, but I am happy to offer the procedure,’ he said. ‘People abort babies because they consider them to be the wrong gender: for me, that is much more unacceptable.’

He said he had many foreign patients coming to him from countries which prohibit gender selection, including several from the UK.

We were told we could begin at the start of my next menstrual cycle, should we wish. And with that, we were on our way to choosing the sex of a child.

There are no official statistics about how many couples use family balancing techniques each year in the U.S. But according to Dr Guy Ringler, who is on the board of the American Fertility Association, the numbers run into thousands.

Dr Ringler, who offers the service at California Fertility Partners — a clinic he co-owns in Los Angeles — told the Daily Mail that there have been, and will continue to be, moral debates surrounding gender selection, but it should be a patient’s right to decide.

‘Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that the embryos are the possession of the patient, and they have the right to make their own decisions,’ he said.

‘Generally, patients fall into two categories. The first is those who already have several children of the same sex and they want to experience a child of the opposite sex. The second group of patients are those who need advanced fertility treatment to conceive, and think that if they have to go through all of this, then they may as well take the additional step.

‘It adds several thousand dollars to the cost of IVF, but as you are probably talking $12,000 to $14,000 anyway, it is not a hugely significant amount.’

Recently it was revealed that leading NHS fertility expert Charles Kingsland, who is clinical director of Liverpool Women’s Hospital, has advised some women to travel to Northern Cyprus for gender selection. Dr Kingsland, who has refused to comment, is said to refer one couple a week to the Mediterranean clinic of which he is a shareholder.

Advice: Dr. Charles Kingsland of Liverpool Women's Hospital is said to encourage women to travel abroad for treatmentAdvice: Dr. Charles Kingsland of Liverpool Women’s Hospital is said to encourage women to travel abroad for treatment

Choosing the sex of a child is permitted only for medical reasons in the UK, such as avoiding a sex-linked genetic disorder like Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Sex selection for so-called ‘social reasons’ is unlawful, but a spokesman for the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority (HFEA) said it has ‘no powers to prevent a clinic sending a patient overseas for a treatment that would otherwise be disallowed here’.

But, with or without Dr Kingsland’s assistance, many couples in the UK are already finding their own ways to circumvent the law at home.

Internet chatrooms are full of British women discussing their options and one website,, has a popular forum entitled ‘UK ladies planning IVF/PGD’.

It has almost 300 posts on it, in which woman discuss their plans and share their experiences of choosing the sex of their child in other countries.

One anonymous poster writes: ‘I am hoping all this info will finally convince my husband that I am very serious about baby number five and using a high-tech procedure to ensure a daughter.

‘It is wonderful to know I am not alone in feeling like this. It is not the kind of thing I can easily discuss. It is also heart-warming to know that I am not a bad mum because I would like to pick the gender … I have often thought am I being selfish?’

Another woman with the username ‘Babyhugs’ asked in May last year if any other women had tried a clinic in Kiev. She said: ‘I am looking to travel abroad for PGD for a girl next year, have two boys and it’s my last try this time so not risking nature.’

Of course, parents have been trying natural ways to conceive a girl or a boy for many hundreds of years, testing out everything from diets to sexual positions. One theory, known as the Shettles Method, suggests timing intercourse carefully. For a girl, it should take place a few days before ovulation; for a boy, on the day or one day after. Supporters claim it is between 75 per cent and 90 per cent effective.

And one study suggested that women who eat a high-calorie diet — including lots of bananas — tend to conceive boys.

Old wives’ tales are even more bizarre, suggesting that to conceive a girl you should have sex under a full moon, on even days of the month, always sleeping to the left of your husband after. For a boy, point your head to the north while having intercourse, under a quarter moon, after your man has eaten a meal of red meat.

There are no statistics available on the success rates of these  unorthodox methods, but they are certainly a much cheaper and  less controversial option than modern science.
Read more:

Union leaders have warned of a “crisis” in female unemployment following a big rise in the number of women out of work over the past year.

The TUC said male employment had started to recover, up by 238,000 in the past 12 months, compared with a fall of 19,000 among women.

Male unemployment fell by 31,000 in the past year but rose by 71,000 for women, according to a study by the union organisation.

The analysis also showed that in some parts of the country as many as one in five women aged between 16 and 24 are currently unemployed.

The worst-hit areas for female unemployment are Merseyside, where unemployment among young women has increased by 11%, the West Midlands (10%) and Scotland and Yorkshire (both 9%), said the TUC.

The study also showed a fall in jobs traditionally taken by women, including those in retail, secretarial, health and social work.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “While the Government focuses all its energy on cuts, our unemployment crisis continues to grow.

“The UK desperately needs an economic strategy that prioritises growth and jobs to bring revenues in and the deficit down.

“The current plan of deep, rapid cuts is causing job losses to mount and sending our economy in the wrong direction.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Government is focused on restoring the economy and supporting private sector jobs growth.

“That’s why we recently launched Enterprise Clubs and a New Enterprise Allowance to help people set up their own businesses as part of our drive to create a much more business-friendly environment in Britain and to support the development of tens of thousands of new businesses to help rebuild our economy and create new jobs.

“Our priority is to help everyone who loses their job back into employment and our new Work Programme, which comes on stream in the summer, will give everyone – including young women – the proper support and training to help them into work whatever barriers they face.”

The study was published at the opening of the TUC Women’s Conference in Eastbourne, which is being held until Friday.

Government plans to save around £2.5bn a year by raising the retirement age to 66 will hit women hardest, according to an independent thinktank that has described the move as unfair.

It warned that women will be affected most by the plans to make workers wait a year longer before receiving the state pension, especially as the majority of them are already out of the workforce by the time they reach their 60s and are unlikely to find work again. The Pensions Policy Institute, which rarely criticises government policy, said ministers were giving people nearing retirement “insufficient notice”.

A row over the cost-saving plan, which is due to come into effect from 2016, has simmered since it was put forward last year by pensions minister Steve Webb. Pensioner groups have lobbied ministers and individual Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs to delay the measure, which is seen by the government as part of an overhaul of Britain’s costly benefits system.

The row is expected to boil over next week when Webb appears before MPs on the work and pensions select committee. Webb, who was Liberal Democrat pensions spokesman before joining the coalition, is expected to come under attack for hitting poorer pensioners unable to work beyond the current retirement age.

The PPI said: “In 2010, around 76% of men aged between 55-59 [were] still economically active; by age 60-64 that figure drops to 54%. Once individuals have left the labour market at older ages it may be difficult for them to re-enter it.”

It argued that women were badly affected by the changes as only 34% were economically active after reaching 60. The state pension age for women has been gradually increasing since 6 April last year and was intended to reach 65 by 2020. Both men and women’s pension age would then increase to 66 by 2026. But the chancellor scrapped those plans in October and now the increase will be accelerated to equalise the pension age for men and women at 66 by 6 April 2020.

The effect is that 500,000 women must work at least a year longer than they would have under the previous acceleration, with 300,000 of them working an extra 18 months and 33,000 born between 6 March and 5 April 1954 working two extra years.

Webb insisted reform was necessary at a time of increasing life expectancy. He said: “In a country where 10 million of us will live to be 100, we simply can’t go on paying the state pension at an age that was set early in the last century.

“Although women will experience the rise in the state pension age more quickly than previously planned, they will still draw the state pension for an average of 23 years. Our ‘triple guarantee’ means someone retiring today on a full basic state pension will receive £15,000 more over their retirement than they would have done under the old prices link.”

{gotta wade through quite a bit of ideology here but the article is worth reading}

Recently, a former armed robber offered to show me how teenage girls are moving in on the drugs market.

As we stood on a city street corner, he dialled a number and asked the person who replied if they had ‘a little ting’  for him — street slang for a parcel  of drugs.

Within minutes, a slim and pretty girl, aged no more than 15, had appeared at our side.

She was discussing the proposed drugs deal with crisp efficiency when a boy of about 14 drove past on a motorbike. Suddenly, his head snapped back to look at us.

He’d clearly heard my companion’s raised voice as he haggled over the price of the drugs.

The boy immediately pulled his bike round and started revving loudly, raising his front wheel off the ground. He was still doing it as we left.

My companion explained: ‘This little girl is not working for no one. She’s the brains and the boy’s her muscle.’

He admitted he was astonished —  even envious — of the ‘success’ girls like this were enjoying as drug dealers on his estate.

‘They’ve got money on them all the time. They always dress sharp. They may be only 14 or 15, but they never wear the same trainers more than two days in a row.’

Our experience on a North London street corner is no aberration — it’s symptomatic of what’s happening all over the country.

While criminal offences by young men have fallen, those committed by girls aged 10 to 17 have increased by 25 per cent over the past three years.

Worse still, their violent offences have gone up by a staggering 50 per cent.

According to the latest government statistics, one in four violent attacks now involves a female. This means that, in 2008, more than half a million assaults were either carried out by women or involved a female in a gang.

In the same year, there were nearly 300 attacks a week carried out by girls under 18. Yet society remains preoccupied by male crime, and it’s still  struggling to catch up with these new kids on the block.

Who thinks to warn their children to watch out for the girls? I certainly didn’t.

Then, one day after school, a female stranger walked up to my then 14-year-old daughter outside London’s Hammersmith Tube station and slapped her hard across the face, before running off laughing

While criminal offences by young men have fallen, those committed by girls aged 10 to 17 have increased by 25 per cent over the past three years.

Worse still, their violent offences have gone up by a staggering 50 per cent.

According to the latest government statistics, one in four violent attacks now involves a female. This means that, in 2008, more than half a million assaults were either carried out by women or involved a female in a gang.

In the same year, there were nearly 300 attacks a week carried out by girls under 18. Yet society remains preoccupied by male crime, and it’s still  struggling to catch up with these new kids on the block.

Who thinks to warn their children to watch out for the girls? I certainly didn’t.

Then, one day after school, a female stranger walked up to my then 14-year-old daughter outside London’s Hammersmith Tube station and slapped her hard across the face, before running off laughing.

Ruby Thomas, 18, one of the accused in the Trafalgar Square homophobic murder of Ian Baynham leaves the trial at the Old Bailey, London.
Rachael Burke, one of the accused in the Trafalgar Square homophobic murder of Ian Baynham leaves the trial at the Old Bailey, London.

Attack: Ruby Thomas and Rachael Burke, right, whose violence was likened to ‘a scene from the film Clockwork Orange’

It was the kind of petty yobbery once associated almost solely with boys. But times have changed.

In Newcastle upon Tyne, I paid a visit to a state secondary school that reserves a special classroom for badly-behaved teenagers.

I was hoping to interview teenage boys at the time, and asked if I could go to the ‘sin bin’ to meet some.

The teacher was apologetic: that morning, every single occupant of the sin bin was a girl. Grimacing, he said: ‘They’re worse than the boys now.’

The courts bear this out. In April last year, two attractive 17-year-olds, Ruby Thomas and Rachael Burke, went on trial for attacking a man in Trafalgar Square, in the centre of London. Their male companion had knocked him down because he was gay.

The girls then kicked him in the head and stamped on his chest. He later died of brain damage. They also repeatedly punched in the face a man who tried to intervene.

Thomas, who’d attended the £12,000-a-year Sydenham High School for Girls, joked about their vicious attack the next day on Facebook. One onlooker likened the level of the girls’ violence to ‘a scene from the film Clockwork Orange’.

Then there was the case of a teenage girl gang from East London, calling itself Girls Over Men, which decided to punish a 16-year-old girl for disrespecting the gang leader’s mother.

Several of its members abducted the girl at knifepoint and took her to an alley, where they slashed the clothes from her body. One whipped her with a belt while another took photos on a mobile phone.

Jailing these girls, Judge William Kennedy said the attack was ‘ferocious, deliberate and chilling’.

Hand in hand with violence and gang culture is the high rate of teenage pregnancy.

Sadly, as this series will make clear, becoming a teenage mother or beating up a passer-by turn out to be part and parcel of the same problem.

Over the past ten months, I have interviewed girls all around the country to find out what’s triggering such extreme behaviour.

What was striking is that nearly every violent teenage girl I met could trace her problems back to an absent or abusive father.

All reported overwhelming feelings of rage and a sense of powerlessness. And many had turned to gangs to fill the vacuum left by their fathers.

Inner city: Violence by a girl is often seen by her peers as a sign of strengthInner city: Violence by a girl is often seen by her peers as a sign of strength 

Candace, a gang member on an estate in Brixton, South London, was typical. Flashily dressed in black boots, a brown leather jacket and huge gold hoop earrings, she was 18 and already the mother of a three-year-old boy.

Her father, she said, hadn’t been around when she was growing up.

‘I wouldn’t have needed to go out looking for someone if my dad had loved me,’ she said.

So she increasingly turned to her gang for support and comradeship — winning approval by giving in to their demands for sex.

‘I thought I had to be accepted, so I slept with them. When a boy wanted me, it made me feel special. Oh my gosh, it became a really big thing.’

After giving birth to one boy’s child — though ‘I smoked so much weed I thought I was going to lose my baby’ — she was thinking of putting her baby into care.

But then — in a telling example of the way these gangs become surrogate families — the leader, a boy known as Tuggy Tug who’d been in care himself, persuaded her to keep the baby. Candace then sought help from the whole gang.

‘I said to them: “I can’t do this on my own. You need to be here.” And they have been here, straight.’

When the Government’s Sure Start scheme failed to pay out the £500 all pregnant teenagers are supposed to receive, Tuggy Tug bought Candace a buggy and another member bought a cot.

As for the baby’s father, who no longer wants to know her, ‘they sorted him out and beat him up for not helping’.

Another gang member, Crystall, who’d been arrested for hiding a gun for a boyfriend, told me: ‘I do know my father, but he’s got a lot of other kids.

‘He gave me a little £20 here and there, but he was never there for me. I was desperate for anything that felt like love.’

A third, when asked why she’d joined a boy gang and become a single mother, said: ‘It’s because I needed a father to be complete.’

Numerous studies both here and in the U.S. have shown that a sense of abandonment after a divorce or separation can stunt girls emotionally. Without a father’s love and attention, and a sense that they’re valued, young girls tend not to thrive.

They’re more likely to have sex earlier, to become single mothers and to fail to form or maintain relationships. From a young age, they’ll aggressively seek attention from men. As one study poignantly put it, they are ‘clumsily erotic’.

The explosion in single mothers means that far more girls than before are growing up without a father.

Four out of ten children born in 2000 to single mothers had no contact at all with their fathers by 2003.

This means we’re going to see increasing numbers of these fatherless girls joining gangs and becoming violent.

Girls need gangs for the same reasons boys do. They join them because they’re afraid — often because there’s no one else to protect them on a dangerous estate or in a poorly disciplined school.

Sky and Ebony are both 15-year-old members of a girls-only gang — a growing phenomenon.

When I met them, they were dressed almost identically in baggy jeans, heavy, metal belts and large hoop earrings, and both had their hair scraped back in ponytails.

Like Candace, Sky relies emotionally on her gang. Referring to the older members, she said: ‘The elders look after me. They give me that love and care my mum never did.’

Ebony pitched in: ‘They’re the only ones who see me as a person. Everyone else — teachers, my nan — treats me like scum.’

When Sky was harassed by an older boy, there was no question of turning to a parent for help. ‘The first person I called was my elder. She’s 18 and it’s more like I’m her little sister than her friend.’

Her elder sorted the boy out. Sky went on: ‘If I was raped, I know my gang would be there for me. They’d chase him down. I trust the gang more than I do the police to bring the person to justice.’

None of the young people I interviewed saw the adult world as there to support them. Yet both Sky and Ebony agreed that if there were adults around they could trust, they wouldn’t have to rely so much on their gang.

Despite the risks of being involved in crime, drugs and violence, Sky was adamant that she’d stay in her gang. Why? ‘Because it makes me feel wanted and protected.’

In other words, what most children expect from their parents.

Sky had joined a girl gang because of what happened to her cousin, who’d been recruited by the local boy gang.

Her cousin hid their weapons, carried their drugs and, whenever they felt like sex, dropped whatever she was doing to oblige.

At 14, her cousin agreed to take part in ‘a line-up’ — the gang term for a group of boys lining up for oral sex. But when she arrived at the house, there were eight boys rather than the three she’d expected.

She burst into tears and refused, but the boys slapped her into submission. ‘She thought she was getting respect,’ said Sky. ‘She wasn’t getting any love at home, so she thought that was love.’

Sky flicked her ponytail and sniffed. ‘Now they’re tired of sleeping with her, so she sleeps with other men for drugs and food. It’s pathetic. I don’t want to be like her.’

Many youth organisations are concerned about the rise of sexual violence towards girls in boy gangs and the way it’s accepted by even the very young. But these girls have often grown up in violent homes. To them, such treatment can seem normal.

The latest shocking figures from the British Crime Survey show that rapes of 13-year-old girls increased by 15 per cent in 2009/10.

Rapes of girls under 16 rose by 19 per cent. At the same time, sexual activity involving a child under 16 has shot up by 20 per cent.

In fact, the true figures are probably much higher, as many sexual crimes in gangs go unreported.

This brutal sexual culture is reinforced in music, as I witnessed for myself when I took three boys, all members of the same South London gang, to the Imperial War Museum a few months ago.

While we waited for one to finish admiring a Second World War tank, the other two started singing lyrics from their favourite ‘grime’ music.

‘In this neighbourhood, ugly bitches don’t get the time of day,’ rapped one. ‘I want to let out my anger,’ broke in the other, ‘yes, squeezing your breasts so hard might let out the cancer.’

When I remonstrated, they looked amazed. It hadn’t occurred to either of them that the lyrics might be offensive.

So it’s not surprising that girls like Sky and Ebony prefer to join girl gangs. Apart from the sex factor, though, they’re very similar to boy gangs — a forum for crime and violence.

‘In recent years, girls have seen the status and power given to male gang members and decided they want some of that,’ says Dr Funke Baffour, a clinical psychologist.

‘Being in a gang boosts the morale of these girls — many of whom are from broken homes without a mother or father figure.’

The girls are being lured into a life where senseless violence earns them respect. Often, they earn their membership with a random violent act, then compete for position by committing increasingly brutal crimes.

Mike Fisher, a leading anger management psychotherapist who visits inner-city schools, says that — even in the classroom — violence by a girl is often seen by her peers as a sign of strength.

‘The girls we’re dealing with in schools are increasingly physically aggressive,’ he said. ‘They’re tired of being pushed around by boys and they’re fighting back — just not in the right way.’

The charity Parentline Plus recently reported that half of its calls are from parents distressed by their daughters’ ‘extreme verbal and physical aggression’.

To find out more, I arranged to meet Dimples, the leader of a girl gang who has acquired a string of convictions.

As I waited for her outside a McDonald’s, a black girl walked past dressed in baggy jeans, trainers, a cap and heavy chains looped from her pocket to her waistband.

‘Are you Dimples?’ I asked. She looked at me as if I was mad.

‘I’m an art school student,’ she told me.

A plump, white girl in a polo neck and court shoes turned her head towards me. ‘Dimples? That’s me.’

Dimples is one of seven children, has two parents and went to a Catholic school where she did well until the age of 14, when she was arrested for assault and robbery. What happened?

‘I was very confrontational,’ she admitted over a strawberry milkshake. Her teachers wound her up, she claimed, and when she was suspended for a week, she thought: ‘You know what, let’s not bother.’

To begin with, the girls she hung around with weren’t officially a gang — but Dimples found herself acting as a gang leader when one of them was assaulted.

The victim, who’d just started at sixth-form college, had asked her friends for help. So they caught a bus to the college and tracked down the girl who’d hit their friend.

As Dimples squared up to the attacker, her friends were jeering and urging her on.

‘The main reason I hit her was to look big in front of my girls,’ she said.

‘I hit her in her head, grabbed her, got her on the floor, then punched her and stamped on her face.’

That was the first of many such episodes. Dimples explained: ‘When you’re in a gang, it’s hard to say no because you don’t want to look like an idiot. There are certain things you can’t say no to.’

With her gang of about ten teenage girls, she started ambushing professional women returning from an evening out and stealing money and jewellery.

Dimples admits she didn’t really need the money. It was the violence that attracted her, partly because it helped discharge her anger.

‘I did enjoy it. I wanted respect and it gives you this power. I knew what I was doing. I felt calm afterwards. I’d light a fag and feel, you know, really good.’

Unlike members of boy gangs, whom I’d interviewed for the Daily Mail a year before, Dimples wanted to share every detail with me.

The assault that landed her in prison was on a well-dressed girl in the street who appeared to Dimples to have glanced at her and four other gang members with disdain.

‘So I just beat her up. She tried to run. I punched her in the face. My friend held her and I punched her some more.

‘She fell to the ground in, like, a second, and me and my friend, we proper beat her up. I stamped on her. We went on punching and kicking her.’

The girl was very badly injured. Four weeks later, the police arrived at Dimples’s door.

‘I got charged with GBH. It wasn’t worth it in the end. Afterwards, I wondered why did I do it? What made me so angry? I went back and said I was sorry.’

At the time, she was revising for her GCSEs, in which she did well — ‘yet I still had time to do all this madness’. What saved her, in the end, was the attitude of other people. ‘People were afraid of me. It makes me seem like a monster — I had to change.’

At 17, Dimples has just had a baby boy. She’s studying to be an accountant and is now living at home with her parents.

‘I want my baby to grow up respecting people — otherwise you end up dying in this area,’ she said stoutly.

If she succeeds in her ambition, Dimples will be an exception. Most gang members, whatever their sex, are headed straight for a dead-end life, in which violence and drug-dealing are commonplace.

But there’s one crucial difference between the future of the girls and the boys. The teenage girls are also the mothers of the next fatherless generation.

Read more:

More than half of the services that help victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence could face closure as a result of “devastating” Government cuts, a charity has warned.

A survey for Women’s Aid, the national domestic violence charity, found 60% of refuge services and 72% of outreach services had no funding agreed from April 1.

It compared its findings with annual figures for refuge and outreach use for 2009 and 2010 and concluded that more than 70,000 women and their children across the country might not be able to access a service after April, which will put more lives at risk.

Nicola Harwin, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “We are particularly concerned that the removal of ring-fenced funding for Supporting People last year coupled with cuts to local authority budgets has created a situation where councils across the country are making disproportionate cuts and rash decisions at the expense of protecting some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

According to the charity two women every week in England and Wales are killed by a former or current partner, and the proposed cuts will mean a significant reduction in lifesaving services for those affected by domestic violence.

Ms Harwin added: “It has taken 40 years to build the current national network of services which enables us to take women out of their area when needed to protect them and their children from their violent partner.”

She warned that even with the current level of service provision, there are only three-quarters of the bed spaces needed, and she urged local authorities to rethink and “consider the damaging effect withdrawing specialist domestic and sexual violence services will have”.

The report was published as the Home Secretary Theresa May prepares to outline Government plans to tackle violence against women and girls.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The provision of specialist services for local areas is and always will be a matter for local councils. We understand the pressure they are under to make savings. However, we have been clear that Violence Against Women and Girls services should not be the easy cut.

“This is why, despite the difficult economic climate, the Home Office is providing ring-fenced funding of £28 million directly to specialist services over the next four years and the Ministry of Justice is providing £10.5 million over the next three years for rape crisis centres. We are prioritising the issue centrally and we expect local areas to follow our lead.”

5th March 2011

Risky business: It is against the law for abortion pills to be taken without the supervision of a doctor or specially-trained nurse

Abortion pills are being sold online for just £15 by British firms.

Women can have the tablets delivered in less than a week, enabling them to terminate their pregnancies illegally and in secret.

It is against the law for the pills to be administered without the supervision of a doctor or specially-trained nurse.

Side-effects include bleeding and severe infections. They can even kill if not taken correctly.

Campaigners warned yesterday that the availability of the pills amounts to modern-day ‘backstreet abortion’.

There are no figures for the numbers of British women buying these tablets online but there are concerns that increasing numbers are turning to them.

There is a fear that underage schoolgirls too afraid to discuss an unwanted pregnancy with their parents or GP will use the websites.

The pills are far cheaper than having the treatment privately, which can cost up to £500.

They also enable women to terminate their pregnancies quickly and quietly in their own home rather than having to make several trips to a clinic, which may involve taking time off work or school.

They need only fill in a quick online form giving their date of birth, address, and details of any allergies or medication they are taking.

A Mail investigation has discovered that the pills are widely available from online pharmacies including several British-based firms for between £15 and £28 a time.


Side-effects from taking the tablets include excessive bleeding, infections of the womb and, in rare cases, blood poisoning.

Women who have this type of abortion are twice as likely to need hospital treatment as those who have the procedure done surgically.

Up to 1.5 per cent are admitted to hospital suffering from complications, compared with 0.6 per cent who have surgery. Around 1 per cent develop pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the womb which can cause infertility.

And in some cases women have lost so much blood they have needed a transfusion.

Most suffer pain or cramps in the abdomen. Diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting are also common. There have been two known deaths caused by early medical abortion tablets since they were first offered in Britain in 1991

United Pharmacies, based in West London, sells the tablet for just £15. An employee claimed they were ‘very popular’ with three to four packs bought every week.

The company said they were out of stock, with a new delivery expected within three weeks.

But the Mail was able to purchase the tablets from another firm, Eurodrugstore, which is also based in London, for £27.70 plus £9 delivery.

They arrived within three working days, in an authentic-looking pack complete with full instructions.

The drugs are used in hospitals or privately-run clinics for ‘early medical abortions’, which can only be carried out within the first nine weeks of pregnancy. Women take two sets of tablets between 24 and 48 hours apart.

Dr Kate Guthrie of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: ‘There is still a social prejudice about abortions.

‘Women may turn to these websites because they are embarrassed or they are just so appalled by their pregnancy.

‘They might be reluctant to see their GP in case they think badly of them. They are effectively backstreet abortions.’
Read more:

02 March 2011

By Jeff Salway
Experts have warned women approaching retirement to take action now to soften the blow of a rise in the state pension age over the coming years.
Thousands of women in their fifties face a prolonged wait for the state pension, under plans set out by the government. The state pension age was already going to be increased to 65 over the next few years, but the coalition government last year said it would accelerate the process.

The increase in the state pension age for women was to be being phased in over ten years, but the rise from 63 to 65 will now take place between 2016 and 2018 – instead of 2016 to 2020 – while the move from 65 to 66 for both men and women will occur between 2018 and 2020, six years earlier than the previous government planned.

Women aged between 50 and 57 will be most affected, with those aged 56 and 57 hit hardest. Those born between 6 March, 1954, and 5 April, 1954, currently 56 years old, will now have to wait an extra two years before claiming their state pension. An estimated 33,000 women in the UK are in this category.

Some 330,000 women born between 6 December, 1953, and 5 October, 1954, will have to wait at least a further 18 months to get their state pension, compared with the current timetable. An estimated half million born between 6 October, 1952, and 5 April, 1955, have at least an extra year’s wait.

David Gow, of Acumen Financial Planning in Edinburgh, said: “Women born on 6 April, 1954, could previously have expected to receive their state pension just after their 64th birthday. Now they have to wait until they are 66. A woman born a year and a day earlier, on 5 April, 1953, will still get her state pension before she turns 63.”

The loss of income is potentially substantial. A 55-year-old woman born in 1955 who a few years ago expected to get her state pension at 60 will now have to wait until she is 66, equating to a loss of £37,000 in state pension.

Unions say the proposals contravene last year’s coalition agreement, in which the government said the increase in the pension age for women to 66 would not begin before 2020.

But with little prospect of the government backtracking, the emphasis has shifted to how women can bridge the gap between their original state pension date and the new arrangement.

A 55-year-old still hoping to retire at 60 rather than 66 would need to save more than £6,000 each year between now and turning 60 to cover the lost state pension.

Gow said the changes underlined the danger of relying on the state for retirement income.

“For many people, the state pension – although valuable – is usually only a small part of their retirement income.

But the bare fact is that those affected will either have to fall back on alternative savings or continue to work for longer. Money stashed away in individual savings accounts (Isas] could be drawn upon, for example.”

The stumbling block here is that women have been disadvantaged when it comes to pensions. An estimated four in ten women in their fifties have no pension or private savings to fall back on. The average 56-year-old woman has savings of just £9,100, only a sixth of the average sum saved by a man the same age, according to Unison.

So what should you do if you face a delay in claiming your pension? The first step to take is to clarify your state pension age. This can be done at Then you can start planning ahead. The only option for many women in employment – half of whom are in part-time jobs – will be to continue working until their new state pension age. Finding a new job – full or part-time – or increasing your hours in your current job may also help.

Those not in work can find out what benefits they may be entitled to, if any, by visiting or calling 0800 802 2000.

Ultimately, however, the focus for those with a few years to retirement should be on boosting their savings to ensure they can bridge the gap between finishing work and claiming their state pension, according to Andy Cumming, managing director at Scott-Moncrieff Wealth Management.

“A 40-year-old woman won’t get her state pension until she is 67 and even with 20 years to save, she would need to put away an additional £1,750 each year to be able to retire at 60 and bridge the gap to the state pension,” said Cumming.

Similarly, a woman aged 55 would need to save an extra £40 a month (or £475 a year) for ten years to replace one year’s lost state pension, said Gow.

“A 50-year-old would not have to save quite so much, needing to put aside just an extra £25 a month, or £304 a year, assuming investment growth of 6 per cent and inflation of 2.5 per cent,” Gow added.

It’s also worth ensuring that you are entitled to the full state pension when you do eventually retire, as this is denied to those without 30 qualifying years of national insurance contributions (NICs).

Only last year that requirement was reduced from 39 in order to help women with broken career records – such as those who have taken time out to raise children – boost their entitlement.

If you’re still short of the necessary years, you can top up your NICs with voluntary contributions if you already have 20 years under your belt and your state pension age falls between 6 April, 2008, and 5 April, 2015. You can pay for six missing years dating back to 6 April, 1975.

For more details, visit


Just over 10 years ago, in a major speech to a nursing conference in Brighton, Tony Blair promised to boost a desperately short-staffed NHS with 20,000 extra nurses. Not even Blair, though, could claim to be able to magic up that many British nurses – training takes at least three years – so instead, the NHS began importing them in huge numbers from across the globe.

They came in droves – particularly from India and the Philippines, where hundreds of private nursing schools were set up to meet this new demand from the UK, and also the US. Before long, every Philippine higher education institution had to have a nursing school or face closure from lack of business. A multitude of recruitment agencies were spawned there too, offering to sort out job, travel and visa for nurses lured by the promise of a lucrative salary on the other side of the world.

A decade later, however, the picture is very different. Britain has retrenched. Cutbacks, coupled with the European Union’s rules on free movement of labour, mean few nursing vacancies for anyone from outside Europe these days.

Yet in the Philippines the production line continues to roll. Last year an estimated 100,000 nurses were in training there, the vast majority attracted by false promises of jobs in the west. Many of the country’s recruitment agencies – often employing British advisers – are flirting with, if not flouting, the law, taking a fat fee for the promise of a job they cannot deliver.

One case, in particular, has gained national attention there. Two Britons, Simon Paice and Nicholas Vickers, have been charged along with four Filipinos with running an illegal, unlicensed recruitment agency and making false promises to clients – allegations they all deny.

Locked up in Camp Crame, the police detention centre in Quezon City (part of what is known as Metro Manila), the six stand accused of making 1.7 million pesos (more than £24,000) in job placement and visa arrangement fees from 12 student nurses who say they were promised places in care homes and domestic work, but got none.

NSN Worldwide Advisers – a recruitment agency said to be owned by the two Britons – has its office in Makati, the upmarket business district of Manila. When the Guardian visited recently a concierge confirmed that NSN had closed. Asked why, he chuckled and said the owner had been arrested. But hundreds of recruitment agencies are still offering to help Filipino nurses get to the UK.

The NSN investigation had been carried out by the Philippine government’s taskforce against illegal recruitment, headed by the country’s vice-president, Jejomar Binay. “Let this serve as a warning to illegal recruiters and those who intend to take advantage of our OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] through illegal recruitment,” Binay was reported to have said. “Remember, your days are numbered.”

Of the 50,000 or so nurses who qualified in the Philippines last year, no more than 13,000 are thought to have found a job abroad. “That leaves 37,000 nurses who are qualified with a big uncertainty, as there is no shortage of nurses in this country,” said Henk Bekedam, regional director of health service development at the World Health Organisation’s Manila base.

“Worse, about 100,000 families on an annual basis are putting their daughter – usually a daughter – into training, with the big hope that in four years she will get a job. This costs a family an average of $10,000. Your daughter is your hope for the future; many of them will be disappointed.”

Unable to secure jobs for nurses in the UK, many Philippine recruitment agencies – often unregistered – have reinvented themselves as education consultancies. Typically, the thousands of trained but jobless Filipino nurses are encouraged to study top-up courses in the UK, which, they are led to believe, will get them jobs afterwards. The reality is different.

According to Michael Duque, president of the Philippine Nurses Association of the UK, many Filipino nurses arriving on a student visa struggle to cope. If their family cannot send money to support them, they end up breaking immigration rules which used to allow 20 hours work a week for students, but have recently been changed to permit only 10.

“Most would be working more than the 37 hours of an average working week, doing extra housekeeping jobs, cleaning jobs,” he said, adding that if the nurses can find a nursing home prepared to give them illicit out-of-hours work, they will do that – but such an arrangement can put the employer at risk too.

Some end up on the streets. “They don’t have any place to live. They can’t pay for accommodation,” Duque said. Although the Filipino community is supportive and will take people in, there are those who just disappear. “Some, when their visa has run out, will go underground instead of going home. Some even end up in prostitution. They can’t go back because they owe a lot of money back home.”

Duque would like to open a “halfway house” where Filipino nurses who get into real difficulties can stay until they sort themselves out, but his voluntary organisation doesn’t have the funds.

On NSN’s locked glass door in Manila, a poster still claims that “your dreams are our responsibility”. In another agency in the same office block display panels in the smart reception area are covered with posters for British universities and colleges.

Melissa Dujali, a bright, 32-year-old woman living in Manila, has been brought up to understand her destiny. The second of four children, she has the brains and aptitude to secure a good nursing job overseas and support the rest of the family. So far though – and her story is very familiar in the Philippines – her efforts have led only to debt and disappointment.

“I’m the breadwinner. I took nursing to support my family,” she explained. “My father is a diabetic patient so our business is not doing well. We are not a well-off family.”

In April 2009 Dujali went to one of the many agencies that call themselves education consultancies. She was told she could take a two-year course in the UK, which she could fund from the 20 hours’ work she would be permitted to do while she was there. The agency fee, for arranging her application to a British college (a BTEC higher national diploma in health and social care) as well as her student visa, was 75,000 pesos (£1,065). The college offered her a conditional place and asked for a down-payment of £1,000 towards the tuition fee.

The agency told her she would have to give the British embassy proof that she could afford the tuition fee and living costs, which would be an estimated £350-£500 a month. “I provided all the requirements,” Dujali said. But in November 2009 she was told her application had been declined. Embassy officials did not believe she had sufficient funds.

“The agency said it would be OK,” she said. “They showed me the many approved visas, so I asked them to appeal.” But nothing had happened by January 2010 when the course was due to start, so Dujali pulled out. The agency fee was non-refundable. She has been told by the agency that she will get some – though not all – of the £1,000 paid to the college, but as yet, a year later, has had nothing.

Such stories, and the promises made by the agencies – which are legal, according to the UK Home Office, but not within “the spirit of the law” – are one reason for the British government’s recent promise to crack down on student visas, making it much harder for overseas jobseekers to get into the UK through the student route.

For her part, Dujali now realises the rosy prospects that were painted of earning good wages in the UK to cover her costs and send money home were false.

A survey in 2006 by Professor James Buchan of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh found that about half of Filipino nurses in London were sending between 25% and 50% of their income back home to their families. Most were the major or sole breadwinner in their family. Almost all (96%) had used a recruitment agency in their home country and nearly three-quarters had paid for their services.

Ira Pozon, legal counsel and international relations officer in the vice-president’s office, is a key player in the crackdown on such agencies – which are, he said, involved in “under-the-radar illegal recruitment. Their promise is a student visa, but face to face they say we can help you get a job.”

Pozon, who is in his early 30s, estimates 40% of his classmates went into nursing. His advice to compatriots interested in such a career now? “If an agency is asking for a lot of money, walk away,” he said. “But the poorest of the poor believe them. They sell their property, thinking in six months I will have earned back everything I spent. They never get deployment. It is a basic scam.”

Sisters in, sisters out

While the word will, eventually, filter through to Filipino families that nursing in the UK is no longer a good option, Britain’s training and recruitment policies for nurses make it likely that the same saga of raised, then dashed, expectations will happen again.

A review by Professor James Buchan of the 2010 labour market for the Royal College of Nursing encapsulated the UK’s boom-and-bust approach to nurse education and recruitment.

According to the review, funding for training places is increased when there are shortages, and cut when the supply is good and the country is in economic difficulties. Because it takes three years to produce a trained nurse in the UK, overseas recruitment surges to fill shortfalls, and then is slashed again.

In the early part of the last decade, between 10,000 and 16,000 international nurses were being added to the UK register. By 2009, that had dropped to 2,700.

Buchan talks of “the massive pendulum swing” in a 10-year period, from low-level international recruitment in the late 1990s to very high levels in the start of the 2000s following the Blair announcement, back down to low levels in recent years.

Now, in fact, the UK is losing nurses rather than importing them. Australia is the prime destination, followed by the USA, New Zealand and Canada. In 2008, less than 200 Australian nurses registered to work in the UK, whereas more than 6,000 UK-registered nurses had their qualifications validated to move down under.

Victorian justice records which show how the harsh punishments were given to women criminals – such as five years in jail for stealing one rasher of bacon – have been published online for the first time.

Victorian women criminals' records show harsh justice of 19th century

Elizabeth Murphy (left) was sentenced to 5 years hard labour for stealing an umbrella and Mary Richards was jailed for 5 years for stealing 130 oysters  Photo: PA
9:00AM GMT 25 Feb 2011

More than 4,400 parole records and 500 mug shots of Victorian criminals have been made available by

They provide an astonishing insight into the way justice was imposed during the late 1800s.

Those convicted of lesser crimes such as theft, and ‘domestic housebreaking’ often felt the full force of law.

Examples include Elizabeth Murphy, a19-year-old Elizabeth was sentenced to five years of hard labour in prison and seven years of police supervision for stealing an umbrella. She served three years of her sentence before receiving parole in 1887.

Dorcas Mary Snell, 45, was sentenced to five years of imprisonment with hard labour in 1883 for the theft of a single piece of bacon. She was paroled two years later.

Mary Richards was sentenced to five years in 1880 at age 59 for stealing 130 oysters valued at eight shillings, which were the property of John Tyacke. Mary served almost all of sentence, receiving parole in 1885.

The records also detail the lengthy, unforgiving sentences given to women who procured abortions, including Mary Billingham who was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment and hard labour in 1875.

It would appear that age was not necessarily taken into consideration when sentences were passed.

The youngest female in the records, 11-year-old Ann McQuillan, was convicted in Perth and sentenced to four years in prison for ‘theft by housebreaking’.

Ann is just one of 115 girls under the age of 18 who feature in the collection.

In contrast, the oldest convict in the records is 76-year-old Ann Dalton who was convicted for stealing ‘two sheets’ in 1863.

She was sentenced to five years imprisonment and served three of those before receiving parole in 1866.

Meanwhile, the records detail a number of violent crimes which women were convicted of.

Mary Morrison, a 40-year-old servant, threw sulphuric acid over her estranged husband for not paying her weekly allowance, shouting ‘take that – I’ll make you worse than you are’. She received five years in 1883 but served only three.

Elizabeth Ann Staunton, 29, was convicted of the murder of Harriet Staunton in 1877. Elizabeth was spared the death penalty and instead sentenced to life. She was granted parole six years later.

While early criminals were often sentenced to transportation, later records, predominately those post-1860, indicate a prison sentence had become the preferred punishment.

This was because Australian free settlers had become increasingly angry about having to compete with convicts for jobs.

Those who did receive transportation often saw their sentences overturned and were instead jailed and subsequently paroled.

This was the case for Mary Daly, who was sentenced to 15 years transportation for theft in 1855 but was instead incarcerated in Brixton prison until her parole in 1862.

In a world-first,, the family history website, today published the UK, Licences of Parole for Female Convicts, 1853-1887 online.

The original records are held by The National Archives.

Dan Jones, International Content Director at, said: “Crime is more often associated with men however these intriguing records shed light on some rather colourful female lawbreakers of their day.

“Given the petty nature of many of their crimes, it also serves as a reminder of how harsh our judicial system was not so very long ago.”

“With so many historical records – including criminal records – now available online, it has never been a better time to start exploring your family’s history.”

The collection was unveiled today at ‘Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE’ – the world’s largest family history event, which is being held at London’s Olympia from the February 25 – 27.

22nd February 2011

Statistics: Pregnancy rates in teenagers are at the lowest point in nearly 30 years

Pregnancy rates among teenagers are at their lowest level for almost 30 years but have risen dramatically among women in their 30s and 40s.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals a 5.9 per cent decline in rates among under-18s between 2008 and 2009, to 38.3 per 1,000 teenagers aged 15 to 17.

Overall, there were 38,259 pregnancies in this age group in 2009 compared with 41,361 in 2008, a decline of 7.5 per cent.

Among under 16s, there were 7,158 in 2009, compared with 7,586 in 2008, a 5.6 per cent drop. Some 60 per cent of these pregnancies led to an abortion.

The biggest increase in conception rates was among women aged 30 to 34 – a 3.5 per cent  leap between 2008 and 2009.

And in 1990, 89.7 per 1,000 women in this age group fell pregnant, rising to 125.9 per 1,000 in 2009.

Overall, 213,300 women in this age group fell pregnant in 2009, up from 161,400 in 1990.

The data for England and Wales showed a big jump among women aged 35 to 39, from 33.6 conceptions per 1,000 women in 1990 to 60.1 in 2009.

Some 116,500 women aged 35 to 39 fell pregnant in 2009, compared with 56,000 in 1990.

Among women aged 40 and over, rates almost doubled from 6.6 per 1,000 in 1990 to 12.8 in 2009.

In 1990, 12,000 women in this age group fell pregnant, more than doubling to 26,800 in 2009.

Simon Blake, national director of Brook sexual health charity, said: ‘It is good news that the teenage pregnancy rates have decreased as this shows the amount of good work that has been taking place around the country over the last 10 years.

‘However, we strongly urge the Government to ensure a continued local and national focus on teenage pregnancy as we know that if we stop focusing on delivering sexual health services the rates will go up.

‘In times of public spending cuts making cuts to sexual health services is short sighted as this is crucial to young people’s wellbeing and actually saves money – for every £1 spent on contraception £11 is saved.’

Gill Frances, former chair of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, said: ‘This excellent news reflects the intensive work that was going on in 2008/9.

‘However, we are currently experiencing major cuts in teenage pregnancy work around the country which will halt progress and push up the rates again.

‘The data for this year won’t be out until 2013 by which time a lot of the fantastic work that was under way will have been shut down.

‘We urge local councils and primary care trusts (PCTs) to think strategically now and prioritise teenage pregnancy reduction, which is cost-effective and reduces critical problems such as child poverty and health inequalities.’


The head of a leading women’s refuge is handing back the OBE she received for services to disadvantaged women because she believes government cuts will leave her unable to provide proper support to vulnerable women.

Denise Marshall, chief executive of Eaves charity, which specialises in helping women who have been victims of violence and those who have been trafficked into prostitution, said the level of funding cuts to support organisations such as hers meant they would soon be unable to function properly.

National and local government funding decisions have hit women’s support services hard. Preliminary research by the national charity Women’s Aid shows that more than half of all domestic violence services still do not know whether they will have enough money to remain fully open after March.

Marshall told the Guardian: “I received the OBE in 2007 specifically for providing services to disadvantaged women. It was great to get it; it felt like recognition for the work the organisation has done.

“But recently it has been keeping me awake at night. I feel like it would be dishonourable and wrong to keep it. I’m facing a future where I can’t give women who come to my organisation the services they deserve – I won’t be able to provide the services for which I got the OBE.”

Marshall is worried about what the cuts will mean for women’s safety. “We will see situations where women are in danger as a result of the cuts. There are disasters waiting to happen.” she said.

Like many charity directors, Marshall is unclear whether government grants will continue to fund all the projects she runs in the new financial year. She has been asked by the Ministry of Justice to reapply for funding for the scheme she runs for trafficked women, the Poppy Project – but with a projected reduction in funding of up to 75% for each victim. “They want a bargain basement service,” she said.

She has declined to submit a tender to provide services at a radically reduced level, and has pulled out of tendering to continue to provide refuge services in Kensington and Chelsea, west London, at similarly reduced rates.

“I’m not prepared to bid for a service that did not enable women to get the quality of service that is essential,” she said. “If you run a refuge where you don’t have the support staff it just becomes a production line, where you move people on as quickly as possible to meet the targets. You’re not helping women to escape the broader problems they face. They may get a bed, but no help with changing their lives and moving out of situations of danger.”

Women’s organisations have always struggled financially, but charities across the sector are reporting that the current round of public sector cuts has left them facing unprecedented funding shortages. Earlier this year Devon county council proposed to scrap funding to its domestic violence support services; after vigorous campaigning from women’s groups a 42% cut was imposed instead.

“I’ve worked in this sector for almost 30 years. I don’t want to sound melodramatic but I don’t think I have ever felt as depressed and desperate as I do now,” Marshall said.

“There has never been enough money, but we were able to scratch around to find some. I’ve always been reasonably pragmatic; I’ve been good at finding bits of money from grants, local authorities and charities. Now it feels like there is nowhere to go to. I feel devastated.

“We have always worked on a shoestring, but now that shoestring has been cut. What is suffering is the quality of the service provision. What was already a barely functioning sector is now in danger of dying on its feet.”

Marshall called St James’s Palace to find out how to return the OBE, and was told she could send it to either the Queen or the prime minister, with an explanation of why she was giving it back. Last night she had dusted off the medal, which she had stored at the back of a cupboard, and was writing a letter to David Cameron.

“To be told that we are all in this together and must make cuts like everyone else isn’t right, because we didn’t have enough money to begin with,” she said. “Do we have to say to rape victims, you can only have half the counselling sessions you need because we don’t have enough money? That’s just wrong. It’s not like there are other services we can tell them to go to instead – that’s just not the case any more.”

She believes local authorities have consistently failed to understand the need for women’s refuges, and she worries that a move to a “big society” model of local decision-making will mean that these services lose out further.

“Domestic violence victims don’t go and storm the local town hall to demand more help; rape victims don’t go to the local paper to complain that there isn’t a good service for them. They are invisible,” she said. “Women’s services are seen as an easy target. They are usually quite small, and lack the power to campaign and lobby because of historic funding shortages.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Tackling violence against women and girls is a priority for this government. We have protected Home Office funding for specialist services to tackle violence against women and girls with over £28m of funding allocated until 2015.”

Inside Eaves’s headquarters in south London, women were anxious about the organisation’s long-term prospects. Mary (who preferred not to give her real name), 32, who was trafficked into prostitution from Nigeria, said if the charity’s Poppy Project were to lose its funding, she would become homeless. “It would destroy me,” she said. “I’d be on the streets doing prostitution. We don’t want the service to close.”


Youth unemployment: employment agency in London UK unemployment: Women appear to have been hit hardest according to the latest official data. Photograph: Luke Macgregor/ReutersUnemployment unexpectedly rose last month, official figures reveal today, underlining the challenge facing the government in restoring the feelgood factor to voters battered by rocketing inflation and public service cutbacks.

The Office for National Statistics said that the claimant count – the most timely measure of unemployment – increased by 2,400 to hit 1.46 million in January, piling on the misery for households already suffering what Mervyn King has called the biggest decline in living standards since the 1920s.

Unemployment also increased on the wider ILO measure, rising by 44,000 in the three months to December to hit 2.49 million, as the economy contracted. The unemployment rate was 7.9%, up from 7.8% over the previous three months, the ONS said.

Economists said the worse-than-expected news was alarming, because it showed that job losses were already mounting before the worst of the governments’ spending cuts started to bite.

Howard Archer, of consultancy Global Insight, said: “The labour market data are disappointingly softer overall and fuel our suspicion that unemployment is likely to trend up gradually in 2011 in the face of below-trend growth and increasing job losses in the public sector.”

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “This rise is no surprise since the government itself, with the vocal support of the bankers who caused the recession, is deliberately creating unemployment with public sector cuts.”

Women appear to be bearing the brunt of the latest wave of job losses: the number of men claiming unemployment benefit fell by 5,400 between December and January, but the number of women claimants rose by 7,800.

Young workers are also struggling to make their way in the depressed labour market, the ONS reveals, with one in five 16 to 24-year-olds – 965,000 people – now unemployed.

There was comfort in the figures for dovish members of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee, however, as average earnings rose at an annual rate of just 1.8%, down from 2.1% in the three months to November.

That suggests there is little evidence so far of above-target inflation passing through to workers’ pay-packets and creating the kind of “wage-price spiral” that could force the Bank to clamp down with higher interest rates.

Even in the expanding manufacturing sector, one of the bright spots in the economy, wage settlements averaged 2.2% in the three months to January, according to a survey by industry group the EEF, published to coincide with the unemployment data. “Firms remain under intense pressure to control their internal costs in the face of global competition and these figures would suggest as yet the Bank of England has little to fear from inflationary agreements in manufacturing,” said the EEF’s chief economist, Lee Hopley.