In a landmark ruling, an employment tribunal declared Mary Onuoha's dismissal for wearing a cross had been both victimisation and harassment, and Croydon NHS Trust had breached her human rights and created a 'humiliating, hostile and threatening environment' for her to work in. Mary was removed from her role as an NHS theatre practitioner and demoted to various administrative roles before resigning after facing two years of hostility from her NHS bosses. She was told that wearing a cross necklace breached the Trust's dress code - even though plain rings, hijabs, turbans and religious bracelets were permitted. The NHS said the wearing of a necklace was an infection risk. The tribunal judge said, ‘it is clear to us that the infection risk of a necklace of the sort the claimant used to wear, when worn by a responsible clinician who complied with handwashing protocol, was very low’.
Attempts to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in a case against a Belfast bakery have been rejected. Seven years ago, Christian-led Ashers Baking Company refused to write ‘support gay marriage’ on a cake. Gareth Lee sued Ashers, then lost his case at the UK Supreme Court. He took the matter to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the UK had failed to protect his human rights. Before the Supreme Court ruling, a Belfast county court and an appeal court had both ruled that the bakery had discriminated against Lee on the grounds of sexual orientation.
About thirty people including Boris Johnson attended a ‘bring-your-own-drink’ party in Downing Street’s garden during the first lockdown. The gathering - and others that had happened under Covid restrictions - are now subject to an independent enquiry by Sue Grey. Because of the way he handled recent events and evaded probing questions before admitting attending the drinks party, the PM has damaged public confidence in him. He now faces calls to resign from Labour and some senior Tories. Conservative MP William Wragg said there is a carelessness among people in government over standards and possibly more than that. The inquiry could make or break Johnson’s premiership as his government descends into open warfare as he defied Scottish and English Tory politicians. He survived probably the worst day in his political career without Cabinet resignations, a leadership challenge, or a confidence vote among MPs.
Patricia Marquis, of the Royal College of Nursing, said the NHS was clearly ‘struggling to treat patients safely’. NHS medical director Prof Stephen Powis said the Omicron variant was putting huge pressures on hospitals, not just because of the numbers of patients being admitted - about 2,000 a day on average - but also because of staff absences. But he added, ‘Despite this, once again, NHS staff pulled out all the stops to keep services going for patients’. Pray for the Government to find a way to meet the financial needs of the NHS so that the six million people on waiting lists for routine operations and care can have their procedures. In December nearly 27% of patients arriving at emergency departments waited over four hours. Demand for ambulances is high, with crews struggling to reach patients within the seven-minute target.
In a recent TV documentary series, the presenter met people living and working in various locations in Cumbria, from high on the fells to the rivers, flood plains, and urban settings. In one episode he met a young man aged 19 running the family farm with the help of just two friends following the tragic death of both his parents. Meanwhile young people from Brathay, an impoverished coastal town, who had little to do and few expectations or encouragement, found new abilities and achievements learning to sail, navigate and work as a team. Give thanks for the inspiration and example these young people demonstrated. Pray that others find purpose, healing and hope through engagement with the land and rural life; also pray for a growing understanding and respect among the younger generation from town and country, investment for young people in farming and rural communities.
England’s schools are grappling with what it means to live with coronavirus. In some places, staffing shortages are so dire that retirees were urged to return to duty. Secondary schools must now test students for Covid twice a week, adding to the burdens faced by staff. One in 12 teachers was absent from school during the first week of term. Numerous schools are unable to find temporary staff to cover. Rates of teacher absence were slightly higher in primary schools than in secondaries, where face masks are now required for pupils in class. In state schools 8.9% of teaching assistants and other staff were also absent. A small but growing minority of schools are experiencing teaching staff absences of over 20%, and the Government is planning for 25% staff-absence rates. Pray for education secretary Nadhim Zahawi to have the wisdom needed as he makes contingency plans for rising staff absences impacting on schools’ ability to remain open.
Tom Tugendhat will chair a foreign affairs select committee to look into the Government’s apparent inability to crack down on money-laundering. Russian oligarchs’ use of London to launder their fortunes will come under renewed scrutiny. The Foreign Office is often accused of leaving a gap between its tough anti-Russian rhetoric and failure to control either money-laundering or those in the UK who enable the corruption. Foreigh secretary Liz Truss says the UK has some of the toughest anti-corruption laws in the world, but even in her short period in office she has been repeatedly challenged to review whether the laws are working effectively or adequately policed. The inquiry will follow up a previous investigation which found gaps in government anti-corruption armoury, warning, ‘Turning a blind eye to London’s role in hiding the proceeds of Kremlin-connected corruption risks signalling that the UK is not serious about confronting the full spectrum of Putin’s offensive measures.’
Lorries bringing goods from the EU to the UK are stuck in customs controls for days due to new Brexit red tape. Queues of up to eight hours cause delivery delays as firms struggle with Brexit rules which came into force on 1 January. Jordan Freight has had two trucks containing automobile parts stuck at Felixstowe customs controls for four days after arriving in the UK. The driver was allowed to leave the port, but the goods are stuck there. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said they were just too busy to deal with it. Customs experts say problems are partly due to the government’s new IT system. All EU imports must now be processed using the Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) managed by HMRC. Many drivers have been unable to get their reference codes accepted.