Seagull Weekly Briefing 25/09

University occupation, council worker remuneration, further COVID vaccination and more

Seagull Weekly Briefing 25/09
Source: The Brighton Seagull

Good morning, and welcome to the Brighton Seagull's Weekly Briefing. Autumn is finally here, and it feels so good. Leaves are falling, the breeze is breezing, it's sunny but not too hot... perfect.

News This Week

Occupation of University of Brighton building reaches one week mark

Source: UOB Solidarity

Students from the University of Brighton associated with UOB Solidarity have been occupying the university building in Pavillion Parade since the early hours of Monday 18th September.

They say they have 'reclaimed it as an autonomous space for students and the local community'. The building is among several due to be sold following cuts to university budgets, which also saw more than 100 redundancies.

The occupiers say it is legal 'under the laws of adverse possession', and that it is not illegal for any of them to be using or living in the space.

They said:

Community spaces in Brighton are dwindling. The University of Brighton management is contributing to the Brighton-wide issue of a lack of community space by ruining student-staff relationships, closing [a] previous art space despite its contributions to the community, and closing multiple campuses.

By doing this, we are hoping to challenge ideologies within our society which make community and education centred around money; we want to create artistic and skill-sharing spaces that people can be in free of charge.

They also said that their occupation of the building is not conditional on 'asking management politely to give us community spaces or housing… we do not need to be given permission to have a free space for education and a place to live'.

Criticism has come from the occupiers of university management's action 'carried out by security' outside the building, which they say has placed them in 'extreme danger', including alleged assaults.

A University of Brighton spokesperson said:

The safety of the occupants continues to be our paramount concern. We are in regular contact with them to check on their wellbeing and have briefed them on the risks associated with the building, which is in the process of being decommissioned.

We have also taken steps to ensure the safety of others, including the installation of hoardings to prevent people climbing over fencing which has a significant drop to below ground level on the other side. A safe and managed point of exit remains in place for the occupants to use at any time.

Our staff on site have acted respectfully and professionally at all times, sometimes under extreme pressure.

Fairer bank holiday pay agreed for council workers

Source: The Brighton Seagull

Bank holiday pay will be equalised for over 800 staff across the council in response to issues raised by the Unison trade union.

Following a decision by the council’s Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee, affected staff will be given 70.5% of the total back pay to cover the past six years and a 100% top-up payment to equalise bank holiday pay in future.

Councillor Bella Sankey, Leader of the Council said:

Whether a driver at Cityclean or a care worker looking after our elderly, we want to ensure everyone receives equal holiday payments while working for the council.

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🖋 News in Brief 🖋

  • The Shaun the Sheep painted to look like a police officer (the one that was on the bandstand and kept being vandalised) has a new bleat—it's been moved inside Martlets on London Road for safekeeping.
  • To celebrate Albion's first game in the UEFA Europa League, the team is set to be presented with a very special award. A special council meeting at Brighton Town Hall on Tuesday 28th November will meet to vote on the awarding of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club with the Freedom of the City, a ceremonial award which recognises the club’s achievements and their contribution to the city.
  • Brighton is apparently the seventh-worst place in the country at dealing with freshers' flu, based on university GP ratings, the likelihood of exposure, flu prevalence, investment into student care, and vaccination rates (according to research by Vegetology). Brighton scored poorly for vaccination rates, as there is an influenza uptake rate of just 23.8%—one of the lowest in the UK. Freshers—be careful!
  • The NHS is offering a further Covid-19 vaccination to people who are most at risk from serious illness if they get sick. The programme is for those in care homes, people who are housebound, people aged 65 and over, those who are more at risk, those who are pregnant, carers, household contacts and health and social care workers.
  • Victoria Fountain at Old Steine should be switched back on this week! 🎉
If you have a story for Seagull, please get in touch with our editor at [email protected].

The Big One

Coroner finds services for transgender people are 'underfunded and insufficiently resourced'

Source: The Litman Family

What's happening? An inquest started last Monday into the death of Alice Litman, a 20-year-old woman from Brighton who took her own life on May 26th 2022 while waiting for gender-affirming healthcare on the NHS.

How long is the inquest? It ran until Wednesday 20th September, and the final conclusion will come next week. The coroner will also write to NHS bodies with recommendations.

What has been said so far? The coroner, Sarah Clarke, found that services providing healthcare for trans people are ‘underfunded and insufficiently resourced for the level of need that the society we live in now presents’.

How long was Alice Litman on the waiting list? 1,023 days—two years, nine months, two weeks and five days. She was waiting for her first appointment.

How long do people normally have to wait? The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust website, which currently shows data for July 2023, says there are 13,740 people on its waiting list, with first appointments being offered to those referred in July/August 2018.

They have received 324 referrals in the last month, have offered 55 first appointments this month, and have offered 807 appointments in total this month.

Alice was referred in August 2019. She would still not have had her first appointment.

What support had Alice received? According to the inquest, she was offered some mental health support but did not receive the full support she needed.

A month before her death, she submitted an e-consult to her doctor, saying she was having thoughts of self-harm and often felt ‘hopeless and helpless’ and that life isn’t worth living.

She was been referred to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in August 2019, and was subsequently transferred to the Tavistock Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) after she turned 18.

Her sister, Kate Litman, said:

The inquest revealed the true extent of the waiting list to receive care at the Gender Identity Clinic: at the current rate they are seeing new patients and with the size of their waiting list, someone referred today would not be seen for 20 years.

The inquest also raised questions about whether GPs are doing enough to care for trans people who are left in limbo awaiting care from specialist services that are functionally non-existent.

We say they can and should do more.

Twenty years? That's not even the worst of it. An FOI request last year revealed that the Porterbrook Clinic, Sheffields (GIC) has a 35 year waiting list.

What else was said at the inquest? The inquest heard evidence of a lack of adequate systems in place to offer gender-affirming healthcare in England. Based on the current rate of appointments, for someone to receive treatment by the GIC when they turned 18, they would have to be referred pre-conception.

What will the coroner's report likely say? She has indicated that she will be making reports to prevent future deaths, concerning:

  • How a person is managed between adolescent and adult mental health care
  • Knowledge and training for those offering support to those in the trans community
  • Access to gender-affirming healthcare
  • Lack of access to mental health care for those receiving gender-affirming care

What have her family said?

The trans healthcare system is not fit for purpose. As the inquest heard, people seeking gender-affirming care today face a twenty-year long wait for the care they want and need to live a happy life. This can’t continue—things will only get worse if they don’t change.

Alice was beautiful and she made our lives better but we believe she was failed by those tasked with her care. Trans people should be able to access gender-affirming care when they need it. But as the inquest heard about Alice’s experience, trans people encounter barriers every step of the way.

We will continue to fight for Alice, and for all the young trans people who are still being denied the care they need.

What have Tavistock GIC said? According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for The Tavistock said:

We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of a patient who was waiting to be seen at our gender identity clinic and offer our condolences to her loved ones.

It would not be appropriate to comment while the inquest is ongoing.

What can I do to help? Be there for your friends.

That's all for this week—please subscribe, and forward to friends who might be interested!