THE HOMELESS: A small request to help the less fortunate this winter

London – VIJAY SHAH

According to homelessness and housing issues charity Shelter, there are 320,000 people classified as homeless in the UK, with the number rising by a thousand a month (according to the Guardian newspaper). This has intensified with a combination of factors causing more people finding themselves without a roof over their heads. These factors include rising rents, lack of suitable housing, and a weakened economy owing to the aftermath of the 2008 credit crunch, and now Brexit.

For the homeless forced to live on the streets and in parks, life is unbearable. Many experience mental/physical health and addiction problems, are marginalised by the better-off and face discrimination and outright abuse even. There have been incidences of thugs setting fire to homeless men and urinating on them as they slept.

In Britain, winter is in full swing, with temperatures dropping below freezing now on most nights. People who can go home and warm up with the central heating are understandably frustrated about the cold and chills, but spare a thought for those who only have a tatty and dirty sleeping bag being all that separates them from the harsh icy elements.

StreetLink is a nationwide charity which encourages people to look out for those who are dwelling on the streets and have nowhere else to go. The charity helps connect rough sleepers to services that can help get them off the streets, including emergency shelters and other accommodation. As the harsh British winter continues its relentless grip, readers are being urged to keep an eye for the ignored. If you see someone who is sleeping rough, you can call StreetLink directly on their freephone number 0300 500 0914 and tell the operator where and when you saw the person. The charity will send out a street outreach team to check up on the rough sleeper, and potentially, you could be the one that means that person will not die early and instead see their life turn around for the better. You can also send your notification in via the StreetLink app or their website: streetlink.org.uk

 

SOURCES/IMAGE CREDIT:

Steve Thorogood/Facebook.

“Welcome to StreetLink” – StreetLink https://www.streetlink.org.uk/StreetLink_HomePage

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UBER: Disruptive taxi app firm stripped of licence by London’s TfL

London – VIJAY SHAH via SARAH BUTLER, GWYN TOPHAM and The Guardian

San Francisco-based taxi app company Uber has had its application to renew its public carriage licence turned down by Transport for London (TfL) after its business practices and safety record were called into question by critics, the Guardian newspaper reported today.

The company, founded by Travis Kalanick in 2010, operates in 400 cities around the world and is well known for its cheap prices, its large pool of contracted drivers and its ease of use. But the company has come under fire in London its ‘lack of corporate responsibility’, and its disruptive effect on the city’s indigenous ‘black cab’ licensed minicab trade. Uber has been accused of not properly vetting its drivers’ criminal records and for not doing enough to investigate alleged sexual assaults by contracted taxi drivers.

The move by TfL has created a massive shock in London, with many customers and drivers of Uber condemning the decision not to renew the firm’s licence, which enables it to operate on the city’s streets. Black cab drivers and motoring safety groups however, have expressed support for the decision, blaming Uber for increasing traffic and stealing trade from established cab firms.

 

TfL is said to have rejected Uber’s licence renewal on the basis that it is not a “fit and proper” private car hire operator, according to the Guardian newspaper. The current Uber licence will expire on the 30th of September and the company’s UK arm plans to launch an appeal against TfL’s decision.  Uber works with 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million users, called ‘riders’ in London alone.

Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi in a message to the app’s staff issued yesterday said: “The truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation,” he wrote. “It really matters what people think of us, especially in a global business like ours.

“It’s critical that we act with integrity in everything we do, and learn how to be a better partner to every city we operate in. That doesn’t mean abandoning our principles – we will vigorously appeal TfL’s decision – but rather building trust through our actions and our behaviour. In doing so, we will show that Uber is not just a really great product, but a really great company that is meaningfully contributing to society, beyond its business and its bottom line.”

TfL was supported by London’s city Mayor, Sadiq Khan, employment rights campaigners and a federation of black cab firms. Uber has in the past been slated for not giving its drivers full employment status and not paying them a living wage, according to its critics. Uber’s customers and drivers have expressed dismay, along with Trade Minister  Greg Hands.

TfL said it had rejected the company’s application to renew its licence because “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to reporting serious criminal offences, obtaining medical certificates and driver background checks. TfL has also accused Uber of employing special cloaking software to make it difficult for authorities to access the app and records for such purposes as law enforcement.

Khan said he fully supported TfL’s decision, saying all companies needed to “play by the rules”.

He said: “I want London to be at the forefront of innovation and new technology and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service.

“However, all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect – particularly when it comes to the safety of customers.”

But Hands, who is also minister for London, said: “At the flick of a pen Sadiq Khan is threatening to put 40,000 people out of work and leave 3.5 million users of Uber stranded.

“Uber must address safety concerns and it is important there is a level playing field across the private hire market.

“But a blanket ban will cause massive inconvenience to millions of Londoners, all while showing that the Mayor of London is closed to business and innovation.”

Sam Gyimah, a Conservative justice minister and MP (Member of Parliament) for the East Surrey political constituency, said it was “possible to have effective regulation of Uber without penalising the consumers who benefit from more choice and lower prices”.

Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, which represents London’s black cab drivers, said the mayor had made the right decision.

“Since it first came on to our streets Uber has broken the law, exploited its drivers and refused to take responsibility for the safety of passengers. This immoral company has no place on London’s streets,” he said.

Uber said in a statement the decision would “show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies”.

“3.5 million Londoners who use our app, and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living, will be astounded by this decision,” the company added.

Uber’s maverick business model have caused it to get in hot water in numerous world cities. There were protests against the app in places as far apart as Rio de Janeiro and Paris. Last year, its founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick was forced to step down after allegations of sexual harassment at the company’s headquarters and a fiery exchange with one of his company’s drivers, caught on camera. Many observers say that the decision by TfL could deal a fatal blow to Uber.

SOURCES:

Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/

“Uber stripped of London licence due to lack of corporate responsibility” – Sarah Butler and Gwyn Topham, The Guardian/Guardian News and Media Limited (23 September 2017) https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/22/uber-licence-transport-for-london-tfl

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Uber app” – freestocks.org, Flickr (12 January 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/freestocks/23707913564

 

GLUTEN-FREE DIETS: Gluten Free Centre launches new mobile app for foodies

For people who have gluten intolerances or wish to have gluten-free diets, finding the right foods when out and about can be a minefield. With many restaurants and hotels not even aware of the existence of these intolerances and gluten-free diets, diners and travellers avoiding gluten can find themselves in awkward situations. However a new mobile phone app from the Gluten Free Centre promises to change all that.

The Gluten Free Centre – the United Kingdom’s most comprehensive online directory and community hub of for all things gluten free – has launched a new app that will help those living a gluten-free life find hotels, restaurants and stores that cater to them and stock food products without gluten. To promote all kinds of businesses supplying the gluten-free market, the GFC app will feature independent shops and hotels as well as big chains.

The app is designed to help anyone live a gluten-free life and locate their nearest businesses that can cater for their needs. Completely free of charge, the app will be launched officially at the The Gluten Free Centre’s corporate stand at The Allergy and Free From Show at Olympia, London from Friday July 3 to Sunday July 5, 2015. The app will be launched by GFC founders Diana and David Murphy.

(c) The Gluten Free Centre via Journalism.co.uk

 

Of the app, Diana said “We’re very proud of the new Gluten Free Centre app which will help our fast growing gluten free audience to access important information on the go.

“Users can choose from thousands of gluten-free friendly places to eat out, stay, shop or get a take away.

“What makes our app different is we include small, independent restaurants and hotels alongside the most popular chains.

“We’re selective about the places we add to our database – only the ones offering real choice, quality and understanding of gluten-free food are included.”

Based in the small town of Brinkworth, in the English county of Wiltshire, the Murphys launched the GFC in October 2014, based on their vision of creating a comprehensive and useful resource for people on gluten-free diets to find shops, eateries and businesses that place a high emphasis on their needs and requirements, as well as a supportive online community for everyone living gluten free in the UK.

The GFC’s website, along with its highly-acclaimed directory, the first of its kind in the British Isles, also offers fun gluten-free recipes, a blog and details on gluten-free events and competitions. The site aims to provide a wealth of information for for those with coeliac disease, wheat allergy, gluten intolerance and for people eating a gluten free diet for other health reasons such as Crohn’s Disease, MS, IBS or ASD – in addition to those who choose a gluten free diet as part of a healthy lifestyle. They also aim to bring together businesses, consumers, gluten-free organisations, experts and bloggers into a supportive and informative community, while also raising awareness of coeliac diseases and other intolerances affected by gluten, which is often found in wheat-based products such as bread and breakfast cereals.

The GFC community now stretches to 22,000 members and fans on Facebook alone. Its website receives 10,000 visitors per month and its free e-magazine reaches the inboxes of 6,000 readers across the UK. According to its website, the Gluten Free Centre has been featured in numerous glossy and women’s magazines and several regional newspapers and is a recipient of the SBS (Small Business Sunday) Award for new entrepreneurs by the BBC’s Dragon’s Den judge Theo Paphitis.

About 1 per cent of the UK’s population suffers from coeliac disease in particular, according to statistics from the Kantar Worldpanel, but increasing numbers of people are cutting gluten out of their diets for health reasons. Kantar claims that in 2013, 49% of gluten free customers were new to the category. Currently 55 per cent of the British gluten-free market is made up of people opting out of gluten for health reasons.

The app is available to download from the Google Play store (for Android devices – http://bit.ly/1SJDfdX ) and from the iTunes App Store.

SOURCES:
“Award winning online directory for gluten free living launches its first mobile app!” [Press Release] – Journalism.co.uk/Mousetrap Media Ltd (24 June 2015) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/award-winning-online-directory-for-gluten-free-living-launches-its-first-mobile-app-/s66/a565585/
“The Gluten Free Centre” – The Gluten Free Centre/The Gluten Free Centre Ltd http://theglutenfreecentre.co.uk/
“UK FREEFROM MARKET” – Incredible Bakery Company/incredibleshop http://www.incrediblebakerycompany.co.uk/uk-freefrom-market/
IMAGE CREDITS:
“Award winning online directory for gluten free living launches its first mobile app!” [Press Release] – Journalism.co.uk/Mousetrap Media Ltd (24 June 2015) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/award-winning-online-directory-for-gluten-free-living-launches-its-first-mobile-app-/s66/a565585/
Getty Images via Zemanta.