Sunday, 17 May 2015

WE CONTINUE with Victoria Gillick's report into the effects of immigration on Wisbech.

Once again, I neither endorse or refute Mrs Gillick's personal conclusions, and the statistics have all been gathered through Freedom Of Information Requests.

Although it has not always been possible to separate the two, factual statistics are usually in blue font, while personal views are in light grey.


                                              Growing migrants

Naturally enough, an increasing number of East Europeans have decided to become parents since settling in Wisbech. It's certainly more financially prudent to have a child in Britain than in Latvia, Lithuania or Poland, where child benefits range between £9.30 and £54 per month. Providing the migrant mother has a UK National Insurance number, she can apply for a £500 Sure Start Maternity Grant for the first baby, plus Child Tax Credit, and will automatically receive £81.20 per month in Child Benefit, even when her kiddie lives overseas in the care of its grandparents.

How many migrant children are we talking about here? Local birth statistics give a clue. Most expectant mums in and around Wisbech give birth at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Between 2000-05 the average number of births at the hospital was 1,961 per year. In the five years since then the average has been 2,315.  The numbers born in 2012 were 2,534.19

As noted, the baby-slump in the 1970s and '80s has led nowadays to significantly fewer local men and women aged 25-35, and consequently to fewer babies as well. Between 2006-12, births to British women living in this neck of the woods fell 5%, but rose 85% to non-British mothers: from 257 to almost 500 a year. Today, over one-fifth of local newborns have foreign mothers.  

On a sadder note, there has also been a big increase in abortions at the Lynn Hospital. In the countries of the former Soviet Union, disposing of unwanted babies has been a commonplace fact of life for most of the Twentieth century. Some East Europeans may well have carried this throw-away culture with them to Britain. Up until 2005 an average of around 280 pregnancy terminations took place annually in King's Lynn, rising to an average of over 460 a year by 2012.

An even clearer insight into Wisbech's dramatic baby-bounce can be seen in the Town's pre-school population. In 2001 the number of kiddies aged 0-4 yrs was 1,692, and by 2012 it was 2,462. 

The increase was greatest (55%) among babies under one, where numbers rose from 324 to 502.20  It almost goes without saying that this burgeoning child population is East European in heritage. At Wisbech's Antenatal Clinic a total of thirty-five newborn babies were recorded in just one week in December 2011, all of them with East European mothers.

Schooling the migrants

Wisbech and its villages have 15 Primary/Infant Schools lying within the catchment area of the Town's secondary school, the Thomas Clarkson Academy. 

Between 2006-14 their pupil numbers had increased by only 203 from 2,768 to 2,971, which seems  implausible until one notes the pupils' nationality. This reveals that at the end of that nine-year period there were 405 fewer British pupils and 608 more East Europeans, although latterly around 38 local children now attend primary schools elsewhere in Fenland.

Nine out of ten migrant children are concentrated in the seven Primaries within the Town itself, where they currently represent over 35% of all pupils.21 Between 2014-15 the newly enlarged Orchards Infants (56% migrants) has increased from 472 to 630 pupils. It is situated in the Waterlees area, currently ranked top of Fenland's wards with 'multiple deprivations', having 29% of children on free school meals, and one-in-five adults on unemployment benefits. Three Wisbech wards are in fact amongst the 10% most deprived in the UK.22

                                                Locals migrating

Since 2006
the same ethnic shift has also occurred at Secondary level, with 24% fewer English children attending the Thomas Clarkson Academy, and a ten-fold rise in foreign ones, who now represent almost a quarter of the students. Nineteen different languages are currently spoken there.

However, this big fall-off in local pupils is entirely due to Wisbech parents choosing secondary education outside the Academy's catchment area.24 In January 2013 an astonishing 56% (813) of local 11-15 year-olds were being schooled elsewhere: 385 at schools in Lincolnshire, 210 in Norfolk, and 218 to other Fenland schools, mostly the Neale-Wade in March. Wisbech now has the largest out-of-county migration of secondary-aged pupils of any town in Fenland, and subsequently also suffers the greatest loss of qualified school leavers as well. 


As far as medical treatment goes, East Europeans are on to good thing when they come to Britain. Not only is GP and hospital treatment free at the point of need, but the World Health Organisation ranked the UK's healthcare system 15th out of 45 European nations: France was tops, Poland was 27, Lithuania 33, Romania 37, Latvia 41.  Russia came bottom.25

Any EU migrant seeking a job in the UK, or needing hospital treatment, must register with a GP. Many of them never attend the surgery again and are known in the trade as "ghost patients", although some GPs still claim the full whack of NHS payments for these ghostly non-attenders.

                                                                General Practitioners

In 2005 a 'healthcare needs assessment' in Wisbech estimated that around 60% of local migrants were registered with a GP, and identified sexual health/family planning as priority needs, as also mental health care, noting that East Europeans came from countries with high levels of suicide.  Wisbech has the highest level of car accidents in Cambridgeshire, but by 2010 the Fenland rates for road injuries/deaths, and hospital stays for alcohol related harm were above the national average.26 

That particular year the three Wisbech surgeries employed 22 doctors (including locums) and 11 nurses/healthcare assistants.  By 2012 their medical staff had increased to 24 and 14 respectively. Not a whole lot of extra personnel really, given that the three GP Lists had grown by over five thousand during that time, from 34,860 patients to 39,977.  One surgery had lost 900 patients, while another had gained 2,000. But the patient list at the surgery situated next to the Hospital and adjoining the Family Planning Clinic, had increased by four thousand, from 6,360 to 10,377.27

                                             North Cambridgeshire Minor Injuries Unit

Between 2010-12 the Unit employed an average of 20 nurses, but no permanent doctors. For after-hours treatment, patients must travel to either King's Lynn or Peterborough hospitals. During those three years the Unit saw an average of 9,454 patients. In 2011 the proportion of East European patients was 5.6%, increasing to 9% the following year.28