Donation thanks, Mary Feilding home and St John's Hospice

VIc Mason at Muswell Hill Foodbank

VIc Mason (right back) at Muswell Hill Foodbank with volunteers and donations - Credit: Muswell Hill Foodbank

Heartfelt thanks to those who have given

Vic Mason, manager at Muswell Hill Foodbank, writes:

Last March as the first lockdown was announced we leapt into action and completely reorganised Muswell Hill Foodbank. 

By the end of March, our cafe area had become a packing area where we can now have two volunteers packing bags of produce at a safe distance from each other which we then hand over to clients who now have to wait outside.

We also received the first of our grants from Haringey Giving which helped enormously in keeping our store room stocked. Pre-pandemic, we ran regular collections at local supermarkets where shoppers would buy some extra packaged food to donate to us.


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Obviously, this has been impossible since March. So we’ve relied heavily on donations and grants.

We’ve had offers of help from dozens of people wanting to volunteer their time. We’ve been able to set up a delivery service and we now have a team of 30 drivers.

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Last summer, when Marcus Rashford started his free school meals campaign, we set up our delivery service to families referred by their schools. 

We hate to think of children going hungry and families struggling to put food on the table. So our volunteers contacted schools who then contacted the families they knew would benefit most from this service. 

We delivered food parcels to local schools over the summer, issued vouchers for families to pick up food parcels and went on to deliver food to more than 200 families in Haringey and Barnet over Christmas and again during this last lockdown.

In the year up to the end of February 2020, we had distributed just over 34,000kg of food to 1,690 families, including 2,285 adults and 1,114 children. At the end of February 2021, that’s increased to 44,650kg of food to 1,973 families, including 2,748 adults and 1,877 children.

We couldn’t have done this without the support of the local community. The massive increase in donations and the community’s desire to help has been constantly uplifting. We’ve had a constant supply of food being dropped off, people have organised street collections, businesses have donated, cricket clubs, bridge clubs, the list is endless. During the first lockdown, we also had the strange sight of British Gas vans delivering food donated by Tesco.

While it’s been a terrible year of lockdowns and loss, it’s also been one of overwhelming generosity and the kindness of strangers.

So from the team and volunteers at Muswell Hill Foodbank, we’d like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to your readers and the local community. Your donations of food, cash and time have been greatly appreciated.

Mary Feilding Guild care home

Mitesh Dhanak, of Highgate Care Ltd, owner of the former Mary Feilding Guild care home writes:

There has been a considerable amount of coverage in your paper about the closure of the former Mary Feilding Guild (MFG) care home in Highgate. 

I would like to share more details about some of the issues we are facing as the new owners to make it clear that this has not been an easy decision and we have a great deal of sympathy for our residents’ situation.

Since taking over the running of the home, a number of significant issues have come to light that has led us to question why the home has remained open as long as it has. These include:

  • Widespread Legionella throughout the building. The previous owner was unable to remove the source of the issue due to both the age of the building and its outdated Edwardian plumbing designs. 
  • We are currently awaiting urgent advice from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Public Health England (PHE) to whether the home is safe to remain open.
  • An unreliable central heating system, which currently uses eight boilers and is entirely unsuitable, not one working bath in the home, and an unfit drainage system across the site that regularly blocks.
  • Environmental issues that we have swiftly addressed including the removal of a dead tree that posed a significant safety risk due to its proximity to a resident’s bedroom window and the removal of rats from the building.
  • Two residents falling within the building (in 2014 and 2017) which resulted in major injuries for one and the death of the latter... These tragic accidents highlight, in our view, the previous lack of risk assessing at the home and the challenges presented by the current building for safely housing older residents.
Catherine West MP enjoys a garden party at Mary Feilding Guild before lockdown

Catherine West MP enjoys a garden party at Mary Feilding Guild before lockdown - Credit: Catherine West MP

We are also aware that there have been no admissions for a number of years, leaving the home 63 per cent unoccupied and no longer a bustling community, as in its heyday.

I recognise that people have concerns about the closure of the home but to put this closure in context, in the first three months of 2021, 123 care homes have closed in England and over the past five years, an average of 801 homes a year have closed, of which 70 homes are not-for-profit entities.

We continue to focus our energies in supporting residents to help them find alternative accommodation, and we are working closely with the local authority.

My team are providing support for the move, including the option of a carer from the home accompanying residents to their new accommodation, so there is a familiar face help with settling in.

We are offering residents furniture and soft furnishings from the former Mary Feilding Guild home for their new flat.

Some residents have requested to take items from the home that they really like, which we are happy to oblige.

There has been no reduction of staffing levels, and I am grateful to the team for their continued dedication.

Of the initial 16 residents, more than half will be moving to care settings that will deliver a higher-level of care than MFG is registered to provide, that is, for residents with a high level of independence. 

As residents’ care requirements increase with age, it is commonplace for residents to move to homes that can offer greater levels of support.

Three residents have already moved out, one resident having found alternative accommodation within 48 hours, with a further seven set to move this month. 

A number of residents have chosen to move away from Highgate to be closer to their families, while others have chosen a new home with friends from the former Mary Feilding Guild home. 

We believe that all residents will have found suitable alternative accommodation by May 31.

Finally, I would like to reiterate that the team at Highgate Care have more than 25 years’ experience in providing high-quality care for older and vulnerable people in the community, including award-winning accolades as care providers. 

Our intention remains to create a new home on the site, supporting the legacy of the Mary Feilding Guild and offering a high-quality care facility in Highgate.

Land commission

Sian Berry, Green candidate for mayor of London, writes:

Londoners need more small sites for new homes, greens spaces and community facilities, but London’s current planning policies are top down and focused only on big developments. This approach isn’t working. 

I want to bring bottom-up leadership to planning. As the first Green mayor of London I will set up a People’s Land Commission so that local people in every part of London are supported and empowered to map their areas and put forward ideas for underused land.  

I will back their plans by finding funding and support to get what each area needs, whether that’s new playgrounds, green spaces, community centres, space for small businesses or new homes. And I will push the government for a ‘community right to buy’ in law, like they have in Scotland. 

In my London, the people will plan the future of our city, bringing the fresh thinking we need more than ever as we plan for the recovery and build more resilience into our communities for a brighter future. 

The hospice

Samia Khatun, legacy executive, St John’s Hospice, writes:

If your readers are among the 57 per cent who have not made a will yet, they might like to know St John’s Hospice is holding its annual Make a Will Fortnight event which will run until Sunday, May 2.

We are delighted to announce we have six local solicitors taking part who will write a simple will for free. We are hoping that people who use this service will consider making a donation to St John’s Hospice in lieu of the solicitor’s fee – the suggested amount is £200 for an individual simple will.

Our hospice is the only independent charity hospice serving eight boroughs across central and north west London and provides free palliative care to around 4,000 patients with life-limiting or terminal illnesses. Our revenues have been hard by the pandemic and we rely on fundraising events  to fund the care we provide for free.

If you are making a will, would you consider leaving a legacy to St John’s Hospice? We are always grateful when someone leaves us a legacy, especially when they have benefitted from our services.

Readers can find out more about the Make a Will Fortnight, and details of the solicitors, by visiting stjohnshospice.org.uk and clicking on our Events section. Or, to discuss the event or leaving a legacy, please contact me by email samia.khatun@hje.org.uk or call 07436 253158.
To enable social distancing, the solicitors will take instructions over the phone or via email. There is also of Skype, WhatsApp or Zoom.

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