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Ham&High letters: Remembering Nazanin, social care, housing, Sri Lanka, EU voting, private renting, trees, air pollution, EU and death penalties

PUBLISHED: 16:30 25 April 2019

An Easter lunch spent painting stones for Nazarin's garden. Picture: LINDA GROVE

An Easter lunch spent painting stones for Nazarin's garden. Picture: LINDA GROVE

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Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Easter lunch for Nazanin

Linda Grove, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

My Korean friends who live in Willesden organised a lunch on Sunday for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is imprisoned in Iran, and adults and children painted stones to go in Nazanin's garden.

Yet another Easter for the Ratcliffe family to be separated. The garden is looking grand and this is where we will place the stones. I hope it will inspire others to paint a stone for Nazanin and place it on the garden. We must not forget this family and although Nazanin can't see the garden, her husband Richard can tell her about it so it lifts her spirits.

The Korean family and ourselves, Malcolm, my husband, and I, have adopted each other as family. They are very special people who take time and trouble with others, and Malcolm and I are all the richer for knowing them.

Social care system risks lurching back to sixties and 'subnormal' culture

Martin Hewitt, Victoria Road, Muswell Hill, writes:

Mary Langan's Word on the Street points to the way choices facing adults with autism and learning disabilities and their families have narrowed since the council cut social care services four years ago, following earlier closures since 2010 when government austerity cuts began to bite.

Before the cuts vulnerable adults had more options to choose from. With the closure of day centres – 17 since 2010 – and the lack of supported living accommodation in the community, the most severely disabled remain at home or, when family care breaks down, face the institutional option of entering “assessment and treatment units” outside the borough with their reliance on drug-induced compliance.

Patients already in ATUs remain incarcerated through lack of local provision, despite government policy to return them to their home boroughs following the Winterbourne View scandal Mary Langan refers to.

For some years the council has anticipated growing numbers of adults service users with learning disabilities – forecast to overtake elderly users by 2022. Yet it has failed to match the supply of services to demand. The result is increasing unmet needs that place greater pressures on family carers and limited cash-strapped services.

The narrowing choices available to vulnerable adults are in danger of returning social care to the institutional policies of the 1960s when “subnormal” adults were placed in long stay hospitals where many languished for the rest of their lives unseen and unheard.

If Haringey Council is to avoid returning to this inhumane approach it must commit to a programme of restoring community and building-based centres in the best interests of the adults and their families.

Diverse housing options needed

A parent of an adult with autism, learning disability and epilepsy, a trustee of local charity Kith & Kids, and a member of Save Autism Services Haringey and Haringey Autism, full name and address supplied, writes:

Cuts to local authority budgets have obviously made the problems covered by Mary Langan) worse.

It would be daft to pretend otherwise and it is right to call for more funding. But lengthy placements in distant assessment and treatment units pre-date the 2008 financial crash and providing a good range of options for health and social care of adults with severe life-long developmental disabilities requires more than finance. It also requires commitment born of genuine understanding of the complexity of the difficulties faced by these adults.

The problems with finding appropriate housing won't come near to being solved unless politicians, planners and commissioners recognise that, for an adult such as “Adam”, his living environment is likely to be an overwhelming contributor to his wellbeing. That's true for everyone, up to a point, but, for a person with autism, learning disability and epilepsy, it may be critical. It follows that we need a diverse range of housing options for people with substantial disabilities to complement a diverse range of support packages. As politicians are so fond of repeating: “One size does not fit all.”

Hearts broken for Sri Lanka victims

Cllr Abdul Hai and Phil Rosenberg, co-chairs, Camden Faith Leaders Forum; Rev Monsignor Phelim Rowland, Parish Priest, St Mary's Hampstead; William Edgill, Interfaith LGBT coordinator; Saiqa Pandor, Homestart Camden and Islington; Rabbi Shlomo Levin, senior rabbi, South Hampstead Synagogue; Imam Abu Maged, Qalam Education Centre, Kilburn; and others (see full list at hamhigh.co.uk) write:

As faith leaders in Camden, we stand in solidarity with the victims and survivors of the Easter Sunday Sri Lanka attacks, which have left hundreds dead and hundreds more injured.

Our hearts are broken for those who were deliberately murdered in churches on the Christian Holy Day of Easter, and those slaughtered in hotels around the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

These gut-wrenching acts of pure evil have no place in any of our faiths and we condemn their perpetrators unequivocally and without exception.

To our great distress, Christians around the world have faced growing persecution in recent years, whether from authoritarian regimes or extremists who cloak themselves in the guise of other religions.

We will not accept a world where people can be martyred simply for attending a place of worship, as we have observed in the last few months alone at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, at mosques in New Zealand and now at churches in Sri Lanka.

We are working with Camden Council and others to improve security for our local faith institutions, but our first response will be prayer, charity, dialogue and joint action to make our society and our world more cohesive and more loving.

EU voter rules are not fair or easy

David Brown, Ivor Court, Crouch Hill, writes:

I am concerned that EU27 citizens in this area will not be able to vote in the European Parliamentary elections on May 23, 2019, unless they complete and return the EU citizens' European Parliament voter registration form and return it to the local authority before May 7 in addition to registering on line on the electoral register. So complicated!

Free and fair elections are best served by the widest possible participation of all who are eligible to vote.

Private renters need safeguards

Rachel Boulton, Fortis Green Road, writes:

I was shocked to hear that right now most private renters are on short-term contracts of six months or a year and can be evicted once that term has ended without the landlord having to give a reason.

Private renters' group, Generation Rent, found that just one in every 20 renters who complains to the council about poor conditions gets protection from a revenge eviction.

This is woefully inadequate. I want to know, as the amount of private renters rise, what is our local council doing about it?

How the council champions trees

Cllr Adam Harrison (Lab), Bloomsbury ward and cabinet member for improving Camden's environment, writes:

It is a shame to see a councillor making poorly informed statements in the local press. Had Oliver Cooper contacted me to discuss trees in Camden before he dashed off his letter to the Ham&High, I would have been happy to share with him the truth behind the claims he made.

To assist in this retrospectively, I have emailed him the full set of facts relating to his claims, which I am sure will reassure him. At least one of his claims was likely made because the information he was relying on contained a typo made by an officer in another borough.

Some of his other claims I agreed with, however. One was that Camden has the largest budget for new and replacement trees than our neighbours. We believe this to be true and indeed it reflects our commitment to planting and looking after trees.

Another claim is that Camden plants more trees than neighbouring boroughs. We believe this statement also to be true: our target is to plant a minimum of 400 trees per year of which 50 are to be in new locations. To help achieve this, a dedicated tree-planting officer was appointed at the end of August 2018 to increase our tree planting around the borough – a Camden Labour manifesto commitment.

We have also recently worked with ward councillors to find a way to enable the planting of larger trees, rather than saplings, on Camden's streets – something that has been a long-standing “ask” from councillors and residents.

I am also pleased to share with Ham&High readers that Camden's tree policy has been referenced in the Forestry's Commissions Urban Tree Manual, which was recently released and endorsed by the recently appointed National Tree Champion.

Residents interested in the borough's trees may also be interested to examine the map we provide online of every Camden-owned tree, at camden.gov.uk/trees.

Air pollution is treated seriously

Cllr Kirsten Hearn (Lab), Stroud Green ward, Haringey Council, and cabinet member for the environment, writes:

Liz Morris, leader of the Haringey Liberal Democrats, accused Labour of inaction over the issue of air quality (Ham&High).

Under Labour's stewardship, Haringey continues to be one of the best performing boroughs in London for taking action to improve air quality. Toxic air shortens the lives of millions of Londoners – it is an issue too important to be used as a political football.

Just a fortnight ago, Haringey's cabinet agreed its air quality action plan, which outlines how we intend to play our part in tackling air pollution over the next four years and beyond. This includes a number of projects to improve air quality, including a low-emission vehicle strategy and the development of “low-emission neighbourhoods”.

We have piloted a “school street” at Lordship Lane Primary School, a scheme that aims to reduce the use of cars outside of schools before and after school, and we are processing the results with a view to rolling this out to more schools in our borough.

All of this clearly shows Haringey Labour is taking practical action at a local level to tackle air pollution.

Haringey Labour continues to work alongside the work of Sadiq Khan.

This includes implementing one of 12 low-emission bus zones along Haringey Green Lanes, resulting in a 92 per cent drop in NOx emissions from buses along this route, as well as giving Haringey Council £4.8million to make changes to the street layout to [promote] active travel and cycling as part of the “Crouch End Liveable Neighbourhoods” project.

Just last week and ahead of schedule, Mr Khan rolled out the first stage of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in central London – the centrepiece of his plan to deal with London's toxic air, which means all vehicles entering central London must meet strict emissions standards or pay a daily charge of up to £100 for the most heavily polluting vehicles.

Liz Morris is right to say that the environment shouldn't be a prop for publicity stunts – thousands of Londoners die early each year because of toxic air pollution.

Labour is working to deliver real change on this issue, despite unprecedented cuts to our council as a result of austerity implemented while her party was in coalition, which means we've lost £1,000 per household and 45pc of our staff.

Why risk history repeating itself?

David Reed, Eton Avenue, Belsize Park, writes:

You would think that Andrew Rodwell, a resident of north London, would have at least some idea why the European Union exists, and must know that differences between European countries started two major wars in the last century.

Also, since the EU was founded, there has been between countries peace in Europe, or has he forgotten that too (“We'll do just fine outside the EU” H&H letters)?

Perhaps he is ignorant of a key fact relating to his argument: 60 per cent of British trade is already with the rest of the world, so it is a lie to say the EU stops us from doing that. In any case, how much more trade does he think we can do with countries further away than our nearest neighbours, especially in a world dominated by global tech giants, with no loyalty to any country, while trading is made more difficult with policies such as Donald Trump's “Make America Great Again” nonsense?

Or perhaps Mr Rodwell likes chlorinated chicken, genetically modified food and all the other products America “enjoys” and will make us accept in any deals they do with us. And don't forget that the Chinese giant is awake, and India has its own concerns, while much of South America is suffering. We'll just have to start eating more New Zealand lamb, or buying more boomerangs, perhaps.

And does Mr Rodwell really think one tiny group of islands counts for much in today's globalised world? Britain couldn't even get the Starbucks coffee chain to pay tax for over a dozen years, and every day we read about Google pretending it is based in Ireland, even though the bulk of its business is done in the UK. As for Amazon, yes, it offers good services, but does it pay its workers properly, and its proper amount of tax? We know it doesn't, Mr Rodwell!

But here's a concept he and fellow Brexit-heads might find easier to understand: do we want to have good relationships with our nearest neighbours, working together to develop common rules which will give us all better futures, or does he think it will be better if each country exerts its “sovereignty” and demands that everyone else does what it wants, as Germany tried to do twice last century?

We live in an uncertain and dangerous world and need to work together with other civilised, democratic countries on peaceful ways to give ourselves the best opportunities to thrive.

Sure, we won't die if we leave the EU, but all businesses will find life tougher and nastier; there will be no gains, only more difficulties in the short term.

And, longer term, who knows what might happen, again?

Combating cruel death penalties

Jane Bywaters, Hornsey and Wood Green Group, Amnesty International, writes:

Many people will have been profoundly shocked by news that the Asian state of Brunei has introduced death-by-stoning as punishment for same-sex sexual acts.

It's grotesque and Amnesty has condemned it in the strongest terms.

With enough of a global outcry we hope the Brunei authorities will withdraw this unspeakably cruel measure. Our records show Brunei hasn't carried out an execution since l957, so there are grounds for hope. Meanwhile, Brunei's lunge toward extreme punishment is a reminder of how the death penalty still lingers on in the world.

Our new capital punishment report shows last year there were at least 690 executions in 20 countries.

Shockingly, thousands more people were also put to death in China – where executions are carried out in secret.

Anyone still believing the death penalty is somehow “tough but fair” should look at the reality: 15-minute trials in Iran, grossly unfair mass trials in Egypt, people tortured into false confessions in places like Saudi Arabia.

Readers can find out more about our work combating the cruelty of the death penalty at amnesty.org.uk/deathpenalty2019.

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