IoS letters, emails & online postings (4 October 2009)

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Janet Street-Porter is right to question why front-line services allowed a vulnerable family such as Fiona Pilkington's to be picked on for being different ("Harassed to death – why did no one listen?", 27 September).

While the tragic case of Ms Pilkington is extreme, it does highlight that there are thousands of families with disabled children who face stigma and prejudice every day. Our research has found that almost 70 per cent of families with disabled children feel that understanding and acceptance of disability from their community is poor.

Having a child with a disability can be very isolating, and families are often under enormous pressures. Prejudice, lack of understanding, and sometimes cruelty from people with whom families come into contact add to this feeling of isolation and can lead some to breaking point.

People working in front-line services – police, social services and health – should be trained to understand and recognise the pressures that families with disabled children are under. This would help them to prioritise services, to protect these often vulnerable families and avoid a repeat of such a tragic case.

Srabani Sen

Chief Executive, Contact a Family

London EC1

How is it that the police were powerless to control the gang of feral youths who hounded a mother and her daughter to a terrible death, but had absolutely no trouble in calling upon the full might and majesty of police powers, including surveillance, videoing, confiscation of balloons, food and musical instruments, assault and false imprisonment when faced with the men and women carrying out legitimate protest in the climate camps?

Irene Barker

Mendlesham Green, Suffolk

With instinctive compassion for both the Attorney General and her former housekeeper in what I sadly recognise to be a society still riddled with prejudice, I had harboured some sympathy for Baroness Scotland until I read that Ms Tapui had been paid a mere £6 per hour ("Housekeeper: Baroness 'did not ask for my passport'", 27 September). Even three years ago, I – a man of far more modest means than Baroness Scotland – was paying my Brazilian cleaner £7.50 an hour, so I cannot help but wonder whether what we have witnessed may have been unscrupulous exploitation of cheap and vulnerable immigrant labour. If so, then for that reason alone the baroness must be deemed morally unfit for her position.

Chris Hutchison

Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

I wouldn't want to deny Alan Watkins his ritual enjoyment of recalling the occasional eccentrics at Liberal assemblies of the past ("The party's over before it has begun", 27 September), but he is rather selective. Following Margaret Thatcher's election victory, the Liberals embarked on a review of their philosophy and scheduled a full afternoon's open-ended debate at the 1979 assembly. I recall Alan approaching me enthusiastically to say that, although he had expected it to be disastrous, it had turned out to be one of the best sessions of any party conference.

Michael Meadowcroft


The Independent on Sunday distinguishes itself by keeping out of the popular media scramble to write off Gordon Brown ("Come out fighting, Mr Brown", 27 September). The more bickering there is about the Labour leadership, the easier it is for the Tories to cruise into office without policy, experience or concern for society as a whole. We do well to remember the wretched reality of life under the Tories, characterised by inequality, self-interest and missed opportunities for progress. Those who have forgotten it, or who have not experienced it yet, should be careful what they wish for.

Anna Distin

London E1

The decision of the UK government to refuse a seat to a Scottish government minister at the climate change summit in Copenhagen sidelines a government that has already produced world-leading legislation on climate change. And while the Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy, has argued that sending a Scottish government official to observe at such talks is in line with practice in previous years, this is not strictly correct. In 2002 the then Labour First Minister, Jack McConnell, attended the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg as part of the UK delegation. Climate change is too important an issue to use as a political pawn.

Alex Orr


The denizens of Chicago would be appalled to find even colder winds than usual on Lake Superior ("The rise and rise of Brazil", 27 September). The Windy City lies on Lake Michigan. And the Brazilian President's name is not Luis Inácio da Silva, it's Luiz.

Terry Walsh

Bury St Edmunds, suffolk

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