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Wednesday 11 November 2009
Letters: Care of disabled children
How we let down families with disabled children
Your heartbreaking article by Tussie Myerson (10 November) exposes so many of the inadequacies in our social and health services, and also in our general attitude to the care of the severely disabled.
Why should this poor mother have to shoulder all the responsibilities of caring for such a child? It is almost as if society is punishing her for having the audacity to have given birth to her daughter.
I personally know of another family with an identical problem. In this case however, the mother has become so aggressive that social services have been forced to take on a great deal more than they have in Tussie's case. This mother was not prepared to accept the sloppy attitude of a disorganised social services and has been lucky enough to have her daughter cared for almost full-time at a level with which the mother is satisfied.
This daughter is also loved and cherished but the mother in this case will not tolerate having the rest of her family suffer as Tussie's has. Tussie has made a wonderful case for improvements in social and medical services.
Dr Tim Lawson
Brown's letter of condolence
I would like to congratulate The Independent on its editorial (10 November) on Gordon Brown's letter to Mrs Janes. While fully understanding Mrs Janes' right to be upset, I believe that The Sun's blatant attempts to politicise this incident reflect all that is deplorable in many of the tabloids today.
Mrs Janes referred to letters she had received from the Queen and the Ministry of Defence, which presumably were error-free, but which one could reasonably assume were prepared by some secretarial support and then passed to Her Majesty and the appropriate MoD official for their signatures.
This in no way should detract from the sentiments these two letters expressed. However, the fact that Mr Brown took the time to write to Mrs Janes in person surely deserves some special acknowledgment.
I am not a supporter of Gordon Brown, and I am sorry that the mother of Jamie Janes was distressed by the Prime Minister's letter to her, but I think that the fact that he takes the trouble to write personal letters to the next of kin of all those killed in Afghanistan is a sign of his compassion for them.
It cannot be easy for the head of government – the person responsible for the decision to keep British troops in Afghanistan – to write those letters, because it makes it clear to him that every one of those killed was a real person with a real family, not just a statistic. I hope that he continues to write to families if more British troops are killed.
However, the civil servants who produce the details of those who have died and their next of kin to enable him to write those letters should take the time and trouble to make sure that they have the right names with the right spellings, and they should check his letters before they are posted to ensure that no errors have crept in.
Are people so unused to hand-written letters these days that a family can consider it an insult if the handwriting leaves a little to be desired? That a busy politician had taken the time to write to someone to offer condolences for the death of a relative, in the age of electronic media, is surely something to be celebrated.
It was the norm years ago that most such messages would have been hand-written, and that busy people would often have what we used to call an "academic scrawl". Whatever we may think of the presence of our troops in Afghanistan, Gordon Brown is to be applauded that he endeavours to write like this to all the bereaved relatives of serving soldiers.
As someone who is frequently addressed incorrectly as Judy, instead of Judi, I have grown rather unforgiving of people not taking the time, trouble and care to ensure they are spelling my name correctly.
This irks me at the best of times, so I really think it is unforgivable to make such a glaring mistake in something as sensitive and significant as a message of condolence. Any idea that Gordon Brown had that a personal hand-written message would mean more to relatives than a typed – and spellchecked – letter, is sadly cancelled out by his inexcusable spelling errors.
Jacqui Janes should think herself lucky she doesn't have a surname like mine. I used to get regular mailings addressed to a Mr Honeybell, I had a lengthy correspondence with a solicitor who insisted on calling me "Mr Honey", while my mother used to get mail addressed to a Mrs V H Bone.
All of these were typed, presumably by people with perfect eyesight, not handwritten by someone with failing sight in his one remaining eye.
Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Consumer rights for students
The Government's proposals for a "campus revolution" are not revolutionary; they're simply proposing consumer rights for students: the logical result of creating a market in higher education. Messages coming back from the graduate "products" of this market about the burden of their loan debt, particularly during a recession, are creating consumer resistance – something the Government, and its unemployment statistics, can't afford.
Your editorial (4 November) criticises universities for "just sitting back as the applications flood in". Well, the Harrods end of the higher education market night have been sitting back, but I can tell you, down at the supermarket end where I taught during this period of swelling student numbers, we were reeling in the face of constant demands from our managers to develop new courses and recruit more and more students, including many previously considered underqualified.
As our class sizes increased, our contact time with our students was cut: we became their scarcest resource. Universities were paid by recruitment and penalised for high wastage rates. In the Government's simple-minded adherence to "countable" signs of success, teaching was down-graded by the published league tables of universities ranked according to staff's research and publication record.
The proposed "revolution" is just perpetuating the errors implicit in this market model. Why can't any politician ever admit they got it wrong?
Drinker's liver in danger
Simon Carr's macho complacency about his heavy drinking (Comment, 9 November) is his personal choice, but he should avoid giving the impression that it does not come with a heavy personal risk.
Thirteen people a day die from alcohol-related liver disease, and alcohol-related problems cost the NHS in England £2.7bn a year. You don't have to be an "alcoholic". Regularly drinking to excess (and yes, a bottle of wine a day is excessive by any standards) risks liver damage. There are usually no early warning signs and damage may only appear after years of drinking.
Whilst most of us enjoy a drink, taking two days off the booze each week and visiting the GP might be a wiser step than appearing so ambivalent about the risks of a premature death.
Director of Information and Education, British Liver Trust
A Spanish lesson in democracy
I realise that the main point of Bruce Anderson is that he should amuse Independent readers with his exotically right-wing views, but I really must object to his bizarre remark (9 November), which I suspect the Foreign Office may also regard as unhelpful: "Neither France nor Spain has a securely rooted democracy."
Spain does not have a non-elected second chamber (unlike the UK). The Spanish people robustly voted out a right-wing prime minister (Aznar) who supported the war in Iraq while the British people notoriously re-elected a Blair/ Conservative Party coalition that supported the Iraq war.
Precisely because of the long experience of the Franco regime, Spain has over the last generation undergone a profound and successful "democratic rupture", very different from the corruption-ridden culture of the present UK Parliament. UK political life now has much to learn from the modern Spain and very little to patronise.
Bruce Anderson's anger almost consumes his own argument, and his obsession with Helmut Kohl, the Germans and the Second World War is a serious fault line. I do not wish to distract him mid-frenzy, but for the sake of accuracy someone should point out to him that a single monetary policy does not operate within Copenhagen, as Denmark is out of the Eurozone. Perhaps they could also remind him that the single currency evolved from the single market endorsement given by Frau Thatcher (Single European Act 1986).
Michael Cashman MEP
Labour, West Midlands
Creators of the Hamas monster
Alan Halibard thinks it right for the Gazan people to be punished for voting Hamas in 2006 (letter, 7 September). However, in their manifesto for the 2006 election, Hamas made no mention of the destruction of Israel. They did refer, however, to resistance as a legitimate right of the Palestinian people to occupation of their territory.
If Mr Halibard does not like this, he must call on his government to end collective punishment (100 Gazans were killed for every one Israeli in the fighting of last December/January, for example); to rebuild their "security" wall on the Israeli side of the border, and to get out of the occupied territories. I abhor religious fundamentalism, but it is in large measure a monster of Israel's own creation.
Fall of the wall
I wonder how many socialists are celebrating the anniversary of the Berlin Wall's collapse. I clearly remember many of my socialist workmates celebrating the successes of East German athletes at the Olympics in the Seventies and Eighties. They gloated that it proved the superiority of the East over western society, although we now know that many of those athletes were aided by drugs. Will they now admit that they were wrong?
The newspapers are falling over themselves to tell us how the fall of the Berlin Wall was the end of history. When the Berlin Wall came down and the Stalinist states collapsed, capitalism declared itself victorious. The collapse of Stalinism was used as a global ideological offensive against socialism, which was unjustly equated with that dictatorial, bureaucratic system, to drive through brutal, neo-liberal capitalist policies. The whole reason that New Labour is seen as a betrayal is because they have accepted the free market and haven't protected workers against the powerful multinationals.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has written an impassioned piece (9 November): "If only I could explain where this violence comes from". She is one of precious few honest Muslim who express the paradox and confusion of holding within themselves both respect for western values and adherence to the Muslim faith. She eloquently expresses the agony of trying to hold two mutually incompatible ways of thinking inside one mind.
Turn to the sun
If the Government sincerely wishes to improve the environment it would do well to consider creating financial packages to facilitate solar panels on domestic roofs, thus not merely generating pollution-free and renewable energy but giving banks the opportunity to kick-start manufacturing industry. It would also produce a more healthy long-term investment than building nuclear power stations, and one that will produce measurable benefits very quickly.
Skewen, West Glamorgan
We are much exercised by the pay of two groups of people, bankers and politicians. One group has to be paid as much as possible "in order to attract the best people". The other has to be paid as little as we can get away with "so that they know how the rest of us live". This strategy doesn't seem to be working. Maybe we should try it the other way round, just for a while of course.
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