As a school which specialises in the care and education of boys who require additional support for learning, we were deeply disappointed by the comments from Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud that some disabled people are “not worth” the minimum wage.
As a school we undertake work placement programmes, working with local companies and have more recently established our own programmes to give young people experience of the world of work. The rewards of getting these young people, many of whom boast excellent skills, into work are well worth it, with higher loyalty and retention rates, as well as ensuring that the resultant cost to society of having these young people out of work is avoided.
On top of this there are various recruitment incentives on offer from the Scottish Government, such as the Employer Recruitment Incentive (ERI), in order to help employers provide training and skills development opportunities for those in this group.
This and other packages of support available to employers and young people with additional support needs (ASN) should be made more widely known, as well as a greater effort made to support employers to personalise and design jobs for young people in this category and provide appropriate training. We would urge Scotland’s employers to disregard the comments by Lord Freud and give our most vulnerable young people the support they deserve.
Director, Falkland House School, Falkland, Fife
Lord Freud should not resign over his comments on reducing wages for unemployed disabled people: he should be summarily dismissed. Such attitudes are a throwback to times when disabled people were looked down upon. These views should be treated with contempt, in the same way people like him treat disabled people.
Bearing in mind that the Tories voted against the minimum wage when Labour introduced it, you may see why he holds such views.
Charles Dickens says: ‘Don’t vote Ukip’
In his report on the local context of the Rochester and Strood by-election (15 October), Oliver Wright highlights the extent to which the constituency is “a place steeped in island history and a particular type of Englishness”, citing Chatham’s links with Francis Drake and Horatio Nelson. However, for many visitors to the constituency the overwhelming impression is the very good living it earns from its associations with Charles Dickens.
Tourists are lured to Rochester by the plaques giving details of how Dickens incorporated various buildings into his novels. The author’s life and work may be explored in the city’s Dickens Discovery Rooms. Visitors can follow in the footsteps of Dickens on a walking trail. Rochester also hosts an annual Dickens Festival and a Dickens Christmas Market, while Chatham offers the experience of Dickens World, complete with the sounds and smells of Dickensian England.
One of the hallmarks of Dickens is, of course, his humanity. As Fraser’s Magazine put it in its obituary of the writer: “He ... regarded the Sermon on the Mount as good teaching ... and quarrelled with nothing but intolerance.” In other words, the values that Dickens’s works embody are essentially the antithesis of what makes intolerant, xenophobic Ukip tick.
One cannot therefore convincingly profess to admire Dickens, bending over backwards to celebrate him at every opportunity, and at the same time choose to give Ukip one’s vote. If the voters of ostensibly Dickens-loving Rochester and Strood choose to elect Ukip’s Mark Reckless (whose surname would not have been out of place in a Dickens novel), the constituency risks being stigmatised for the hypocrisy and humbug Dickens so detested.
It is now some time since The Independent began to give a weekly column to Nigel Farage. In this time Ukip’s profile has continued to rise, to the extent that there are questions about the amount of coverage given in the media to this one party, which to date has one MP.
With a general election approaching, it is surely time that this one party leader is no longer given a large regular space within your paper – a space not given to the other parties.
What began as perhaps a laudable attempt to redress an unfair political balance now appears to go against the impartial ethos of The Independent.
The Lost magic of Dad’s Army
I was surprised to read that a film is to be made of the television series Dad’s Army (9 October). The programme was a huge success for many reasons, but mainly the chemistry of the team of actors who played the Home Guard of Walmington-on-Sea. The entertainment business is littered with the losses of producers thinking they could recreate earlier triumphs.
The director of 1937’s Lost Horizon, Frank Capra, was asked if he planned to make a sequel in which the valley of Shangri-La is revealed to the world. Capra replied: “Where will I find another Ronald Colman?”
How trade deal could hit the NHS
How many Independent readers, I wonder, are reassured by Jeremy Hunt’s answers to readers’ queries on the NHS (11 October)? I would draw attention to one particularly weasel-worded answer.
On TTIP he writes: “It is totally untrue that TTIP can compel national governments to somehow privatise public services”. Has anyone suggested it could? He is evading the key issue, of health trusts which have already sought to privatise some services, and might wish to bring those services back into the public domain. It’s then that the private companies will seek to sue for loss of income. That is the worry.
Unpaid intern work is on the way out
Natasha Daniels’ time as an unpaid public relations intern (report, 16 October) highlights a significant problem.
The PR industry is being dragged from a trade into a highly skilled, well-paid profession. It is trying to stamp out the invidious practice of using unpaid workers – and more than 100 agencies have publicly committed never to hire unpaid interns.
As a visiting lecturer in public relations, I urge students not to go and work for those companies who want unwaged staff. If an agency cannot afford to pay, it is probably unable to give the quality of experience that young people will value putting on their CVs.
Associate Director, The Whitehouse Consultancy
Let Ched Evans go back to work
Judy Finnigan and Grace Dent (15 October) are commenting on the Ched Evans rape case because an online petition is circulating that states that after serving his sentence he should not be allowed to work as a professional footballer.
If the organisers believe that rape is not treated seriously enough they should campaign for longer prison sentences. What they should not do is seek to impose extra punishments that have not been sanctioned by Parliament or imposed by the court.
When Evans has served his sentence he should be allowed to rebuild his life, like any other ex-offender. There is a fine line between justice and vengeance.
Some votes are more equal than others
Sarah Dale (letter, 14 October) entirely misses the point. The fact that my vote (Green, if you must know) is part of the “historical” record is of scant comfort if my views are nowhere represented (I suppose I could move to Brighton).
If she is in any doubt about the “fairness” of the system, consider that in 2010 Labour received 8,606,517 votes and gained 258 seats, whereas the Lib Dems received 6,836,248 votes and got 57 seats. The Green party got 285,616 votes and only one seat.
In what parallel universe is it fair that it takes 33,000 votes to return one Labour MP, 120,000 for a Lib Dem and 285,000 for a Green?
Release the marbles from northern gloom
I really must take issue with Natalie Haynes’s comment that the British Museum houses the Parthenon Marbles in a “spectacular gallery” (15 October). If she wants to see how the marbles should be displayed she needs to visit the genuinely spectacular Acropolis Museum,
Not only is the procession arranged coherently, unlike in the BM where it is inside out, but the marbles are bathed in light and set against a backdrop of the Parthenon itself. So different from the northern gloom of the Duveen Gallery.