Letters: Vulnerable people

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Sir: The Royal College of Psychiatrists is appalled to hear of the extent of the human rights abuses which have been uncovered in Cornwall in NHS services (report, 5 July). It seems that part of the problem in Cornwall was that the Trust had not given services for people with learning disabilities the priority they deserve due to failures in both the commissioning of these services and their management.

The College has been drawing attention to the dangers of institutional care for vulnerable people with learning disabilities for many many years (Hubert, J & Hollins, S, "Men with severe learning disabilities and challenging behaviour in long-stay hospital care", British Journal of Psychiatry; Owen, K, "Going Home? A study of women with severe learning disabilities moving out of a locked ward", The Judith Trust).

Care staff are often poorly trained and poorly remunerated. The government White Paper Valuing People (2001) has led to improvements in some services but much remains to be done. We consider that unless the very low priority afforded to this client group by all government departments is changed radically there is little likelihood of significant improvement occurring in the safety and quality of care and support provided to people with learning disabilities.

The College believes that all vulnerable adults have the right to live their lives free from abuse of any description. Despite the awareness that has been raised by the College with regard to vulnerable adult abuse, adult protection has yet to be given the same priority as that of child protection. Similar abuse may not be confined to NHS institutional care only but may be happening in other sectors as well and the College would welcome checks to be carried out on all services, irrespective of the nature of the organisation providing it. The College also believes that a strict monitoring system for dealing with complaints should be in place in every organisation and lessons learnt from any serious adverse events should be disseminated throughout.

Sufficient resources should be allocated for provision of care for adults with learning disability and for staff training and supervision.



Blair's call to fight Muslim extremism

Sir: The Prime Minister asks the Muslim community to stand up and say to the extremists that not only is the use of violence wrong but the ideology behind it is wrong. More than a million Britons marched against the Iraq war in February 2003, condemning both the violence of the invasion and the highly suspect reasons for it. I only hope Muslim extremists pay more attention to their peers than Mr Blair does.



Sir: Tony Blair's attack upon the moderate Muslim community and his remark that in defeating extremism "we have got to address the completely false sense of grievance against the west" is utterly unacceptable.

In my own city, countless initiatives to defeat extremist ideas were undertaken over the last year, but any success from these was blown to pieces by the authorities' own ineptitude in the Forest Gate disaster. Why should "moderate Muslims" be the ones to root out extremism when Blair and his stooges are creating it in the first place?

In making a scapegoat of the Muslim community and abdicating his own responsibility in creating the threat, Blair has done his country a great disservice.



Sir: The Prime Minister is wholly right to assert that British foreign policy must not be captive to the views of a vocal section of one of the UK's minority communities, even if on certain issues those views are more widely shared.

Widespread opposition to the war in Iraq does not mean widespread acceptance of a simplistic view of Muslim suffering at the hands of the West. Indeed, the narrow perception of Muslims as victims obscures the truth and is an obstacle to meaningful progress in tackling the roots of terrorism. Muslims are as much the perpetrators of violence as they are its victims, as Christian and Jewish communities around the world will attest; more Muslim lives are lost at the hands of other Muslims than of any other faith or non-faith group; and the West has on numerous occasions come to the aid of Muslims in many different ways and often at great cost.



Sir: After nine years as PM Blair can still only get it half-right on fighting al-Qaida.

"You've got to defeat the ideas, and the completely false sense of grievance against the West," Mr Blair told MPs. "You can't defeat the ideology of extremist Islam by saying we half agree with your grievances but you're wrong to deal with it that way."

We certainly need to defeat the idea that killing people indiscriminately can ever be justified by any cause - and you certainly can't counter ideas with bombs or bullets. How can we can defeat al-Qaida's call for violence while denying the obvious - that Blair and his US and Israeli allies use methods, such as air strikes, blanket sanctions and "targeted killings" - that kill just as indiscriminately as suicide bombings and create new terrorists? The PM is deceiving himself.



Sir: To say that Muslims who criticise the West and feel that Western policies are anti-Muslim should be told they are wrong is utterly ignorant. The occupation of Palestine is a terrible crime against humanity and this crime is not a figment of Muslim imagination. Over 100,000 Iraq Muslim civilians have been slaughtered in Iraq. Tony Blair is continuing to blame the victims.



Sir: Tony Blair has imperilled this country by seeking to be the best buddy of warmongers in the US. Now he tells us that Muslims aren't doing enough to help prevent some of them hating the western world. It's breathtaking in its audacity.



Obsession with the 'right' to procreate

Sir: Mary Dejevsky's commentary on the current obsession with women's "right" to have children (4 July) was timely and heartening.

The media saturation of glossy, fertile women apparently fulfilled by their reproductive success has led to an assumption that biology is not merely destiny, but a goal to be achieved at all costs. That pregnancy and childbirth are the crowning glory of human existence is relentlessly affirmed by a public iconography of pregnant women, and interminable articles on the trials and tribulations of procreation - assisted or otherwise.

The expense of IVF and other fertility treatment is prohibitive. It is possible to live a healthy, happy, productive life without having children. Being childfree is not an illness. Procreation is not a right, just as being six foot four is not a right - nor is it a duty. It is more realistic to see it as an option that those who can afford can indulge in.

Conflating the rhetoric of rights with the emotive concepts of childbearing is a dangerous and unhappy tendency. Assessing women primarily by their reproductive choices comes close to condemning those of us who choose not to have children (or who cannot). We should value women for what they achieve in their communities, at work, and as individuals, rather than the contents of their wombs alone.



The green argument for bottled water

Sir: It is not "environmental insanity" to drink bottled water, as claimed in your article on 29 June. It is environmental insanity not to have an effective waste recovery, re-use and recycling policy in the UK.

Your leader urged the public to "drink tap water. We promise it won't make you ill". Really? The Chief Inspector of Drinking Water points out a number of areas where it might just do that - lead piping still in the distribution system, cases of cryptosporidiosis linked to the mains supply.

What would happen if "bottled water" were banned? Would people turn to tap water? No, consumers would simply revert to other soft drinks, so there would be no significant reduction in food miles, no fewer bottles going to landfill or less energy consumption. Tap water and bottled water have different functions and are regarded by consumers as complementary products, not competitors.

Some 75 per cent of the bottled water consumed in the UK is produced right here in rural areas of England, Wales and Scotland. Unlike tap water, at Highland Spring we do not need to disinfect our water, or use additives to protect it from lead pipes. We add nothing, except for CO2 to make it sparkle. Most bottled waters sold in the UK are environmental products, naturally purified and harvested on a sustainable basis; thus ensuring future employment in a remote rural area.

We know the water utilities are working hard to address their leakage problems. The Chief Inspector's annual report also pointed out the priorities for further improving tap water quality. It does not help either of our industries to have misguided, even if well-meaning, enthusiasts try to promote a war between tap water and bottled water through the pages of The Independent.



Anger at 'subsidy junkies' jibe

Sir: I write with anger and dismay regarding Bruce Anderson's opinion piece of 3 July. While I agree with his basic argument that Scottish MPs should not be permitted to vote on policy that affects only England, he lost me when he stooped to that old Tory jibe: the Scots are "subsidy junkies" who "would not vote to separate themselves from England's cheque book".

Now these claims are by no means new, but to find them expressed in The Independent is very disheartening. They support a racist and clichéd view of Scottish society that I thought had been abandoned many years ago.

Throughout history, Scots have shown that in times of economic uncertainty or instability that they are more than willing to leave their homeland and seek better fortune elsewhere. We are not and never have been "subsidy junkies". To say that the Scottish nation is reliant upon this mythical English cheque book is ridiculous. Any money that is funnelled toward Scotland from the central government coffers is, it can be argued, rightly ours. North Sea oil anyone?



Sir: Congratulations to fellow Scot Bruce Anderson for surpassing all previous attempts at self-loathing. This United Kingdom is riddled with political anomalies and confused loyalties; it makes it a vibrant country to live and work in.

As for football, if he actually lived in Scotland he would know that what makes Scots wince with fear is the the over-zealous and arrogant expression of skin-deep English nationalism that inevitably results from England getting close to winning anything.



Priced back on to the road

Sir: Further to Jerome O'Callaghan's "Trains from Germany" letter (1 July) I can think of another rail related reason for the proliferation of 4x4's, and that is station car park charges.

When travelling to or via London I always dump the car at a station and travel by train. The all day off-peak charge at Reading station car park has recently increased from £5 to £8. Even £5 was a little excessive, but £8?

We all have cars because we like the convenience but will dump them when making a long or awkward journey if encouraged to do so. Car park charges at most stations have now increased to the point where parking often costs more than actually buying a train ticket, so why bother?



Really stylish Citroën

Sir: The 2CV stylish? I think Sam Nona (letter, 4 July) has his Citroëns confused. Now the DS19: that I could agree with. I'm no car-lover (I prefer bicycles, though on the road) but the DS19 has real beauty of design and as much style as one could ask for.



Students of humanity

Sir: I read many newspaper and other articles such as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's (3 July) concerning bullying in schools. I have never read anything about the standard of kindness, supportiveness and general humanity such as I see shown every day amongst 210 sixth formers from various ethnic backgrounds towards each other and to me and my colleagues.



Justice in danger

Sir: The Prime Minister continues his campaign to "rebalance" the system of justice. It camouflages his true intention of making it easier to convict suspects. I believe it is time for someone to confront Mr Blair with this simple question: "Do you believe in the principle of the presumption of innocence?" If the answer is "yes", we should have nothing to fear; if it is "no", we are in real trouble; a "yes, but ..." (which is what the PM and the Home Secretary seem to be saying) is as bad as a "no".



Why crime is down

Sir: Richard Ingrams starts his article of 1 July with "The reason for the apparent decrease in crime is that people have given up reporting..." I didn't bother reading past that. The British Crime Survey shows that crime in 2004-5 was 44 per cent lower than in 1995. This survey is based on interviews with 40,000 people in England and Wales and thus rules out false trends resulting from non-reporting of crime.



Familiar novelties

Sir: My local convenience store is now selling "World Cup novelties" at half price. The only real novelty would have been England progressing beyond the quarter finals.