Gazette letters: Sobell Sports Centre, inspiring Holocaust memorial and Windsor Street

The Sobell Centre.

The Sobell Centre. - Credit: Archant

Islington Green Party felt and still feels that the council was wrong to convert half the Sobell Centre’s magnificent sports hall into a trampoline park, writes Andrew Myer, Islington Green Party.

Certainly they should have consulted the community first. And now that the facility is open, we believe the council is duty-bound to demonstrate whether or not its goals are actually achieved.

Of course it is important to encourage more young people to be more active, which the council claims as the main aim of the venture. However our worry is that this is more about making money than benefiting local people’s health. The prices which have been announced will certainly be out of reach for many, with anyone over 16 paying £10.50 to use the park at peak times or a family with two young children nearly £40. So while it is doubtless good if there are special concession rates for schools, youth groups, etc, as promised, the council owes it to the footballers, climbers, badminton players and genuine trampolinists it has displaced from the Sobell to now be upfront and transparent about how many people use the new facility and how much money it makes.

Is this genuinely getting a significant number of Islingtonians to enjoy more exercise or is it just a cash cow?

“Remembering the Holocaust”, a meeting organised by Stand up to Racism in Islington town hall on January 25, was well attended and very inspiring, writes Tricia Clarke, Islington, full address supplied.

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It was chaired by Cllr Claudia Webbe, who introduced an informative short film – Two Survivors – about two Holocaust survivors, Leon Greenman and Esther Brunstein, who committed their lives to speaking about what they had experienced at the hands of the Nazis in Auschwitz.

The film maker Red Saunders was present and was applauded at the end of the film.

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Claudia said that the Holocaust is one of the greatest crimes in history. Yet, despite its unspeakable horrors, we are seeing the rise of antisemitism, Islamophobia, fascism and racism. She made a plea for unity as we work together to end all forms of racism and hatred in our society.

The speakers included David Rosenberg, who spoke about his recent trip to Auschwitz with the Jewish Socialists group. Auschwitz was the most notorious of the Nazi death camps and David reflected on the collision of the past and an increasingly racist present.

Two young Muslim activists also spoke: Naima Omar, from Stand up to Racism, and Fatima Hersi spoke passionately about the need for schools to teach about the dangers of hatred, and the need for people to speak out and take action to end racism. They also spoke about the Stand Up To Racism march on March 17, 2018, and encouraged everyone to attend.

After many heartfelt contributions from the floor, Cllr Webbe summed up the meeting by saying that the MP for Islington and the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn brought the hope of peace and understanding in a world troubled by racist leaders with racist policies.

I would very much like to respond to two recent letters in your newspaper, writes Gill Weston, Islington, full address supplied.

Mrs Palmer and Mr and Mrs Tickell may support large-scale homes for adults with learning disabilities, such as Islington Council’s proposed residence on Windsor Street, but their personal views are out of kilter with NHS England, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE), and Learning Disability England (LDE).

These esteemed organisations favour small residences for fewer than six people which are pepper-potted throughout the community. They advocate “ordinary houses” in “ordinary streets” to ensure better integration and better outcomes for these individuals, and not institutional-models that “contain” large numbers of residents and are mainly run for the benefit of staff and social service budgets.

I strongly recommend that these parents of vulnerable adults find out about the excellent work of Professor Beadle-Brown and her colleagues at the Tizard Centre in Kent, who explain that research conducted over the last 50 years has found that living in small ordinary houses distributed through out the community, and not clustered together on one site or even in the same street, leads to better outcomes for people with these disabilities - in terms of quality of life, social inclusion, social relationships and acceptance by society.

The average household size is around 2.4 people, so why should adults with learning disabilities be forced to live with many others? In some countries, such as Norway and Ireland, residences for four or more adults with learning disabilities are not permitted. Large settings, such as the one the council is proposing to build at Windsor Street, do not achieve these same outcomes; they don’t even achieve economies of scale. Parents should not be forced to choose between no provision and institutional-style developments: they should be demanding ordinary homes combined with proper person-centered care.

Learning Disability England has condemned Windsor Street as an “institution through the back door” that is “outdated and belongs in the past”. But this is not the only problem with Windsor Street so it is even more astonishing that these parents/members of Islington’s Learning Disability Partnership, and trustees of Healthwatch Camden support this scheme. It is poorly designed and falls below the standards that Islington Council demand for ordinary dwellings. This is discriminatory against adults with learning disabilities. Surely it is time that we ditch out-dated models and allow these people to live in the same houses and on the same streets as your readers and I do, and provide them with the person-centred care that they need when they need it?

Only this way will we really optimise their independence and their wellbeing, and tackle the stigma that these vulnerable people sometimes, unfortunately, still experience.

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