Covid, school meals, reunite friends, over 70's hearing loss

Combined schools trip to Russia in August 1963.A group picturetaken on board the Soviet cruise shi

John Tavner (far right, front row) on a combined schools trip to Russia in August 1963. John is hoping to be reunited with some of his travelling companions - Credit: John Tavner (supplied)

Faith that medical science can fight this terrible virus

Cllr Sade Etti and Cllr Ian Rathbone, on behalf of Hackney Faith Forum, write:

The announcement of a third national lockdown comes at an extremely serious time for our country with the Hackney rate of transmission of the virus being very high.

These statistics are our family members, friends and neighbours so we are concerned to ensure whatever that can be done – is done.

And that means taking advantage of anti-Covid vaccines like Pfizer and AstraZeneca as soon as possible. As people of faith we believe in what doctors and medical science can provide to keep us healthy.


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We also want to do everything we can to support our NHS workers and services and reduce pressure on them.

Hackney faith leaders forum met last week and discussed the concerns and are agreed that we will be an example to the rest of our communities and make sure we are vaccinated as soon as we are asked. 

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We want to allay any fears or anxieties that people may have about the vaccines.

Faith leaders like Ivor Millman, chair of the local Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) are willing to be vaccinated when invited.

Hackney mayor Philip Glanville in a recent message to all residents referred to the Hackney community spirit he saw last year.

He said: ‘’I know that again, we will rise to the challenge, get through these final dark months, and create the time and space to deliver the new vaccines and on that promise of a more hopeful 2021 we all so badly want to see.”

We have also agreed not to meet together in person in places of worship until is safe to do so, so that we better protect each other and prevent the chance of transmission of the virus. 
We will continue to worship together safely online as we have done in the past during the pandemic.

We know that despite all the restrictions, we have found new ways to connect and rise to the challenges we face. Our diversity is our strength, and together we will beat this pandemic.
If you have further concerns do not hesitate to contact your faith leaders and professionals.

Profit over hunger

Sasha Simic, Stoke Newington, full address supplied, writes: 

Marcus Rashford had to campaign to get the government to provide free school meals for the poorest children in the school holidays. 

The government gave into public pressure but true to their free-market dogma which insists “private is best” they outsourced the provision of the meals to several private companies including Chartwells, a subsidiary of the Compass Group.

What they have provided is a scandal. 

They have thrown woefully inadequate scraps of food - cheese, beans and portions of fruit and veg cut in half – at needy children.

The cost of the food in the boxes barely comes to over £5 and is nowhere near the £30 families are entitled to. The difference is kept by Chartwells.

The Compass Group made an operating profit of £561 million last year. 

Their annual report for 2020 boasts: “The food services market remains very attractive. 

“We estimate it is around £220 billion….this means there is significant structural growth opportunity from first time outsourcing…”

What sort of people look at hungry children and see a way of enriching themselves? 

What sort of human beings profiteer from poverty and hunger?
And every time it is assumed that the Tories have sunk as low as it is humanly possible to go, they sink even further into the gutter.  
Hoping to reunite

John Tavner, Dedham, Colchester, writes:

I’m hoping to get back in touch with a group of people from Hackney whom I got to know in the course of a combined schools trip to Russia in August 1963. This picture (above) was taken on board the Soviet cruise ship that brought us back to Tilbury from Leningrad (now St Petersburg). 

It was organised by a Mr Sherborne (don’t know where he was from) and I was one of a small handful of Scots from schools in Edinburgh and the young people I got to know from Hackney were Carol Chrisford, Christine Field, Jean Heath and Victor Merrington.

Christine (“Chris”) Field is on the extreme left, Carole Chrisford is third left (I think), Jean Heath is in the front row, next to the blonde girl in the pale-blue suit, Victor (‘Vic’) Merrington is in the back row, far right, and John Tavner (that’s me!) is in the front row, far right.

I would be so interested to hear from one or all of them.

This surge

Caroline Russell, London-wide Assembly member, Green Party, writes:

It is extremely worrying that we are facing a surge in coronavirus cases and a more infectious variant of the virus that has our city under siege. 

Getting through this new lockdown period will be tough, and it is more important than ever that we have room to make our essential journeys to local shops for food, medicine, or to support our communities, safely. I wrote to the mayor on December 23 asking him to expand his Streetspace programme. It’s vital that he responds. 

Streetspace gave us a glimpse of a more inclusive city, where there was space for children, older and disabled people to safely walk and cycle, and there were fewer cars and vans pumping out pollution across our city.  

We need more of this to make it easier for Londoners to protect one another by maintaining safe social distancing as we queue for food shops or head to the park during the difficult months ahead. The mayor must expand his Streetspace programme.

Universal credit

Jonathan Reynolds MP, Labour’s shadow secretary of State for Work and Pensions, writes:

The UK is facing the worst recession of any major economy because of the government’s incompetence and indecision.

Now the chancellor expects families in London to foot the bill - taking £1,000 a year from 759,961 families, damaging our recovery and pulling children into poverty.

The government must put families first during this crisis and give them the support they need.

Volunteers wanted

Pippa Bark-Williams, associate professor, Institute of Health Informatics, UCL, writes:

I am writing to draw your attention to a study looking at the needs of older people with hearing impairment during lockdown and to request volunteers aged 70 and over.  

For some older people who have been advised to self-isolate for long periods of time during the Covid-19 pandemic, video calling has been a lifeline, helping to keep in touch and reduce isolation and loneliness. However, technology is far from ideal and for those with difficulties with hearing, difficulties such as sound distortion, time lags and lip reading can create barriers. We are particularly interested in finding out what does and does not help. 

We’ve launched a national survey at UCL (University College London) and we’d love you to take part, whether you use video calls frequently or hardly at all and whether you love them or loathe them (or something in between). 

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