Gazette letters: Child exploitation, Diane Abbott and leisure services

Kerridge Court cam under the spotlight in a Gazette investigation. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Kerridge Court cam under the spotlight in a Gazette investigation. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

Your series of articles on County Lines shone a light on one of the most challenging issues faced by the council, the police and our partners, writes Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, deputy mayor, Hackney Council.

Conditions that lead to a child being exploited in this way are deep rooted and incredibly complex, and certainly not something any single agency can tackle alone. Protecting vulnerable young people is one of the most important things we do as a council, and this particular issue is at the heart of two major projects we’re currently running.

Our Contextual Safeguarding programme is a revolutionary approach, funded by the Department for Education’s Innovation Fund and being delivered in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire. It acknowledges that, as they become older, children and young people are more likely to be influenced by – or at risk from – factors outside the home.

We were also successful in bidding for funding from the Home Office’s Trusted Relationships Fund, which was set up to help social workers, youth workers, police, health professionals and others form close, protective relationships with children and young people at risk of sexual and criminal exploitation, county lines, gang crime or relationship abuse. We’re using that money to fund a detached youth work and mental health team to work with the borough’s most vulnerable and hard to reach young people. We’re supporting them to access specialist mental health support, targeted youth work and positive activities to help divert them away from being drawn into crime.

The council, and partners, work tirelessly to tackle the exploitation of young people, and I’d encourage anyone who has concerns or wants advice about this sort of abuse to seek help via our Children and Families services.

Hackney Stand Up to Racism stands in solidarity with Diane Abbott following her recent disgraceful treatment on the BBC’s Question Time programme, writes Sasha Simic, on behalf of Hackney Stand Up To Racism organising committee.

We think Diane Abbott is absolutely correct to call out the sexist and racist bullying she was subjected to on Question Time broadcast on the January 10, 2019 as “the political version of the Jeremy Kyle Show”.

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The abuse and ill-disguised contempt the programme’s new chairman, Fiona Bruce, showed to Diane Abbott during transmission was bad enough.

However, it has since emerged that Question Time’s audience were subjected to a number of anti-Diane Abbott “jokes” by way of a “warm up” to the main event.

These “jokes” came from both Fiona Bruce and members of the production team. That is beyond contempt and is completely unacceptable on a supposedly “impartial” political programme.

More worrying is the fact that Mentorn Media – the production company which makes Question Time for the BBC – have never answered questions about far-right political bias by some employed to make the programme.

In 2016 it was revealed that their audience producer, Alison Fuller-Pedley, shared social media posts by the neo-Nazi organisations Britain First and the British Patriot Front.

In addition Alison Fuller-Pedley sought out and encouraged members of the racist EDL – the so-called English Defence League - to join the Question TiME audience when the programme was broadcast from Boston in 2016.

This has never been addressed beyond the fact that when these revelations came to light the BBC reminded Mentorn of its anti-discriminatory guidelines – policies that are clearly not worth the paper they’re written on.

We also note that politician Nigel Farage has been afforded disproportionate access to Question Time with well over 32 appearances on the show to date.

Farage’s regular trips to the Question Time studio have helped to normalise racism and xenophobia into mainstream British political discourse.

The deference Question Time affords Farage and the abuse it has levelled against the UK’s first black woman MP and shadow secretary of state speaks volumes about the institutional racism of the BBC.

Diane Abbott is forced to endure disgusting levels of racist and misogynist abuse from bigots on a daily basis. The BBC now stands exposed as one of her abusers. Solidarity with Diane Abbott.

Your lead letter (Class complaints never acted upon) about poor service at Clissold Leisure Centre raises a number of important issues, writes Pat Turnbull, Save Britannia Leisure Centre campaign.

This worsening service is one of the results of Hackney Council’s decision some years ago to hive off its leisure centres to GLL, now known as Better. This has been further exacerbated by another, largely unpublicised, decision of Hackney Council. In 2017 they decided to remove operating subsidy to Better/GLL to run the leisure facilities.

Leisure services, especially swimming pools, are expensive to run. To make them affordable to everyone, and to make sure the people who work in them have proper wages and working conditions, they need to be run as public services, funded by public money.

We are concerned at the implications for all the council’s leisure services but in particular for Britannia Leisure Centre. Britannia is to be demolished and a replacement leisure centre built on Shoreditch Park. Of course that means the loss of a large part of the precious public open space of the park.

But where Britannia now stands the council is going to build 388 luxury flats.

Hackney Council’s Future Shoreditch Plan is coming up for consultation. What is happening at Britannia serves as an alarm signal. To take part email and join the consultation list. They will then inform you when the consultation starts and how to participate.