Save training, Covid vaccinations, GMB Union, antisemitism and neonatal care

File photo dated 06/08/13 of a person using a laptop. Consumers reported more than £78 million of lo

Government is planning to scrap the Union Learning Fund - Credit: PA

Campaign to save training fund before it is scrapped

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw, general secretary, writes: 

Let’s stop the government scrapping the Union Learning Fund in England at the end of March.

This unique scheme provides lifelong learning in many local workplaces, bringing together employers, education providers and trade unions to give workers a second chance at learning by contributing time, money and resources.

Learning and reskilling will be core to helping us recover from the impact of Covid-19 and dealing with the changing world of work because of automation.

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While we welcome the government’s plans to invest £2.5 billion through the National Skills Fund, we are concerned about how effective that investment will be and who it will reach.

In our experience, union learning is uniquely able to engage and support thousands of disadvantaged learners.

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Most had few, if any, qualifications and would never have considered attending a college or signing up for an online course, if it were not for the support and encouragement of Union Learning reps in the workplace.

Union Learn reaches the workers other schemes do not.

The cost of gaining new skills shouldn’t be out of reach for low-paid key workers. We are asking the chancellor to recognise the value of Union Learning and provide the necessary £12 million in the budget on March 3.

  • I ask readers to support the campaign by signing the online TUC petition at:

Covid jab

Geoff Twist, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Stoke Newington, writes:

Thank you for printing my recent letter about the Covid vaccination.

Much to my surprise, two days after it appeared, an invitation to book an appointment arrived and did not need internet access.

The power of the press, but oddly, addressed in a way only known to my bank.

So, it would appear that being registered with a doctor is not needed for an appointment.

I would say though, that shortly before publication, ministers had stated (according to daily papers) that if not contacted when appropriate, one should ring 111.

‘Deplorable tactic’

Richard Pole, Glyn Road, Hackney, writes: 

As a long-standing GMB union member and activist, I write to congratulate both the Hackney Gazette for printing and George Binette for writing the excellent View From The Street – “staff on strike need support” – in last week’s edition in respect of the current gas workers industrial dispute. 

To worsen loyal employees’ terms and conditions using fire and rehire is a deplorable tactic in any situation. To do so during the current Covid pandemic in winter is beyond belief. 

Remember these workers have been putting themselves at risk on a daily basis to ensure many of us, including those elderly and vulnerable, do not have to freeze.

If the current talks do not find a solution and the strikes resume, I would urge every reader to offer whatever support they can.

This is no village

Charles Webber, Dalston, full address supplied, writes:

I’m all for sensible, considered traffic reduction schemes but setting them up when cars and drivers are confined to barracks just seems bonkers. 

Main roads are clogged already, heavens alone knows how they will cope when everyone leaves hibernation.

Thinking inside the box, they could maybe impose a five or 10mph limit, one-way system on the roads they have closed but diverting everything to the few main through roads is insane.

Play the tape forward clipboard people, this isn’t going to end well; it’s London, not some sleepy Cotswold village. 

Antisemitic vandalism

Mare Street:Picture Ken Mears

Antisemitic stickers were spotted on the cash points at the HSBC in Mare Street - Credit: Ken Mears

Martin Sugarman, Hackney resident and retired teacher, full address supplied, wrote to HSBC:

I was horrified to see anti-Israel apartheid stickers on the four cash machines outside your Mare Street, Hackney Bank branch, very close to the Hackney Town Hall.

They looked as though they had been there for some time as they were partly faded.

I removed them with some difficulty and reported it to a member of your branch staff, who said he had not noticed them and apologised.

Whatever anyone’s personal views, political stickers of this kind are offensive to many people and cause upset, anger and social discohesion, things I am sure HSBC does not condone.

Jewish people and many millions of friends of Jewish people who are not themselves Jewish, see these kinds of stickers also as simply antisemitic, and breach the IHRA definition of antisemitism which so many organisations and groups around the world have adopted and continue to adopt and support.

In addition, the stickers are strictly illegal as they deface your own branches and other public spaces – such as telephone poles, bus stops, etc – which are the property of other people or publicly-owned organisations.

We will remain vigilant and will always report and remove all the offensive material we find.

Vaccination invite 

Roz Rosenblatt, London head, Diabetes UK, writes: 

Diabetes UK is urging people with diabetes to take up the coronavirus vaccine when offered it.

People with diabetes have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they develop coronavirus.

If you have diabetes, the best way to protect yourself against coronavirus is to avoid contact with the virus and get vaccinated.

With all adults with diabetes now being offered the vaccine, it’s incredibly important to take up your invitation – to help keep yourself, your family and your community safe.

  • The vaccines being offered are safe and will save lives, but if you have any concerns or would like more information, call Diabetes UK’s Helpline on 0345 123 2399 or visit

Sick babies

Caroline Lee-Davey, chief executive, Bliss, writes: 

When Bliss was founded in 1979 by a group of parents in London, our objective as a charity was set out “to support the life of babies in distress at birth”, and since our foundation, we have always sought to deliver this for all babies admitted to neonatal care, whether they were born prematurely or at full term.

Over the past 41 years, our reach has grown and we now work with many neonatal units in London and across the UK.

Having a baby in neonatal care can be incredibly distressing for families and Bliss offers emotional and practical support to empower families and equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to provide the best possible care to their baby, for however long they live and for however long their stay in neonatal care.

One in seven babies is born needing neonatal care in the UK, equating to 100,000 babies every year, but despite a common perception that neonatal care is only for babies born premature, more than 60 per cent of babies admitted to neonatal care are born at full term (at 37 weeks or more).

Our research shows these parents often feel that their experience on the neonatal unit differs to the experiences of families with premature babies.

Many feel out of place, or that they don’t “belong” on the unit, as they are often the only family with a full term baby there at the time.

Some of those babies may only spend a few days on a unit, some much longer, but they all need the same specialist care as premature babies, and their parents’ practical and emotional needs should be treated with the same care and respect.

That is why we have launched Hidden Neonatal Journeys, our new campaign to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the parents of full-term but sick babies.

If you have had a neonatal experience with your full-term baby and been supported by Bliss, we would love to hear from you.

Sharing stories like yours helps Bliss to reach more parents in your local area, shows them that they are not alone, and also means we can continually improve the care provided to families.

Only with your support can Bliss continue to work to ensure every bay gets the best start in life for generations to come.

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