Letters, Wednesday, June 22nd

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Is this the right sort of support?

DIAGEO’S pledge to pay for 10,000 midwives in England and Wales to be trained to offer advice on the dangers of alcohol during pregnancy sets an extremely dangerous precedent.

How can we justify the drinks industry “sponsoring” health initiatives when their products lead to more than one million hospital admissions each year, many of them here in the North East where we have the highest rate of admissions in England?

My fear is that Diageo’s pledge is intended to draw attention away from measures that will have a real impact on reducing the damage being done by alcohol misuse, both to pregnant women and others.

Training alone will not make the impact that is needed. Education must be supported by meaningful regulation on price, promotion and availability of alcohol. The Government needs to look at how we can challenge the alcohol industry, rather than allow drinks giants to have an influence on public health policy.

Although Diageo has said that funds will go towards “no strings attached” training for midwives, the organisation’s main aim is to sell products and keep shareholders happy. This is surely a contradiction in terms and a conflict of interest – and one that should be challenged before it becomes commonplace in our health service.

While we agree that it is vital to ensure parents-to-be are aware of the risks associated with drinking alcohol when pregnant, the Government needs to assess how this is done – not supported by the industry.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office

Help with debt

I AM writing from the new Christians Against Poverty debt counselling centre in Sunderland to thank the Sunderland Echo for the article about our opening. Since it was published we have had local people with bad debts calling in and finding out we can help.

We know that there are many more people in our area afraid to answer the telephone, feeling under huge strain with unmanageable debt and our advice to them is to ring now and not wait for things to get worse.

Our award-winning, in-depth service is open to everyone. For more information visit www.capuk.org or for debt help call 0800 328 0006.

Many thanks for your help.

Fred Finch

Special fund

THANK you for publishing my letter on Junev 4, praising the superb Wearside-based social care and healthcare professionals working in tandem to provide care in the community.

I witnessed them providing an excellent standard of care and compassion to my terminally ill father at his home, day and night.

However, my father had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and has since died.

On behalf of my family and myself, I wish to thank social services, the NHS, the Ryhope-based funeral director, the clergy of St Aidan’s Church, Grangetown, and staff of Sunderland Cemetery for their professionalism.

Thank you too to the management and staff of the historic, stylish and classy Waterman’s pub in the East End of Sunderland, who delivered a wake with sensitivity.

My family hails originally from this area and my father would have loved the venue and the large, nostalgic photographs of old Sunderland dotted around its walls.

We have set up the Stanley Crosby Breath of Life Tribute Fund with the British Lung Foundation (http://www.lunguk.org). All monies received will go towards vital research into lung disease.

While it is too late to help my father, donations received will help others.

Kim Crosby, St George’s Square, London

Cuts hit disabled

POLITICIANS in Westminster are now debating the fate of 80,000 disabled people as they decide whether to grant Government the power to remove the Personal Independence Payment mobility component, which will be replacing Disability Living Allowance, from people living in residential care.

This is a benefit that helps people meet extra mobility costs like an adapted car or accessible taxis.

The Government hopes this will save £160million out of the £81billion spending cuts it plans to make by 2014/15. However, while the savings may be small in relation to the overall cuts, the impact on individuals will be devastating. Removing this benefit will leave disabled people living in residential care isolated, unable to afford to leave their homes and denied the independence most people take for granted. MPs cannot allow this to happen.

Last month saw the biggest UK gathering ever by disabled people and their family and friends as around 5,000 people protested against the cuts as part of The Hardest Hit campaign.

We are once again calling on MPs to remember disabled people, who are being affected by spending cuts in many ways, as they decide the fate of 80,000 people living in residential care.

Dawn March, Percy Terrace, Sunderland

Post-gig misery

HAVING had a great night at the Kings of Leon gig on Friday, I was massively disappointed and more than a little bemused by the arrangements Nexus provided to get their passengers home safely, or should I say, passengers who live in the Millfield, Pallion, and South Hylton areas of the city!

As we live in the Pallion area, there was already quite a queue for a Metro, which I was surprised at, given that we have used the Metro regularly after home games as well as the Pink concert last year. Nexus staff were actually barring people from entering the platform.

When one Metro headed south virtually empty at 11.40pm I queried this with one of the Nexus staff and was advised that as the majority of people would simply get off at Sunderland and travel in the opposite direction, they were only allowing 50 passengers at a time to access the already mimimal number of trains travelling south (the service after 11.40pm was not stopping). How on earth is this deemed the best way to clear the crowds?

Having well in excess of 200 people already in the queue in front of us, and at least another 400 behind, and growing by the minute) people needing to utilise the South Hylton service were effectively left stranded by Nexus.

A walk into the city centre, and we quickly established that in excess of 50,000 people, all wanting to get home at the same time we would also be in for a very long wait for a taxi, and a lot of taxi companies weren’t allowing drivers into the city centre to pick up passengers anyway.

If Nexus had advised that they were operating a reduced service to South Hylton I would have made alternative travel arrangements. As an arthritis sufferer I am appalled by Nexus and their complete disregard for passengers who have the audactiy to live south of the River Wear. I would be delighted to hear from Nexus why this ridiculous logic was put into practice.

Sheila Webster

Unfair policy

I WOULD like to thank John Brazier from Disability North for representing me at the tribunal for my incapacity benefit, which was reinstated.

I would like to bring to attention, though, which I feel is very unfairly unjust, that when I get my incapacity benefit backdated the council will ask for most of my backdated benefit back as non-payment of council tax even though my council tax has been paid by income support while waiting for my tribunal hearing.

I have waited from October 2010 to mid-July 2011 for the tribunal hearing.

This will not just happen to me, it will also happen to other people who have had their incapacity benefit reinstated and also backdated.

I think this is very unfair for the people who have been awarded back their incapacity benefit, which was wrongly taken off them.

We didn’t ask the previous Labour Government and then the Coalition Government (which continued where Labour had started their savage attack on disabled people) to take the disabled off the benefits.

I would therefore ask for new legislation to be brought in by the Coalition Government to the effect that people who are awarded backdated benefits are exempt from any council trying to claw it back for non-payment of council tax when it has been already paid by the Government through their Works and Pension department.

Name and address supplied