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Focus on those in need

WHETHER or not it is fair to allow Shane Griffiths to walk away with £64,000 from a trusting neighbour (SA 23 Jan) I will leave to M’learned friend. My take is somewhat different.

Despite his ‘deprived childhood’ he seems to me like a pretty smart guy. This is a man on social benefits, living in a local authority house, housing benefit presumably paid for by the ratepayers of Swindon, whose only work each day was deciding where next to drive his sparkling BMW, holidaying, or shopping with his ‘squeeze’ for fancy jewellery.

Can you sit for 30 minutes? Can you raise your arms above your head? Can you transfer from one chair to another? It seems likely that young Shane should be fine on all these counts. In 2013 MPs were told that 1,300 people had died after ATOS had told them they were perfectly fit to work.

My point is why is Government seemingly focusing on the frail, the clearly ill and in some cases dying, or the chronically disabled as a way of cutting the benefit bill, while Mr Griffiths and others like him seem to be far too clever for the hapless civil servants we employ to appropriately and fairly police the distribution of the taxpayer funded safety net?

Judging solely by his photograph, young Shane seems to be strong, confident, and is clearly intelligent and resourceful. I’m sure Mr Persimmon or Mr Taylor Wimpey would give him a wheelbarrow and a spade... which might make a refreshing change from his “history of deception”.

Where are ATOS (re-badged now as Maximus) hiding, when you really need them?

JOHN STOOKE, Haydon End, Swindon

Give us a ring road

ON Sunday I attended a public meeting at the Grange Drive Community Centre called by Stratton Against Road Changes. Primarily the meeting was due to the little information coming out from our council and the fact that the small amount that was released was wrong.

Most residents are concerned over the proposed changes which show little or no forethought to the White Hart Roundabout and its surroundings.

These proposed changes are as a result of 8000 new houses to be built alongside the A419. This is going to place immense traffic pressure, some 16,000 cars, on the Oxford Road and Greenbridge roundabout, not to mention most other roads in the vicinity.

Some of the thinking regarding this was unbelievable. It’s totally inadequate and liable to cause severe road chaos throughout the eastern part of Swindon.

We all know that the Greenbridge roundabout is a dismal failure. Why could the council not have installed a new Magic Roundabout - a design of proven success and known throughout the country?

There is a logical answer and a long term one that would benefit all of Swindon. Start the construction of a ring road, or periphique, as the French call it.

They built the Paris ring road a long time ago but it still works well today. Just think, transport coming from any direction doesn’t have to go through the town centre. It takes the ring road and get off at the nearest intersection to the destination.

Who benefits? We all do. It just needs a little forward thinking.

DAVID COLLINS, Blake Crescent, Swindon

Enforce parking laws

YOU recently reported that Swindon Borough Council are to remove double yellow lines in a certain area of the Parks estate in Swindon. I had to laugh when I read it. If you go around the town you’ll see loads of cars parked on double yellow lines and nothing is ever done about it. So why does the council need to remove them?

I drive a car myself. I’m sick to death of car owners parking exactly where they want, especially on double yellow lines. I’ve seen company vans do the same thing too. Why is the council issuing parking fines to this part of town when they let other areas get away with it?

In the highway code, double yellow lines mean no parking. The council should enforce this law rather than ignoring it. It would make areas a lot safer for car owners and residents alike.

ALAN WILSON, Shapwick Close, Swindon

No viable alternative

THIS latest drive to ban the use of all plastic packaging in the UK is highly laudable, but what is the alternative currently available? Are we expected to take a metal bucket around a supermarket, put loose veg at the bottom, then throw in raw meat, fish and a sliced loaf or two, topped up with milk and cream from an urn?

Something does need to be done, but will the alternative turn out to be equally toxic after a few years?

Was anyone else as surprised as I was to learn that the plastic we so diligently clean, separate and place in a recycling box is transported to China for the actual recycling? China will no longer take our plastic, and even worse they have been dumping it in the sea. Not very “green” in reality.

I automatically assumed clever people in the UK were carrying out the recycling. What a missed opportunity!

Blue Planet 2 showed us just what a threat plastic is to sea life, but is all that plastic waste from the UK? No, of course it isn’t, but the government is going to punish us with financial penalties as usual. What the government should do is tell the rest of the world the measures the UK will initiate once every other country agrees to do the same.

Now something they would have my blessing to ban is the importing into the UK of nuclear waste from the rest of the world. This toxic waste is buried in old mine shafts and will remain lethal for hundreds of thousands of years underground this small island.


Young and old in sync

WHEN I was a child and got scared of something or couldn’t sleep, my Granny and great aunt used to tell me stories. Their words magically carried me away from my fear and worry and allowed me to explore new worlds.

They are both gone now, but as they approached the end of their lives, I remember sitting by their beds telling them stories about my life, my work and memories we shared. They smiled, relaxed and seemed to forget about the pain for a while.

Here I am now, 15 years later, working in a care home with other people’s much-loved grannies and great aunts. They have been either put on the difficult path of dementia or are simply reaching the end of their life journey.

At Abbey House we offer our residents a wide range of activities. Recently we tried something different and built links with a local nursery and school, inviting the children in for activities and to spend time with us.

It proved hugely beneficial to both generations. For our residents, it triggered powerful memories of when they were younger, of raising their own children and grandchildren.

It was fascinating to see how people with impaired communication skills suddenly felt motivated and willing to speak to children, to answer their questions, to make a sound. Dementia can manifest itself with challenging behaviours, withdrawal or awkwardness in social interactions. In the presence of children it all seems to subside, mood uplifts and alertness resurfaces. No one is indifferent when children are around.

As for the children – they simply do not see limitations in people in the way adults do, and remained their usual playful selves, engaging, laughing, bouncing around and looking for the physical contact that often elderly people crave so much.

Next Thursday the children will return with tales to read and discuss. The teacher tells me it has given them a great sense of purpose for their writing. And for our residents, I am certain they will stimulate powerful emotions, memories and imagination.

KINGA DABROWSKA, Customer relations co-ordinator, Abbey House

Plan is not enough

THE recently launched 25-year plan for the environment reveals a government of half measures and double standards. Central to this plan is tackling plastic waste. Essential as this is, it provides a useful diversion from the many government policies that are trashing our environment.

The plan promises to make the most of emerging technologies; building a cleaner, greener country while reaping the economic rewards of clean growth. Yet in the last budget the chancellor said there would be no new subsidies for new windfarms, solar plants or tidal lagoons until at least 2025. Instead tax relief was offered to North Sea oil and the government remains hell-bent on kickstarting a whole new fossil industry with fracking.

The government trumpet the success of offshore wind but continue to use the planning system to block onshore wind. Not only is this the cheapest renewable energy available, it has huge potential for community ownership, allowing people themselves to take back control of their energy.

Without clear or ambitious targets and an absence of legislation to back up the environment plan it amounts to little more than a long wish-list.

Above all, what is desperately missing is a vision for how we can shift the focus away from endless growth and pointless consumption towards ensuring everybody has a decent, happy and meaningful life.