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Inspired intervention

With a tiny 5000 social houses built in the whole of the UK last year, the intervention by the Borough Council, to address the worst and most desperate consequence of this, manifested as rough sleeping, is a very welcome.

It’s no coincidence that the continued sale of council housing and the complete lack of replacements coincides with rough sleeping numbers being nationally at a six year high, and Swindon is not immune from this.

Any one of us could find ourselves a victim of circumstance, suffer deteriorating mental health with depression and anxiety, and further easily be driven to self medicate either with drugs, alcohol or both. The then spiral of hopelessness and its end in a shop doorway is, for some, an unsurprising outcome.

Further, these outcomes are not ameliorated by the continual reduction in local authority services, historically offered to vulnerable people in this level of despair.

As we climb gently from our centrally heated armchair and fall into our cosy warm bed, few of us (certainly not me!) can even contemplate a life with a pavement for a mattress and a tin of special brew the only company. Those piles of blankets in shop doorways are not discarded rubbish… they are what a fellow human being in Britain in 2017 feels is their only home, their only option.

Those who read my occasional contributions to this column will know I am generally no huge fan of Swindon Borough Council, but in this initiative they have truly excelled.

Treating the problem in a holistic way, rather than simply closing down car parks early is inspired.

If they can transform just a few lives with this rounded and joined up strategy, then they deserve the greatest possible credit in my book.


A wicked waste

How I agree with Mrs Townsend (Adver 10th Nov).

There is no common sense used in some aspects of the NHS. We all know that unused medication when returned to the chemist is binned or one is told to bin it. The reason given is that cross contamination cannot be risked.

When unused tablets are in bubble packs inside boxes and are untouched I can see no reason why they cannot be entered back into stock.

I recently had occasion to dispose of a quantity of catheter equipment which had been delivered to a patient two days before she died. It was in a large cardboard box, the contents were all encased in heat sealed polythene and no one had touched any of it.

In my efforts to get rid of it I was told by our surgery that someone would collect it from me. I said that I would deliver to them if it would help (knowing how stretched the staff always are), thinking that it would be used for others, but I was told that it would be binned whoever received it.

To say that I was incandescent with anger is an understatement, I was enraged.

As Mrs Townsend says “No wonder the NHS is in such a state”. Such wicked and unnecessary waste. If the powers that be in the NHS used common sense then maybe there would be money available for treatment of others.

MRS V GARSIDE, Wharf Road, Wroughton

Only half the story

Statistics again! But what do they mean?

In your article “Call for action on the pay gap” (SA 11.11.17), the subtitle states that “Women earn 22.7 per cent less than men in the town”; but this could be influenced by the total numbers of women and men who are working. Is this a comparison of ‘total pay’ across the population? Or does the figure take into account the different grades of workers? Can we be sure we are comparing ‘like with like’?

We are also told that, in Swindon, men “continue to earn £3.71 an hour more than women”; but, again, is this a comparison of ‘overall’ pay, or a comparison for the same jobs?

The Equal Pay Act came into force in 1970; since when it has been a criminal offence to pay different rates of pay to men and women – but for doing the same job. So, this is the only valid comparison.

We know that many women do ‘lower paid’ jobs (in which few men are employed); and many only work part-time; so, it is incorrect to make comparisons ‘across the board’ – or even over ‘life time earnings’ (for many women take time out to have children).

There have been few prosecutions of employers for not paying ‘the same rate for the same job’; so, if anyone has evidence that this is happening, they should report it to the authorities.


Positive experience

We are aware of the downsides of the NHS these days but as a pacemaker owner from 2010, I had to go into GWH on the 8th November very early in the morning for a pacemaker upgrade. From start to finish, I cannot praise the staff enough! Their attentiveness and patient care was excellent.

Sometimes things do not go according to plan within many aspects of NHS but, credit where it is due, my recent experience was very positive.

I had some trepidation before the procedure but the staff and student nurses were worthy of the highest praise and that encouragement really helped. The main thing though is that your own attitude to staff must also be commendable!

The friends that I had who obliged me with offers of transport to and from hospital, plus being supportive to my wife on the day was a real help and support.

CHRIS GLEED, Proud Close, Purton

No need to be lonely

It is that time of the year again; the nights are closing in, the shops start playing their festive music and the more organised of us begin to start thinking about present shopping.

All things point to Christmas - a time for togetherness, festivity and fun; a time to spend with friends and family and a time to eat, drink and be merry.

Sadly, for many older people, the reality is a little different with a large number of over 55s saying that loneliness and social isolation is one of their most prominent worries across the festive period.

That’s why my charity, The Abbeyfield Society, started Companionship at Christmas; our annual drive to both highlight and alleviate this issue by encouraging our houses and homes in Swindon to open their doors and offer free festive activities, hot meals and friendship.

So if you, or a friend or relative, might be alone this Christmas we would be absolutely delighted to welcome you in across the advent period to spend time with residents, meet the staff and get involved in the events and activities taking place.

We’re always looking for volunteers to help spread the festive cheer too.

Do check out our website to see what is going on near you, or call 01727 734144.

DAVID MCCULLOUGH, Chief Executive, The Abbeyfield Society

Plenty going on

Nothing ever happens in Swindon.

Last Saturday, as Foodbank leaflets were being handed out in the drizzle by the Crumpled Fountain, as a solo Salvation Army bloke rattled his can, as the British Legion sold a legion of poppies, as Shin Splints ran from Richard Jefferies and Lydiard Park Ran, in Swindon’s Meca venue, a MindCanyon event kicked off.

People travelled from Birmingham, London, Reading to engage with motivational speakers on living the best life we can.

We were encouraged to reach our dreams and re-shape and re-tell and write anew, if we so chose, our own stories.

A politician, a former drug-addict, a magician, a teacher, a karate kid, a Congolese child out of care, and a middle class woman, shared their inspirational journeys.

We in the audience were spellbound and eager to talk in equal measure.

The four hours flew by.

All this was organised by Swindon’s own Pinehurst boy, Steve M Carr, who first appeared in the media walking from Land’s End to John O’ Groats as a self-detox and to raise the dual issues of homelessness and mental health.

This was the premiere event of a UK tour, Mindcanyon Live. I would urge others to dip their toe into this particular positive Grand Canyon of ideas and actions.

Nothing ever happens in Swindon?

TONY HILLIER, Brunswick Street, Swindon