A Desperate Plea From A Relative Of A Rough Sleeper By The Masked Avenger Anonymous

We have all walked past a rough sleeper on the street. Sometimes we give it a second thought. Sometimes we stop and chat, maybe even try to help.

But mostly we walk on by.

Most of us are fortunate enough to have never been there and while we sympathise, we often try and forget it and move on with our busy lives. Rushing to get somewhere; an appointment or some such.

We often don’t see the person beyond the sleeping bag. Sometimes it is very hard to imagine how someone got there. The government dehumanise rough sleepers. They advise us not to feed them as though they are pigeons in Trafalgar Square. They put spikes on floors to stop them being able to get some shelter in a shop doorway. Again treated like pests. So it’s no wonder that we walk on by. Sometimes it is a taboo subject.

But for me it is different. I happen to know a rough sleeper very personally.

You might want to ask me a few questions. Does anyone help him? Is he loved? Do you help him? The answer is yes. To all of the above.

But our help is not enough and the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ he gets into this position is what is complex.

My uncle has undiagnosed mental health conditions. He is an addict. Self medicating I guess. He has never had the support he needed from the professionals. And this is the product of years of neglect.

Born in the 60s to parents with severe mental health issues that lost everything down to gambling, my uncle was not diagnosed with anything himself or supported. Instead when the family broke down, my grandmother had a mental breakdown and no one was there to help. The authorities left my grandmother to it and just took my uncle away into care when he was 7. And that was the start of it. In and out of care. In and out of trouble.

” A handful, naughty, out of control, the mother can’t cope”

While he was in the place that was supposed to care for him, he was abused.

He went in as a child with problems and came out disturbed with even bigger problems.

No one knew what happened at the time. This is only a recent revelation. So he continued. In and out of trouble causing merry hell for the family.

As he got to adulthood he started to ‘self medicate’ and slowly but surely became an addict. Which led to petty crime, prison. And eventually being institutionalised .

“A write off'”

On paper yes. But what no one else saw was the snippets of the man he could have been if the support had been there during his childhood.

Detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, he had structure, routines and he flourished. He took courses and passed them all. He read and learned and became a talented writer.

He did endless courses and took all of the opportunities he could. He grabbed them with both hands.So when he went back into the outside world he started his own business, he even wrote for a national newspaper as a regular columnist. He became a published author. Some semblance of a normal life was finally coming his way.

He was capable and intelligent and we could see the person he could become if he’d been given more support as a youngster.

But things happened and again the support fell away. Without the guidance of a probation officer, without the structure, his mental health problems that simmered under the surface reared their ugly, scathing, self destructing head again.

Addiction came back with a vengeance and along came some new ones too.

So we saw him slip back. He lost everything and again he went on the slippery slope into the abyss of addiction and self destruct.

So, we try to help as a family, but its not possible to keep an eye on him 24/7.

The downward spiral was and is fast and relentless;he loses touch of where he is and he ends up on the street. He loses contact with any kind of support network and before you know it he is sleeping rough.

We can’t track him. We don’t know where he is.

We’ve had phone calls in the past from wonderful passer bys that have tried to help him. In his moments of lucidity he remembers a number of a random relative and some very nice person decides to help him and calls.

We then hear he’s been in various places begging as he has lost everything. So we get there and we have to try and get him some help. He’s unwell and doesn’t know where he is. The police come and tell us not to bother with A and E as they are overcrowded but that they will try to help him.

Do you notice that even though I’m describing events in the past that I am using present tense? Why you might ask?

Because this is a recurring event. This happened last month but it could happen tomorrow, next week, next month. We never know what will happen next. This is the pattern that happens over and over again.

Services that are cut to shreds still try their best to help him. There are genuinely good mental health staff, hospital staff, police officers and key workers out there.

But it’s not enough.

The services need to be joined up. They need more funding to give him the intensive therapy and support for his mental health needs as this is the root to all of his problems, I believe.

But all that happens is the problem is treated that day. Acute support is given while he is physically unwell. But there is not enough in place to prevent this from happening again.

So I sit here and wonder what people must think when they walk past him. When he ends up on the street, bounding in and out of shops, trying to get someone to help him.

They will never see the man he can be. The man he has been, the man he could have been.

Every person has a story, but homeless people are nothing more than pests to the Tories.

If we followed the advice that they give us, which is to ignore a homeless person, don’t give them money or food; if every passer by that has helped my uncle thus far listened to this advice that this ‘government’ dish out my uncle would be dead by now. Perhaps that’s what they want. By treating homeless people like pests perhaps they think they will just die off.

But instead there are good people out there, people try to help. And for now he and we are riding our luck. That might just change one day. And we dread phone calls sometimes. What will happen next we just don’t know.

So I want to say to the people that help, the doctors, the nurses, the passers by, the staff in Pret that give out food, the key workers: Thank You!!!

Don’t ever change and maybe one day if we fight hard enough we will have a government that cares too so that real change can happen and people living in the streets being dehumanised by a callous government will be a thing of the past.

Isn’t It Time We Made Homes Fit For Human Habitation? By Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland

The second reading of Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill is on January 19th 2018.

We can hardly believe that, in the 6th richest country in the world, in 2018 it is necessary for such a bill to be raised.  

It is astonishing that such a protection is not already in existence for tenants. Tenants have no avenue for redress or means of compelling landlords to make repairs or even secure the safety of the property.

The Bill would empower tenants by giving them the right to take their landlord to court if they fail to take action to resolve a problem.

There are currently around one million rented homes with hazards that pose a serious risk to health and safety. This affects over 2.5 million people.

You might think that this lapse in the law is an oversight that just needs to be rectified. But you would be mistaken.

A version of the Bill was first introduced by Karen Buck in 2015 and was ‘talked out’. A version of the Bill was also proposed as an amendment to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and was voted down by the government. Including the 87 Tory MPs who are landlords.  Their argument was that such legislation would burden upon landlords and discourage people from renting out homes.

How did we get in the situation we are in today, one might ask.

Many years of under funding and de regulation of the housing market we could argue.

What could be a greater burden for any person than trying to live in a ‘home’ unfit for human habitation, you might wonder.

Data from the English Housing Survey 2017 found that Almost a third (29 per cent) of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet the national Decent Homes Standard; meaning they either contain safety hazards or do not have acceptable kitchen and bathroom facilities or adequate heating

Poor housing impacts on children by making them 25% more at risk of ill health or disability, including raised risk of meningitis or asthma and a greater chance of mental health issues.

They are also more likely to miss school through illness.  Almost one million privately rented homes are deemed to be in a state of “substantial disrepair”, while 442,000 have damp in one of more rooms.

Poor housing also places a greater burden on other services and affects society as a whole, not just children.

Substantially more working age adults living in bad housing report fair, bad or very bad general health (26%) than those living in good housing (17%), with adults in bad housing 26% more likely to report low mental health compared with those living in good housing.

Those living in bad housing are almost twice as likely to have their sleep disturbed by respiratory problems at least once a month.

The association between living in bad housing and health problems is particularly acute among those above retirement age; with Pensioners in bad housing a third more likely to have fair, bad or very bad health compared with those in good housing (58% vs 38%).

Almost a fifth (19%) suffer from low mental health compared with 11% in good housing.

Almost twice as many pensioners living in bad housing suffer from wheezing in the absence of a cold, compared with those in good housing.

Not only is this unacceptable and immoral in this day and age but it also undoubtedly places more burden on the cash strapped NHS, including mental health services and schools that are already under so much pressure.

So what can we do about this?

We welcome the second reading of the bill and hope that this can proceed to the next stage. MPs will have a vote on this issue and we the people can apply pressure on our local MPs to vote the right way.

You can find who your local MP is and and how to contact them by clicking on the link below.

http://www.ukpolitical.info/YouandyourMP.htm

The above is taken from Natcen’s 2013 report on People in bad housing.

Why It Took Me So Long To Realise The Importance Of Education By Eddie Luigi

Let me make this clear from the start. I failed my 11+, and was thereby consigned to the ever growing ‘scrap heap’ of the under educated.

This never occurred to me to be a problem. I could read, I could write and I could accomplish basic arithmetic. You can not miss something that you never had.

I joined the Royal Navy, and learnt how to read electrical engineering manuals, in order to carry out the tasks assigned to me. My leisure reading was, purposely, limited to pulp fiction western and detective novels.

The news held no interest for me and I was quite happy blindly obeying orders. In an armed forces environment there is no place for a square peg in a round hole. Life was cosy in an environment where you were cocooned from the cares and worries of the civilian population.

Now that I have retired, and broken three television sets getting angry at day time programs, I decided to do something positive with my free time and enrolled at my local college for an access course with a view to attending university.

Now I understand why the Tories don’t want to invest in education and why the media write articles that you only need a rudimentary education to read, but not necessarily understand.

Primary and Secondary education is adequate for what used to be termed ‘factory fodder’. You are taught that this is a word and it must be true because there it is. You are taught to read the words but not taught to question the words, and as long as there is a roof over your head and food on your table you don’t particularly care. You assume an ‘I’m alright Jack’ attitude.

However, what about your children, or your children’s children.

Once you get beyond rudimentary education you start to question the written words and ask

Who wrote this?

Why did they write it?

What are they trying to achieve?

This is just the thing that the Tories want to avoid. They do not want an educated population that will question any of their policies, they require an obedient population that are happy to live off the few crumbs that might fall from the master’s banquet.

If you want a quiet life for yourself vote Tory, do not become educated, accept that ‘this is the way things are’ and ignore your children’s plaintiff cries of inequality.

“There is no more far-seeing investment for a nation than to put milk, food and education into young children” Winston Churchill 1939

Children Listening To Political Debate: Wrong or Necessary? By Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland

Broadening Children’s Political Horizons? Some may say it’s wrong but it didn’t do Michael Rosen any harm.

This week we, accompanied by our children ages 13 to 8, went to an event at Conway Hall: ‘Michael Rosen In Conversation With Daniel Hahn.’

Michael was there to speak about his early life, which he chronicles in his new memoir, ‘So, They Call You Pisher.’

He spoke about parent’s running Communist Party meetings in the front room, being involved in campaigning and his acts on anti-establishment rebellion at Oxford University. Cheekily in the question and answers section we asked for a poem and, to the delight of ourselves and everyone in the room, he recited ‘Hot Food.’

Before the book signing, which we gladly joined, Michael came over and chatted to the children and commented that he hoped “they were not bored by the political talk” to which we responded that “they are used to it.”

Growing up with parents who are political activists, our children are well versed in left wing arguments, being dragged to campaigning activities and listening to furious arguments.

Is this right or wrong?

Growing up listening to arguments about football, no one ever commented on that as being anything unusual; so it is interesting to see politics often portrayed as something ‘not for the interest of children.’

Michael talked about the culture he was exposed to as a child by his parents. This was felt empathetically by our children who are regularly dragged from political rally to watch an author on a book tour, or to the theatre.

Why do we do it?

Well we think there is so much to see, so many sides of life that a person should experience in order to experience the diversity of life.

Daniel Hahn himself said to Michael ” With all the education and culture you were exposed to, it must have been difficult for the school to match this” to which Michael replied that education doesn’t have to end at the classroom.

Thinking about how restrictive the curriculum has become in the last few years with the new reforms in 2014, we think that now more than ever we need to enrich the cultural lives of our children outside of school.

With the Arts being watered down in Secondary and with Primary school children spending the majority of their time working on Maths, English and Handwriting; it is worrying that their creative abilities and critical thinking wings are being clipped before they’ve even been allowed to grow.

Some may say that teaching your children the subject of politics is wrong, or that it is indoctrinating them, but I beg to differ.

Letting them hear arguments from left wing ideology can’t be a bad thing when those arguments teach our children basic human values like sharing and social responsibility.

Of course not all parents can afford to take their children to the theatre or have the time to go to events such as these. But we feel that all children deserve to have a broad education that covers the arts, politics and other subjects not normally covered in the curriculum.

So we hope that a Labour government gets elected soon and fulfils their promise of bringing back the creative arts and broadening the educational experience of all children, not just those whose parents can afford extra curricular activities.

We are, after all a nation with a strong cultural heritage.

Without an education broader than what is currently being delivered by the curriculum set out in 2014, how do we expect to produce the future Shakespeare’s, the future David Bowie’s and the future Michael Rosen’s?

Kelly Grehan and Lisa Mulholland are the Co Founders of The Avenger UK

Kids Talk Politics And Put The World To Rights – By The Avenger Kids

At the Avenger our main mission is to put issues often unheard by mainstream media under the spotlight. And that means allowing people from all walks of life to share their experiences and view points on current affairs and politics.
Children and young people’s ideas and opinions are often unheard by the media; yet they often have the most creative ideas and simplest solutions to society’s problems.

We interviewed four children aged between 8 and 13 on their views on politics and this is the first of many Avenger Kids blogs, which will eventually extend out to older children and young people.

We feel that children and young people should be encouraged more to think critically about the world they live in  and although the ‘Votes at 16’ discussion may not have got the attention we feel it deserved in Parliament,  we will continue to keep that discussion going and ensure that children and young people keep talking about politics. 

We kicked off with asking the children; Luca aged 8, Naomi aged 9, Chloe aged 9 and Harrison aged 13 what they would change if they were Prime Minister. They had so much to say that we had to break it down into common themes!!

Here is what that had to say:

Healthcare


Chloe aged 9: Why do they charge for prescriptions when you are ill and probably don’t have a lot of money anyway do they want people to die or to live?  All medical things should be free. Everyone should be allowed to live.

Luca aged 8: I would keep it free forever. I would have more doctors and more technology to help them find better cures. Also it is very dangerous for people to have one kidney so this should be illegal. Everyone should have two kidneys.

Naomi aged 9: When children are sick they should get seen first in hospital because they have little bodies and want to go home to play. 

Harrison aged 13:  Our health service is good but we need to fund it more. It is severely under appreciated and under funded.

We must focus on welfare and healthcare more rather than industries. Why does the government help big industries and corporations? I don’t understand it because they can look after themselves. We don’t need to help and fund them they earn so much and they don’t even need to advertise. We should be helping the NHS and welfare instead.

Education and Schools:

Luca:  I think kids should learn about politics. And more fun stuff like cooking and art.

I would change the rules in schools. I would let kids go to the toilet any time they want. I would also give schools more money. 

Harrison: We need to change the way we educate like core subjects have been boiled down to three. We can’t thrive with just these. The system is broken. They constantly shove the core subjects down our throat. They act like anything other than core subjects is useless. In truth the core subjects are there to provide the basics. Without extras like art and technology we will come across as boring and we won’t have any skills. A lot of our subjects tie into together.

For opportunities for careers that pay well, we need extra creative subjects. We need to broaden out more to be successful as adults.

Naomi: Schools should pay for all kids to have iPads and technology to make learning fair.

School dinners should have nicer things like nuggets and things that kids like. Some children are not eating because they are horrible and that makes people sick. 

Children with lots of problems like my brother should still be allowed to come to the same school as all the other children but should just have their own class. Otherwise children forget there are children like that and laugh at them and be rude. 

They would not do that if they had lunch with them and if the others could see them all the time. I miss my twin brother at school.

Chloe:  There should be dabbing in school, and no school uniform so you don’t have to rush to buy it and it costs more money.  

There should be free school meals for everyone because not everyone can afford it and everyone should be doing more fun stuff at school.

Housing, Homelessness and The Poor

Harrison: The taxes aren’t doing so well. What are they being spent on?
 The poor are not receiving a lot of welfare. There aren’t enough things to go around as we are supplying big industries and they are big enough and rich enough to manage themselves.

There should be more homeless shelters in the UK and around the globe.

Real estate prices are over inflated compared to Scotland. Why is that? And our economy is not very good either.

The landlords don’t pay attention to the houses they own and don’t care and they don’t notice that there are empty houses. We need to start letting people live in them.

We have a lot of houses and they are going to waste. We should have a service that goes to these old houses and if we deem that the landlords don’t care for those houses we should confiscate them and have a service owned by government to clean them up and let people live in them

Luca: I would give the poor more money. I would give the homeless homes. I would spend money on what materials they need for homes and tell builders to just build them, it’s not hard to do. Why don’t they just tell them to build them for the homeless?

Politicians

Naomi: When countries and big people fight like wars they should have time out and say sorry like kids do.

If they don’t they should lose marbles and not get treats like stuff other countries have that their people like… like bananas and stuff. Be nice to the countries that give you bananas or you don’t get any.

Chloe: Why does the Prime Minister and politicians get more money than doctors and teachers? 

They get all that money and make stupid decisions. It is unfair that they get expenses and they should have to learn how to use their own money to pay for things.

Harrison: Politicans can be straight up annoying and stupid. They need to do a lot of work to get their priorities straight. 

Luca: Why don’t politicians make it law to be nice to old people? Some of them might be lonely. They shouldn’t be and there should be websites for them to meet friends and talk to each other. 

Most of all if I could be Prime Minister I would only be it for a day and let Jeremy Corbyn be Prime Minister. 
He’s really nice and he has cool ideas and better ideas than me.

Let’s Reclaim Our Public Space For Childhood By Kelly Grehan 

By Kelly Grehan

Barely a day goes by without my hearing a member of the older generation decrying the children of today:

“We never used to sit in on devices all day”

“All they want to do is stare at screens”

“We used to spend all day outside.”

It is as if children today are of a different species from their senior relatives, who speak of some sort of famous five style childhood. 

While I strongly suspect their memories of the past are somewhat rose tinted I also strongly suspect one reason children do not play outside is that they simply are not welcome.

In my own area (Dartford), many of the green spaces we played on in the early 90s are now occupied with signs saying things such as ‘no ball games’ or ‘this is not a play area’ and have been filled in with bushes to stop any fun activity taking place.

Although we are fortunate to have several good parks in our area, taking children to the park is a time consuming business and not one that can be done every evening for most children.  

When children used to ‘play out’ the benefits were multiple: children made friends with the same children who shared their streets, developing close bonds, isolation was therefore less, the feeling of belonging, and community was embedded and the benefits of being outdoors are well known. 

Dozens of studies from around the world show regular time outdoors produces significant improvements in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fighting obesity, improved learning ability, and creativity and better emotional well being.

Unstructured play in the outdoors has also been shown to boost problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness.

However, the disconnect with nature is now so strong that more children are taken to hospital having fallen out of bed than out of a tree. 

In fact one fifth of all children report never having ever attempted to climb a tree and a similar number have never visited a farm.

 And it not just outdoor space often denied to children now, with libraries lost in many towns along with community centres, church halls and youth clubs, for those whose parents are unable to afford expensive activity groups childhood can often be a lonely and boring time.  

This is coupled with the fact increasing numbers of children are now living in overcrowded accommodation and so, do not even have the luxury of being able to play imaginative games inside. 

What are we doing to our children? 

Is the epidemic of mental health and anxiety problems in the young a coincidence? 

I say a community ignoring the needs of children is no community at all.  

New housing estates seem to be built on the premise that grass verges are all the public green space that is needed. 

How about a space based along the idea of a village green in the centre? 

How about spaces which encourage den building and where ball games are encouraged? 

What is the worse that could happen?

Maybe the odd window will be broken, perish the thought, but I tell you this, it is much easier and cheaper to fix broken windows than broken adults who are the result of miserable childhoods. 

Our children have enough problems to contend with poverty, exams, school work, peer pressure, cyber bullying and knowing they are growing up in a world where they are likely to be worse off than their parents. Trying to keep them from public spaces is just another way we fail to enrich them.  


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Family Court Decisions Are Breaking My Child By The Masked Avenger

Author Anonymous 

Children in the UK are struggling with emotions and left voiceless whilst their parents fight it out in front of a judge in family court. 

My experience is children’s wishes and wellbeing are actually ignored in favour of the child having a relationship with both parents. 

Don’t get me wrong I am all for children having a relationship with both parents but when it distresses, upsets and harms our children where do we turn to?

Until they reach age 10 a child is practically voiceless in a family court. 

The court will and does disregard the child and discredit any emotions the child shows just because the judge feels they know best. They do not. 

In my experience the child was left needing a lot of therapy,  very withdrawn and distressed. The child spoke to me time and time again begging, crying, saying “why won’t they listen to me?”

That’s a good question. We are all human and we all are supposed to have ‘human rights ‘ yet a court is willing to destroy a child because they believe it is best for a child to have the contact which they grant everyday. They go home to their comfortable lives and what about the child? They are left crying, with questions that the parent cannot answer, they are left emotionally harmed with nightmares and being packed off to the other parent . 

The suffering that a child goes through is immense. We are in a world where we are dictated to enough without our children being forced to have contact. I have had a child crying on the floor, sobbing because they do not want to leave and all I can do is say  ” I know you don’t want to go, I know this is upsetting you but you must go”.

I fought for a few years in family court for my child to have their voice heard. Nobody heard them and I am the one who picks them up everyday when their emotions are all over the place. I am the one who comforts and tries to make the best of a bad situation.
I feel that the courts need to ‘judge’ each case individually and actually listen to the children. I’m all for a balanced view and equal relationship with both parents if the child is happy with that. 

Why are we breaking the children of the UK?

Why do we dismiss them?

Childhood is a precious time meant for building up a child not breaking them down.

Children’s mental health is so important and I’m not saying let a child have their own way but when a child tells you time and time again they do not want to have contact; we the parent are pretty powerless because the court does not listen.

We are at risk of having a lot of children with self esteem issues and anxiety because the one who holds the power is a judge who despite reports by many will disregard them in an instant. 

We need to listen to the children because they grow up and we don’t need any more damaged adults on the hands of an already stretched mental health services.


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