We have abandoned our vulnerable children

James Munby’s heartfelt plea for suitable accommodation for children at serious risk to themselves or others (“Judges are sick of locking up children who just need help”), alongside the report that the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are turning away children at risk of suicide (“Suicide-risk children refused places on NHS England waiting lists as services overwhelmed”), highlights once again that, since 2010, the Conservative government has displayed a total lack of interest in the needs of children who are experiencing difficulty.

Sure Start scrapped, youth services nonexistent, residential care in the hands of profit-seekers, levels of child mental ill health way beyond CAMHS’ ability to cope, special educational needs unmet, funding to voluntary organisations drastically cut, child poverty increased, and the recommendations of the government’s own review of children’s social care ignored. The list goes on, while the general wellbeing of the UK’s children continues to rank below the European average.

The problem highlighted by Munby is therefore not the only “shocking moral failure – by the state and by society” in respect of the nation’s children. With their own children often safely ensconced in private schools, our leaders for the past 14 years have simply turned a blind eye to the needs of the less fortunate and more vulnerable. One can only hope that the next government will not do the same.
Mel Wood
Swords, County Dublin

No wardrobe required

Budapest was not “almost as inaccessible as Narnia” in 1975 (The big picture, New Review, last week). From 1964, I travelled there regularly by plane, train or car.
Judith Jesch

The case being brought by Manchester City is the greatest existential threat professional football has faced so far (“Playing the victim card is how elites game the system, just look at Manchester City”, Comment, last week). Quite aside from the impact on football (it is becoming more and more anti competitive), there is a serious risk of it becoming politicised. Indeed the spectre of government regulation and clubs being owned by nation states suggests we may already be there. Sadly, the fans no longer matter. Even more sad is that it seems the whole pyramid no longer matters. If fans wish to save football, we may have to get political. Not a happy thought…
Tim Clark
London E17

Clarity on gender laws

Sonia Sodha is right to support the government and minister Kemi Badenoch on clarifying the Equality Act 2010 and how it interacts with the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (“The law on single-sex spaces is a mess. It needs fixing, not political point-scoring”). The confusion and distress caused to all women is not being addressed.

This is not a left/right issue but merely one of biological reality. In 2022, fertility expert Sir Robert Winston said “people cannot change sex because it is genetically determined” and only gender can be changed. Confusion in the law leads to bad decisions, takes up court time and frustrates the public. Confidence in the law is diminished.

Clarification is sorely needed to ensure that situations such as Sonia’s friend finds herself in do not happen. Her support for a single sex group of abused, traumatised women must continue without the threat of prosecution from any biological male who might want to join her group.
Christine Emmett
Wymondham, Leicestershire

Sonia Sodha’s column was a frustrating read; for all the clear and sensible thought around the dysfunctions of the current law, the column fails to reflect why this issue is an emotive and even existential one for trans people and their allies who disagree with her.

Sodha is clearly motivated by a deep empathy for vulnerable women, but it is saddening to see the lack of empathy extended to trans people. She dismisses those on the other side of the argument as people whose “critical faculties have been rotted by spending too much time online” and who only see “cartoonish villains”. Meanwhile, she refers only to “men” in female-only spaces, and writes about men who are sexually gratified by being in female spaces as if this is what a typical trans person does. No acknowledgment is made of the many trans women who are simply trying to live their lives authentically.

She fails to acknowledge that her label (“men”) is one that many trans women would contest in the strongest terms because they feel it is denying them their existence. If a workable consensus is going to be reached about this, we all need to start with an understanding of where both sides are coming from, not just legally, but also emotionally.
Jack Foster
London SE26

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Sunderland’s heart of glass

It’s great that Sunderland is finally coming alive again, but the National Glass Centre mentioned in Jasper Jolly’s article is set to close in the next few years (“Centre forward: Sunderland sets sights on a revival by bringing homes and jobs to its inner city”). This act of cultural vandalism by the university will ensure that the city will never “level up”.

The National Glass Centre provides a range of exhibition and teaching facilities and is a great day out. But it lies on the riverside and is close to the city centre, so developers would love to redevelop the site and make some easy money. Local people are fighting its closure, but the odds are stacked against them. As Paul Swinney, of the Centre for Cities thinktank, said in the article, Sunderland will not revitalise properly until companies put their high-value jobs and personnel into the city. And that will not happen if existing cultural facilities of national importance are closed.
Jo Howell
Roker, Sunderland

Health before pension

Torsten Bell is quite correct to say that many of us who have reached a certain age care more about the survival of the NHS than any potential rises in our future pension (“Baby boomers are much more worried about the NHS than their pensions, Mr Sunak”). Receiving a few hundred pounds extra in pension payments a year will not help me much if I have to start paying for private medical care when the NHS grinds to a halt.
Stuart Harrington
Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset

One for all and all for one

Having just collected my copy of the Observer from the local newsagent, I couldn’t believe the coincidence when reading the letters page. Correspondent Dr Stephen Battersby quotes Bill Shankly on socialism: “The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It’s the way I see football, the way I see life.”

I am today wearing one of my late husband Roy’s collection of Philosophy Football T-shirts (bought via the Guardian many years ago) with the exact same quote!
Helen Read
Bury, Lancashire


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