Wanstead favours a longer school day

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Wanstead residents have narrowly bucked the national trend by voting in favour of extending the school day to help children catch up after Covid.

Forty-one percent (41%) of respondents to a Wanstead Community Forum Facebook poll wanted to extend the school day with 35% against after schools were closed for most pupils for much of 2020.

This compares to a YouGov poll for The Times newspaper which found 60% opposed longer hours while 30% agreed with extending the school day.

The Times has set up a new Education Commission to examine the future of education. The panel includes former Labour MP Tristram Hunt; Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow; and children’s author Sir Michael Morpurgo. The Commission will run for one year and publish a final report in June 2022.

Wanstead Church School was rated outstanding after an inspection by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) in 2017 while Wanstead High School was rated good in 2019.

Majority of residents want face-to-face GP consultations

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New research has found that most Wanstead residents would prefer an online booking system but a face-to-face consultation when visiting their doctor.

Sixty-two percent of respondents to a Facebook poll wanted to book online but meet in person, while 25% preferred a triage system in which they completed an online form and their GP decided whether a face-to-face appointment was necessary.

The findings follow recent debate in the media after patients expressed frustration about not being able to book a face-to-face consulation with GPs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Daily Telegraph has reported that following the outcry Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS Medical Director for Primary Care, and Ed Waller, Director of Primary Care, have written to GPs outlining new guidance. The Telegraph claims the letter states:

“GP practices must all ensure they are offering face-to-face appointments.

“While the expanded use of video, online and telephone consultations can be maintained where patients find benefit from them, this should be done alongside a clear offer of appointments in person.

“Practices should respect preferences for face-to-face care.”

A review on the NHS website dated 17 March 2021 for The Wanstead Place Surgery states:

“In response to a query I’d submitted to the practice I was phoned by a doctor, at the appointed time. The conversation was kind, thorough, informative and unrushed and I was asked if there was anything else that was worrying me.”

A comment dated 16 October 2020 states:

“Since you can not get to see any doctor but have to wait for a phone call the service is very poor.”

A review posted on the 16 April 2021 for The Evergreen Surgery on Wanstead High Street states:

“I have visited this practice a few times over the years as an emergency patient and more recently had my 2 Covid injections there. I cannot praise this surgery enough.”

A comment dated 17 March 2021 claims:

“Reception staff are rude and make assumptions without asking questions…Doctors are lovely, if you can get near them.”

Following news of the updated NHS guidance, Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said:

“Patients have made clear how difficult they have been finding access to GP services, and that most commonly they clearly prefer to see their GP in person. We called for the restoration of in-person appointments as the default option when we published our second Pandemic Patient Experience report, which showed starkly how patients have been struggling to access primary care in a way that meets their needs.

“It will be a great relief to many patients to know that their GP should now unquestionably be offering face to face appointments. We saw how media reports of our findings clearly resonated with patients and arose strong feelings. We hope that many patients will now be able to rebuild their relationships with their GPs and benefit from the assurance that will bring them.”

Thousands sign petition against allotment takeover

A petition against plans to take over allotments in Redbridge Lane West has received thousands of signatures.

Plot holders launched action after Cadent, the UK’s largest gas distribution network, announced plans to take over the site to complete “upgrade” work. The proposals involve the storage of sheds and equipment for a period of two years and the creation of a car park for contractors.

The petition on the Change.org website calls on Redbridge Council to reject the plans which allotment owners claim would destroy plots and the biodiverse habitat.

Jason Edwards, who started the petition, writes that plot holders at Redbridge Lane West Allotments are a “diverse and friendly community” and the site hosts a “fantastic charity project, Sprout There!, which for many years has been doing invaluable therapeutic work with people with learning disabilities”.

In support of the campaign, one signatory writes: “These allotments are a valuable community resource that delivers on all eco friendly credentials. Why would we allow a large company to destroy them?”

Windrush Community Fund

A new fund has launched to raise awareness and support engagement among those eligible for the Government’s Windrush Compensation Schemes.

Charitable, community and grassroots organisations that work with affected communities can bid for an award between £2,500 to £25,000 to help ensure all people affected by Windrush are aware of the support available and are not missing out on the schemes.

The Home Office fund has been designed with the Windrush Cross-Government Working Group and will be administered by Voice4Change England. It has been set up to encourage applications from those organisations that are led by or work with affected communities who faced difficulties demonstrating their lawful status in the UK and suffered losses as a result. This covers people who settled in the UK from a Commonwealth country before 1 January 1973 and people of any nationality who were settled before the end of 1988.

To find out more please visit:

https://voice4change-england.com/500k-windrush-community-fund-opens-for-bids/.

Christmas food binned

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Thousands of tonnes of waste has been thrown away following the Christmas festivities, it has been revealed.

More than 50,000 tonnes of leftover Christmas dinners have been dumped according to an online survey carried out by recycling firm TradeWaste.co.uk.

Respondents were asked about the contents of their Christmas bins to produce an indication of the amount of waste created across the UK.

Nearly 5,000 tonnes of leftover mince pies and 2,000 tonnes of cheese has been disposed of, as well as 17,444 tonnes of Christmas wrapping paper, 12,500 tonnes of Christmas decorations and 68,488 miles of broken Christmas lights.

“Even with a slightly toned-down Christmas this year, we all know how full the bins get after Christmas. It is now clear the huge environmental impact all this waste has,” explains Charlotte Green from TradeWaste.co.uk.

Other figures include 141,525 tonnes of food packaging and 30,000 tonnes of Christmas cards.

Face masks likely to cause environmental problem

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Millions of disposable face masks are being discarded every day, according new analysis by TradeWaste.co.uk.

The public waste company has estimated that 53 million masks are being sent to UK landfill every day after being thrown away often onto the street.

Disposable face masks are typically made from three plastic layers including a non-woven plastic fabric outer, a melt-blown polymer filter, and a non-woven plastic fabric inner as well as cotton ear loops and a metal nose piece.

The survey found that 58 million face masks are used daily in the UK with 10% being reused but 90% thrown away.

“We as a country need better disposal methods to cope with huge numbers of disposable masks being thrown away – most cannot be recycled”, says Charlotte Green from TradeWaste.co.uk.

“If restrictions and mask use continue then this issue is going to get progressively worse – action needs to be taken.”

The company estimate that 129 billion face masks are in use globally per month.

Standards going unchecked

Regulatory bodies are failing to fulfil their duties due to budget cuts and declining staff numbers, according to a new report.

The analysis investigated losses in regulatory enforcement capacity across food, the environment, health and safety, consumer protection, employee rights and local spaces.

Across the regulatory areas examined, average budgets had fallen 41% in real terms and staff numbers by over a third during the last decade.  This has led to an “enforcement gap which threatens to undermine the very rules which keep our society running properly”, the research claims.

According to the report, between 2009-2019 the Forestry Commission had its funding cut by 53%, while Local Authority spending on environmental and regulatory services fell 31%.  Funding at the Food Standards Agency fell 51%, while there was a 60% drop in manpower amongst Local Authority food standards staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The research claims that there was a 58% cut in funding at the Health and Safety Executive, a 49% cut in spending on Health and Safety by Local Authorities in England, and a 22% fall in fire and rescue staff in England during the same period.

The Enforcement Gap 2020 report has been published by Unchecked.uk, a project of The Ecology Trust, a grant-making charity which tackles the root causes of environmental and societal problems.  It was founded in 2019 and is supported by the JMG Foundation, The Kestrelman Trust and The Funding Network.

In a letter to The Times to coincide with publication of the report, twenty major organisations from across UK civil society warn that “steep reductions in inspections and monitoring of regulated businesses in recent years risks undermining the achievement of public policy objectives”.  The letter has been signed by organisations including Compassion in World Farming, Friends of the Earth, Mums for Lungs, the Royal Society for the Protection of Accidents, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the National Consumer Federation.

“The analysis we are publishing is alarming and is cause for serious national concern,” said Emma Rose of Unchecked.uk.

“With important regulators operating with on average 50% less funding than ten years ago, there is a need for a closer look at the state of our public protection infrastructure.

“As a country we believe in fair play, common standards, and everyone playing by the same rules – but the truth is, the people we rely on to enforce those rules are being hamstrung.”

Arnold Pindar, Chairman of the National Consumer Federation, said:

“We live in an increasingly complicated world, and we expect high standards – clean air, safe water, and better goods and safe products.  Strong enforcement is needed to bear down on high-risk suppliers and rogues, and keep us safe from harm.

“However, enforcement capacity has been cut back since the early 2000s, and Unchecked.uk’s research shows how serious this has become.  It confirms the major concerns highlighted by recent National Consumer Federation Congresses.

“This cannot carry on.”