READERS’ LETTERS: From the Bury Free Press of Friday, January 29

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A selection of readers’ letters from the Bury Free Press of Friday, January 29.

SUPPORT OUR LOCAL CHARITY

I was upset to read your article ‘Gatehouse charity told to dump collection run’ (Bury Free Press, January 22), and puzzled because there seemed no reasons given in your article for this change of policy.

I have since written to Cllr Hicks, the cabinet member for Environment and Public Protection, who gave me a very prompt and detailed reply. It seems that one of the benefits may be an increase in the amount recycled, which is admirable if it happens. However the main reason for the change in policy seems to be economic, in that FCC Environmental who run household waste and recycling want to open a re-use shop at their site in Foxhall and let it to the Benjamin Foundation, a large charity based in Norfolk.

Gatehouse gives furniture and other household items to disadvantaged families and individuals in the Bury St Edmunds region in return for a small donation to offset running costs. Obviously they will be able to continue to do this if we all get items to them individually, but they will have a very reduced stock if they cannot use the Bury recycling centre as a source of supply.

Disadvantaged local people who need household items will now have to travel to Ipswich and buy items from the Foxhall shop. They will then have to transport them back to Bury. This is particularly bizarre when some of the items have also had to be transported from Bury to Ipswich in the first place. There are environmental and social costs here I think. I believe this is a real blow to local people and to the local Gatehouse charity which does so much good work.

I have asked Cllr Hicks to reconsider this proposal and at least allow Gatehouse to have first pick of items from our Bury site before the rest go off to the other side of the county. I suspect that because the council has outsourced its waste disposal to a private contractor, FCC Environmental, this will not be possible. I cannot help feeling that money is speaking louder than local social needs.

Can I urge your readers to write to Cllr Hicks and their local county councillor about this matter and to make sure that as many of their unwanted household items as possible go directly to Gatehouse? Let us support first and foremost our local charity and the disadvantaged people in our local community.

-- Richard Stainer, Bradfield St George

CHANGES WILL LEAD TO MORE RE-USE

I felt it was important to address some of the local concerns that have been raised as a direct result of the lead story in your previous edition, concerning the future of re-use charities.

Gatehouse is one of many great local charities who help support the community. We have worked with them up to this point and I want us to continue working closely with the charitable sector into the future, which is exactly why we asked FCC, our contractor for household waste recycling centres, to come up with proposals to strengthen focus in the reusable items sector.

Suffolk’s household waste recycling centres currently collect about 300 tonnes of items for re-use each year through individual arrangements with charitable partners at each site. By opening the new shop, the estimated amount of items collected is expected to double. This means that those people who are in need of these items will have even more made available to them. In addition to this, the money made from selling the re-usable items will be going directly back into the charitable sector to continue supporting the community.

We are trying to achieve better environmental, charitable and financial outcomes. The single best thing anybody who has a potentially re-usable item can do is to take that item directly to Gatehouse or any other re-use charity. This will ensure that it ends up being used by someone who needs it. This approach is also the best for the tax-payers’ pocket as it means we are reducing the amount of waste items going to our HWRCs and needing to be sorted.

When we let the HWRC contract, we required contractor FCC to follow the council’s strategy for reducing and re-using waste as much as possible. We particularly asked them to work with the charitable sector to reuse as much waste as possible, and through their experience they came forward with these new options. The appointed charity, The Benjamin Foundation, will be speaking to every existing reuse charity to discuss how they can work alongside each other to complement the communities they serve. We would urge Gatehouse and any other reuse charity to contact the Benjamin Foundation to discuss how they can best work together going forward.

Many Suffolk residents already donate reusable items to charity shops or give them to family or friends, which is great. We urge them to continue doing just that. We hope that the new re-use shop will add to those efforts by increasing the chances of items that people take to their local household waste recycling centre being re-used too, but it is even better if the public take their re-usable items to a charity shop in the first place.

We regularly carry out customer surveys and we are frequently told that residents would like the opportunity to purchase reused items from our sites. This shop will enable people to do just that. The Foxhall site in Ipswich is currently the only site in our network which is considered big enough to host a re-use shop and the associated parking spaces required. As we develop our sites in the future, we hope to introduce re-use shops in other locations.

I would like to reiterate my gratitude to all the charitable organisations, including Gatehouse. I feel we must support this new initiative as it delivers better outcomes, not least for the charitable sector itself.

-- Cllr Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council Cabinet member for Environment and Public Protection

SHOCKED TO HEAR OF CLOSURE PLAN

Shocking to hear the news that once again disadvantaged people in Bury St Edmunds are losing out to Ipswich, with the closure by the Papworth Trust of the Workwise training centre and also Cavern4, its gallery in Whiting Street.

We have long admired both the staff and volunteers at Workwise for the contribution they have made to those with mental health needs, giving them self-confidence and valuable skills to use in their daily lives and in the workplace.

I have often visited Cavern4, as well as encouraging others to buy the superb craft items created by Workwise clients and other local artists who wished to help the charity. I hope that the proposed charity shop will at least find room to display the goods already made for Cavern4.

Papworth Trust say they will try to find suitable placements in Ipswich, but if so how will they support those people who need to travel there, as public transport is not an ideal answer?

-- Valerie Legg, Bury St Edmunds

TRUST HAS NOT DELIVERED

I have been attending Workwise in Bury St Edmunds for over three years now, both as a trainee then as a volunteer.

About a year ago Papworth Trust took Workwise under its wing in order to help Workwise to keep going in difficult financial times. I have recently been told that Papworth Trust are closing Workwise down. I am totally devastated to hear this news. Papworth Trust promised so much when they took over, but I personally have seen no sign of this help that was promised. The help with fund-raising events has been almost non-existent and what little that was organised was a complete failure.

Workwise has helped me so much, not just with practical skills but also with my confidence and self-esteem. My disability means I can only walk with crutches and cannot sit or stand for long periods of time.

I have learnt a new skill at Workwise called needle felting, which I am quite good at, I am able to work at this when it suits me and I sometimes sell the items I make. Because this has improved my confidence and self-esteem, I am able to teach other people the new skill I have learnt. I have also learnt how to use a computer and gained two certificates.

I have witnessed many people come to Workwise and grow in confidence and skills and leave being armed with the skills they need to help them secure employment. I know there have been a lot of cutbacks in the mental health service but surely it doesn’t make sense to close something that provides such a valuable service to the people suffering from mental health problems in our community.

If attending somewhere like Workwise helps to reduce your medication, reduce the risk of hospitalisation and increases your chances of employment, then surely in the long term this decreases the cost to the Government.

Workwise has been offering this valuable service to people in the community for 30 years. I am sure there should be help and support available to keep Workwise open and able to continue to help more people who desperately need this help. I believe Papworth have said that they wish to concentrate more on their primary area of support which are people with disabilities and the elderly. Surely disabled and elderly people suffer with mental health issues also. For example, isn’t Alzheimer’s a mental health issue? I have volunteered with Alzheimer’s sufferers and their carers doing mosaic work and they loved it. Doing something creative made them really happy and gave them something to look forward to.

Workwise has given me hope and a purpose in life, a reason to get out of bed. I know all the other volunteers and trainees at Workwise feel the same as I do. I am certain that the closure of Workwise will result in the hospitalisation of many vulnerable people whose hope for the future has been taken away. This, I believe, in the long-term will cost the Government more money.

To my knowledge there isn’t anything else in the area that offers the same service as Workwise. There isn’t enough support available for people with mental health problems. We cannot afford to lose this valuable service.

-- Lesley Cook, Mildenhall

TIME TO BRING IN PAY-ON-EXIT

Anyone who has occasion to visit West Suffolk Hospital will be aware of the ‘nightmare’ experienced trying to find a parking spot, but – and it is a big but – they have got one thing right, namely the ‘pay on exit’ scheme as, after all, how is anyone expected to know how long they are going to be visiting a hospital for all sorts of different reasons?

I can’t think of one good reason not to adopt the same method of payment in all the car parks in Bury, and would go so far as to say shopkeepers, restaurants, cafes and even the council would benefit from this method, and all the arguments over being a minute or so over your ( existing ) pre-paid ticket time, disappear at a stroke.

The rates could be clearly printed on the reverse side of the issued ticket, which would allow the customer to have the correct amount of cash ready when returning to their vehicle.

-- Brian Davies, Bury St Edmunds

PARTS OF COUNTY STILL STRUGGLING

Pupils, parents, carers and staff are to be congratulated that the Suffolk overall 5A*-C GCSE results (including English & Maths) have improved to 54.5% overall. There are some excellent examples of schools and their pupils achieving high outcomes which is very good news.

However, there are parts of Suffolk, such as Lowestoft and sections of Ipswich, where Suffolk County Council (SCC)should target resources at those schools that are underachieving and where pupils are not reaching their potential. For example in Lowestoft the average GCSE 5 A*-C results (including English & Maths) are 39% which is 16% below the Suffolk average. Good practice needs to be shared across all schools to raise attainment as a matter of urgency.

In addition, the Department for Education (DfE) has introduced a ‘Floor target’: a school is below the 5A*-C GCSE expected progress ‘floor standard’ if less than 40% of pupils achieve 5 A*-C GCSE (including English & Maths). A number of schools across Suffolk are still falling behind on this measure. There is a real risk of an educational divide opening up which Suffolk County Council Schools Improvement Service needs to address quickly.

Suffolk also remains one of the worst areas in the Eastern region for young people from a disadvantaged background, with only 27.7% of pupils attaining 5 A* to Cs at GCSE (including English & Maths). When we consider that Suffolk – a relatively opulent area – falls behind some of the most deprived authorities in the East, such as Luton and Thurrock, when it comes to disadvantaged pupil attainment, it makes obvious the work that is still to be done.

At A-level, both academic and vocational exam results show improvement. 89.9% of pupils are achieving at least two substantive A-level qualifications, which is up 1% from last year. This is to be greatly commended, but there is no room for complacency.

Overall, Suffolk’s GCSE and A-level results represent a hard-fought step in the right direction. But the results themselves hide many problems, such as schools still struggling in areas like Lowestoft and Suffolk’s persistent problem of disadvantaged attainment. There is much work that still needs to be done by SCC.

I would like to offer hearty congratulations to Suffolk’s young people for all their hard work in securing such good results this year.

Pupils, parents, care, teaching and school staff can be assured that I, and the Labour Group, will continue to hold the SCC administration to account to ensure that every child in Suffolk reaches his or her potential. After all, a child only gets one chance at good education.

-- Cllr Sonia Barker, Shadow spokesperson for Education, Suffolk County Council