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There is a bitter-sweet irony attached to the graduation ceremonies that always become increasingly sensitive as we work our way through the names and achievements that accompany the awarding of certificates. Although these well attended events turn the Council Chamber into an environment of infectious praise, it is in reality the start and finish of a close and often hard won partnership that ends in celebration but also with a final contribution from the mentors.
I shall never forget the fond gaze and whispered words of “will you still love me” from a bright eyed little lad who with the inspirational help of his mentor had made it through from doubt and disruptive behaviour, to an acceptance that they had worked at together and achieved as a team.
The Chance UK mentor is a type of person that I have encountered many times at these ceremonies with qualities well beyond the anticipation of care and compassion. It could be that there is as much in it for them as the giving of their time might offer to others, with the rapport experienced in different ways and often by individuals who share neither background, age or ethnicity, but the common denominator of defeat for an emotional handicap and the feelings of hurt and mistrust.
Because over time they become the owners of their own behaviour and seeing in their mentors a person that they might become if the blemishes of early development can be tackled together, in rescuing a life and redirecting energies for the good and benefit of others.
The task for the mentor is to find out what’s behind the behaviour because people are seldom upset for the reasons they think. We often decide to upset ourselves, become annoyed and then angry and blame it on the behaviour of others. In reality, we decide to upset ourselves and as the mentors quickly discover it’s a long way back for someone so young to realise that there is another way but many find it with the perseverance of their mentors.
In real monetary terms what they achieve at this early stage will reduce the heavy burden of correction for a society still struggling to cope with the unacceptable; with solutions still not available by chance but rather with the motivational enterprise of mentors and the work of Chance UK.
The Mayor was very pleased to be able to offer the use of parlour to our Deputy Lieutenant on the important occasion of awarding certificates to Army and Air Cadets. The evening was one of professional celebration with the impressive citations delivered with an obvious sense of pride, in the presence of Commandant South East London Army Cadet Force Colonel Simon Ettinghausen, ACF and ATC Officers and welcomed support from family and friends.
The strength of the ACF following is much to be applauded but this would not be possible without the dedication and commitment from those adult leaders across the whole of the youth group representation throughout London and the Home Counties. Moreover, unless familiar with the work through personal involvement or previous background, we tend to take for granted the availability of leadership roles in guiding the ambitions of these young people. With the hard facts being that gaining a placement as a cadet is very much dependent upon the weight of commitment from adults with time and experience to take on the demands of leadership, so essential in developing the qualities of achievement that were clearly apparent in the citations at the award ceremony.
The occasion marked a first for the Mayoral Team as hosts for the ceremony in Lambeth, but certainly not to been seen as a one-off for those fortunate enough to be receiving awards because by the end of the evening plans were well in hand for another award ceremony arranged for next year, followed by discussions as to attendance at the Remembrance Day Parade in November and the expectations for what the Summer Camp in August might deliver in getting the very best out of life for a young person experiencing the companionship of belonging in an ACF or ATC uniform.
With the event promoting customised glasses sponsored by Harveys, a true Sussex brew, the 23rd Battersea Beer Festival got underway for real ale drinkers in the Victorian splendour of the Grand Hall on Lavender Hill. A great venue for a great occasion and meeting en masse the real ale fraternity from straight glass classics like the Cat’s Back in Wandsworth, the legendary Brick Layers Arms and lively conversations from a bevy of informed brewers like Duncan from Sambook’s and Steve Wright from Hop Back Brewery in Salisbury, it was hard to peel off in time for the next engagement.
Without doubt it was a pleasure to meet up with these brewing entrepreneurs for whom creating real ale is an artisan craft that pays its way, with any monies owed to Inland Revenue received on time and in full. Despite coping with cash flow and the tightest of margins, they like to keep a clean sheet with up to date payments on National Insurance contribution and Business Rates; because for the majority who operate successfully in the real ale world of competitive pump prices, a pint is exactly that and when enjoyed in the company of connoisseurs it makes pulling the ring on a tin the occupation of infants.
The facts behind the campaign for real ale are not difficult to appreciate since duty alone accounts for 50% of cask cost price, with the on trade having no option but to pass this onto customers, whilst supermarkets choose to absorb much of these costs, leading to a widening of the gap between the price of on trade beer across the bar and the off trade beer found on supermarket shelves. And as such, a calculated and heavy handed loss leader that has decimated the on trade over recent years, resulting in the closure of pubs, job losses and a contraction in the social fabric of our local communities.
The collective future of these media free social environments, created, managed and maintained by our real ale pubs is wholly dependent upon the continued success of SME’s and the sheer hard graft of those working behind the logo of a local brewery. According to many of the experts responsible for brewing real ale; for every 100,000 litres of top quality stout, mild or bitter, produced, these businesses will employ on average about five people as opposed to one on the payroll of those supplying the off-licensed beer sold in supermarkets and retailed outlets nationally.
SME’s are the life blood of business success, often starting from the home-grown enthusiasm of a cottage industry or the shrewd management of family funds. They proactively support our economy, provide much needed local jobs and when experiencing economic difficulties do not plead the special case scenarios, with handouts from the tax payers or negotiate reductions in the demands sent by the Inland Revenue. Quite the reverse, they make their own running in a tough business climate with eyes and ears to the outcome of the budget, since each year the duty escalator will accelerate the decline in pub numbers. Why? Because increasing the duty does not result in increased revenue, whilst at the same time these hard pressed SME’s continue to be starved of funding from the banks. A case study is the need for bottling cask-conditioned ales for waiting markets across the Channel, but the request for plant and equipment meets with the same immovable stance from those lenders awash with cash but lacking in confidence or recognition for the enterprise of SME’s who could get our economy out of the doldrums and into the growth that we all seek.
First thing Monday morning and despite the recent falls of snow our guests dutifully arrived accompanied by their teacher Mr Pizzoferro and Mrs Jojo Ryan, one of the school governors and who is also a parent. They were all keen to ask questions as one might have expected being representatives of the school council, but the group certainly did their teachers proud in their understanding and knowledge of council chamber procedures, especially the electronic voting system that was for many considered far less transparent than the standard raised hand or use of the long forgotten Ayes and Noes voting doors!
This was an interesting point that I mentioned to our senior management at Government and Democracy level, at the Full Council briefing on Wednesday evening. Their response was most encouraging with the view that they might consider colour coding in order to aid transparency. Should this be the case, then the visit from St Leonard’s School Council will have had a far reaching affect on local government procedures at Lambeth Council. Well done!
With the help of the Mayoral Team were able to give the group nearly an hour of our time with Ms Plummer expertly on hand to arrange some gifts at the end and organise our schedule well ahead of the next engagement and Mr Betts, able to demonstrate the practical significance of the mace, as a protective weapon in defence of the Mayor. Then with the Mayor carefully robed and chained under the watchful eyes of our captive audience, we processed into the Council Chamber with just the right level of respectful dignity in the re-enactment of a civic occasion creating an appropriate environment generally reserved for elected members and the First Citizen when chairing Full Council. On reflection, we found the morning a most useful experience and therefore, I do hope that other local authorities will be able to offer similar groups of young people this early introduction to local government as essential citizenship learning.
Each year Windmill Lodge Care Centre in Brixton hold a memorial service for those, who having spent their last years as part of a community, are lovingly remembered by relatives, friends and staff with their names beautifully recorded in a book of remembrance. The Mayor for Lambeth and its communities, has a standing invitation to attend this memorial service led by the local priest Rev George Briggs and I was very pleased, albeit for a only a very limited time, to become one of those participating in what must be the ultimate expression in end of life care.
Windmill Lodge carries out a duty of care for the frail and elderly and those with cognitive impairments, ranging from mild dementia to complex needs. The work of caring is not for everyone who feels empathy for the vulnerability of age and as Suzette explained, the work is demanding for both the carer and the cared for, especially when the lack of cognitive engagement or ‘travelling’ becomes apparent, with the loss then felt by all who have made this vocational commitment to caring for our older people.
The simple service of hymns, prayers and a blessing from Father Tom was conducted as an act of public closure in the midst of a very private grief for those families who were sharing their remembering with others experiencing a similar void in their lives. Amongst those attending this memorial service were the families of Emmy and Joan who had been close friends for well over fifty years and had died within a few months of each other in the care of Windmill Lodge. Although the two families expressed themselves individually at the end of a very moving service they stood together as a small hand carved plaque to the loving memory of Emmy and Joan was erected in the gardens.
The search for Alzheimer Champions was never so rewarding, as when the Mayoral Team became aware of the achievements of the children of Class 4 at Immanuel and St Andrew Primary School Streatham in aid of the Mayor’s Charity. Dementia, or severer and prolonged memory loss is often seen as age related and as Champions in understanding the need for constant attention, this determined group of young people set about devising highly creative ways of raising money in supporting the research and caring for those who continue to suffer from this debilitating disorder.
At a recent Monday morning assembly Head Teacher Mr Robinson kindly gave the Mayor an opportunity to the speak to the whole school and at the end he was quite taken aback when Clover and Anton from Class 4 came forward to present him with a cheque for £551.57. It was indeed a most generous response to something that had originally started out as “The Biggest Picnic Ever” in an attempt to raise the profile of awareness for young people in Lambeth schools and therefore our special thanks to their class teacher MsTaiwo Labinjo, parents, governors and friends who encouraged and organised the collections.
The tragedy of dementia is a disorder that usually becomes the responsibility of those left to care and often younger members of the family are involved but not fully aware as to why such a thing might have happened and what is now being done to reduce the suffering and to seek a cure through extensive research. This work carried out by Class 4 and their greater understanding of dementia can now be shared with their peers so that as our Alzheimer Champions they can begin the journey of research enquiry at a very early age and who knows; what started at Immanuel and St Andrew might well be continued at degree level, for a young person who might then achieve an extraordinary breakthrough in explaining through their research a possible cure or serious containment for the cruelty of dementia and the years of suffering endured by those diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s Disease.
It was a very good day for our community development prospects south of the river on January 24th as Network Housing Group shared another joint success story with their partners and design consultants at the launch of the Robsart Street Development. The unveiling and official opening clearly led on the duty of care, attracting a capacity turn-out of invited guests for this celebratory event on the Stockwell Park Estate. Quite rightly, it emerged as a congratulatory sell out, that filled the reception areas with good humoured greetings and high praise for the level of contributions made by our hosts Community Trust Housing (part of Network Housing Group) who, working alongside planning and regeneration officers from the authority were responsible for progressing the finished construction to professional heights that they can be justly proud.
The duty of care requirements made it necessary for some of those now enjoying the comforts of the new scheme, to experience a move made over time and as such, less stressful in changing from an established environment. Not only did this prove to be the better option but also gave rise to the claim that when developments like this use an inclusive tenant- voice, the resultant technological foresight will deliver schemes with design elements of extra care yet to be attempted elsewhere in the borough and by their very nature leading by example.
A bold claim, but the realities for this latest development in community living, mean that the extra care facility can boast forty six, one and two-bedroom flats, for older people and a range of even higher grade facilities for those affected by physical and sensory impairment. The scheme has a bright just arrived feel to it with attentive and well managed staff supervising self-contained units operating within different levels of need, representing an impressive addition to Lambeth’s care provision. It’s a well adjusted example of independent living in an urban setting, fully integrated within excellent communal facilities that are instrumental in providing the finer points of long-term care in our borough with the 24 hour care package as a clear winner.