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We have failed our vulnerable children

James Munby’s heartfelt plea for appropriate housing for children at serious risk to themselves or others (“Judges are tired of locking up children who just need help”), alongside the report by the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) turns away from children at risk of suicide (“Suicide risk children refused places on NHS England waiting lists because services were overwhelmed”), reiterates that the Conservative government has shown a complete lack of interest in meeting needs since 2010 of children facing difficulties.

Sure Start has been scrapped, youth care does not exist, residential care is in the hands of profiteers, children’s mental health problems are far beyond the ability of CAMHS to cope, special educational needs are not being met, funding is being drastically cut voluntary organisations, child poverty is rising, and the recommendations of the government’s own review of children’s social care have been ignored. The list goes on, with the overall well-being of British children still below the European average.

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

No wardrobe needed

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

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The case brought by Manchester City is the biggest existential threat professional football has faced to date (“Playing the victim card is how elites game the system, just look at Manchester City”, Commentary, last week) . Quite apart from the impact on football (it is becoming increasingly competitive), there is a serious risk of it becoming politicized. The specter of government regulation and nation-state-owned clubs suggests we may already be there. Unfortunately, the fans don’t matter anymore. Even sadder is that it seems as if the entire pyramid no longer matters. If fans want 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 in clarifying the Equality Act 2010 and how it interacts with the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (“The Gender Spaces Act is a mess. It needs to be fixed, no political scoring”). No attention is paid to the confusion and suffering that all women experience.

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

Urgent clarification is needed to ensure that situations that Sonia’s friend finds herself in do not arise. Her support for a group of abused, traumatized same-sex women must continue without the threat of persecution by any biological male who might wish to join her group.
Christine Emmett
Wymondham, Leicestershire

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Sonia Sodha’s column was frustrating to read; For all the clear and sensible thinking about the dysfunctions of the current law, the column fails to convey why this issue is emotional and even existential for trans people and their allies who disagree with it.

Sodha is clearly motivated by a deep empathy for vulnerable women, but it’s saddening to see the lack of empathy extend to transgender people. She dismisses those on the other side of the argument as people whose “critical faculties have been rotten by spending too much time online” and who only see “cartoonish villains.” Meanwhile, she only talks about “men” in women-only spaces, and writes about men being sexually fulfilled by being in women’s spaces, as if this is what a typical transgender person does. No recognition is given to 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 dispute in the strongest terms, feeling that it denies them their existence. If we want to reach a workable consensus on this, we all need to start by understanding where both sides are coming from, not just legally, but emotionally as well.
Jac Foster
London SE26

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Sunderland’s heart of glass

It’s great that Sunderland is finally coming back to life, but the National Glass Center mentioned in Jasper Jolly’s article will close in the coming years (“Centre forward: Sunderland sets sights on revival by bringing homes and jobs to the city center to bring” ). This act of cultural vandalism by the university will ensure that the city will never ‘level up’.

The National Glass Center offers a range of exhibition and education facilities and makes a great day out. But it’s on the river and close to the city center, so developers would like to redevelop the site and make some easy money. Locals are fighting against its closure, but the odds are against them. As Paul Swinney, from the Center for Cities think tank, said in the article: Sunderland will only truly be revitalized if businesses base their high-quality jobs and workforces in the city. And that will not happen if existing cultural facilities of national importance are closed.
Jo Howel
Smoker, Sunderland

Health before retirement

Torsten Bell is absolutely right when he says that many of us, who have reached a certain age, are more concerned about the survival of the NHS than about any increases in our future pension (“Baby Boomers are much more concerned about the NHS than about their pensions, Mr Sunak”). A few hundred pounds extra pension benefits a year won’t help me much if I have to pay for private medical care when the NHS grinds to a halt.
Stuart Harrington
Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset

One for all and all for one

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

Today I am 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!
Helena Lees
Bury, Lancashire



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