Foster carers are heroes, not villains | Letters | Opinion


Lemn Sissay, the fantastically gifted poet and vice chancellor of Manchester University, claims that “children in care are in danger. They are in danger because they’re being placed with foster carers who are unqualified, unskilled and uninformed.” (“We don’t value the children – or those who care for them”, Viewpoint.) His words hold weight because he has experienced first-hand the worst of the care system, works hard to give looked-after children a voice, and is someone I have met and very much respect and admire. But he is wrong.

Nearly five years ago I founded a charity to inspire more people to consider fostering and adoption and to better support those that do. I have met thousands and know hundreds of carers. Not one that I know is putting their children in danger, as Lemn claims. Most are more qualified, skilled and informed than you could imagine. I wish Lemn could spend time with these people. I wish he could spend a day with me and see the lengths I go to for the three foster children in my care to flourish.
Dr Krish Kandiah
Thame, Oxon

Why Maduro must go

Simon Tisdall is right to warn rightists in Washington not to interfere in Venezuela (“Only Venezuela can solve its problems – meddling by outsiders isn’t the solution”, Analysis). However, it does not follow that the democratic left worldwide should stay silent at the behaviour of a regime that, if headed by a Pinochet or previous corrupt and criminal South American authoritarian government, would have been met with universal opprobrium.

The Socialist International, the global federation uniting democratic socialist, Labour and social democratic parties, issued a statement after its leadership meeting in Santo Domingo last month. The SI general secretary, the Chilean Luis Ayala, was imprisoned and tortured under Pinochet and the SI president, George Papandreou, spent years in exile when the Greek colonels and generals ran Greece on lines very similar to the military crooks who support the Venezuela regime.

The SI stated that Venezuela’s May 2018 elections “were carried out through the outlawing of leaders and political parties, contrary to the democratic norms of competition, freedom and guarantees. The National Assembly is the legitimate authority to lead the democratic transition.” The Voluntad Popular party headed by Juan Guaidó is affiliated to the Socialist International and a sister party of the democratic left parties of Europe.

By all means tell President Trump not to make matters worse, but anyone who cares for Venezuela should be supporting calls for Nicolás Maduro to go, the military to leave politics and money-making, and for fair and free elections to be held.
Denis MacShane, UK Minister for Latin America 2001-2003
London SW1

A second vote is the only way

Regarding your leader (“A parliamentary paralysis, no leadership. So ask the people”), it may be perversely reassuring that the various opinions in parliament regarding the way forward in the Brexit process/debate reflect the opinions in the country in June 2016. The results of the referendum were: 17.4 million (37.3%) voted to leave the EU, 16.1 million (34.6%) voted to remain and 13 million (28%) did not register a vote. That is, no clear decision.

The research on public opinion published in your five-page Brexit special (News, last week) shows how the view of the public has clearly changed in the two and a half years since the referendum, with 45% supporting Remain and 28% wanting to leave on the terms of the prime minister’s deal.

The case for another referendum is just a common-sense way out of the parliamentary deadlock.
Mike Hobday
Surbiton, Surrey

Tone deaf? No, just history

Your review of Green Book (The New Review) is unfair – there’s nothing “tone deaf” in a showing a racist character misappropriating “black” culture – it’s a key part of 20th-century history. Your reviewer and we might not like it, but it happened. Further, the film is as much about class as race – the patrician south celebrates the black pianist (just another hired help) while the brilliant pianist treats his white employee with amused contempt grounded in his own education, financial standing and social capital.
Antony Crossley
Chobham, Surrey

Children need to take risks

Play England welcomes the call from the England children’s commissioner for the government and local authorities to step in and work with insurers to protect adventure playgrounds (“Children’s tsar in plea to ‘save our adventure playgrounds’”, News). Adventure playgrounds provide vital opportunities for children to play and to experience risk and challenge, under the supervision of experienced playworkers. They are often run by small charities and provide a lifeline for disadvantaged children and families.

The risks posed by playgrounds are extremely low compared with other risks that children face every day, such as traffic, pollution and sedentary lifestyles. No child will learn about risk if they are wrapped in cotton wool. Maybe the insurance industry should take a look at HSE’s advice?
Nicola Butler, chair of trustees, Play England, Bristol

A rare pleasure

Thank you, Barbara Ellen, for such a positive, clear, all-embracing article about life in a mixed community (“At last someone has spoken up for the pleasures of life in a mixed community”, Comment). Why do so few of our political representatives and leaders present such arguments and viewpoints? As a now-retired teacher in east London and Essex schools for over 30 years, these are the kinds of things I long to hear and read but so rarely do.
Peter Wyatt
Kenninghall, Norfolk

Shedding light on murder

The Observer has done a public service with coverage of the new information about the plane crash that killed Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961, particularly the details of a South African connection (“Coups and murder: the sinister world of apartheid’s secret mercenaries”, Focus). A reopened United Nations inquiry into the loss of the plane has found “a significant amount of evidence” that the plane was brought down by another aircraft, with the loss of all passengers and air crew on board. It also found that UK and US intercepts of radio traffic in the area could solve a mystery now almost six decades old, but they have not been provided.

The UN special investigator has criticised British and South African authorities for their lack of cooperation with the inquiry. South Africa at the time was under a different regime, but the UN needs at least to know the state or the continuity of the relevant archives.

But in the case of Her Majesty’s government, the claim that there is no extra information is not credible. Indeed, it is a scandal that the government has not even agreed to the United Nations’ direct request that Britain appoint a senior official to be the contact person with the investigation.

The MI6 chief in the Congo at that time was Daphne Park. When I asked her years later if MI6 was involved in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the country’s first democratically elected prime minister, the same year Hammarskjöld died, she replied: “Yes, I organised it.”

Any claim that MI6 has no material is not credible.
David Lea, Lord Lea of Crondall, chair of the trustees who in 2012 established the Hammarskjöld Commission
House of Lords, London SW1


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