Today, Trans Visibility Day, is a day that we celebrate each trans and nonbinary person, whether you choose to be visible or not, and reaffirm our commitment to stand against discrimination, bigotry and all forms of trans exclusionary behaviour.
When wider society discusses trans issues, too often trans people have to deal with vitriolic and discriminatory language which has a profound impact on wellbeing.
In October 2020, I organised and chaired a roundtable with leading trans charities to discuss mental health, discrimination, and how we can work together to tackle it.
I will always be an ally of the trans community. As MP for Tooting and Shadow Minister for Mental Health, I want to be a voice for everyone - including the LGBTQ+ community - and I will continue to uphold LGBT+ Labour’s 10 pledges, which I signed up to during the 2020 Labour leadership race, outlined below.
Many local residents have shared with me their concerns about pickpocketing in the Balham area.
I have met with Wandsworth Police about this issue, who I know are working hard to ensure that our streets are safe. I have been assured that the police have now increased foot patrols around identified hotspots, in order to identify suspects and to tackle these worrying crimes.
Unfortunately, although these crimes are reported on social media, very few of these are reported directly to the police. In order that the police can act on crime, it is vital that any offences are reported as soon as it is possible to do so, either via 999 or 101. This will help the police identify where to direct resources and provide the best opportunity to apprehend those responsible.
With the sun shining in Tooting this week, I know it was a relief to many that outdoor sports could resume from Monday 29th March. As a lover of sports myself, I sympathise with everyone who has missed their daily swim, a kickabout with friends, or a game of tennis.
Under current Government guidance, outdoor sports facilities and organised outdoor group sports for adults and children can all resume. You can now also play informal sports with a group of six friends or with any number of people up to two households.
Here is what has reopened in the local area for your sports fix:
Tooting Bec Lido - Open for bookings only and with a number of restrictions in place, including the changing rooms remaining shut for those without a disability. To book a slot at the Lido, please see here.
Tooting Common and Furzedown Rec Tennis Courts - Anyone is able to use the tennis courts, provided that they book in advance. You can book using this link.
Tooting Bec Athletics Track - The athletics track has reopened and organised outdoor activities for adults and children have resumed on the track. Bookings can be made in advance here.
Garratt Park Ball Court - Organised sport will be allowed to take place on the ball court now and groups of six will be able to enjoy the kickabout wall or a group game of basketball.
More information about recreational spaces can be found on the Enable Parks website here.
For so many, our Tooting Bec Lido is a source of great local pride.
During the most recent Government lockdown, I know residents have missed using Tooting Bec Lido and have felt the mental and physical pressure from not being able to swim regularly.
I am so pleased that the Lido opened once again to the public from Monday 29th March and would like to thank volunteers from the South London Swimming Club for their efforts in preparation for its opening.
As per previous rules, you will need to book to use the lido in advance and booking can be made via the Places Leisure app or website here:
If you are going to enjoy a swim in the spring sunshine, please do make sure you follow the guidelines in place to keep everyone safe. Places Leisure have emphasised that there will be no lockers or changing facilities available at this time and that swimmers must stick to width-lane swimming only in order to abide by social distancing guidelines.
As the weather gets warmer, I look forward to residents enjoying a safe, outdoor swim.
Last week the Balham and Tooting Community Association (BATCA) celebrated its 15th anniversary.
BATCA is a network of diverse individuals and organisations committed to creating a cohesive, thriving community in Balham and Tooting. Their annual events – the Fun Day on Broadwater Road, the Tooting Broadway Peace Ceremony, and the Community Heroes Awards – are local institutions. BATCA have continued their good works throughout the pandemic, moving events online and acting as a platform for groups to share news and information.
BATCA are always looking to welcome new members to help them further the organisation’s aims. Click here to find out more, and to join this wonderful collective.
It was a pleasure to join Basildon Councillor Gavin Callaghan as well as local Basildon organisations to talk about mental health this week.
Coronavirus has had a profound impact on our mental health support services and it is always great to see a local authority listen to and work with local organisations on the front line providing help where it is most needed.
We need to take inspiration from Basildon Council and create an environment at a national level where community organisations and peer support groups work in tandem with local authorities and local health services.
A huge thank you to Kim Bailey of Purple Genie Life Coaching, Karen Pullen of Craig Tyler Trust, Jonathan Barrow of Sociability, and Alison Cunningham of The Listening Post, for taking part.
The recent vigil on Clapham Common was our chance to come together and grieve the loss of Sarah Everard's life. Our chance to mourn the lives of the women lost to violence. And it was a chance to mourn our own lived experiences. I share the frustrations and disappointment felt over police action taken that day.
In light of events at Clapham Common, I know many are concerned about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and what this divisive law would mean for the right to protest.
I want to be clear: Tonight, I will be voting against this Bill.
I believe that the Government has undermined this Bill through draconian measures that impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest. I believe these measures will have an unfair impact on Black, Asian, and ethnic minority people. I also believe 10 year sentences for crimes against statues – significantly longer than the sentences for crimes which disproportionately impact women – is a worrying priority.
Under this Government, rape convictions have fallen to an all-time low, delays in the Crown Courts are at an all-time high, and justice is not being served for thousands of women and girls. This is now the time for the Government to correct their woeful record and commit to putting in place long overdue protections for women.
In light of the recent tragic events, many residents have been in touch to share their concerns about the lighting in Tooting and Wandsworth Commons.
Indeed, many women feel unable to use the Commons in the evening due to the poor lighting, whereby many of the paths are unlit.
All our local residents, including women, should feel safe to access these vital green spaces, which is why I have written to Paul Chadwick, Director Environment and Community Services at Wandsworth Council, and Neil Blackley, Head of Parks at Enable, who manage Wandsworth’s green spaces on the Council’s behalf, calling for action to improve the lighting across both sites as quickly as possible.
Please check back here for updates on the Council’s response.
Our hearts go out to Sarah Everard's friends and family at this unspeakably difficult time.
My statement on this and the #ReclaimTheseStreets vigil here:
As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, many of our Tooting community are looking forward to spending time with our loved ones once again. However – for a variety of reasons – not all of us have this opportunity.
Only one in five children spend time with their grandparents, whilst half a million people aged 65+ go at least five days without seeing or speaking to anyone, this is a fantastic organisation. The Wiser Collective – a local intergenerational community initiative that connects older people with younger families who can benefit from their skills and experience – was formed in 2018.
Before the pandemic, The Wiser Collective hosted a variety of local events to combat loneliness across the generations, including the monthly ‘Skill Share Saturdays’, where neighbours of different generations meet to make new local friends, share talents, hobbies, passions, and chat over tea and cake.
During the lockdown, the group helped the elderly with shopping deliveries, the collection of prescriptions, and stopped by for doorstep chats.
To find out more and get involved with this wonderful organisation, visit their website: thewisercollective.com/