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/
Many residents are concerned about air quality, both locally and nationwide, so I know it will likely be of interest to know that clean air routes are coming to Tooting.
Clean air routes provide an alternative to the busier, more polluted commuter routes for those travelling by foot or by bike.
This great new initiative allows commuters to significantly reduce their exposure to air pollution while also enjoying the beauty of our local green spaces.
Working with St. George’s hospital, the Cross River Partnership (CRP) has developed a route from Tooting Broadway Station to St George's which will offer a cleaner alternative for staff, patients, and visitors alike.
For more information about this clean air routes, as well as others across London, see here.
I recognise that having a vaccine might be unfamiliar for some people and that many have questions about what it's like.
Working as an A&E doctor at St George’s Hospital throughout the pandemic, I was lucky enough to receive the first dose of the vaccine in January. Receiving my second dose this week, I want to show you exactly what happens when you go for your vaccine.
The sooner the vaccine is rolled out, the sooner we can begin to rebuild - together.
While we cannot celebrate in person this year, this International Women's Day I'm celebrating the women who make Tooting such an incredible place to live. I am beyond proud to represent an area with an array of admirable, determined and strong women from so many different backgrounds. Please join me in thanking those mentioned below, and all the women who play an important role in your life.
In 1912, Tooting dressmaker and suffragette Lillian Ball was arrested and sentenced for two months hard labour for her involvement in a window-smashing campaign in March 1912, with around 150 other women in London’s west-end. Being a working-class mother of three, it is said that Lillian received a harsher sentence than other suffragettes from wealthier backgrounds. During her time in prison completing the hard labour sentence, she recounted that she was blackmailed and coerced by senior police officers to give evidence against some of the key leaders of the suffragette movement.
To think of everything Lillian sacrificed for women like myself to put a cross in the ballot box, makes me exceptionally proud to think of all we have achieved in Wandsworth since then. All MPs in Wandsworth are women and we have 10 female councillors in Tooting alone.
I am also exceptionally proud to work for our NHS, where 77% of the workforce is made up of women. It was only in 1892 that The British Medical Association formally accepted female doctors into their register, and in 1948, under Attlee’s NHS reforms, it was required by law that a ‘reasonable proportion’ of medical students were women. My colleagues in St George’s, and beyond, are a true testament to what our health service embodies.
And within our local community, I am proud of the women who have gone above and beyond to aid those in need. In 2016, the first Little Village baby bank was founded in Balham to provide families in need with baby clothes and equipment, such as cots, bottles and sterilisers. In 2020, they helped an estimated 6590 children and have now set up banks across Wandsworth, Camden and Southwark.
Founder Sophia is a busy mum-of-three herself and has inspired many across the country, including royalty! Since 2020, the Duchess of Cambridge has supported the aims of Little Village and recently spoke to service users at the fifth anniversary of the organisation.
I am also proud of the efforts of Tooting Community Kitchen to support those in need of a hot meal or drink. Sahar Beg founded the Tooting Community Kitchen in 2018, inspired by her mum’s love for cooking, and has been providing hot food and drink to those in need ever since. The community owes a great deal to Sahar’s commitment to helping others and I for one am proud to know her and support her efforts.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to two amazing young women in the constituency, whose campaigns have helped many others. Hope Virgo is the founder of the #DumpTheScales campaign, which calls on the Government to review eating disorder guidance delivered by clinicians. She is open about her journey with anorexia and now supports young people, parents and educational staff understand eating disorders in more detail.
Tooting’s own Kate Isaacs founded the ‘Not Your Porn’ campaign after her friend was a victim of revenge porn, and has been fighting against companies profiteering from revenge porn since. For those who do not know what revenge porn is, it is the sharing of private sexual materials with intent to cause distress, typically without consent. Indeed, in 2020, the UK’s specialist revenge porn helpline recorded its busiest ever year with 2700 calls.
Last of all, I would like to send a message to all the women in Tooting. No matter what your background, race, gender or identity, you have the power to be a force for change. Look up to the outstanding role models we have in Tooting and most importantly, be proud of who you are.
For months, Labour have been calling on the Government to make the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent This increase has been a lifeline for many at a time where families across the country are struggling to make ends meet. In many cases, this extra money is the difference between being able to pay for the gas, electricity, or internet bill. Indeed, a report by the Resolution Foundation think-tank has warned that any cut would see a further 1.2 million people, including 400,000 children, fall into relative poverty.
While the Government never turned up to vote on Labour’s motion at the February Opposition Day debate, it is generally convention that the Government implements successful opposition day votes. We are therefore pleased that the Chancellor decided to extend the £20 uplift for another six months. While disappointing that this is not a permanent measure, I know this will bring much needed reassurance to many.
Given the number of families I know are struggling at the moment, I have included some links below which I hope will be of use:
For mental health issues and support, you can always phone Samaritans on 116 123 or email email@example.com
I hope this information is useful and, please remember, if you are struggling at the moment - you are not alone.
here you can read about my campaign activities