Letters, December 25 2020


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Last minute gift to connect people in Argyll

As we approach the end of a year that has been unlike any other, I’m sure some of your readers, like myself, will be thinking of those we hold dear who are unable to join the family Christmas meal this year.

I’d like to suggest a simple, last-minute gift that will help connect people in Argyll and Bute with their loved ones and feed hungry children around the world.

Mary’s Meals, a charity reaching more than 1.6 million children every day in some of the world’s poorest countries, is hosting a virtual Christmas dinner. For just £15.90 – enough to feed a child every day for an entire school year – your readers can set a place at our table for their friends and family. Their name will appear online and we’ll provide a digital placemat to pass on as a present.

This year, your gifts will go twice as far, with each place set now feeding two children with Mary’s Meals for an entire school year.

Give until January 31 and public donations will be doubled by the UK Government, up to £2 million – meaning we can reach even more hungry children in Liberia with life-changing school meals.

Daniel Adams, executive director of Mary’s Meals UK.

Festive support for care leavers

It can be frightening and lonely for young people when they leave the care system. Many may be living on their own for the first time and often will not have a network of friends and family around to offer them support.

Christmas can be a particularly difficult and isolating time for care leavers as they find themselves having to spend the festive season on their own, especially this year when Covid-19 restrictions mean it will be difficult to go out to socialise and the usual large-scale Christmas dinners for care leavers will not be taking place.

However, the charity Family Action runs Listening Works, a free virtual helpline specifically for young care leavers aged 18 to 27 years old across the UK. We are here all evening, every evening 6pm to midnight and even over the festive period, December 24 to January 2, we are still available from 3pm to 6pm.

So, if you are a care leaver, whether you’ve got something on your mind or you just fancy a friendly chat, we’re here for you when many other services are shut or not available.

You can call us on 0808 802 0222, text us on 07860 065 169 or you can have a web chat with us via our website at www.family-action.org.uk/listening-works – whatever kind of listening works for you, we are here.

Our trained volunteers can offer you someone to talk to – a listening ear, a friendly voice and a chance to talk openly about whatever’s on your mind.

We also offer signposting to useful resources if any specific issues come up and information about other support out there and how to get it.

So, if you are a care leaver, or know a care leaver who might benefit, please remember Listening Works is here for you and not just for Christmas. Please get in touch.

David Holmes CBE, chief executive, Family Action.

Landmark moment for child safety online

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, online grooming crimes in Scotland were more than 30 per cent higher when children were not at school compared with the same months last year.

The NSPCC has been calling for legislation to protect children from grooming, abuse and harmful content online, since 2017. After years of the charity campaigning, on December 15, the UK Government announced the framework for a future Online Harms Bill that has the potential to provide much greater protection for children when they use the internet.

This is a landmark moment – a major step towards legislation that can make an enforceable legal duty of care on tech companies a reality. For too long children have been exposed to disgraceful abuse and harm online.

Social media companies will have a duty to protect young users from child abuse and harmful content online and face fines of up to £18 million or 10 per cent of their global turnover if they fail.

But that doesn’t mean that the work we do stops now. For instance, the proposals fall short of ensuring criminal sanctions against named directors whose companies fail to uphold their duty of care.

Child protection and children’s voices must remain front and centre of regulatory requirements. We have set out six tests for robust regulation – including action to tackle both online sexual abuse and harmful content and a regulator with the power to investigate and hold tech firms to account with criminal and financial sanctions.

Failing to pass any of the six tests will mean that future generations of children will pay with serious avoidable harm and sexual abuse.

We will now be closely scrutinising the proposals against those tests. Above all, legislation must ensure Ofcom has the power and resources to enforce the duty of care and be able to identify and then take appropriate action against tech firms that fail.

For more information, search ‘NSPCC six tests’.

Joanna Barrett, policy and public affairs manager, NSPCC Scotland.