Club Zone One

Trapped in Zone One returns to Bethnal Green this autumn with Club Zone One in partnership with Parkview TRA.

Club Zone One Website and further details here:

As part of our continued youth provision programme we’re hosting a 3-month programme following the governments Covid-19 guidance from 16 October – 18 December 2021 for young females aged 11-18 from Tower Hamlets, providing creative workshops and fitness session with FREE lunchtime nutritious meals provided by a local food provider.

Every Saturday, 12:00 – 14:00
Glasshouse Community Centre, 161 Old Ford Road, E2

To register a young person to the programme, parents and guardians need to complete the registration form here.

Guidance for parents and carers of children attending out-of-school settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, click here

Free mindful play session

Children aged 3 to 8 (with supervision of an accompanying parent/guardian) can enjoy a free

MINDFUL PLAY session at the Glasshouse Community Centre,

on Wednesday 13th December 2017 from 4pm to 5.30pm for seasonal arts and crafts.

Free healthy snacks for children, tea and spicy chai.

Swimming the ideal sport

We are extremely lucky and privileged that we have the London Aquatic Center on our doorstep. Since the 2012 Olympic Games, (and beforehand) British swimming made headlines. Now all of us can swim at this iconic pool.

A newly formed swimming club enables locals to be part of future swimming excellence. The London Aquatics Centre Performance Program (LACPP) helps swimmers train from as early as they can swim 2 lengths in the 50 meter pool.

The facility is very pleasing and popular with parents for the “Better” learn to swim classes in the spacious pools.

I highly recommend swimming as a regular after-school activity, my granddaughter took up swimming in Primary and St. John’s Bethnal Green supported her sporting endeavours. After winning Gold at the Tower Hamlets School swimming games, Madison now trains regularly at the LAC. Hope to see you there.

The venue is in easy reach, the 339 or 388 bus goes there.

School play centre fees up by 150%

I have now been informed that the cost of a play centre place in a local school has risen from £5 per term for the unwaged and gone up to £20. Parents in employment have to pay £5 per day.

In that sense I wonder whether the playground behind Mark House is supposed to replace the play provision and makes equipment available to be used without adequate supervision.

Play centres provide excellent play facilities that are supervised by fully trained staff. Yet the cost of it has risen steadily over the last 10 years. Before that play centres used to be completely free and were provided in each and every school, each day affter school and during the holidays. Then it was relatively easy and more affordable to get  a job whilst now the cost of play centre provision might make it more difficult.

I have heard that some parents are not prepared to pay those £20 and rather not send their children. The only other quality play facility alternative we have on Parkview Estate is the Wednesday play club that is run by St. James the Less volunteers in Ridley House. This runs from 3.30 to 5pm.

The whole emphasis of child rearing should be on sensible supervision and I regret it very much that the Council has stopped the funding for play centres as they used to. I think the solution to children causing problems on the estate with playing of football and other activities is due to not enough sponsored play provision and the latest price rise for play centre provision shows that the council does not see our children as a priority.

A play ground is better than none but I was not aware that the play ground behind Mark House was meant to be a replacement for supervised quality playing time in the local school’s play centre.

Children’s future – very urgent

At nearly each and every meeting I participated in, and I go to a lot of meetings I fail to find a good and equally representation of each part of our community, seen by ethnicity, age, marital status, financial status.

In the Safer Neighbourhood Meetings it is refreshing to see new faces each time a meeting takes place and in the recent Resident’s Question Time, held at the Bethnal Green Museum for Childhood, we saw that the local services can be held to account for the quality of service they provide. We saw an accumulation of locals voicing their fears and praises and representatives of all relevant council, police and health departments.

Several hundreds of residents attended and this gave a good impression of what the perceived quality of resident’s lives is.

These ad hock mass meetings bring together a random amount of persons who express their one-off views and the Safer Neighbourhood Panel meetings bring around a steady amount of attendees that see some regulars and frequently new persons who may or may not come again.

The Safer Neighbourhood Meetings as well as local estate based meetings in my view do not represent all sections of the community and I see this as a matter of concern. Most talked about are youth and their failings and police do their best to assure concerned locals that they deal with misbehaviour, e.g. alcohol consumption in the street, other nuisances and crime by first of all a provision of behaviour contracts and those can be repeated 3 times for the reasons that failing to keep those does not result in a criminal procedure. ASBOS are not appropriate for younger persons as failure to keep those will result in criminal charges.

What concerns me at each and every meeting that I cannot see representatives of the parents, those who are the parents of the children complained about because it is those parents who need advice and help the most.

I think what is needed is a consultation of those parents, and not only those parents but all parents by asking them what they think is needed to help them raise their children successfully on the small amounts of moneys they do have, which is so little that their child rearing will have to be at the local level.

Simultaneously at each and every meeting, apart from complaints about misbehaving youth there are complaints that there is not enough youth provision, especially not for elder youth. From what I have heard, a youth club at the former Canal Club had to be closed because of drug abuse, a youth club at the Glass House because youth attempted to burn the building down.

Yet I cannot find any attempt to employ trained youth workers in the area that are capable to skillfully run youth clubs in the light of youth having particular needs.

I find very little promotion of police cadet clubs, though army cadets are easily approachable as they are near Bethnal Green station. I do understand that police officers are permanently stationed in some schools but know little by way of promotion of cadet clubs for pupils.

What bothers me is that I keep on getting the impression that we constantly limp behind young person’s problems, once they got the problem, which is predictable, there are measures to get them back to normal life but why not try instead to put resources to keep them out of trouble in the first place?

Yet the more resources are put into after care the less is available on prevention.

I do welcome those people’s forums as they bring out the people to hold the police, council and health services to account but fail to find that enough consultation is going on with parents about their children’s leisure time needs. Though the school hours are very long and can span a whole day, at weekends and evenings children still wish to play and it is important they can do so.

Yes we do have parks but not all parents are able to bring their children there, may that be that one is disabled, a parent itself has certain health or mental health needs and children simply want to play locally were they live. Also if a parent has spent a day at work, comes home to rush through the necessary housework, they can hardly find the time to bring their kids to the park and in fact would all parents bring their children to the park, the park would be totally overcrowded.

My favourite solution to this would be local play areas on each housing estate and on larger estate, a play area per 2 or 3 blocks, depending on the geography of the blocks. Boys traditionally like to play ball games and girls are not so fussy for equipment, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

It would be comparatively cheap to erect a fenced play area on each estate to allow safe playing by children. I have heard comments that this would cause a noise. I even heard complaints of people who live near schools that children make a noise when they play outside.

Children do make a noise and it is a refreshing noise and that kind of noise is welcome as long as the children can be safe, their balls to not fly into the road or people’s balconies and yes, in my view residents need to tolerate such noise or move elsewhere in residential blocks without children, if they have a problem with noise from children because we should never curtail our children because one or two people do not like them.

The relatively small investment of play areas in each estate would be much cheaper in social and policing costs than waiting until the inevitable happens and kids do go over the rails. We need to be positive towards children and their parents and try to involve them more, talk to them and be positive and try to engage parents in taking the initiative. Firstly perhaps with a little encouragement but why not encourage parents groups who take the lead in looking after local children in out of school hours as volunteers.

I come across all sorts of volunteers but hardly ever find any parents who want to look after children but I find plenty of single or childless persons who complain about children and youth. I think this social imbalance needs to be addressed urgently.

We have failed to understand and act on the result of the social revolution society has undergone. In the 60s and 70s we saw housewives and mothers care for children, who played happily in the local streets. We then saw the significant change of mothers going to work, children attending school for longer hours and now no one has the time or natural inclination to fill that gap that has been created by the changes to our family patterns.  We cannot simply rely on our police to deal with this and I have not started a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme to criminalise local children and youth who are banished behind closed doors and if allowed out, have little inspiration to play meaningful games that do not cause any damage to gardens or themselves in light of increasing traffic.

We have to evaluate the social changes that have taken place over the last 50 years and also understand that housing architecture has not changed enough to accommodate such social changes. Housing estates are not longer solely occupied by families and some of the families we have today come from a background that in itself has language barriers and is of such social composition that requires very local initiatives rather than hoping parents would bring their children to remote playing spaces.

Bethnal Green is a very diverse area, with many people from many backgrounds or cultures. It has a total population of 17,590 as of the 2001 census. The largest ethnic group is people of Bangladeshi descent (mainly Sylheti), which constituting 41.4% of the area population (high proportion mainly in Bethnal Green South). The second largest are the White British, constitute 37.2% of the area’s population. Other ethnic groups include Somalis, other Black African and Black Caribbean, Arabs and other Asian groups. The two main faiths of the people are Islam and Christianity, with 50.1% Muslims and 33.8% Christians.

Putting that into the context of education, children that are scooped up in overcrowded flats for a lot of the time and have no outlet for their abundant energies, and only get out to go to equally overcrowded classrooms during the day for prolonged periods of time are bound to develop problems sooner or later and that is only common sense and very predictable and those who have the power to change the more than predictable outcome of housing and social policies have a responsibility to avoid the problems by ensuring that play spaces are made available or we will see an ever increasing demand on prison spaces with an ever increasing percentage of our population being housed in such prisons via criminal proceedings.

We do have a choice to steer society productively and progressively into a more healthy future in social terms especially.

Most important is that we empower people to take their and their children’s lives into their own hands and that relies on a functioning economy with plenty of employment and jobs.

Estate news 20 July 2009

Having got myself ready this morning to participate in the monthly repairs inspection I had to realise that the scheduled walk-around had been cancelled again. Ringing the housing services in Rushmead gave me the information that one believes the estate officers Mr Mohammed Jowardhar has been replaced with another officer and that they have swapped areas.

Whereas I find it important that we get those schedules kept to and that regardless who is the housing officer such repairs inspections should take place as scheduled and if not that notice is given to people who usually take part in those inspections that there is a problem.

But no such thing happened, I rang Rushmead twice. I shall try to raise it at the next LAP 1 meeting if possible and the Service Improvement Working Group to take place later this week. There is also a new Area working group to meet next week, to which I have been invited.

I then got a call from a Mr Miah who is the new estates officer for Parkview and Wellington Estates and the repairs inspection shall take off at 10:15 today, after all.

Tomorrow I shall attend the Safer Neighbourhood Bethnal Green North Ward panel meeting to discuss, among other issues the Glasshouse complaints.

For the Glasshouse funding problems, Councillor Ranja Khan is scheduled to visit the venue this week and I shall meet her there myself together with Ray, Jackie works at a play centre in Tower Hamlets and can’t be there.

Let you know at the end of the week how things went. Iaim to make this more transparent so that residents know what is going on.

Petition to full Council meeting on 15 July 2009

Article about the Glasshouse Petition to the Council on 15 July 2009
Article in the East London Advertiser about the Glasshouse Petition to the Council on 15 July 2009. I need to make it clear that I do not want to see the Glasshouse shut down but kept open and hope the funding issue will be resolved during the summer holiday, and thanks for all the volunteers who keep it going in the meantime. I think the funding officer should have visited the Glasshouse Community Centre in December 2008 to sort out problems, which obviously existed when the usual application for funding did not arrive at her desk. Thankfully the centre is in the capable hands of Jackie Miller, who promised a stop to late night parties, that were held to make up for the lack of funding. I think Community Centres should not have to rely on monies with activities that are not desirable for a community centre and/or the community around them.

The council chamber was packed with councillors and petitioners alike to seek various assistance. Before me the ESOL petition from Tower Hamlets College where funding had been cut.

The Glasshouse petition for funding was second on the agenda for petitions and I had to change the wording slightly in the last minute as I only got notified very shortly before the presentation that I had only 3 minutes to make a speech. So I cut out some sentences of my petition to get it all in because apparently the microphone gets turned off if one overdraws on the time allowed.

However the East London Advertiser was very quick to report about the petition on 16 July 2009, when it had taken place the evening before.

According to this article in the East London Advertiser titled “Families’ fight centres on Town Hall”, it states that the council said “other funding opportunities” were available for the ‘staff’ at the centre.

The basic truth is, that there is no staff at the centre, the Glasshouse is run by volunteers who do not get a penny for the work they do. It was in the hands of the treasurer Lil Warner to make the new application for funding in December 2008, when she died of a sudden heart attack in November 2008.

Of course it took a little while to sift through her belongings and sort out the paperwork for someone else to be able to make the new application and it is unbelievably harsh to refuse funding on those grounds. As the Advertiser rightly states the centre had been run since the 1950’s when the estate was first built. Her family was also grieving so was much of our community as Lil Warner was one of the most loved members of our community. Even the secretary of the Parkview TRA was deeply moved by her death. Yes, and would we have staff to deal with administrative matters like grant applications, this would not have happened, that the death of one member jeopardises a grant application but we do not have any staff as such.

After the petition was delivered and questions answered to the full Council meeting, I chatted up Lead Councillor Rania Khan who promised to look into it further. Today, I got a phone call from her personal assistant at the Town Hall and made an appointment for Councillor Khan to come and visit the Glasshouse for a chat to see what can be done.

We are also in negotiation with Jack Dash House to get all the paperwork correct in respect of constitution of the Parkview TRA and to establish properly whose responsibility the Glasshouse Centre is going to be, either the Council’s the Parkview TRA or whether other arrangements can be made. The next TRA meeting is on 1st September 2009 and I expect a member of the Resident’s engagement team to come and give some good advice and guidance. Till then the holidays are upon us and this matter has to be put on hold till after the hols. Jackie works in a holiday play centre as she needs to earn some money, because the Glasshouse “job” does not pay her any wage.

Councillor Stephanie Eaton thought it would be quite expensive to allow the Glasshouse to stay empty and I think it is in urgent need of re-decoration and some plumbing repairs are also needed. The Glasshouse is in limbo and I do my utmost to unravel the mystery of how it can be run to the satisfaction to all it serves.

Also Derek England, who runs the Community Centre on the Ocean Estate, fellow member on the LAP 1 steering group supports well run community centres and halls without much hassle over funding. Thanks Derek for congratulating me on the delivery of that petition.

Hi-di-hi its holiday time

Apparently 55% of all parents asked in a survey for the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) state they are worried their children watch too much TV or play too many computer games. A comprehensive BBC report reveals that play centre and holiday schemes in other areas cost parents £10 per week and are heavily subsidised whilst they cost £10 per day in Tower Hamlets for working parents and £4 per day for benefit recipients. That is in the local authority area that is classed to be the poorest in Britain.

I have booked a question to be asked at the next full Council meeting on 15 July 2009, at Mulberry Place at 7:30 because I cannot quite understand why the council cuts back on essential child holiday provision.

Summer holidays are known to be sticky points and anti-social behaviour rates are likely to shoot up in those 6 weeks.

A school in Lancashire has professional football classes with footballers from Blackpool FC, and runs themed weekends and even the police runs classes for kids.

I am most worried about the cost of holiday provision for children here in Tower Hamlets, running into £220 for 25 days for benefit recipients and £370 for working parents.

This cutting back on essential community subsidies is deeply worrying especially as it coincides with cutting back funding for community centres that traditionally provide holiday events on a voluntary basis.

On the same Wednesday the 15 July 2009, I also present a petition on behalf of the Glasshouse Community Centre that had its funding cut.

Waste of money in non democratic means.

Example of a playground on a housing estate
Example of a playground on a housing estate

Having  attended another LAP 1 steering group meeting today, I again felt like I was sitting on a board full of people that were fed information to digest rather than a group of people that actually did the steering.

In the words of David Cameron, (as seen on Councillor Phil Brisco’s blog) Quangos replace democratic accountability with bureaucracy and that’s what LAP steering group meetings remind me of.

It is concerning that each new government or local authority administration can create its own rules to replace local democratic accountability and does so planning way ahead of the elected term in the belief they are going to run the show forever.

That any government or local authority can take tax payers’ money and start to spend billions on setting up new administrative structures that only make sense for one political purpose should be prevented and this must be looked at as a matter of law and a legal framework will have to provide rules for expenditure on consultative exercises that serve no real purpose.

Participatory budgeting is good if the items on the budget are chosen by the people themselves but in our case we were given budget options and there was never any consultation, not that I know of, that questioned the whole concept of how services are delivered today in Tower Hamlets.

It seems to me that young people get their own ambassadors in the form of a young Major but why are parents never consulted? Parents do not seem to exist for this council, they are the silent class of people that do not come to meetings because the care for their children and have no other options but moan that things are not done the way they find practicable or desirable. The whole matter of raising children in Tower Hamlets today has become a “send your child to school, then probably after school club and then there is nowhere to go, the kid stays at home society”.

It has always been tradition that children played outside locally to their home and build a social groups around their homes but today, in Tower Hamlets this concept is in the process of being eradicated. Green spaces in council estates are used to plant flowers to fulfil the needs of the childless who desire silence.

Parents have been pushed into the background and children are being more and more criminalised, called anti-social because they cannot cope with these new rules. There are then parenting contracts that most likely want to achieve that parents send their children to school all the time and ensure they do not play outside anymore. As I said in another blog, parents with houses and gardens would never just plant the garden and not allow the children to play in it, yet on council estates today children are not allowed to play on green spaces any more.

Not every estate is lucky to have any children’s play area and more emphasis has to be put on children growing up and an environemnt that cmopliments that task and not just providing quiet areas to live for those who can afford to purchase a home on a council estate but do not have children.

This problem only started to arise from the moment council flats were up for sale and the Yuppies moved into our estates. The Yuppies are winning and children stay at home behind closed doors not seen or heard.

A local authority must do better than that. This process of cultural change was not achieved through democratic means, as the parents of children hardly ever come to meetings, but through financial power and bureaucratic administration.

We get plenty of help for youngsters who are in trouble or about to get into trouble and that is a terrible tactic to only give attention to a child once it has broken the law because there are no child friendly living spaces available for such children on our housing estates today.

Children cannot thrive by being in a highly controlled environment every minute of the day, plenty of studies and papers have been published about this but the advice has been ignored by Tower Hamlets. See also this post.

As one can see from the picture at the very top, (Parkview Residents) there are 2 blocks on the left and each one has a green space behind the house. At the back of each house is a balcony for each flat facing the green spaces and on the ground floor residents garden a small strip of land. Quite obviously ball playing children would kick the ball into balconies, gardens, plants, the very busy road that runs past the estate. Yet no one gets the easy to grasp idea to build fenced in playing spaces or playing spaces that do not include football but stimulate a child’s imagination. Result, children stay in their flats most of the time they are not in school and as soon as they get out, they are seen as a nuisance.

I welcome and represent all residents on the estate and do not wish to reiterate the anti-Yuppie feeling but must stress that more has to be done to include those residents with children who cannot come to meetings and who are dependent on the good will of those who can.

We need much more consultation for those with children on council estates so that those families do not become the outcasts of council block society. Community gardens are an excellent idea but should not be cultivated without taking the needs of children into account and the input of parents.

After school clubs

I think that the play centre provision now available in Tower Hamlets is totally inadequate and actually discriminates against those for whom the Education Authority is supposed to be catering for, the poor and low earners. Those who usually send their children to local authority schools.
I have worked out that taking all costs into account it costs a benefit recipient £220 to send a child for 25 days during the summer holidays that includes £4 per day entry, £2 bus (the centre is not local), £2 for packed lunch and £20 (estimate) for extra outing costs.
For a working parent the cost rises to £ 370 for 25 days, taking it costs £10 per day to get in. Can anyone on a low income afford those prices or are the poor and low earners priced out of sending their kids to a local play centre?
During term time it costs a benefit recipient £5 per term and 20p a day to get in, why raise the price so high during the holidays? No wonder the demand is so low that play centre provision during holidays had to be cut to 2 schools.
Children don’t just want to go for a day or 2 per week, they feel punished and left out when they are told, sorry can’t afford to send you each day. Children form relationships during those 3 1/2 weeks of holiday play centre and it would be counterproductive to send them only a day or 2 because parents can’t afford it more often. Children may also miss out on outings, as one has to pre-book dates in advance.
Those play centre costs may also prevent parents from taking on a job simply because they cannot afford the play centre fees.
When my children were small they could visit their local school for a very low price and they were happy to be looked after and play games with other children under professional care and it was fun and kept them off the streets.