A National Caring Service

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by Pam

Who Cares?

“Of course”  I can hear you say “We all care!”  But maybe we cannot.  Maybe it is not that easy!  Perhaps we feel guilty; maybe we are torn between responsibilities and sandwiched between generations dependent upon us. How should the vulnerable be cared for in a civilized society?

Most of us, can expect to become vulnerable when we reach a certain age, some sooner than others.  Caring for those who are vulnerable is a necessary good in a civilized society.  But care should not depend on having to sell one’s home, nor should it have to mean a family living in poverty as a family member has to give up their job and it certainly should not result in a child repeatedly absent from school because she (and it is usually, but not exclusively, a girl) is caring for a parent at home.

young carer is anyone under 18 who provides unpaid care or support for a family member or friend who has a physical or mental health condition, is disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol.

It is estimated that there are 175,000 young carers in the UK, but the Princess Royal Trust for Carers say that the real figure could be much higher than this.

As well as supporting the person they look after, a young carer may also be responsible for household tasks such as food shopping, cooking or cleaning, and for helping to look after other siblings. In some cases, a young carer might need to take on tasks that would normally be seen as an adult’s responsibility, such as managing the household budget

None of this should happen. Care should be provided for us when we need it, free, in a professional way, and most importantly with dignity. Everyone is entitled to dignity.

Such is the need for Care to be provided; that some have seen this as a financial opportunity.  An opportunity similar to those who have profited from buy to let housing, and added to over-inflation in the housing market.  Making money out the vulnerable is unethical, and should not be tolerated in a civilised society.

This is highlighted by the on-going demise of “Southern Cross Healthcare”. One might ask what are the priorities for Southern Cross? The first responsibility of Southern Cross, a limited company, is to its shareholders, not to its ‘customers’, who are amongst the most vulnerable people in our society. This first priority should not be ignored. The idea that one can make large profits from providing care for the vulnerable elderly is uncivilised, unethical. … and well, wrong!

Reference (1) Southern Cross Stock Market figures from Guardian

The welfare of our ‘people in care’ should not be dependent on the vagaries of the markets and financial devices.  Furthermore, we the tax-payer, will need to pick up the pieces if Southern Cross or similar company fails, because there can be no question of abandoning their ‘customers’!   Similar to the Banking sector, the  failure of the market will become ‘nationalised’ whilst the profits will likely find their way to some tax haven.   A Labour government should return to the provision of  ’care’ by the state, local services or not-for-profit companies.

© 7.

Ideally, those working within the Care Service should have a state-funded training to professional standards, as is the case for other  ’caring’ public services. Training should include communication skills,  counselling, and expertise in caring for their clients. In some Care Homes, confused people may be being cared by individuals who cannot even speak clear, fluent English.  This must be quite distressing to already confused individuals struggling to get their needs understood. Furthermore, their professionalism should be rewarded by good pay and conditions. At present, valuable and committed care-workers, are generally paid little more than the minimum wage, and as this report from the Guardian (2) indicates, employees on very poor pay are experiencing poor treatment by employers.

Southern Cross staffs are being asked to agree to harsh new working conditions which one care worker described as “the modern-day equivalent of slavery”.

A copy of the company’s proposals, obtained by the Guardian, “invites” employees to sign away basic employment rights such as being paid for lunch breaks. Southern Cross, Britain’s biggest care homes operator, is struggling to stave off insolvency and has agreed in principle to hand back hundreds of its 750 homes to landlords because it can no longer afford to pay annual rent of £230m.

The company is cutting 3,000 staff and attempting to impose a new contract of employment on workers, many of whom already work 12-hour shifts and are paid little more than the minimum wage of £5.90 an hour.

I hear your sighs, perhaps cries of anger, but wait, it gets worse.

Michael Meacher M.P. reports on his blog (3) of links of Southern Cross with companies who make profits from within our shores and who pay no tax because of protection by so-called tax havens.

“Up to half of the properties at the 753 care homes were acquired by a company called NHP, of which the ultimate parent company is Delta Commercial Property.   This is a company owned by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and is registered in the Isle of Man.   The financial returns for this company are consolidated within Libra No.2 Ltd, incorporated and registered in the Cayman Islands.   Other corporate shareholders over the last decade have as their ultimate holding company RBS, Bank of New York, Barclays, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Lloyds, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Royal Bank of Canada – a roll call of many of the world’s biggest banks”

How has this been allowed to happen we may ask ourselves as we have had a Labour government in power so very recently? Labour need to get back be to the caring Party of Clement Atlee, and on a return to power bring about the policies which ensure that the caring of citizens of this country from cradle to grave is once again at the foundation of the Party’s mission statement.

Labour must address the very issue of tax avoidance, and reclaim this money in order to fund our National Care Service, to reinvest in our National Health Service, to teach our children comprehensively and effectively, and to build comfortable homes for our people.

I can recall, very painfully, a time when a very close relative suffered dementia to such a degree that it became to difficult for him to be cared for at home, despite all the love and respect held for him. So a decision was made to approach a care home, which could cope with EMI residents (those who are elderly and mentally infirm).  The care home chosen (from a choice of two) was privately owned by a GP. The residents’ relatives were pressured to transfer the patients’ NHS registrations from their own GP to those of the owner of the care home, apparently for convenience and for the smooth running of the Care Home (or private business). What a conflict of interest results from this. Very often, the relatives, already ridden with guilt will agree to anything.

This cannot be acceptable. This happened during a time when we had a Labour Party in power, to someone who had voted and worked for Labour, who had worked and paid taxes all his life, and I have to ask now, as his daughter, and on his behalf, “Why was my Dad neglected by the Party he trusted, believed in and worked for?”

This is just one example, which demonstrates that a National Care Service made up of state owned provision must be implemented by a Labour government, or alternatively non-profit provision which must be monitored.  GEER will be detailing policies about how we will fund, implement, develop and monitor a new excellent National Care Service.

In March 2010, Labour produced a document entitled Building the National Care Service which laid out the principles:

The comprehensive National Care Service will be underpinned by six founding principles. These principles are enduring, and will be the foundation of the National Care Service for the future:

1. Be universal – supporting all adults with an eligible care need within a framework of national entitlements.

2. Be free when people need it – based on need, rather than the ability to pay.

3. Work in partnership – with all the different organisations and people who support individuals with care and support needs day-to-day.

4. Ensure choice and control – valuing all, treating everyone with dignity, respecting an individual’s human rights, personal to every individual’s needs and putting people in charge of their lives.

5. Support family, carers and community life – recognising the vital contribution families, carers and communities play in enabling people to realise their potential.

6. Be accessible – easy to understand, helping people make the right choices.


What are the different types of care and support?

Personal care – the care you need to assist you with tasks of daily living such as bathing, eating a meal or getting out of bed. This care can take place at home or in residential care.

Home care – the care that is provided at home. This usually includes personal care, but can also include some non- personal care such as help with cleaning, shopping, or washing clothes.

Community care – the care that is provided in the community such as meals on wheels, day centres, short-term respite care, equipment, adaptations and telecare.

Residential care – personal care that is provided in an establishment, which also provides residential accommodation.

Labour should provide all of this and more. Most importantly, funding for hospices should not be dependent on charities.  The state or not-for-profit organisations should provide, support and extend this provision.

Some policies, which Labour will need to consider, are:

  • To address the tax system and tax avoidance which takes funding away from the UK.  It is estimated that tax havens alone reduce the country’s income by at least 18 billion/year. (5)
  • To ensure all Care provision is state owned and funded, or non-profit making organisations
  • Provide a range of provision of Care in homes, residential care, personal care, and respite care to allow carers to have a break
  • Provide financial support for carers, who are already saving the state enormous amounts of money. At present, many are reduced to poverty
  • Fund hospices from the public purse.
  • Fund further research into dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Labour must remember, “Everyone Matters”,

And show that “Labour Cares”.


References:

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/southerncrosshealthcare 15th June 2011

Stock chart for Southern Cross Healthcare

2. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jun/16/southern-cross-staff-rights

Carers will be treated like dogsbodies and sign away employment rights 16th June 2011

3.http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2011/06/southern-cross-links-exposed-with-qatar-rbs-goldman-sachs/

Michael Meacher Blog exposes links

4. Document produced by Labour Government

Building the National Care Service

Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Health by Command of Her Majesty 30 March 2010”

5. Richard Murphy (2010)  ’Manifesto for Tax Justice’ http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Documents/Manifesto.pdf

6. Child Carers: http://www.nhs.uk/CarersDirect/understanding-carers/Pages/teachers-and-lecturers.aspx

7. © Dundanim Dreamstime.com

Somebody help “ME”!

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By Pam Field and Sue Davies

 Supporting children with ME/CFS

There are many teenagers and child sufferers with this condition, many of whom seldom leave their homes.  It is one of the most common reasons for long-term absence from school together with EBSR (Emotionally Based School Refusal). There is inevitably some overlap between these two, since long-term absence from school may induce anxiety, but causes are very different.

Introduction

What is ME, and how does it affect children? It is extreme debilitating fatigue, often pain and cognitive dysfunction, which affects many children and adults and is referred to by a number of terms:

  • Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Encephalopathy (ME)
  • Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS)
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Chronic Fatigue – Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS)

Awareness of this condition varies considerably, with many still doubting the physical nature of the illness because of newspaper headlines of ‘Yuppie Flu’. Indeed the attitude towards adult sufferers considered shirkers is commonplace, and this is unfairly reinforced by headlines in the press, who seek to support the callous policies of the Coalition government on welfare reform. Being doubted makes the whole experience doubly difficult for a child. There is no doubt that families feel unsupported and abandoned and often bewildered by the sudden onset of this condition and confused by conflicting advice.  Causes of chronic fatigue syndrome vary. It can sometimes be triggered by a viral infection (like a cold or stomach flu), or a bout with the Epstein-Barr virus or mononucleosis (often referred to as glandular fever). Some people contract chronic fatigue syndrome after a great emotional upset, such as loss of a loved one, or major surgery because depression or emotional stress can compromise our immune system and make us more vulnerable to viral attack. However, where most people recover from a viral infection, ME/CFS sufferers remain extremely fatigued.

There has been some research into potential genetic causes.

“Genomic analysis revealed some common (neurological, cancer, immunological, inflammatory, haematological) and some distinct (metabolic, endocrine, dermatological, cardiovascular, connective tissue) disease associations among the subtypes. Subtypes 1, 2 and 7 were the most severe, and subtype 3 was the mildest. Clinical features of each subtype were as follows:

subtype 1 (cognitive, musculoskeletal, sleep, anxiety/depression);

subtype 2 (musculoskeletal, pain, anxiety/depression);

subtype 3 (mild);

subtype 4 (cognitive);

subtype 5 (musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal);

subtype 6 (post-exertional);

subtype 7 (pain, infectious, musculoskeletal, sleep, neurological, gastrointestinal, neurocognitive, anxiety/depression).

It is particularly interesting that in these there were distinct clinical syndromes and that those which were most severe were also those with anxiety/depression, as would be expected in a disease with a biological basis.”

Reference to this research can be found here

These two  articles are major works by (Kerr, J., Burke, B., Petty, R., Gough, J., Fear, D., David, M., Axford, J., Dalgleish, A and Nutt D. )

CFS-gene-1c refers to the seven subsets (2008) , and  JCV-CFS  a review of CFS (2006)

Children who are too sick to attend school are, by law, entitled to an education. The amount of educational input a young sufferer is able to access may be very little, but an experienced practitioner will recognize those limitations ensuring the student learns effectively without further detriment to health. The provision provided by education authorities and schools around the countries varies tremendously. Families can be put under pressure to move from one geographical area to another in order to obtain support for their children. This postcode lottery cannot continue and is grossly unfair.

Example of a typical viewpoint of a teacher in school

“We never see her.  We sent work home, but it’s never finished.  I don’t think she can do any GCSEs because all of our students started in Year 9 to do their GCSEs, and it’s too late now.  We can’t do part-time because it doesn’t fit in with our timetabling.”

Typical experience of a home tutor supporting a child

“School have been really helpful and sent work home.  It’s difficult for him to focus on this work on his own. I find he is only able to work for 20 minutes or so.

We try and concentrate on the important points, but he find in some subjects really tiring, and I can tell he’s had too much.  I try to keep lessons stress-free.  He really struggles with coursework deadlines, and homework.

Pacing is important, and we work closely with the hospital, and the ME/CFS team.”

Support to aid re-inclusion back into school, which we find helpful:

  • Part-time timetable, maybe trying late morning
  • Transport to and from school
  • Excuse from P.E. or games
  • Flexibility of timetables
  • Information to all staff about pupil’s needs
  • Provision of rest areas
  • Exam concessions, sitting exams at home if necessary
  • Flexibility of deadlines
  • Try to keep in contact with tutor groups
  • Avoid classes with stairs
  • Consider lunchtimes, go home, increase gradually, social contact, avoid queueing

Ideas from specialist teams

The paediatric  research team based at Bristol University has run projects looking at:

  • The Epidemiology of ME in children
  • Prognosis and outcome of children with ME
  • Impact of ME on families
  • The prevalence of undiagnosed ME in children
  • Predictors of fatigue and ME
  • Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) as well as other projects

Dr Esther Crawley has published evidence that ME/CFS exists in children under 12; that children with ME/CFS don’t go to school because they are unwell not anxious and that young people with ME/CFS have significant problems with memory and concentration.  Awareness varies greatly around the country and within the NHS.  Investment  for research in this area is crucial to ensure country-wide quality effective support. There is controversy among medical practitioners, and it should be borne in mind that every case in different and there is no one cure.

Typical carer of 20 year old:

From “Somebody Help ME” (Jill I. Moss) 

“I’ve tried everything – alternative treatments, diets.  Everyone seems to have heard of some weird remedy or another and you feel you have to try it.  I’d feel I wasn’t trying hard enough otherwise.  The trouble is, that the more treatments we try, the more hopeless it seems.  I’m then left feeling guilty for raising her hopes.”

Parent’s story

I have had to change career and work from home in order to look after her.  The doctors/teachers seem to think that I have some crazy emotional investment in my child being ill.  I daren’t think about a time when she gets better … I’ve had my hopes raised too many times before. Many marriages break up because of the stress.  I feel so helpless and guilty that I can’t make her better.

A young woman’s account

I’m 25 … still living at home … no job, no degree … I go out with friends about once every six weeks and then lie on the settee for the next week, too ill to do anything. I don’t know if I will ever get better … there are so many things that I wanted to do with my life … and it is all just passing me by.

Threats to services

There is concern that the introduction of Academies and cuts to services provided by Local Education Authorities will leave these students without access to quality teaching. Despite the need for support from specialist teams, and despite comments in the press that front-line services are being protected by the policies of the Coalition government, the reality is that much specialist provision is being cut around the country. , In January,  (3) there were protests from Cambridgeshire families and children, and this is just one example.

The Department of Education states:

“LEAs have a duty to provide suitable education for children of compulsory school age who cannot attend school due to illness or injury. This education might be provided in a number of ways, for example in hospital schools, in pupil referral units, at home or through a combination of these. Mainstream schools have a vital part to play in supporting the education of sick children on their roll.”

Why therefore has there been a cut to government funding for LEA services? On 11th July 2011, David Cameron announced in the government’s white paper on public services that they would be opened up to potential private investors to provide for services.  For companies to seek to make profit from the misfortunes of the ill, the disabled and vulnerable is at the very least immoral. This is a typical response of a Tory-Led, but Lib-Dem-Supported Coalition, which puts profiteering and dismantling of public services at the heart of every policy it presents. It is all about stripping of public assets, attempting to destroy the heart of a caring society and replace it with an every-person-for-themselves mentality, where survival of the fittest can be read as survival of the richest.

To those who suffer with ME/CFS  and to their families, Labour must say that “We have not forgotten you” … and we will commit government money into much needed research into this debilitating and often serious condition.

Labour’s policy is that Everyone Matters, and indeed it is surely their responsibility to ensure that children suffering from this condition achieve the very best chance of recovery, have access to education and enjoy the best of life opportunities possible. It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye, and allow these individuals to be forgotten.  Cuts to support services, for vulnerable children across the country, put these and other vulnerable children at risk.  In seeking re-election, Labour must demonstrate that it  is the Party which cares about every citizen,  young and old. Labour should reverse the policies from the current government, which result in marginalization of vulnerable children from society, and neglecting their responsibility to provide free, quality education as they are statutory obliged to do.

Labour’s policy should aim to:

  • Ensure all professionals are well trained and informed
  • Ensure suitable educational provision is in place to suit the needs and health of the child
  • Encourage flexibility of provision
  • Provide free on–line learning and home tutoring or school support as appropriate, with access to library resources
  • Ensure development of specialist teams within the NHS in all areas of the UK who can provide support to children and their families, and to educationalists with in order to aid recovery
  • Schools should liaise closely with the health professionals and home tutors to ensure continuity of education, and they should be prepared to be flexible especially if reintegration back to school is deemed appropriate
Labour’s health and education inclusive policies must ensure that the 250,000 sufferers of CFS/ME children and adults are not forgotten, and that it is communicated through both policy documents and through the media, that for the Labour Party, “Everyone Matters.” 

Documents and references

1, and 2 research into ME, by J Kerr

Kerr, J., Burke, B., Petty, R., Gough, J., Fear, D., David, M., Axford, J., Dalgleish, A and Nutt D. http://www.cfs-research.org/publications.htm 
3. Cuts in Cambridge to EOTAS provision
http://www.cambridgefirst.co.uk/news/angry_families_protest_against_cambridgeshire_school_cuts_1_769380
4.   Jill I. Moss, “Somebody Help ME,” a self-help guide for young sufferers of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, and their families.
5.  Pacing for Young People with M.E. (Action for ME)
Emily Collingridge, “Severe ME/CFS: A Guide to Living.”
6. Photo credit : Photo by Sarah-Rose (www.ohdarling.net.nz)http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.e
7. Department of Educationhttp://www.education.gov.uk/b0065507/gttl/vulnerable-children/sick-children

The Feasibility of Renewable Energy with specific reference to the establishment of HVDC Power Grids.

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ZeroCarbonBritain 2030  CAT (2)

Creating electricity is easy. Within 6 hours, enough sunlight falls on the world’s deserts to meet the annual global power demand of 18000 TW hours. (1) It is even possible to generate enough electricity to power railway station displays by the footfall of commuters in the rush hour.  The problems are ones of politics, the vested interests of fossil fuel transnational corporations and the commitment of governments to implementing the GATS and WTO rules.

New methods of creating electricity are invented every month but it has already been verified by the UN, and in particular by three detailed studies carried out by the German Aerospace centre on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, that with just existing technologies, Europe could have a 100% renewable power supply with costs similar to today’s costs and with the same levels of reliability without the need for nuclear or fossil fuels. (2)

The practical issues are ones of distribution via the construction of a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) grid and storage or batteries.  The grid could be constructed very quickly and a moderate upgrade of the existing grid would permit trading to begin even sooner.  Storage of spare capacity is most easily achieved utilizing hydropower, where water is pumped up hill during peak electricity production and released as required to smooth out peaks in demand.

The Desertec proposals (1) utilizing parabolic trough solar thermal power are fully costed, relatively cheap to implement, more secure than the mega transmission lines of oil and gas, and have the additional capacity to producing 100000 cubic metres of de-salinated drinking water/day (200MW turbine).  Approximately 90,000 square kilometres of the Sahara desert is included in the Mediterranean Solar Plan, which links concentrated solar power, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal to produce a secure and reliable supply.

However, a number of other possible grids are available.

Chris Huhne is backing a North Sea/ Baltic grid, which incorporates geothermal from Iceland, wind and hydro from Norway.

However, it is clear that there is no justification for considering:

1.  Nuclear power 

2.  Oil prospecting in the North Sea, which will damage the Giant Reef discovered only a few years ago.

3.  Permitting deep sea oil drilling with its attendant and

unknown risks to the Arctic and Arctic seas.

4.  The extraction of gas from shale … Fracking

The Centre for Alternative Technologies (CAT) has produced plans to achieve net greenhouse gas emissions of zero by 2030. (3)

CAT criticised the 2050 Pathways Analysis (4) for not considering greater resource efficiency in transport and the building sectors. This fits well with the imperative that the Labour Party should be putting on a mass social housing building programme.  These houses should be sustainable builds, which would create employment, reduce fuel poverty, reduce the poverty gap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In the same bracket, the Labour Party should be committing to a mass insulation programme of the existing housing stock, and the retrofitting and refurbishment of sub-standard housing.

In conclusion, the evidence exists that the UK can decarbonise quickly using existing energy technologies.  The only part that seems to be missing is the political will to make it happen.

(1) www.desertec.org/SolarEnergy

(2) www.innovationobservatory.com/cei/dec0801

(3) www.zerocarbonbritain.org

(4) www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/1c_uk/2050/2050.aspx

Women as voters and MPs

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By Pam

Since the General Election in May 2010, “We’re all in it together” has become the cliché that makes many of us justifiably cynical and angry. But if we take a moment to consider, who will suffer from the Osborne Comprehensive Spending Review, we see that it disproportionately affects women, and it may be significant that women are still very badly represented in the House of Commons and in Government.

It was women, particularly working class women who deserted the Labour Party at the last General Election. Dr Éoin Clarke’s analysis (1) indicates that, in 2001, 49% of C2s voted Labour but only 19% of C2 women voted Labour in 2010, the lost 30% opted for the Tory Party to represent them.

Graph showing the female vote in 2010, according to social class

An analysis of voting patterns based on age shows that while young women deserted Labour, young men did not. Young women tend to leave the family home at a younger age than their male contemporaries and so are more aware of the housing crisis, the effects of the cost of living and difficulties in managing a household budget. It seems that older, wealthier people who remembered Thatcherism stayed with Labour, yet ironically the younger, poorer females deserted Labour. Perhaps it is a perception to women of the working class that Labour was “the working men’s party”, perhaps women generally seek other routes than political parties to have influence. Whatever led working class, low paid women to turn their back on Labour, Labour needs to find out, to pause and consider and then to do something about it.

A majority of people are female. Yet, women are getting the worse deal, are getting poorer, and have the least say in their destiny and that of their children. This must be rectified. Labour must reverse this and build a society where women, who make up the bulk of society, have opportunities to learn, work, care and earn on an equal basis with men. Nothing less than equal is tolerable.

Now is the time for the Labour Party to listen to the women of this country and to put in place policies leading to a more representative parliament to represent them.

This data shows that the percentage of young voters deserting The Labour Party at the last General Election were almost exclusively female, with male voters staying loyal to Labour for much longer in their lives.

Labour needs to consider the following:

o Do proposed policies solve the problems faced by women or create new ones?

o Engaging in a political process, which is predominantly occupied by assertive, loud confident men may not create a forum in which women’s views are heard. Some may find it intimidating. Others may have difficulties in attending meetings because of child care responsibilities. If women’s views are not being listened to, how do we need to change our policy making process so that women’s views are clearly heard?

o How representative is our parliament? Around 51 % of the electorate are women, yet only 22% of MPs are women. How can we change the Labour Party, and parliamentary practices to assist women’s participation in national politics.

Single mothers are a particularly vulnerable to the cuts.


A year on from the coalition government’s first budget, research from the Fawcett Society (5) and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found:

o The government could assess the different aspects of its tax and benefit policies on men and women using data currently available. This contradicts the claim that meaningful differentiation in assessment is not possible.

o Analysis of all the proposed tax and benefit reforms to be introduced between 2010 and 2015, shows that single women will lose more as a proportion of their income as a result of the cuts, than any other household category.

o Single mothers can expect to lose 8.5% of their net annual income – more than a month’s income each year.

It is clear that single women are bearing the brunt of the cuts. In part, this is because women make up the vast majority of lone parents – and it is this group that are set to lose most under reforms. (12)

Women in Coventry – a study

(Unravelling equality) (2)

A Joint Report of the Centre for Human Rights in Practice, University of Warwick and Coventry Women’s Voices was published in May 2011. This report sets out a detailed analysis of how the current public spending cuts impact on human rights and equality of women in Coventry; and examines eight key areas in which women are directly affected by the Coalition government cuts. The impact is outlined here:

Impact on Employment

Women are likely to suffer disproportionately from job cuts and public sector pay freezes since they form the majority of public sector workers. Together with increased childcare costs, this may lead to lower rates of employment for women and an increase in the pay gap. This will exacerbate overall inequality between men and women in Coventry.

Impact on Housing

Cuts to LHA (Local Housing Allowance) will have a disproportionate impact on women since women are the main recipients. In the short term these changes will cost those affected in Coventry between £8 and £15 a week. This will lead to increased pressure on women’s finances. Together with changes to other benefits and tax credits this will increase the income gap between women and men and may push some women into poverty, raising human rights concerns.

Over time the value of LHA is likely to fall relative to actual rents reducing the number of properties that people claiming LHA can afford. At this stage, the shortage of accommodation for single homeless women in Coventry may also become an issue.

Impact on Incomes and poverty

Although the increase in Child Tax Credit and the personal tax allowance will benefit many women, taken together the benefit and tax changes in the 2010 budget will cost women in Coventry £29,631,532 The cost to men will be less than half of this. This will further increase inequality between women and men in Coventry. For some women this could lead to a significant loss of income, pushing those women into poverty and raising significant human rights concerns. Lone parents and disabled women, women carers and BME (black and ethnic minority) women are likely to be particularly badly hit by the changes.

Impact on Education and training

Cuts to the schools budget have resulted in a cut to services provided for special needs and mental health support in schools. This will affect some of the most vulnerable children in Coventry. It may disproportionately impact on women who tend to be the primary carers of children.

Cuts to further and higher education may:

o Act as a barrier to women obtaining educational qualifications because of increased fees for higher education and reduced support for further education courses – particularly those who have children, are from poorer backgrounds, don’t speak English and/or are mature students.

o Have negative impacts on women in later life – Women who are unable to obtain educational qualifications as a result of increased fees and reduced support may see their earning potential and job prospects reduced as a result.

Impact on Violence against women

As a result of the cuts there is a high likelihood of significantly worse outcomes for women in terms of the violence they suffer and its impact upon them. Obvious examples include:

o Less successful investigation and prosecution of offenders

o More ongoing mental, physical and sexual health problems for women

o More women trapped in violent relationships

Impact on Health, Social Care and Other Support Services

Women in Coventry will be disproportionately affected by any cuts in social care and support services leading to greater inequality between men and women. The full impact of the health cuts and move to GP commissioning is not yet clear. But there are concerns about services which are more used by women (e.g. mental health) and about funding for services addressing violence against women.

Impact on Legal advice services

Cuts will have a significant impact on advice services and those seeking advice in Coventry, which will disproportionately affect women. The changes could lead to negative human rights impacts including:

o Violations of the right to fair trial where there is no legal advice in particularly complex cases.

o Removal of advice on complex welfare benefits issues, housing issues and immigration issues may also amount to human rights violations under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act.

o Significant restrictions on the local availability of services effectively creating ‘advice deserts” could lead to no effective remedy for any abuses.

o Women in violent relationships will be particularly vulnerable to removal of Legal Aid and current proposals may lead to breaches of their human rights.

Impact on Women’s Voluntary Organisations

All voluntary organisations in Coventry are vulnerable to budget cuts. But women’s voluntary organisations appear to be particularly vulnerable, with some expecting cuts of up to 70% of their funding in the next year. At a time when other cuts are having a negative impact on equality and in some cases women’s human rights the role of the women’s voluntary sector is more important than ever.

Women in the Commons

The Factsheet Women in the commons (3) provides details of women in the Commons and in Government posts and provides an informative history of parliamentary representation by women.

At the General Election in May 2010, 143 women, 22 % of the total, were elected as MPs. This is the highest number ever with one in five MPs now a woman. Labour has the highest proportion of women MPs, 31 %; the Conservatives 16% and Liberal Democrats 12 %.

Conservative MPs Liberal Democrat MPs Labour MPs

MPs (CON) Gender Nos. MPs (CON) Gender % MPs (LAB) Gender Nos. MPs (LAB) Gender %
Male 257 84.0% Male 176 68.5%
Female 49 16.0% Female 81 31.5%
All 306 100.0% All 257 100.0%
MPs (Lib D) Gender Nos. MPs (Lib D) Gender % MPs (Others) Gender Nos. MPs (Others) Gender %
Male 50 87.7% Male 22 78.6%
Female 7 12.3% Female 6 21.4%
All 57 100.0% All 28 100.0%

(UK Population 51 % Female, 49% Male)

Also see( Malcolm across the Pond data)

Recent Development in Women’s Representation

In 1997, the record numbers of women candidates were returned. A record number of women candidates stood for election, due, in part to the Labour Party adopting a policy of women-only shortlists. This mechanism was withdrawn in 1996 when an employment tribunal found that is was in breach of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. Since then uncertainty about the legal position made it difficult for parties to develop policies on selection procedures aimed at introducing more MPs into parliament. The Labour Party was the only political party to use all-female shortlists in the 2005 and 2010 General Elections. At 31.5% women Members, Labour certainly is more representative than other parties, but still has a long way to go in order to fairly represent an electorate in which the majority is female. Compare this to the data (7), for female involvement in Nordic Countries, of 42.1% female.

The Fawcett Society (5) refers to a report from The Centre of Women and Democracy, looking at the impact of recent local elections on women’s representation, and reports that out of 3,500 seats, there was a net increase of just 20 women councillors. (Nan Sloane, report author) states, “This is shocking, and goes against all the rhetoric that we hear so often about the need for more women in public life.”

It is clear, that women are suffering more than anyone. It is clear that women no longer believe that the Labour Party represents them. Furthermore, women are not engaging in political parties to the same degree as men.

Anna Bird of the Fawcett society says. “ Nearly a century on from winning the vote, women remain outsiders in the corridors of power. We are underrepresented on town halls across the country where men outnumber women 4 to 1.”

Labour must consider and implement policies addressing gender inequalities

o Recognising the impact of cuts affecting women, Labour must develop policies to reverse these effects. In opposition Labour should address the issues and ensure the Coalition government is held to account for their actions.

o Implement the policy proposed by Harriet Harman that either Party Leader or Deputy Leader must be female. A balanced team of men and women make better decisions.

o Set up consultation groups in areas of deprivation inviting women to put forward suggestions, which will help improve their lives.

o Alongside the move for the Leader of the Labour Party to choose the Shadow Cabinet, it is paramount that the voice of women needs to be maintained. A minimum of 40% of the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet, should be women members; this percentage being raised to 50% over 5 years.

o Set up consultations with women within parties, workplaces, trade unions, women’s groups as to how to support them to further become involved in local decision making within local councils.

o Flexible maternity/paternity leave on full pay.

o In the workplace, ensure equal pay and conditions, including part-time workers, and a living wage to bring all low-paid workers out of poverty.

o All communities should provide good quality care and support for the elderly, disabled and mentally ill people, both helping them and relieving the burden of care from so many women.

o Continue with short listing of women candidates in selection of parliamentary candidates, until proportional and equal representation of women and men in the parliamentary Labour Party is met and maintained.

o There needs to be a reassessment of procedures and practices within local government and parliament and an investigation to ascertain how women could be included more and how they would like to become more involved in making decisions which affect them.

o Consult with women’s groups regarding issues for women, recognising women do not always engage with mainstream party political meetings, and set up workgroups with aims of addressing these issues.

o Respite for carers of one day a week to be funded.

o Playgroup Provision of free 5 hours p/w offered to every child from two years

o Nursery Education provision of free 15 hours p/w offered to every child from three years.

o Pursue universal affordable childcare policy (13), as proposed by GEER

o Amendments to the Equality Act made by Teresa May Nov 2010 should be reversed.

o Develop a Women’s Act that would enshrine women’s rights in policy-making and implementation. (14)

o Increase benefit income in order to improve the lives of women living in poverty and support their families’ well-being; (14)

o Reverse the cuts to SureStart Centres

o Women and girls must have equal access to education and training. That must include crèche facilities for parents returning to work or study, after time off to care for children. In our schools we must ensure an end to sex differentiation in the subjects offered to girl and boys.

o Improve access to education, flexible and varied methods of study and access to a life long Qualification Pathway so improving the quality of life for women and improving their employment prospects.

o Pursue an affordable housing policy so that women are not held in a poverty trap where they cannot work because of loss of housing benefits.

o Women must have the freedom to choose whether or not to have children without punishment for their choice. There must be free, safe and reliable contraception available. The access to the right to termination of pregnancy where there is agreement for two doctors should remain, within guidelines recommended by medical professionals. A woman who exercises her right to terminate her pregnancy should be offered counselling before and after the procedure. She does not do so lightly, and must be treated with respect and sensitivity.

o Safety from sexual/domestic violence. All individuals who are victimised should have access to safe rehousing if necessary.

o Sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace creates misery for many women, and there should be active promotion of policies in the workplace to eradicate this.

o A 35-hour working week, and flexibility for part-time work.

References:

1 An account of Dr Éoin Clarke’s speech at the Launch of GEER about why Labour lost voters’ support at the General Election.

2 “Unravelling Equality” A Human Right’s and Equality Impact Assessment on Women in Coventry. May 2011 Warwick University Law School , see link

3.http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-information-office/m04.pdf

A Factsheet, “Women in the House of Commons”

4. http://malcolmthepond.blogspot.com/2011/02/are-our-representatives-representative.html

An insight into MPs and how representative they are of the electorate

5 Fawcett Society: http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/

Government Equalities Office:

6.

http://www.equalities.gov.uk/ Equality and Human Rights Commission:

http://www.eoc.org.uk

7.

Inter-Parliamentary Union: The Women’s National Commission:

Single Houseor lower House Upper Houseor Senate Both Housescombined
Nordic countries 42.1%
Americas 22.3% 23.5% 22.5%
Europe – OSCE member countriesincluding Nordic countries 22.0% 19.7% 21.5%
Europe – OSCE member countriesexcluding Nordic countries 20.1% 19.7% 20.0%
Sub-Saharan Africa 19.8% 19.7% 19.8%
Asia 18.3% 15.3% 18.0%
Pacific 12.4% 32,6% 14.7%
Arab States 11.4% 7.3% 10.7%

Regions are classified by descending order of the percentage of women in the lower or single House

8.

http://www.thewnc.org.uk/ The UCL Constitution Unit:

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/constitution-unit/

9. Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics:

http://www.qub.ac.uk/cawp/

10. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jun/16/harriet-harman-cant-leave-equality-tories

Harriet Harman ‘ A boost to women’s rights”

11. http://kieronam.net/?p=239

A discussion on women’s representation.

12. Document: Single Mothers: Singled Out The impact of the 2010- 2015 tax and benefit changes on women and men.

13 . ‘A Bold Approach to Childcare.’ http://think-left.org/2011/08/16/a-bold-approach-to-childcare/

14 A study on “Women and Poverty” Experiences, empowerment and engagement Women’s Budget Group A project to empower women in poverty to take part in the policy-making process.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation ISBN: 978 1 85935 637 1

I