Woman sanctioned after miscarriage was left in poverty and suicidal

A woman was left with just £24 each week of her social security to live on after suffering a miscarriage and being sanctioned. She has told the Daily Record how she considered suicide after being left with barely anything to buy food and pay bills.

Lyndsey Turnbull told of her ordeal as the Scottish Government formally launched their new welfare-to-work programmes.

Lyndsey from Midlothian, said: “I wanted to get into work but the whole thing seemed geared up to punish those who wanted to get off benefits.”

She was on approximately £140 a fortnight Employment and Support Allowance when she missed an appointment after having a miscarriage around nine weeks into a pregnancy.

She said: “I was in a bad place and couldn’t talk to anyone about it.”

Lyndsey was sanctioned because was too distressed to disclose the reason for missing the appointment, which is absolutely understandable. However, the punitive sanctions framework does not accommodate people’s circumstances and situations when they may be very vulnerable.

Having to face a stern and unsupportive bureaucrat, whose role is to discipline and punish people who cannot comply with rigid welfare conditionality, to discuss deeply personal and distressing circumstances – and such a traumatic event as miscarriage – is the very last thing anyone needs.

She added: “I went down to £24. I had no food, nothing to pay bills. It was awful.

“I really thought suicide might be the only option – and I wondered how many people would be just like me.”

Fortunately, Lyndsey eventually found someone to talk to at welfare service group Working Links, who helped her to get a second sanction reduced.

She later found a job at a petrol station and she said the new system’s voluntary focus will make it easier for people to get off benefits.

Lyndsey courageously contributed to a group meeting with Scottish National Party (SNP) Employability Minister Jamie Hepburn, to explain the problems she faced with the UK Department for Work and Pension sanctions regime.

Holyrood has no control over major benefits policy. However the new Scottish programmes will be voluntary – with no financial penalties attached – in a bid to get better results.

In other words, they will be genuinely supportive, rather than punitive and mandatory.

Around 4,800 people with disabilities and health conditions will get some help into work, the Daily Record reports.

Employment support is one of the first powers devolved through the Scotland Act 2016, made possible by the Vow of more powers before the independence vote.

Work First Scotland will help 3300 disabled people while Work Able Scotland will focus on 1500 people with long-term health conditions.

The Record revealed last year that the SNP would block any bid by Westminster to impose a sanctions system on the new programmes.

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Batul Hassan, 49, who also met Hepburn yesterday, was made redundant after 11 years at a local authority and was helped into work by Remploy.

She has dyslexia, dyspraxia and hearing problems and said her previous employer struggled to understand her needs.

Batul, from Edinburgh, added: “The new system has the potential to be a good thing.

“Two contracts mean people can move at the right pace, not lumped together.”

Hepburn said: “The devolved services will have fairness, dignity and respect at their core.

“We believe people will see them as an opportunity to gain new skills through supportive training and coaching.”

The Conservatives have clearly changed the meaning of words such as “fairness”, “support” and “respect”, in order to persuade the public that their punitive policies are somehow acceptable, and to deny the negative consequences they have on people who need the most support.

They are not acceptable.

 

Terminally ill woman lost her ESA, home and all her belongings after being told she was fit for work

Claire Hardwicke

Claire Hardwicke has stage four thyroid cancer. This means that it has spread to other parts of her body, and sadly, Claire was told that her cancer is terminal. She also has chronic osteoarthritis. Despite taking 80mg of morphine a day to cope, she still experiences considerable pain.

Additionally, Claire already had a life-threatening, acute allergy to latex. This means that she has to carry an EpiPen at all times, which is an epinephrine (adrenaline) injection to treat life-threatening anaphylaxis. Developing a severe allergy to latex unfortunately meant that Claire could no longer continue working as a mental health nurse.

Claire first became ill 9 years ago with uterine/ovarian cancer, but it was the allergy that made her unemployable and ended her career as a mental-health nurse, her partner, Alan King, told me

Claire’s first bout of cancer was treated and she made a recovery, which lasted only 7 years. Sadly, the diagnosis of her more recent thyroid cancer and metastases wasn’t diagnosed until it was incurable. The tumours had spread throughout her thyroid gland, neck, lymph system and adrenal glands.

All Claire can hope for now is palliative care, which is alleviatory only, as a cure isn’t possible.

Unbelievably, Claire was assessed as “fit for work” by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) last year. Her Employment and Support Allowance was stopped. All of her financial support ended. This was despite being told by the Capita assessor (for Personal Independence Payments) that the report to the DWP would state that Claire was in need of more support, not less.

Overnight the couple lost every bit of financial support they had previously been entitled to, so Alan decided to use what little financial resources he had left to help Claire to fulfill some of  her”Bucket List.”

The couple were forced to say goodbye to their rented bungalow and 99% of their possessions because their housing benefit was stopped. They had no income, as Claire’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was stopped, and the Carer’s Allowance also ended.

Claire explained to me that when she lost her lifeline support, the wait for appeal hearings was over 18 months. The couple couldn’t afford to wait that long, as they had no income. They also didn’t know if Claire would survive the wait.

Claire and Alan went to visit family members around the UK before setting off, in October 2016, on a Mediterranean cruise for a month, which Alan paid for, using his credit cards. They already owed a lot of money on their credit cards, but with no income at all, the couple were facing destitution.  The incredible distress the couple suffered took its toll on Claire’s already poor health, too.

On the return journey, both of them realised that coming all the way back to the UK – where they were homeless, with no income, and they no longer even qualified for free prescriptions – would be pointless. So the couple left the cruise when they got to Portugal, where it’s significantly warmer than the UK (and therefore less painful for Claire) – and they’ve been there ever since, living in a very basic, rented room.

Alan told me: “Claire’s cancer hasn’t claimed her life as quickly as we both had imagined, (which is good), but with medications, food and board, we’re now out of funds and out of options unless we can somehow fundraise for some subsistence.”

The couple have paid money in advance for their single room in Portugal, which covers rent until 14th March, after which time they will have absolutely nowhere to go.

Claire says: “There are new trial therapies for extreme cases of thyroid cancer like mine.

 I wish I had a pot of gold to pay for the experimental cancer therapy.
I don’t want to die, but choices and chances aren’t given to the poor people. We need a miracle, a winning lotto ticket. There should be equal opportunities for all patients.”

The treatment would possibly extend Claire’s life and improve the quality of the time she has left. She says: “I could have a chance of a longer, fuller life…. but I don’t have that option open to me….”

Tiffany Williams, a friend of Claire’s in the UK, has set up a crowdfunding page on JustGiving to raise £800 to help pay for her treatment. So far, 53% of the sum has been raised.

It’s such a modest amount for a treatment that will make a huge difference to Claire and Alan, who have lost their home and everything else they had in the UK. Now they are at risk of losing their room in Portugal, too.

You can make a donation at:  https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/tiffany-williams

Update

Claire informs me that the gofundme collection has now closed. But for those wishing to help in some way, there is a beautiful painting of Claire by Jason Pearce, which is up for auction with funds going to her medical fees.  

She says many thanks. 

Jason Pearce is an administrator for a very popular political group, and like me, he was originally contacted and asked if a member (Alan) could post a gofundme page to raise money for treatment costs to the group, as his wife, Claire, is seriously ill. Jason agreed, and offered to help. As Jason is an artist, it was suggested that he could paint a portrait of Claire and it could then be auctioned online to help raise some more money towards Claire’s ongoing treatment.

This is Jason’s lovely painting of Claire.

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“Claire”

20″ x 16″ Mixed media on canvas.

You can follow Kitty S Jones at her webpage Politics and Insights

 

EXCLUSIVE!!! Tory MANIFESTO Leak!! MUST READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Below is a full unedited press release from Tory HQ.

***Check against delivery***

The Prime Minster Theresa May speaking at the Conservative manifesto launch will say:

“strong and stable”

“strong and stable”

“strong and stable”

“strong and stable”

“strong and stable”

*pause for applause*

“strong and stable”

“strong and stable”

“strong and stable”

“strong and stable”

*pause for water — look at camera, blink twice, pretend to be human*

“best possible deal”

“BEST possible deal”

“BEST POSSIBLE DEAL”

*pause for applause*

“coalition of chaos”

“coalition of chaos”

“COALITION OF CHAOS”

*pause,  drink water, blink twice, look seriously at audience, aim each word at a different person, emphasize words using thumb (no pointing!) thumbing*

“coalition”

*move head look at someone else*

“of”

*move head look at someone else*

“chaos”

*pause for applause*

“Britain”

*take out miniature union jack from under hair — show audience*

“EU”

*wait for booing to subside*

“EU!”

*take out EU flag from knickers — show to audience — make sure they see shit stains on flag*

“BRITAIN”

*British flag wave proudly — like Hitler did with his iconic Nazi symbols*

*wait for cheers to subside*

“EU!!”

*stamp on EU flag and then punch it using British flag*

“BRITAIN!”

*hold British flag up and dance — national anthem plays in background — sung by the Daily Mail over 55’s women’s choir of St Betentals, Oxforshire*

*build to finale*

“BRITAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Best possible deal! Brexit means Brexit!!!!!!!!!Coalition of chaos! Strong and stable!!!!!!!!”

*wait for rapturous applause to finish — make cum face — pretend to hit that big O for the first time in life (well, first time without directly killing a poor and/or brown person)

ENDS

****Also make some shit up about caring about the working class. Haha, you know those fucking idiots will buy any old shit we tell them too!!

You can follow Chris Turnbull on twitter at @EnemyOfTheState or at his webpage Enemy of the state

featured image Paper

WATCH: THE MOMENT A Disabled Person Finally Confronts Cold-Hearted May: ‘They Chucked ME Out The MIND’— Pleading with PM: ‘I Want My Disability Living Allowance to Come Back…They Took It All Away From Me’

 

Theresa May has finally been confronted by an ACTUAL disabled person — a woman who has been directly impacted by brutal Tory austerity cuts — during one of May’s rare ventures into public as she continued her election “campaign” in Abingdon-on-Thames today.

The woman who said she suffers from mental illness and learning disabilities confronted a startled May, saying: Are you going to help people with learning disabilities and mental health? Because, I stick up for the mental health AND for the learning disability

She then said that they “chucked me out of the Mind” (referring to the mental health charity).

 

The woman pleaded with May:

I want my Disability Living Allowance to come back — not have PIPs and get nothing

Adding:

I can’t live on a £100 a month — they took it all away from me

As May tried to deflect — the woman stood her ground. She continued saying:

The fat cats keep the money — and us lot get nothing!

She continued to plead with the PM:

who’s going to help me?

May tried to deflect away from the broader issues. May responded:

I’m sure…we’ll find a way — what you’re talking about — for YOUR case..

Before being shut down by the woman who said:

No! For everybody! Not just for me! I’m sticking up for them, because I go to a club for disabled people…I’m sticking up.

 

WATCH FULL CLIP: This is an unedited version of the clip. The mainstream media has shown varous versions all of which contains edits.

 

May showed that she is completely unable to handle the situation — or provide the woman with any actual help, or help for the disabled community whom the woman was bravely representing.

May responded by spouting about helping disabled people — and how she wants to: “focus on those who are most in need”.

The woman finished by saying:

I’m vulnerable to everything (so I been told) and I don’t get nothing — so you better help me — please!

The woman then walked off saying:

thank you

May was left looking flustered and bemused — her usual reaction when confronted by a member of the public.

She was also confronted by a man during the same visit who grilled her on the Tories appalling record of house building and ownership.

 

This is precisely why May generally does her best to stay away from the public — because whenever members of the public speak to her — they simply aren’t buying her shit — and they aren’t very impressed by May’s much touted “record”.

 

The disabled woman spoke — not as an isolated person — for whom the system had gone wrong. But as somebody who wanted to represent the very real chaos destruction and misery inflicted on the disabled by May and the Tories.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is gradually being replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIP) as the main non-means tested benefit for disabled people. So far the system has been a complete disaster. Over 60% of disabled people are wrongly assessesed under PIP — with many being found (incorrectly) to be unentitled to the benefit —  and having to wait months to go to appeal (sometimes this can be as long as a year) before they have the decision overturned, and given the correct award.

Meaning that they can be — essentially left  — without anything to live off for up to a year, (often ) severe disabilities.

Further to this nearly half of disabled people subjected to “planned reviews” of PIP have their existing award cut, or removed completely according to figures obtained by the Disability News Service (DNS).

After the government lost a court case a few months ago – which found in favor of awarding people with certain mental illness the higher rate of PIP — the Tories decided to ignore the ruling.

Meaning that around 160,000 disabled people are simply punished by the government for having a mental illness. The Tories said that the higher rate of PIP was never intended to be extended to certain mental illnesses, yet the courts disagreed with them, finding in favor of disabled people with mental illness.

Further to this, of course, is the fact that hundreds of disabled people have killed themselves because of the DWP’s brutal (and frankly insane) decisions since the Tories came into power in 2010. Furthermore, we know of at least 2,000 cases where people have died shortly after being declared fit for work by the DWP (the numbers for both, could be much higher — the government is intensely secretive about all of this.)

 

Our Benefit system has been condemned by the United Nations (UN) and subject to 3 investigations by them. One of the reports found that The Tories are guilty of “grave or systematic violations” of disabled people.

The brutal Tory assault on the disabled has all happened under the guise of austerity — saving money — the fact that it hasn’t saved money – it has probably cost more, and in the process caused so much fear and misery should be enough to abandon this madness. This cruelty.

 

The woman who confronted May today shows us exactly who the Tories are — behind the facade of “helping” the “right” people. And May’s own recent pledge to help those suffering from mental illness.

When the Tories — when May — is confronted by one of their victims they have nothing to say — nothing to offer — and simply don’t care.

Well done to the woman today — I personally thank you for your bravery – and for standing up against the Tory scum.

No doubt, May will increasingly be confined to her safe space — so as to avoid these kinds of reality checks which break her carefully crafted and stage managed persona.

Most popular politician in the country?

NO — she – and her Tory pals are some of the most HATED people in the country. And almost everytime May meets the public they tell her why. And May shows that she couldn’t care less about them, us, or anything other than her rich pals.

Featured image Red Raiph

You can follow Chris Turnbull on twitter at @EnemyOfTheState or at his webpage Enemy of the state

The Caring Conservatives…

KLAXON – Only 24 days left of campaigning and actual policies have been discovered from the Tory party!

Of course how much do you believe the election promises of a woman who said she wasn’t going to call an election in the first place?

We start with the promise to build social housing in England – it appears that it will be funded by selling off  “fixed term” council houses after 10 to 15 years, I was under the impression the longest tenancy secure tenancy is now 5 years, so…

  1. how many tenants will become eligible, and
  2. ISN’T THIS WHAT STARTED THE BLOODY HOUSING BUBBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE?

And rather than me copy & pasting the whole article I would suggest you read this by LeftFootForward.

Then under a line of “improving employee’s rights” people will be able to take a year off work to care for a sick relative.  Hmm.

So that’s a year unpaid to cover for the appalling state the Care Sector is in.

A year unpaid – now I don’t know anyone that can afford to do that. Will people get carer’s allowance while they are doing it? Because at £62.70 per week it is a pitiful amount when you think of how much carers are saving the country by not handing over their loved ones.

And what happens at the end of the year if the family member still requires care?

Also in this gig economy how many employers will actually support this? Because if they don’t it’s not exactly easy or cheap to take them to a tribunal = costs in England are between £390 and £1,200.

Then there will be statutory bereavement leave for parents who lose a child – How is this not a thing already? Honestly, they produce something which I would already expect to be part of our system and we are supposed to be grateful. I suppose it’s better than a letter informing you that the Bedroom Tax is kicking in

In Scotland, branch manager Ruth “No Referendum” Davidson has dropped her previously vehement opposition to universal free prescriptions. The woman who once declared that free prescriptions were causing deaths has not so much U-turned as handbrake turned, smoke pouring from her tank tracks.

And if you think the “death by free prescription” is bad, be aware that some are using that argument against Corbyn’s policy to scrap parking charges at hospitals in England. We seem to be doing okay in Scotland with free prescriptions and free parking. I say free – it comes out of our taxation and it what our government sees as a priority.

VOTE TORY and keep something you already have…..

Actually I suppose that’s quite groundbreaking for them.

More to the point – it is a devolved issue and has nothing to do with a General Election. In normal situations I would expect this to be leaped upon by a press eager to inform their readers however *sighs* we have ScotPol who come out with this:

Capture

Oh well….

 

Picture: Pexels

You can follow Simone Charlesworth on twitter @cee4cat and at Mewsing Out Loud

 

 

Theresa May’s Photoshopped Democracy

At a time when more of the population are politically active and engaged than ever before, it seems ironic that debate and politics at the top has fallen silent. Our politicisation is a threat. So the system has been hacked.


We do “Happy Food” when we have something to celebrate. It’s a rare and, considering our limited incomes, expensive treat. A cook your own Chinese spicy hotpot in an authentic Chinese restaurant on a street predominantly occupied by similar Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese eateries. We call it “Happy Food” on account of the often hilarious Chinglish on the menu, priceless gems like “happy sunshine mother’s lung” and “spicy grandma.” On a couple of the walls in this joint there are gargantuan mounted flat-screen television sets always tuned to Xinhua, Chinese state news; China’s infinitely more balanced answer to the BBC and Sky News.

We don’t understand a word the news casters are saying, but it is strangely addictive nonetheless. Every so often there is a segment where some government minister in a Mao suit – yes, they’re called Mao suits – and sporting what would appear to be standard issue Communist Party spectacles is doing a walk about tour of a new factory or a labour camp. Always it is a variation of the same. The state official is always framed centre shot, flanked by secret police bodyguards, a ranking soldier or two, and a rabble of nervously grinning members of the management committee. Each detail is carefully and meticulously stage managed. Not a hair is out of place. It’s propaganda.

. Eoin @LabourEoin

Stage Managed Photo Op for Theresa May in the North East. Look at the scene, designed to convey a crowd. Didn’t bank on this pic being taken

 


It is obvious something profoundly bad has happened in British politics when we watch the Prime Minister on the general election campaign trail and are reminded instantly of these performances on the Chinese state news. The dumb-down foxification of news and politics has been happening both in the United States and the United Kingdom for a good while, since at least the media savvy New Labour 1997 general election campaign that got Tony Blair to Number 10. It has not improved since. We have come through the spin doctors, the sound bites, to the slogans; where the debate and discussion has thinned and deteriorated in each new phase until now – the silence.

Debate has died. Mrs May will meet neither journalists who are not hand-picked relatives of Conservative MPs and party members nor the public whose support she hopes to win. On the Scottish leg of her tour of the nations she was whisked to a secluded wood, to an empty prefab reminiscent of the Wolf’s Lair at the Eastern Front, to perform an utterly artificial town hall meeting surrounded by security and bussed-in, grinning campaign staffers and volunteers for the sole benefit of a picture perfect press release.

Time and again it is the same thing, in factories all over the place; photoshoots designed to give the impression of movement and purpose where in fact there is none. We don’t even have a message anymore. This is what we mean by the silence. But, and what is most worrying, is that she knows she’ll get away with it. She has this general election in the bag. She and her handlers know that all they needs is the right image. Big data will do the rest. Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ, the multi-million dollar information analytics firms behind Trump and Brexit are working their magic. Using the gains of government mass surveillance, harvesting everything the internet knows about every voter and by using psych and dark ops techniques perfected against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, these shady operations know the science of shaping public opinion.

Theresa knows something that we have to start learning fast, that she doesn’t need to follow the old formula of beat cop politics. She knows that it is already redundant. All she has to do is let the cyber analytics people create the better-than-perfect illusion for just enough of the right category of voters that all is well. That is the reason for the silence. Her talking only stimulated debate, the presentation as a whole falls from the optimal pitch for achieving maximum likes and shares. Democracy has been hacked, and, unless we can find a solution fast, it will soon be dead.

 


The Power of Big Data and Psychographics


 

The Conservative Causality

Our political choices have real social and economic consequences. When we support parties responsible for inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering on innocent people we share in their guilt. Think before you vote.


As the many government cost-saving social and economic policies – known collectively as ‘austerity’ – hit and as the effects of this austerity deepen across society there are predictable consequences. Cuts in the healthcare budget result in a decreased quality of care, a lowering of the level of general health, and an increase in the number of unnecessary deaths. Reductions in the social welfare bill make it increasingly more difficult for people relying on state welfare to make ends meet, making it more difficult to cover the basic costs of housing and food – driving up homelessness and food poverty. Sanctions on social welfare – primarily designed as a cost-saving strategy – have a devastating impact on people’s lives, worsening the effects of other cuts to the social safety net.

None of this is rocket science. It is a simple case of cause and effect. Cuts hurt people. Worse than this, the government’s austerity programme is killing people. While it is near impossible to examine every death across the UK in order to assess the true scale of this problem, one indicator is particularly useful – the suicide rate. Not every death by suicide is related to the economy and austerity, but the statistics – published annually by the Samaritans – do show a direct and positive correlation between austerity cuts and incidences of suicide; as the government cuts and sanctions, the rate of suicide per every 100,000 people rises.

019

The Samaritans’ Suicide Report

From 2010 the overall suicide rate across the UK has risen, year on year, until the present – with rates higher in areas hit the hardest by austerity. The exception to this trend is in Scotland, where, since 2007, this rate has been falling steadily; thanks largely to the SNP government’s mitigation of Westminster’s austerity measures. Between 2012 and 2013 the suicide rate in Wales rose by a staggering 23 per cent, with the rate now standing at 21.0 per 100,000 for men and 5.5 for women. In England – as a whole – that rate is 15.4 for men and 5.0 for women, but in towns like Preston and Blackpool in the north those rates are doubled. In Northern Ireland, between 2015 and 2016, the suicide rate rose by 17.5 per cent – making it the highest in the UK at 26.9 for men and 7.7 for women.

Always, the simple facts are that the rate of suicide is lower in affluent areas and higher in poorer areas. Overall the rate rises as austerity deepens. In 1934, when the German Confessing Church spoke out against the tyranny of the National Socialists, the theologian Karl Barth spelt out that we are all responsible for the consequences of the political choices we make. Here in the United Kingdom austerity stands or falls on the support of the Conservative Party, the party responsible for this truly horrific austerity regime. Votes for the Tory party empower the British government to continue with and intensify this offensive programme, and therefore those who lend their vote to this party are complicit in the misery it is inflicting on hundreds of thousands of people.

There is no kinder way to put this. Stating this fact is not about recrimination; in a liberal democratic society people will always vote for the party with the policies that best serve their individual priorities. We all understand this, but our democratic choices – especially in this case – have ethical and moral implications. Austerity in all its forms, resulting as it does in such harm to innocent people, is objectively, morally wrong. For as long as this Conservative government in Westminster pursues these policies it is quite simply immoral to support it at the ballot. Each of us has a choice to make and, no matter how we have voted in the past, we have to make a choice directed by our conscience. There is nothing good or conscionable about supporting austerity.

 


Mark Blyth on Austerity

You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.

 

Desperate, underpaid NHS paramedic tells Theresa May: “I’ve seen things no one should have to witness”

 

A paramedic has written a moving description on Facebook (see below) of the difficulties he has to face every day in his job, and how he is paid a pittance of just £12.35 an hour to do it.

This is because the Tory government has over the last 7 years capped paramedics’ and other public workers’ pay rises at 1%.

The cabinet ministers who made that decision, however, have seen their own pay rise over the last 7 years to the point they are making approximately £117.92 an hour*, on top of which they can also claim expenses, subsidies and other perks.

A perfect example of Theresa May’s warped Britain today.

Brian Mear:

I joined the Ambulance Service in 1986.
For over 28 years I worked doing “Front Line” work. That’s Emergency work. Covering 999 calls. For the last 6 years of my service I worked alone predominantly on nights at weekend so I could care for my mum who had cancer. At night I would be covering 80,000 people alone. In that time I undertook significant training. Advancing myself in skills and knowledge. I became a Paramedic in 1992. A Pre-hospital Trauma Life Support instructor, I trained new entrants on the road for over 16 years. I became an Hems Paramedic on the Thames Valley Air Ambulance dealing with Major System Trauma incidents . I’ve dealt with royalty and the lowest sections of society. Film stars, Rock Stars, Serial Killers, Drug Addicts, I’ve been stabbed twice, punched, spat at. Had vomit thrown in my face. Had ribs broken by being kicked by a hypoglycemic patient. Been called a c*nt and worse, been held at gun point as a hostage even had a man try and bite my nose off.
Been to major shootings. Helped guide 60+ babies into life. Seen countless people at the very end of their journey. I’m trained to cannulate people to administer drugs, intubate, defibrillate , put chest drains in, I’ve put a trachyoctomy on a 16 year old boy hit by a train, tried to resuscitate two burnt toddlers after their father set fire to them both. I’ve seen things that no one should have to witness
At the end of that time with all that experience I was worth £12.35 an hour before tax (this was my bank shift rate on my very last shift, somewhat lower than my colleagues due to not getting anti social enhancements but even with I feel we are criminally underpaid for the work we undertake).
That’s what my skills are worth to society.
Less than an estate agent, less than a refuse collector, much less than any MP regardless of political party, less than the majority of office workers working in a clean environment doing sociable hours.
Yes £12.35 before tax and National Insurance. Tax is something the super rich avoid.
Why because modern society puts no value on me because I don’t make money.
I’m not a footballer or an actor or a bean counter for the banks. I don’t fit into the capitalist system that we are all brainwashed to think is the only workable system humanity can live by.
So go ahead and vote for the Tories again and see the NHS finally die. Let them take away the last decent thing we have left in this country that cuts across all races, ages, and class.
The great institution that our grand parents fought through the horror of the Second World War to set up “from cradle to the grave”.

.

*MPs’ working hours here. Ministers’ current annual pay here.

You can follow Tom on twitter at @ThomasPride    and at his webpage Prides Purge

What Has Gender Got to Do With It? | Turn LEFT and Make June the End of May

 

 

 

 

Couple of weeks ago I received my copy of a journal which includes an article written by myself and friend and colleague Mike Brennan (Brennan, M. and Letherby, G. (2017) ‘Auto/Biographical Approaches to Researching Death and Bereavement: connections, continuums, contrasts’ for Morality: Promoting the interdisciplinary study of death and dying 22(2)). Our piece is about the interconnection between autobiography and biography in social research focusing on death and bereavement. As such the article contains reference to aspects of each of our personal and professional identities and experiences. Given this we both wrote our biographical notes in the first person. I did not pay much attention to the biographies at the copy-editing stage – ‘silly’ mistake. From the content of my contribution to the article it is obvious that I am a woman (amongst other things I make reference to my experience of miscarriage). Yet, my biography now reads:

Gayle Letherby is currently [job title] and combine (sic) freelance academic activities with other writing and non-academic projects. His academic research and writing interests embrace all things methodological (including feminist, auto/biographical and creative approaches); reproductive and non/parental identities; gender, health and wellbeing; loss and bereavement; travel and transport mobility and working and learning in higher education. His recent publications include . . .

Throughout my career as a sociologist in higher education I, alongside other female colleagues, have experienced regular sexism. I have had my status and titles denied or deleted and my abilities questioned. My late husband (also a sociologist) and I wrote together of our different experiences within the academy (Letherby, G and Shiels, J. (2001) ‘Isn’t he good, but can we take her seriously?’ in Anderson, P. and Williams, J. (eds.) Identity and Difference in Higher Education London: Ashgate). Amongst other things we reflected on the different ways students related to us in that my expertise on many subjects and issues, including feminism, was much more likely to be challenged than John’s (i.e. ‘Can we take her seriously?‘); and although we were both conscientious about and enjoyed the pastoral care aspects of the job John was much more likely to be lauded for this whilst I have have often been criticised for ‘not being available’ when needed (i.e. ‘Isn’t he good‘).

I don’t recount these anecdotes to wallow but rather to provide examples of some of my personal examples of @EverydaySexism. The general acceptance of words and phrases that are derogatory towards women and girls is another example of day-to-day sexism and with this in mind a little while back I published a Blog entry on how the language used in political debate is often sexist. Here is an extract from my piece:

Social media – which I greatly appreciate – both for its challenge to the mainstream media and the opportunity it provides for broad based discussion, debate and education – adds to the problem. I, and I know I am not alone in this, am dismayed by the possibilities it gives for smears and insults, bullying and intimidation; both from named individuals and those who hide behind anonymity/alternative identities.  Indeed, on many occasions the ease of the action seems to inflame the activity. Sadly, it seems that people from all sides of the political debate; both those on the right and on the left, use Twitter and Facebook and so on, to assault those with whom they do not agree. Even those who are not particularly aggressive or personal in their condemnation of a person, political party, policy or news item often resort to chauvinistic abuse; unfortunately supporting the view that these are just normal, everyday, acceptable insults.  With this in mind I groan when people I admire refer to the minister for health as Jeremy *unt and I shudder when those I don’t combine racism, sizeism, ageism with misogyny to describe or lambaste female, and male, politicians and those that support or challenge their approach, actions and ideas. Recently, on my Facebook feed I was more than heavyhearted to see, on a page very supportive of the Labour leadership, a cartoon meme with Jeremy Corbyn holding a banner complete with the words ‘let’s try not being twats’.  When asked why he doesn’t retaliate to the constant barrage of, often extremely personal, attack he receives Corbyn’s response is ‘I’m not going to get in the gutter with anyone’. With this in mind it’s hardly likely that ‘twat’ is part of his vocabulary. As with many other issues, I’m with Corbyn on this. http://arwenackcerebrals.blogspot.ca/2017/03/mind-your-language-watching-our-ps-qs.html

On Tuesday the 9th May Theresa May and her husband Philip appeared on The One Show on BBC 1. The following has already been much reported:

‘Well, there’s give and take, like in every marriage!’ said Mr May, laughing. ‘I get to decide when I take the bins out – but not if!’

‘There’s boy jobs and girl jobs,’ said Mrs May.

The language used by May is interesting. First: the girl/boy issue. Although, as I wrote in the earlier piece referred to above, reclaiming of language is a good thing, that she used childhood descriptors in referring to herself and her husband is not, I would suggest, ‘sweet’ as a writer in The Telegraph claimed but rather shows a spectacular like of insight from such a powerful woman.  Second: the gendered job issue. Where to start here. To begin we know that in the UK and elsewhere in heterosexual relationships:

Women today spend as much time doing housework as in the 1990s. Men have increased their housework contributions – a nod towards greater gender equality. Yet women still spend twice as much time on housework as men. http://theconversation.com/we-can-we-reduce-gender-inequality-in-housework-heres-how-58130

I sometimes write short fiction including pieces prompted by my research interests. I have for almost 30 years studied and written about the experience of women and men who do and do not have children in terms of both experience and status. This story (also published on ABCtales https://www.abctales.com/user/gletherby) seems relevant here:

Hard Labour

I’ve never worked as hard as I have since I gave up my full-time job to stay home with the twins. Then I worked eight-to-five, an occasional evening and a few hours over the weekend. Now I’m on duty all day and all night.

I’m exhausted.

I couldn’t manage without mum. She comes over every weekday and feeds, bathes or plays with Harry and Ben whilst I catch up with housework and throw a few vegetables and some meat in the slow cooker in an attempt to prepare a supper that doesn’t need three to five minutes in the microwave.

I’m exhausted.

I was once amongst the first to scoff at stay-at-home mothers who moaned about their lot. How hard could it be? I’d planned to get back to my art, pick up where I left off after leaving college, before joining the rat race. I haven’t opened the new brushes I bought in the last months of the pregnancy, my artist’s eye useful only for deciding which primary colours to dress the children in.

I’m exhausted.

The boys’ faces light up when Sam comes home, devaluing my daily grind in a heartbeat. I listen to the stories of deals and mergers, of collaborations and office politics. I nod but I’m uninterested, my own workplace all consuming. I used to enjoy sex. Now I’m grateful there’s somebody else around at night to take a turn with wet bottoms and fractious moments.

I’m exhausted.

Tuesday and Friday I attend mother and toddler group; my lifeline. I was quiet at first, unusual for me. I felt out of place. But the twins are a novelty and there’s always a pair of arms to relieve me of at least one. I’ve made a new friend. Alice too is overwhelmed by the whole experience and never has time to read a book or take a bath. She tells me about her cracked nipples. I wince, grateful for formula feed, and admit to wearing yesterday’s underwear as all the rest are in the washing basket. Conspiratorially we talk of our lives BC (before children) when we were smart, intelligent change-makers in the workplace, efficient in the home and fun outside of it. Before children we were our own people with our own separate identities. Now all our energy, our effort, our conversation, is devoted to our children.

I’m exhausted.

A rare night out. I book the babysitter early so I can wash and dress slowly and alone. The drive is blissful with folk music on the stereo rather than children’s favourites. After parking the car and flicking a bit of what I think might be banana off my jacket I walk to the party. I see Sam talking animatedly with some old friends. We wave. The hostess hands me a drink and introduces me to her neighbour. He smiles and asks the usual icebreaker question; ‘what do you do?’

‘Me, I’m just a househusband,’ I reply.  https://www.abctales.com/story/gletherby/hard-labour

And, what about households that do not fit into the neat ‘boy/girl’ mix? One response I read on Twitter was by a woman asking May’s advice on who should take out the rubbish, herself or her female partner. And my Twitter response:

‘As a woman who lives alone luckily I have learnt how to ‘take the bins out’ – it was tough!’

In another part of the programme the focus was on Theresa May’s love of shoes and she retold an anecdote that she has shared before about a woman she met in a lift who told her that it was her (May’s) shoes that prompted her to pursue a political career. If true, is this really something a female Prime Minister should be proud of; that her fashion sense and not her personal and political values are what makes her a role model to others?  In a piece of ‘fiction’ I wrote recently about both the pantomime that is Prime Minister’s Questions and the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ type presentation by the Tories, both within and outside of Westminster, I referred to May’s love of clothes. Sadly much of the response to this piece was in terms of criticisms of her appearance which was not my intention. I regret that my piece was not clear or nuanced enough although I stand by my view that the Mrs May needs to think more carefully about her presentation  of self in a society where increasing numbers of people do not have enough money for food and buying new shoes is way down on their list. The best response (in my opinion) to Monday night’s programme was from Cat Smith, previous MP and current Labour candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood ‘Your shoes got me into politics #GE2017’. Her tweet was accompanied by this picture:

A few weeks ago I came across an interesting article posted by the Women Against Tories Facebook page (who now kindly also promote my Blog posts). When searching for the page a list of other Women Against . . . options came up. I found the Women Against Feminism page particularly upsetting. This image is prominent on the site. This poster and other pictures and posts on the page are distressing and insulting in their inaccuracy. They are also disrespectful to the many, many female and male campaigners, activists, teachers, academics and others who have throughout history, and to date, worked tirelessly for gender equality. Many/most such advocates also reflect on how issues other than sex/gender such as ethnicity, age, dis/ability, sexuality are significant and indeed often interact with each other and with gendered difference in terms of in/equality and in/justice.   In my own sociological work on (amongst other things) reproductive and non/parental status and experience; working and learning in higher education; travel and transport; loss and bereavement I have always, alongside other feminist social scientists, considered gendered expectations and experiences. This has included attention to when the gender order works against men and boys; when and how male and female experience intersects as well as a focus on the inequalities that women and girls face (for example Marchank, J. and Letherby, G. (2014) An Introduction to Gender: social science perspectives (revised second edition) London: Routledge).

Worldwide:

Gender inequality remains a major barrier to human development. Girls and women have made major strides since 1990, but they have not yet gained gender equity. The disadvantages facing women and girls are a major source of inequality. All too often, women and girls are discriminated against in health, education, political representation, labour market, etc. – with negative consequences for development of their capabilities and their freedom of choice. (see The United Nations Human Development Reports for more detail http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/gender-inequality-index-gii

A newspaper article written by Ryan Frances in March 2017 highlights some specific issues in the UK. Her analysis considers how gender differences intersect with class, ethnicity and other differences, thus:

That ‘austerity is a feminist issue’ is now a well-used idiom does not mean it’s any less true. Look at the latest gender breakdown of cuts released this month and what’s striking is that nothing’s changing. According to Sarah Champion, the shadow equalities minister, 86% of the burden of austerity has fallen on women since 2010 –a figure that remains entirely static from last year. Inequality is business as usual: by 2020, a decade on from when austerity first began, men will still have borne just 14% of the total burden of ‘welfare’ cuts.

This unequal impact isn’t just contained within the benefit system, but rather spreads to many of the choices the Conservatives are making. NHS and local government cuts of course affect men as well, but as women are a vast chunk of the public sector workforce, they are hurt most when public services are squeezed. Similarly, although it’s rarely talked about in such terms, the crisis in social care is in many ways gendered: it’s largely women who make up home care and agency staff – insecure, low-paid work – while it’s also women who are the bulk of family carers for disabled children and elderly parents. When a council cuts a care package, it’s largely wives, mothers, and daughters doing the unpaid labour to plug the gap…..

Crucially, in the push to acknowledge what’s being done to women in an era of cuts, we have to highlight how race, class, and disability fit into this. By 2020 Asian women in some of the poorest families will be £2,247 worse off. That goes up to £3,996 for black single mothers. White men in some of the richest households, by contrast, are set to lose only £410.  Disabled and chronically ill women – many of whom are carers themselves – face huge and continuing cuts to disability support, from fit-for-work tests to the latest changes to personal independence payments.

By definition, vast cuts to the social security system are going to hurt not the middle classes, but low-income families already struggling. Yet next month’s new round of benefit measures take this even further, in essence targeting poor mothers and their children. The ‘rape test’ for benefits coming into force in April [and since defended as ‘fair’ by Theresa May and other Conservatives *] – part of a crackdown on child tax credit claims for more than two children – is reflective of how low the government has sunk, yet it is part of a string of upcoming policies that independent bodies warn will cost families thousands. The charity Gingerbread says universal credit changes alone will see working single parents lose £800 a year on average by 2020 (90% of single parents are women).  As a new wave of child poverty approaches,  it’s working class mums – scraping by on zero-hours contracts, agency work and benefits – who will be queuing in food banks and opening eviction notices.

For more detail here read this article (complete with embedded video) by Kerry-Anne Mendoza https://www.thecanary.co/2017/04/27/theresa-may-stand-indefensible-comments-rape-video/

With all of this in mind I just can’t take this image seriously:

For some further detail on how the Conservative (Theresa May), Labour (Jeremy Corbyn) and Liberal Democrat (Tim Farron) leaders have voted on issues that specifically affect women see https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/politics/tim-farron-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-voted-womens-issues/. In sum Jeremy Corbyn has voted consistently in favour of women’s reproductive and human rights whereas Tim Farron and Theresa May were much more likely to not vote or vote against issues that benefited women. (NB: the 2015 Amendment making it explicit that gender selective abortion is illegal was aimed at criminalising women and there were concerns of increased ‘back-street’ type terminations).

In my academic work I have written critically about how women are often expected in their professional life to be better than men, work harder than men, in order to ‘get on’ whilst at the same time they are required to demonstrate the caring qualities that are seen as a key part of ‘ideal’ womanhood: ‘the doctor/teacher (see above)/social worker (etc.) was a woman so I expected her to be more understanding, supportive blah, blah, blah’. Yet, I cannot help be so very disappointed that the second female British Prime Minister is as unconcerned with gender (and human and animal rights (note her recent statement that she supports an overturn of the current ban on fox hunting)) issues as was the first. As Debbie Cameron wrote recently:

Conservative women like Thatcher can also exploit the fact that authority itself is positively valued on the political right. As much as he or she may resent being bossed by a woman, your average Tory will take a strong female leader over a weak and ineffectual male one. If she passes their political virility test by being tough enough on their hot-button issues (war, national security, crime and immigration), conservatives may be willing to elevate her to the quasi-mythical status of the ‘Iron Lady’ [as they did with Thatcher].

Despite her record as a hardliner on at least three of the issues mentioned above, Theresa May has not been given the ‘Iron Lady’ title. But it’s no accident that she and her supporters have spent the last two weeks talking incessantly about her ‘strong and stable leadership’. This is simultaneously a dig at her opponent Jeremy Corbyn (who is by implication weak and chaotic), and a message to anyone who might harbour doubts about a woman leader’s strength, determination or resilience. Like Thatcher before her, May is willing to embrace sexist stereotypes, but selectively, to suit her purpose. What she seems to be trying to project in this campaign is a combination of Mummy’s* [maternal power being the only expression of female power acceptable to the right] ruthless protectiveness (she’ll give no quarter when it comes to standing up for her British brood) and the stubborn persistence of the ‘bloody difficult woman’. https://debuk.wordpress.com/2017/05/06/a-very-british-sexism/

*an internal Conservative Party nickname for May and Thatcher before her.

SO: What Has Gender Got to Do With It?
Answer: A LOT

8th June 2017, the day of the General Election, is also the 104th anniversary of the death of Emily Davison Wilding a British suffragette who fought for the right for women to vote. She was arrested nine times and was force fed whilst protested through hunger strikes whilst in prison. On the 4th of June 1913 Davison Wilding stepped in front of King George V’s horse and died from her injuries four days later.

We ALL know what to do.

TURN LEFT and Make June the End of May

featured image Gender

You can follow Gayle on twitter at @GayleLetherby or at her webpage Arwenack Creatives | Gayle Letherby’s Blog  

BBC reporter (close relative of 2 Tory MPs) accused of collaborating with Theresa May on planted questions

Channel 4 correspondent Michael Crick claims reporters are asking Theresa May questions which have been pre-chosen by her press team:

During campaigning, May’s press team regularly refuse to allow questions from reporters who are “not on their list”.

Interestingly, at a closed event yesterday in York, the first reporter Theresa May called by name to offer her a question was BBC political correspondent Eleanor Garnier.

A BBC reporter who also happens to be closely related to two Tory MPs – her cousin Mark Garnier and father Edward Garnier.

So no bias at all there then …

You can watch the whole weird press conference here (May takes questions from journalists at about 12.08):