The Problem With Labour

Today Liam Byrne has once again managed to cause outrage with his plans for social security (that’s welfare to the rest of you). It’s not the first time he’s done this.

In June 2011 he was banging on about compulsory employment workshops for the unemployed who have pre school age children, but he’ll pay your child care costs. That went down like a lead balloon. Telling the unemployed they just need to try harder is insulting to the millions who already are.

Today he decided to pander to the Tories and the knee jerk reaction of certain newspapers and have another go at demonising the working class. Today Mr Byrne wants to limit unemployment benefit to just 2 years. We’ve heard that somewhere before haven’t we? Ahhh yes that other poor basher – Iain Duncan Smith. He likes the Wisconsin style of ‘welfare’. Its vicious, they cut you off completely, kids or no kids. They’ll leave you to starve and Liam Byrne’s all for that it seems.

Some of you reading this already know how I feel about politics. Its all rubbish, none of it is for our benefit. Its about a handful of rich people having power and control over the rest of us. But some of you like Labour, some of you hoped they gave a shit, that they’d actually have something to offer. Liam Byrne just stamped all over that.

I don’t avoid work. I’ve worked in some dirty, dusty, back breaking warehouses. Ones that were so cold the ink in my pen froze, I’ve worked till I couldn’t move, I’ve got my hands dirty and collapsed in a heap at the end of the day. I doubt any of the people who make the decisions in this country can say the same.

There is another problem with Byrnes little article. What happens to a victim of domestic abuse? They might have paid nothing into the system, what are they going to get? He wants to link contribution to social security and housing. So the person who’s looking for safety, are they excluded from housing because being in fear of your life isn’t a contribution is it? You see, there’s never any detail is there? They just write a few vague ideas down and expect the ignorant plebs to cheer. Leaving anyone without shelter is inhumane in my opinion. Its a basic right.

I want a social security system that looks after people for as long as they need it. I want people to be valued, not just on their earning capacity. I want people like Byrne and IDS to be irrelevant. There was a time when being a parent was considered worthy of respect, now we’re shipped out as soon as possible. Then we’re labelled bad parents when our children have no one at home because we’re working. The disabled, what happens to them? The unemployed? Are we to leave them to starve on the streets?

We already know Labour are in favour of sanctions. Destitution is a fit and proper punishment for not doing as you’re told apparently.

Have Labour said they’ll reverse the changes to council tax benefit? Will they abolish the bedroom tax? Are they going to get rid of Atos and allow qualified doctors to decide if someone’s ill/disabled?

Is there really a difference between the parties because I don’t see one, do you?

The Tory Questionnaire

Last weekend a survey from the Tory party was sent to my parents house. I notice one wasn’t sent to me in my lowly little terrace, just to their respectable 3 bed semi on the outskirts of town. How strange. Anyway, my dad insisted I fill it out for them, he’s not well enough to do it himself and mum doesnt really do all that politics stuff. How could I refuse? I have scanned the result for your viewing pleasure.

toryQ

toryQ1

toryQ2

ToryQ3

I think this gives us all an insight into what the Tory party think and want (if any of you were ever in any doubt), and its very telling that the people most likely to be on benefits have not been asked to participate in this survey. My parents are actually on benefits. My dad’s disabled.

Men and Domestic Abuse

A few days ago I read a blog post by the wonderful Johnny Void about the effect IDS’ welfare reforms will have on women’s refuges. It’s a bloody good post and highlights a very important issue.

Unless you’ve found yourself in a refuge, temporary accommodation or a homeless hostel you might not realise how much it costs to be there. When I was homeless due to domestic abuse, after the maximum housing benefit award (pre LHA days) I had to pay an additional £7.70 a week (the first time) and £8.80 a week (the second time). That was for one room, one bed for myself and my daughter. A shared toilet, bathroom and kitchen. So I applaud Mr Void for highlighting the issue.

When I’d finished reading the post I scrolled down to the comments. They are what have prompted me to write this post.

As a survivor of domestic abuse I support all services that are available for victims, and there are many, both nationally and locally, all around the UK (google your local service). They include specialist support for men, women, the LGBT community and different ethnicities. The support is not solely for women, although that appeas to be the widely held view.

It is true that the support solely for men and LGBT is not as vast as Womens Aid/Refuge’s network, but it does exist. I was in a refuge where a father was staying with his daughter. They were fleeing domestic abuse. Our local council sees no difference between male or female victims.

It saddens me greatly that some people jump up and down when Womens Aid are mentioned, because they are an organisation for women. I don’t jump up and down because ManKind is a service for men. I’m glay they both exist. I hope that one day the provision for male, female and LGBT victims are all equally vast.

I’d also like to point out that it was Womens Aid who helped me encourage a male friend to seek legal advice about an ex girlfriend. He got an injunction and she stopped abusing him and his children.

Below is a list of contact for ALL victims of domestic abuse.

Men
ManKind
National helpline: 01823 334244
http://www.mankind.org.uk
Admin@mankind.org.uk

Mens Advice Line (run by Respect)
0808 801 0327
http://www.mensadviceline.org.uk
Info@mensadviceline.org.uk

Respect
Twitter: @RespectUK
http://www.respect.uk.net

Esteem
01209 202688 (office)
07825 220 232 (mobile)
http://www.esteemmen.co.uk
Enquiries@esteemmen.co.uk

LGBT
Broken rainbow UK
0300 999 5428
http://www.broken-rainbow.uk.uk
Help@brokenrainbow.org.uk

London Lesbian And Gay Switchboard
0300 330 0630
http://www.llgs.org.uk
Chris@llgs.org.uk

LGBT Cymru Helpline
0808 840 2069
http://www.lgbtcymruhelpline.org.uk
Line@lgbtcymruhelpline.org.uk

Women
Womens Aid
0808 2000 247
http://www.womensaid.org.uk
Helpline@womensaid.org.uk

Refuge
0808 2000 247
http://www.refuge.org.uk
Info@refuge.org.uk

If you are in immediate danger.
Please do not hesitate to dial 999!

While I’ve Been Away

This is my first post for quite some time. Why the absence you may ask? Well life’s been very hectic since January for various reasons. I’m currently caring for 2 family members, 1 officially, 1 unofficially as they haven’t yet been diagnosed. I’ve still got 3 kids who are very demanding, 1 of which is being assessed for autism. I also don’t have an internet connection at home anymore, I couldn’t afford it so until I pay my ISP the money I owe I have to use my phone for all online activities (which is hard going for blog posts).

There is some better news, I got married in August, to the father of my two youngest children :) So I’m now Mrs Darkestangel lol

I’ve been following the news when I can, keeping updated on the welfare reforms and the cuts in general, as well as locally.

While I’m able I’ll attempt to post but it might be a bit hit and miss. I still have to post that reply from my MP about welfare reform.

Well, the kids are calling, its time to put them to bed. I’ll be back soon…

A Safe Place To Sleep

Before I begin I’d like some of you to take the time to visit www.hiddenhurt.co.uk

Those of you who do not understand what domestic violence is, those who have no first hand experience of it and those who hold onto the myths that have surrounded it for so long. When you have finished please come back and read this blog.

Some of you will already know that I’m a survivor of domestic violence along with my daughter. We have been free of violence for 11 years. We have been free from abuse for less than that, and free from fear for 3 years.

I’ve written about the cuts to domestic violence services more than once since I started this blog. It was clear at the end of 2010 that the services victims and survivors rely on to escape abuse and to stay safe were under threat. Having personally used these vital services more than once it filled me with dread. Not because I think I will need them again (although I have no crystal ball, it could happen), but because I know how it feels to be sat in a police station with my child literally begging for help, begging for a safe place to sleep for the night. I have personally faced the prospect of not having anywhere for us to sleep unless we went back to our abuser. We have been lucky, last time a police officer spoke to the council and pleaded our case until they found us a room in a local hostel. It was very last minute. I was told by the hostel warden that the lady who should have had our room had simply not arrived and that’s why we were given it. That hostel room was the safest place in the world for us. No one could get in. My daughter wasn’t scared and I slept for the first time in so long because I knew nothing could happen to us. It was just one room with one bed but it was our security and we will always be grateful for it.

Thousands of women up and down the country are not so lucky and it’s getting worse. The single most important factor when I fled domestic violence was having somewhere safe to go, without it I would have gone back. Those of us fortunate to still have contact with friends or family may be able to stay with them but often we have been isolated over a number of years and have no one left or feel too ashamed to approach the people who love us. Many of us are unaware of womens aid or refuge until we actually need them, until our lives depend on it. Womens Aid helped me enormously last time I fled. They assured me that I didn’t need a visible injury When I asked for help to be classed as a victim because abuse comes in many forms. Warwickshire Domestic Violence Support Services helped me with extra home security when I finally got my own place. It was free and it helped me feel safer as a woman living on her own with a small child. All of these things are under threat.

Professor Sylvia Walby, UNESCO Chair in Gender Research, and Jude Towers at Lancaster University, wrote a report on the impact of cuts on violence against women services. A summary is below:

• 31% of the funding to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector from local authorities was cut between 2010/11 to 2011/12, a reduction from £7.8 million to £5.4 million.

• Among those with local authority funding of less than £20,000 the average cut was 70% as compared with 29% for those receiving over £100,000, between 2010/11 and 2011/12.

• 230 women, just under 9% of those seeking refuge, were turned away by Women’s Aid on a typical day in 2011 due to lack of space.

• The number of Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVA) has been reduced: in 2011 among 8 major IDVA service providers supporting 13,180 clients, 2 faced funding cuts of 100%, 3 cuts of 50%, 3 of 40% and 2 of 25%

• IMKAAN, who run services for women from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups, report the closing of two of their six specialist refuges and cuts to local authority funding for two more.

• RESPECT services working to reform male perpetrators of domestic violence suffered budget cuts so that between 2010 and 2011 78% of services reduced the number of clients they were able to assist.

• Statutory provision, including those police and court services that involve specialised expertise, has also been reduced following funding cuts. This includes cuts in the operating levels of Domestic Abuse Officers, a unit on female genital mutilation and domestic violence courts.

So we see that as a result of reduced funding victims are being turned away due to lack of space, services are closing, perpetrator programmes are facing cuts and the specialist courts and police officers are being cut too. It’s also worth remembering that there are thousands of male victims of domestic violence aswell. Statistics are hard to find but it has been estimated that roughly 1 in 5 men experience domestic violence at the hand of a female partner. Domestic violence does not discriminate, it cares not if you are rich or poor, male or female, gay or straight. and it is often deadly.  No one deserves it.

You may not personally know someone who has been killed, I don’t, but I do remember a lady who lived near to me who was murdered by her abusive partner. Her name was Sharon Franklin. and she’s 1 of millions. Domestic violence kills two women every single week in England and Wales. It devastates the lives of its victims, it destroys children’s futures. I know, my daughter’s spent 11 long years having nightmares, bed wetting, lack of confidence and self esteem and she was the only child in her nursery and school to spend the entire day scared stiff something would happen to mummy while she was gone. It has taken 11 years of hard work and sheer determination to help her become who she is today. Without domestic violence specialist services we wouldn’t have known how to cope, we would have felt alone and worst of all, I wouldn’t have stayed safe. We wouldn’t be here.

Patrick Stewart was a child that grew up in a home blighted by domestic violence when there were no such services as Womens Aid and Refuge. He has spoken out against these savage cuts in the Guardian, it’s about time others followed suit. Being a survivor does not mean I have forgotten the horror, on the contrary, it is with me every day. My story is mild when you compare it to those of Sharon Franklin, Cassandra Hasanovic, my friend Rose, and the thousands of ladies and gentlemen I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years who have suffered even worse abuse than I have. Most of them have been fortunate to have been helped by various charities and specialist services. My friend Rose works in the sector now, my friend Kathy has been helping at her local refuge for over a decade and another lady is studying to be a child psychologist to help children affected by domestic violence. Without the help we all received we wouldn’t be where we are, some of us just wouldn’t be here.

Theresa May said that the government wants to “end violence against women and girls”. They have a very strange way of achieving that aim. Decimating the vital services victims and survivors need to escape, stay safe and rebuild their lives is not only contradictory but it’s extremely dangerous. Remember:

Domestic violence kills two women every single week in England and Wales

That figure is already two women too high. It will rise if these cuts aren’t reversed.

Don’t just sit there, let your voice be heard, speak out. The days of ‘behind closed doors’ are long gone.

Blog it, write to your MP, shout it from the rooftops, join the fight. This has got to stop. One day it could be you looking for somewhere to turn, a safe place to sleep, a future free from fear.

My Reply to Marcus Jones MP: Welfare Reform Bill

Dear Mr Jones,

I received your letter today regarding the Welfare Reform Bill that is currently being passed between the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Your response failed to explained anything I haven’t already read on the DWP website or from listening to interviews from Iain Duncan Smith. You failed to address the majority of the points I raised in my previous letter and as a result I am extremely disappointed.

In case you have forgotten what my original concerns were I shall list them below.

  1. Monthly payments of ALL benefits
  2. CSA charges at the point of access and charges on every single payment thereafter
  3. Abolition of the social fund and non ring fenced funding given to local authorities
  4. The Benefit Cap which will cause hardship for those in and out of work on benefits
  5. Changes to the way council tax benefit is paid
  6. Disabled children not being allowed to build up NI contributions to entitle them to an independent income in adulthood
  7. Halving the tax credit payments to parents of disabled children who only qualify for the lower rate of DLA
  8. In-work conditionality
  9. Lack of clarity regarding help with child care
  10. Sanctions
  11. Unpaid work experience and The Work Programme in general
  12. The rhetoric being used that has resulted in increased disability hate crime, suicides and personally, I have regular nightmares that myself and my children are going to find ourselves homeless.

I would appreciate it if you would answer my concerns with some detailed explanation which I haven’t already heard from Iain Duncan Smith or the DWP website.

Yours Sincerely

Loraine Hardy.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

I wonder how long it will take for him to reply to me this time……

Letter From Marcus Jones MP: Welfare Reform Bill

Mr Jones is replying to an email I sent him before the big commons vote on the Lords amendments. I think every other MP in the country manages to reply to me before today.

The email contained all the points in this letter to IDS

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

17th February 2012

Dear Ms Hardy

RE: Welfare Reform Bill

Thank you for contacting mw about the Welfare Reform Bill

I realise that you may be concerned by some elements of this legislation, but I am assured that the Government remains committed to supporting the vulnerable and providing support for all those who need it. However, the Government has also been clear that it does not believe welfare should be a lifestyle choice and there is clear expectation that if people can work, then they should work, even if it is only for a few hours a week.

The one year limit on the length of time people can receive contribution-based Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) is an important measure designed to ensure that people make the journey back towards work. It strikes the right balance between restricting access to contributory benefits and allowing those with longer-term illnesses to adjust to their health condition and surrounding circumstances, and it is double the length of time allowed for contribution based JobSeeker’s Allowance (JSA) in recognition of that fact. Furthermore, the one year time limit is not an arbitrary figure; it is in line with similar limits to other countries around the world including France, Spain and Ireland. It should also be noted that it is only the contributory element of ESA that will be time-limited, not income-related ESA.

In addition to this, the plan to introduce a new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will continue to offer disabled people a non-means-tested cash benefit that people can spend as they choose. It will remain a benefit that is paid to people whether they are in or out of work with the main aim being to support those facing the greatest challenges to living an independent life.

One of the key problems with DLA is that the vast majority of people receive a lifetime award of this benefit and there is no follow up assessment. This has led to the situation where £630m has been overpaid, meanwhile some claimants whose conditions have deteriorated, have not received the full amount that they are entitled to.

The PIP will require people to undergo a face-to-face assessment but, this will ensure that people receive a far more personalised service. Moreover, people will not be required to undergo an annual assessment but will instead be re-assessed after an appropriate time period, based on the nature of their condition. I am informed that the Government also continues to engage with disability organisations over the assessment criteria for PIP to ensure that the assessment process is fair.

Should you have any further queries or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me again.

Yours sincerely,

Marcus Jones MP

——————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Yes Mr Jones, I do have queries and concerns. Number 1 being that you ignored the majority of my letter and chose the parts you were so obviously briefed on. Number 2, when are you going to learn to think for yourself and stop repeating the party line? Number 3, how on earth am I going to work ‘for a few hours’ with no childcare and the threat of in-work conditionality and sanctions hanging over my head if I don’t earn enough to satisfy your good buddy IDS’ idea of ‘making work pay’. Honestly, get a grip!!

Chris Grayling! Liar Liar, Pants On Fire! #WRB #boycottworkfare

Chris Grayling has hit out at those who oppose his workfare *cough* work experience schemes as being ‘job snobs’ in The Telegraph. The biggest problem with the entire article is that Grayling has told several whoppers.

He claims that under the last government claimants would have had their JSA stopped for taking part in work experience. While he is technically correct, if a work experience placement was arranged through the jobcentre then they kept all of their benefits. As far as I am aware Grayling’s schemes are arranged via the Jobcentre/work programme, so claimants would have kept their JSA anyway.

It is also claimed that the current placements are voluntary. They’re not. The word ‘mandatory’ means you have to do it, and don’t forget that if you do not complete your placement, don’t turn up, refuse, or fail to perform adequately you can be sanctioned, that means you lose your benefits for a period of time. The government are currently attempting to increase the maximum sanction period to three years. If you change your mind and return to your placement your sanction still stands, so if you have been sanctioned for 3 months you would be working for absolutely nothing, not even your JSA.

Grayling wrote:

“Short term work experience placements lasting a few weeks are of immense value to young people looking to get a foothold on the job ladder,”

The problem is, it’s not short term anymore. The previous government had work trials, which meant you could work in a real job for 2 weeks and decide if you wanted the job at the end of the trial. That’s short term and it has a goal in sight, a job with real wages!

Yes, Labour introduced New Deal (later renamed Flexible New Deal) and I know a few people who went to this scheme. The main difference I can see is that New Deal comprised of 6 different programmes. Grayling’s scheme is in essence one programme. The needs of different groups are not the same. In 3 years if I’m not working I could be put onto the same programme as someone with no children, half my age, or someone with disabilities. We clearly all have different needs and need different help accessing the labour market. How is packing me off to a big supermarket for 30 hours a week going to help me arrange childcare, travel (the actual art of getting there. Reimbursing me is no good if I can’t get there in the first place!) and then matching my actual skills or ambitions to the ‘work experience’ I’m ordered to do for fear of losing my only source of income?

I’m not a ‘job snob’, I’ve worked full time in noisy, sometimes dirty warehouses doing back breaking manual labour for the minimum wage and I actually quite enjoyed it. I have also walked out of premises and never returned when an employer has failed to pay me for my hard work. I was once working unpaid for 2 weeks. I walked out on day 14 because the tax credits alone didn’t pay the rent. I should have been earning almost £200 a week, instead myself and my daughter were living off tax credits and child benefit. I went back to my old job and survived on minimum wage because it’s better than nothing. That small wage was reward for my hard work. Wanting a wage for hard work does not make anyone a snob, some rich, middle aged Tory who has never worked an 8 hour shift in a dusty, cold warehouse, hurting himself to finish his quota for the day, being completely exhausted when he finally collapsed in the chair at home is a snob for expecting another human being to work for the measly sum of £53.45 for under 25’s, £67.50 for over 25’s and £105.95 for couples a week. Would you work full time for that? Mr Grayling says that if you don’t, you’re the snob, as he swans around in his ministerial car with his expensive clothes, full fridge & freezer and his heating on full. Not to mention his large salary and expenses.

Grayling also seems to be under the impression that it’s just the BBC and Guardian that oppose workfare. Maybe he should go and take a peek at the Superdrug facebook page, the Tesco facebook page, the Argos facebook page and open those comments up on the ASDA Facebook page. He could even sign onto Twitter and see a magnitude of opposition to workfare.  Maybe he’d prefer to have a gander at a simple job search that brings up pages of advertisements asking for Jobseekers, mostly 18-24yrs old, to come and work for their benefits. Don’t try to tell me they’re all IT errors, they’re clearly not.

I would also like to bring to your attention the governments intention to push all disabled claimants of ESA who are rightly or wrongly put into the WRAG (Work-Related Activity Group) into workfare on an unlimited time scale. There will be no fixed period for these placements, they could last 1 week or 1 year, the government want to keep them open ended. If people don’t comply they will be sanctioned.

Mr Grayling is a liar, and not a very good one either. If anyone is a hypocrite it’s him. My dad always says ‘don’t ask someone to do anything you’re not prepared to do yourself’. Chris ‘Pinocchio’ Grayling might do better in the future if he bears that in mind. I’m not holding my breath though.

In the meantime, I’d like to ask you to visit www.boycottworkfare.org and also sign this wonderful petition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29356 to abolish workfare.

If you’re lucky enough to be employed then the entire workfare scheme is putting your job at risk. Why would an employer want to pay you for something the government can force someone else to do for free? The employer does not pay the JSA, the government do. Keep your job and help to create new ones, real ones for people who desperately want them. Oppose workfare!

Maria Miller Must Go NOW! (letter published)

The letter telling Maria Miller MP (AKA Miller the Killer) to resign has been published!

213 organisations, campaigns, individuals and 1 MP signed the letter.

Huge thanks to everyone who signed.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2012/feb/19/observer-letters-welfare-reform?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038

Maria Miller must go now

We, the undersigned, have no confidence in Maria Miller‘s abilities as minister for disabled people. We believe that she should resign from her position for the following reasons.

She has failed to fight hard enough to ensure that disabled people receive a fairer assessment of their capabilities and she appears ignorant of how the proposed cuts to legal aid and closure of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux will limit access to justice and advice for thousands of disability living allowance recipients.

She disregards experts who have made it clear that the work capability assessment in its current form is not fit for purpose. She also defends not only the changes from incapacity benefit to employment and support allowance that have led to many people being wrongly assessed and some terminally ill people being passed fit to work, but also the proposed change from disability living allowance to personal independence payments, which will take away the benefit from many needy people.

She has announced that the independent living fund will be closed down in 2015 and failed to consult with severely disabled people who use it. She is also responsible for introducing the plan to charge lone parents to access the service that will replace the Child Support Agency, when organisations such as Gingerbread have opposed the idea because of its damaging effect.

Furthermore, she failed to take a sufficiently strong public stand to protect disabled people from disability-based discrimination, prejudice and hatred. She misled the public by claiming that there is not a shortage of jobs but a fear of work. And she supports Workfare.

Nick Parker

President, Lincoln & District TUC and 212 others (see list online)Paul Smith – Atos Victims Group

Ben Rickman, Secretary, Brent TUC

Gawain Little, President, Oxford & District TUC

Nicola Dodgson, Reigate, Health Worker, Unison Member, Anti-Cuts

campaigner, OU Student

Cllr Ian Rathbone, Hackney Council

King’s Lynn & District Trades’ Council

The Broken of Britain

Esther Foreman, disability rights activist

Wandsworth Against Cuts

Caroline Raine, Oxfordshire Anti-Cuts Alliance

Nick Grant, NUT, NEC Outer London

Jerry Hicks, Chair, Grass Roots Left

Gerry Downing, Secretary, Grass Roots Left

Ian Scott, Treasurer, Grass Roots Left

Freya Vinten, Anti-Cuts campaigner

Brent Fightback, Anti-Cuts campaign

Julie Waterson, Secretary, HTUC (Hackney TUC), Joint Secretary,

HatDS (Hackney Alliance to Defend Public Services)

Hillingdon Against Cuts

Hillingdon Socialist Party

Mick Houghton, Secretary, Greater London Association of Trade

Union Councils (GLATUC)

Occupy Birmingham

Lucie Hill-Hempsted, Chair, Mums Against the Cuts

Loraine Hardy, Treasurer, Nuneaton Against The Cuts

Patricia Walker, Virtual Resistance

Katie Millward, Nuneaton Against The Cuts

Mohammed Ansar

Carole Robinson, Anti-Cuts campaigner

Diary of a Benefit Scrounger

Eleanor Lisney, disability rights campaigner

Brent Solidarity Group

Boycott Workfare

John McArdle, Black Triangle Campaign

DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts)

Cllr Jude Robinson, Labour & Cooperative Unitary Councillor,

Camborne North

John McDonnell MP

Danka Gordon, disability campaigner

Sue Horne, MS Sufferer

Belinda Washington, disability campaigner

Andrew Jackson, Clitheroe

Katerina Kyriacos, Stop CSA Charges

Catherine Quinn, Stop CSA Charges

Maria Quinn, Stop CSA Charges

Patricia McGlone, Stop CSA Charges

Kevin McilKennon, Stop CSA Charges

Anya-Nicola Darr, Devon

Sue Ayre, CSA – If We Have To Pay We Want Our Say!

Martin Parker, London

Ian Sedgwick, disability campaigner

Julian Silverman, political activist

Veena Sharma, NUT

Adam Lotun, Workplace Disability Adjustments

Joe P, London

Bill Kruse, London

Gail Victor Ward, disabled person

Paul Clark, London

Rick Burgess, Ten Percent, Anglesey.

Kat Mason, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Kevin Green, Kirkcaldy, Fife

Amanda Adlem, Southampton

Dorothy Wright, disability campaigner

Barbara Smith, Carer

Jayne Linney, Leicester

Helen Sims, Bristol

Darren William Bartlett, Solihull

Ann Spilsbury, Newcastle-under-Lyme

Alan Barrett, Stoke-on-Trent

Beccy Moore, Bristol

Rhondda Lesley, Leicester

Ivan Thomas, Wolverhampton

Helen Thomas, Bridport

Martyn Ounstead, Wrotham

Dave Birdstall, Social Welfare Advocacy

Steven Preece, Social Welfare Advocacy

Joanne Bayliss, carer, mum to two disabled children,

Wolverhampton

Fiona Bott, carer of disabled husband, Telford

Rob Slaney, Nottingham

Peter Peerless, Croydon

William Braquemard, Dalton Piercy

Johnny Wheelz, Edinburgh

Christine McCabe, Cambridge

Graham Askew, Cambridge

Julie Ann MacKay, Salisury

Sarah Nicholson, Liverpool

Zena Dodgson, disabled person

Neil McKenna, Chester

Anthony Roberts, Hertfordshire

Pam Roberts, Hertfordshire

Kathy Fox, Norfolk

Maurice Fox, Norfolk

Garry Sclater, Exeter

Tricia McIntyre, Glasgow

Kleio Nicky Bennett, Staffordshire

Laura Bennett, Staffordshire

James McIntyre, Glasgow

Jules Finch, Atherton, Nr Manchester

Sarah Ledsom, Wirral

Barry Ledsom, Wirral

Bridget Atkins, Cramlington, Northumberland

Hazel Quinn, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

Atos Miracles, Facebook group

Dawn Hanson, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Billy Hanson, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Mumtaz Rafiq, Manchester

David Chowcat, Treasurer, BPAC (Brighton People Against Cuts)

Mary Stuart, Teacher of young people with learning difficulties,

London

Angie Freeman, Basingstoke, Hampshire

Debbie Barrett, Tonbridge, Kent

Andrew Preacher, Spalding, Lincolnshire

Phil Saint, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear

Paul Carruthers, Hertford

Simon Jones, Dorset

Gordon Johnston, Clackmannan

herese O Hanlon, Salford, Manchester

Robert Moore, Paisley

Kev Towner, Hastings, East Sussex

Campaign Against Destruction of Disabled Support Services, Barnet

Pauline Killick, Tamworth

Karen Hirons, Carers’ Association, Southern Staffs

Philip Baldwin, Kent

Garry Hirons, Constituency Chairman (Labour party), Tamworth

Kezia Bennett, Cornwall

Finn Raven, Falmouth

Lorraine Malyan, Durham

Frances McGinley, Lecturer, Skills For Life, London

Sonja Pederson, Hampshire

Steve Catchpole, Suffolk

Michelle Hunter-Gray, Staffordshire

Diane Foster, Doncaster

Janet Weston, Liverpool

Max A Wootton, Leeds

Adrianne Sebastian-Scott, London

Gary Moir, Paisley

Sasha Callaghan, Past President, University and College Union

Craig Turnbull, Cambridge

Rosie Harrison, Cornwall

Sarah Blackley, Scotland

Dorothy Stuart, Bedford

Bill Macleod, Falkirk

Michael Runcone, Fife

Tansy Feltis, London

Del Pickup, IWW, Sheffield

Keith M Ross, Swansea, Wales

Chris Ray, Birmingham

Diane Watson, Cambridge

Susie Stewart, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Gillian William, Bognor Regis

Monica Tomlinson, Liverpool

Nick Dawson, Wollaton, Northants

John Sweeney, Maldon, Essex

Susan Whelan, Burnley

Gaynor Underhill, Oxford

Lea Jeff, Basingstoke

Jerome Green, Letchworth

Caroline Hexter, New Milton, Hants

Michelle Maher, Brighton

Cllr Carole Bonner, Labour, Fieldway Ward, Croydon

Andy Ingram, Canvey Island, Essex

Mandy Ingram, Canvey Island, Essex

Sarah Law, Essex

Mike Smart, Chesterfield, Derby

Julie Ann McKay, Salisbury

Rosey Carey, Penzance

Julie Finch, Atherton

Bill O’Neil, S Ayrshire

Doreen Buress Garza, Wisconsin

Amy Ratter, Shetland

Antoinette Morris, London

Liz Potter, Derbyshire Anti-Cuts Campaign & Action for Carers in

Erewash, Derbyshire

Deborah Mahmoudieh, Occupy Sheffield

Jo Twist, Leicester

Kassie Davidson, Nottingham

Katrina Kiki Day, North London

Nikx Robinson, Leeds

Dave Jenks, Wrexham, North Wales

Nicola Everill, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Robert Bland, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Dave Tarbrook, North Wales

Jill Goble, Brighton

Yvonne Bolton, Preston, Lancs

Brad Walker, Cornwall

Suchi Chatterjee, Brighton

Barbara Taylor, Harrogate

Babs Knightly-Short, Exmouth, Devon

Atalanta Kerrick, Cornwall

Eirlys Dafydd, Ammanford, Carmarthenshire

David White, Treharris, Mid Glamorgan

Andrew Duncan, Exeter

Dave Rendle, Cardigan, Wales

Theresa Kelly, Plymouth

Anisa Zita, Hackney, North London

Aoife Tobin, Brighton, Sussex

KJ Walsh, Liverpool

Rob Joy, Southampton

Chris Wright, Ringwood, Hants

Elizabeth Beth McDermot, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent

Robert Levy, Plymouth

Alexandra Gout, Harrogate

Colin Finch, Mitcham, Surrey

Michael Meny-Gilbert, Brighton

Tracey Malson, Doncaster

Delyth Protheroe, Carmarthenshire

Marion Lambert, Cleveland

Becky Lowe, Swansea

Will Steer, Holloway, London

Jane Anne Leach, Droitwich

Catherine Mosey, Coventry

Sharon Hingley, Cheslyn Hay, Staffordshire

Ali Cooper, Liverpool

Annie Bishop, Hexham

Alison Smith, Telford

Maria Mannix, Newcastle

Sarah Blackley, Glasgow, East Renfrewshire

A New Tory Punishment for Single Parents, CSA

Reposted from Mums Against The Cuts

 

My name is Loraine and I’m a single parent. I’m here to tell you about my experience of CSA, lone parent poverty and my opinion of the proposed changes to the way the system works.

 

I became a single parent in 1999. After a violent, abusive marriage I had decided I would rather be on my own with my young baby than living in fear of the next attack. I had zero self esteem, I had no money, no hope, but I knew that anything had to be better than this. I snapped the day he held me by my throat in front of our daughter who was screaming as she witnessed the assault. My dog trembling in the corner, too afraid to move. She knew what happened if she did. As his hands squeezed around my windpipe I remember promising myself that I would never allow my child to think this behaviour is normal. A healthy relationship does not consist of violence and fear. I had spent years petrified of every word I spoke, every movement I made. All but one of my friends had been driven away. My parents had been driven away from my home but being completely alone was better than suffering daily abuse and allowng my daughter to believe that was normal. So when he’d finished his latest attack I locked the door and decided he wasn’t coming back in, and I started my journey as a single mother in that moment.

 

In 1999 things were a little different to the way they are now. We had no tax credits, they hadn’t been invented. I applied for Income Support as a single parent. I remember the first award notice I received, it said I was entitled to£71.10 a week. I cashed my first giro and began my new life. I had no idea what was ahead of us. We could also claim Income Support until our youngest child was 16. Aside from the demonisation lone mothers endured we were financially, pretty much left to get on with it. There was no work focused interview every 6 months.

 

In 1999 the rules concerning child maintenance were different to how they are now. Now we are allowed to keep all of the maintenance we are awarded, back then we weren’t, but we had to apply. My best friend’s sister had refused to apply and subsequently had her Income Support docked until she complied. Yes, that’s right, they used to deduct an amount from our income as punishment. I filled mine out. It was followed by a visit from a very nice lady who wrote down all my incomings and outgoings. She then visited my ex husband who was sleeping on a friends floor at the time and did the same with him. I eventually received a letter informing me that I was entitled to nothing. That’s right, a big fat zero. My ex husband thought that was so funny he paid me a visit to laugh in my face. I was humiliated once again.

 

When I had made my decision to become a single parent I was completely unaware of the financial problems I would face. While my childhood was not full of riches, I was not aware at the time of how tough it was financially. We always had food, we always had clothes. What lay ahead of me was a total surprise.

 

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine this scene:

 

You have cashed your money at the post office and paid all the weekly payments for your bills. You’ve bought nappies and used your milk token for formula. Just for a moment imagine the heartbreak when you realise that you can’t have bread and milk this week, it’s one or the other because you can’t afford both. There will be no treats, the zoo is out of the question, and certainly no bus fare, it’s shanksys pony for us till next Thursday. That used to be a weekly occurance for us. That broke my heart. As children get older they start to understand and that hurts even more. I stood in many shops holding open my empty purse to my child explaining there was no money left for the sweets she wanted, the coat her friends were wearing, even for the shoes she needed. I dreaded school trips, I still do because they cost money I often don’t have.

 

The worst experience of poverty I had was Boxing Day 2006. I was a working single parent then but still hadn’t managed to lift us out of poverty. Christmas Day I knew we were running out of electric, the meter said 50p left, so I put my daughter to bed early and got the candles out instead of using the lights. I woke up on Boxing Day at 8am. I found my daughter sat in the hallway playing one of the board games she’d been given for Christmas. I tried the lights.My electric had gone, emergency and all. I had £4, which as some people will know isn’t enough to get the meter working again, you have to put in an extra £1 above emergency to get it to kick in. I had to ask my 7 year old daughter if I could borrow some money off her to get the lights back on, to make the tv work, to cook dinner later, to even make her a cup of tea. She gave me £3 bless her and told me not to worry, but I did. How awful that I had to ask my child for electric money? I was working for heaven’s sake! I should be able to afford electric!

 

Now, before anyone jumps up and down, I did not spend a ridiculous amount of money on presents or food. I spent a tenner in the pound shop for presents and I bought no extra food, we had our Christmas dinner at my parent’s house, so that wasn’t the reason I was broke. I was working for an agency and my hours had recently been cut. Instead of a full time wage I was bringing home a part time wage and really struggling. I was extremely grateful that I lived in a council property because I would never have been able to afford a private sector rent.

 

For 11 years the CSA sent me letters informing me that my ex husband owed me nothing. Even when I told them he was working, where he was working and where he was living I still received that same letter year after year. An extra fiver would have made a difference.

£20 a week would have meant bread, milk, bus fare and perhaps a treat for my daughter, but she was given nothing from him except 15 house moves to keep us safe from him and years of nightmares. The CSA did nothing for us.My ex husband passed away in 2009 so I will never be sent a letter saying he owes me anything.

 

This government wants to charge parents for that pleasure. They want to charge an upfront fee of £100 (£50 if you’re on benefits). If I’d have been forced to pay that I would have wasted my money and been plunged into deeper poverty at that point. Children from lone parent households are more likely to live in poverty (46% of children from lone parent families live in poverty. 24% of children from 2 parent families live in poverty)

 

It has been stated that victims of domestic violence will be exempt, however it can be extremely difficult to prove abuse. I never had a black eye or a broken bone, all my injuries were hidden and victims are very often too ashamed or afraid to report the abuse. It took me years to report my ex husband, Christmas 1999 was the first phone call I made to the police and my first hospital visit. He was never charged.

 

The proposals don’t end there. They also want to charge an admin fee on every single maintenance payment a child receives (between 7% and 12%). For those lucky enough to receive payment, they will now be paying continuously for the priviledge. Such an idea does not equate to stealing money from parents, it’s stealing the money destined for the children.

 

I understand that CSA is a flawed service. It need fixing so that thousands of children can receive financial support from non resident parents, but why are the government insisting that our children should be the ones who pay for it? If Maria Miller’s house needed renovation, would she ask my child to pay the builders fees? The same logic applies here. Our children did not create a defunct service, the government of the day did and the following governments share the blame for not changing the system, not our children.

 

I consider myself fortunate that the father of my two youngest children is a reasonable person. We have our own arrangement in place and have not been forced to use the CSA.

 

I would also like to say something in response to the many attacks lone parents have endured from senior politicians in the last 18 months.

 

It is widely believed that lone parents are predominantly from families with a history of long term unemployment, that our parents are usually single parents themselves, that we choose to bring up our children alone out of some peverse lifestyle choice, that it’s deliberate, planned and that we are lazy, irresponsible and promiscuous teenagers, that we have babies to climb council waiting lists. I can assure you, that it not the case for the majority of lone parents. We’re not all women either.

 

The average age of a lone parent is 37.5 (I am 33 years old)

 

Less than 2% of us are teenagers.

 

Just over half of us had our children within a marriage. (51% are seperated, divorced or widowed)

 

More than half of us are in employment.

 

Around 10% of us are men.

 

Only 6.5% of all births are registered alone. 10% are registered to 2 parents who live apart.

 

I do not party. I do not drink. I do not have a social life and I do not have a car. I have had 3 boyfriends in 12 years. It took me 8 years to decide to have more children. I spend my money on the things my children need, not myself. I have been homeless twice. I work harder at home than I ever did in paid employment. I’m on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I do not get a day off, I do not have a tea break, I do not get a bonus at the end of the month as a pat on the back for doing a good job. My work as a parent is not considered praise worthy by ministers, I am treated with contempt, pointed at, laughed at and demonised by people who have never experienced the hardship of raising a child alone. Worse than that, my children are considered to be a drain on the precious economy, future criminals, and one particular minister has explained in great detail how my daughters will become promiscuous playthings for gang members and my son is going to become a drug dealing gang member. I have morals. My parents raised me to be responsible, which is the very reason I left an abusive, violent marriage. I am sensible, intelligent and strong. I’ve had to be to survive. My 13 year old daughter is now full of confidence, bubbly and intelligent. She is polite, responsible and has potential, real potential. She isn’t alone. There are millions of children from lone parent households who are destined to do great things. Lone parents and their children should be praised for that, rewarded and respected. Instead we are demonised, vilified and punished repeatedly for keeping our children safe, for doing the work of two parents, for being mum and dad. Our children are robbed of opportunity and repeatedly told by minsters that they will amount to nothing, they are the cause of all the ills in our society. Now they want to punish us further by crippling us financially by daring to ask for help to receive the maintenance our children deserve from non resident parents, they want our children to pay for their refurbishment of a service that we didn’t create or break. The CSA is a last resort. It is the final place people go to for help. They say they want to encourage parents to make their own arrangements. In my opinion that will result in thousands simply not applying, thousands not receiving what they are rightfully owed, thousands of children being forced into the poverty myself and my daughter endured, for what? For some new punishment intiative from a Tory-led government who never really liked us in the first place.

By Loraine Hardy

MAC Team

 

Please take a look at Gingerbread’s website for updates on the CSA proposals which are contained in the Welfare Reform Bill

www.gingerbread.org.uk


 

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