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.
National helpline: 01823 334244
Mens Advice Line (run by Respect)
0808 801 0327
01209 202688 (office)
07825 220 232 (mobile)
Broken rainbow UK
0300 999 5428
London Lesbian And Gay Switchboard
0300 330 0630
LGBT Cymru Helpline
0808 840 2069
0808 2000 247
0808 2000 247
If you are in immediate danger.
Please do not hesitate to dial 999!
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…
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.
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.
- Monthly payments of ALL benefits
- CSA charges at the point of access and charges on every single payment thereafter
- Abolition of the social fund and non ring fenced funding given to local authorities
- The Benefit Cap which will cause hardship for those in and out of work on benefits
- Changes to the way council tax benefit is paid
- Disabled children not being allowed to build up NI contributions to entitle them to an independent income in adulthood
- Halving the tax credit payments to parents of disabled children who only qualify for the lower rate of DLA
- In-work conditionality
- Lack of clarity regarding help with child care
- Unpaid work experience and The Work Programme in general
- 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.
I wonder how long it will take for him to reply to me this time……
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.
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 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.
“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.
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!
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.
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.
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)
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
Carole Robinson, Anti-Cuts campaigner
Diary of a Benefit Scrounger
Eleanor Lisney, disability rights campaigner
Brent Solidarity Group
John McArdle, Black Triangle Campaign
DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts)
Cllr Jude Robinson, Labour & Cooperative Unitary Councillor,
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,
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,
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
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
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
Please take a look at Gingerbread’s website for updates on the CSA proposals which are contained in the Welfare Reform Bill
Please join me & ask as many people as possible to join me in emailing your MP and add your name to an open letter in the Guardian.
We believe that Ms Maria Miller’s position as Minister for Disabled People has become untenable for the following reasons:
1) For failing to fight hard enough to ensure that disabled people receive a fairer assessment of their capabilities. For suggesting to Disability Campaigner, Sue Marsh, whose own Disability Living Allowance has been decreased, that she use her ‘extensive right of appeal through tribunals’ if she is unhappy about the DWP’s decision. Ms Miller appears to be ignorant of how the proposed cuts to legal aid will severely limit access to justice through tribunals for thousands of DLA recipients. Added to this, the closure of many Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, because of cuts, means many people cannot get the advice they need.
2) For persistently disregarding the views of charities, organisations, medical professionals, scholars & academics, independent inquiries & commissions, who have made it clear in public statements that the Work Capability Assessment in its current form is ‘not fit for purpose’ but is willingly administered by ATOS Heathcare.
3) For persistently defending the changes to move people from Incapacity Benefit to Employment & Support Allowance, which have led to many sick and disabled people being wrongly assessed and some terminally ill people being passed fit to work. Also for persistently defending the proposed change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments, which will take away the benefit from many needy and deserving people.
4) For announcing that the Independent Living Fund will be closed down in 2015 (it has already been closed to new applicants since May 2010) and failing to consult with severely disabled people who use this fund, leaving them a state of high anxiety about their futures.
5) Her refusal to engage directly with the people at the first ‘Hardest Hit March’ on the 11th of May 2011, the follow up in October 2011 and more recently in January 2012 sent a clear message that, though she will participate safely from a live internet blog or a radio studio, she is reluctant to meet, in person, people with serious illness and disabilities whose anxiety and sense of injustice drive them to take to the streets in all weathers to voice their feelings.
6) For being responsible for introducing the plan to charge lone parents to access the service which will replace the Child Support Agency, when organisations such as Gingerbread have opposed the idea because of the damaging effect it will have on children and the difficulties, if not impossibilities, of many parents in getting child maintenance. A large percentage of lone parents are disabled or caring for disabled children.
7) For failing to take a sufficiently strong public stand to protect disabled people from disability-based discrimination, prejudice and disability hatred. Such disability hatred often stems from articles in the media, including the state-sponsored BBC, which regularly portray people who are sick and disabled as scroungers, particularly those who suffer from conditions that may not be readily obvious.
8) For misleading the public by claiming that there is not a shortage of jobs but a fear of work, suggesting that all people who receive benefits are workshy. She said she believed the unemployment problem was down to a lack of ‘appetite’ for the jobs on offer, claiming that on any day there are 400,000 job vacancies. What she failed to mention was that there are 2.68 million people unemployed and that in some parts of the country, such as Hartlepool, there are twelve people chasing every vacancy. Neither did she mention that many of the jobs are part time and/or unsalaried and commission-based.
9) Finally, although her background is in marketing and advertising, she does not appear to be using her PR skills to highlight the plight of the sick, disabled, poor and vulnerable in our society, but rather the opposite.
If you would like to sign the letter please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
As the deadline for the Government to haul the Welfare Reform Bill through parliament draws dangerously close and its implementation looms large I want to make sure that YOU know how it might affect your life.
It is a government and media peddled myth that this bill is about the unemployed. It’s not. This bill will affect millions of employed people as well as millions of disabled adults and children. This bill is not designed to solve the problems of worklessness and benefit dependency as I will explain. this is about money, money for the treasury that none of YOU will see a penny of.
The Welfare Reform Bill will pave the way for Universal Credit which will replace the following benefits (of which some of YOU will be in receipt of)
Income Based JobSeekers Allowance
Income Based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit
Disability Living Allowance DLA will be replaced with PIP (Personal Independence Payments)
If your household has a higher rate tax payer you will no longer be entitled to Child Benefit.
Council Tax Benefit will be the responsibility of your local authority who will be required to save 10% of the budget annually, therefore reducing the amount of people who claim that particular benefit. Pensioners are protected.
The Social Fund will be abolished. Funds for this kind of financial help will be the responsibility of local authorities. The funding will not be ringfenced so councils are free to use it in any other area. Currently anyone can apply for a crisis loan, even YOU.
So, if you use any of the above the government are after YOU!
It’s you they want to move out of the area, it’s your children they want to go to another school, its your shopping money, rent money, bill money they want to take away, not just mine.
Don’t forget the benefit cap. £26,000 a year, that’s £500 a week and £18,200 or £350 a week for a single person without children. (read the equality impact assessment) I can hear you screaming now, regurgitating that rubbish ‘hard-working families don’t earn that much!’. You are absolutely right because if you were earning £26,000 a year you would also be receiving child tax credits if you have children, working tax credit, perhaps housing and council tax benefit as well and of course child benefit, so in reality your income would be a lot higher than £26,000 and your child benefit can’t be taken away if you naughty people dare to receive more than £500 a week. Get the calculator out and work out how much YOU get or should get in benefits!
I’d like you to remember that when thousands of families are forced out of other areas into yours you will have real problems finding cheap accommodation because there will be more people and less available houses. There will be more children in the schools, more strain on local services including the NHS. When you scream that those ‘scroungers’ should move out of London, remember, they’re coming to your town or city sweetheart. It’s also worth noting that many people who currently live in rural areas will suffer and have to move as well. You’re local authority will also be paying for the cost of temporary housing and the other costs that come with homelessness if anyone in your area is evicted because of these changes. It’s far cheaper to just scrap the cap. Housing benefit was capped a little while ago anyway. at a maximum of £400 a week for a 4 bed property, £250 a week for a 2 bed property. Single people under 35 only qualify for the shared room rate, which previously applied to under 25’s. That has already seen people evicted from their homes. The ‘family friendly’ Tory party have also made it a lot harder for non resident parents to have overnight access to their children by reducing the housing benefit available to single under 35’s. A far better solution would be to cap private rents, that would save the government a fortune in benefits but some of them are landlords so maybe not.
God help you if you or your relative is disabled or ill. The Government don’t like you. They don’t like your disabled friends or neighbours either. If you are unfortunate enough to get cancer the government have decided that you have 12 months to be cured, otherwise, if your partner earns the enormous sum of £7,500 a year they’ll cut your ESA completely. (That applies to anyone claiming it by the way but we hoped cancer patients might at least be exempt from this nasty condition)
They will replace DLA with PIP which most people wont be eligible for even though they have serious illnesses and/or disabilities. Those people will be told they’re simply not ill or disabled enough and will be left either appealing, which is a very long distressing process, or left without. Just in case you read the daily mail I can tell you, hospital visits, additional aids to manage with illness and disability and day to day living requires extra financial help for many people in that position. I know from experience with disabled and seriously ill relatives that these things cost money many simply don’t have. Also the ‘free cars’ you have read about aren’t free, they’re paid for with the mobility component of DLA so people are actually paying for them with the money they get to help them. I’d say that’s fair, wouldn’t you? It’s worth bearing in mind that DLA is not means tested. An unofficial, simplified summary of the regulations of PIP has been created by the Spartacus Report team.
The Government also decided it would be a lovely idea to cut the disabled element of tax credits (Universal Credit when it switches) in half for disabled children who receive the lower rate of DLA. Delightful. That means people like one friend I have won’t be able to afford the petrol for her car. Her son can’t use public transport for various reasons, her car means she can take him out instead of staying in all day. It means she can safely take him to school and the family can lead a normal life. No petrol means an extremely difficult time doing the everyday things YOU take for granted.
On the subject of disabled children, the Government have decided it’s a good idea to prevent young people who have never worked due to disability from being able to claim contributory ESA. Currently they can.
There will now be a penalty for ‘under-occupation’. If you have a spare room and you receive housing benefit you will now be penalised for it, even if it’s for your kids who stay at the weekend, or to store any equipment you need to help you live a full life, such as a wheelchair or a commode. You’re going to be charged for that even if you’d like to downsize but can’t because there are no available properties in your area.
There are a few other gems in the Welfare Reform Bill that haven’t been very widely publicised. Yes, I’m a geek, I read the entire bill, twice actually.
When your youngest child reaches 5 years old you will have to get a job. You will no longer just attend a work focused interview, you will sign on and get a fortnightly interrogation, so if you have a full time job, hang onto to it dear.
Such things as work focused interviews will look like a fairytale compared to the conditionality in store for you under the Welfare Reform Bills proposals.
Being in work is not a safeguard against DWP intrusion. There will be in work conditionality as well.
If you do not work enough hours or earn enough money DWP will be well within their rights to haul you into the jobcentre and tell you to increase your hours, get a second job or beg your boss for a pay rise. Yes really! If you do not comply you can be sanctioned (I’ll get to sanctions in a minute). So be afraid, be very afraid.
Now, sanctions. For a first sanctionable offence you can have your benefits stopped completely for a month (4 weeks). You can ask for a hardship payment but you will have to pay that back, it’s not free and won’t be as much as what you would normally receive. For a worse offence you starve for three months, for a serious offence you lose everything for three years. Yes, that’s right, three years! You should also be aware that DWP staff on the frontline are given a quota of how many people they have to refer for a sanction currently, whether those people have committed an offence or not, so you could be completely innocent and still lose out for a month, three months, or three years. Sanctions don’t actually work anyway. There has been much discussion in the commons. Chris Grayling says the Government plan to exclude child and housing costs from any sanctions but still, three years is a long time.
Conditionality does not stop there either. You can be required to improve your personal appearance. Quite what that could entail I do not know. It could be anything from have a bath, washing your clothes or remove your piercings, cut your hair etc. There are no specific details in the bill:
6C Work preparation requirement
(1) In this Act a “work preparation requirement” is a requirement that a
claimant take particular action specified by the Secretary of State for the
purpose of making it more likely in the opinion of the Secretary of State
that the claimant will obtain paid work (or more paid work or betterpaid
(2) The Secretary of State may under subsection (1) specify the time to be
devoted to any particular action.
(3) Action which may be specified under subsection (1) includes in
(a) attending a skills assessment;
(b) improving personal presentation;
(c) participating in training;
(d) participating in an employment programme;
(e) undertaking work experience or a work placement;
(f) developing a business plan;
(g) any action prescribed for the purpose in subsection (1).
The section above also states you can be forced to undertake work experience/placement. That, I assume, means the work programme. Working for your benefit, essentially for free. (If there’s enough work available for the work programme there’s enough work for a proper job).
There is a clause in the bill which states:
6 (1) This paragraph applies in relation to an award of universal credit where the
calculation of the amount of the award includes, by virtue of any provision
of this Part, an amount in respect of particular costs which a claimant may
(2) Regulations may provide for liability to pay all or part of the award to be
discharged by means of provision of a voucher.
(3) But the amount paid by means of a voucher may not in any case exceed the
total of the amounts referred to in sub-paragraph (1) which are included in
the calculation of the amount of the award.
(4) For these purposes a voucher is a means other than cash by which a claimant
may to any extent meet costs referred to in sub-paragraph (1) of a particular
(5) A voucher may for these purposes—
(a) be limited as regards the person or persons who will accept it;
(b) be valid only for a limited time.
So ladies and gentlemen, if you are awarded Universal Credit DWP are well within their rights to pay you in vouchers for ‘particular costs which a claimant may incur’. Someone else may know better but as far as I know that could be food, clothing and rent. I had no idea I lived in America. I don’t know if this only applies to special circumstances.
We should not forget changes to the way the CSA works. This applies to those of you who may become a single parent in the future or who have a precarious personal arrangement with a non resident parent (NRP), whether you work or not. The Government originally wanted to charge you £100 up front to access the service (£50 if you’re on benefits). They ‘promised’ to change that to £20. They also want to take between 7% and 12% off every single payment destined for your child(ren) from the NRP. So if your child receives £100 a month from your ex, they will, in reality, only get between £93 and £88 a month instead. The Government will be pocketing the rest. No one knows what’s round the corner, any of you could find yourself bringing up children alone.
Also, if you make a claim while in a couple, an error is made and repayment is required, any claim you make either alone or jointly with someone else will be liable for the repayment if it has not already been repaid.
Being part of a couple does not exempt either of you from conditionality, in work or not. You will both be required to conform to the same rules or face sanctions when your child(ren) are a certain age and when your youngest is 12 you will both be required to work full time, there will be no option for one of you to have part time hours. Welcome to the end of one of you staying at home to care for the children, or being there when they leave for school or return home, there will be no designated care giver, you both have to go to work now. Of course your long hours and lack of family time will be blamed for the ‘feral youth’ but only after lone parents have received a good dose of demonisation first.
No one is sure how childcare will work. Currently working families can claim a childcare element of working tax credit which allows for up to 70% of your childcare costs. The details of future arrangements are not clear.
Personally, I’m bricking it. My plan was to try and work part time when my youngest started school (providing there’s an actual job to have!) but part time is out of the question now to avoid the in work conditionality. I have a 2 choices, pay for childcare (providing I have sociable shifts, I don’t know any childminders who start at 5am!), or I make my oldest child sacrifice her own future to become a substitute parent to her younger brother and sister. That’s the girl who wants to go to college and university and really make something of herself. I could ask her to stop all that and please Mr Iain Duncan Smith by being my unpaid childcare. Or`I could find a rich man willing to take on me and the kids, sell my soul for money. That might please the Government. Decisions, decisions.
So there you have it.
Is there anything I’ve missed?
If you know of anything else please comment below so I can add it to the list.
I also urge you all to read the comments below, some extremely good points being made down there and advice if you’re in difficulty too.